Strategic Communication is an elegant combination of art and science. It’s making sure that the ways you communicate are aligned with your overall business objectives. At Step In … Learn More...
Why Run a Contest?
It’s tempting to think that running a contest on your social channels can enhance your social media practice. Contests used to be a great way to add engagement to your social channels, but today they are often time-consuming and may not always bring the return you are hoping for. The glut of content on social channels combined with the punishing algorithm on Facebook and Instagram make it harder and harder to use contests in any meaningful way.
If you’re still considering this activity for you or a client, here are some guidelines and best practices to help you navigate it.
A contest on social media usually involves some type of giveaway or prize. It typically involves the consumer taking some action to gain entry to the contest. Many brands use them to build engagement on their channels (talk value, getting others to enter) which is far more prevalent than using contests for new followers.
How to Select a Channel for Your Contest
Contests are perceived differently on each social channel. They began with a heavy Facebook focus in 2009/2010 when Facebook switched from brands having personal or “friend” pages to business pages. Contests have migrated away from Facebook and are now focused more on Instagram because Instagram has more friendly giveaway rules on its app. Contests never gained any traction on Pinterest because of the nature of this social channel. It is rare to see contests on Twitter, except to promote a larger sweepstakes style contest. These are usually hosted on a brands’ website with the objective of building email subscribers.
Third Party Apps to Manage Contests
For contests that involve some kind of content creation, it is advisable to utilize a third-party app to manage them. It’s very difficult for a brand to spin up a site to house photos, videos, artwork, etc into the compressed timeframe of a contest. These apps also allow for public voting, which was a contest trend about 7-10 years ago when crowdsourcing was considered highly authentic. But voting contests have fallen out of favor because it’s too easy for hackers to game the system, eliminating the authenticity of the contest. (Just Google “Boaty McBoatFace” and you’ll see!)
Some third party apps to assist in running contests include: Wishpond, Rafflecopter and WooBox.
Perceived Value of the Prize
In the early days of contests, consumers would do anything for a $5 Starbucks gift card giveaway on Facebook. That is no longer the case. The networks are so large and so many businesses are fighting to get seen on Facebook and Instagram (the primary places you see contests), the value of the prize is the key to a successful giveaway. Even a $100 value prize (in gifts or gift cards) is a hard sell. Many influencers doing “loop” giveaways on Instagram are pooling prizes together for a giveaway value of $1000 to make them desirable and successful to their audiences.
Experience prizes can be very desirable for contests, but these are usually really sweepstakes prizes that are housed and run on a brand’s website which are only PROMOTED in social media. A sweepstakes has a specific definition state by state and every business is responsible for understanding how to run a sweepstakes and following the laws for those types of giveaways.
An experience prize can be a trip to a special destination (Trip for four to the Virgin Islands) or to an event that has limited availability to the general public (You and a friend get courtside seats to the NBA Finals).
Contest Rules and Laws
Contest rules on the social networks change frequently and often without notice. Just because you did a specific giveaway last week, doesn’t mean it’s acceptable on that network today. Here are the contest guidelines for Facebook and Instagram
Social media managers should stay apprised of the contest rules for the networks and how they intersect with the laws of the state in which their clients are based.
Ease of Entry
If in building a contest, you want to garner engagement or followers on client channels, then make it easy for them to enter. We see numerous contests that make a consumer take a lot of steps to enter. Example “like this post, tag a friend, share this post, like this channel,” etc. If you make it too hard, it restricts your entries to those who are ready to jump through the hoops. Many instructions for entering contest with marginal prizes often sound desperate with their confusing instructions. And from the content entrants’ standpoint, they have no way of knowing how vigilant the content sponsor is at making sure all the rules were followed.
Once you’ve run your contest and selected a winner, you are most likely responsible for fulfillment. What does that mean? Securing the prize and mailing it to the winner. Or for the experience prize, securing the tickets, reservations, gift cards, etc and mailing/emailing all to the winner. Are there rules for verification of contests in the state you live? Check on what laws may be existent because once the winner has the prize package in their hands, they will be uninterested in further dialogue/requests from you.
Boosting Contest Desirability with Partnerships
A partnership is a great way to boost the desirability of a contest. Here are some models to follow:
- A brand gives/gifts influencers their new product to give away to their audiences. The brand has control over product distribution to the influencers, but the influencers do the heavy lifting to run and fulfill the contest.
- Two brands work together to run a contest, dividing the workload, prizes and fulfullment.
- Influencers often run contests and give away the “freebies” they get from other brands. Sometimes they group them into a big gift basket and sometimes they are one-off giveaways.
- Groups of influencers in an aligned space give away products in what is often called a “loop giveaway.” For example, six beauty influencers each contribute a product around a theme and they all try to get engagement by requiring everyone to follow the whole loop.
Here are some Contest Examples
So should you run a contest?
If you’re asking for the short answer, we would say no. With one notable exception, contests for our clients have been a lot of work for very little return. Now, if you want us to help you give away a trip for four to an exotic destination, let’s talk!
For further reading:
The Pros and Cons of Running a Social Media Contest
Social Contests: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
We’d love to hear from you about your contest management experience!
12 Questions Communicators Should Ask
How are you using Google Analytics in your communications programs? Oh, you’re not. Maybe it’s time you took a little tour back through your website data and see if answering any of these questions can help inform future program and tactical decisions.
- What language is dominant for your users? Do your communications tactics reflect that language?
- Where are your users coming from? Does it match with the geography of your stakeholders? If not, why not?
- What is the ratio of new users vs. returning users? What does that mean to your comms programs?
- How can you improve your communications pieces based on the technology and mobile devices used by your web visitors?
- What are the key learnings you can see about traffic sources to your site? How is the mix of paid, direct, organic, referral and social correlate to your communication efforts?
- What is the highest source of referrals to your site?
- How do visitors get to your site?
- What is the most visited landing page and is that appropriate for your organization?
- What are the top pages on the site?
- Are all your web pages up to date?
- What is the relationship between landing pages and exit pages? Is that the path you want users to take?
- Is site speed good or is it a problem? What can be done to improve it to keep people on your site?
Connecting what you do as a communicator to what your website users are telling you is a simple way to make your programs more relevant. Let us know if you tried one of these and what you found out about your website.
Facebook may be making news for its new name/initiative/strategy called Metaverse, but down here in the social media trenches we’re more concerned with some everyday things that would really help us manage our clients’ Facebook presence.
Late last year, Facebook itself reported that there were more than 70 million page managers on Facebook, so we know we’re not alone in requesting more practical tools to help us do our jobs better.
Here are the 5 features we want Facebook to implement for social media managers.
1. Help Desk
Not just any old help desk or one of those chat bots with automated answers, we would like a help desk page managers could launch from their business page.
Every page manager deserves system status updates for their Facebook pages. If our website can do it and many other “live” tools, certainly Facebook can implement alerts for their business page users.
3. Bring Back Interest Lists
This was our favorite Facebook feature. As a brand, it allowed you to create a list of like-minded pages, or businesses in your area or even competitors. This allowed you to easily scroll through to see what your curated list was up to and for savvy page managers, actually interact with the content. Now you must beg your partners and allies and employees to please, please, PLEASE tag you in their post and even then, you may or may not see it.
4. A Portal for Page Admins
This would be a way into Facebook for bigger issues and get actual help from the actual Facebook people. We’ve had numerous times where we needed someone to look under the hood of a client’s page to diagnose a problem. Among these are: confusing or encumbered page ownership structures, business suite set up issues, and other security and housekeeping issues. Wouldn’t it make your jobs easier if all of us had everything set up properly?
5. Clear Tutorials for Business Suite
It’s all fine to start moving people to this integrated “launch everything from one place” platform, but there are millions of business page managers (including us here at Step In Communication) that are really not exactly sure if it’s all connected correctly. We’ve gone back to some pages multiple times to fix or update the connections. And next thing you know, we’re working on another page that was never set up right in the first place. We want to see: what to look for, a way to test the connection, how to explain it to clients. Because your tutorials are, well – severely lacking.
So, Facebook, if you get this little post, here’s what a couple million of us want. Thank you.
We’re sharing weekly tips about all things social media including what’s new in all the social networks and our special favorite, how to work with influencers.
Here’s a sample of what you’ll see!
Check out our YouTube channel and subscribe to see new content as it becomes available.
What is a Content Ladder?
A content ladder is our way of thinking about building expertise around a topic or content theme. We use them formally and informally with a lot of our clients to take advantage of the repetitive nature of social media and to increase the shelf life of certain types of content. It’s taking that topic and repeatedly sharing around that topic on all your channels.
If this seems kind of vague, stick with us and we’ll give you an example.
The Elements of a Content Ladder
The content on your channels includes three layers or rungs. You probably have all these in your current content strategy, but think about these against your own system to see where you land. Content Ladders have three layers.
The Base Layer
This includes evergreen content, mission and purpose messages, employees, brand identification and are rarely time sensitive. They can be moved around to meet the needs of the other two layers. This layer usually answers the questions of WHO WE ARE as a brand or organization.
The Campaign Layer
The campaign layer is more timely. It includes events and celebrations, news about the organization, your media clips. They are generally things that are important and timely but may reflect the longer story of your organization, like a capital campaign or fundraising. This layer usually answers the question of WHAT WE DO as a brand or organization.
The Live Layer
The live layer features interruptions to regular programming and while they may not all be traditionally live**, they are the concentrated effort to make your audience STOP SCROLLING AND LOOK! They are moments to try and own a celebration, event or harness a news event or campaign.
**Note: when we say “live” we mean same day, same hour, or in near real time. We work with a number of brands who require an extra level of screening for appropriateness before going live, so we have a process for that.
How Do I Build a Content Ladder?
Before we go into an example of how we built a content ladder, it’s important to note that these are not quick fixes for you if you don’t already have a robust content strategy. This is a way of thinking over time about types of conversations you want to “own” on your channels. Content ladders take time to build, so the example we’ll give next took us more than 6 months to fill out.
Content Ladder Example
Here is an example of how we built a content ladder for Step In Communication, based around our experience in working with influencers and more specifically, the topic of disclosure during paid influencer campaigns. You will see links to some, but not ALL of the elements of the content ladder which can be easily seen.
The Elements of Our Content Ladder on Disclosure (this will be a bulleted list in the blog post)
- In 2019, we wrote a comprehensive blog post on disclosure for brands. See the post.
- Then we posted in social media channels to promote the post.
- We updated the post when the disclosure law changed and featured it in our email newsletter with the story and link.
- We added the post as part of the elements of an online course we developed.
- We linked to the blog post again in a tips video we created on Facebook and YouTube.
- Hosted a Clubhouse Room with an influencer on working with brands (link to Lunch Bunch room)
Some other things you could do to expand the content ladder further:
- Create a “How To” checklist on the topic
- Create quote graphics or testimonials from the blog post
- Make it a blog download and promote that in social
- Create a lead magnet for building your list or marketing other services
- Or add to course materials, seminar or workshop curriculum
How to Get Started Building a Content Ladder for YOUR Business
Don’t be intimidated by the number of items on the list above. While we started in 2019 with our key blog post (which we have updated and are still using), we added elements just a month ago, so it’s been eighteen months of adding elements one at a time.
And in that time, our content ladder has been shared on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, the website, email, online course, YouTube and Clubhouse. What started out as a signature blog post has become a recurring theme and anchors a significant amount of content for our business. It has also covered all three layers. The base layer are periodic promotions of the post itself. We’ve used the campaign layer in promoting our online course periodically. The live layer has been used to talk about a timely disclosure topic with videos or live streaming audio.
We’d love to hear your questions about building content ladders or an example of a content ladder you’re starting for your business. Tell us about it! (email link?)
More On Content Ladders–Watch These Videos!
New features on the most popular and well-known channels are popping up right and left. Instagram Guides came out last year and while they are overshadowed by Reels right now, we think you will find Guides are a useful tool and one that also does well in the current algorithm.
Why Use Instagram Guides?
Guides allow you to curate lists or recommendations using content that is currently on Instagram as a wall post or in your saves including Reels and IGTV videos if they have been shared to the wall. There are three categories for Guides: Places, Posts or Products, so you have lots of options depending on your area of expertise or business focus.
Instagram Guides Resources:
Travel destination – https://www.instagram.com/australia/guides/
Cosmetics – https://www.instagram.com/lushcosmetics/guides/
Magazine – https://www.instagram.com/parents/guides/
Gift Guide – https://www.instagram.com/thetreatment/guides/
Construction Materials – https://www.instagram.com/thedeckcompany_colorado/guides/
Video Tutorial of How to Use Instagram Guides
Our top tips if you’re interested in or have just joined Clubhouse, the new audio only streaming app for Apple users. Here are twelve tips to get you started on the right track!
Connect with some of your friends and colleagues from other networks. This is a great way to start a quick stream of content that you know you’ll be interested in.
Join topic clubs – they are topic specific and it will help you find the information you want to learn about or network in your area of expertise.
Get on with a friend and start a private room so you can try out all the buttons! What do they do, how do they work? What does it look like when you raise your hand or unmute? This helps calm your nerves when you want to be more interactive in a room.
Get in a small room to practice raising your hand and speaking. It is much less intimidating than a room with hundreds of people and a large group of moderators.
Fill out your bio – it helps people get to know you, increases your followers on CH but also on IG (make sure to link your IG and TW! in your bio).
Emojis are searchable. Yes, they are. So if emojis are your thing, you might want to check out what that yields for you.
Follow people – when people who speak follow you it moves your profile into the higher “Followed by speakers” group in rooms.
Think outside your business hours! Because CH is global, people are on there in every single time zone. Check out some of the rooms and talks that start up in the early evening or on the weekends. It’s a more relaxed vibe and can lead to additional learning.
When someone “pings” you that you should be in this room, it means that they are in a room that’s happening right now and thought you might like it. Don’t worry if you get the notice and can’t join in. It happens.
Like all social networking apps, it’s powered by an algorithm. The app will show you “rooms in progress” based on both your topics AND the people you’re following. If you’re not into million dollar real estate deals, maybe tweak your followers/followings.
Have fun! Clubhouse is new and changing, learn, try out things, and enjoy yourself. There are so many topics it is easy to get overwhelmed so just pick and choose.
Save rooms you are interested in to your google or apple calendar so you don’t forget.
Let us know what you tried in Clubhouse. We’ve got some invites if you need one to get started!
Yes, we said “auto pilot.” Are you shocked? Well, don’t be. If you’re not a retailer whose livelihood depends on Christmas sales, then this post is for you.
Why You Should Take a Break This Holiday Season
If you are an entrepreneur or, for that matter, any small to medium business owner, you’re no doubt exhausted from the pace of keeping up with social media during a pandemic. For some businesses, it was their only marketing activity and a lifeline to maintain their customer relationships.
But this time of year, the competition for attention is crazy. The retailers are leading the way, trying to gain any sales they can to salvage the year. Likewise, many nonprofits are making one last attempt to get donations to secure their future.
It’s hard to rise above these two forces. It might be the perfect time to take a break. But we’re not saying ignore your social channels entirely.
Here are our 4 key ideas on how to do it well so you can take a break and come back in January ready to tackle new social campaigns!
Engagement erodes beginning around Dec. 15, so take this time to preschedule as much content as possible through to the New Year. One of our past clients, The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, had this fabulous Christmas tree in their foyer. Each department created a signature ornament for the tree. We photographed them individually and started scheduling an ornament of the day acknowledging the department, with a picture of the ornament. These were wildly popular among the hospital fans and gave us a break. Some of these creations were full blown dioramas and amazing to see.
If you don’t have that kind of holiday tie-in, that’s okay too. If you’re a nonprofit, you can schedule gratitude messages to volunteers, employees, donors. It’s a great way to wrap up the year. A small business could recognize employee contributions and feature employees each day.
2. Keep It Light
While you’re thinking on how to preschedule everything, make sure to keep the content fun and light. Lots of your fans are mindlessly scrolling, so just give them a little something to remember you by when you resume your big schedule in January.
3. Create a Monitoring Schedule
While you want a break, you can’t completely ignore your channels. Create a sensible monitoring schedule so you just peek in, see if you need to respond to any comments or activity and then go back to enjoying holiday time away from the screen. We manage channels for a number of clients. Here’s what we do at the holidays: each team member has a three day monitoring schedule. For some clients they will check all the channels for fifteen minutes, twice each day on their monitoring day. For others, the channel check is once per day. We have 4-5 of us working in this way, so starting 3-4 days before Christmas, we implement this schedule, so each person only has to sit at their desk for a couple of days! It’s brilliant.
4. Try Using Bots to Manage FAQs
If you haven’t tried using the Facebook bot, now is the time to give it a try. You can set automatic responses to the most frequently asked questions so the bot answers for you. We do this for several clients for things like how do I find a hotel in your destination? What are your holiday hours? Things of that nature. Here’s an example of a “bot” in action on a business page (picture). Especially if you are sold out, closed for the holiday, not reopening until a certain date and time, you can let the bot answer the question and continue to enjoy your time away.
Don’t Go Away for TOO Long! We don’t recommend that you be mentally or physically away from your vital social media channels for more than three weeks but for many small businesses, the two week reset will do amazing things to refresh you. We highly recommend it. Happy Holidays!
A good social media management tool can make your life so much easier. A bad one can be really frustrating. With tools changing ALL THE TIME, how can you be sure you’ve picked the right tool for YOUR business?
We have a series of questions we ask when considering a social media management tool for our clients. While some agencies put all their clients into their selected tool, that doesn’t always work well and you’re forcing your clients into what works for you. Which may not be a fit for that clients’ social media practice.
These same questions are a great starting point for an entrepreneur or small business owner who is looking to start using a social media tool.
What Features Do You Need?
If you’re looking for a new social media management tool, the first feature you will need is something that will help you schedule your content.
This will save you time and help you be more strategic in scheduling your content
The ability to connect specific channels is an important feature.
Not all social networks work well on all third party tools; Instagram is usually always the problem child!
Do the notifications from each social network work for you or your business? Or do you need to get them into a single pipeline? This is the most advanced feature of social media networks and is usually the most pricey.
What kind of data would you like to see weekly, monthly or yearly from your social media channels? Have you set goals against them from which a report would help you see progress?
How Many People Need to Use The Tool?
Many tools are priced by number of people using it or the number of social network connections made inside the tool.
Many of the great starter tools are a combination of both. For example, you can have 2 people and up to 5 networks.
What Else Should I Know About Making the Purchase?
Some tools max out the number of scheduled messages per month but since that number is often really high (like 10,000) it may not apply to you.
Most will quote you a price per month, but if you sign for one year, there is a great price break. We suggest trying a tool for 2-3 months before trying to grab that annual discount. It will make it easier to change your mind if you find it doesn’t work for you.
Jen and Fran recently did a live video on choosing tools. Check out this brief, 10 minute Q and A below.
Last week, Instagram rolled out a series of new video features under the heading of Reels. Here’s what we’ve learned about it so far.
Instagram Answers TikTok with new Reels feature
If you’re on the fence about whether TikTok is right for your brand, you’re not alone. While this platform has made inroads by opening up advanced features like an agency interface and advertising solutions, the political controversy about Tiktok and its ownership have quite possibly pushed Instagram to roll out its newest feature, Reels a little quicker than planned.
You can now choose 15 seconds or 30 seconds for your video length!Update from Jennifer Hatton, October 14, 2020
Most people have the music feature – hopefully it is fixed for everyone! If not keep using a work around.
A few updates have been added to the clipping feature to splice video clips together.
Many people are editing their videos in TikTok, InShot and other editing apps and uploading them as a finished product to Reels.
We know more updates and tweaks are coming!
Here’s a tutorial from Sam Shefner on how to use Reels with an evaluation on its functionality. He says that some things are limited for now, but that Instagram might build more as the feature gains in popularity.
The New York Times also did a test and said it stinks. But No one liked Instagram when it first came out either, so it’s anyone’s guess what will happen next.
How Do I Create a Reel?
If you’re ready to jump in, here’s a couple resources to help you try it out.
Instagrammer extraordinaire Color Me Courtney got the feature a week ahead of time and does a great rundown here on her blog. She then updated her blog post when it went live with anything that was different.
After I create a Reel, what should I do next?
Some key Instagram influencers are suggesting you get 5 or more Reels up quickly so that you are favored by IG’s punishing algorithm.
Then you can also brag to all your social media buddies that you were an early adopter.
We’re also seeing lots of recommendations about using hashtags but it’s anyone’s guess how that will function within the current Instagram craze of using numerous hashtags in a post. In Stories, of course, you are limited in the crazy hashtag use.
Here are our hilarious examples of trying Reels :
It’s her first, so be kind!
Maybe you’re not yet ready for Reels, but at least now you know what’s out there and can talk to your boss or clients about the pros and cons of adding it into your social media strategy.
We’d love to hear about and see your first Reels videos.