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In case you missed it, news is swirling that a new standalone Instagram shopping app, which may be called IG Shopping, could be in the works.

In case you really missed it, in 2016, Instagram rolled out with “shoppable tags.” This feature created a more immersive shopping experience for users as retailers could promote their products directly from their Instagram picture.

To interact with a shoppable tag, all that a user has to do is tap the image and an additional tag will appear that denotes the product and its price. If the user clicks that tag, they’ll be taken to a product page for that particular item. This feature created a sense of convenience for consumers to make a purchase from Instagram.

It seems as if shoppable tags paired with the fact that, according to Sprout Social, 80 percent of users follow a business on Instagram with 60 percent hearing about a product or service through the platform (AKA consumer demand), could be the inspiration for a standalone app as Instagram is working towards becoming an eCommerce platform of sorts.

So, as the what ifs continue to swirl, here are my initial thoughts on the matter:

  1. Instagram has shown time and time again that they’re paying attention to the wants and needs of their audience. They realize the power that Instagram has given brands to sustain and grow their business on this platform and this potential update speaks to their willingness to better serve their consumers.
  2. Now, while this sounds all well and dandy, there’s a chance that splitting the experience into two apps could cause a bit of disconnect or lead to a very slow adoption of an Instagram shopping app.  But, let’s be real. Every new update or feature to the platform has been met with initial resistance until people put away their emergency sirens and actually understand how to leverage it to their advantage.
  3. There’s no denying that no matter what social app you open, you’re going to be bombarded by an influx of content and advertisements. This holds especially true as brands continue to grow their presence on Instagram. To that point, creating a completely separate app that for shopping could reduce the clutter that’s overtaken our feeds.

With all of this speculation comes a realization. There are a lot more avenues of opportunity that brands can utilize and leverage to build their business online and, more specifically, through social media.

What do you think about the possibility of a standalone Instagram shopping app?

I think it’s safe to say that we all understand just how important data is in guiding our social media marketing efforts. Not only does it help us create content that’s based on the interests, pain points, questions, etc., of our target audience, but it also helps us understand how and when our target audience consumes our content which helps us become better marketers.

While we know it’s essential, sometimes we can get lost in the influx of data that we actually neglect the numbers that really matter to us. Instead, we find ourselves staring at our screens as if we were trying to decode hieroglyphics on the wall of a cave.

Trust me; I’ve been guilty of doing the same thing. However, my goal in this post is to demystify and simplify the data so that you can focus on the social media metrics that pack the biggest punch.

The trifecta of social media metrics is comprised of three components (hence why it’s called a trifecta). They are, reach, engagement, and conversions.

Collage with business-centric photos and a banner overlay that reads, "Three Social Media Metrics."

Reach

The long and the short is that reach is essentially a social media metric that measures your potential audience size and helps you understand the big picture of the context of your content. Is your content striking a chord with your audience? How big is your audience?

Now, what value would I be bringing to the table if I left the explanation there? I’ll answer that, not very helpful. So, let’s break it down a bit more.

Reach is defined as the total number of people who see your content. This is to not be confused with impressions which is the number of times your content is displayed (clicked on or not) to a user.

Basically, reach is how wide of a net that you’ve cast with your content. How far is your messaging spreading and how big is the audience that’s receiving your message?

Its power in numbers and reach alone can only take you so far. Reach is most effective when it’s compared with other engagement metrics. This shockingly enough leads us to our next social media metric, engagement.

Engagement

So, we’ve established that reach is defined as your potential audience size. Now, it’s time for the rubber to meet the road and pair that metric with engagement to start getting more bang for our buck.

This is an important social media metric to pay attention to because it’s essentially the lifeline that connects your brand to your target audience and helps you understand if people are talking about your brand on social and engaging (hence, engagement) with your content.

At its core, engagement is based on the number of unique people who have engaged with your content. Now, based on the platform, the definition of engagement varies. On Twitter, a good gauge of engagement would be a retweet/retweet with a comment while on Facebook and Instagram; engagement could be defined by comments and replies.

You might have noticed that I didn’t mention anything about likes. That’s because I don’t believe that they are a good measure of engagement and they are more or less a vanity metric.

Hear me out.

I want you to think about it for a second and think about how you use social media. Let’s say it’s your lunch break and you are mindlessly scrolling through your Instagram feed. Nine times out of 10 you’re probably absent-mindedly double tapping as you speed scroll through your feed. By the end of it, you can’t even name five pictures that you liked because you did it without thinking.

Your target audience is probably doing the same thing for your content. They are blindly going through their feed and liking pictures on a whim. With that being said, do you think that a “like” is an accurate depiction of your engagement?

Sure, it makes you feel cool when your post racks up a decent amount of likes, but at the end of the day, do likes translate into relationships and revenue? Odds are the answer is a hard no.

Which brings me back to the crux of this section that engagement should be based on your goals. Are you interested in creating interactions through replies and comments or are you more concerned with building brand awareness and spreading your message via retweets and conversations on social? Make sure that you establish a goal from the beginning so that you can accurately gauge if and how to tweak your strategy moving forward.

Conversions

I have (in my opinion) saved the most important social media metric for last and it is, as you could already tell by reading the header of this section, conversions.

Why is it the single most important social media metric to consider? It’s essentially the proof that what you’re doing is working or in some cases, not working. A conversion is the primary action that you want a user to take from your social media efforts. It can be associated with organic and paid efforts.

No matter how big or how small your brand is, odds are that an overarching business goal is some sort of acquisition whether it’s lead generation, email newsletter sign-ups, product sales, etc.

As the old saying goes, “The proof is in the pudding,” and conversions give us the hardcore proof that our efforts are either working or need to be improved.

Reach, engagement, and conversions, these are the three social media metrics that I pay attention to on a daily basis. What metrics do you focus on?

Whether you only run one account or 15, keeping up with social media can be a challenge. Every single day, marketers are met with changes to algorithms, updates to platforms, and new best practices that we have to take into consideration for the accounts that we manage.

I know firsthand how overwhelming it can be at times to keep your head above the choppy waters of social media.

That’s why I’m sharing three tools that I use to stay organized (and let’s be honest, sane,) and to stay in tune with our clients’ target audiences, as well as to see if my efforts are paying off.

I know your time is precious, so let’s jump right in.

Three Tools Every Social Media Marketer Should Be Using

Sprout Social

Personally, I think that third-party social media management platforms are a life saver, but they’re not all created equal.  That being said, as you could probably tell by the heading of this section, I’m a big fan of Sprout Social. First and foremost, it’s user-friendly and combines several social media channels into one convenient platform so you can easily schedule, monitor, and report on your work. There’s a multitude of reasons why I love this platform, but for the sake of not monopolizing your time, I’m going to highlight three:

  1. Publishing schedule – A key component to being a successful social media marketer is being organized. At any given moment, you’re working on more tasks than you thought you could handle with more continuing to being thrown at you. It’s a juggling act and if you aren’t organized, it’ll all come crashing down at once.  That’s why Sprout’s publishing schedule provides so much value. It allows you to see a week’s or a month’s worth of content on one screen which helps fill in any posting gaps so you can be sure that you’re posting the right content to the right channels at the right time. I’ve found this feature to be extremely helpful because having the ability to see my posting schedule from a holistic vantage point helps me understand where I need to tweak my content strategy.  Scheduling your posts in advance frees you up to work on other aspects of your work and keeps you and your team organized and on the same page.
  2. Collaboration – Speaking of teams, another feature that’s proven to be helpful and expedite the approval process is the ability to add team members to your client’s profile. So, no matter if you’re in the same room or in different corners of the world, you can collaborate, create, and approve content within the platform.
  3. Reporting – How do you show your clients that what you’re doing is helping move the needle for their business? Part of this equation is presenting them with numbers and examples of what you’ve done to help them succeed. Unlike other third-party social platforms, Sprout’s reporting is free and the tools provide you with a well-rounded view of your efforts in a given time frame. From individual platform reports to group reports and even competitor reports, Sprout’s reporting can help you understand your clients’ target audiences on a deeper level which will enable you to craft and implement successful marketing campaigns.

Twitter.com/Search

To me, social listening is synonymous with Twitter. I know a lot of people aren’t buying into Twitter’s marketing power, but I am and I think you should cash in too. Now, more than ever, there’s a shift in the way that brands use social media. It’s more than just pushing out content on a consistent basis. Social leans more in favor of engagement and for Twitter, in particular, it’s being seen as an extension of a brand’s customer service department. That means that brands are actually responding to comments both good and bad from their target audience and are showing through their content that they’re actually listening.

This is where Twitter’s Search functionality comes into play. I’ve talked about it before and it’s a feature that I think is worth mentioning again because it essentially gives you the chance to play Big Brother (in a non-creepy way) to better understand your target audience. Who are they? What do they like? What don’t they like? What are they talking about? When you deploy social listening on a consistent basis, you’ll be able to collect this information and leverage it to your advantage by creating content that directly addresses their pain points, questions, and opinions.

Google Analytics

It’s not like I’m delivering earth-shattering news when I say that Google Analytics is a robust reporting tool that you should add to your social media repertoire. But just to drive the point home, I’m going to explain why. As social media marketers, we rely on data to tell us what social media platforms are driving traffic and conversions. Did we receive a lot of traffic from Twitter last month that resulted in conversions? Did we have a positive ROI on our Facebook ad spend? Google Analytics provides these answers, and then some, to help keep us on track and in tune with what’s working and what’s not when it comes to our social media campaigns.

Social media marketing is about more than just creativity. It’s about being organized, planning ahead, and understanding your audience on a deeper level so that you can create content that packs a punch.

These three tools help cover all of these bases and I highly suggest adding them to your overall social media strategy in 2018.

What’s your go-to tool? Let me know in the comments section below! ⬇️

The holiday season is quickly ramping up, and a sound social media marketing strategy could be the difference in whether or not the holidays are merry and bright for your company.

With each passing year, with more and more competition during the holiday season, you have to get a little more creative in order to break through the noise of commercials, radio jingles, Facebook ads, and promotional giveaways.

For small businesses, in particular, the holiday season creates prime opportunities for you to be a step ahead of your competition.

Before we dive into my five tips, let’s first highlight three of the biggest shopping days of the holiday season:

Black Friday – November 24
Small Business Saturday – November 25
Cyber Monday – November 27

Now that we have these dates in mind and realize that they’re closer than we thought, it’s not time to panic. It’s time to get to work. Here are five social media marketing tips to keep in mind this year.

Tread Lightly
To err on the side of caution and avoid offending your audience, be cognizant of the imagery, metaphors, and verbiage that you use in your holiday campaigns. Always have your target audience at the forefront of your efforts and keep them in mind when creating holiday campaign content.

Showcase Your Employees
The holiday season is a festive time of the year, which means that company celebrations are a given. Showcasing your employees is a great way to humanize your brand. However, there’s a fine line between putting faces to your company and oversharing. Obviously, you want to avoid the latter. So, before posting pictures from a company holiday party, you’ll want to vet the content and make sure that it aligns with your company’s overall mission. Be tasteful, mindful, and professional when posting.

Give Back

There’s no better time to give back to your loyal customers than during this season of giving. Take some time to make your customers feel special and like they’re an important piece of your business (because they are). Recognize and thank your customers by giving them something of value. When you do this, you’re fostering goodwill that can ultimately create brand advocates who will help spread the word about your business. Happy customers translate into influencers who can help build brand awareness through word-of-mouth marketing.

Grow Your Email List     

Your wish list isn’t the only thing that should be growing this time of year. It should come as no surprise, but people are always looking for freebies and ways to keep money in their wallet. Leverage this information to your advantage and grow your email list by creating a valuable giveaway for your audience. Create a specific promotion on social media that requires your audience to provide their email address as part of their entry. But, before you hit publish on your post, there are a few things to consider so that you avoid being added to the naughty list by local laws:

  1. Make sure that you give your audience the opportunity to opt-in to (or out of) future email communications from your business.
  2. Include full disclosure of the rules and regulations of your contest.

Once you’ve covered these legal bases, make sure that your value proposition is worth it. My rule of thumb for giveaways is that the prize matches what you’ve asked of your audience. Giving you their email address would earn them a greater-value prize than simply liking a Facebook post, for example. Keep this in mind when deciding on the prize for your list-building giveaway.

Be Present

Make sure that you’re manning your social media channels throughout the season to address any issues or questions that come your way. Providing swift customer service to your audience will speak volumes for your business long after the holidays are over. It’s crucial that you stay on top of what people are saying not only about your brand, but your industry as well. Use social listening to your advantage to provide value to your audience.

With all of this information in mind, if this is the first time you’ve thought about your holiday marketing campaigns, don’t panic. Use these five tips to start mapping out your campaigns. If you want to prevent bearing the last-minute rush, get in touch with us today and we’ll make sure that your social campaigns run like well-oiled machines all year ‘round.

“Treat others the way you want to be treated.” I’m sure at some point in your life someone has recited that age-old adage to you. Well, today I’m going to preach it to you again. This time, however, I’m adding a little spin to it and applying it to social media.

Whether you’re a small or large business, well-known company or are just beginning to build your brand, there’s one thing that remains the same: You must give back to your followers.

As the Content Manager here at Flying Cork, a large chunk of my time is spent living and breathing all things social media. Whether I’m creating custom content for each platform, practicing my personal golden rule of social listening, or engaging with others, I’m constantly trying to provide value to the end user. It’s this type of content that I believe helps build a strong bond between brands and their consumers.

It’s a cyclical approach because let’s face it, you can’t have success without an audience. You have to go above and beyond to reach your audience, grab their attention, provide value, and keep them coming back for more. So how do you do it?

One word: Reciprocity.

I’m a big supporter of reciprocity in social media. I think it’s imperative and should always be factored into an overall social media strategy because the value that it provides is beyond your average ROI. Sure, we have to worry about numbers and making sales, but doing that becomes harder if you don’t have an engaged following that’s backing your brand.

So how exactly do you infuse the golden rule of reciprocity into your social media strategy? Here are some guidelines to get you started:

Don’t expect anything from your followers.

I know that sounds harsh, but hear me out. When I say this, I mean that you shouldn’t expect your followers to do anything for you if you haven’t done anything for them. You should have the mentality that you’re going to provide your audience with some sort of value in every exchange. Whether it’s an infographic, a helpful tip, an informative blog post, or some piece of content that’s going to be worth your audience’s time to consume, always, and I can’t stress it enough, always give your audience more than what they give you.

Always put the consumer first.

When you do this, you’ll produce content that directly addresses their needs, which speaks volumes to the end consumer. In this day and age, so much of the consumer’s attention is given to social media, so what better place to mine valuable data than the source? When you uncover the interests, trends, and pain points of your audience, and create content that addresses those, provides a solution, or simply is of interest to them, it will ultimately show that you’re listening and that you care. When consumers feel a connection and that a brand is relevant to them, they’ll be more likely to take action when asked.

Shift your mindset.

As marketers, we’re programmed to sell and are focused on the ROI of each piece of our overall strategy. But given the current landscape of social media, you can no longer rely on obvious plugs of our products on our social profiles. Instead, you have to realize that consumers don’t always want to be overtly old when they’re catching up on Facebook. Rather, they want to be told a story that clearly explains the benefits of the product/service and how they essentially can’t live without it. When you take the time to thoughtfully craft content and don’t audible to the easy way out for quick wins, you’ll realize that your return on investment of giving more than you get will be creating a strong, avid, loyal following of people who care about your company and what you have to say. Always remember that social media marketing is a marathon. When you set yourself up for a sprint, sure, you have quick returns, but it’s impossible to maintain that pace time. Slow and steady wins the race, and in this case, always keeping your consumer top-of-mind and providing value in every exchange will ultimately drive you to the finish line.

Reciprocity is something that all marketers should practice, particularly on social media, because it puts the consumer at the forefront of every action you take. So, when it comes time to create content, lead with value and build your following; then, when it comes time for you to ask your audience to do something in return, they’ll do it without a second thought.

Do you need help implementing the golden rule of social media to your efforts? If so, I’d love to chat!

I’m going to channel my best Joan Rivers impression when I ask, “Can we talk?!” In this blog post, I want to talk about Twitter. Yes, Twitter – the social media site that’s seen as a dinosaur in comparison to its competitors.

Let me start by saying that I love Twitter for a number of reasons. To me, Twitter is like the hotline for the public’s opinion. It’s where we go for news, to express our thoughts, and to join in on conversations. (Shameless plug alert: Here’s my blog post on social listening via Twitter.)

If you’re still rolling your eyes so hard you could do a somersault, let me ask you a few questions.

What social media site do you turn to in order to voice your opinions about your favorite show? How about to post your thoughts on a political debate or to complain about poor service you received from a company? What if you actually want to say something positive about someone or something?

If I had to guess, you likely thought to yourself – Twitter. And to that I say, I told you so.

Attitude aside, all of this information leads me to the main focus of this blog post: the power of Twitter chats.

If you’re unfamiliar, let me give you the Cliff’s Notes version.

A Twitter chat is essentially a Q&A session that’s moderated by either a company or an influencer. The Twitter chat starts with a question from the moderator, and participants chime in with their thoughts and use the custom hashtag for that particular Twitter chat.

Sounds like a good time, right? Right!

Obviously, I’m a sucker for a good Twitter chat. My Google calendar has recurring reminders for various chats so I can join in on the conversation if I’m not otherwise occupied. A few of my favorites (in no particular order) are:

Why do I love Twitter chats? I thought you’d never ask. Here are my top three reasons.

You can connect with others in your industry.

As digital marketers, we’re constantly tasked with learning as much as we possibly can and then forgetting what we just learned in favor of the new and improved strategy that was released two minutes ago. The industry is constantly evolving and it’s our job to evolve with it. What better way to tap into the minds of our peers than with a Twitter chat? Each chat has its own theme, and from that theme comes a variety of different questions. The nice part about a Twitter chat is that you can respond to the question and then “listen” in to see what others in the industry are saying, too. This gives you the chance through social listening to engage with others.

You can showcase your expertise.

In the real world, we find it to be a bit intrusive, to put it lightly, when people insert themselves into conversations. We hit them with a middle-school girl caliber side-eye and wonder what makes them think they can just state their opinion? Well, when it comes to Twitter chats, the exact same thing happens. The only difference is that the negativity is removed and all that’s left is people who share the same affinity for a certain topic and offering their insight. During a Twitter chat, you have the chance to insert yourself into a conversation and show that you know what you’re talking about—what’s more, it’s welcomed! In essence, you’re flexing your marketing muscles by adding your expertise and your opinion into the mix. Plus, it feels good to have your tweets acknowledged by the moderator and your peers!

You can build your following.

As with most things pertaining to the social media world, the more consistent you are with your approach, the more likely you are to see positive results. In my case, I manage the Flying Cork Twitter profile, and through my engagement via Twitter chats, I’ve seen our tweet impressions, profile visits, mentions and number of followers steadily increase. In fact, August was the first month that I pushed full steam ahead in posting on our Twitter feed and participating in Twitter chats, and though it’s a small case study, as you can see from the screenshot below, the numbers don’t lie. The more you tweet and the more you engage with others, the better your chances are of increasing your reach and building your following.

Screenshot of Flying Cork's Twitter performance for August 2017.

Conversely, you can’t just respond with one-word answers or give a lackluster performance and expect positive results. Just like on all social channels, building a Twitter following takes time and effort, a commitment to providing value, and consistency and patience once your strategy is implemented. While I know that August’s numbers are impressive for our agency, I also know that those numbers won’t continue their upward trend if I don’t put in the work and use Twitter chats to Flying Cork’s advantage.

Now, that I’ve highlighted my top three benefits of joining in on Twitter chats, are you convinced of their power to help put your name out there, engage with your peers, and build your following?

Still need a little coaxing or maybe a little help? Say no more. Let’s chat.

But before you say goodbye, say “Hello” and see what’s new at Flying Cork on Twitter | Facebook | Instagram.

Parents everywhere are jumping for joy, a smile on their face and a cup of coffee the size of a small hot tub in hand. The reason for all the excitement? They’re happily seeing their kids off for the start of another school year. But just because our kids are heading back-to-school, doesn’t mean that we can’t learn something new, too. Today’s lesson plan: Social Media Strategy

Essentially, I’m laying the groundwork for your social media strategy with five key elements that you should keep in mind with every campaign you manage.

Social media is the driving force for businesses both small and large to reach their target market, own their niche and make a name for themselves.

Use the infographic below as a jumping-off point, and consider incorporating these tips into your next social media campaign.

Flying Cork social media strategy infographic.

Oh, and there will be a test—every single day when you create content and engage with your consumers, you’re being tested. Are they engaging with your content? Is it relevant to them?

If you need a tutor to help you ace your test, let us know.

 

Nowadays, social media is like the life support to any good brand. When the plug is pulled, or there’s a kink in the line, the brand suffers.

While that may sound like an extreme analogy, it’s really not by today’s digital marketing standards. I’m going to lay it all out on the line for you about why social media should be at the top of your mind.

But, before we dive in, let’s start with the basics. Social media is just that: it’s social. It has created a way of life where people from all corners of the Earth can connect and form bonds across oceans and borders.

It’s pretty much the axis on which our world—and businesses in it—turn.

As big of an impact that it continues to have on our world as we know it, it’s amazing to see how many brands aren’t doing it right. Far too often, I’ll log on to a social platform—let’s say Twitter, for example—and see companies rapid-fire tweeting about a new product or their latest and greatest service.

When I see these tweets, all that I really see is Sell, sell, sell! If people were craving this type of content, they’d flip on their TV at 3 a.m. every night and watch an infomercial.

Brands who continually push their product onto their audience are not only doing themselves a disservice but the people who are being served the content as well.

If you’re a social media manager, specialist, marketer, or whatever else your title may be, it’s your job to create content that packs a serious punch. You’re going to want to double down your efforts to provide your client and their target audience with the most value.

How do you do it?

I thought you’d never ask.

The answer to today’s question is social listening.

As the Content Manager here at Flying Cork, my days are spent managing clients’ social media platforms by engaging with their audiences and boosting their number of followers.

But, the bulk of my day isn’t spent crafting tweets to sell. It’s spent crafting tweets that listen.

You’re probably reading this and thinking to yourself, “Wow, I’m glad she’s not managing my social platforms!”

But, before you jump to conclusions, let me explain. Just because I’m not outwardly selling doesn’t mean that I’m not getting my clients’ brands in front of the right sets of eyes.

In fact, social listening is a non-salesperson’s approach to making a sale. Not making sense?

Let me explain.

Social listening is the act of monitoring conversations that are going on around the internet with the intent of understanding what the customers are saying about your niche and your brand. From there, you can take this information and craft valuable, relevant content that speaks to the common pain points and topics of conversation that are buzzing around your niche.

My favorite tool for social listening is Twitter bar none.

While many knock this social platform for being stagnant and stale, I relish in its ability to let me tap into the mind of my clients’ target audiences.

My two-prong guide to social listening via Twitter is pretty simple, and I’m going to share it with you so can start hearing what the people who matter most are saying.

Search

I want to introduce you to your new best friend, Twitter’s search tool. It’s through this search engine that you’ll be able to input the keyword(s) that are relevant to your client’s niche.

For the sake of this blog, let’s say that your client is a local bakery that sells world-famous scones. Super random, but roll with it.

There are two ways to use the Twitter search tool. The first is simple: in the search bar, all that you would do is type scone. From there, a slew of recent tweets will appear that include the keyword, scone.

The second option is using the Advanced Search tool. With this option you can refine your search to help you narrow down your results and laser in on the people who are most likely to make a purchase.

Here’s a screenshot of what you’ll see when you navigate to the Advanced Search page. As you can see, there are many fields that you can fill in in order to refine your search.

Flying Cork blog on the importance of social listening through Twitter.

If I were managing the bakery’s Twitter page, I would focus on keywords like bakery, baked goods and scones as well as the Places feature to locate people near the bakery that are talking about scones.

At this point, you’ve done your research and have found the people who are tweeting about your focus keyword(s). Now, it’s time for the main event – to engage with these users.

Listen & Engage

It’s at this point in the process that you want to get creative. The first step in doing so is to realize that you’re a human and you’ll be talking to humans, and create relevant responses that don’t make you look like a stage-five clinger.

Personally, this is my favorite part of social listening because it allows me to add some personality to my clients’ Twitter profiles and actively tap into conversations that are going on within this social platform.

I must caution you that before you even hit reply you’ll want to think carefully about what you’re going to say. The most important rule when chiming in on a conversation is to be sure that what you’re about to tweet is providing some sort of value to the users in the conversation.

All of your responses should be value-driven, not sales-driven. The sale will come inherently from a valuable exchange.

Let’s get back to our bakery example so that I can show you what I’m talking about. So, let’s say that you find a tweet that basically jumps off the screen at you – the perfect opportunity.

Someone near the bakery is tweeting about craving a scone. Rather than tweeting something along the lines of, “We have scones for $2.99,” get a little creative. How about something like, “We’re always craving scones, too! That’s why we make them fresh daily. Stop by and give them a try!”

From this interaction, you’re not only putting the bakery in front of the eyes of someone who is interested in your product, but you’re also adding personality to your brand in a way that will resonate with your target audience.

When it comes to brands on social media, it’s all about leading with value and creating content that shows that you’re listening to what your target audience has to say. In my opinion, Twitter is the perfect starting point to join in on the conversations that matter most and can move the needle.

Before I go, I’m going to leave you with a joke: “What’s the fastest cake in the world? Scone.”

Small Business Saturday has come and gone. Maybe you’re feeling the rush from all the extra customers, or maybe you’re wondering why they didn’t show up. Either way, you might be considering what you can do to increase your online presence and continue to drive sales to your small business after the shopping holidays are over.

Here are three easy digital marketing tips you can follow to set your business up for success for years to come!

1. Get your business on local listings.

If you have a brick and mortar storefront, you want people to be able to find you! Make it easy for them by getting your business published on local business listings. Most of us already know about sites like Google+, Yelp, Yahoo Local and Yellow Pages. Don’t underestimate the power of getting your listing on all available sites (check out Hubspot’s comprehensive list of review sites). While it may seem tedious, it can be worth it in the end: Some of these sites share data, and the more consistent your listings are across them, the more chances you have of ranking in a local search query on a search engine.

Still think a small business can’t make an impact on the big search engines? Consider this: More than 50% of all searches are mobile, and nearly half of mobile searches have local intent. That means that someone is actively searching for a product or service near them. If you offer what they’re looking for, that means you may have someone close by who wants something you have right now. But the search engine needs to know where you have, and what you have to offer.

2. Get social!

Those of us on Flying Cork’s content team will be the first to admit that a full social strategy isn’t exactly easy, but for a small business owner, it’s an accessible, affordable place to start. Most social platforms are free to join, and some of them offer inexpensive advertising options. On Facebook, for instance, a $100 monthly marketing budget can go a long way, whether that’s through fan growth, deal promotions or eye-catching product ads.

Because social media can be a time-consuming effort, I recommend that you start small. Pick one platform you can stick with, and plan to post consistently. When choosing your platform, think about both your product and your message. Do you want to post specials and deals, blog posts or product photos? Do you want to explain a service, start a conversation or show off product functions?

More importantly, picture your ideal customer – who are they? Are they young or old? How do you think they would want to engage with or learn about your offerings? The answers to these questions will help you find your ideal social platform.

3. Create an online review strategy.

Online reviews can have a huge impact on your business. Sure, this can lead to some negative feedback, but that gives you, the business owner, a direct opportunity to join in the conversation, learn more about your customers and immediately remedy problems you may not have been aware of otherwise.

But how do you get reviews? Help your customers help you. Make sure they’re aware of various review sites where they can find your business. Consider creating separate printouts, follow-up emails or extra information printed on receipts that point customers in the direction of review sites without outright asking for a review. Talk to your staff about a review strategy; make sure they know to direct their happy customers toward an online review.

Just make sure you’re up-to-date on guidelines for various review sites. Yelp, for instance, can be pretty unforgiving with their standards in order to keep fake reviews out of the mix. They also discourage business owners from asking for reviews.

So just remember: never pay for reviews, and never leave fake reviews for your own business. Doing so could backfire and cause potential customers to lose trust. Also, know that this can take time – you won’t get a ton of reviews overnight, and that’s fine. You’d rather have a slow, steady stream of reviews than a bunch all at once and then silence. And remember, the best way to ensure positive reviews is to consistently delivery stellar customer service.

Marketing in any form can be time-consuming and often even frustrating, especially for small business owners who have so many other things to think about. By doing a little bit at a time, you can set yourself up for a future full of success!

Gone are the days when tween girls ruled the world of “Instagram aesthetics.”

Crafting a beautiful Instagram aesthetic is becoming a powerful branding tool, and the number of companies hopping on this trend is steadily increasing.

An Instagram “theme,” or “aesthetic,” is like a jigsaw puzzle. It’s made up of hundreds of different images, but when these images come together they create a bigger picture, a bigger story. This is the story of your brand. The goal of an Instagram theme is for your brand to be recognizable once your puzzle is put together.

The key to creating a cohesive, visually appealing Instagram theme is consistency. You have to commit to posting photos that stay within your brand guidelines. For Flying Cork’s Instagram, we stick to a bright color palette of blues, whites and a pop of red or orange here and there.

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If your business has a very minimalistic logo, you might want to try a neutral, minimalistic Instagram theme. If your brand is bold and powerful, model your Instagram aesthetic after that.

So how do you create an Instagram theme that exemplifies your brand and is visually appealing?

Edit your pictures the same way

Once you’ve chosen a theme that aligns with your overall brand message and feel, it’s easy to stick to if you apply the same basic editing techniques to each photo you post. One photo processing app that we recommend is VSCO. It has plenty of free filters that allow you to customize the tone of your pictures.

Filters can make a huge difference in the look of your picture. Here’s one photo that we recently posted with three different filters applied:

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See how drastically each filter changes the overall tone? Choosing one filter to apply to all of your pictures will assist in unifying your feed. Again, choose one that compliments your brand message and the colors in your photos.

Utilize negative space

One of the easiest ways to distract from your Instagram theme is to post too many “busy” photos. Notice how the row of pictures below has lots of negative space that allows for the colors of our aesthetic to stand out:
negative_space

Posting photos that have too much going on can take away from your Instagram aesthetic and become distracting.

Limit your color palette

In the row of photos above, our color palette is pretty clear. One of the keys to establishing an Instagram aesthetic is knowing what won’t fit. Make sure that you only publish posts that have the same color scheme and flow nicely. Be ruthless! You’ll thank yourself later.

Also, don’t assume that because you’re limiting your color palette, you’re also limiting your creativity. You might be surprised at how much this opens your options and refines your eye.

Plan Ahead

If you want to preview how your photos will look next to each other, you can either create a separate, private Instagram account or download Planoly. Both of these options will let you see how your feed will look ahead of time and allow you to play around with the order of your future posts.

Remember, the purpose of Instagram is to engage your audience with visual content, so imagine you’re one of your own followers. What do you want to see? What would make you hit “follow” or “like?”

DO YOU HAVE ANY INSTAGRAM AESTHETIC HACKS? LET US KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!

Every day we are inundated with companies trying to push through the clutter to have their message stand out from the others.

Think about it for a second. Your phone is a hub for companies vying for their target audience’s attention. Wherever you go online, companies are pushing their way into the conversation and you should, too. And you’re in luck because here we’ll tell you how to humanize social media.

Social media is the main vein to connect humans-to-humans from every corner of the world at any point in the day. While we use social media to check up on our family members, friends and those people we haven’t talked to since the last bell of high school rang, brands can use their social channels as a line of communication with their target audience.

In fact, social media gives brands the opportunity to highlight the faces behind consumers’ favorite products, and a chance for users to glimpse into the company culture while still supporting their overall marketing efforts.

SO, WANT TO KNOW HOW TO HUMANIZE SOCIAL MEDIA? TAKE A LOOK AT MY TOP THREE TIPS.

Capture company culture

You first start by capturing your company’s culture. Who are the people that drive your business? Who builds your products?

These are the real-life humans that you need to showcase. Doing so puts faces to the company; it makes it real, it breaks down the mysterious barrier that’s been created separating consumers from the products they love.

Mystery is something that should be left for detectives. When it comes to brands, you want to be upfront with your audience and give them a behind-the-scenes look into what it takes to get your product to market. Transparency speaks volumes and allows you to form a human connection with your audience.

Get your employees involved

Your employees are the people who keep your company in business, and they deserve time in the spotlight. Consider having employees write guest blog posts, cross-promote their content on the brand’s social channels or create pieces that highlight their achievements. The ability to show cohesion amongst employees is a way to build credibility and trustworthiness with the public.

It’s important, however, to create guidelines and set expectations for the content that employees can create and promote. Setting standards will help them understand the type of content that’s acceptable and what voice they should take when promoting your company. And always be sure to have a review and approval process in place for anything being posted on behalf of your company.

Bye robot!

It’s important not to sound like a robot when engaging with people via your social media channels. When consumers interact with your brand, they don’t want Smarter Child from AIM to answer. What they do want is to get a response that sounds like a human being with real fingers typed the message. This is an easy way to create a connection with your audience. The simplicity of joining in on a conversation via social media is a sure-fire way to humanize your brand. It doesn’t have to be an in-depth dissertation. It could be as simple as thanking a user for using your product or offering an answer to an industry question that was posed via social.

A message that’s infused with character, emotion, and information speaks volumes in comparison to a canned response. Take time to investigate the type of language your competitors are using and how your target audience reacts. From there you can customize your own approach and put your own flare on how your social media voice will sound. As an added quick tip, remember that social media is a two-way street for communication and isn’t focused solely on making a sales pitch.

Open the lines of communication because people want to talk to people. They crave dialogue, they want answers. THIS is what humans are capable of providing on social media.

Humanizing your company shouldn’t be an arduous task. It should be natural. After all, you are human…right?

What are some ways that you showcase the skin, bones, and brains of your company? I’d love to hear the ways you have learned how to humanize social media. Leave me a comment below!

The Summer Cork Series: Summer has come and gone and Fall is in full swing here in Pittsburgh.

While some people joyfully retired their bathing suits for another year and traded their normal latte for the pumpkin spice variety, others might be feeling the blues knowing that winter is coming (Did you read that in Ned Stark’s voice?).

Summer’s just a memory now, but this year, we encouraged our team to engage with us while they were away from the office. But what about work/life balance, you may be asking?

Don’t worry: we didn’t force everyone to work while on vacation. Instead, we wanted to try something fun.

Since we’re a digital agency that goes by the name Flying Cork, we tend to have a plethora of branded corks in various places around the office for a “Summer Cork Series.”

So, before a team member hit the dusty trail prior to a trip, we asked if they’d grab a cork and take some pictures while on vacation.

We asked and the team delivered!

From the beach, to Berlin, to London, to Niagara Falls, some of our Flying Cork team members took us along for their trips and we’re glad that they did!

Without further ado, here’s a glimpse into some of our team members’ summer vacations!

Let’s start with our Senior Manager of Marketing Automation & Email, Krystal’s trip! She took her cork along for the ride as she traveled to Niagara Falls in Canada after her wedding.

“The Whirlpool Aero Car ride was my favorite activity we did on our mini-moon in Niagara Falls. My husband and I rented bikes one afternoon and made our way to this popular attraction about two miles away from the falls. The wait was long, but the views were fantastic!”

Summer Cork SeriesSummer Cork Series

Next we’re turning to our SEO manager Jen’s summer trip. This wasn’t just any trip; in fact, she lived abroad for the summer and captured some pretty awesome pictures with her cork!

 Summer Cork Series

Bradenburg Gate, Berlin 


Summer Cork Series

Prague Castle, Prague, Czech Republic

Summer Cork Series

Charles Bridge, Prague, Czech Republic                

“I got really lucky this summer with an opportunity to live in Berlin. I traveled to four other countries while I was abroad, including England, France, the Czech Republic, and the Netherlands, but Berlin stole my heart. There’s so much recent history to take in and so many interesting people to meet—people from all over the world. It broadened my perspective on so many things! Plus, beer! Really good beer!”

Tessa, our Interactive Developer, made her way to London and used social media to let us know where she was visiting in real time! While we were at our desks in Pittsburgh, Tessa was letting us do some sightseeing vicariously through her Instagram feed.

Summer Cork Series

“The most amazing thing about my vacation was just this feeling I would get when I entered an old building. Some of the places we visited such as Puzzlewood and the City of Bath have existed for centuries and there was just this mysterious feeling that would overcome me. Knowing that I’m standing where so many have stood before was a very cool feeling.”

While we have some jetsetters here at Flying Cork, I stayed domestic and traveled to both Chicago and Florida!

What’s more fitting than a picture at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago with some airplanes in the background? Get the connection? FLYing Cork and flying planes?

 

Clearwater, Florida

At Flying Cork, we’re all about finding a work/life balance that allows us to see the world and still deliver high-quality work to our clients.

So, as some of our team members went wheels up around the world this summer, we couldn’t help but share a glimpse into their vacations for a fun little Summer Cork Series!

We hope you enjoyed! Cheers!