Rich Clark Marketing

Opinions from Rich Clark one of the UK's leading Marketing Professionals

How to gain social media followers


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Growing your brands Social following

OK, let me just start this post off by dismissing any concerns that you may have about me thinking followers are the most important measure for your social. Put simply it isn’t. But whilst we all outwardly say your followers, likes friends etc aren’t important, there is that element of vanity that means we all pay attention.

How to gain social media followers

How to gain social media followers

When looking at these numbers in context of a brand, there are genuine reasons why you need to consider follower numbers, but again, don’t make it your only focus.  A good example of this was when I first joined N Brown Group. We had a focus on growing Social Media for Simply Be in the US to enable us to generate organic traffic, buzz and awareness.  However the follower count on Instagram was very low (low double digit thousands).  This prevented people taking us seriously in the social space and caused a restricted engagement level from our audience.

We set a target of 100k Instagram followers to enable us to look credible to the audience, which in turn would improve engagement and drive organic KPIs.  Whilst I won’t go in to the specifics of what we did, the following tips on how to grow your social following will give some clues.

We hit our 100k Instagram target on SBE USA instagram

We hit our 100k Instagram target on SBE USA instagram

1. Be part of and lead conversations

The most important part of any social media approach is to be part of the conversations that your audience are interested and engaged in. Be relevant.  The days of brands not following and not engaging with their community are over.

You need to know who your audience is. Don’t deviate from that to chase followers. Be credible and relevant to those people and they will share, which should gain you more followers

Obviously there are some hygiene factors that you also need to ensure are in place:

  • Complete profile – make it interesting, provide as much info as concisely as possible and add links if relevant – this is your opportunity to convince the doubtful viewer
  • Whilst ensuring your content is always relevant is the first rule, but don’t forget to use keywords you want to be known for, hashtags etc
  • Make sure your feed is valuable and varied. Depending on the platform, sharing relevant posts is a good way to be part of the larger conversation but also allows you to tap in to other audiences.

2. Be active and engaged

Slightly linking to the previous point. People are often looking at how their numbers are perceived and from a very basic level, they do clean up the accounts that they follow. Make sure you aren’t one of the accounts they put on their consideration list to be unfollowed.

Test posting frequencies and test what content works well and when.  Comment on other relevant accounts post. Communicate with your audience, seek out others and communicate with them.

For others to consider engaging with you, make sure you are present on your target platforms. Make your account worth following.

Now the counter to this is, don’t overdo it. You can become a pest, post too much and cause people to unfollow you as well. Testing is key.

3. Always Listen

Its important to always listen to your customers

Its important to always listen to your customers

Both points up to now have been more about your behaviour and what you post. But equally important is how you respond to your audience.

Now the obvious thing to mention here is genuinely listen to your followers, its surprising how many brands don’t read or respond to comments.  You should also have a means to track sentiment to your brand and understand the feelings and perception to your brand that may not necessarily be directly posted to your platforms.

You can adapt your content strategy to help build on positive views or to address any negative perceptions.

A potentially less obvious point is look at how your followers are responding to the content you post.  If they continually speak with their feet by not engaging, their could be something wrong with what you are producing.  If they respond to a certain type, don’t just think you have the winning formula, but obviously look to see how you can expand on that theme. Don’t become a one trick pony though.

Remember, there is no shame in posting something and if it gets no engagement, take it down.  Its not interesting to your audience so it doesn’t deserve a place on your feed.  Even if it looks beautiful and you have spent time and money on the content, if your audience doesn’t like it, why is it there?

4. Build networks not just followings

Going right back to the start of this post, you shouldn’t just focus on the number of followers you have. You should be building a genuine network or community. Do this by seeking out relevant people in your network that you should be associated with. Sometimes this could simply be the accounts or people you follow. Don’t be tempted to just follow accounts with large follower base, follow relevant people, interesting people, people that you may want to share content from or engage with

Have a reason to be followed and reason why people would want to be part of your network. Could you post other accounts content on your platforms, share the audience reach and increase your follower base and that of the other account.

Its not just about influencers. Yes influencers are the new celebrities and depending on your sector, they can play an amazingly important role. But consider other brands, consider events, consider your customers. Bring those in that can enhance your network and get them active.

5. Have a point of view

Most importantly your platforms need to stand for something. It might be stunning creative. It might be a cheeky edge. It might even be deliberately controversial. Whatever your point of view you need to have one. Who wants to follow a vanilla account?

6. Hashtags

Use relevant hashtags

Use relevant hashtags

On some platforms (at the time of writing) hashtags are still useful. At this stage primarily Twitter and Instagram.

  • Don’t overdo the hashtag use though as it can make posts look desperate or unprofessional
  • Be careful on the hashtags you use. Research them before you post. Make sure the content is right to be seen next to your brand
  • Make them relevant to the content. Its easy to jump on trending topics and you might gain some short-term followers, but why would you want them if they aren’t relevant and why would they hang around if the hashtag or content posted isn’t what you are about

7. Don’t forget the traditional

Now this is an obvious one. But most brands have other marketing channels that they use.  Take the opportunity to include your focus social channels on all other channels.  Don’t forget printed material. Don’t forget outdoor. Don’t forget TV. Your site and emails are key. But if you move goods around the country, use your vehicles, receipts, delivery notes etc

If you can round all of this up with one campaign theme that lends itself to social then you are on to a winner.

The campaign idea #WeAreUs that me and the team came up with when I was at boohoo was a classic example of this. It put social at the heart of everything we were doing and also created a movement that our customers and target customers wanted to be part of.  It was such a success the #WeAre idea was adopted by many and is still in use.  That in itself is a fantastic endorsement of what we did.

Summary

Remember, followers numbers should not be the be all and end all of your social objectives. Whilst it is often frowned upon, depending on where you are in your evolution, it is a valid KPI as long as its in conjunction with other KPIs, for example engagement.

Know why you want to increase followers and what you hope that will deliver. Have a target in mind and be as obsessed with that target as you would with others, but again not in isolation.

Above all, recognise it as a little bit of vanity and put it in context against your other objectives.

Finally, be aware of fake followers as they won’t last and don’t be tempted to buy followers.  You really don’t want bots or accounts that just repost or follow paying platforms in your base.

Hopefully these tups are of interest and help. I would love to know the views of my readers so feel free to add in the comments or of course, tweet me on Twitter

Finally, don’t get obsessed with it all. Watch this video by DitchTheLabel to see what taking your social life too seriously can do


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Internationalisation or Not

In my recent roles I have found myself engrained in making organisations international. Now, I say international deliberately and not global as i firmly believe internationalisation is very different from globalisation.  International in my head means expanding to some overseas territories picked for strategic and commercial reasons.  Globalisation is changing your business models, culture and processes to become truly global and as such your business can operate in any country, utilising all of the existing processes and investments you have already made.

International Vs Global

International Vs Global

Anyway, enough of my views on the difference between the two nuances, I have managed to make two brands achieve success in the US, with boohoo and SimplyBe.  Whilst this is not unique it is unusual, as there are more failed UK brands going to US than successes.

In a follow up post I will explore some of the specifics that I think we have made to help brands successful, but in this first post, I will apply some of the aspects already out there from huge success story Pret.

  1. Don’t change essential parts of your model
  2. US customers insist on customisation
  3. US customers like variety
  4. Don’t underestimate seasonal influence
  5. Bigger is often better

1. Don’t change essential parts of your model

One of they reasons for expanding internationally (aside from more people to target) is to maximise the investment in current assets.  If you can keep the majority of your model in tact then you can leverage your existing investment and create operational efficiencies. A sound reason.

However not only do you create operational efficiencies, the essential parts of your model also help define who you are as a business and depending on the element, even who you are as a brand.  For this reason it is critical to understand the core elements of your business, brand and model and keep them as intrinsic part of your overseas presence.

For example at SimplyBe, the core of the brand is to produce fashion that fits and flatters for a curvy girl.  The core age of the customer was 25-35. Whilst we produced bespoke creative and tweaked the way we approached the customer given the market and cultural differences between the US and UK customer in that target, the core of the brand was retained.

Sarina Nowak for Simply Be USA

Sarina Nowak for Simply Be USA

2. US Customer Insist on Customisation

Americans are a proud bunch of people and not only like things are their terms but are pretty vocal and stubborn if they don’t receive it.  The Pret example showed that they had to offer self-serve points for hot drinks and salad dressings.  It is no different for fashion.  Obviously if you have designed for a global customer from the outset and mirroring trends or fashion from the global shows this is less pronounced. However, as we did at SimplyBe, sometimes you know there are gaps in your product offer and as per the previous point you don’t want to make wholesale changes to your range, however you can add components that are right for the audience. With the traditntal SimplyBe range the product was quite stable and as the US landscape is much more competitive and diverse, we identified the likes of Athleisure and cropped garments were missing.

This is not unique to SImplyBe.  Brands often use collaborations to help resonate with a local audience and adapt ranges to suit audiences. However, other brands such as some within the Pentland Group assign a proportion of their overall product strategy to be allocated for local markets.  Several success stories also have local design resource to understand, on the ground, what is happening.

3. US Customers Like Variety

US customers like and demand variety. The Pret example is classic evidence of this in action. When they moved soup size choices down from two to one, it was a disaster.  They moved back to two (and in some regions six) and the sales responded accordingly.  The fact they developed further product options also shows how important variety is.

This, I believe is one of the reasons, boohoo has been successful in the US. After all, there is so much choice in terms of style and so much choice in options on the same products.  This has helped the average basket size climb and also the value per order.

4. Don’t Underestimate Seasonal Influence

Now the example given in the Pret article explains perfectly why seasonality is so important in food. However, this is true for other sectors in the US as well. Obviously, the seasonality issue is far different in different areas of the US. Winter in Minneapolis is very different to winter in Miami. This is something UK brands need to remember. Yes Inverness is different to Bournemouth but the contrast isn’t as great. If you can accurately reflect seasonality particularly winter on the site experience, you have something that sets you apart.

Minneapolis Snow demonstrates Seasonal differences

Minneapolis Snow demonstrates Seasonal differences

5. Bigger is Often Better

In the final example given in the Pret piece, it says Americans expect space. This is the one point I believe is different per sector. Retail in the US is very spread on this issue, with Mall culture very important in some areas, however, smaller boutiques are as important in Manhattan.

Whatever you think, Pret is a massive success story and whilst all of the points may not be right for every business, they are good reflection points for anybody looking to expand in to the US.

The whole basis of this article is to demonstrate how the US needs attention and in some circumstances needs tailoring. With this in mind, from my personal definition of globalisation vs internationalisation, international feels right.

The original article on Pret can be found here

Love to know what you think. What your views are.  Let me know by commenting on here or by reaching out on Twitter

Steve Bartlett Social Chain CEO and founder


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Young Entrepreneurs

We all hear about the younger people out there innovating and becoming genuine entrepreneurs. In my recent career I have been lucky enough to meet some of these people.

When I meet somebody who is young(er) and has amazing talent, I try to help and support.  Whilst this may sound altruistic in nature, the truth of it is, I believe we are all always learning. I learn and develop my knowledge and approach by speaking to them.

So I will highlight, on an ad-hoc basis some of these great business people I ave personally come across. The only rules. I have to think they are great and under 30.

First off, and I haven’t asked him, so I hope he doesn’t mind.

Steve Bartlett Social Chain CEO and founder

Steve Bartlett Social Chain CEO and founder

  1. Steven Bartlett (CEO and Founder) Social Chain

I first met Steven when I invited him to come in and speak to me at boohoo. This was off the back of a Youth Marketing contract he spoke at (and I was meant to be speaking at).  The issue that we wanted Social Chain’s help with? Well effectively to help magnify what was already a strong social media presence.

We needed to grow a global audience, but ensure that that audience was fully engaged.

Steven was refreshing in that like other “agencies” he came in with a deck. The difference though was he was reacting to the conversation, rather than just slavlishly going through the deck. He was pulling insight from tools, showing examples and coming up with ideas on the fly.

This was different and exactly how we ran at boohoo. A good plan, but always able to move as things change, a real agile way of working.

We gave Steven and Social Chain a trial, which was hard to explain, given we were already one of the most engaged social brands in the UK. But his passion was infectious and his ideas were new.

Needless to say, the proof was definitely in the pudding and Steven along with his Social Chain team fully delivered to expectations.

I also took Social Chain to my role at N Brown where the backdrop was completely different. We were operating in a smaller sector with an unknown brand in the US. With a tiny 15-20k Instagram followers for SimplyBe and nobody engaging, we had an issue.

Using different techniques and really working with me and my team, we came up with  strategy and series of activities that led to us driving 100k Instagram followers for SimlyBe in the US in around 6-8 months. Overtaking the UK account.

Social Chain Environment

Social Chain Environment

Now, you could argue the Social Chain team are the ones doing all of the work. To be fair, Steven is one of the nicest and most humble professionals I have ever met and he would probably say the same. But his team and his business operate in his mould. They are hard working. The are passionate about what they do. They are all hungry for results. But they all act in a professional yet down to earth and friendly way.

Looking around their Manchester office, where it all started, albeit in a much smaller way.  Steven’s personality and vision plays a central role. From the huge slide dominating the main office, to the working/sleeping pods, this is no normal place to work.

If you need to get to grips with your social media and aren’t afraid to try new things, get hold of Steven, I promise you will not regret it.

Sorry Steven, I should have asked first, but I didn’t.

Oh and one final thing, he likes a nice hat

One Size Does Not Fit All


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Personalisation is a bit over-rated

Its been a while since I updated this blog and looking back now at some of the topics, I  can understand why.  But I have been inspired by a few people to resume writing content.

The main purpose of my blog is to give personal opinion and perspective, as opposed to self-promotion or facts and figures based post. People have been telling me there are a lack of “professional” marketing blogs which actually are grounded and have personality. So lets hope I can deliver on at least one of those counts.

So I come back with a bit of nostalgia

I was invited to take the stage at the Drapers forum, now over three years ago in 2015.  I was joining joint-CEO and then colleague at boohoo, Carol Kane.  As seemingly the technical marketing person I was asked a series of questions.  One was from the audience and asked about personalisation. Now apologies to the individual, I cannot remember who asked, but my response got quite a reaction.

drapers logo

Personalisation is a bit over-rated, my quote from Drapers forum

The question was effectively related to how can brands get closer to customers and what were our views on personalisation. My response “I think personalisation is a bit over-rated”

Now that got headlines and even boohoo colleagues coming in and repeating the quote.  The headline was great and actually became quite funny, however, I did go on to substantiate what I meant. I spoke about segmenting customers properly and actually offering degrees of mass personalisation (customisation) could be as if not more effective and yet provide less operational pressures.

So some three years later have my views changed? Well with the developments in AI and machine learning, there is a greater argument for personalisation, never greater than previously.  However, the technology at present is only really effective at certain parts of the journey.  This is increasingly changing though.

In terms of the creative front end of a site, personalisation can still cause organisational strains. If you regularly change images, promo messages and or categories, the design consequences and processes needed to personalise to a genuinely deep level could cause resource repercussions.  Many businesses still struggle to cope with designing and building pages for BAU and some potential A/B or multivariate tests.

With this in mind, mass customisation of pages and journeys could still be a better solution.  For retailers, the ability to change the merchandising of a shopping journey based on data of the crowd, or from AI of individuals do make sense. Although I haven’t had chance to explore the functionality of people like Bloomreach to its fullest, the promise of what it can offer feels closer to what I would value in personalisation.

One Size Does Not Fit All

One Size Does Not Fit All

The ability to set business rules for behaviours that are regular, using crowd date means you are technically personalising, but really again just personalising for segments or groups of customers.  What the technologies allow you to do is make those groups much smaller and more highly targeted, in turn making the journey more effective.

Now, if I sit down and write this same piece and say, I think I still feel the same in three years time, I will be stunned.  Developments in AI and machine learning are advancing so quickly, personalisation should be much easier and of course the processes will be shortened to make it happen.

Article can be found on drapers here

I would love to hear your views on this one.  I know I am probably in the minority of one in my views, but I am always happy to be different.  After all, the people that asked me to kick this blog back off asked me to give my personal views and here you have them.

 

Image from Balmain x H&M campaign


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Defining a good Collaboration

Brands through the years have been jostling for position as the leader in their category. Some have done this through innovation in product design. Some have focussed on providing excellent customer service and others on generating a go to brand.  There are many other ways brands have attempted to be top dog, however a common method is by creating collaborations.

Collaborations can take various forms an can centre on partnerships between brands and individuals, brands and various bodies and of course brands with other brands.  Collaborations are not mere marketing tactics, sponsorship and ads cannot be confused with collaborations. Collaborations, in their truest sense are when two parties work together to create something.  In fact to put it more succinctly below is the definition from Business Dictionary

Screen Shot 2017-03-08 at 22.36.43

Fashion and sports industries have been at the heart of these collaborations for some time. However other brands such as tech companies and car marques have taken great strides in their collaborations.

So, what is the basis of a good collaboration?

  1. Objectives

Now stating objectives might seem obvious. But for me, this is crucial to ensure that everybody involved understands why you are doing the collaboration.  All stakeholders involved need to share the same goals and adhere to the same objectives.

The basis of all collaborations isn’t necessarily always down to a direct ROI and instant revenue from the product you create.

Shot of Charli XCX in her exclusive boohoo range

Charli XCX x boohoo

An example of this that I personally worked on was CharliXCX x boohoo. The basis behind this was to open boohoo up to the slightly edgier girl.  However, the primary objective was to help accelerate our launch in the US by achieving greater levels of press coverage.  The multi-collection collaboration did well in terms of sales, however, as a business this wasn’t our primary objective.  We answered the questions in relation to our investment by achieving press coverage of a much greater value than the monetary investment placed by boohoo.  The coverage we got in fashion and lifestyle publications and websites in the US such as Access Hollywood and Yahoo Celebrity would have been close to impossible with a standard fashion message.

2. Credibility

This is a tricky angle for a brand to tackle.  How can you use a collaboration to make your brand more credible and become accessible to a wider and critical audience?  Well Monster managed to crack this in one of the early celebrity/influencer collaborations when it partnered with “gangsta rapper” Dr Dre to create Monster Beats.  Monster created some good, but lets be honest, not great earwear but with the power of Dre behind it, the brand and hardware became instantly credible and sold in bucket loads.  Obviously we all know that this didn’t end particularly well and Dre and Monster split with Dre creating Beats by Dre which literally earned him a hood full of cash.

Picture of Dr Dre

Dre teamed up with Monster for his first Beats collection

 

3. Expertise

Sometimes there are specialist audiences or areas to target that are just to difficult to do on your own.  Nike are the kings of collaborations and their recent decision to tie-up with Muslin Athletes to create a Nike Hijab is inspired.  Not only does it open the brand up in a new way it also provides quality items with branding that was previously difficult to attain.  Obviously it is too early to decide if this is a commercial success, but the attention the collaboration has received has probably warranted the decision.

Image of woman in nike Hijab

Nike team up with Muslim athletes to create its own Nike Hijab

4. Commercial

When Nike first teamed up with NBA legend Michael Jordan, it was largely to gain a foothold in the streetwear market.  Yes, it was a collaboration that used Jordan‘s athletic prowess to produce footwear that aided athletic performance. However, Jordan was so synonymous with America’s urban black culture at the time, that the main benefit was to create quality AthLeisure.  The solid product placement in Spike Lee‘s film Do The Right Thing really cemented its place in Hip Hop and Urban culture.

Air Jordan logo

Nike Air Jordan one of the finest collaborations of the modern era

5. Creativity

When Land Rover wanted to make its baby Range Rover Evoque stand out they called on the fashion expertise of none other than Victoria Beckham. The Posh brand (Becks that is not Range Rover) is so popular across the globe, but never more so then China, Brazil and the Middle East all breakthrough markets at the time for the vehicle marque. Only a few hundred of Beckham’s Evoque’s went on sell, however the model became quickly known as the car Victoria Beckham designed.  There are many other examples of vehicle manufacturers teaming up with designers to ensure creativity comes to the fore.

Victoria Beckham and Range Rover Evoque

Victoria Beckham and the Range Rover Evoque she designed

6. Stature

When a high street brand wants to attract a more affluent customer or help its core customers buy up by feeling part of something bigger, what do they do?  Well team up with a major designer of course.

This goes on in fashion on a pretty frequent basis and one of the best examples is Balmain x H&M.  The collaboration saw prestige designer Balmain create a capsule range for the global high street fashion retailer.  Obviously, H&M isn’t budget anyway, so it wasn’t a huge stretch, but the difference between brands was still marked.  The success of the collaboration was unprecedented with the whole collection selling out, queues around the block in major cities across the globe including fashion capitals New York and London and items selling on eBay for pretty much close to the price tag of core Balmain items.

Image from Balmain x H&M campaign

Balmain x H&M was a successful collaboration

 

 


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2017 – The Year of Change

So after what seems a long and hard 2016, this year promises to bring a time of change and opportunity.  I have swapped the five-day a week commute from Bedfordshire to Manchester with boohoo for a more balanced life.

2017

Already under the belt are a couple of freelance projects, one a strategic project international expansion using marketing as the vehicle and the other a full content and brand marketing strategy for a new(ish) business.

One Non-Exec/Advisory role is already confirmed with the young and ambitious team at music festival/events company Strawberries and Creem, lead by the very impressive William Young.  Other discussions are underway in terms of Non-Exec roles which I cannot obviously reference unless I sign up to them.

Alongside this, I face the gruelling dilemma of whether to fiercely progress my own company as my sole focus or get a grown up job.  Either way, I do believe I have the network and people in place to also progress the content marketing idea that I have long held as important and a focus since my days at Dixons.

Obviously I have neglected the blog and looking at some of my older posts, I can’t believe how far both myself and the industry has gone in the five years or so, since I last regularly posted.  I almost deleted the blog and started again, but I think its good to see the journey.

I will do my best to keep this up to date, posting largely opinion based pieces of content with an honest, rather than industry accepted point of view.  You can expect comment on brand, content, digital, international, social and anything else that catches my eye.  I hope you find this of interest and if not, then I am sure you have thousands of sources already that you can rely on.

If anybody has any ideas on areas they would like covered, please feel free to let me know.