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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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.


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My Time at Best Buy

As most of you are aware my time is now officially up at Best Buy.  After over two years at the US company (I can’t believe it is that long either) it is time to move on.  A lot has been achieved over my time there, some of which I will account for below and I have met a number of very good people.  Above all I joined Best Buy for two reasons.  One reason was to launch a brand from scratch, something most marketing professionals in th UK have yet to do, and fewer digital marketers have had that responsibility.  Secondly was because of the great people-based culture Best Buy had.

The second part of that has changed during my time in lovely North Acton and I suppose it had to change to a degree as the organisation comes to terms from being a start-up to becoming a dominant player in the UK CE space, something they should be well-equipped to become.

So what was achieved?

Launch of a Brand

We had a lot to do on this. Rather than just transmitting the US brand to the UK, we had to establish what the UK consumer wanted and needed and deliver propositions against that.  In the early days I was one of the key stakeholders in the process and we had some great debates on how to shape the brand and in turn the plans accordingly.  As the Marcomms team grow and we went from launch and branding to BAU this moved to the more traditional team.  We won an award for one of the service propositions we created ‘Walk Out Working’

Social Media

I may have been lucky in joining a brand that embraces Social Media more than some, at a time when social media was going from infancy to adolescence.  But, I feel this was one of our main success stories – recognised by being voted number 5 in the UK’s Top 100 Social Brands.  We did more than just build buzz around driving Facebook page numbers or Twitter followers.  We tracked behaviour and listened to conversations and reacted accordingly.

In addition we created content calendars to drive Social Media currency and providing worthwhile content for people to visit and engage with us on our platforms.  This included attending Trade and Consumer shows in addition to covering Entertainment events.

One of my brainchilds TechXpert did very well and given the right backing by the business will help differentiate Best Buy in both Social Media and through site usability.

Watch out for others on the horizon that have already been developed including TwelpForce and IdeaX.

Affiliates

Our affiliate programme grew from absolutely nothing to a roaring success over night.  We built very strong relationships with key affiliates including Quidco, MyVoucherCodes, Nectar and CoolKitchen as well as with some of the others you may not know.  We created a programme that was far more competitive than anybody in our sector and listened to affiliates and their needs.  This was recognised at this years A4U Forum where the Best Buy programme won ‘Best Newcomer’

Mobile

Although not launched officially as yet,  the work already put in means Best Buy is well-placed in terms of apps and m-Commerce.

Site

The site in my opinion is the cleanest and most customer-centric of all core-CE competitors.  It was built using a combination of best-practice and usability studies with our customers.  We also used Exit Surveys post-launch to see where we could change further.

Social Commerce

We were the first retailer in the UK to launch a Facebook store-front, allowing users to access the entire catalogue within Facebook, share or like with friends and go off and buy.  Other work in this area has been done, but it would be unfair to reveal what that is.

Viral

We produced a great viral to link Best Buy and our people with the World Cup.  That despite no link with the World Cup and no online presence.  The video which also featured a competition element, pitted two of our brilliant blueshirts from Merry Hill setting up the ultimate mancave featuring great tech but also a kebab oven, slush puppy machine and man nappies.  The video got c. 250k views and loads of comments within just two weeks.

Overall

There was a lot covered in the two years and it was a great learning experience, not only for me but for all involved.  There is a lot more that we managed to do that is not in here, but I didn’t want to bore you all too much.  I joined Best Buy for a challenge and it certainly delivered in that respect.  It was a great time with its fair share of ups and downs but overall good.

Last word

I couldn’t write this post without acknowledging perhaps one of the best leaders I have ever worked with.  Now I don’t normally go for the cheesy American stuff or Raa Raa as most of you know.  But one of our original leaders at Best Buy was absolutely inspirational.  He believed in what we were doing and was absolutely passionate about Best Buy.  He treated every employee as a member of his family an he genuinely had the best interests of everybody at heart.  Paul Antoniadis sadly left Best Buy and in my humble opinion I still don’t think they have replaced his passion or enthusiasm.

I know Paul is off doing his own thing now and doing very well for himself (I imagine with much shorter days as well).  There were many other people within Best Buy who were good and helped make it a great place and they know who they are.

Now I move on to new things, which will be revealed very shortly.  Needless to say everything I have learned over the past two years will be utilised and built upon.  So watch my LinkedIn profile to see what’s next.


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Using Social Media in a B2B World

Without a doubt Social Media is a really important element of modern life.  Individuals use it to connect with friends, old acquaintances and even celebrities.  Organisations of all sizes are using the likes of Facebook to make contact with their customers.  This doesn’t appear to change, if anything Social Media is likely to play an increasingly prominent role, especially now that Google states it will use buzz as an influence in its ranking.

When I speak to friends who work in a B2B environment they often ask what can they use it for.  I am also asked the same question when I speak at conferences.

Despite the repeated questions on how should B2B organisations adopt Social Media a Bizreport study outlined some interesting and surprising statistics.  86% of B2B firms already have an active Social Media presence compared to only 82% of B2C companies.  However the same report suggests that those B2B firms aren’t making the most of their presence with 32% engaging with their base on a daily basis, compared to 52% of B2C companies.  This is backed up by the fact that 34% of B2B companies aren’t tracking their activity in any way either.

Gut instinct is the same as if I was in a B2C environment. Use the channels in the way they should be used and create approaches that are right and targeted to your audience. The key thing I would advise anybody to do first however is understand why your business should be in Social Media and what is your aim of being there?  Can you offer the audience something they can’t get elsewhere or provide them with a point of view they don’t easily get.

Once you have defined your sense of being (in Social Media terms) you should integrate it into both your overall business processes and your overall Marketing strategy.  The reason for doing this is to ensure it becomes a part of your everyday activity in your business, automatically enabling you to avoid the pitfall of engaging in the stats in the report.

Perhaps more importantly in B2B than in B2C you really need to define what each channel will be used for.  That being said this is still an important factor in B2C however there is also more of an overlap of channels for B2C.  Remember, just because all the buzz and scale is with the likes of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube you may decide that one or all of these channels are not suitable for your business.

A key part to any social media strategy is the reason for being.  Offer your customers something to engage with, provide a currency that will ensure they want to engage with your company. This will be different depending who your business is, what it does and your position in your sector and with your customers.

For example, if you are perceived as an expert in your field then your strategy will be completely different to if you are purely a distributor of kit.  We need to take one step back to the start of that sentence, the key part is how you are perceived by your customers, not how you perceive yourself.  You don’t need to undertake expensive brand studies just generally ask your customers some new questions, unless you already know the answers.

Obviously in a B2B environment customers are often as concerned by the commercial aspect so if you are in a position to offer something unique for those that engage with you via social media (voucher codes or free services) that could provide a boost to your numbers, however that alone will not necessarily help you achieve your goals unless its a continued programme of activity that provides real additional value.

The whole ethos of being an expert provides real social media gold.  What can you give to your customers that will help interaction and engagement.  A great example is to provide content they wouldn’t get elsewhere.  A builders merchant could provide HowTo guides for builders on ways to save money and time on specific projects such as building a conservatory.

A distributor of electrical components could provide a service to the end user but as an aid for their B2B customers.  The distributor could provide a mash-up of the UK map which is fully searchable and links to electricians in their area, with examples of their work and testimonials.  The distributor in theory could also create income from charging electricians to appear on their platform if scale was achieved.

IT training companies could really demonstrate their expertise by providing a community and forum on their own website where their trainers can answer delegates questions on site and in theory offer clinics at agreed dates to really give in-depth support to their delegates.  This would really add ongoing value to delegates and support them and their employers further in to the lifecycle.

These were just some basic ideas that could be adopted and across a number of sectors.  If you are in a B2B environment, feel free to make contact and I can see if I can devise something specific for you.  Also check out this B2B Social Media infographic


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Social Brands 100 – #sb100

Some time ago I was informed that Best Buy had been nominated to appear in the Social Brands 100 list for our social media efforts in the UK. This was a great honour as the nominations had been sourced from the public.  I personally feel this is a good endorsement for all the hard work myself and the team have put in to make the impact we have had as a new brand.  Special shout has to go to my Social Media Manager, Graeme Cole who is busy on a well earned sabbatical at the moment touring the southern hemisphere. He is back soon.

To find out a couple of weeks ago that we finished fifth was massive for us.  To beat the likes of ASOS and Zappos is a great feeling.  In addition to being the only player in our sector to feature in the Top 100 is a great achievement.

So why have we been placed so highly? For the official answers and scoring criteria see the #sb100 report here.  From a personal perspective I feel we have tried to cover all the basis within social media.

1 On-site

We have created a core community platform that provides forums for customers and/or general visitors to talk about tech or general tech and entertainment related subjects.  In addition we are very transparent with customer service questions and requests for expertise. We rarely moderate and try to do so on a fair basis.

We also have an active blog base which covers, tech, entertainment and updates from Best Buy. I have personally covered the likes of Gadget Show Live and interviewed Suzi Perry and Ortis Deley.  Other great content includes coverage from the Brits and BAFTA ceremonies.

2 Reviews

Reviews come from both the well known aggregator Reevoo but also our own panel of TechXperts. These guys review the latest kit from Energy Monitors to the latest 3D TV.  The platform is also open for members of the public to upload their own video.

3. Social Platforms

We are active on all the major platforms, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.  On each of the platforms we tailor the activity to suit the audience.  However we often run competitions, upload photos from events and provide updates and offers for our base.  Perhaps most importantly we encourage customers to ask questions and if need be, give us feedback, no matter how difficult it may be.  We always try to respond quickly and as thoroughly as we can.  We also do it from a personal perspective rather than as a company.

4. Social Commerce

In addition, as reported in NMA we also have a Facebook store, which allows our fan base to check prices, look at the latest kit all from Facebook.

This is just the start for Best Buy in the UK.  We have driven this growth organically without any advertising or promotion to speak of.  We also have a couple more ideas up our sleeves that could help customers engage with us further so watch this space.

Would love to hear what you think of what we have done so far and of course any ideas for the future.  Also, do you think we deserved the lofty position?

Just a final point, I would personally like to thank anybody that nominated us and thank the guys Headstream and the panel for their views and feedback.  Now we just need to aim for higher next time!


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Blendtec – Will it Blend

Will it Blend?

Blendtec is not really unique. It isn’t a particularly inventive idea. It isn’t even particularly well produced (although that is the point).  So why am I featuring it?

The simple truth is that Blendtec founder, Tom Dickson, took one of the 5 F’s of Social Media and used it to bring to life, a quite frankly, dull subject, blenders.  While most manufacturers were trying to make the products either sound like a must-have or focussing on key features, Blendtec took the unprecedented step of trying to make the topic of blenders fun.

What is it?

Blendtec was created after Tom first tried to blend a box of matches.  The mess created, inspired Tom to kick-off his unusual marketing campaign, which has turned into a viral success.  Blendtec now has its own sites with regular videos being placed on the site.  Tom Dickson still stars and utilises his inane grin as he subjects the items to the blender.

The campaign took off from almost day one.  The fact that the episodes offered shock value was enough, but the fun factor hasn’t tired.  Each episode centres on an item that really shouldn’t be blended, lighters, cans of fizzy drink and even a 6ft garden rake.

Part of Will it Blend’s appeal however is the fact that Tom normally offers up a reason for things being blended.  A common request from fans of the show is to blend a crowbar.  In one episode which appeared to bow to viewer demand it appeared Tom was going to attempt to blend a crowbar.  Completely by chance, this was interupted by a mobile phone.  Tom’s response was to blend each and every phone of the crew.

He has also earned money by doing shows based around the superbowl, blending in relation to movie launches and a disc of GTA IV.  Perhaps the standout feature was when Tom blended his iPhone citing the reason that he needed to upgrade.  The shock value in one of the most in-demand products being destroyed in front of your eyes made this episode one of the most watched in the series.

Fun

For me this is a perfect example of a campaign that just works.  It strikes a chord with people as it demonstrates a rather dry subject and creates theatre, involving something that the general public wouldn’t consider.  The main underlying theme for me is that the deliberately cheesy set-up and low-cost production values make the whole thing, a lot of fun.  This is truly one of the most successful viral/social campaigns there has been.  Not purely because of the buzz created.  Not purely because of the sheer volumes of views it has received.  This campaign has delivered real commercial return.

It is rumoured this very low budget viral has delivered up to 500% sales growth.  Proving that impact campaigns can deliver real commercial benefit.


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Ask.com brings back Jeeves

Ask.com brings back Jeeves

askjeeves_logo

OK, so cast your mind back a number of years.  A day when Google weren’t as dominant a player in the internet space as they are now.  A time when multiple search engines were available.  Yahoo, MSN (or one of its many labels), Excite, Lycos and Ask Jeeves.  It seems odd now talking about anything outside of the “Big 3”, it is almost peculiar to use the term the “Big 3” given Google’s dominance.

It came as a reminder when trawling through industry sites this morning that other search engines do exist (and there used ot be a few of them).  Revolution magazine have highlighted that Ask.com have rebranded for the second time in 18 months.  Now this isn’t some fancy all singing affair with new Web 2.0 images and fancy bits everywhere, no its back to the olden days with our little butler pal Jeeves. 

Revolution outline the move is going back to the initial notion that people will type in questions to search.  Jeeves will now display answers and make recommendations.  In theory this sounds like the perfect solution.  Yet it probably did when AskJeeves was first formed.  However given the way people have adpated their search habits to use Google, their learned behaviour means (in my opinion) they don’t type in many questions anymore. 

I am not saying Ask have made a mistake here.  More people are now using social networks and platforms which means they are adapting their behaviour again and moving towards a different type of English (text and short-terms are common), however search hasn’t moved.  The fact that the Ask model promises to deliver more news, blogs and videos etc could be a good thing for them and people in the social spectrum.  However, if I am looking for a supplier or retailer, I am not sure typing in “Where are Halfords” and then getting some forums is really what I need.  Especially when one of the posts is how useless are Halfords from the AVForums.

I am keen to keep an eye on the developments at Ask (Jeeves) and see if their latest efforts can take advantage of the current social media wave.  It would be great to have a serious challenger to Google.  This isn’t a criticism of Google as they are still the most relevant of all the large search engines, its just as an advertiser it would be good to have a credible alternative.

Either way, good to see you back Mr Jeeves.  Just a shame when I type in “Who is Richard Clark?” – a picture of Dick Clark appears.