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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


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The Internet Landscape

NetImperative.com published a number of latest stats on internet usage this week.  But what does it all mean?

Rise and Fall of the Internet

So you probably thought that everybody that wanted to use the internet at home probably already has access.  Well according to the latest numbers from Nielsen (featured on NetImperative) there is still room for growth in major markets.  The US and UK saw significant growth, 10.4% and 3.1% respectively.    There was also growth of over 1% in Australia, Italy and Germany with more modest growths in Japan and Brazil.  Most startling isn’t the fact that some markets have continued to grow, more that some major markets have declined, including France, Spain iPhone 3GSand Switzerland. 

Whilst I don’t think the numbers should be read in pure black and white terms, it does demonstrate the issues of using data on such a small time frame and not looking at longer term trends.  The data was based only on May 09 Vs June 09.  If you were to read this on face value, it would seem USA is leading the way on the internet whilst some mainland European counties are turning their backs on the Internet, which obviously isn’t true.  I am not 100% certain but I can’t imagine the numbers Nielsen uses takes into account convergance and the growing move towards accessing the internet on mobile devices such as the Apple iPhone or the HTC Google phone.  This is also set to continue with newer style netbooks with mobile broadband capability built-in.

Top Social Networking Channels

So Facebook are the kings of social networking.  That is the widely held view and judging from the Hitwise numbers featured in NetImperative show that it represents 47% of all UK visits to social networking sites.  Interestingly Bebo has twice the traffic of Twitter and MySpace.  Another dark horseSocial Media Pic that many people completely ignore is Yahoo!Answers with 1.19% of all traffic. 

Whilst these numbers prove that Facebook cannot be ignored by marketeers, it does demonstrate the next tier isn’t as obvious and clear cut as many think.  All Marketeers should look at their target segments and choose which channel best suits their needs.  They should also consider what they have to offer each network and create firm reasons for being involved.  Despite Bebo‘s claims within their advertising sales packages, I doubt they are as big in the 25+ market as they would lead you to believe.  You must therefore determine if you have anything to offer a younger audience and if you brand belongs.

Top UK Online Retailers

Once again on NetImperative they list the Top 50 Online Retailers within the UK (listed at the foot of this post).  The list published in conjunction with IMRG and using Hitwise data is based purely on visits.   The list is fine as a benchmark but to label its output Top 50 Online retailers is somewhat over the top.  The numbers fail to recognise usability, conversion, online SoV or the obvious benchmark of turnover and profit.  If all these factors were incorporated, I am sure there would be some differing positions and maybe even some change of faces in the Top 50.

Withstanding the rationale of creating the list, the top 10 is made up predominantly of names you would consider when talking about Top 10.  Amazon (1st and 5th), Argos, Play.com, Next, Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Thomson, Expedia and EasyJet.  OK so the final few wouldn’t be in my list of Top 10 online retailers.  Despite this list IMRG claim a massive rise in spend online, largely driven by the fashion sector (none of whom really appear at the top of the list, with the exception of Next and M&S)

The most interesting element of the top 10 is that all are recognised brands.   This shows that Internet Marketeers also need to recognise the importance of brand and cannot base every business decision purely on immediate ROI or DM metrics.

Top 50 Online Retailers List  – August 2009

Source: NetImperative

1 Amazon UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/
2 Argos http://www.argos.co.uk/
3 Play.com http://www.play.com/
4 Next http://www.next.co.uk/
5 Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/
6 Marks & Spencer http://www.marksandspencer.com/
7 Tesco.com http://www.tesco.com/
8 Thomson Holidays http://www.thomson.co.uk/
9 Expedia.co.uk http://www.expedia.co.uk/
10 easyJet http://www.easyjet.co.uk/
11 Apple Computer http://www.apple.com/
12 Ryanair http://www.ryanair.com/
13 ASOS http://www.asos.com/
14 Tesco Direct http://www.direct.tesco.com/
15 lastminute.com http://www.lastminute.com/
16 Thomas Cook http://www.thomascook.com/
17 B&Q http://www.diy.com/
18 John Lewis http://www.johnlewis.com/
19 Debenhams http://www.debenhams.com/
20 Littlewoods http://www.littlewoods.com/
21 HMV.co.uk http://www.hmv.co.uk/
22 River Island http://www.riverisland.com/
23 Currys http://www.currys.co.uk/
24 Ticketmaster UK http://www.ticketmaster.co.uk/
25 Topshop http://www.topshop.co.uk/
26 Odeon Cinemas http://www.odeon.co.uk/
27 New Look http://www.newlook.co.uk/
28 LOVEFiLM http://www.lovefilm.com/
29 O2 Shop http://www.shop.o2.co.uk/
30 Cineworld Cinemas http://www.cineworld.co.uk/
31 TravelRepublic.co.uk http://www.travelrepublic.co.uk/
32 Comet UK http://www.comet.co.uk/
33 Vue Entertainment http://www.myvue.com/
34 The TrainLine http://www.thetrainline.com/
35 British Airways http://www.britishairways.com/
36 ASDA http://www.asda.co.uk/
37 First Choice http://www.firstchoice.co.uk/
38 Dell EMEA http://www.euro.dell.com/
39 Halfords http://www.halfords.com/
40 Screwfix Direct http://www.screwfix.com/
41 PC World http://www.pcworld.co.uk/
42 GAME http://www.shop.game.net/
43 IKEA http://www.ikea.com/
44 Travelodge UK http://www.travelodge.co.uk/
45 Homebase http://www.homebase.co.uk/
46 Sainsbury’s http://www.sainsburys.com/
47 Boots http://www.boots.com/
48 ASDA Direct http://direct.asda.com
49 The Orange Shop http://www.shop.orange.co.uk/
50 QVCUK.com http://www.qvcuk.com/


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Is Online Display Advertising Dead?

Does Online Display Advertising Work?
Online display advertising regularly commands a high degree of concentration from online advertising professionals. It attracts a high proportion of many online advertising professionals time and in certain sectors, commands a high proportion of online advertising budgets.
As I have mentioned elsewhere in this blog, online is sometimes a victim of its own success. Because you can track almost anything, almost everything has to be completely accountable with no room for doubt or vagueness. Whilst this is powerful to help prove effectiveness, it is perhaps not the most effective way to manage integrated campaigns. After all, how long have advertisers spent millions on press and/or outdoor campaigns without being able to track effectiveness with any conviction.   For clarity, I am not saying these traditional channels don’t work, these can be effective but they need to be measured.
With the recession hanging over nearly the entire global economy, advertisers are evaluating all spend. If you are concentrating on purely ROI and not reach or frequency of message, online display often loses out.  There is often the argument that display is used to drive awareness or brand consideration, however how many advertisers actually measure this?  The other argument is that a different type of audience clicks on display ads, compared to other channels such as search or price comparisons. The latter is true, however as a recent study by Starcom, Tacoda and comScore illustrates that isn’t always a good thing.
The trio identified a group of individuals that they labelled “Natural Born Clickers”. Whilst this was a study in the US, it is more than likely similar here in the UK.
The study illustrates that these “Natural Born Clickers” represent c.6% of the online population. Disproportionally they account for 50% of all display ad clicks. This statistic alone illustrates that there is a small (yet not insignificant) proportion of the audience that skew display campaign results, this generally negates CTR and CPC as metrics. These audiences skew towards Internet users between the ages of 25-44 and households with a low to medium combined income. Heavy clickers behave very differently online than the typical Internet user, and while they spend four times more time online than non-clickers, their spending does not proportionately reflect this very heavy Internet usage. Whilst this audience also spends significantly more time online than the average user they are also more likely to visit auctions, gambling, and career sites.
The study obviously highlights that CTR (Click Through Rate) and CPC are not valid measurements for display advertising.  Whilst CPM is much maligned, because the impression does not necessarily mean the ad was seen, it is potentially more valid than CPC as a buying metric. In terms of brand building through display, if you are to buy on a CPM or CPC, I would suggest that you need to measure the impact on brand, awareness, consideration or actual shortlisting of your brand (dependent on your objectives).  If your primary focus is on sales at an efficient ROI, in most cases you should aim for CPA. This isn’t black and white as on a number of  occasions CPM can be more efficient than any other metric.  However, you should test different metrics on different channels.  To minimise risk, CPA is the best option.
Above all, remember anything is possible.  Don’t just think of display as banners or skyscrapers (although don’t ignore them).  Contextual, interactive ads are possible.  Sites like Facebook allow users to select or deselect the ads they show.  A site like MyDeco make the advertiser central to its contents and champions the advertiser.  You also have to be aware of some of the more interactive (intrusive) formats.  These often have high CTR, at times these are driven up by accidental clickers, sometimes trying to click off or close.  Cookies are often stored and your results are skewed to these formats if a sale is made on that PC.  I have always steered away from Pop-unders, subsites etc for this very reason.

MyDeco Example
The best lesson you can learn from this is, think differently.  Challenge your agency or the media partners you work with.  Above all, ensure you effectively de-dupe across all channels.  CPA can be fraught with issues on both post-impression and post-click sales, if you don’t de-dupe.  You won’t be able to evaluate if incremental sales were achieved as a consequence of your campaign.
Remember, I am not saying online display is dead.  To the contrary, just be careful with your metrics.  Ensure your tracking is robust and be think imaginatively with your placements and how you utilise the online opportunities.  Don’t just be another ME TOO.