All About Algorithms: 8 Ways Brands Can Adapt to Facebook's Ever-Changing News Feed

Facebook-Algorithm

It was the algorithm change heard round the world…the brand marketing world, that is.

In January, Facebook announced big changes to its News Feed algorithm, which will now prioritize content from friends, family, local news and groups over that from brands, businesses and media companies. Think: less Buzzfeed listicles or Tasty cooking videos and more photos of your best friend’s trip to Europe.

But wait, WHY?!

The change comes as part of a larger shift in Facebook’s focus, from helping users find relevant content to helping them have more meaningful social interactions.

In a post announcing the news, Mark Zuckerberg shared, “The research shows that when we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being. We can feel more connected and less lonely, and that correlates with long term measures of happiness and health. On the other hand, passively reading articles or watching videos – even if they’re entertaining or informative – may not be as good… At its best, Facebook has always been about personal connections. By focusing on bringing people closer together -- whether it's with family and friends, or around important moments in the world – we can help make sure that Facebook is time well spent.”

It’s worth noting that Facebook has also caught a lot of slack in the past year and a half, being called out by critics (and Congress) for allowing the spread of hate speech, fake news and other unwanted content.

We’ll let you decide for yourselves if that played a role in the algorithm adjustment. But regardless of the “why,” the question that’s on everyone’s mind now is, “what does this mean for my brand?”

Here’s what the Facebook algorithm change means for you and your business.

First, and arguably most importantly, you should expect to see a significant decrease in your organic reach over the next few months as the algorithm changes roll out. More and more, Facebook will prioritize engaging content from your fans’ friends, families and local news sources over your company’s unpaid posts.

This is nothing new, as Facebook has been rolling back organic reach for quite some time, but the latest update means that from here on out, organic content simply isn’t going to cut it.

You should also anticipate your audience spending less time on the platform. Don’t get us wrong – Facebook still leads the pack with 2 billion+ active monthly users, but Zuckerberg himself has acknowledged that “the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down” due to the change.

Silver lining: the hope is that, while audiences will spend less hours per day mindlessly scrolling through their feeds, the time they do spend on the platform will be spent meaningfully engaging with content that matters to them.

Now, we realize these changes can be scary for brands that depend on Facebook to reach their audiences, build awareness and drive sales. But don’t worry – at Approach, we’ve encountered countless algorithm changes over the years, and we’ve helped clients navigate them every step of the way.

Here, we’ve compiled our top tips to help your brand survive (and thrive) on Facebook, despite the latest algorithm changes.

  1.  Invest in Paid Media

    As of right now, organic brand content will be deprioritized on Facebook, but paid content will not. So, if you don’t currently have a paid media strategy, create one. If you do, now is the time to revisit it to make sure it’s as effective as possible. Know your target audience and be intentional with your budgets and content to make sure your valuable ad dollars are working hard for you.
     
  2. Partner with Influencers

    Facebook’s algorithm change is all about connecting users with meaningful content that matters to them. The beauty of influencer relationships are that they already operate under this model. These individuals have dedicated followings because they have a unique voice that resonates with their audience. Businesses should look to partner with influencers who have a strong and authentic connection with their brand – and who have a deep understanding of their followers – to spread their message.
     
  3. Create Better Content

    It seems so simple, but Content. Is. King. Make sure your content is meaningful – not promotional – and that posts are developed with audience engagement in mind. That being said, steer clear of “engagement-baiting” tactics (AKA asking fans to comment if they love chocolate), which will turn audiences off and quickly be demoted in the News Feed. When in doubt, ask yourself if your post is likely to spark conversation or comments from your fans. If the answer is “yes,” post away.
     
  4. Get Your Followers Talking

    Users are more likely to see your content if their friends and family are commenting on it. Go beyond the baseline engagement tactics on your posts – answering questions, addressing concerns, liking comments – to actively generate conversations in the comment thread.
     
  5. Invest Time in Facebook Groups

    Facebook Groups are a natural tool for building meaningful connections with users. Look for new ways to engage fans in groups – such as ‘super fan’ groups – to increase engagements and interactions with these important audiences. If you’re new to Facebook Groups, this article can help you get started
     
  6. Go Live

    Videos – and live videos in particular – are still favored by the new algorithm. In his post announcing the algorithm changes, Zuckerberg hinted that live videos are the way to go, mentioning that they’ve “seen people interact way more around live videos that regular ones.” And he wasn’t kidding. Live videos, on average, bring in six times as many interactions as regular videos. Let the streaming commence.
     
  7. Leverage Chat Bots

    Chat bots and messaging have been a major focus for Facebook and marketers lately. Chat bots, or messenger bots, are autonomous digital messages that can provide automated response, answer questions and be programmed with Artificial Intelligence. Try using them to improve customer service and drive engagements with new and existing fans.
     
  8. Enlist the Help of an Agency

    Now more than ever, it’s not enough to simply have a social media presence. You have to properly build and manage each platform. If your company currently sees social media management as a secondary focus or a responsibility to leave to an intern, you’re likely to struggle with the latest algorithm changes. Partnering with an experienced agency can help ensure you’re being deliberate and thriving with your strategy, particularly when it comes to paid advertising and audience engagement.  

Interested in learning more about our social media management services? We’re happy to help. Approach us today at hello@approachmarketing.com.

Planning Makes Perfect: The Nuts and Bolts of Editorial Calendars and Why You Need One

roman-bozhko-251947.jpg

"I think someone wrote about that recently. A few months ago. Can you ask around?"

Sound familiar?

Organizations that develop content without first implementing a content strategy run the risk of duplication, time management inefficiencies and even appearing unorganized to their audience.

Engaging content fuels all communication channels, including your blog, newsletter, website and social media-and a well-planned editorial calendar helps ensure you're sharing the right content with the right audience at the right time.

Editorial calendars are no longer limited to publishers and news outlets as a way to sell ad space in future issues. Organizations, large and small, can successfully drive their content marketing strategy with this simple planning resource. 

Here, we answer some frequently asked questions about the basics of developing and managing an editorial calendar. 

What is an editorial calendar? 
In the simplest terms, it's a planning document that helps you define what to publish, where to publish and when to publish. 

Why do I need an editorial calendar?
These days, nearly all companies have several owned media channels for sharing content, which may include newsletters, a company blog and website, podcasts and/or multiple social media channels. 

An editorial calendar helps you create a plan for leveraging all of your content across each of these channels. For example, when you invest research, time and funding to develop a comprehensive white paper, you can use the resulting content as inspiration for crafting multiple blog and newsletter articles, launching a podcast series or publishing a number of social media posts. Ideally, all of the above!

What should my editorial calendar look like? 
Format is an important consideration. Paid solutions, like custom software and online applications, are available. But, in many cases, Word or Excel documents that are organized into various categories of importance (see below) will meet your basic needs when you're getting started. 

What information should I track?
The fields for your editorial calendar will vary by need, but you can get started with a few basic fields such as:

  • Content themes or "buckets" 
    Choose from themes like company announcements, industry news, tutorials, customer testimonials or service-line overviews. 
  • Sub-topics
    Develop specific content that aligns with your themes, like awards your company recently received, a shift in your industry with an overview of how your company is responding or a deep dive into a service you offer and how it benefits your clients.

Content owner
Determine who is responsible for tracking, collecting, editing, approving and publishing the content. If you have a large team, these roles may be assigned to different team members.
Content author
Choose the person who is responsible for developing the actual piece of content.
Channels
Decide where your resulting content should be published. 
Status
Keep track of where your content is in the authoring, editing, approval and publishing process so you know what has been shared and what is pending.
Results
Track audience engagement so you can tweak your themes and sub-topics to align with what your audience is most interested in receiving.

How do I decide what content to create? 
To develop topics, start by thinking about your industry as a whole. Are there significant events or seasons around which you should plan? Then think about your company. Consider developing content about your products and services, issues or topics relevant to your audience and information about your company's values and leadership.

Where should I share my content? 
Once you establish your content, think about where that information should be made available. When choosing communication channels, keep your audience and the unique channel platforms in mind. For instance, if you write a long-form blog article, you may want to publish that same article on LinkedIn, and then pull a short quote from the article to publish on Instagram or Twitter.

How often should we push out content? 
Publishing frequency will be determined largely by your own capacity and where your audience spends their time. For example, if the majority of your audience is on Facebook, you might want to publish five Facebook posts per week, but only one video per month to YouTube. You don't need to be on all channels all the time-it's more important to spend your time creating and publishing compelling content on the channels where you see the most engagement. 

What is the best way to share and edit the calendar?
Version control is real. Most of us have received a document from someone, laboriously tracked our edits and sent it back to find out we were unknowingly working from an old version. If multiple people will have editing rights to your calendar, consider hosting it on a shared server with editing control like Box, DropBox or SharePoint so it can be a "living" document with real-time updates from all owners.

As part of our PR, Marketing and Communications services, Approach Marketing often develops custom editorial calendars for clients across industries. With dozens under our belts, here are a few of our top tips and tricks for bringing life to your content through this planning process:

  • Keep the purpose in mind. As multiple authors will likely be necessary, keep the target audience, content focus and company goals in mind for all writing to stay on-topic and aligned to the brand.
  • Incorporate visuals. When people hear information, they're likely to remember only 10 percent of that information three days later. However, if a relevant image is paired with that same information, people retained 65% of the information three days later. (Source)
  • Include a call to action. Having clear next steps for your audience will ensure you are aligning your content strategy to company goals.
  • Be flexible. Don't be afraid to make changes or switch topics to provide better value to your audience.

There are many different approaches to developing an editorial calendar. We hope these tips will help you find a format that works best for you and your organization.

Need help getting started with your content marketing strategy and developing an editorial calendar? We can help. Approach us anytime at hello@approachmarketing.com. 
 

Small Business Resolutions: Three Things Entrepreneurs Can Start, Continue and Celebrate in 2018

Megan-Shroy-Small-Business-Resolutions-2018.jpg

This probably comes as no surprise: I'm basically the definition of a Type A personality.  

Psychologists describe us as ambitious, competitive, aggressive (but in a good way, right?), outgoing and highly organized. We're often considered workaholics. We push ourselves and are typically high-achieving as a result. 

As the new year kicks off, the Type A small business owner in me has spent considerable time establishing resolutions for 2018. 

Because now is the ideal time to determine how we can be even better.

I believe it's an important exercise to do each and every year because positive change doesn't simply happen; it's the result of careful planning and then follow through. 

By reflecting, envisioning, prioritizing, setting goals and developing action plans, we all can put ourselves [and our businesses] in the best position for continued success.

And, according to this Huffington Post article, those who invest in goals display greater persistence, creativity and risk-taking in the achievement of them.

So, listen up, 2018: I've got big plans for you.  

Below are my top resolutions for the coming year to help move virtually any organization in one direction and one direction only: forward.

1.    Never Stop Culture-Building

A strong company culture extends well beyond policies and practices: It's at the core of business success. And it's a journey, not a destination; culture-building is a process that requires constant effort. To attract the best and brightest, you need to create a place that recognizes and embraces shared values, attitudes, standards and beliefs that characterize the overall goals of the organization (Entrepreneur). 

I'm so excited that, in 2018, Approach is investing in a number of processes designed to maintain our culture alongside massive growth. Two tangible ways we will do this are through:

Creating regular opportunities for feedback

We've completely rethought the annual performance review. We believe that reviews go both ways, and receiving insights on how the agency is doing is just as important as offering our consultants feedback. This year, we've established a new position, Head of Talent, responsible for advocating for our consultant team and looking for regular opportunities to provide feedback more than just once a year. We will launch our Feedback Forum program alongside quarterly touch bases, surveying clients and looking for new ways to celebrate our successes. 

 

Providing meaningful professional development

High-performing and motivated professionals are constantly seeking new and better ways to do their job. From challenging the status quo to improving their skills to mastering a new technology, they deliberately seek out a company that provides opportunities for continued growth. This year, I am especially committed to offering more meaningful professional development. We've invited team members to establish what types of continuing education they are most interested in and have built this professional learning into our budget and calendar. The possibilities are seemingly endless, from bringing in a subject matter expert for a workshop to enrolling in an industry-specific webinar to watching and discussing a TED Talk. 

2.    Narrow Your Focus

In my early years of business ownership, I wore multiple hats. As a jack-of-all-trades, I tried to do it all-filling every role from business development to marketing the agency to recruiting and onboarding new team members to managing client campaigns. But I learned over time that as business expands, those in leadership roles need to pursue only those tasks that have the biggest impact on the company's success…and let go of the rest. 

One of my big resolutions in 2018 is to make sure we have the right team in place for the right jobs, so I can focus on the areas of the business where I have the most influence. In addition to creating two new leadership positions, we are reworking our internal teams-such as Marketing and New Business-and establishing leaders that thrive in these areas. 

Growing your business means narrowing your focus so you can contribute the very best of yourself to the organization. If you are a business owner who is overcommitted, try this simple exercise.  

When you're about to start something new, ask yourself:

  • Is this generating revenue?
  • Are my clients better off with me involved in this project?
  • Is my team benefiting from my participation here?
  • Is this contributing to the overall growth of the organization?

Committing to doing what we love and doing what we are best at is a smart business resolution that will extend far beyond 2018.

3.    Surround Yourself with Good People

Aligning yourself with key advisors and mentors who can offer insights, practical experience and overall guidance to steer your professional and even personal endeavors is critical. 

A perfect segway from narrowing my focus is my final resolution: to continue my own professional growth by surrounding myself with the best and brightest. In addition to our new Head of Accounts and Head of Talent, I am pledging to working alongside other talented mentors, including my business coach and outsourced CFO.

As the saying goes, it takes a village. You simply cannot do it alone. Sharing leadership responsibilities can help us all improve our practice.  

While our work may be mounting by the minute and every day is filled with an endless list of to-dos, let's face it: Entrepreneurship is a thrilling journey that allows us to challenge the status quo, drive a brand and build something meaningful. 

So, let's be bold:

Set some goals.
Stay quiet about them.
Smash the heck out of them.
Clap for yourself-you deserve it. 

Social Media Management: Is In-House or Agency Better for My Brand?

/social-media-is-in-house-or-agency-better-for-my-brand-image-01

We get this question a lot: What’s best for my business…taking social media management in-house or partnering with an agency that knows the space?

The answer is: It depends.

It depends on your expertise. Do you have a social-savvy marketing team? Someone who knows the brand voice, understands paid and organic social, can build a presence and engage with fans and customers?

It depends on your bandwidth. Does this team have time on a daily basis to manage social? (Yes, daily.)

It depends on your priorities. Do you see social as a key driver of business or marketing success? Or is it a supporting player? Understanding social’s role in the marketing mix can help you identify the investment you make in this space.

That’s a lot of factors to consider—and something each brand or business must decide for themselves.

After nearly a decade working with clients of all types and sizes, Approach Marketing has a good grasp on when an agency partner is a good “fit” for social media management.

So, when weighing the above considerations, keep the following in mind too. These are the unique benefits a qualified agency partner like Approach brings to the table.

8 Benefits of Hiring an Agency to Manage Social Media

  1. Best-practice sharing.
    Agencies work with clients from different industries and across all social channels. By sharing our learnings across the agency, everyone can benefit in real-time.
     
  2. Trend spotting.
    Agencies are full of social experts, influencers and early adopters. We’re passionate about the industry and often the first to spot, try or recommend a new tool, channel or ad offering to clients.
     
  3. Paid social expertise.
    Organic social activity is important, but a complementary paid strategy is critical to ensure your content reaches the audiences that matter to your business. At Approach, our social team has deep expertise in paid social, managing campaigns across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and more.
     
  4. “In” with the social media companies.
    This builds on No. 3. Given the level of social advertising we manage, we have relationships with representatives at all of the big social media companies. This means first-looks at new capabilities, ad products and best practices—all of which we share with our clients.
     
  5. Technical proficiency.
    Developers are constantly adding and tweaking new tools on social channels, which can cause issues from day to day. (Remember Twitter’s “Fail Whale”?) Because of our relationships with reps at these channels, we can quickly flag and troubleshoot these bugs.
        
  6. Dedicated teams.
    Employee turnover and limited bandwidth are common challenges our clients experience. An agency can solve this, giving you a dedicated team of social media experts who can keep your social activities on track.
     
  7. Deep analytics and monitoring capabilities.
    At Approach, every client benefits from the various monitoring and analytics tools and dashboards we subscribe to. We assess your brand performance as well as that of competitors and the industry, and optimize our efforts in real-time to align with what we see working best. 
     
  8. Content and creative support.
    Creating compelling content is often the most time-consuming activity related to social media management. We bring together copywriters, designers and photographers who are well-versed in developing and identifying social-friendly content that will resonate with fans and drive engagement.

On the fence about how best to manage your social media presence? We can help. Approach us anytime at hello@approachmarketing.com.

Marketing Your Franchise Like It's Your Business: Six Tactics for Increasing Visibility and Market Share

marketing-your-franchise-like-its-your-business-six-tactics-for-increasing-visibility-and-market-share-image-01

Opening a franchise can offer the best of both worlds—the ability to run with a turnkey business concept while incorporating unique elements to make it your own.

Among the easiest ways to put a custom touch on a franchise business is to implement a localized marketing effort. After signing on with a franchise, owners are typically provided with marketing framework to set themselves up for success. This may entail everything from social media guidelines to e-newsletter templates and timely sales promotions to event plans. Some brands will offer greater flexibility and opportunities for exploration in this area than others.

One thing’s certain: Just as a franchisee is expected to uphold the specific parameters of the franchisor’s business model, it’s equally important to put a consistent foot forward with marketing.

It’s the power of a dedicated and well-planned program that pays the biggest dividends—drips and drabs simply won’t add up.

Both franchisors and franchisees may face limited time and staff resources to allocate toward marketing, which can lead to a “we’ll do it as we get to it” mentality.

Are you concerned about leaving potential customers behind? It may be time to pull in a partner. The Approach team has worked with global QSR franchises, health service providers and even local chapters of national nonprofit organizations to attract loyal local supporters.

And while every single company is different, there are several tactics franchise businesses can tailor to increase their visibility, market share and customer trial:

  1. Customize
    Marketing needs can vary greatly based on geography, competition and business goals in addition to local challenges like nearby construction. Don’t make the mistake of “copying and pasting” a one-size-fits-all program across locations. We have implemented drastically different campaigns for each location of the same franchise–even within the same city.
     
  2. Get Social
    If you’re able to manage Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter or other social media profiles specific to your business and location, these channels are the easiest ways to attract and engage with customers. You can get quite creative. But, social media is so much more than an occasional post. It’s important to create a brand voice, style and editorial calendar to dictate what you post and when. Particularly on Facebook, where organic page content receives as little as 1–2 percent reach, it’s also a good idea to activate a paid advertising campaign where your strongest content is carefully targeted to an age, location and interest-specific audience.
     
  3. Explore Strategic Partnerships
    Meet your potential customers where they are. And, that means putting thought into where you can find them. Is it at a nearby business? An event or shopping center? If so, look for ways to get your brand involved. Can you cross-promote an offer with a like-minded business to drive traffic between locations? Sponsor a booth at an expo or author an informative article for a local website about the benefits of your business? Keep your brand top of mind by being in obvious and not-so-obvious places.
     
  4. Find Your Influencers
    Word of mouth is by far the strongest marketing tool. Research shows we trust influencers nearly as much as our own friends and family. Influencers–and more specifically the highly-trusted “micro influencers” who have between 1,000–10,000 social media followers–serve as a great resource for sharable content, authentic recommendations and reviews. Look for ways to rally your biggest fans and turn them into raving brand ambassadors.
     
  5. Pursue Earned Media
    Articles in magazines or newspapers (both in print and online) along with mentions on TV or radio stations also rank highly in trust value. There are many ways to convey your story to the media whether it be through an opening, new product or service or a philanthropic initiative. This coverage can be used in multiple ways once it appears – on a website, used for social media advertising and with a sales team, to name a few.
     
  6. Prepare for the Unexpected
    While not necessarily a proactive marketing tactic, every business benefits by planning ahead of unexpected safety, personnel or customer issues. This way, you’ll have an approved playbook your team can turn to during a time-sensitive situation.

If this all sounds valuable but presents a challenge to execute, enlisting a strategic marketing partner can help you. We specialize in developing plans that accomplish these goals while alleviating a franchise owner’s packed schedule.

Read one of our latest success stories to discover how a custom-designed program delivered flavorful coffee into the hands of a new audience.

Using PR to Grow HR: Why Your Employer Brand is Your Most Important Tool for Attracting Top Talent

using-pr-to-grow-hr-why-your-employer-brand-is-your-most-important-tool-for-attracting-top-talent-image-01

Research shows organizations that invest in employer branding are three times more likely to make a quality hire. [1]

What does this mean for you?

Your company’s reputation and the perception of its leaders can make or break your brand’s ability to land and retain top talent.

But how much control over its reputation does a company have—and what can be done to elevate or maintain it?

Establishing a positive and attractive reputation starts from within, and you have more control over the result than you think.

In this era of digital media and networking, it’s critical for brands to own and steer their public perception. Online company and job review sites make it easy for prospective talent to observe feedback on a company’s culture, employee pride, benefits and even approval of the CEO before they consider applying for a position.

Have you conducted an audit to see how your company stacks up?

Why Invest in Your Employer Brand?

Before diving in to the ways you can shape your employer brand, it’s important to understand why all of this matters.

Notice above I used the word “talent” to describe the audience you’re looking to attract. Most companies are seeking more than just any warm-blooded individual to plug into a role. Instead, they likely want an inspired, qualified employee who will bring ideas and solutions to the table while fostering a positive culture.

A clear picture of an organization will only help encourage top talent to reach out.

If that’s not enough, the Harvard Business Review points to the expense of a bad reputation: Companies with a poor employer brand spend at least 10 percent more per hire.

While a positive employer brand should be an everyday focus, it is also beneficial when large organizations need to make multiple hires very quickly. Borrowing from today’s headlines, companies like Foxconn in Wisconsin and Amazon in a yet-to-be-named second headquarters will need to bring upwards of 30,000 employees on board—and fast.

Quickly understanding that they’ll benefit from culture, offerings and potential growth in a new opportunity can expedite the recruiting process.

How Do You Build an Employer Brand?

It’s never too late to take back control of or proactively build an employer brand.

We’ve worked with clients large and small to implement a customized PR program designed to help companies thrive. Here are just some of the ways an experienced agency partner like Approach can help:

  • Claiming and Growing Company Review Channels—Sites like Glassdoor, Indeed and LinkedIn allow owners to “claim” their organization and maintain their profiles. This is a must-do for every brand.
     
  • Driving Positive Reviews—Most people are driven to share an online review when they have a significant reason to do so, perhaps after experiencing something good or bad on their way out the door. This often equates to polarized reviews that leave a prospect unsure of what to make of a company. Brands don’t usually think to ask or incentivize current employees to share an honest review. But this should be an integral part of a proactive employee communication strategy. It can also help to balance out any existing negative reviews.
     
  • Employee Social Media Sharing—Beyond reviewing their jobs online, do employees have reasons to share about what they enjoy about their position? Facebook and Twitter are laden with posts like, “Ugh, I wish it was 5:00.” How about incentivizing employees to share about what’s good? Their friends and family could one day become a talent prospect if they’re inspired by the culture.
     
  • Employer Social Media Channels—Illustrating the culture, pride and benefits of an organization can attract talent who scour its profiles to get a sense of what it’s like to work there. Brands are the best resource for bringing this vision to life, which can be done with strategic content.
     
  • Workplace Awards—Many media outlets and organizations recognize companies on Best Places to Work lists, including Glassdoor itself. Receiving and sharing about awards can build brand awareness and credibility for companies.

Establishing and maintaining a positive employer brand benefits current and future employees. A strategic PR plan and concerted effort can make noticeable strides for an organization within weeks.

[1] Source: Brandon Hall, The True Cost of a Bad Hire, September 2015

 

PR Veteran Sarah Ann Harris Joins Approach Marketing as Head of Accounts

180111_SarahAnn_02.jpg

I'm raising a glass [wine? bubbly? both?] to 2017.

Our agency has much to celebrate. 

This past year, we continued to grow—serving over 40 clients across the country, ranging from small businesses to non-profit organizations to Fortune 500 companies. 

From Approach Marketing's beginning in 2010, I've been careful to curate a team that represents the very best in public relations. And our focus has always been [and will continue to be] on delivering results and ROI for every single client.

Thanks to the many organizations that trust us with their marketing needs, I'm pleased to share that we've made the all-important decision to expand and better serve our clients by bringing on a Head of Accounts. This individual will work alongside our Account Managers to ensure all client relationships and campaigns thrive.   

For several months, we searched high and low to find the ideal candidate to fill this new role—because this person is going to have a big impact on our clients' [and our own team's] success. 

Please join me in welcoming seasoned PR pro Sarah Ann Harris to our agency. 

With leadership tenures at some of the biggest names in the industry, including Vice President at Golin, Sarah Ann has provided strategic insight for numerous global consumer brands such as Tiffany & Co., Hawaiian Tropic, Breyers and Huggies. 

You've heard of them all, right?

Most recently, she led client strategy and business development at Influence Central, one of the country's leading influencer marketing agencies, where she was responsible developing strategic word-of-mouth campaigns to address the marketing goals of the country’s leading brands.

Over the course of her 16+ year career, Sarah Ann has established herself as an expert in:

  • Client relationship management, serving hundreds of clients across dozens of industries and leading key multi-million dollar accounts 
  • The social media industry, creating cutting-edge influencer and word-of-mouth initiatives within this developing space
  • The latest trends in the marketing industry, creating targeted marketing and communications programs

As my new right-hand woman, Sarah Ann and I will work closely day in and day out to keep Approach Marketing on the forefront of creating positive change for your brand. And we won't settle for anything less.

We value your business, thank you for choosing us and wish you the happiest new year. 

CHEERS, indeed.   

Big Ideas, Short on Bandwidth: Why Small Business Owners Benefit from Hiring a Strategic Marketing Partner

approach-marketing-why-small-business-owners-benefit-from-hiring-a-strategic-marketing-partner

We hear it all the time: “I know just enough to be dangerous, but I don’t have the time.”

Small business owners wear many hats—and it can be easy to feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to do much more than “get by.”

From HR paperwork to recruiting and talent management to bookkeeping, the responsibilities of running a business are endless.  

In the majority of our initial conversations with small business owners about developing marketing strategies, a common sentiment surfaces: Each entrepreneur shares about his or her vision with equal parts pride and disappointment.

The challenge of having remarkable ideas but struggling to prioritize them due to other, oftentimes more pressing demands is a real and tangible thing.    

We feel your pain.

Many a discussion has been had with big-thinkers who have even bigger plans to become better-known, expand or take on a new venture. Some have participated in a program like the Huffington Post or Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses support initiatives. Others graduated with a degree in marketing or spent years in the PR industry before opening their doors.

Most of their ideas and notebook of to-dos have been relatively untapped, however, because of time and bandwidth constraints that forced these next steps for business growth onto the shelf.

Here’s the good news: These hurdles are easier to overcome than you think.

If you’ve resolved to take your small business marketing to the next level, consider enlisting the support of a strategic partner who can not only complement your expertise with his or her own but has the time to implement ideas.

At Approach, we thrive on helping inspired business owners actually bring their plans to life.

Partnering with an agency is a new concept for many small business owners who are used to managing all aspects of their business alone. While it may seem like an overwhelming hill to climb to transition your ideas into action, we have a process to get you moving.

Here’s how you can expect an agency relationship to begin and continually support you:

  • The Strategy Session: Before we dig into a plan, we want to understand everything you’re facing and have been thinking about. As your partner, we take these concerns on as our own as we look to help you succeed. Together, we arrive at the audience to reach and job to be done. We also establish, early on, the ways we’ll work most efficiently together. Do you prefer regularly-scheduled video calls or emails? Do you want to implement some of the tactics or simply be kept abreast of our efforts and progress?
     
  • The Plan: After we dig into your business challenge, we set out to determine the measurable objectives, strategies, tactics and timeline to accomplish your goals. We can adopt your ideas, help to expand them and create a customized plan designed to take your business to the next level.
     
  • Efficient Implementation: Collaborating with a marketing partner is one of the easiest ways to remove a sizable task from your plate. While an agency can’t magically add more hours to your clock, we can serve as an extension of you (or your team, if you have one) by remaining dedicated to marketing every day. This leaves you with time to focus on other things. We make an easy and efficient transition and equip you with all of the elements you need to stay informed. Enlisting a marketing partner should never mean losing a voice or control over how your business is positioned—Approach believes in working alongside you.
     
  • Measuring Success: We know that it’s essential to demonstrate a return on your investment, and this is where we pride ourselves. Every tactic we pursue corresponds with a measure of success. We are always analyzing the outcome of our efforts to be able to dial up what’s working best for you so that every penny is maximized.

For less than a business owner might spend on a robust direct mail campaign or advertising, a PR agency can develop a highly-targeted campaign to reach your specific audience with credible content, messaging and valuable word-of-mouth recommendations. Plans are always scalable and can be tailored to your business’ needs and budget.

Want to learn more? Read how we helped a local franchise raise brand awareness and bring new members into the fold

The Power of PR: Circle K Simply Great Coffee

power-of-pr-circle-k-simply-great-coffee

Coffee is all the rage.

Everywhere you look, people are proudly clasping to-go cups in their hands—gingerly sipping a latte, cappuccino, espresso or cold brew.

The caffeine is necessary, the flavor comforting.

And the quickness associated with ordering a cup of joe is key for our on-the-go lifestyles. 

In a world that seems to be dominated by Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Folgers and the third wave, however, launching a new coffee brand can be intimidating.

How do you convince folks that this premium product can go head-to-head with well-known coffee houses on flavor and quality?

How do you encourage them to forgo what they already know [and love] and try something new?

We at Approach love a good challenge.

So, when our client Circle K was ready to formally introduce Simply Great Coffee at their locations in Charlotte, NC, Columbia, SC and Augusta, GA, we put our heads together to build a campaign that amplifies the voices of local micro-influencers.

First step? Offer free cups of coffee during the morning commute in all three markets and open a temporary coffee shop setting inside four Charlotte stores.


THE GOAL

Approach Marketing developed a plan to support and build on the above efforts—raising awareness of Simply Great Coffee and driving in-store tastings through a mix of everyday influencer, traditional and social media activities.


THE KEY OPPORTUNITY

Partner with local influencers to share authentic reviews and develop content about Simply Great Coffee for use across Circle K's Facebook and Instagram channels.


THE APPROACH

Event Marketing
Invite influencers to a pop-up coffee shop for private, one-on-one tastings with a Circle K spokesperson

Media Outreach
Distribute a press release announcing the launch, with a focus on business, retail and lifestyle/coffee writers, millennial-focused news and entertainment sites and TV and radio news anchors/producers 

Influencer Engagement
Invite local mom and lifestyle influencers to serve as ambassadors for Simply Great Coffee—sampling the coffee at local stores, sharing reviews on their blogs and social channels and spreading the word about events and special offer

Social Media Support
Repurpose influencer content that mentions Simply Great Coffee on Circle K’s social channels, and coordinate geo-targeted Facebook ads for additional reach


THE IMPACT

545,000+ impressions and 2,200+ engagements, including blog posts, Instagram Stories and Facebook, Instagram and Twitter posts.


Off the Eaten Path

The Power of Everyday People: Eight Tips for Identifying the Right Micro-Influencers to Partner with Your Company

StockSnap_JUC6R3PPLE.jpg

When it comes to engaging social media influencers, bigger is not necessarily better.

So, forget the Kardashians or Taylor Swift or even Oprah.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret.

Enlisting micro-influencers—or individuals with between 1,000–10,000 followers on social media—to promote your brand can be one of the best marketing decisions you make, especially for a small or medium-sized business.

Let me explain why.

When a consumer sees a brand endorsement from a mega-influencer, it almost intrinsically feels like an ad. Whether it’s a Bachelor star pushing hair vitamins or a big-name blogger promoting the latest diet shake, more often than not, it comes across as inauthentic.

On the contrary, when you see someone with less followers giving a brand endorsement, it’s almost like a BFF is personally recommending the product.

In fact, studies have shown that we trust micro-influencers’ opinions nearly as much as our own friends’ and families’, according to this Forbes article.

Consumers are savvy, and recognize that people with smaller followings are sharing because they genuinely like a brand—not necessarily because they’re expecting a huge payout.

And this automatically makes their endorsements more credible and, well, real.

Friends, mark my words: Micro-influencers have a lot of clout, and their word-of-mouth advertising can be key [in virtually every industry] to successfully reaching customers.

Who exactly are micro-influencers? In addition to having smaller and more niche followings, these ordinary-people-turned-social media-rock stars:

  • Are tastemakers, opinion-shapers and trend-forecasters
  • Have an intimate sense of who they are and what they like
  • Not only understand their audience, but respect them too
  • Have a direct, personal connection with their followers
  • Tend to serve up content they know will resonate
  • Charge, on average, between $137 and $258 per Instagram post (Forbes)

But here’s the most fascinating part: The loyalty and engagement that micro-influencers inspire is proven to be higher.

A survey of two million social media influencers by Markerly revealed that once a social media influencer reaches a critical mass of followers, audience engagement begins to decrease. 

For unpaid posts, Instagram influencers with fewer than 1,000 followers have a like rate of about eight percent, those with 1,000 to 10,000 followers average four percent, those with 10,000 to 100,000 followers see 2.4 percent, while those with one to 10 million+ followers generate approximately 1.7 percent.

The comment rate follows a similar pattern.

In short, as influencers’ following continues to increase, their like and comment rates decrease.

And the reason is simple: Partnering with a social media celebrity may increase your brand’s overall exposure, but it doesn’t necessarily reach your target audience.

Based on Approach’s experience building micro-influencer campaigns and leveraging brand advocates on behalf of our clients, we’ve compiled our top tips for identifying the right individuals to partner with your company.

1.     Determine which type(s) of social media would benefit your particular brand

Adweek tells us that Instagram is great for impulse buys (such as fashion and beauty products), while technology products are best explained in a blog or YouTube review. Choose micro-influencers whose social media channels best reflect your industry, products and customer—because this is not a one-size-fits-all scenario.

2.     Target social media accounts that your audience tends to follow

Explore which Instagram and Twitter accounts or YouTube channels your current customers—as well as potential ones—frequent, and develop a spreadsheet of possible collaborators as a starting point. It’s also possible to purchase a database of influencer contacts across a variety of categories (location, age, industry).

3.     Ensure the two brands align with and complement each other

This goes without saying, but focus on influencers who advocate comparable brands and/or products and whose content is similar to yours. His or her lifestyle and general tone should match how your company presents itself publicly, and both brands should share similar goals and objectives.    

4.     Find micro-influencers with high-quality content

In addition to using well-composed and high-resolution images, posts should be grammatically correct and include appropriate hashtags. What’s more, consistency is key—so find individuals who post regularly. According to CoSchedule, the ideal frequency includes one post per day on Facebook, one or two posts per day on Instagram and roughly 15 tweets per day on Twitter.

5.     Select people who demonstrate deep engagement with followers

From your list of suitors, seek out individuals who quickly and courteously respond to comments and questions from followers and also actively follow and engage with peers. Keep in mind that if you choose to partner, their actions ultimately reflect your brand.

6.     Pay attention to compensation guidelines

Each micro-influencer seeks a different form of payment for services. While some require a flat fee per post, others may request free product or promo codes. And those who are just getting started and looking to grow their followings may choose to serve as an unpaid ambassador.

7.     Make sure ethics are top-of-mind

The FTC recently ramped up its enforcement efforts regarding disclosures on sponsored posts. To keep your brand on the up-and-up, choose only those influencers who adhere to these guidelines by providing clear and concise disclosures within their posts about brand relationships. 

8.     Leave it to an expert  

PR agencies are fluent in software programs that help identify the right influencers, and we pitch influencers like we do media—often calling upon existing relationships that benefit the client. With vast experience negotiating influencer partnerships on the client’s behalf, an agency can help a company successfully navigate the micro-influencer waters and ensure the relationship is the right fit and follows the right strategy at the right rate.

To learn more about a small business that generated a big impact [and nearly 20 million impressions and 11,500 social media engagements] through the power of micro-influencers serving as brand believers, click here.