Using Social Media To Build Your Brand


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A condensed version of the presentation given by Gadling Social Media Editor Jessica Marati at the LA Times Travel Show on February 22, 2013. For more information on the subject matter, reach out to @jessmarati on Twitter.

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  • Let’s start with overall strategy.Social media is a constantly changing landscape, and as social media editor, I need to be aware of new platforms and trends.I regularly stay on top of industry blogs like Mashable and TechCrunch for the latest news – they report on nearly every new app released. For many new platforms, it’s important to be an early adopter. You don’t need to develop a strategy around new platforms right away but at least sign up for an account and reserve your screen name or URL – we were late to jump on the Instagram train so now we have to use “GadlingTravel,” which was a lesson learned.One new trend that people in the space are buzzing about is short blast video sharing services like Tout and Vine.
  • What the popularity of Vine and Tout and other services like Pinterest and Instagram is showing us is that social media is getting more and more visual.In a social media space where there are tons of updates vying for our attention, it’s images and videos that jump out and grab us. They resonate with people quicker, and it’s easy to engage with them – just hit “like or share.”
  • But when you do decide to say something rather than show it, it’s important to know what your brand’s “voice” is – is it sophisticated or conversational? Enthusiastic or snarky? For example, Gadling’s voice can be witty and irreverent, but for the most part it is factual, descriptive, and to the point. We instruct our bloggers to write their headlines that way, which makes it easy when we auto-post from our site to Twitter. Because we have a consistent voice across content channels, we save time on optimizing content for social media, because it was written that way to begin with. And when crafting your brand’s voice, don’t forget to be human – be sarcastic, make jokes, use slang. Don’t just promote your content, have a conversation.
  • But be carefulThe US Embassy in Cairo’s Twitter presence is notoriously informalLast year, during the riots that arose after that controversial YouTube video lampooning the prophet Mohammed, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Official English Language Twitter account tweeted to the US Embassy that they were relieved that none of the embassy staff was hurt and hope that relationships would survive the turbulence.Meanwhile, on their Arabic language Twitter account, they were putting a positive spin on the protests, even encouraging them.The Cairo embassy replied to the Muslim Brotherhood, “Thanks, but by the way, have you checked your own Arabic feeds? I hope you know we read those too.” It was pointed and somewhat funny – but it was largely criticized for exacerbating tensions during a very volatile time, and it could have done some very real damage, particularly if the more tech-savvy protestors caught wind of it.The lesson: the short form format of social media might give you the freedom to be less formal, but don’t take it too far
  • So now, we’re going to take a more specific look at some of the more popular social media platforms.
  • Starting with Twitter.
  • Twitter is a microblogging platform that lets you post short, 140-character messages.
  • It’s an impermanent medium. You post something, it stays on someone’s news feed for a couple of minutes, then it’s pushed down by more recent content. It’s also a very crowded space – in October, it was reported that 500 million Tweets go out per day.Especially at the beginning, it’s important to Tweet manually so that you can establish your voice and your personality. I wasn’t on board when Gadling joined Twitter in 2008, but I know from the editor at the time that we built up our presence by engaging with people, posting dispatches from the road, and collaborating with others in the space on joint promotions, like Twitter chats. We gave a very human face to our Twitter presence. People knew that we cared a lot about Twitter, community, and travel from the outset, and that made them want to engage with us. After a few years of manual tweeting, though, the editor in charge was strapped for time and decided to start posting an auto RSS feedof our blog headlines.Funny enough, we found that our rate of growth was equal to or sometimes greater than our rate of growth with manual tweeting. Now, both myself and Grant Martin, Gadling’s editor, pop in there throughout the day to engage and respond, but for the most part we’re hands off, and it seems to be working for us. Test what works for you, and do that.
  • One specific thing to note about Twitter content is that tweets that include links are retweeted 86% more than tweets with no links.You want to push out content that is inherently clickable and shareable. You want to tweet about things that are relatable to your audience, to stay focused on what your brand means to your community and create content that they can connect with. Otherwise you’re just making noise.The posts that do the best for us in social media are provocative, extreme, things like top 10 lists and crazy experiences – some of our most popular evergreen posts are about creepy castles and the top places you don’t want to visit.You also want to pay attention to trending hashtags on Twitter and make sure that your trending settings are tailored to your target market – Los Angeles, United States, or “Worldwide” if your brand is global. That way, you can post what is relevant to what people are talking about that day, even if it means digging into your archives.
  • Next up, Facebook.
  • Facebook is the world’s most popular social media platform, with more than 1 billion users. For brands, it offers the opportunity to create pages for engaging with their community.
  • Facebook is a great platform but it’s also a frustrating one. They are constantly making changes that affect both their users and brands.For example, in late September, Facebook made a change to Edgerank, its news feed ranking algorithm, that caused the organic post reach to plummet. In other words, now, less of your audience sees the posts you publish. We saw our own referral traffic from Facebook fall by nearly half, which forced us to reassess our strategy to favor better weighted content like photos and videos.The theory is that this change was made to encourage brands to purchase promoted posts – where you can pay to have your post reach more people. Page Lever, an analytics platform, estimates that most Facebook pages only reach 3-7.5% of their fans.It’s something to consider if you have the budget and are pushing out something that is really important – a big announcement, a new contest, a fun story.
  • Facebook Pages can be a great platform for conversations, but you need to start those conversations. A great way are calls to action: things like questions, surveys, fill in the blank prompts. It also pays to ask: When fans are asked to like a post, there is a 3X higher like rate than when not asked to like.When they’re specifically asked to comment on a post, there is a 3.3X higher comment rateAnd when they’re asked to share a post, the share rate is 7X higher. You want to ask subtly, though, so you don’t sound like you’re desperate for comments. Here are some particularly effective methods that travel brands are using right now.
  • Now we’re going to quickly look through some of the otherplatforms that we’ve been using. Our presence on these platforms is still in development, and we still have a lot to learn, but by researching and talking with people at these companies, we have been able to uncover some useful tidbits that we’d like to share with you.
  • First up is Tumblr.
  • Tumblr launched in 2007 and has experienced pretty steady growth over the past several years, particularly in the art and design community. But lots of big brands have jumped on board too.
  • Now, a few things to keep in mind if you decide to use Tumblr.About half of Tumblr users are between 18 and 34, and many of them are in the art/design community.You want to optimize your feed for visual andshort-form content – basically, you want to fill your feed with eye candy.AtGadling, we are heavy on photos and video, with a quote or link thrown in along the way. Most content links back to our site, but we also do a fair amount of reblogging to participate in the Tumblr community.We also use a lot of tags – who can guess the most popular travel-related tags on Tumblr?
  • Landscape, Architecture, Sailing.Not travel or tourism like you would expect.The most popular tags on Tumblr are called “curated tags.” Tumblr editors go through these tags and highlight the best posts under the “Explore” section, which could lead to more exposure for your site
  • Next we havePinterest.
  • Pinterest is a photo sharing platform that lets you pin images from the web to different inspiration boards.
  • It’s a huge driver of referral traffic.Last year it made headlines for beating out LinkedIn and Google+ and Twitter, and by September it was the 4th largest in the world, behind Google organic, Google direct, and Facebook traffic.For us, it’s been a good reminder to make our content visual so that we can pin back to it – both by having strong images in our posts and also by creating relevant photo albums
  • That’s also one of the keys to effectively using Pinterest - being relevant.About 80% of Pinterest users are women, and a lot of the content on Pinterest reflects that.The top two pin categories are Food & Drink and DIY & Crafts.People on Pinterest love pins of drool-worthy food and drink, home décor, wedding ideas, and inspirational quotes.
  • The last platform that we’re going to review is Instagram, our newest social media outlet.
  • Instagram is a mobile photo sharing app. The premise is simple. Take a photo with your phone, add a nostalgic filter, and share it with your community.
  • While Instagram isn’t the first photo-sharing app like this, it’s by far the largest. Data released in January shows that Instagram has 90 million active users who post 40 million photos a day and make 8.500 comments per second.And it’s not just teenagers with smartphones. As of October, 40% of the world’s top brands had a presence on Instagram, from MTV to Starbucks to Burberry, Nike, and General Electric.Even if it’s difficult to drive referral traffic with Instagram, these brands still see its power for brand building and engagement.
  • As for what photos do best on Instagram, one strategy is to keep it simple.Recently CollegeHumor awesomely did a spoof of Instagram to a parody of the Nickelback song “Photograph.”Did any of you see it?
  • The video pokes fun at Instagram clichés, like feet on the beach, or plane wings in the air. They’re photos that most Instagrammers, including myself, are guilty of.The thing is, many of the subjects brought up in the video inspire tons of likes and comments when posted in real life. While I wouldn’t suggest building a strategy around the lyrics of the video, it is true that simplicity resonates with people, and it’s something to keep in mind.
  • Wrapping up the presentation, remember that even after you’ve put your social media strategy on paper, the work isn’t done. You should constantly be reevaluating and refining your strategy. Metrics are key to this process, as is the ability to read into those metrics, find trends and shift accordingly. There are a couple of enterprise-level solutions that make this easier. AOL and Gadling use a tool called Simply Measured, and Salesforce Marketing Cloud is another popular one. If you’re on a budget, Sprout Social and Hootsuite Pro offer cheaper plans.
  • And finally, proceed cautiously. Social media is a wonderful tool for brand building, but it can also backfire.
  • Take the case of Qantas.In 2011, Qantas launched a social media campaign asking people to describe their dream luxury inflight experience with hashtag #qantasluxury for a chance to win a free first class gift package. Sounds pretty simple, right?But the timing of the campaign was horrendous.The previous day Qantas had grounded its entire fleet because of union disputes, stranding thousands of passengers, who then hijacked the tag, making nasty jokes – like how on Qantas, luxury is just getting a pilot, plane, engineers and baggage handlers.There were an estimated 51 negative tweets/minute within an hour after the campaign launched.Lessons: Pay attention to the timing of your social media campaigns and maintain open llnes of communication with your social media staff, especially if they are contracted or at an agency.Let’s look at another one.
  • How many of you are familiar with the United Airlines lost girl debacle?For those who aren’t, around the time of the London Olympics, United lost an unaccompanied 10 year old girl who was on her way to camp – apparently, the flight attendants said they were too busy when she tried to ask for help getting to her connecting flight.People were furious, and United’sFacebook page became a forum for other customers’ grievances against the airline.But rather than address the issue, United began deleting negative comments from their feed and pushed forward with their social media campaign around the Olympics. That escalated the issue into what one headline called “social media hell.”Anyway, the lesson here: If you’re going to be on social media you have to be responsive, and you have to have a crisis plan in place – the worst thing you can do is censor angry commenters. And please – if a customer is asking for help, whether it’s at the gate or on Twitter, respond.
  • And the last example, not travel related but still relevant:In 2011, an intern with access to Marc Jacobs’ twitter account went on a crazy rant about how much she hated her job and how difficult the CEO was to work with.Make sure you’re trusting a professional whom you trust with your social media presence – it is the public face of your company after all. And be sure to protect your passwords.
  • Using Social Media To Build Your Brand

    1. 1. UsingSocial MediaTo Build Your Brand@JessMarati@Gadling@LATimesEvents#TravelShow
    2. 2. Be aware• Social media is a constantly changing landscape• Stay on top of industry blogs like Mashable and TechCrunch for the latest news and trends, particularly around new platforms• Be an early adopter - you don’t need to develop a strategy around new platforms right away but at least reserve your screen name• One new trend to keep an eye on: short blast video sharing services like Vine and Tout@JessMarati @Gadling @LATimesEvents #TravelShow
    3. 3. Bevisual• Social media is getting more visual• Images resonate better in a crowded space• Easy to engage with them – like or share@JessMarati @Gadling @LATimesEvents #TravelShow
    4. 4. Beyourself• Decide what your brand’s “voice” is, and flesh it out• Make sure your voice is consistent across content channels – can cut down on workload• But also, don’t be afraid to be human – use slang, make jokes, be sarcastic• Don’t just promote, have a conversation@JessMarati @Gadling @LATimesEvents #TravelShow
    5. 5. But becareful@JessMarati @Gadling @LATimesEvents #TravelShow
    6. 6. On to the platforms.@JessMarati @Gadling @LATimesEvents #TravelShow
    7. 7. @JessMarati @Gadling @LATimesEvents #TravelShow
    8. 8. On to the platforms.
    9. 9. • Impermanent medium• Crowded space: 500 million Tweets/day*• At the beginning, Tweet manually• Reassess, readjust, and do what works for you CNET, Report: Twitter Meets Half Million Tweets Per Day, 93/report-twitter-hits-half-a-billion-tweets-a-day/@JessMarati @Gadling @LATimesEvents #TravelShow
    10. 10. Would you click on it?• Tweets that include links are retweeted 86% more than tweets with no links*• Push out content that is inherently clickable and RT-able• Stay focused on what’s relevant to your audience• Posts that do well: provocative, extreme, top 10 lists• Pay attention to trending hashtags and dig into your archives for relevant content Strategies for Effective Tweeting: A Statistical Review, form_strategies-for-effective-tweeting@JessMarati @Gadling @LATimesEvents #TravelShow
    11. 11. @JessMarati @Gadling @LATimesEvents #TravelShow
    12. 12. • Frequent changes – stay on top of news • September Edgerank change caused post reach to plummet • Estimated that most Facebook page posts only reach 3- 7.5% of their fans** • Consider promoted posts * Edgerank Checker: **Page Lever, @Gadling @LATimesEvents #TravelShow
    13. 13. Start conversations• Use calls to action to drive engagement: questions, surveys, fill-in-the-blank prompts• Just ask: – When fans are asked to like a post, there is a 3X higher like rate than when not asked to like. – When fans are specifically asked to comment on a post, there is a 3.3X higher comment rate than when they are not asked to comment – When fans are asked to share a post, the share rate is 7X higher than those posts not asking fans to share.*Strategies for Effective Facebook Posts, @Gadling @LATimesEvents #TravelShow
    14. 14. Up-and-coming.@JessMarati @Gadling @LATimesEvents #TravelShow
    15. 15. @JessMarati @Gadling @LATimesEvents #TravelShow
    16. 16. • fgfg
    17. 17. • 44% of Tumblr users are between 18 and 34* • Optimize your feed for visual or short-form content • We are heavy on photos and video, with a quote or link thrown in along the way • Reblog to build community • Use tagsQuantcast, @Gadling @LATimesEvents #TravelShow
    18. 18. #TagSmartly • Most popular travel-related tags on Tumblr: • Landscape • Architecture • Sailing • Editors highlight curated tags on Tumblr’s “Explore” page, which could lead to exposure@JessMarati @Gadling @LATimesEvents #TravelShow
    19. 19. @JessMarati @Gadling @LATimesEvents #TravelShow
    20. 20. • Huge driver of referral traffic: 4th largest in the world behind Google organic, Google direct, and Facebook* • Make your own content super visual so that you can pin back to your siteTechCrunch, @Gadling @LATimesEvents #TravelShow
    21. 21. Pin relevantly• About 80% of Pinterest users are women*• Top two pin categories: – Food & Drink – DIY & Crafts• Pinteresters love: drool-worthy food and drink, home décor, wedding ideas, inspirational quotesBuzz Referrals, @Gadling @LATimesEvents #TravelShow
    22. 22. @JessMarati @Gadling @LATimesEvents #TravelShow
    23. 23. • Largest photo sharing app: 90 million active users, 40 million photos a day, 8,500 comments per second* • About 40% of the world’s top brands are on thereWall Street Journal, Now We Know How Many Active Users Instagram Really Has, @Gadling @LATimesEvents #TravelShow
    24. 24. Lo-fi, lo-fi• fgfg
    25. 25. “Everyone look at my feet,get jealous that I’m at thebeach. You prob’ly knew Iwas going there. You sawmy plane’s wing in the air.”“Everytime I take a photo ofan old door, every sign outin front of an abandonedstore, it’s such a thrill to adda filter, lo-fi, lo-fi.”
    26. 26. Reevaluate, refine, repeat• Metrics are key• Enterprise solutions: SimplyMeasured, Salesforce Marketing Cloud• Budget solutions: Hootsuite Pro, Sprout Social@JessMarati @Gadling @LATimesEvents #TravelShow
    27. 27. Proceed cautiously.@JessMarati @Gadling @LATimesEvents #TravelShow
    28. 28. Thank youand see you out there. @Gadling @LATimesEvents #TravelShow