Keeping up with the trends

Isn’t it fantastic how in this day and age you can almost immediately react, adapt, create something new for your business, based on a piece of news, a campaign that has gone viral or a life changing event? Thanks to social media and online news, we can be constantly monitoring and riding the right wave. From a marketing point of view, it is refreshing to be able to experiment and try new approaches. And unlike popular belief, when something goes wrong – as long as it is not terribly wrong – it is possible to control the damage and move on.

A year ago, the ice bucket challenge, a campaign to raise awareness of ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, went viral on social media, got loads of people that had never heard of the disease involved, celebrities took part of the challenge (and those who refused where criticised), lots of money was raised. Some brands – including biggies like McDonalds and Energiser were quick to use the opportunity to promote themselves, I mean, help with the ALS cause. Samsung went ever further, and challenged its competitors Apple and Nokia to take the challenge as well (watch the video here). And because it’s hard to predict how long a topic will be trending, the marketing teams have to be quick, bypass high management approvals, and go for it.

As with most of the things online, people tend to forget quite quickly about these things, which makes this “exercise” a challenge in itself. Big companies, global brands, they have the bucks, they have the teams, they have the brand to put these actions in place. They will select the right picks as overdoing it can also damage the brand, but they have the means to react quickly. Now how about small business? How can the small players take advantage of the immediacy of trends to help boost their businesses?

There is more than one answer to this question. One of them is “they don’t. Just ignore the buzz and move on”. Sometimes it is not worth the effort and the investment, just to be out there with everybody else. Does it make sense to your business? Is the topic something related to your brand or to your heart? Is it related to your clients? Luckily, there are ways to be part of it, without breaking the bank or diverging half of your team to implement it. Words, for example. You can write a nice/funny/powerful message on your Facebook page, you can donate money for a charity, you and your staff can form a team and run the half marathon to support a cause, you can share someone else’s story or activity that you think your customers will like.

For us, here at Clevertim, sometimes we like to have a giggle and wonder what we could have done around one of those moments, like with the ice bucket challenge, for example. “How about getting Tim, our mascot, to take the challenge?”. We have a laugh and focus on making our product better for our customers, implementing new features, reading reviews, asking for feedback. Because at the end of the day, if you don’t have a great product or offer a great service, what is the point in even promoting it?

Making social media work for your business (part 2)

Now that you have decided that having a page or profile on some social media channels is good for your business, what to do next? As we said in the previous post, keeping these channels up to date is not that easy. It requires planning, creativity and… time. Do you have time to do this yourself? Do you have someone to help you? Do you have budget to hire someone?

As with anything, there are tools that will help you do the job. You will find a few social media management softwares that allow you to plan a long term calendar and schedule posts to almost all networks. Some might even give you some insights and analytics. A few are free to use (with limited features) or operate on a try-before-you-buy basis. As you will do with your contact management software, always do some research before you choose one.

For me, the hardest part is finding what to talk about – and writing about them. Some businesses just lend themselves to social media. Going back to the cake business. You can write about your cakes and new creations, about a special offer for Mother’s Day, new designs that you are planning for Christmas, post recipes, create a one off cake workshop, run a competition. All with amazing photos, clear call to action messages, driving to your website where people can place orders or reminding them where your shop is. You can do this on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat… but you will need to tailor your posts to each channel. Twitter will only allow you 140 characters (which you can use to drive to your Facebook page), Instagram is more about photos and less about text, Facebook is more democratic.

The “social media network best practice guidelines” (someone came up with these probably based on statistics from those channels) says that we should work on a post calendar for the next 6 to 12 months. Then it says that each social network has an ideal number of posts to keep your channel/page relevant and interesting and this is in average 3 posts per day. Let’s do the math: we are talking about 540+posts for a 6 month period that you have to write and schedule. Not to mention the impromptu ones, like “50% off our cupcakes for the next 10 costumers to show up at our shop today by 4pm” when you want to clear out stock. That is a lot of planning and writing, isn’t it?

But it’s doable and this is not as rigid as it seems. The great – or worst, depending on how you look at it – thing about the online world is that things evolve all the time. You might plan your posts for the next 6 months, but you need to be flexible. You might need to change your strategy in case you are not selling that much or in case you are selling too much, you might have new ideas, there might be a life changing even that you will like to bank on.

Bottom line is: you can be creative, flexible and have fun with social media, but it requires an awful lot of work and dedication and you need to be up for it. Are you ready for it?