Does Your Brand Have a Newsjacking Strategy?

Does Your Brand Have a Newsjacking Strategy?

Marketing

Newsjacking has become an increasingly popular but risky marketing and PR tactic. The term “newsjacking,” made popular by David Meerman Scott, refers to marketers capitalizing on news and topical issues to build awareness for their brands. Many companies have done so (in real time or near real time) to create an impact for their brand, a notable example being  Nike’s 2017 Equality ad that promotes equality both on and off the field of play.

It’s tempting for businesses to attempt newsjacking when they see the kind of visibility that can come from deploying the tactic. But brands need to proceed with caution. Businesses have incurred backlash when newsjacking sensitive topics such as celebrity deaths, and newsjacking can come across as too opportunistic.

But just because newsjacking is risky, it doesn’t mean you should ignore this tactic. Newsjacking can deliver tremendous value if you do it right. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you consider newsjacking:

Know What Topics Your Brand Is Comfortable Covering

We all have a different understanding of what can be controversial. Brands have suffered when they try to appeal to an audience whose sensibilities and values don’t correlate with a brand’s perception of current events. It is important to discuss with your team exactly what topics should be covered and what areas you would like to shy away from. This necessity became increasingly important with the 2016 Presidential election. Certain brands openly discussed their political stance. Others tapped into the news generated by the election without explicitly taking a side. A great example of the latter: Bisquick with its “Make America Pancakes Again.” The brand capitalized on a campaign slogan without suggesting any specific political ties.

Of course, politics is a divisive topic and can really strike at a consumer’s emotions. It is imperative to measure the risks and rewards of commenting directly on political issues. The safer bet is to appeal towards pop culture and the current zeitgeist, which can be easily cultivated by monitoring Google Trends and trending hashtags on social media. Finding topics that appeal to your brand values and your audience’s values can help you to tailor your messaging and reap the benefits.

Have a Purpose and a Story

If you are going to newsjack, do so with a purpose with a definable goal, such as increasing brand lift. And make sure you develop a compellingly creative story to tell. If you are unable to come up with something creative or you are unable to provide strong content for the news, it is best to sit out the story.

Audi’s May 2015 “Birth” ad is an example of newsjacking with a purpose and a story. The company’s ad played into the birth of the Royal baby, but also promoted its own new baby, the Audi RS3, which was birthed from a larger Audi model. The company advertised the new RS3 with a strong marketing campaign that was relevant to current events.

Plan Content When Possible

It is not uncommon for newsjacking to be created on the spot, but you can also plan ahead with events, such as major award shows and sporting events whose dates are known months in advance. Coca-Cola capitalized on the popularity of the 2016 Summer Olympics with a campaign that celebrated individual athletes with advertising and social media posts such as this one:

When creating your social media calendar, think of what events are coming up and consider the power of visual storytelling to tap into the appeal of those events.

Do Your Research

Although it is good to be the first to jump on a news story, make sure you have your facts straight before posting content related to breaking news, and make sure your ad reflects cultural truth. Especially when newsjacking a story in real time, carefully vet your research on a topic to ensure that you are not providing inaccurate details to your audience. And research the credibility of the story you want to tell. A brand’s credibility can easily be affected by sharing content (whether an ad or a tweet) that is inaccurate, false, or out of step with the cultural zeitgeist.

A recent example of being out of step can be found in the now infamous Pepsi ad featuring Kendall Jenner. The ad was an attempt to reach the millennial audience by appealing to the culture of activism and goals of unity, but missed the mark according to many critics by diminishing the importance of all the work that activists are doing. Perhaps had Pepsi done more research ahead of the ad, the company would have uncovered how serious, personal, and passionate protests are as a social statement. The company might have then avoided creating an ad that associated a can of Pepsi with social change agendas and thus came across as trivializing social protest as a form of self-expression.

Avoid Anything Related to Death or Disaster

It is best to steer clear of negative events when newsjacking even if a company is attempting to express sympathy. Companies that use disasters or fatalities to boost their brand appearance create an unfortunate association with their brand. Additionally, commenting on topics like celebrity deaths can be equally as problematic. Just to be clear: if your brand is donating to a cause or shedding light on an issue without attempting to promote sales, you are probably not creating a newsjack (but you should be very careful about the tone of your message anyway). But when newsjacking, be cognizant of what you are implying with your post.

Newsjacking can be a positive tool and promote your brand while allowing you to comment on cultural issues. To begin working newsjacking into your own marketing calendar, start to look ahead at what major events will be occurring. For instance, with the NBA and NHL playoffs in full swing and with the Major League Baseball season under way, a sport-related newsjack may be highly relevant to your audience. Or consider an entertainment event such as the Tony Awards in June. A keen eye for events and a willingness to follow the tips outlined in this post will help you get started with newsjacking. Contact KeywordFirst. We can help you.

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Wendy’s and a Chicken Nugget Super Fan Remind Brands of Twitter’s Power

Wendy’s and a Chicken Nugget Super Fan Remind Brands of Twitter’s Power

Social media

Twitter has certainly taken its lumps for not monetizing its own business effectively — but the platform remains a great tool for brands to share their voice and interact with consumers, as Wendy’s has demonstrated.

Wendy’s is part of a feel-good story that has gone viral: on April 5, a 16-year-old named Carter Wilkerson tweeted Wendy’s asking how many retweets it would take to win free nuggets for a year, and within minutes Wendy’s responded “18 Million.” To give you some perspective: Twitter has about 313 million active users — so that 18 million is roughly 5 percent of the Twitter population. Carter took to heart Wendy’s reply and challenged the Twitterverse to retweet his plea for a year’s worth of Wendy’s chicken nuggets (“HELP ME PLEASE. A MAN NEEDS HIS NUGGS”). And then the fun began, as people and brands responded to his tweet. As of April 13, Carter has received 2.7 million retweets (and counting).

Since I’m a bit of a data nerd, I was curious about how much it would cost Wendy’s to give away free nuggets for a year to Carter if he achieves the feat of getting 18 million retweets. Since prices are variable due to locations, I’ll give a range of $5-$8 for the 10-piece nuggets. Multiply that amount by 365 days, and Wendy’s will be shelling out between $1,825-$2,920 for this little gamble. For a company whose revenues were $1.453 billion in 2016, a few thousand dollars is a miniscule amount given the visibility Wendy’s is receiving.

Carter is on track to break the previous retweet record of 3.3 million for the famous Ellen DeGeneres Oscar selfie of 2014. Of course, Ellen DeGeneres has many more followers than Carter Wilkerson — 66.8 million followers compared to Carter’s 45,200 followers (as of April 13), a number boosted by his newfound fame. And Ellen DeGeneres had a lot of re-tweeting help from her A-list celebrities. So what Carter Wilkerson is accomplishing is astounding.

How has Carter been able to garner 2.7 million tweets? Just do a search for “Wendy’s 18 Million,” and you can find the answer through the dozens of news media articles written about him and Wendy’s. This kind of viral attention is social media on its best day. What I think is interesting is that other brands are now creating publicity for Carter, and, by extension, Wendy’s, including Hollister Co. & Amazon, both of which have tweeted about Carter’s dream of free nuggets.

Time will tell whether Carter reaches his goal of 18 million, but it’s clear that he and Wendy’s have reminded brands and people that Twitter can be a PR powerhouse. How are you integrating Twitter into your branding and media strategy?

Responding to Customer Reviews: Four Tips for Apple

Responding to Customer Reviews: Four Tips for Apple

Social media

Apple recently permitted its developers to respond directly to customer reviews on the App Store. This update is welcomed by App Store users as previously some negative reviews went unanswered by developers at Apple. Moreover, Apple is catching up to Google, which has permitted developers to respond to user reviews since 2013. This significant news from one of the world’s most valuable brands underscores the importance of businesses responding to user reviews. Based on our experience working with businesses to improve their brands on social, I offer these four tips for Apple and its developers:

  1. Respond to all feedback

Although this suggestion may seem obvious, in some circumstances feedback gets missed whether it be positive or negative. It is important to thank consumers who have provided positive feedback and also offer support or solutions to those customers who are unhappy. Do respond to positive feedback — failing to respond to happy customers might come across as ungrateful. And, of course, reply to negative feedback. Ignoring criticisms obviously look arrogant and insensitive.

  1. Reply in a timely manner

Your response rate time is crucial especially on social media. Facebook even designates certain pages as very responsive, which gives consumers the understanding that they are being heard. Creating a responsive dialogue with your consumer base allows insights for both parties that can elevate your brand. Even if you don’t have a complete answer to a problem right away, at least respond with a “We are looking into this issue and will follow up with you more completely.”

  1. Provide honest feedback

Many times, consumers provide suggestions or requests that are not feasible in your current structure. It is best to explain your position in an honest manner rather than promising too much or leaving a request unanswered. Through honest feedback you are able to build credibility.

  1. Keep your responses concise

Sometimes it’s difficult for employees to respond concisely because employees usually possess a lot of context and detail about an issue that might seem helpful to know. But providing too much detail can be harmful because you might alienate a customer who lacks your technical expertise. If a comment truly does require a complex explanation, first respond briefly and offer to communicate with the customer offline. If you do so, your social spaces will be perceived as very user friendly.

User reviews are significant to a brand’s perception — so ensuring that they are handled in a thoughtful manner is vital. Thus, Apple’s introduction of customer review responses is an important feature to the company and should encourage other brands to be more responsive. The above tips should help any business manage review etiquette. Contact us to discuss how we can help you.

Image source: Ryan McGuire

Use Social Media to Promote Unusual Higher Education Degrees

Use Social Media to Promote Unusual Higher Education Degrees

Marketing

What do game design, soil conservation, and theme park engineering have in common? They’re all among the top-paying non-traditional degrees available to college students. But my guess is that many potential students are not even aware that those degrees are offered, which means an institution of higher education will have little success promoting those programs through paid search. Creating keywords for more obscure degrees will fail to drive volume because potential students don’t even know to look for those topics. So how does an .EDU let students know about untraditional degrees offered?

You can find the answer the next time you take public transportation or find yourself in a public space among a crowd of young people. Stop and look around. Notice how many students are glued to their electronic devices scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, and Snapchat, or listening to their favorite music on Spotify or Pandora. These social platforms are where you need to introduce your offering to your potential audience.

Now imagine displaying a colorful, eye-catching ad for a degree in game design on a platform such as Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram — or running an audio spot highlighting your school and programs on Spotify or Pandora. You’ve created awareness in a more effective way than paid search could for a lesser-known degree. And with the relatively low cost of many of these social platforms, you can be pretty efficient with your spend.

As advertising on social platforms continues to grow, so do the features offered on those platforms. In many cases you can target age, gender, income, education, and location as well as more advanced options such as behaviors or intents, interests, travel preferences, app usage, and so on. Testing different targeting methods will help you hone in on the right demographic for your marketing goals and should help boost demand in the paid search channel as well. If you are looking to connect with the college-aged demographic, it’s time plug into social.

You also might want to consider social advertising as a way to complement a paid search campaign for better-known degrees, too. Doing so will increase your chances to reaching students who are unsure about their education goals and need a little prompting to consider something you offer that might benefit them. After all, not everyone lives out our simple kindergarten dreams to be a firefighter or an actor. Sometimes, students need a little help. And social platforms are the places for colleges and universities to do just that.

Image source: Vadim Sherbakov (https://stocksnap.io/author/9)

 

Voice Search Gets Louder

Voice Search Gets Louder

Search

Recently we’ve seen some news developments that underscore how rapidly voice technology is growing as a way for people and brands to accomplish increasingly sophisticated tasks. Companies are evolving their strategies to accommodate the rising popularity of voice. It’s time to take a closer look at adapting your digital marketing for voice search. These examples show how big companies such as Amazon, Google, and Samsung are accommodating the rise of voice:

Voice Assistants Take Hold

Research firm Parks Associates recently announced that the number of voice assistants such as Amazon Echo and Google Home more than doubled from 2015 to 2016. According to Parks Associates, the adoption rate of smart speakers with voice assistants grew from 5 percent of U.S. broadband households in Q4 2015 to 12 percent in Q4 2016. Parks Associates Research Analyst Dina Abdelrazik said, “Voice interfaces are advancing due to continued improvements in machine learning and natural language processing, paired with the prevalence of portable devices. Apple increased consumer familiarity of voice control with its introduction of Siri in 2011, but the later-to-market Amazon Alexa has taken a clear lead in this category.”

Voice assistants are taking hold for a number of reasons, and Parks Associates cites an important one — advancements in forms of artificial intelligence, which make voice assistants more effective at interpreting complex commands. The growth of voice assistants, along with the popularity of mobile devices, is helping fuel a rise in voice search. Voice search has quickly developed from a topic of research to a reality. Consumers, armed with mobile devices, are finding that they can ask for more complex things to buy, find places to go, and decide on things to do with increased sophistication, by searching with more conversational questions such as “When are the Cubs hosting the St. Louis Cardinals next at Wrigley Field?” or “Where can I find deep dish pizza with free parking on Chicago’s north side?”

Samsung Launches Bixby

On March 20, Samsung announced the launch of its own voice assistant, Bixby, which gives Samsung an entree into a field that includes tools such as Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Apple’s Siri. Samsung claims that Bixby will feature a better user interface that combines touch and voice and an improved ability to interpret commands. As Samsung noted in a press release, “Bixby will be smart enough to understand commands with incomplete information and execute the commanded task to the best of its knowledge, and then will prompt users to provide more information and take the execution of the task in piecemeal. This makes the interface much more natural and easier to use.” Samsung will make Bixby available with its Galaxy mobile device and plans to expand Bixby to TVs and other appliances.

Google Changes AdWords

Recently, Google announced some changes to AdWords exact match close variants, which will affect advertisers’ keyword strategies for voice search. Close variants, which Google introduced in 2012, is a feature that makes it possible for an ad to appear in a search result even for searches that contain misspellings, plurals, and close matches to keywords that an advertiser is bidding on. Now, AdWords is expanding the feature to include variations in word order and to ignore function words such as “in” and “for.”

Google suggests this change will benefit advertisers by decreasing the amount of keywords needed in a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign, which is true. But the expansion of close variants is also Google’s way to accommodate the rise of voice search. Here’s why:

  • Voice searches use more conversational language.
  • Conversational language can include many variations, such as the use of who, what, where, when and why questions.
  • Because of the conversational nature of voice search, campaign managers might feel compelled to over-build their keyword list in their account in order to cover all possible variations of voice searches that fit their brand. But Google has mitigated against over-building keyword lists by making word order and function words irrelevant. A keyword bid will match for “Flights to Chicago,” “flights in Chicago,” “flights for Chicago,” and so on.
  • In other words, now advertisers do not need to worry about building out exact match keywords in a variety of orders or even include every function word. Advertisers still need to focus on conversational questions including what, where, when, and why, as well as long-tailed queries. But the variations in keywords will now be minimized.

It’s obvious brands need to adapt their paid and organic search strategies to accommodate the use of voice search. In a recently published blog post, we discuss some of the key ways that businesses need to adapt their pay-per-click (PPC) strategies for voice search. Check out our post and contact us to discuss how we can help you adapt your digital marketing for voice search.

Image source: Digital Trends

Three Recreational Brands That Rock Visual Storytelling

Three Recreational Brands That Rock Visual Storytelling

Branding

Recreational brands such as Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, and REI sell more than fishing tackle and hiking boots. They sell lifestyles. When you visit a Bass Pro Shop, for instance, you become immersed in an experience that celebrates the joys of fishing, hunting, and camping, which is evident from the woodsy decor, wildlife displays, and workshops and demos. These brands also celebrate outdoor living through visual storytelling. The following examples demonstrate how they do it — and build brand love at the same time:

Cabela’s

When you visit any retailer website, you expect to find a lot of product images and specs on display. Cabela’s delivers on the table stakes but also uses visuals selectively to remind you that Cabela’s products are meant to be used outdoors, as this image of two campers rushing to a tent demonstrates:

There is more than meets the eye in the above image. The two women in the image are obviously excited to be camping as they rush to a tent with their rolled up sleeping bags. But you don’t see their faces. And Cabela’s branding is subtle — you have to look closely for the Cabela’s logo. Cabela’s demonstrates trust in its audience. Cabela’s doesn’t want to distract us with a predictable image of two smiling models. Instead, Cabela’s evokes curiosity and mystery. Where are the two women? How do they know each other? What’s next for their camping trip? Cabela’s trusts us to figure out our own answers. Also, Cabela’s knows it does not need to hit us over the head with branding. The above photo is used on the Cabela’s website; thus, Cabela’s knows it already has our attention. Cabela’s does an excellent job creating mystique with a single image.

Bass Pro Shops

As noted, Bass Pro Shops (which recently agreed to buy Cabela’s) are noted for using the power of visual storytelling to create immersive offline worlds. As these images from different Bass Pro Shops illustrate, Bass Pro Shops really creates Outdoor Worlds, not just stores:

In addition, Bass Pro Shops encourage engagement with frequent product demonstrations and seminars on topics related to fishing and hunting. Clearly, Bass Pro Shops are places to hang out, which is a smart strategy. Creating a welcoming environment for people who hunt and fish encourages them to engage with your products. You might come into a Bass Pro Shop to buy some tackle — and after you get immersed for awhile, you’ll probably walk out with a new rod and reel. And creating the right environment visually is key.

REI

Just about all the major outdoor retailers support their social spaces well with effective visuals. But REI gets a shout-out for really rocking its Facebook page. Like many retailers, the company relies on Facebook to announce product deals. But REI also lets pictures do the talking, as this dramatic Facebook banner photo shows:

REI also gets its Facebook visitors involved in visual storytelling. The company recently invited the REI Facebook community to share a photo of someone in their lives who introduced them to the great outdoors, resulting in charming submissions like this one:

Note also the story that the user submitted with the photo — makes you wonder about that old blue REI ice ax that once saved someone’s life.

REI does not foist its products upon you with these images. Rather, REI celebrates outdoor life through the people who use its products.

What You Can Learn

These outdoor retailers clearly know how to play to the emotional value of lifestyle branding. When you sell a lifestyle, you appeal to human desire. We might want to buy a new pair of hiking boots, a kayak or a tent, but we really desire time away. Time away to explore a new trail, river or just camp in the woods. These brands create desire in their own ways — Cabela’s through the power of mystique and suggestion, Bass Pro Shops by creating immersive worlds, and REI by giving you a slice of life outdoors while online.

Incorporating visual storytelling into your branding and media efforts is paramount. Driving traffic to an experience that isn’t everything it can be is just that . . . driving traffic. Make sure you connect emotionally and get the most out of every interaction you have with your customer or prospect.

How do you apply visual storytelling? What lessons have you learned?

Three Women Who Define Success in Digital Marketing

Three Women Who Define Success in Digital Marketing

Marketing

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, KeywordFirst has taken the time to appreciate all the women that have etched their mark in history. We have also looked to the women who are currently making history in our industry, digital marketing. The women detailed below can be looked at as pioneers in the evolving world of digital, and their contributions help us daily to grow our techniques and mold our future strategy.

Leslie Berland

As Twitter’s first CMO Leslie Berland faced the difficult challenge of branding Twitter in a way that would appeal to the masses, but also satisfy their user base that already loved the platform. In 2016, she led a rebrand of Twitter as not only a social media engine but also a news source. She brought a new perspective to Twitter and challenged marketers to create content that differs from our normal social approaches. In turn, her major focus on the “live” nature of Twitter has allowed marketers to create instant posts that can be a quicker gauge on new advertising initiatives. We are excited to see Berland’s efforts taking hold and look forward to all future progress she makes not only with the engine, but with women in leadership roles.

Marina Cockenberg

Marina Cockenberg, the director of Digital for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, was recently named in Forbes list of 30 under 30 in marketing advertising. She has transformed the way a nightly show interacts with their audience by live tweeting the program each evening. Her work has garnered an Emmy for Outstanding Creative in interactive media and has helped grow their digital audience from 5 million to 32 million. Her witty interactions and content have created a new style and form for TV shows to delve into the world of social media, which we find fascinating. With YouTube views of late night material surging, a rebirth of this content has occurred. Cockenberg’s work has helped transform the space she is in, and for doing so we applaud her.

Susan Wojcicki

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki has paved the way for future female digital marketers. Wojcicki was one of Google’s first employees and at that time even housed some of the operations in her own garage. In 1999 she became Google’s first marketing manager and continued to make influential strides with the company. From there she was promoted to senior vice president of Advertising & Commerce where she led the product advertisement and analytics for notable advertising products such as AdWords, AdSense, DoubleClick, and Google Analytics. These tools have now become gospel for any digital advertiser. However, Wojcicki didn’t stop there and urged her superiors to consider purchasing YouTube, which led to its ultimate acquisition. Now YouTube is valued at an estimated $70 billion, and Wojcicki oversees the entire development of the platform. She truly sailed in unchartered territory, and her work has inspired all of us in digital marketing.

There are many more women making huge strides in our field including in our own office. We value all of their contributions and celebrate them not only in this month but every month of the year. Our team is energized by such strong female role models for us to look to for inspiration. We foresee many more advancements in the very near future.