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As brands continue to compete for users’ attention on social media, the space is getting more and more crowded, and social platforms have become increasingly selective as to what content they will serve up to their users.

One way to jump in front of the line is to go the route of paid social. In most platforms, there are multiple ways to get exposure. Today, we’re highlighting the differences of  “boosting” or “sponsoring” organic content versus a straight-up paid social ad.

What’s the difference between a “boosted post” and paid advertising?

The difference between boosted post and paid ads infographic

The term for “boosting” will vary by platform. For example, Facebook calls it “boosting” a post, whereas LinkedIn calls it “sponsoring” a post. There’s really no difference in how it works.  Simply put, “boosting” or “sponsoring” ensures more people will see the post by putting a little money behind it.  What many people don’t realize is that simply posting on your channels does not guarantee your followers will see it in their feed.  Boosting a post does.

Boosting takes an organic post (no money behind it) that you have created, hopefully with excellent, tailored content created by you or your team, and increases the chances that your audience (and the people you promote it to) see it by paying for that privilege.

Boosted posts are easier to manage than paid ads, as they are typically a one-off post and aren’t normally part of a larger campaign. Content you may boost include a timely blog post, press release or media mention.

The drawback? Your options for audience targeting, scheduling, budgeting, and ad formats are limited. For example, boosted posts only allow you to promote the post as it organically appears on your page, whereas advertisements allow you to use formats such as carousels, or collection ads for ecommerce.

Paid Social Advertising

Paid Advertising is a larger beast to tame.  As opposed to simply putting money behind a post already in your feed, these are ads created specifically for an ad objective.  As such, paid ads are part of a larger campaign with multiple copy and graphic/video variations for testing. Think of these as fractional print ads that at one point you may have run in a magazine (although, it’s important to note that paid ads can be much more than a static image with some copy.) 

Paid ads are best when pushing a set goal or objective. These have a strong call-to-action (CTA)  and are about getting an audience to click through to your website or landing page.  Paid ads are typically one of the first layers in an integrated sales funnel.

Some instances where you may want to consider running an ad campaign instead of a simple “boost” include: 

  • Highlighting a promotional offer or a direct eCommerce push.
  • Drive registrants, downloads or leads
  • Promoting a product or service with a long decision timeline (so that we can continue to nurture them by retargeting users through other ads)

Boosting Social Posts: Best Practices

A great boosted post should feel natural in users’ feeds. If they aren’t paying close attention, they won’t know it’s an ad. Here are a few tips for getting it right:

  • Start by boosting content that is already performing well organically. This is a good indicator of what will work well on a larger scale.
  • The content should focus on engagement or awareness to widen your social media following. Content where you’re calling for leads, sign-ups, or purchase are typically best served in a traditional ad campaign.
  • Don’t spend a fortune. Spend a small amount, like $10-25. See how it performs and scale from there.
  • Be careful! With most of these platforms, once you take an organic post and promote it, you cannot modify it. Double-check that the copy provided is suitable to push to the masses.

Social Media Advertising: Best Practices

Besides boosting organic content, most social platforms have multiple ways to advertise – everything from display ads and retargeting to direct messaging. These are generally more expensive and rely on an ROI-centric objective. 

With paid ads, you can run variations of a single ad and test each to see which copy, image, and call-to-action (or combination thereof) work best. Paid ads also allow for retargeting and offer the opportunity to experiment with multiple ad formats such as display, text, video, etc. On some platforms, an ad campaign provides more granular targeting options.

If you’re new to social media advertising, here are some of our best tips:

  • Keep the copy short and sweet. Users may not be familiar with your brand quite yet, making their attention span for your content even shorter.
  • Run multiple variations of your ads. Test different headlines, body copy, calls-to-action, graphics, images and videos.  Unlike print or TV, digital ad buys can be turned on, up or off in midstream. Once you’ve gotten some results, narrow your ad set down to the best performers and put money behind these.
  • Leverage both graphics and video for best results. While video is favored by many platforms and consumers, it’s still worth testing both.
  • Be thoughtful and clear on your objective. Social media platforms design their ad algorithms to place your content in front of users likely to take a specific action. Selecting the wrong objective, like selecting a video views objective when your end goal is really to get people to visit your site, will lead to disappointing results.
  • Install the social media platform’s pixel on your site, where applicable. Not only do these pixels provide you with conversion data, you can also use them to create remarketing lists to fine-tune your social marketing efforts.

Ultimately, whether you choose to boost a post or run an advertising campaign depends on your goals. If you are trying to build brand awareness or drive engagement on a particular post, sticking with boosted posts would be advised. If you’re looking to drive conversions, then paid ads are your best solution.

 Need help? Get in touch.

If you want to expand your reach on social media, then understanding each channel’s newsfeed algorithm is a step in the right direction.  Think of each algorithm as a set of rules that the system follows when organizing content.

As digital marketing specialists, we could write a novel on the subject, but for time’s sake we’ve listed some highlights and quick tips to make you an algorithm expert. Let’s start with the social platform that has made “algorithm” a household word…

Facebook

<1% organic reach

Ahhh, trusty old Facebook. As one of the oldest social platforms (created in 2004), one can imagine the number of changes it has seen. Facebook has updated its News Feed display algorithm countless times over the past decade, but it made especially big waves with its announcement in January 2018. See our blog post about the new Facebook update for a detailed breakdown of how they are trying to bring Facebook back to ‘the people,’ but a few main takeaways include:

  • Strategically boosted posts and Facebook ads are more essential than ever.
  • ‘Meaningful Interactions’ will rank higher, another reason to create authentic, engaging content.

Instagram

~10% organic reach

You may remember that Instagram’s feed started out chronological, and then moved to an algorithm in 2016 (to the dismay of many users). Since then, the platform has added new capabilities (stories, highlights, follow tags, etc.) and recharged its algorithm to keep up with the demand for authentic content. If you’re looking to optimize content for Instagram’s current formula, here are some highlights:

  • Facebook owns Instagram: Similar to what we just covered, meaningful engagement ranks your content higher.
  • Stories matter: The algorithm takes story posts’ activity into account. Keep up those real-time updates!
  • Time matters: How fast can you respond to comments and messages? How long can you keep their eyeballs on the prize? The quicker you are and the longer they watch, the better.
  • Strategic hashtags: Remember, people can follow hashtags as well now, so consider using something “popular” that still fits your brand. At CBC, we like to create lists of relevant hashtags to have on hand for our client’s content and make additions as new ones arise.

LinkedIn

If you’re starting to feel a loss of control over when and where your content is displayed, then take solace in the fact that you still have the ability to choose “Top” versus “Recent” content in your LinkedIn homepage feed, thanks to its Sort functionality option.

LinkedIn is a great place to share company culture and industry insights, and users are automatically served Top posts, arranged by LinkedIn’s algorithm. So, consider the following if you want your content floating to the top:

  • Relevance: Tailor content to your LinkedIn audience. Always think: Do they care about this news? Is it helpful? If LinkedIn users “Hide” your post, it will negatively affect position.
  • Big surprise… engagement matters! LinkedIn will let your content hang out for a while and register any likes or comments before moving it up or down the feed. So, ask a question or pose a tip! Adding a call-to-action is always the best way to increase engagement.
  • Go beyond the newsfeed: Participate in LinkedIn groups that are relevant to your organization. Join conversations that are already happening about your industry. Share posts from other people and brands. All of this will increase your reach, thus helping your post’s initial score.
  • Be on time: Since we know LinkedIn lets your content hang in the timeline at first, you should aim to hit users at primetime. Some say 8pm is the magic hour, but check your analytics to be sure.

Twitter

Twitter’s algorithm can be a little confusing due to multiple parts, so buckle up. Twitter technically still displays all tweets in your timeline in reverse chronological order, but you might have to scroll to get there. In 2015, it began introducing such updates, and currently, you still have the option to manage timeline preferences.

There are three sections; let’s break them down:

  • Ranked Tweets: Twitter uses an algorithm to determine what is most relevant to you.
  • ICYMI – In Case You Missed It: These may also be relevant according to the algorithm, and they are from several hours or days ago.
  • Reverse Chronological: Newest on top.

And here are a few tips so your content ends up in those top two sections:

  • Broken record here… engagement matters! Consider both ends; post tweets that elicit replies, and make sure you reply back to followers.
  • If at first you DO succeed, try again: Repurpose content that has been performing well. You can check out Twitter analytics and determine which tweets were most successful.
  • Video, Video, Video: Visual content gets noticed. Videos are six times more likely to be re-tweeted.
  • Strategic Hashtags: Similar to Instagram, find specific/relevant tags that work for your brand. It can also be helpful to jump on trending hashtags.
  • Timing: Similar to LinkedIn, consider time of day so that your initial tweet receives the most eyeballs.

 

There you have it, in a large nutshell. Algorithms rule the social world, so it is important as marketers to ride the wave and dive in headfirst. Learn all you can, in order to be visible – great content should be seen. Follow the rules, just like an algorithm!

Experiential marketing is changing how brands interact with consumers by allowing for the opportunity to introduce them to products in an authentic, tactile and memorable way. In turn, this fosters lifelong relationships between brands and their consumers.

At CerconeBrownCompany, we believe that an experience can be a brand’s most valuable offering and has the power to convert a person from a one-time customer into a brand advocate.

Hiring an agency is a wise investment, as one that is successful will create, deliver and share a positive experience on behalf of your brand. But before you sign on the dotted line, review the qualities below to make sure you are selecting the ideal partnership.

Consider your company’s values

Read between the lines of the mission statement and opt for an agency with similar values to your own. Collaborating is more successful when both parties genuinely enjoy working together.

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You can’t do experiential without “experience”

Every agency will admit to spaces that are more in their areas of expertise than others. A quality agency will host a kick-off or strategy session when you first begin work together. It’s not always a deal-breaker if the agency hasn’t worked in your industry before – sometimes a group of people with a proactive, go-getter attitude with experience in getting their hands dirty for their clients is more efficient than anything else.

Creativity is a skill

You wouldn’t buy a car without reading about the reviews and expert opinions, right? It’s no different when selecting an agency. Peruse the agency’s portfolio and see how they’ve brought other brands’ creative visions to life.

For example, CBC hosts a variety of unique House Programs – an opportunity for influential journalists to immerse themselves in unforgettable brand experiences in idyllic settings.

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Communication and accessibility

We totally get it, you are passionate about your brand. The right agency will understand that and do everything they can to keep you in the loop. It is important that you work with a team that is responsive, the direct point of contact, and collaborative.

One way an agency will communicate is through consistent and formalized reporting. At CBC, we report with two different platforms: TrendKite for public relations and Brandwatch for social and digital.

 What are your goals?

If you’re looking into experiential marketing, it’s likely you have specific business objectives in mind. Whether it’s growth or overall brand amplification, make sure the agency understands your goals and is proactive about addressing them in their proposal. If you are upfront and direct about your goals, you will better identify the agency that will best fit your needs.

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Inhouse vs outsource

Why look somewhere else for an asset you might have right in front of you? An agency with a photographer, designer, and creative director in-house is a bonus because it means they have the all of the essential tools readily available. Agencies who want to outsource talent require extra time, money and resources.

Stalk on social

You know the old adage “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”? Check out how the agency presents itself on their own social posts – if you see a strategy or unique quality in their digital presence, that’s a good indication they will power up their client’s channels too.

For example, we at CBC are strategic in our social approach, pumping up our Twitter feed with daily industry news and coloring our Instagram feed with the happenings in our House Programs.

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There are certainly many other traits to take into consideration when picking the best experiential marketing agency. What are the qualities you look for in an agency?

In an age of encroaching technological prowess, it makes sense to think that someday soon we’d be able to make political donations through the social media world. Well, that “someday” has come a bit sooner than we’d anticipated—and the opportunities are endless.

Last week, Twitter teamed up with mobile payment company Square to create a user-friendly donation system for political campaigns. To make it work, campaigns must set up a Square Cash account, which will then give them a username called a #cashtag. When the #cashtag is tweeted, a big blue button that says “Contribute” appears in users news feeds. Twitter users who click “Contribute” will be redirected to a page where they can donate with a credit card. Users will also have to input other information required by the FEC, such as full name and address.

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With this advancement to the technology and interface of Twitter, campaigns are no longer limited by the amount of donors they can reach via e-mail lists. Now, campaigns can simply post a donation tweet and leverage the power of re-tweets from celebrities and social influencers. This will allow campaigns to reach audiences they could have never imagined. It’s almost, dare we say it, a presidential feat in terms of the ways politicians are tackling the evolving and ever-interactive social media front to their benefits.

Will the new campaign donation button feature turn Twitter’s environment into an Amazon.com-like spending frenzy? Or will the luddites prevail, the system pestered with the skepticism of the grouchy political pundit? As seamless as it’s become, honestly—will you be more likely to donate?

Twitter has officially dropped the 140-character limit for messages between users. The move does not come at a surprise, as the change was laid out in a June announcement by the company. Surprise or not, the small tweak immediately impacts brands, and could even change the evolution of the social media outlet.

While this announcement does not modify Twitter’s tried and true 140-character-a-Tweet formula, it completely opens up direct messaging to the imaginations of brand managers. From trolls to super fans, brands can now directly connect with consumers like never before. For the professionals behind the Twitter feeds you love, the move is an immediate improvement for maintaining and growing brand accounts.

Twitter

For promotions, the new direct messages could simplify gathering information about followers and finally bring managing sweepstakes under one platform. When upset customers come forward, direct messaging can now be a practical method of resolving issues without having to ask for an email address. In both instances Twitter is positioning itself as a tool not only for growing brands, but as a powerful customer relationship management dashboard. The benefits for the back-end operations of social media marketing are certainly clear, but the real opportunity lies in the imagination of content creators. Imagine where the brand engagement could go:

  • You tweet at @MarthaStewart, complimenting her flower garden and receive a list of gardening tips straight to your DM inbox.
  • @OldSpice holds a contest where the first 200 to retweet their post receive a love letter from the Old Spice Man himself
  • You ask @TomTom a workout question and receive various ab exercises in return.

As Twitter begins to experience some growing pains as it matures, direct messages may play a role in reenergizing the service. Direct messages have lived in the shadow of Tweets since the advent of the short messaging website. By removing the character constraints of this slightly under-loved feature, it opens up its potential to be used far more often.

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In 2008, Barack Obama won what came to be known as the “Facebook Election,” partly due to his campaign’s innovative use of social media. His opponent, John McCain, opted to stay off Facebook, Twitter, and other social channels, which may come to mark the last time in U.S. History that a presidential candidate decides against using social media.

Election

In the upcoming 2016 election, presidential candidates are focusing on social media more than ever before. Campaigns are even breaking ground on new platforms like Snapchat, LinkedIn, and Vine. Hillary Clinton, for example, is a front-runner in the democratic primary polls as well as in social media statistics. The Clinton Camp is extremely active online, and they have employed creative tactics to gain publicity and promote Hillary in a benevolent light.

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Recently, Humans of New York, a Facebook account followed by 14 million people posted a photo of a young, teary-eyed boy. The caption quoted the roughly nine-year-old boy expressing his fear of being disliked and rejected growing up as a homosexual. Within a couple hours, in an exemplary move to engage her social following on the basis of her campaign-relevant ideals, Hillary Clinton’s Facebook page had left a comment on the picture offering powerful words of encouragement for the boy:

“Prediction from a grown-up: Your future is going to be amazing. You will surprise yourself with what you’re capable of and the incredible things you go on to do. Find the people who love and believe in you – there will be lots of them. -H”

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Consider Donald Trump as another example. He has faced criticism for his unfiltered comments on Mexican immigrants and on John McCain’s military service. It is perplexing that Trump chooses to be so outspokenly opinionated when some of his unconventional views generate animosity. However, it is exactly this trait, the stark candidness of Donald Trump, which makes him dominant as a presidential candidate on social media.

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Trump is a powerhouse on Twitter, because he uses the website as it is intended; he tweets what he thinks exactly when he thinks it. Donald maximizes user engagement by avoiding glossy, carefully worded posts and instead tweeting jaw-dropping proclamations. Trump unapologetically broadcasts his passionate and controversial opinions, generating publicity with a style never before seen from a leading presidential candidate.

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Social media has transformed the way Americans can interact with politicians. Voters now have the opportunity to examine presidential candidates from more platforms than ever before. Hopefully, these new perspectives will help us decide whose leadership we truly believe in before it comes time to cast our vote.

We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” – President John F. Kennedy, Rice University, 1962

In the 53 years since Kennedy’s legendary speech, NASA did indeed send men to the moon and completed various other missions, from Hubble to the ISS. However, public engagement with NASA has waxed and waned since the glory days of 60s space exploration, what with the agency’s Congressional budgeting debates, occasional but detrimental disappointments, and even questions of its fundamental merit and benefit to the nation.

NASA took a great leap in 2007, however, and forayed into another kind of dark unknown: social media. It joined Twitter that year as @NASA and Instagram somewhat later in 2013 with the same handle. The photos on all accounts are so stunning and the captions so detailed, that there is something for people with all levels of space enthusiasm, from scientist, to enthusiast, to photography fan.

Yesterday, July 14, 2015, at 7:49 AM, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft successfully executed a Flyby of Pluto. This is, by all accounts, a milestone for the U.S., NASA, humanity, and is certainly an “other thing” that President Kennedy mentioned: New Horizons flew more than 3 billion miles and 9 years with the mission of snapping photos of dwarf-planet Pluto.

NASA stepped up their social media involvement in accordance with the event, sharing various photos, stats, videos, and quotes: the spacecraft has its own Twitter account, @NASANewHorizons, and the event has its own trending hashtag, #PlutoFlyby. Instagram and NASA even partnered up to ensure that the first publicly-viewed photo from the Flyby was shared on NASA’s account an hour before it was released on the agency website.

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This mission, more than any other, exemplifies NASA as a public fascination once again—complete with a refreshing and conversational personality, far removed from any stuffy impression it gave off in the past.

Some highlights of @NASA’s #PlutoFlyby social media strategy:

With #PlutoFlyby, NASA took a monumental and highly technical event, and molded it into something interesting, entertaining, and enjoyable for the entire world. In a time when celebrities and tabloid obsessions draw the public into their phones, NASA took digital and managed to not only engage us, but make us look out and back up towards the stars, just as we did in 1962.

That’s what I’d call social media savvy.

Be sure to click here for an infographic on #PlutoFlyby, and here or here for more detailed summaries on what the mission means for us.

More images just arrived yesterday from New Horizons; stay tuned to all NASA accounts for updates.

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If you are an avid Twitter user, then you already know that President Barack Obama has officially signed up under his own Twitter handle. It’s no surprise that his account, @POTUS, has already gained close to 2 million followers. His spontaneous jump to a personalized social media account has us questioning: Why now? What is there to gain from this? And of course: Is it really him?

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Obama took to Twitter on Monday to announce that the White House finally gave him his own account. Unlike the @BarackObama account, which is run by the Organizing for Action staff, Obama will be directly communicating under the @POTUS handle. Previously, Obama would sign his tweets that were released from @BarackObama and @WhiteHouse as “-BO”. Of course, both of those accounts took to Twitter to welcome Obama’s “irl” social presence.

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Although the President has immense resources for connecting to journalists and the media, using Twitter could serve as a platform to express his personal views to a new public audience. It also broadens both the public’s and the media’s engagement with his presence, allowing them to re-tweet him and to initiate digital conversations.

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Good or bad, President Obama is Twitter verified. And we can’t wait to read what witticisms he’ll come up with next.

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So what’s the verdict here, did Kim #BreaktheInternet? Well no, not really, but she certainly took full reign of it considering her racy Paper Magazine photos were hard to avoid last week. Top tier news outlets, blogs, social media channels flooded with chatter on the topic and, as always – marketers couldn’t resist joining in on the conversation.

In our fast-paced digital world, real-time marketing (RTM) has become extremely popular among brands. Though, as the conversations brands spring to participate in start to become more and more controversial (like, say, a nude photo shoot with Kim Kardashian), there marks a fine line between this risky tactic being effective and simply being embarrassing.

Last week, many brands took to Twitter (a leading channel for RTM) to join in on the #BreaktheInternet conversation. Here are some of our favorites:

JCLeRoux

SW

Nissan

Quiznos

 

Photos sourced from Twitter.com

Muck Rack recently launched a new service where PR pros can pay $50 for a Tweet.  The service claims to be a conduit to reporters, so you’re paying them the same way one would use PRWeb, Business Wire or PR Newswire.

Sounds like a good idea at first, but upon further investigation it seems that of @muckrack’s 3,800 followers, very few are journalists.  However, Muck Rack does a great job of aggregating Tweets from journalists and indicating trends.  As a research tool, we love it.  As a paid service to reach journalists, not a big fan.

The reason is that unlike real press release distribution services, Twitter is a personal (remember, SOCIAL?) medium.  Building a following is a one-by-one endeavor.  True, when you get a following, you are talking to a lot of folks.  But they follow you or your client because they are interested in what’s on your mind…to get the scoop on what’s happening.  As soon as you pay someone else to write and communicate, the trust and validity of the medium is compromised.

Bottom line: if you don’t have time or ability to build a following of PR pros, or consumers for that matter, don’t use Twitter.  And don’t try to get into social media.  It’s a very hands-on, time consuming effort.  You don’t outsource it like getting your lawn mowed.

This is another indication that as communication becomes more “democratic” through social media, it does not replace good judgement OR the hard work in creating and maintaining relationships. That goes for PR pro to reporter, or company to consumer. Sadly, these new vehicles will expose more shoddy work by PR agencies…the same folks that called everyone in the news room on a petty release with the ingenious pitch: “Just wanted to make sure you got my release.”

That’s enough ranting for now.  Besides, I need to Tweet this post.

For a good review on Muck Rack, read today’s post on Bad Pitch Blog.