Southern PR's blog is a multi-author, multi-purpose playground: you'll find news and thoughts on the latest issues affecting the sectors we work in, feature stories, practical communication and savvy social media tips.


How to make Instagram Stories work for your business

Let’s talk Instagram Stories. Most of us watch them, but do you use them for your business?

With over one billion monthly active users*, Instagram’s popularity and growth continues to skyrocket. As savvy business owners, we need to stay ahead of trends and learn to communicate with our audience on their level.

One of Instagram’s most popular tools, their ‘Stories’ feature has over 300 million active users and is basically a free marketing tool. When used correctly, Instagram Stories can be more advantageous than traditional advertising, so here’s how to make them ‘work’ for you.

Instagram Stories vs Instagram Feed

It’s important to acknowledge that your audience wants to see two very different things from your Instagram. Firstly, they want to see an ‘on-brand’, gorgeous, well-thought-out feed.

Secondly, they want to see an ‘insider’s perspective’, something the average person won’t see. Because Instagram Stories only last for 24 hours, businesses can present an unembellished, real-life look at what goes on behind the scenes.

Instagram’s algorithm

Since Instagram updated their algorithm in late 2017, it’s much harder for your brand to be found if you only post to your feed. Stories on the other hand always appear at the top of a follower’s feed and helps your brand remain visible. Popular Stories also appear at the top of the Explore page, and if you’ve tagged a location it appears in location-based Stories automatically compiled by Instagram, helping your profile gain an even wider reach.

What should I put in my Stories?

They’re called Instagram Stories for a reason. If you’re boring, people won’t come back to your feed for more.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Behind the scenes – Show your business has real people with personalities. Give your audience an insider view into your brand, who are you and what you represent.

Use stories to get real-time feedback – Question your followers about a new product or idea using Instagram’s poll feature. This provides you with live feedback and makes your audience feel valued.

Collaborate with other brands – Find likeminded brands and work together on a project, event or giveaway.

Create live tutorials – Use your Stories to give advice, make ‘how-to’ slideshows or answer FAQ’s.

Try an Instagram takeover – Hand over your Instagram account to someone else for a day or two. This could be your CEO or a special guest (think influencers, local photographers etc). This gives a different voice to your account and shows a new and exciting perspective.

Take your e-commerce to the next level – Bring your ‘shop-able’ looks to life using your Stories. With Instagram’s rollout of new Shopping Tags, which enable businesses to link to their website using price and description tags, you should be looking at how to best optimise your e-commerce capabilities.

Story Highlights

Back in December 2017, Instagram released a new ‘Highlights’ feature that has changed the way people interact with the platform. It enables you to select a series of Stories and feature them below the bio section of your profile.

NOTE: THIS IS SIGNIFICANT FOR BUSINESSES!

Instagram Stories Highlights gives you the ability to have unlimited links for an unlimited time in your bio (a clear departure from the 24-hour Stories format we have previously seen). This means you can now direct your followers to any number of external pages like your website, an event, other channels etc, through a simple tap.

The placement of Story Highlights allows you to go beyond the 150 of character limit of your bio to show people what your account is all about and why it’s worth a ‘follow’.

Here’s some ideas on how to use Highlights:

  • Colour coordinate or create branded Highlight cover images – enabling you to stylize your page even further
  • Announce new products or services and keep followers updated with ‘what’s new’
  • Highlight your ‘best of…’ moments
  • Complement your other channels by linking your Highlights to external blogs, website etc
  • Showcase giveaways and collaborations rather than flooding your feed with promotional posts
  • Display recent events, meetings or special occasions
  • Promote user-generated content and encourage your audience to tag and hashtag your brand to be featured
Brands leading the way:

Airbnb’s Interactive Quizzes

Airbnb’s Travel Tuesday series showcases user-generated content from Instagram to provide its followers with inspirational travel ideas. Rather than just posting the pictures, Airbnb transforms each photograph into an interactive quiz. By incorporating user-generated images and polls into their stories, Airbnb increases engagement and creates ways to measure their followers’ interests at the same time.

instagram-stories-airbnb

E! News’ Snappy Stories

E! News keep their followers updated on the latest celebrity drama by sharing news stories directly on Instagram Stories. These ‘short but sweet’ news blasts meet the needs of their target audience, who may not want to read a full article, but always want to be on top of the latest celebrity news.

instagram-stories-enews

NASA’s Behind the Scenes Pass

NASA uses their Instagram Stories to share ‘behind the scenes’ news and information. They provide background stories, additional information, research and visuals that complement their regular Instagram posts, giving their followers a ‘backstage pass’ to the inner workings of NASA.

instagram-stories-nasa

Instagram is constantly evolving and keeping your pulse on new trends and tools is vital to creating a successful social media strategy.

Understand the importance but don’t know where to start? We’ve added an Instagram Stories Workshop to our portfolio, so if you think your business would benefit upskilling in Stories then get in touch today.

 

*Statistic from Social Media Today

 

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Influencer Engagement: Your Beginners Guide

Influencers… We’ve all heard the term and most likely have some understanding of who or what they are. Perhaps we even hoped (or prayed) they would be a short-lived fad? But it’s time to accept they’re here to stay.

YouTubers, ‘Insta-famous’ celebs, Twitterati and bloggers have muscled their way into the PR and marketing world and it’s time to buckle up and jump on the bandwagon.

Haven’t thought about an influencer strategy yet? Don’t worry, you’re not alone! We understand that not everyone has the expertise and confidence to reach out to influencers, which is why we’ve made life easy with our ‘Step by Step Beginners Guide to Online Influencers’.

Do I Really Need Influencers?

In short, yes!

With trust levels in traditional advertising at an all-time low, communications professionals are looking to build new ties with their audiences through influencer engagement.

According to a recent study by the renowned Pew Research Center in the US, 75% of communications managers allocated money to influencer strategy in 2017, with most allocating $25K – $50K.

And with good reason. In 2017, influencer content delivered 11x higher return on investment than traditional forms of digital marketing. This meant that companies on average made $6.50 for every $1 spent on influencer engagement.

STEP 1 – Planning Your Strategy

Like any business decision, plan it first.  Make sure to include the following in your plan of attack:

Budget – It’s surprising how many companies don’t realise you have to pay influencers for their time. Trust us, good influencers are making the big bucks today and no, gifting isn’t always enough. What’s your budget? Be sure to include costs for sending products, travel, appearances, events, gifting etc.

Demographic – Who do you want to target and where are they active online? You must have a sound understanding of your target market, so you can create a campaign tailored specifically to your audience. You need to go to them rather than expecting them to come to you.

Platform – It’s incredibly important to choose the right platform to target for your industry. Each social media platform has different specialities and audiences so make sure you’re engaging influencers who are popular on your most engaged platform. Hint: it’s not always Facebook!

Timeframe – Do you have a deadline or event you want to include for your strategy? Some of the best campaigns are often timed with holidays or special events.  Build a timeline so you (and your influencers) know exactly what’s expected and when.

Crisis Plan – Conduct a crisis analysis and look for any areas of your campaign that could lead to negative feedback or conflict. Identify them and work on a crisis strategy to effectively manage these situations. This can be anything from negative social media comments, meme’s or influencer image damage (think of Logan Paul – ex YouTube sensation).

Goals and Measuring Success – What are your key objectives and what results do you want the influencer campaign to achieve? Goals can be anything from monetary values, exposure, sales, online engagement etc.

 

STEP 2 – Research, Research, Research

Yes, it can be tedious, but finding your influencer superstars takes time and patience. Remember not all influencers are worth your time or money so be sure to check out their rates and engagement levels before adding them to your shortlist.

Start by searching popular hashtags on your chosen social media platforms. You can also research your industry competitors or use search engines, articles and blogs. If you’re struggling, get in touch with us and we’ll help you with the rest!

 

STEP 3 – Make Contact

Once you’ve finalised a list of target influencers it’s time to start the conversation. Influencers may have contact details on their social media accounts, or you may have to go through an agent (yes influencers now have talent agents).

Email is a casual but polite introduction of yourself and your business. Tell them why you think they will be a great fit for your brand and give them some general ideas of how you’d like to collaborate.

Keep it short and simple, more details can be communicated later if they’re interested.

 

STEP 4 – Collaboration Time

Well done! The hardest part is over. Now it’s time to sit back and watch the responses and offers roll in.

Start a dialogue with your influencers. Outline what’s expected of both parties including fees, timelines, gifting, exposure, engagement etc. Aim to come to an understanding about how working together will mutually benefit everyone involved.

While a written contract isn’t always necessary, it is always a good idea to have something in writing that states each party’s responsibilities and expectations.

Remember, like any business deal it’s vital to establish a strong working relationship. Always be polite and professional, so hopefully you can work together again in the future.

 

STEP 5 – Execution and Monitoring

Once your campaign goes live it’s important to monitor its success.

At this point you can introduce some sponsored (paid) content to help boost the post’s reach and drive organic traffic to your pages or website.

Always monitor the posts for any negative comments or feedback and use your crisis plan to respond or react accordingly.

 

STEP 6 – Finishing it Up!

Well done, hopefully your campaign was a raging success.

Now it’s time to generate some data and measure your return on investment. You’ll need to measure your engagement, reach, Google Analytics, website traffic, social media growth, unique new users etc.

Finally, get in touch with your influencers to say thank you and let them know how the campaign went. If you were happy with your collaboration, be sure to let them know and express your desire to work together again in the future.

 

Meaningful relationships, relevant influencers and targeted campaigns are crucial to any influencer strategy. Know the importance, but don’t know where to start? Let us help.

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Fiona’s top tips: brand storytelling

So you’ve developed a successful business and got yourself a brand.

But as that business has evolved and grown, whether you’ve been going for two years or twenty, are you effectively communicating your brand story to your audience?

You might be thinking “why do I need to do that?”.

Because brand storytelling is pretty much the most important tool in your toolbox when it comes to telling the full story about your business – who you are, what you do and why people should care.

If you’re a start-up it can help shape your culture, and if you’ve been in business a while, your marketing team should use it to help attract long-term consumer engagement and drive buying behaviour.

3 brand storytelling top tips:
1. Know who you are

For starters you need to understand some branding basics, like the difference between a logo, a brand identity and a brand — all very different things, but equally important when maintaining a successful business.

Think about it in terms of YOU.

Your logo is your name, or nickname.

Your clothes, how you walk and talk – that’s your identity.

Your personality (how people talk about you) is your brand.

Once you’re sure you have your ‘brand-self’ down pat, think about how you’re going to convey your personality in such a way that your target market (your customers) buy into you and your brand.

 

2. Find your stories

If you want to share your brand story on the local, national or world stage, you need to:

  • Be unique
  • Be authentic
  • Know and represent your values consistently
  • Drive demand (in a subtle way)

Ask yourself what’s special and unique about your business. How do you craft your story and tailor it to different customers and target markets? Think about ways to tell a story around how your customers will benefit by using your product or having your experience.

That’s why Coke makes ads about family bonding and happiness rather than the taste of their drinks because they’re emotionally engaging their viewers.

Find your own ‘clean air’, a niche topic or line of conversation or advice no-one else owns, or a new angle on something no-one else has said.

In a nutshell, be more interesting. And more appealing.

 

3. Have a strategy

It’s all very well to have a business strategy that’s all about the dollars and cents, but what does your ‘creative’ plan look like?

When planning your strategy ask yourself what makes you authentic, unique and in demand?

Start by defining your story, core values and point of difference and use them as a foundation to build your strategy and key messages from the ground up.

Think about creating or finding your brand ambassadors — it may take time, but reaps huge rewards, simply because it’s someone else telling your story and advocating for your business rather than you giving your audience the hard sell.

Your creative strategy should work in tandem with any marketing or business development plans in terms of language, tone and timing.

 

Case Study: The Southern PR re-brand

Last year we ‘took stock’ of our own company and decided we needed a brand re-fresh that came with an injection of colour and creativity.

We’re a well-established, 24-year-old brand known throughout New Zealand, so we weren’t about to throw the baby out with the bath water.

After starting out with a brand that was strongly connected to the first two directors, a few years ago we stepped away from the ‘names on the door’ approach and re-branded as Southern PR.

Southern PR’s brand proudly reflects our place in the South Island, and in the Southern Hemisphere.

In 2017 we decided our brand needed a younger, fresher approach to talk to our target audience. We asked ourselves a range of questions to determine what we wanted, our target market, the purpose of our website, our social channels and our priorities and how our storytelling was going to change accordingly.

We love our new brand and so do our clients. We like nothing better than to ‘tell the stories’ of our people, our clients and our business success through a wider range of channels.

We do that in a much more visual way – through Instagram Stories, Pinterest, videos and the like, because that’s how people absorb content these days.

So if you’d like a download on how brand storytelling might help your business, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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5 social media trends for 2018

With over 250 billion social media users, 2018 is already another busy year for online trends and updates. We’ve summarised five social media trends that your business MUST be paying attention to in 2018.

Think experiential, think bots, think interaction…

Instagram Stories

With over 250 million monthly users, Instagram Stories were the fastest-growing social platform of 2017 and they’re our number one social media trend to implement in your strategy for 2018.

According to KPCB’s 2018 Internet Trends Report the average daily time spent on Instagram is 28 minutes, compared to 15 minutes in the pre-stories era.

KPCB also found that one in five stories from a brand will result in a direct message.

With these statistics it’s easy to see why Instagram Stories should be at the top of your priority list.

 

User-Generated Content

Thanks to social media’s (particularly Facebook’s) constantly changing algorithms, organic reach from branded material is consistently decreasing across all platforms.

Brands such as BMW, Starbucks and Adobe are using user-generated content to combat this decline. These posts not only increase reach but also drive higher engagement rate between brands and their customers.

The KPCB report said user-generated content re-posted by brands created seven times higher engagement rates than branded content.

The study also showed that social media users are seven times more likely to trust user-generated content, and 56% of them are more likely to buy a product after seeing that content.

So, if you’re not currently using user-generated content in your 2018 social media plan, it’s time to re-think your strategy.

 

Social Media is Mobile

We all know how reliant we are on our smartphones. For many of us, especially in the communications industry, it’s glued to our hands 24/7.

Interestingly, Facebook recently conducted a study that showed 94% of participants had their smart phone in their hand when watching TV. The results also showed that viewers focused on the TV screen just 53% of the time, and one of the top reasons they looked away was to use their phones.

With 94% of Facebook users and 82% of Twitter users primarily using the mobile app, it’s clear that ‘we’re mobile’ and that’s only the beginning!

As such, in 2018 it’s important to ensure our content, websites and links are as mobile friendly as possible.

 

Social messaging has overtaken social media

According to a recent study by Business Insider, more people are now using the top four social messaging apps – WhatsApp, Messenger, WeChat and Viber – than the top four social media apps of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.

The popularity of ‘dark social’ has been on a steady rise over the past three years and shows no sign of slowing down.

If social media has been a great opportunity for businesses, then social messaging cannot be ignored, especially when our last social media trend of 2018 is chat bots!

 

Chat Bots Are Here to Stay!

With the increase of social messaging, social bots are also on the rise. A study by Business Insider showed a major increase in chat bots, from 33,000 to 100,000 on Facebook’s Messenger alone.

The same study also showed that 80% of marketing managers are already using or plan to use chat bots by 2020, and with chat bots increasing workplace productivity by up to three times, it’s easy to see why bots are becoming the communicator of choice for businesses.

With voice and bots here to stay, define what ‘experience’ you should be creating for your audience.

Don’t have time to keep up with all the latest online trends? Well, its’s our job to identify social media trends and keep our clients at the top of their social media game. Get in touch.

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