If Likes No Longer Matter on Social Media, Then What Does?

You’ve probably heard the news: Instagram is in the process of removing like counts from posts in the Instagram feed).

At first blush, this might appear to be a massive change. They’re removing one of the most recognizable elements of social proof that’s ever existed. Likes are the way that we measure the world’s most popular posts, they’re a core element to engagement metrics, and they’re the easiest way to react to the people we follow.

It is a bold move, to be sure.

But it is an understandable one.

For I believe social media has already shifted away from the Like as the primary social currency. Yes, the era is of the like is ending, hastened by Instagram’s decision.

But the new era is already here.

And it will be defined by attention.

Keep reading to hear more about how user behaviors have changed and what marketers can do to adapt to the new environment of engagement and attention on social media. We’d love to hear your thoughts, too!

The New State of Social Media Engagement

How “liking” has evolved on social media

The “like” used to be very strong social currency.

We used it to measure popularity for, say, the top tweet of all-time or the number one Instagram post.

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We used it to measure the popularity of our own stuff, too, lumping likes together with comments and shares and clicks to form an overall engagement number. Influencers certainly put the like to good use, making it a key part to the appeal of their impact and scope. The more likes, you would assume, the more interest.

But it’s also possible that the like was never really the right solution from the start.

The core challenge with liking is that everyone uses it in a different way.

As Chris Taylor writes in Mashable:

The like button has acquired a panoply of meanings in the social realm. It can be used variously to mean yes, I agree, I hear you, sure, why not, I guess. It can be used as a bookmark. And that’s just scratching the surface; there are a whole bunch of other reasons, personal and political, why we might be giving you a heart or a thumbs-up.

To recap Chris’s list, a like can mean:

  1. “Yes, I agree”
  2. “I hear you”
  3. “Sure, why not”
  4. “I guess”
  5. Bookmark
  6. And many, many more

I’ve personally used the like to say “This is great” and “kthanksbye” and so many other random reactions. I’ve used it as a read-it-later reminder. I’ve even used it as a mechanic in automation recipes, sending liked posts to spreadsheets.

Likes have been co-opted by communities to mean different things in different contexts. For the most part this is healthy and normal. However, in some cases — for instance, when like-chasing affects mental well-being and self-worth — likes can be dangerous.

The New Engagement Metric: Attention

But moreso , likes have diminished in importance because our behaviors have changed.

We no longer need likes to signal that we are into someone’s content.

We have so many ways to signal engagement now:

  • Old standards: reshare, comment, click
  • Referral traffic that can be tracked throughout the customer journey
  • Shopping on Instagram, Pinterest, and other social sites
  • Following the brand
  • Deep-diving a feed
  • Checking out profiles and stories

And the list goes on and on.

This new era of attention is seen really clearly in the proliferation of Stories and in the way we talk about Stories analytics. When we talk about Stories, we gauge engagement with metrics like:

  • Reach
  • Completion Rate
  • Exits
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What we’re really measuring here is how well our content is resonating with our audience. Is it engaging? Is it worth watching? We’re also measuring the affinity of the brand; people are more likely to stay and watch a Story from someone they trust and enjoy.

We also have metrics like video watch time where we can see precisely how long people have stuck with our videos. In the past, a video might have received a like, which tells us very little about whether or not someone stuck with our content til the end. Now, we have stats like Audience retention (a core stat on YouTube) that shows you where exactly people drop off from your videos.

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Same goes for algorithms. Likes were definitely a signal of engaging content — but they were one signal of hundreds, maybe thousands. Algorithms take into account so many more data points when they calculate what to show next. Instagram and Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest, they can all assess how long we pause on certain posts, where we hover and what we click, even what our history of attention has looked like with a certain page or profile.

The like was a way to show we were aware of what was happening in our feeds (even if barely). Now, we have so many more ways to measure our attention.

What this means for marketers

The good news for marketers is that, while likes are fading into the background, your key stats have probably already shifted. You’re ahead of the curve.

(To be clear, your audience will still be able to like content on Instagram, and those like counts will be visible within your analytics. Just the like count in the feed is going away for now.)

When you think about successful social media content these days, you are already thinking of it beyond the lens of generic metrics like the number of likes you get. Yes, likes are a signal (one of many). But there is just so much more data available for social media managers now.

Your reporting dashboard will probably be unique for your brand. I bet it will include some combination of these attention metrics:

  • Completion rate for Stories
  • Video watch time and audience retention
  • Referral traffic and attribution
  • Engagement rate (total interactions divided by reach)

At the end of the day, when you use likes for measuring, what are you really measuring?

As we saw above, there are myriad ways that likes are used. You can guarantee that someone saw your post, yes; but beyond that, it’s a bit of a mystery.

What’s more actionable for your brand will be measuring attention. People give attention on social media in many different ways.

Now that we can measure so much of it, the era of attention has arrived for social media marketing.

Written by Kevan Lee for Business2Community and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Kelly Sikkema

Why All Companies Need Paid Social

In the beginning, the coolest thing about social media was the ability to reach thousands of people, maybe even millions, for free with just one click. Fast forward to today, where everyone’s trying to make themselves heard on all platforms, creating so much noise that only about 10 percent of your audience ever sees your posts.

Why pay for something that was once a free and easy way to promote your brand? According to March’s Director of Social Strategy Amanda Fountain, it’s an effective way to cut through the noise on social and can be a cost-effective option if you implement smart strategies. Amanda ran through the basics, including different types of paid posts and the pros and cons of specific social platforms.

Q: What is the difference between organic and paid social media?

Organic posts are everything you publish on social feeds (without money behind it) as part of a regular content strategy. Meanwhile, paid posts are ones that you really want to amplify and have specific targeting and budget behind it, so the platform pushes it out to audiences. An organic post will always show up in your content feed; a paid post may or may not appear in your content feed.

Q: When is it worth putting money behind a post?

When you have a very specific goal attached to a post, putting money behind it is really helpful. You could be trying to get registrations for a webinar or driving people to a landing page for lead generation. Marketing-focused posts like these are looking for a specific action, so they need to work a little bit harder.

From the pure PR side where the goal is brand visibility, it’s harder and harder to combat newsfeed algorithm changes on social platforms. Putting a little spend behind posts counters these algorithms and ensures brand recognition by making sure you’re seen by people who already follow you and expanding reach to audiences that aren’t following you yet.

Q: Obviously social media channels become more and more saturated with time, but why is paid social more important now than it was five years ago?

Across all platforms, there’s just more content than there was five years ago. More people using social, more publishing, and more talking. There are 500 million Tweets posted per day. With that crazy volume, it’s hard for people to see it all. Most people aren’t looking at Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook every second of every day. That means if you post something once, there are thousands of other tweets posted in the same time span.

Q: What is a boosted post?

A boosted post is specific method for amplifying and promoting a post. “Boost” is actually a great name because it’s so descriptive of what happens. When you boost a post you’re just giving it an extra push to make sure it’s visible for anyone who is currently following you. You can add targeting to try to get within specific followers’ networks as well. It’s a great option to ensure your current audience sees your content.

Q: What is a dark post?

Dark posts are used for more specific goals. For example, if you have an event in Tokyo, everyone across the globe doesn’t need to see that event, because it’s not relevant to them. If you attach targeting to a dark post specific to Tokyo, only people in Tokyo will see it. The post doesn’t show up in your regular feed, which is good because it only appeals to one segment of your audience.

Dark posts are powerful for advertising purposes and AB testing, or split testing. Setting up an AB test allows you to work with algorithms to put different messages or images in front of your audience. Using dark posts this way allows you to constantly test content, without inundating the audience with four posts saying the same thing in slightly different ways in the regular content feed. Once you find which types of messages work well, you can more confidently craft organic posts.

Q: Among the top social platforms, is one more helpful than others?

All of the platforms have paid options but knowing which one is best to use depends on who the audience is. For example, with a young audience in the consumer space, Snapchat might actually be the way to go. Similar audiences are also on Instagram, where you can do ads as stories. There’s been an interesting shift lately as more business and tech companies are starting to get on these younger, trendier platforms with paid promotions as well.

What’s most helpful though is knowing where your audience is and meeting them there. Don’t avoid a platform because you think it’s not going to work or might be too expensive. If you know your audience is there, it’s almost always worth the cost to try it out.

Q: What are the top pros and cons of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn?

Facebook ’s targeting options are broad and there are a lot of options. This is good if you have specific demographic information about your audience—household income, age ranges, kids at home, interests, basically a deep-dive on everything about your audience’s entire life. But if you don’t know as much about them, either because it’s a wide variety of people, or what you know doesn’t align with the information Facebook gathers, it’s harder to target. For example, a consumer brand looking to reach moms will typically have an idea of the age range, some interests and household income. A company looking to reach IT managers may not know as much about their personal lives beyond an age bracket.

Twitter can be a wild card. You’re limited to targeting people based on how much information they’ve filled out on their profile and how they interact and engage on the platform. This is challenging because Twitter is a place where people are often loose or funny with descriptions of themselves. They might put “Beantown” as their location rather than Boston. There’s no targeting option for Beantown because that’s not a real location. You can’t get as granular, but it’s great if you’re looking for a broad audience with a broad interest.

LinkedIn is the most specific targeting based on seniority, title and groups, making it a great option for B2B. The flip is that it’s a little harder to target larger consumer groups. It can get expensive very quickly for anyone who is looking reach a broad audience, but it’s worth it to try for more niche and narrowly focused audiences.

Q: How do you measure the results of each campaign?

It’s tough. There’s always the question of “How does my campaign compare to the average?” But comparing to the “average” on each platform doesn’t make sense, because you would be comparing yourself to every company that has ever advertised on the platform. A company making a heart rate sensor wristband is going to have different results than a company who makes smart cars or mobile wallets. They’re not trying to go for the same audience, so trying to compare results can be disappointing. The better approach is to benchmark after your first social campaign and keep improving from there.

For action-oriented campaigns : If your initial campaign cost $100 per click, you need to ask, “Did that click actually convert to a lead worth $100?” If so, great job! You crushed that campaign and can try to do even better next time. But if you know it normally only costs $25 to get a lead, you need to adjust future campaigns.

For brand awareness campaigns : If you know Twitter normally gets 1,000 impressions, and adding spend now gets 4,000 impressions, that’s a great jump. Gaining, retaining and engaging more followers is also a big win.

Q: Do you think a social campaign could be successful without paid posts?

Every good social strategy should have a paid component, but you don’t need to put it behind every post. Save your paid budget for campaigns that need to make a bigger impact. Overall, social has moved to a quality over quantity approach. It’s not about posting everything; it’s about posting the right things for your audience. Adding money to promote makes sure your audience gets to see it in a noisy and crowded space.

Written by Elisabeth O’Donnell for Business2Community and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Tim Bennett

Why Building a Brand Is the Secret to Future-Proofing Your Business

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“Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room”

—Jeff Bezos

When people ask us why branding matters, it’s a loaded question. Can you run a business without a brand? Sure. But will you be memorable? Will people feel an affection for you? Above all, will you last? Without a strong brand, the odds aren’t in your favor.

Branding matters not just for vanity or for aesthetic reasons. It matters because the business paradigm has shifted (and continues to shift). Old channels of communication aren’t as effective as they once were, people’s expectations have changed, and as a result the walls between businesses and people are breaking down. Transparency, trust, and connection are the secrets to longevity—and it’s difficult to cultivate those without a brand.

4 Reasons Brand Building Is the Secret to Success

Building a brand takes work, but it has a tremendous payoff, now and later. From being able to charge premium prices to cultivating loyalty, here are the key ways in which having a brand helps your business.

1) Differentiation

It goes without saying that pretty much every market everywhere is full of tough competition. Marketing is tougher than ever, too. With so many channels, it’s harder and harder to be seen and heard. Branding is the secret to cutting through that noise. With a unique identity, reliable content, and a strong presence, it helps you stand out from competitors.

Branding juggernauts like BMW and Coke are brands that have built empires, but branding isn’t exclusively for mega-corporations. Mom-and-pop small businesses can build brands that are sensations, too.

In fact, for many, being the little guy is a huge part of their identity. For example, Sqirl is a small LA-based cafe famous for their signature jams. They’ve built a cult following (and even a jam of the month club) by delivering on their brand promise: fresh jam made from locally sourced ingredients.

2) Relationship Building

In the last decade or so, we’ve seen a huge shift in marketing, from interruption marketing—the one-way conversation of advertising—to engagement marketing, which is all about interaction, connection, and relationship building.

To find and attract the people who will become loyal, lifelong fans, you need a strong, authentic brand identity. The more you show them who you are, the more they will support you, especially when your values align with their own.

According to the 2018 “Global Consumer Pulse Research” report by Accenture:

  • 63% of surveyed global consumers prefer to purchase products and services from companies whose purpose reflects their own values and beliefs.
  • 62% say their purchasing consideration is driven by a company’s ethical values and authenticity.

Branding is the best way to show them who you are and what you care about. The more transparent you are, the stronger your identity, the more people will gravitate to you—and most importantly, trust you. That trust is the key to building a lasting relationship.

3) Pricing

Why are you willing to shell out more for Nike shoes or Apple products? It’s not just because they’re cool. It’s because they’ve created a premium brand experience, from their advertising to their packaging.

Try on a pair of Nike sneakers and you feel like an athlete. Pick up an Apple tablet and you feel like an artist. These brands have created a brand experience so strong it has become part of their DNA. The result? People perceive them to be the gold standard in their industries, and their pricing reflects that.

People know what to expect with a well-branded product or service. If you deliver on your brand promise at every touchpoint, people will be willing to pay more.

Note: One common trend we see is brands focusing on growth hacking over brand building. This strategy is enticing, but it sacrifices long-term gains for short-term growth.

4) Recruiting

Trying to connect with the people who will eventually use or buy your product or service is a crucial part of any healthy business, but there’s something else that greatly influences your success: the people who work for you. A brand doesn’t exist alone. It’s a living, breathing entity formed by the people who work for it.

Right now, is your team happy and satisfied? Do they know why your company exists and how they contribute to it? Do they feel fulfilled when they come to the office? A strong brand unites their people through a shared vision.

If your culture is toxic or your workplace unsafe, your brand won’t last. Why?

  • First, because authenticity and transparency are vital to any community you build. (According to the Accenture report, 65% of people are drawn to brands that treat their employees well.) If you’re not practicing your beliefs, your brand will get dragged painfully and publicly.
  • Second, because you will fail to attract and maintain talent, which will hurt you in the long run.

Note: Culture marketing is a great way to tell your brand story and attract potential talent. If you haven’t experimented with it before, here are a few tips to turn your culture into engaging content.

How to Build Your Brand

Building a brand doesn’t happen overnight; it’s an ever-evolving process. But there are steps you can take to get yourself on the right track and make sure your priorities are correct.

  • Start with your brand strategy. You need a strong foundation to build upon, and a brand strategy gives you just that by helping you identify your values, goals, and more.
  • (Re)align your content strategy. Your content strategy is technically part of your brand strategy, but in many organizations content strategy is misaligned. Every piece of content you create is an opportunity to share your brand story and support your goals, so make sure everything you do directly ties to your larger brand strategy.
  • Create a visual identity that reflects your brand. A visual identity is another tool to communicate, so make sure yours includes everything you need.
  • Refine your brand messaging. You need cohesive messaging to tell a powerful brand strategy.
  • Tell stories that matter. Customers are people with their own thoughts, interests, desires, fears, and feelings. Focus on creating a brand experience that taps into those feelings, whether you’re helping them solve a problem or enhance their life.

That said, we know it can be tough to build a brand from scratch, especially if you don’t have much bandwidth or resources. If you need to bring in an agency for reinforcements, here’s how to find one.

Written by Katy French for Business2Community and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

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The Importance of Email Marketing and Digital Marketing Strategy for Your Brand

Have you ever opened a marketing email and not immediately recognised what company it’s from or the purpose of the email? It has no sales pitch or story or maybe it doesn’t even match their website? Sometimes it’s not their fault, they test their emails on desktops but don’t realise their emails don’t render correctly on mobile, the device that the majority of people now open emails on. Believe it or not, some companies don’t even use email marketing and have no idea of the opportunity they are missing out on.

Fundamentals of Email Marketing and Digital Marketing Strategy include an optimised website and great emails, even mobile-friendly ones. Said to have the biggest ROI and be the most cost-effective form of digital marketing, email offers a direct form of communication allowing you to keep a constant touchpoint on all customers. 94% of us use email. Convenient, personal and instant, it’s no wonder it is the preferred form of communication, allowing a wider reach of customers, a high level of personalisation and the ability to track performance.

Brand strategy: Awareness, communication, conversion

Increasing awareness should be a top brand marketing goal. Email frequency, delivery and content all influence the customers perception of a brand and can greatly enhance their awareness. Getting your story, mission and brand goals across to your grown and trusted audience at the right time with email enables customers to appreciate your brand, boosting loyalty and keeping customers engaged.

“Email is still the most widely used method of business communication”, according to Email on Acid. Building a relationship with customers is next on your priority list. Welcome emails, content personalisation, re-engagement emails and storytelling are the way to go here. You want to make your customers feel exclusive, included and with you along the journey, not just marketed to. Customers like to be engaged with and feel affinity with a brand.

With a recognised brand, an aware, informed and receptive audience, your emails CTA’s are sure to lead to the ultimate goal. Conversions.

What kind of emails should you be sending?

It’s important that your emails represent your brand’s personality. Finding the correct balance of types of email marketing for your company is imperative so as to not harm your brand. According to a 2016 Hubspot survey, 78% of people unsubscribe from promotional emails because a brand was sending “too many emails”. It is important to listen and know what your existing customers want and potential customers are looking for from your emails. Email marketing is not “sell sell sell”, it is much more. Your email marketing strategy should consist of a balance mix of promotional, informative, triggered and transactional emails.

Email on Acid believe in a ’70/20/10’ rule for brand emails. This means 70% of emails should be educational demos, tips, storytelling or advisory information. 20% should “centre on content from thought leaders, creating a feeling across your list that your brand is giving them exclusive access to content” and the remaining 10% should be product-focused. This rule is said to establish valuable relationships with your customers making them feel important, which they are!

Cadbury Roses and Heroes brand manager Aislinn Campbell states “What used to be really new and different can become wallpaper quite easily now. It takes a lot more to cut through and to catch people’s attention. The value of a campaign and a brand connection is so important”. Campbell explains “we are pushing something out that’s a bit more entertaining rather than a pure advertising message because engagement has never been as important as it is now”.

What content to include?

With 68% of people reading about brands that interest them and 80% of people enjoying learning about a company through custom content, meaningful email content is crucial. You need relevant and personalised content that engages the customer. Whether it be a sales pitch, the latest news or the story behind your latest product development, as long as your content holds value, your email is on the right track. Content can be in the form of text, images, GIFs and so on. Different displays of your content should be chosen based on your audience, whether they need to see a product or just hear about it briefly, or in depth etc. You could ramble on about the specific red of a lipstick, or you could just show it and use the text to explain the texture.

For example, Uber’s ‘simple’ emails have brief but valuable text, their logo, a clear CTA and nothing else. No distractions, no ‘waffle’ and most importantly, they are consistent.

In another example, Space NK give their product images centre stage, accompanied with short and to-the-point text to provide readers with easily digestable information.
(Who does Space NK’s great email marketing I hear you ask, we do of course!)

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Brand consistency

Consistency across all platforms is key to brand strategy. A customers transition across email campaigns, social media and website should be seamless and with all aesthetic style and branding being the same across the board. With content, images and email design matching, this enlists a psychological connection with customers and helps them recognise and trust your brand on any online or offline platform. When email is used as a tool of trust between customer and company, communication, engagement and e-commerce are improved – as is the longevity of the relationship.

From frequency, delivery, formatting and aesthetics, a consistent email enhances a special brand experience and therefore brand loyalty.

Your audience

The beauty of email marketing for your brand is your audience is already engaged as they have signed up to receive your emails so marketing via email is a mainstay in strengthening your brand’s relationship. Unlike the consumers that see a sponsored ad for your brand on social media or paid ads, email marketing is specifically requested, making it the most successful marketing channel.

Successful email marketing

A great example of the Virgin Holidays brand successfully using email marketing was to increase sales across many touchpoints across a customer journey whether it be pre or post-booking and post-holiday. Their successful campaign involved working with AI for better subject lines and relevant content unique to each customer. According to Marketing Week, results included a 31% increase in site traffic, 37% increase in CRM communications and a 65% increase in brand awareness.

My final tip

Email marketing is at the forefront of your brand on the internet. It is imperative to be transparent to customers that receive your company’s emails. This means a clear and easy accessible unsubscribe link, no hidden links or signing in to a website to be removed from your list.

So there you have it. Done well, email marketing helps to both establish your online presence as a brand and help continuously improve it. Brand awareness, reputation, loyalty and overall sales are all affected by your digital marketing strategy and easily enhanced by using this time-honoured channel.

Written by Mike Parry for Business2Community and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

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