Four Ways Brands Earn Trust

Four Ways Brands Earn Trust

Marketing

Consumers don’t want to ignore brands. We want to spend time in their stores and immerse ourselves in their websites when the experience is good. We willingly buy their products. Otherwise, people around the world wouldn’t be spending nearly $25 trillion in 2018 in the retail sector alone. But to become loyal to brands – to willingly give them our time and money over and over, and then recommend them to others – we have to trust them.

A relationship with a business is built on trust, and consumers now possess more tools to figure out which brands they can trust and which they cannot. For example, analyst Brian Solis recently assessed the results of Google research indicating that mobile searches that include “best” have grown more than 80 percent in the last two years, and searches using the phrase “to avoid” have grown 1.5X in the same span. And Google continues to refine its algorithms to provide precise answers. As Solis notes,

Among everyday consumers, trust in brands and executives erodes every year. According to Edelman’s annual Trust Barometer report, trust is increasingly democratized and less hierarchical. In its most recent report, Edelman found, for the first time, that 60% of consumers view “a person like yourself” as a credible source for information about a company as a technical or academic expert. And, credibility of CEOs hit an all-time low in the series, with a 12-point decline in the last year.

Building consumer trust becomes not only an imperative for attentive brands but also a significant competitive advantage.

In addition, consumers are increasingly relying on reviews to determine which companies they can trust. According to eMarketer, online reviews are even overtaking advice from friends and families as a way to research brands. Online reviews are especially important for high-consideration products such as electronics and clothing.

How do brands earn our trust? I think brands do so by living these four attributes:

Authenticity

Brands can illustrate authenticity in many ways, but when it comes to consumers trusting brands, it’s important that companies demonstrate their values and what they stand for. Kendra Scott is a fashion brand that is built around positivity and giving back to the community. The founder, Kendra Scott, uses social media to not only showcase their quality products, but the company’s values and philanthropic actions as well. The brand organizes events for a variety of organizations and causes, which they put on display across their marketing channels. Emphasizing how involved Kendra Scott is to making the world a better place allows consumers to think of them than more than just a company that sells jewelry and other fashion products – it’s a brand they can trust.

Transparency

In the social media world that we live in, there are no longer secrets. Consumers are demanding brands to be open and honest with them. Many brands struggle with being transparent with their customers, but a lack of transparency only hurts them. Whether a brand is enduring a PR crisis or announcing a new product, it’s important for a brand to show who they are and what they can give to the consumer. Recently, I received an email from Panera Bread’s CEO, Blaine E. Hurst, commenting on the recent romaine lettuce recall. He stated, “From the moment the advisory was issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on April 13, 2018, we pulled all romaine originating from Yuma growing region from our cafes .  . .”

He continued by confirming that customers can rest assured that they found a new source and all Panera salads are safe to eat. He concluded the email by saying, “We hope this helps to ease your mind, and invite you to come in and enjoy your favorite Panera salad again.”

From this email, Blaine Hurst was able to build trust by being honest. He assured customers that they were safe to eat at Panera by confirming that Panera had resolved the unfortunate issue. When a brand faces a conflict that involves them or their products, it’s crucial that they are completely transparent with consumers in order to gain or sustain trust.

Consistency

It’s essential to develop standards for brand consistency, online and offline, to earn consumer’s trust. Chick-fil-A is a company that does so. My experience at Chick-fil-A, no matter which location, has been consistent each time, whether it’s at the beginning with a warm welcome from the employee taking my order, or when I’m enjoying my meal. And the brand consistency doesn’t stop there. When I come across one of their social media posts or advertisements, I can tell it’s their content without even looking at the brand name. Having consistency across your team, products, and marketing efforts builds trust and loyalty for consumers because they know what to expect from you and your products or services.

Empathy

Showing your customers that you care about them, especially in a time of need, boosts consumer loyalty and trust. I recently ordered a present for a family member off Amazon, and the dealer lost it in the mail. Amazon sent me an email telling me to contact Amazon support, and then a friendly customer service rep from Amazon apologized multiple times for the inconvenience. The same rep immediately re-ordered my item for me free of charge with overnight shipping so that I would get it on time. Amazon training their support team to show empathy allows me to feel confident ordering from Amazon in the future. Even if this issue or a similar scenario were to happen again, I could trust that Amazon would happily resolve the issue quickly. Offering empathy to a customer enhances the customer’s experience which then enables them to trust the brand.

Perhaps the best way for a brand to build trust is to ask these simple questions:

  • Are you treating your customers the way you would want them to treat every person at your company?
  • What do you want your customers to say about you? Are you giving them every motivation to do so with your actions?

Trust is earned one person at a time. But building trust starts with training your own people. Does everyone at your own company know how to earn the trust of every customer they meet?

Image source: http://www.brandingbusiness.com/blogs/building-b2b-brand-trust-through-communication

Instagram Escapes the Techlash (So Far)

Instagram Escapes the Techlash (So Far)

Social media

Somehow Instagram has remained unsullied by the fear, uncertainty, and doubt that has gripped social platforms lately.

YouTube keeps getting slammed for allowing brands’ ads to run on extremist channelsTwitter continues to wrestle with the challenge of balancing the need for free speech against the ugly reality of people using the platform to spread hate and harassment. And we all know what kind of a year Facebook has been having with Mark Zuckerberg needing to appear before Congress amid concerns about the privacy of its users’ data.

And Instagram? The platform keeps making headlines of a different sort, ranging from news about product updates such as Focus portrait mode to gossipy stories about the activities of the influencers and celebrities who live on Instagram. I’m going to go out on a limb here and speculate that CEO Kevin Systrom will take articles accusing Tristan Thompson of using Instagram to cheat on Khloe Kardashian over the kind of news coverage his boss Mark Zuckerberg has been getting.

Against this backdrop, I’ve added my own perspective for Adweek Social Pro Daily. My article, “What Instagram Carousel Ads for Stories Mean to Brands,” discusses a recently released feature that makes it possible for consumers to purchase products through a carousel of branded video and product images. As I note in the article, Carousel Ads are not original to Instagram – Facebook launched them first – but Instagram is the perfect platform for the format because Carousel Ads are tailored for mobile users in the visual age. And in the United States, only Snapchat rivals Instagram for as the de rigueur platform for the mobile, visually savvy consumer.

The Carousel Ads for Stories format means more opportunities for brands to engage with consumers and rely on Instagram as an ecommerce platform. For more insight, check out my article and let us knowhow you’ve been using Instagram for digital marketing and commerce. We’re here to help.

7 Great Women Who Inspire Us

7 Great Women Who Inspire Us

Marketing

To honor International Women’s Day, we’ve thought about the women who lead our industry through their ideas and actions. These women are not only leading the advertising and media industry, they’re also leading businesses, period:

  • Jerri DeVard, EVP, chief customer officer, Office Depot: she inspires by showing how a legacy company can keep its brand fresh online and offline – and in her spare time, she’s on the board of directors of three companies.
  • Carol Dweck, author: at businesses across America, her book Mindset is required reading to inspire people to embrace self-improvement and better performance. She is an inspirational TED speaker and teacher with a far-reaching impact.
  • Patty McCord, consultant and author: as chief talent officer at Netflix, she helped build the company’s renowned culture of innovation and agility. Now she teaches other businesses how to get better.
  • Indra Nooyi, CEO, PepsiCo: you always find her on lists of the world’s most powerful women, but she’s also led the building of one of the world’s most powerful brands – and one that is innovating with its products and marketing.
  • Ruth Porat, CFO, Alphabet: in a male-dominated field, Ruth Porat stands apart for her leadership of a company whose stock price and market value continue to climb. She ensures that all those moonshots make fiscal sense.
  • Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios: as president of NBC Entertainment, she managed more than 40 television titles including popular shows as such as This Is Us. We can’t wait to see what she does with The Lord of the Rings series now that she’s head of Amazon Studios.
  • Susan Wojcicki, CEO, YouTube: 180 million people watch YouTube, and more than 400 hours of video content are loaded a minute. YouTube continues to extend its influence under her guidance.

These are just seven names among many women at all levels across industries who lead. We salute the women we work with and admire!

Brands, Get Ready for Video on LinkedIn

Brands, Get Ready for Video on LinkedIn

Marketing

Organic video for company pages is coming to LinkedIn. It’s only a matter of time. Businesses need to be ready to capitalize on the opportunity.

Video content is already a major way businesses and people communicate on the internet. According to Kleiner Perkins, video accounts for 74 percent of all Web traffic, and 55 percent of people watch video every day according to MWP. In 2017, LinkedIn started to catch up to other social platforms that have become more accommodating to video content when the company made it possible for users to create personal videos on its mobile app.

For LinkedIn, the introduction of video meant that its users could create more engaging stories about themselves, especially in a business setting. For example, in a blog post about LinkedIn video, LinkedIn cited the example of the president of an equipment company using video to demonstrate how her company’s forklifts operate.

Since then, LinkedIn has indicated to True Interactive that the company plans to bring native sponsored videos in the feed as part of its 2018 advertising plans. The timing could not be better. On January 11, Facebook announced the company will downgrade content from publishers in users’ news feeds. This move will pressure more publishers to look to other platforms such as LinkedIn to engage people with their content.

Businesses should prepare for video coming to your LinkedIn pages. For example, if you post video regularly on other platforms, create a strategy for cross-posting content on LinkedIn. You might want to start by testing different types of video to see what kind of content creates more engagement on LinkedIn versus Facebook or Instagram although these days the content between Facebook and LinkedIn is converging. LinkedIn used to be a platform for people to post business-related content, but more and more users are posting personal stories that would appear on the surface to be more suitable for Facebook. Businesses that rely on employee ambassadors to humanize their brands with more personal content might find LinkedIn to be an attractive destination for video content.

It also makes sense to earmark a larger LinkedIn advertising budget. LinkedIn will certainly incorporate video into its advertising products to monetize video and create more engagement for brands. Especially with Facebook becoming less friendly to brands, LinkedIn looks more attractive.

As I mentioned in a recent True Interactive blog post predicting 2018 trends, LinkedIn is becoming a more popular platform for companies to build their brands. LinkedIn has been adding a number of features such as Matched Audiences and Website Retargeting to make it a stronger advertising platform. Recently LinkedIn ran a pilot program with more 370 participating advertisers and saw a 30-percent increase in click-through rates and a 14-percent drop in post-click cost-per-conversion with Website Retargeting. Businesses should already be taking a closer look at LinkedIn as part of their advertising and content marketing strategies – and make sure you include video.

For more insight into how to build your brand across the digital world, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.

Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/video-camera-optics-photography-2562034/

What the Instagram Hashtag Update Means to Brands

What the Instagram Hashtag Update Means to Brands

Marketing

Instagram recently announced that users can follow hashtags, similar to following a friend. Once a user follows a hashtag, Instagram will use an algorithm to generate a selection of top posts displaying that hashtag within the user’s main feed. The algorithm is said to be based on factors such as recency and quality. Plus, users will be able to flag irrelevant or inappropriate content that appears for a hashtag. Giving Instagram users the ability to customize the type of content that appears within their feed will help users discover new posts and accounts that fit their interests and passions. The new functionality will also help businesses increase brand recognition, enhance their social listening, and, down the road, possibly a new ad targeting option. Here are recommendations for brands:

Increase Brand Recognition

Brands should have a brand hashtag and use it consistently, whether it’s the brand name, slogan, or product. Doing so gives brands the opportunity to be discovered by new followers or current customers that were not following before.

A word of caution: companies should be careful not to hijack hashtags or overplay their hand in an attempt to build brand awareness. Inevitably, Instagram users will add trendy or broad hashtags to their posts in order to draw attention and increase followers even though the hashtags are irreverent to their content or business. Don’t be one of those users. Following hashtags is supposed to allow Instagram users to discover accounts that align with their interests. So it’s important that companies use hashtags within their posts that align only with their brand, content, and products.

Enhance Social Listening

Companies should also take advantage of following hashtags, whether it’s their brand hashtag or other popular industry hashtags.

Following your own company hashtag will enhance your brand’s social listening strategy. You can learn what users are saying about your brand or products even when they don’t tag you within the post.

One way to get started is to create a list of hashtags that are popular in your industry. For example, if you sell a pet product or service, you should consider following #dogsofinstagram or #catvideos to stay up to date on trending posts and topics.

Marketers can also gain insight on their brand loyalists and what they are interested in or passionate about by exploring the type of hashtags your followers follow. Doing so gives brands the opportunity to take these learnings to create new posts, products, and marketing strategies that resonate with customers’ interests, hobbies, and emotions.

Advertising – Possibly New Targeting Option?

The ability to follow hashtags makes Instagram evolve from a social network to an interest network. When Instagram announced this new feature, the app did not mention rolling it out to advertisers as interest targeting – but the possibility exists in the future. Instagram could allow advertisers to target a person following a given hashtag or charge companies to show a relevant sponsored post on a hashtag’s page. Whether or not this new feature will bring in more targeting options for advertisers, it will definitely increase users’ time spent on the platform. So take advantage of testing out ads on Instagram while engagement is up.

For more insight into integrating Instagram into your marketing strategy, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.

4 Ways to Turn Employees into Brand Ambassadors

4 Ways to Turn Employees into Brand Ambassadors

Social media

Your biggest social media advocates might be hiding in plain sight: your employees.

Compelling content, influencer outreach, and paid media are important elements of any social media strategy. But too often, businesses overlook or undervalue the role of their own people in building brand advocacy through social media.

Your employees should be your biggest fans. Employees live and breathe the brand every day. Businesses should encourage their employees to be advocates. When you encourage your employees to speak on behalf of your brand, you demonstrate trust in them. And doing so is just smart marketing. Employees probably have a larger presence than your business does – most certainly collectively and sometimes even individually if you employ high-profile people who blog actively and post often on their socials.

But many people do not post about their employer on their personal social media pages. Oftentimes, the impediment is not a reluctance to talk about their employers but rather a lack of understanding of the ground rules for doing so. Still others just need to be prompted with compelling content. In either case, the brand itself can encourage social sharing by playing an active role. Employees need education, motivation, and inspiration from the company to be active brand advocates on social media.

Here are some ways to get started.

Listen to Your Staff

The first step to cultivating employees as brand ambassadors is listening to them.

Employees provide a valuable source of social listening. Their input shared on public social sites such as Glassdoor, as well as their own socials, will make you more aware of how they feel about the brand. Moreover, their input on social channels (including internal ones such as Slack) can provide valuable feedback on your products and services. This information should help you gain insight on what to educate your staff on and if there are any problems. You need your people to be happy and satisfied at work, not only to perform well but to also be brand ambassadors.

Educate Your Staff

Employees want and need ground rules for talking about you on social media. Ground rules are more than a list of dos and don’ts. They empower employees by giving them examples of how to (and how not to) discuss your company. Ground rules are especially critical for publicly traded companies, where disclosing the wrong information at the wrong time can put a business at risk for disciplinary action from the government.

So, create a plan for social media – a plan with guidelines – and educate everyone in the company, not just people in HR and Legal.

You might find it useful to involve an outside perspective, such as a social media expert who takes charge of educating your entire staff on social media guidelines, content, and brand storytelling. Outside voices can provide ideas and lessons learned from a wide variety of businesses, not just yours.

Give Your Employees Something to Share

When you share great content with employees, they’ll share it publicly. But you have to share it rather than expect them to find it. For instance:

  • Do all your employees know about what you post on your own corporate socials, such as your Facebook and Instagram accounts? Do they know you have accounts and where to find them?
  • When an employee achieves something to celebrate, do you let your employees know and link to your own social spaces where you’ve noted the achievement?
  • Do you keep your employees abreast of when your company is in the news?
  • How well do you share your corporate thought leadership with all your employees, such as blog posts and white papers?

Employees are especially willing to talk up your thought leadership when they realize that sharing your branded content will uplift other employees.

Inspire Your Staff

Employees don’t always have time to be brand ambassadors – until you make the process easy. They sometimes feel like sharing content about your brand is a chore – until you make the process fun.

Making content-sharing easy means getting little things right, such as sharing a short link and hashtag for the information you want people to share, as well as links to your socials in every communication (rather than assuming employees remember where to find your socials).

Making content easy to share also means going so far as to explain why the content matters and the value of sharing it. If you want employees to tweet about a company accomplishment, give them tweet-worthy headlines.

You can also make social sharing fun by giving shout-outs to employees who are active brand ambassadors – and by linking to their socials on your corporate socials when appropriate. In both instances, you’re doing what comes natural in social media: rewarding through recognition.

Next Steps

If you’re inspired to do a better job cultivating your employees as brand ambassadors, I would suggest doing the following;

  • Do an audit of your own social media program. Make sure you have your own house in order before you ask your employees to put their socials to work for you.
  • Enlist the help of your employees. Consider creating a small team of highly influential employees and ask them for ideas and oversight of a brand ambassador program.
  • Create a strategy for how you’ll operate. A strategy should include everything from goals to sources of content and approaches for getting employees involved.
  • Have an ongoing mechanism in place to share and get feedback from employees about your program. Learn from them and adjust as you go along.

Developing an employee brand ambassador program can be exciting, rewarding, and fulfilling. When done right, employee brand ambassador programs generate more buzz and excitement for your brand than you could accomplish through your corporate socials. For more insight, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.

Image source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/adult-chill-computer-connection-450271/

Amazon, Apple, and Google Race to Lead Voice

Amazon, Apple, and Google Race to Lead Voice

Search

The war to dominate voice technology is heating up – and getting more interesting. Both Amazon and Google have recently announced important enhancements to make their voice assistants, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, smarter and more useful. And to increase the level of competition, on June 5 Apple announced its HomePod smart speaker, powered by Siri, at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). The ability of a consumer to search from multiple devices anywhere they are makes it clear that brands’ strategies need to adapt for voice searches.

Apple Plays Catch-Up

 The launch of HomePod represents Apple’s attempt to gain a stake in the market for smart speakers activated by voice. Apple has been late to the playing field before, but when it enters, Apple creates hardware that leaves competitors in the dust. Think of the iPhone and how it changed people’s lives, and, even more so, the way people search.

Having access to another voice-activated device no matter where you are, whether it’s the HomePod, Apple Watch or iPhone, will only increase the use of voice search. Apple’s sneak peak of the HomePod mainly focused on its abilities for music in the home, but it also touched on similar smart speaker features such as weather, directions, messages, and reminders.

Additional Siri-related announcements included a new voice that is more conversational, which will match with the way consumers speak to Siri. Apple also announced a new Siri-powered watch face for the Apple Watch. Apple is enhancing Siri on the Apple Watch by using machine learning to gather data on how you utilize your device. Siri will use this data to then show you relative and interesting content.

Apple’s release of HomePod occurred on the heels of Google’s and Amazon’s own announcements related to voice technology. It’s instructive to review how Amazon and Google built off their already established products to differentiate themselves.

 Amazon Integrates Voice and Search with Echo

On May 9, Amazon – which dominates 70 percent of the market for voice controlled speakers – announced that its Echo voice-activated home speaker is getting more visual. The new Echo Show product includes a touch screen that integrates visual features with voice. According to Amazon, “Echo Show brings you everything you love about Alexa, and now she can show you things. Watch video flash briefings and YouTube, see music lyrics, security cameras, photos, weather forecasts, to-do and shopping lists, and more. All hands-free—just ask.”

In addition, Echo Show users can make video calls, thus making Echo Show a competitor to Apple’s FaceTime, Google’s Hangouts, and Microsoft’s Skype.

What Echo Show does for brands and consumers is create a more integrated way for them to share content with each other. For instance, consumers can ask Alexa to make their dining reservations at a restaurant and also call up a menu, display available movie times at different theaters, and watch movie trailers, among many other possibilities.

According to Mashable’s Lance Ulanoff, “The Amazon Echo Show is a quantum leap beyond any Alexa-infused product we’ve seen before” because of the new interface with the touch screen. He also noted that Echo Show will always communicate with you, while other devices wait for you to initiate.

It’s obvious Amazon is becoming a stronger platform for amplifying your brand through paid and organic content, both visual and voice-related. If you do not have an Amazon strategy yet, True Interactive highly recommends experimenting with advertising on their platform.

Google Gets Smarter

Meanwhile, at its annual I/O event, Google introduced a slew of features to make Google Home  and Google Assistant more useful.

As if to answer Amazon Echo, Google launched Visual Responses, which also integrates visual content with voice. As Google noted on its blog, “You’ll be able to see Assistant answers on the biggest screen in your house, whether you’re asking ‘what’s on YouTube TV right now?’ or ‘what’s on my calendar today?’”

In other words, Google provides the same functionality as Amazon but with the power of the Google search and discovery ecosystem more closely integrated into the experience.

Google made many other enhancements to Google Assistant and Google Home. For instance, with Proactive Assistance, Google Home sends people information without being asked. So if you have an appointment with your doctor entered on your Google calendar, Google Home will remind you of the date and time, suggest a driving route, or provide other useful information such as helpful stops on the way to the doctor.

Another interesting improvement consists of making Google Assistant more conversational and more contextual. As Google noted on its blog, we often want to have follow-up conversations with Google Assistant. So Google has made it possible to see the history of your conversation with Google Assistant as you would a text thread, thus making it easier for you to re-engage with a conversation – say, managing a shopping list at the store after you’ve started one and then had your trip to Target interrupted by something else.

Bottom Line

Google, Amazon and Apple understand that people and brands find each other in more sophisticated, multi-dimensional ways. All of these companies have evolved to incorporate voice search tools and now multi-media discovery platforms.

Brands need to think of themselves as multi-media advertisers in the world that Amazon, Google and Apple are shaping. Performance media is not an either/or choice between voice, text-based, and visual platforms such as Instagram and YouTube. These three leading brands are forcing businesses to think of their media as overlapping, integrated platforms.

Virtual assistants are using machine learning to understand the consumer’s voice, interests, behaviors and intent to give them a better search experience. And with voice-activated devices advancing, consumer’s search behavior is shifting. We’ve mentioned before that voice searches are more conversational and natural. Advertisers now need to focus their content strategy not only around conversational language, but also visuals and the context of the search including the type of device and location.

Image source: PC Magazine