Take Back Branded Content Outsourcing and Dependency

This article, Take Back Branded Content Outsourcing and Dependency, originally appeared at TedRubin.com

If you own a hospitality or service business, chances are that you’ve encountered some negative user-generated-content (UGC) on sites like Yelp or Trip Advisor—even Facebook. Let’s face it… digital technology has enabled third parties to insert themselves in between brands and their customers. Yelp aggregates UGC to reduce or eliminate the use of intermediaries between restaurants and their customers. Facebook does the same with likes, and Google to some extent with search results (but you can use/leverage Google). Yelp/Trip Advisor content is under the control of the platforms and is heavily gamed based on payment (see my post about it here). So how can you get around this and take more control of your brand’s reputation?

Content (Especially Local Content) is Still King

Content is how brands can level the playing field. But not just any content cranked out by your corporate marketing department. I’m talking about going to a source that’s close to home—your employees and customers.  Employee created content (ECC) can overwhelm Yelp’s content by simply connecting with shoppers as close to the point of purchase as possible. Add customers into the mix and there is no comparison.  The trick is to have them help you create branded content at scale.

If the “at scale” part makes you nervous, don’t worry, I’ll show you a tool that makes it easy. The main idea is to change your thinking about how to incorporate localized content. What’s going on in your neighborhood that your customers would find appealing or fun? And it doesn’t necessarily have to be an event that you invite them to—it could be a story about your local high school (e.g. Wake Forest High School is playing in the State Football Championship), a local start-up opening its doors, or a volunteer group doing good work. This is where brainstorming with your employees could really pay off.

Chances are, most of your employees are already using Facebook or Instagram. Each has their own audience of friends and family, and ECC affects the channels most relevant to the people creating them. While Facebook might be important to paid brand media, your local restaurant servers might prefer Instagram because that’s what their audiences prefer… even better with the multiple platforms people use every day. Local content captures the authenticity of the community. The challenge is giving the right tools to your employees, so they feel comfortable sharing your company’s brand as part of their social outreach…. and so it incorporates properly branded assets.

Help Them Create It

There is no doubt that in today’s digital environment, there’s just way too much content bombarding the average consumer, and Gartner reports that in 2020, content will become marketing’s biggest bottleneck. People are becoming very choosy about what kind of content they consume and how much. In fact, LSA Insider reports that 82% of mobile shoppers have conducted “near me” searches. Need to take a client out to dinner in an area you’re not familiar with? Looking for restaurants via your mobile becomes an exercise in looking for local reviews and photos—and the place with the most authentic-looking, attractive content wins. Here’s how that tool I told you about earlier comes into play. It’s called Photofy, a powerful content creation tool and photo editing app that lets your employees become “micro influencers” right from their phones (full disclosure… my business partner John Andrews joined the company as CEO in January, and like has been the story for the past 10 years or so, brought me along as CMO). As a business, you can help by providing the app with logos, photos and other creative imagery that your employees can use, or they can use their own local images or stock photos (Photofy has free ones) and incorporate your logo. Check out this piece for one of their clients, Chilie’s.

The app is like a box of digital branding Legos your collaborative teams can use to create authentic, on-brand content for digital channels. This type of content delivers significantly higher engagement than branded content, because it drives search optimization and shopper find-ability.

One of the biggest challenges that brands face in working with their employees to create content, however, is letting go of control of their brand collateral. The key is finding the right tools and using them in collaboration. Stay in communication with your employee micro-influencers, so they are always in the know about campaigns, designs, events and milestones. There are lots of photo editing apps out there, but choose one where you can manage your artwork, subscribers, fonts, templates, user groups and analytics and more right from the app. The idea is to make collaboration with employees easy, seamless, and most importantly, measurable. This takes the fear out of unleashing your employees to the digital wind, especially if your brand is larger, with multiple markets and areas of operation.

The Photofy App enables and empowers the creation and sharing of properly branded photographic content at scale… easy to create, beautiful Branded Content, in under 30 seconds.

 

The proof is really in the pudding. One of Photofy’s case studies, for instance, is a fitness club with 36 markets across the U.S. and Canada. When they used Photofy’s Enterprise Pro service to empower over 6,000 employees, they created over 80,000 pieces of branded content, leading to an exponential increase in content and engagement across social channels (40mm estimated reach).

Think of the potential this could have with your business. What a boon it would be for your marketing team to be able to work with your employees, so they can create hyper-localized content that’s appropriately branded. Your employees can reach an exponentially larger audience with content that means something to local customers—because it has the authentic voice of someone who lives and works in the area. Instead of outsourcing content, start thinking about “insourcing” it—and who better to take on that mantle than the people who know your company and your customers the best? Goodbye Yelp and Trip Advisor! Empowering your employees to collaborate with your marketing team as micro-influencers can blow that content out of the water, so break free and go internal and local! You’ll see a profound effect on your brand relationship with customers. Take Back Branded Content Outsourcing and Dependency—Go Internal and Local and Break Free!

Photofy… easy to create beautiful Branded Content in under 30 seconds. #Photofy

New Podcast: Nobody Cares about Oath, nobody likes Yelp, and 3rd Party data makes a comeback

Verizon takes a massive write-down on Oath, its AOL/Yahoo dud acquisition. John and Casey talk about what this means for online content, why everyone hates Yelp, and how 3rd Party Data can provide real actionable intelligence.
This episode is sponsored by #IRIAudiences

Podcast: Meat Hoodies and the End of Targeted Ads

The meat hoodie has arrived. Does this herald the end of targeted advertising for good? Photofy CEO John Andrews and Head of Marketing Casey Petersen discuss what’s next in marketing.

Help us name this new podcast – let us know your thoughts!

Reference: https://www.latimes.com/business/technology/la-fi-tn-meat-hoodie-20181129-story.html

Content-Based Communities Are The Future of Marketing

This article was originally posted by John Andrews, Photofy CEO, on Linkedin.

Brands are facing an ever increasing challenge of standing out from the noise. As earned media channels like Facebook and Twitter become less welcoming to brands who aren’t paying for reach, marketers are facing an uphill battle for creating truly content-driven campaigns that get noticed by consumers.

In 2015, outdoor retailer REI broke the holiday marketing mold and closed its stores on Black Friday, encouraging its shoppers and employees to #Optoutside, even paying its employees to do so. In an age where everyone is taking incessantly about marketing experiences, most are looking inward vs. thinking about how brand relevant experiences resonate beyond the walls of the store. REI shattered the entire idea of experiences with its brilliant delivery of its core brand promise, get the heck outside. It’s as if Whole Foods encouraged people to pick their own kale from gardens they helped inspire them to plant or if Walmart helped people save money through financial literacy courses at community colleges. Brand positioning for retail is increasingly becoming much more ethereal as people spend less time in physical retail environments. Great brands have always existed in consumer’s minds, the real opportunity for retailers in now to bring experiences to life all along the path to purchase, not just in store.

When REI did the unthinkable and closed its doors on retail’s former pinnacle day, it firmly planted its flag in the fertile ground of brand relevancy. Millions of people joined the #optoutside bandwagon not in support of REI but in support of what it stands for. Content related to the program has exploded and frequently has nothing to do with REI but everything to do with its core values. Content Communities are the essence of great branding and the future of marketing, especially digital media. Thanks to its support and participation, REI is the brand most associated with the conversation which helps it win related searches and the organic path to purchase for outdoor gear.

The beauty of content communities is the connection that they provide to all members. Demographics go out the window when you have a community that loves outdoor gear, cars, sneakers or food. Sure there are some groups that are more prevalent but people of all ages, socio-economic status, religion etc. love these things and naturally connect to others with shared interests. People actively seek out and engage with their passions online, consuming, creating and interacting with content across a variety of channels. Brands spend a ton of resources talking ‘at’ these channels, smart brands are actively participating in them by fostering their growth through original content creation. No brand could possibly create the volume of content needed to be a relevant part of #Optoutside, but by engaging people with a passion for the outdoors, REI is able to to be part of the conversation on a much deeper level than simply advertising to it.

At Photofy, we are believers in and facilitators of content communities. Using our platform, many brands are extending their participation in content categories including fitness, beauty and home through robust content streams created by their employees and customers. For example, franchisees of fitness chain F45 create localized content for their gyms that ladders up to its ‘Life-changing’ personal fitness positioning using a common set of brand elements. This creates scaled content creating with local authenticity and connectivity. Coupled with its corporate marketing, this approach provide a comprehensive digital marketing footprint that closely connects the most relevant content to the shopper’s most likely to become F45 members. Over time, customer content can be combined to create even more relevant connection and reach.

The best part of content communities is the brand controls its content, not a third-party that separates the brand from its customers. Content from #Optoutside exists across platforms, not beholden to any specific site. In the not to distant future, we believe most brands will opt to include content communities as part of an overall strategy and leverage their employees, partners and shoppers to help drive their participation. Early-movers like REI will have a decided advantage over those that show up to the party late.

Dealing with Facebook Marketing Anxiety: You Can Still Earn Reach

“The content problem” in content marketing is becoming more pronounced.  More and more brands are making content that does nothing. Ads are getting more and more expensive, and working less and less.  Many ad clicks are turning out to be fake. Organic reach, especially on Facebook . . . Well, forget about it.  There is so much noise, much of it other brands also trying to get a message out, that many of us have even forgotten there is a signal there to begin with.  SEO is more nebulous than ever.  Social Networks, once our saving grace, are now fine-tuned to limit reach to our own followers and force us to pay increasingly higher prices just to get a message in front of people who have clearly signaled they want messages from us.  Facebook has even taken more drastic measures of intentionally limiting businesses from being seen. Even influencer marketing is becoming more expensive and difficult to execute.  To top it all off – nearly 75% of Facebook users have taken some action from deleting the app to taking a break, or at least clamping down on their privacy settings in the last 12 months.

As much as digital and content marketing is the future, it seems more and more hopeless for many marketers. Yes, we created the problem with our pathological obsession with vanity metrics over meaningful relationships and conversation.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t change the reality we find ourselves in now, and the biggest question we all have to answer:

How do we earn media now?

This ecosystem isn’t going to turn in our favor any time soon.  So if we’re going to succeed, we have to adjust our approach:

  1. Get back to basics.  Our temptation with every change in Facebook or Google’s algorithms has traditionally been to hack our way around it to get back to the numbers we previously saw. In Marketing, we all know that lower numbers is bad. I get it. No one wants to be the tool that walks into a meeting with their boss and says, “Reach is down 50%. Engagement is down 65%. There is nothing we can do about it. It may get worse.” Let’s take this opportunity to focus on what portion of that engagement was meaningful.  What does meaningful interaction with our customers and users online actually look like? Then let’s do more of that.
  2. More content does not mean better content marketing.  You’re going to have to produce content.  Chances are, you’re going to have to become an expert at it.  But that doesn’t mean $5,000 videos produced weekly and a team of designers making beautiful stuff.  Create simple, replicable, content creation processes that a small team can do to create content that matters.  Photofy is the easiest tool for consistently making on-brand content with consistent assets – even with large distributed global teams.  You can church out a week of high quality graphics that your audience will actually like in minutes.
  3. Scale. Use employees. Use customers. Use online advocates. Use random people who think you’re interesting.  A brand simply can no longer stand out from the noise. Unless you’re Apple or Google with an army of journalists in your pocket, you’re going to have to find a way to drastically increase the amount of conversation happening about you online.  Photofy has been used by many companies to do just that – scale content creation to anyone and everyone with a voice, give employees and business partners tools to participate in content creation.
  4. Be available and responsive with your audience.  If people aren’t talking about you and to you. You’re dead.  But once you’ve scaled content creation – you also have to be available and responsive to people.  No bot takes the place of this. Real humans talking to real humans is how business has been done for thousands of years.  Guess what… it’s how business will continue to be done for the foreseeable future. AI is great. Bots are great. It serves a purpose – but nothing replaces a customer knowing that a human being at a company knows about them and cares about their experience.

The heyday of free Social Media reach may be over – but you can still earn attention, engagement, reach, and conversions with the subset of your audience that really matters.  There is so much noise – truly great and useful content is the only real way to stand out – or you can keep spending more and more money promoting content with less and less effectiveness.  Go get ’em champ.

The reality is this: there has never been a better time to focus on content production and see a measurable result from it.