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Scouting the Competition? You Should

Imagine you’re camping for the weekend. You’ve hiked and cooked over an open fire and now it’s time to settle into your tent for the night. You kick off your shoes and climb through the zippered opening, and as you do, you realize you’ve left your toothbrush in the car. Slipping back into your shoes for the hike to the car, you reach for a flashlight.

To borrow grade school language arts, that flashlight is to your hike what scouting the competition is to your business. It sheds light on the landscape and provides important clues for your success and survival.

It can be scary to click on the light (what if there’s a bear nearby?), but it could be even scarier not to (what if there’s time to escape?). Having all the information always leads to better decisions, and that’s never more true than when it comes to scouting your business’s competition.

Knowing what your competition is up to can:

  1. Give benchmarks. Sticking with our analogy, there’s no need to stumble around in the dark. Not sure where to set your price? Check your competitors. Wondering how to structure your offer? Check your competitors. Thinking of sending emails but not sure how often? Check your… well, you know what to do. Gathering data from the field gives perspective, takes minimal time, and saves you the anxiety of guessing.
  2. Push you to do better. Comparing your business only to itself cheats it out of the healthy pressure sparked by competition. It isn’t uncommon for CEOs to cite competition as the reason for their greatest periods of growth. To stay ahead, they had to strive for top notch customer service, products, and business operations and were better for it. Keeping tabs on the competition means keeping away from a complacent mindset.
  3. Help avoid pitfalls. While checking in on a competitor, let’s say you notice two social media posts — one that received lots of attention and one that, even though it advertised a sale, didn’t get a single like. It doesn’t take long to see why (there’s too much text on the sale post), and you’ve just gleaned valuable information that will help your own social media campaigns. Scanning Google for reviews will often yield similar results as customers air their unfiltered opinions about what pleased or displeased them. Put the detailed information they share to good use on your own customers.
  4. Hone your strategy. Deciding how to stretch precious marketing dollars can feel like roulette, but evaluating where your competitors are spending theirs can provide clarity. If one of your competitors is dominating billboards, do you go head-to-head or spend your budget elsewhere in order to own another space instead? How are others using social media and what can you do to stand out on those platforms? That kind of research and the discussion it sparks can lead to big payoffs.

The moral of the story? Avoid bears, but not competition. Having competitors means there’s a market for what you offer and that’s a good thing. Regularly taking stock of what others are doing reaps benefits for your business, your industry, and most of all, your customers.

Need help identifying your competitors and ways to outperform them? Here are some steps to get you started. Need more assistance or just want to chat? We’d love to. Contact us today.

5 COVID Consumer Habits to Refine Your 2021 Media Budget

A pandemic changes everything.

Or does it?

MJM recently performed a market analysis for one of its clients with locations across the Midwest, and while our findings may not be an apples-to-apples comparison for your company, our research did bring to light a more accurate assessment of consumer choices during the pandemic. In a nutshell, COVID is accelerating trends we were already seeing.

The acceleration is most notable in consumers’ media consumption, which, unsurprisingly, is up from 2019.

In 2020 consumers chose to:

  • Cut the cord more than ever before. We’ve seen a steady migration to streaming services, particularly Hulu and Sling TV, from cable; however, the pandemic was a boon for both (+44% and +30% respectively). Cable television is still a major contender, but streaming platforms should not be overlooked for 2021 media placement. In addition to their growing viewership, ads can’t always be skipped and are highly targeted. Additionally, 2020 saw those aged 55+ adopt streaming services in record numbers, a trend experts don’t expect will reverse post-pandemic.
  • Tune in to local news. It seems contrary to the cord cutting trend, but consumers still trust their local news stations. While prime time television viewership has declined, according to Nielsen, local news broadcasts have spiked as much as 192% over 2019 as viewers seek the latest COVID updates for their area.
  • Consume media throughout the day. The shift to working and schooling from home is reflected by a reciprocal shift in viewing times. Consumers are now tuning in, logging on, and scrolling throughout the day instead of confining their use to lunch breaks and after 5 p.m. Furloughs, layoffs, and less commuting is also contributing to this trend.
  • Give podcasts a try. Podcasts were already trending upward, but during the pandemic their listenership has tripled. More than 55% of Americans report listening to podcasts in 2020. This media presents a double opportunity for 2021 as companies explore creating their own podcasts to educate their customers or purchasing ads during existing ones already catering to their target demographic.
  • Skip the sports. The kingpin of many media buying strategies, sporting events and the related content they generate, toppled during the pandemic. They have rebounded some, but it’s too early to tell how they’ll perform in 2021. Setting aside some advertising dollars and monitoring the situation is the best plan, especially for the first quarter of 2021.

These and other insights are included in MJM’s 2020 Consumer Analysis. Just fill out the form below to download the full report. Need one that’s specific to your company? Contact our team to get started.

Consumer Analysis Download

Live Chat: Survival Marketing

During this live webinar our own Courtney Davidson was joined by KeyMedia Solutions CEO, Korena Keys. They offered some insight into how businesses can best respond to business challenges during this temporary crisis.

Webinar Recording

Resources

Here are some of the resources referenced in today’s webinar:

Communications Audit PDF
This communications audit will help you think through your approach to marketing during this time.

COVID-19: Ad Credits for Google Ads Small and Medium-sized Businesses
From Google: “We want to help alleviate some of the cost for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to stay in touch with their customers during this challenging time.”

Facebook Small Business Grants Program
Facebook is offering $100M in cash grants and ad credits for up to 30,000 eligible small businesses.

Brand vs Brand Identity: Is There a Difference?

A brand is not a logo.

Nor is it just a combination of logo, typeface, and color. And it’s not just the products and services the company offers. It’s a bit more. It might seem like a silly distinction to draw, but we believe it’s an important one to recognize.

So, let’s set some quick definitions.

Brand identity is the tangible, visual component of a company (name, logo, communications, how the collateral looks and feels). And then there are touchpoints. Touchpoints are moments in time where people interact with a product or service. Touchpoints and identity are the parts we can see, touch, feel, and interact with. Every product or service ties together multiple touchpoints into what some might call a journey.

Does the sum of all this equal a brand?

Not quite.

It’s like a relationship.

The brand itself is more of an intangible thing – the gut feeling (as Marty Neumeier describes it in his book The Brand Gap) about the company that its customers have. Brands are an abstraction that exist in the minds of those who interact with them. The brand itself is not created by a company alone – it is also created by the people who interact with the company’s offering. Their gut feelings, memories, or experience will be anchored or attached to the brand identity. The visual identity becomes a symbol to hold all of that meaning. When they see the logo for the company or hear its name, they quickly recall those positive or negative feelings. Ideally that identity feels authentic and an appropriate fit for the associations it takes on.

In that sense, a brand is like a relationship between two people. The relationship isn’t a physical thing you can drop on your foot, but it’s very real and represents an emotional connection you have with another person. Over the course of time, that relationship takes on meaning through shared experiences, future expectations, and how we choose to talk about it.

What does this all mean?

You can’t create a great brand just by having a clever name or creating a cool logo. Just like you can’t develop a strong friendship by only looking like an interesting person. Branding as a discipline is more than slapping a coat of glossy paint on at the end. It takes time and intention.

You can’t create a great brand just by having a clever name or a cool logo, any more than you can develop a strong friendship just by looking like an interesting person.

Creating a visually stunning brand identity can do more harm than good. If the company is not operationally sound and is creating a negative experience for its customers a strong identity will serve as a lightning rod for negativity and brand terrorism.

A strong brand identity will make it easier to identify the good and the bad alike. Before you invest in a new identity, make sure that the experience you offer customers is a quality one. And then craft an identity that will help solidify the connection between hard-earned good experiences and your company.

A Designer’s Guide to Finding Great Images

Much of our print and digital design work is complimented by compelling images. Great campaigns might only need one, while a set of brochures is helped by a few dozen. They can add a touch of real life to abstract concepts or evoke a visual feeling about the subject.

Like any other part of the project, we work with parameters allowed: time, budget, authenticity and quality.

How can you find the best photos for your project? Here’s a designer’s perspective on where to go.

Search Engine Results

Search Engine Results

Where do you go when you need something quick and free? Not here. Google images, Bing images, Facebook, Pinterest are places to visit when searching for inspiration, but will rarely yield an image you can legally use. Taking someone else’s image is copyright infringement (Learn the basics here). The only time it’s okay to use a search engine to find photos is when compiling ideas. Even then, it’s important to remember to replace the ones you found in a basic search with a photo you have a license to use before your project is published or shared.

Free Stock Photo Websites

There are a few places to find licensed quality photos for free online. These can be great for background photos and for social media posts if you have a limited budget. You may not find exactly what you’re looking for, however, and other people may be using the same photos.

  • Pexels: Pexels provides a wide variety of photos and is simple to search. The quality and selection of photos continues to grow. The downside? The secret is out and you may find other businesses using the same photos for different purposes. There are no advanced search options, so it may be tough to find exactly what you’re looking for.
  • Unsplash: Warning! These photos need attribution and may not be the best option for your project. Unsplash was a reaction to obviously staged stock photos. (You know, the ones featuring someone in a business suit in an unlikely and totally staged situation. You’ve seen them, you know.) But now it’s created a new kind of cliché: the hipster stock photo of woodsy landscapes and moody vibes. Background images are abundant here and it might be a good place to find ideas.
  • Death to the Stock Photo: They take a similar approach to Pexels and Unsplash, but instead curate photos into themed packs for free users and emails them out in a newsletter or subscription-esque model. These photos are always interesting but pop up frequently in other people’s work.
  • Flickr commons: Anyone can contribute to the growing nebula of the photo stockpile that is Flickr. Use this platform with caution! Only photos listed with a “Creative Commons” license can be used without attribution. While the photo selection is wide, the quality varies greatly from professional photography to archaic digital camera photos. We have been able to take advantage of some of the vintage artwork (posters, illustrations and books) that can become part of a larger classic look or feel.

Paid Stock Photo Websites

Most paid sites offer the best advanced search options and perhaps the largest photo selection. Want a photo with one Asian man in his 60s on a fishing trip? You got it. Want a photo of a group of people camping in the wintertime? Done. When a project calls for specifics (i.e. a man old enough to have cataracts enjoying his daughter’s wedding without glasses because his cataract surgery eliminated their need), paid stock photo sites are the fastest and most cost-effective way to get the job done. They all have advanced search options that let you choose whether you want a photo with people, how many people, plus their age, gender, even ethnicity. Most sites also allow you to search by hex color code so you can find a photo that has elements that match your brand colors perfectly.

A license for this photo has been purchased and it’s ready for use!

Stock photo sites also make it easy to test out an image by downloading it with a watermark. Many early drafts contain watermarked images until they get approved. Using a watermarked image in final artwork is a huge faux pas.

There are some drawbacks to paid stock photo sites. Many have criticized stock photo sites for perpetuating stereotypes or lacking options for various ethnic groups. They also pose questions about transparency. When flipping through pages of stock photos, designers have to ask: “Does this photo help illustrate true information for this company? Is it sending the right message even if it’s staged or not from this business?”

This photo uses a spot-color effect so that it can feel like part of a set. Other photos in the set of brochures where this one was used have a similar red pop.

Some stock photo models are more successful than others at portraying a natural look and end up all over. The same woman in your ad might end up getting used to advertise hand soap or athletic apparel or a prescription medication. Stock model Ariane, for example, is so popular that someone created a Facebook page to collect examples of her photos as people came across them all over the world.

I provided just a few examples; there are many places to buy stock photos online. Prices vary based on the number of photos you purchase at a time, the quality of photos, and whether you want to buy exclusive rights to a photo. You can spend anywhere from around $10 to hundreds on one photo.

  • Thinkstock.com
  • iStockPhoto.com (owned by Getty Images)
  • Shutterstock.com
  • Offset.com

Smart Phone Photos

  • …work great for social media post or email newsletters. In fact, they may be more interesting to your audience than stock photos. Cameras on smart phones have improved greatly in the last few years. If you can capture a photo with good lighting that’s social media or newsletter appropriate, it will nearly always beat out a stock image. Examples: Your office holiday decorations, a staff birthday celebration, your company-wide service or community event. These photos need to feel real and this is the fastest, easiest way to produce digital sharing-ready photos. Someone on your team might already have a repertoire of good phone photography skills. Check their Instagram and see if they’re willing to be on-call when something post-worthy happens.
  • …do not work for most print publications. While you may have captured a great candid of your company’s founder interacting with a new employee, it may not be the thing for your brochure cover. Photo quality—both in content and file size—are important here. Phone photos may not have a high enough resolution to make it beyond Facebook and usually have no business on a postcard, brochure or banner. There may be an obvious difference between a phone photo sitting next to a stock image or the resolution may simply make the image pixelated on a paper. Either way, the quality of the materials that promote your work should match the quality of the work you are doing.
  • So, when is the real thing better than a good photo? It all depends on what your audience needs and expects! An ophthalmic surgery center might share a phone photo of a surgeon using a brand new technology but needs a professional photo for their brochure about it. A non-profit that helps local kids is better off sacrificing photo quality for authentic images of their experience (with permission of course!).

Custom Photo Shoot

Custom Photo Shoot

An employee of Vance Thompson Vision sits in as a cataract patient model. The photo was used for a presentation by Dr. Thompson and it was important for the photos to feature their clinic.

Perhaps the best way to help patients or customers understand what their experience will be like with your business is to create your own custom photos. With a custom photo shoot you get to feature images of your actual business. (Crazy, right?) Instead of showing an image of a clean, empty reception area, why not feature a photo of your reception area? The familiarity helps build trust and confidence with a patient or customer’s first encounter at your facility by evoking a, “hey, I’ve seen this before,” reaction.

The same rules apply for shots of your doctors or employees. They may feel static and posed in a headshot, so creating a scene with a patient or customer interaction not only helps puts them in their element it also creates a more realistic image to put online or in a brochure. As a bonus, you won’t be using a stock photo model in place of your professionals and the whole set will have the same tone and feel. For obvious reasons, you should not use real patients in these photo. You’ll need to have everyone’s permission (with model release forms) to pull this off successfully.

Bridal Veil Falls Paul Schiller Photography

You may not need to invest in a photo shoot to be able to use excellent, local photography. Many professional photographers have already invested time in capturing the surrounding landscape and local landmarks.Vance Thompson Vision, for example, uses photos of South Dakota taken by local photographer Paul Schiller. His landscape photography features popular natural landmarks like Lake Sylvan and Bridal Veil Falls. They help unify a series of brochures on the various eye procedure categories available at Vance Thompson Vision.

While there are many ways to do it, finding the right photo shouldn’t be overwhelming. Like most design projects, it starts with identifying the image’s purpose, the available budget and time, and how it fits with the existing brand. Photography tells a huge part of a brand’s story. Used well, it reinforces your message and catches the eye. Happy photo hunting.

Subaru: A History of Advertising Excellence

Car advertising can run the gamut of wonderfully genius to utterly divisive. On one end of the spectrum, you’ll find the endearing message present in Porsche’s 2006 ad “Through Children’s Eyes” that boasts the child-like wonder that a luxury sports car can conjure up. On the other end is the ad campaign that Chevrolet has been running for the past couple years showing “authentic” reactions to new models of vehicles and industry awards they have earned. The irony here is that the reactions have been edited so neatly that any actual earnestness that should be present is gutted for time and content. This is where Subaru has consistently deviated with their advertising in their history.

Subaru first entered the US market in the 60s with the 360. This vehicle was known for its efficiency but not exactly for its aesthetic. That’s putting it lightly. The car was a major eyesore. But this is where Subaru did something brilliant with their marketing. Instead of sugarcoating the benefits of the car, they steered into the skid. Literally.

“Because it’s cheap and ugly, a little Subaru goes a long way to make you happy”

Their ad campaign at the time actually stated that their car was “cheap and ugly”. That’s a brave statement to make about your product. But the draw is still there. Even though people get a chuckle out of it today, the commercials are honest in a way that advertising is usually not. Only a few brands have been able to capture the same truly authentic message.

A good example of another car company that has taken from Subaru’s retro playbook is Smart’s ForTwo Offroading commercial from 2013. This ad shows how poorly Smart’s vehicle performs in an off-road setting. It thuds into an unfortunately placed rock and is brought to a punctual halt by a shallow creek. But Smart doesn’t care. That isn’t where their machine thrives anyhow. It transitions to an urban setting and a larger vehicle passing over a parking spot that is slightly too small to fit in. Then the Smart car bulldozes in and takes the spot with ease. All of this is accompanied with some delightfully dated nu-metal for a humorous edge. But the same message is there. Everything has its cons, but you’re better off knowing them upfront.

“Smart reveals that the hero doesn’t need to win all of the time, but just needs to win in the end.”

Now it’s worth auditing Subaru’s strategy in the modern age, where high-angle shots of cars driving down stretches of roads or dirt at high speeds with pulsing synth and a deep-voiced narrator dominate the industry. They currently are running a broad campaign called “Love” that focuses on the people using the car and the how it benefits them, not just on a logistic level but on an emotional one as well. The specs of the cars themselves are rarely touched on in an intrepid move by Subaru.

“Love. It’s what makes a Subaru a Subaru.”

A fantastic example of this is their Impreza 2017 ad “Moving Out”. This commercial tells the story of a boy growing up before his parent’s eyes and heading to college with the family car. The vehicle itself takes a back seat to the people that own it as a toddler packs his bag to leave for school and by the time he reaches the car, he has grown into a man. It really tugs at the heartstrings in a very Hallmark movie-esque way. The dog aging from a puppy to a grey-jowled hound is the cherry on top.

This is only one of many of the ads in this touching campaign that Subaru has been running. While admittedly more refined, it does having something in common with the “cheap and ugly” roots of Subaru’s American marketing. The emphasis isn’t so much the car itself, but what the car will do for you, the people around you, and your wallet. That’s a welcomed fresh perspective in the automotive industry that other brands can and have learned from.

Keep on keeping on, Subaru. The roads ahead are clear.

Facebook Messenger Options You Should Be Using

Facebook Messenger has recently launched some new options for creating auto-responders and notices that Business Pages can set up to make responding to messages quicker and to accurately set expectations for further communication with the company.

Don’t Leave Your People Hanging

When someone writes a message to your Facebook Business page, they expect to hear back from you right away. If you don’t respond quickly, you can easily be perceived as being rude, non-responsive or even ungrateful for their question. And that would be a real bummer.

Your customers and patients are hungry for you to get back to them right away. So what do you do when you don’t have someone monitoring your Facebook page 24/7? How do you let people know you’ve received their message and when you’ll get back to them?

The answer lies in utilizing Facebook Messenger’s new options. Let us show you how.

How to Set-Up Automatic Messages on Your Facebook Business Page

  1. First you’ll need to access the “Settings” menu, then click “Messaging” (You must have admin access to your page in order to access these.)
  2. Once in your “Messaging” tab, scroll down to where it says “Response Assistant”
  3. Choose from three options for setting up messages.

The first option will automatically send a message back to the person who messaged you with a pre-written response. Facebook calls it your “Away Message.” You should set up an away message if you have someone on staff who responds to messages daily, but not instantly.

The second option is “Instant Reply.” It will send an automatic message to your customer to let them know something specific. (Keep in mind, all people who send you a message will get this same reply.)

For healthcare, we recommend setting up an Instant Reply about your policy in regards to answering personal health questions via Facebook (HIPAA regulations). It’s best practice not to answer health questions in a Facebook message. And, conveniently with Instant Reply functionality set up, you don’t have to constantly monitor your page and respond to each person! Below is an example of an Instant Reply for an endodontist’s page.

 

The third option, “Messenger Greeting,” is a bit different. This allows you to display a note prior to someone sending you a message. This is a handy way to let your customers know whether or not you reply via Facebook Messenger. You can also convey other important information such as office closings or technical difficulties. For example, “Our office is closed for the holiday” or “Due to a power outage, our scheduling system is down. Please call our office.”

Below is an example of a Messenger Greeting in action for the same endodontic practice Business page.

With these three new messaging options, there are endless ways to connect and communicate with your customers and patients—without being a slave to Facebook Messenger! Take the time today to set up a new automatic response message to help your team better manage client relations.

Brand Identity Guidelines: Consistency Is King

Or at least kind of a big deal.

When we collaborate with our clients to help them refine, reimagine or build a new brand identity from the ground up, we always recommend codifying the good thinking that occurs into a set of identity guidelines. These guidelines spell out the essential elements that an organization uses to consistently communicate its identity, story and messages.

So… what’s a brand?

Consider that a brand is a collection of expectations, experiences and relationships that a customer feels towards an organization. As Marty Neumeier defines it in his book The Brand Flip (a recent favorite addition to our shared library), this collection is like a gut feeling that a customer has. It’s their immediate impression when they hear the name or see the logo.

A brand derives its value from the impression or trust that its customers identify with it and the values that they share together. When a brand works hard to deliver a positive and compelling experience, it needs a strong identity for its customers to tie that impression or gut feeling to. That identity comes to symbolize the shared values between the brand and its customers, and the good work that the brand carries out on their behalf. The value is not in the logo or name, but in the good work and relationship it symbolizes. It’s important to apply and live out a brand identity consistently to reinforce that relationship and good gut feeling.

What do brand identity guidelines consist of?

There are many components. Some are related to belief and purpose: name and logo, story or narrative, taglines and messaging. Other components help define the tone or personality of the brand and its visual vocabulary. These include colors, typographic style, imagery and illustrations. The combination of these elements helps to create a unique identity — an identity that communicates purpose and a set of shared values that click on a gut level.

Finding the right combination of these elements takes time and hard work. And yet the process is rewarding. We’ll outline that process in the coming weeks, and why it is one of the favorite experiences we share with our clients.

The One Thing Donors Want to Hear About Your Nonprofit

In the United States, nonprofit marketing can be a mercilessly competitive arena. Based on some estimates, there are up to 3,000 charitable organizations started every day, many of which don’t succeed beyond a couple of years. Donor solicitation is ubiquitous, whether in person, direct mail, telemarketing, or through a bevy of digital mediums. “Giving Units” are bombarded with blanket and targeted asks, and that’s on top of the 10,000+ ad exposures they receive daily from for-profit companies.

The Tendency To Say Too Much

In the midst of such fierce competition and noise, it’s easy to see why many non-profits respond by trying to say more.  We have a tendency to equate “more” with “louder” and “louder” with “effective.”  As a result, we create vision statements that resemble small novels and mission statements that do everything.  We share overwhelming statistics of great need and match them with equally abstract numbers about our response. We try to tell all of our stories in all of their deserved nuance. We think the donor wants to hear everything about organizations that do everything.

We have a tendency to equate “louder” with “effective.”

The Need for Clarity

What we don’t realize is that, in a jumbled field full of noise, donors only want to hear one thing — clarity.

They want the clarity of a simple vision that can inspire.

They want the clarity of a focused mission they can easily remember.

They want the clarity of a simple story that embodies the emotion of the recipients and volunteers alike and demonstrates the tangible impact of your work.

A wise client of ours once told me that simplicity is always on the other side of complexity. We start with the complex story we want to tell and then winnow until we can’t say it any more simply and clearly.  In a country where 1.5 million non-profits are competing for your donors, the clear message will always stand out.

Give it a try, and you’ll see.

The Value of Creating Distinct Social Media Channels

Mass Media vs. Personal Relationships

There are two general approaches to how people and brands use social media channels. The first is to broadcast, trying to get as wide a distribution as possible for each piece of content. This is the way people approach traditional media like print, radio, and television.

The second approach to social media is relational—using social channels to know and be known. In the past this type of interaction only happened face-to-face, or in letters and phone calls. The people and brands that understand social media best realize that social media is a new animal—a hybrid of traditional broadcast media and personal relationships.

“Social media is a new animal—a hybrid of traditional broadcast media and personal relationships.”

Broadcasting on All Frequencies

Most people use two or three different social media platforms. Some people connect to each other and brands on only one social media channel. But most users connect to the same people on multiple platforms, which can lead to a lot of redundant content. If a brand shares identical content on each channel, they miss an opportunity to add value to their audience. There are times when it makes sense to repeat the same message on every social channel—an event cancellation, for example. More often though, your audience will be better served if you create content that is unique to each channel.

Let Your Audience Choose the Channel

I appreciate it when people I follow create focused, curated streams of content. I like to see what other designers post about design, but I’m not interested in family photos or inside jokes with people I don’t know. The opposite is also true—there are some friends I follow because I want to see their family photos and hear their jokes, but only have a passing interest in their particular industry. If I have the option, I subscribe only to the channels that interest me the most. The same is true for brands.

Screenshot of United social media channels

At one point, United Airlines gave a lot of thought to how they structured their social media channels. Each platform had a clear purpose. Because United used each platform in a unique way, they created a focused stream of content in each channel. People can ignore channels they aren’t interested in and subscribe only to the content they want.

  • Facebook: to send out updates, and to promote deals and contests
  • YouTube: a behind-the-scenes view
  • Twitter: specific, targeted travel questions
  • Instagram: to share travel photos
  • LinkedIn: to talk about new products and services, and career opportunities

Each social channel reinforces the brand and offers something unique. United customers can subscribe to the channels that are relevant to them, which means they’re more likely to find value in the content they receive. (Thanks to Matt Bailey of Site Logic for showing me this graphic some time ago.) The benefit for United is that they are able to offer content that is valuable to their audience and connect better with the people they are serving.

Saturation vs. Service

The mistake that many brands make is that they blast out the same messages on all their social media channels. That assumes that 1) all the channels are the same and interchangeable, and 2) that the people who are in those different social communities are looking for the same types of content in each channel.

In my experience neither one is true. I look on Instagram for beautiful and interesting images, and I don’t expect those images or the communication around them to be time-sensitive. On the other hand the element of time is very important to users of Twitter. Tweets are lightweight and easy to create in a moment, which is why Twitter is many people’s source for up-to-the-minute updates. (Oreo “won the marketing Super Bowl” in 2014 by creating and sending a tweet within minutes of a power outage during the game.) Use each social media channel the way your audience is using it and don’t try to shoehorn in content that doesn’t fit the channel.

If you’re a company or a brand, you should realize that you are a guest at the party—an overwhelming majority of people say they want to use social media to connect with friends and family. Don’t try to saturate your audience with your content. Instead think about how to create channels of content so your audience can find content that’s relevant, interesting, and helpful to them.