Social Media Marketing Spotlight: U.S. Bank Rallies Local Allies for a Friendly, Engaging #MNNice #NiceOff

US Bank NiceOff

Roughly 120,000 visitors from 130 countries descended on the Twin Cities last week to take part in Super Bowl LII festivities hosted in downtown Minneapolis. To welcome visitors to the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Minneapolis-based U.S. Bank—which just so happens to have its name on the stadium that hosted the big game—wanted to give visitors a taste of “what Minnesota is all about.”

For those of you who haven’t heard, Minnesota—where TopRank Marketing is proudly based—isn’t just known for its frigid winters and as the birthplace and residence of the late Prince Rogers Nelson. It’s also known for its “northern hospitality”—or as it’s affectionately called—Minnesota Nice.

With Minnesota Nice as their inspiration—and some great strategic thinking—U.S. Bank launched the #MnNice #NiceOff conversation and friendly competition on Twitter, inviting its followers and other local brands to try to “out-nice” each other by sharing acts of kindness that are Minnesota Nice signatures.

The result? A social media marketing campaign that was thoughtful, engaging, subtly brand-centric, and influencer-activated.

Starting the Conversation

While the conversation started with the single tweet below, the campaign was in the works for weeks.

US Bank Minnesota Nice Off

As it so happens, TopRank Marketing alumni and current U.S. Bank Social Media Campaign Manager, Jason Schober, was part of the action. And he was gracious enough to give us an inside look.

“We really wanted to evoke some engagement and brand activation within the community of people that would be participating in the activities leading up to and at the big game,” Schober told us.

Eventually, the Minnesota Nice-themed campaign strategy emerged as a winning idea. To get started, the team team laid out a strategy that would ensure FCC compliance by not mentioning financial products or services in communications, respect Super Bowl guidelines since U.S. Bank was not a direct sponsor, and make sure the campaign made sense for their brand identity and voice.

The campaign was in great shape, but U.S. Bank didn’t want to go at it alone. So, roughly a week before launch, they began to form partnerships with other local, well-known brands—including Target, Land O’ Lakes, Sun Country and 3M—to be part of the conversation. However, none of the partnering brands knew what others would be posting until it unfolded on launch day (Feb. 1), which kept the conversation real and spontaneous. Here’s a shot of the beginning of the conversation.

Target and US Bank Nice Off

For the work we do at TopRank Marketing, this move is directly tied to the power of influence in marketing. By partnering with influential brands, U.S. Bank was not only able to add credible voices to the conversation, but also extend their reach to these brands’ respective audiences. In addition, once the ball got rolling, other brands and individuals were given an organic opportunity to get in on the fun. Of course, many of the interactions cleverly intertwined a brand’s own marketing message. Here’s one of our favorites:

3M Minnesota Nice Off Tweet

Top the Tater Minnesota Nice Off Tweet

When it came to selecting the right hashtag to define the conversation, their approach was two-pronged, according to Jason.

“The original idea was #MinnesotaNiceOff,” he explained. “But for both tracking and engagement purposes, we decided to leverage two hashtags: #MnNice and #NiceOff. Reason being, we knew #MnNice was already being used and could open our conversation up to a broader audience, and #NiceOff would be something we could own and brand the conversation with.”

The Big Takeaway

A thoughtful, integrated social media marketing strategy is an absolute must. Start by looking at any compliance and trademark red tape, as well as how a campaign will integrate with and complement your brand. Then ask yourself: What other credible, influential voices can be added to elicit shared value?

Managing Engagement

There’s little doubt that trolls and disgruntled users are commonplace on social media these days, often trying to ruin the spirit of good conversation. And in today’s world of social media, hashtags are conversations. So, when it comes to branding your marketing message with a hashtag conversation starter, marketers need to prepare for the fact that they don’t necessarily own the content or the conversation.

For U.S. Bank, they knew the risks of starting the #MnNice #NiceOff conversation. But they also believed the campaign easily lent itself to passively putting trolls in their place. As you can see from the thread below, U.S. Bank made it a point to go full-out with the campaign theme when confronted with negativity.

US Bank's Repsonse to Nice Off Troll

“Our entire campaign was centered on Minnesota Nice,” Jason said. “The only appropriate response to these kinds of interactions was to be as overly polite as possible.”

The Big Takeaway

When it comes to anticipating trolls or negative responses, consider the worst-case scenario for your hashtag-branded campaign and build it into your overall strategy. As our own Joshua Nite recently wrote on the topic of proper hashtag usage, when creating your own hashtag, ask yourself:

  • Who are you talking to?
  • What are you trying to say?
  • How else could your hashtag be interpreted?
  • What other conversations might it start?

Keeping the Momentum Going

Once the tweeting began on launch day, Jason said his team was using Spredfast as a helpful tool to monitor, track, and respond in real-time. But once it became clear that the conversation was on the right track—barring input from trolls—the team decided to leverage Twitter Moments to turn the conversation into a storytelling space.

“This was already in the original plan because we wanted to continue to tell the story beyond the initial conversation,” Jason told us. “But we were waiting for the momentum to take over before creating the Moment.”

As for results, between Feb. 1 and Feb. 6, the Twitter Moment saw nearly 35,000 total opens, 31,247 unique opens, 448 likes, 155 shares, and a 8.48% completion rate.

The Big Takeaway

Whether it be a campaign or every-day usage, make sure you understand the full capabilities of any social media platform you’re engaging on. This will not only help you think more strategically about your messaging and interactions, but also help you provide more value for your audience. This is especially important in the age of decline (or extinction) for organic visibility on social platforms.

In addition, social media listening and management tools are often an investment that pays off—especially during campaigns. As TopRank Marketing CEO Lee Odden has said: “Tools make reaching social media marketing goals possible.”

Shine the Social Media Spotlight on Your Brand

For brands and marketers of all industries, social media hashtag campaigns like this serves as a great example of running a smart, strategic, and integrated campaign.

By thinking strategically from start to finish—and inviting like-minded, influential brand voices to the table—U.S. Bank was able to not only capitalize on one of the biggest sporting events of the year, but also garner meaningful and organic interactions, engage in some friendly competition with other local brands being gracious Super Bowl hosts, and spotlight and activate their brand identity.

Want some more inspiration from brands on Twitter? Take a peek at both B2B and B2C brands mastering the art of social customer care on Twitter.

9 Top Marketing Trends for 2018

Top Marketing Trends 2018

There is no question that 2017 was an incredible year for marketing.

What’s even better than a banner year is fresh optimism for the next. Predictions and trends for 2018 present even more opportunities for marketers that can see the signal amongst the noise.

As we continue to grow, I’ve been researching what trends are worth considering and investing in for B2B marketers. The result is the following list: Influencer Marketing, Content Experiences, Artificial Intelligence, Data, Video, Privacy Protection, Audience Development, Voice and Purpose Driven Marketing.

Influencer Marketing Grows Up

Within the realm of influence, there are big shifts towards engaging with microinfluencers, always on programs, greater accountability of influencer reach and effectiveness and an emphasis on measuring influencer marketing ROI. Marketers are also taking a more holistic view of who an influencer is, including customers, members of their community and employees.

Many marketers are shifting their focus away from big name influencers towards niche players and for good reason. Microinfluencers deliver 60% higher campaign engagement rates and those campaigns are 6.7 times more efficient per engagement than those with influencers with larger followings.

Beyond niche industry influencers are the internal influencers to a company: employees. Companies are increasingly realizing the value of tapping this invaluable resource of credible influence. 90% of brands say they are either pursuing employee advocacy programs or have programs already active.

In 2018 we’ll see even more marketers transitioning from campaigns to always on engagements with influencers in a way that emphasizes mutual value. Influencers can build credibility by becoming ambassadors for the brand and the brand develops relationships with the influencer’s audience.

Ongoing engagements with influencers also help build a more authentic experience for the audience vs. one off campaigns promoting a specific product or service. Always on and ongoing influencer engagements with brands will pave the way for greater influencer marketing ROI. That said, those arrangements are only as strong as the relationships and as we all know, relationships are not automatic – they take time and investment.

Integrate Content Experiences with Influence

It is no longer enough to inform buyers, they want to feel something. Content experiences that are highly relevant, purposeful and engaging can come in many forms from video to interactive. All help engage customers intellectually and emotionally.

There is a strong connection between influencer marketing and content experiences. Amisha Ghandi, Head of Influencer Marketing at SAP (client) puts it best;

“Working with influencers to co-create content delivers mutual value. When that content is interactive, it creates an experience that is more engaging and inspires action.” @AmishaGandhi

With so many options for content, customers expect to be “info-tained” not just informed. Brands that can integrate trusted industry and internal experts with interactive and engaging content they are proud to be a part of, will be appreciated by contributing influencers just as much as they will be rewarded by customers.

Optimize with Artificial Intelligence

In a study by Smart Insights, AI and Machine Learning were rated the #3 marketing activity that will make the largest commercial impact on business in 2018.

Another study by Salesforce found that high-performing marketing teams are more than 2 times as likely to use AI in their campaigns than under-performers.

What are marketers doing with AI? Areas of focus with AI in marketing include advertising automation and optimization, chat bots for service and assisting in sales, and content personalization.

Bots for service are not new, but an increasing number of marketers are using chat apps and bots to engage customers during the sales process. In fact, 1.82 billion people worldwide are projected to use a chat app in 2018 and by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship with the enterprise without interacting with a human.

I don’t remember where I heard it first, but the saying “Marketers are data rich and insight poor” is more true today than ever.  Machine Learning and AI can help marketers make sense of all the “dark data” they’re sitting on as well as structured and unstructured data online to surface insights about ideal content, offers and even emotional triggers to inspire conversions.

Of course, marketers shouldn’t use AI to automate and optimize their marketing because they can, but because that’s what it will take to meet customer appetite for personalized experiences.  The increased competition for customer attention amidst the huge amount of media each consumer is confronted with each day requires every advantage to optimize for reach, engagement and conversion.

Data Informed and Inspired Marketing

Speaking of data, it has become clear that few successful marketing programs are not informed by data in ways that were not considered 10 years ago. While companies only analyze 12 percent of the data they have available, senior marketing executives are more informed about what is possible and taking action. Josh Mueller, SVP, Global Marketing at Dun & Bradstreet (client) puts it well:

“A data-inspired framework is absolutely essential for modern marketers. To implement this necessity, we’ve fully integrated our content and demand gen organizations, with shared editorial planning and KPIs across the entire customer journey. With these common insights, our teams have built a continuous feedback loop – from topic selection through performance – that ensures every piece of content we create has a purpose and is measured against that purpose.” @jmueller03

Rather than being limited to using historical campaign data to iterate future campaigns, companies are using evolved marketing automation, machine learning and dynamic personalization platforms to apply customer insights from their data to marketing in real-time. There’s a lot more of that to come in 2018.

Video Stars Are Everywhere

There’s been a substantial increase in demand and production of video by brands wishing to better engage with customers. What is catching marketers’ and customers’ attention most with video is live streaming through popular live video platforms including Facebook live, YouTube live, Instagram live, Twitter, and Periscope. According to Facebook’s stats, live videos get 3X the views than recorded videos. Video optimized for mobile experiences is also hot for marketers and customers. Mobile video ad spend alone will grow 49% to roughly $18 billion in 2018.

Everyone with a smartphone and apps is empowered to create, publish and promote video content. Video is not the plaything of B2C anymore either as more B2B companies invest in creating engaging stories through video and publishing them on LinkedIn. I think we’ll see a lot more creative video coming from B2B brands in the new year.

Privacy as Marketing and Good Business

With the increase in compromises to customer data, concern over privacy is something more marketers are tapping in to. Realizing that certain segments of customers care about privacy, some marketers are using it as a marketing attribute.

Another consideration for greater focus on privacy is the oncoming implementation of GDPR in Europe. Companies anywhere including the U.S. that market to citizens of Europe must comply or face potentially significant consequences. Compliance with GDPR requires changes in opt-in, communications and data handling that marketers must address and soon.

Not only is compliance good for customers, it is also a solid marketing message and good business.

Capture and Captivate Your Audience

Numerous studies show buyers don’t trust ads or brand communications as much as the people and sources “they know”. Brands that develop audiences and community by providing value not only create relevant context but also hedge against the increasing challenges around customer trust and privacy. Companies are also making progress towards growing their own audiences with content marketing vs. buying access to those audiences with ads.

As Robert Rose of Content Marketing Institute says,

The key trend that I’m seeing that will actually help content marketers move the needle will be a move to direct access to subscribed audiences – and the data they provide – as a means of building value for the practice of marketing. @Robert_Rose

Voice – Can You Hear Me Now?

Search queries are evolving from obscure sequences of words typed into search box on laptops to sentences either typed or spoken into a variety of devices.

In 2017 20 million units of smart speakers were sold. Voice assistants like Siri and smart speakers like Echo and Google Home are training customers to use voice in ways that marketers must adapt to. Voice accounts for 20% of searches and is expected to hit 50% by 2020.

Voice content in the form of podcasting is also seeing great growth: 68 million Americans listen to podcasts on a monthly basis. Marketers looking for ways to engage with customers in a more meaningful way are looking at podcasting as a way to do that.

Two of my favorite new podcasts are “Data Inspired” from Rishi Dave, CMO of Dun & Bradstreet (client) and the “CMO Moves” podcast by Nadine Dietz. I have no doubt many more brand and executive podcasts will launch in 2018.

Purpose and Profit

With over 80 million Millennials and over $1 trillion in spending power, consumers are increasingly factoring things like brand mission, values, and sustainability into their purchase decisions. A study by the Economist Group found that 79% of consumers prefer to purchase products from a company that operates with a social purpose. Companies must consider what their purpose means in terms of communications and marketing.

Defining purpose is an initiative we are undertaking within our own company and it’s not as easy to translate into marketing communications as you might think! But brand purpose resonates with modern buyers and more companies will be incorporating their purpose into how the brand is positioned and how they operate – including marketing.

Beyond all the tactics of chatbots, microinfluencers, livestreaming, optimizing for smart speakers and purpose driven marketing is the strategy that answers “why” and for “who”.  To inform marketing strategy, there is one universal truth for marketing: customer centricity. With a eye for optimization on customer preferences and behaviors, marketers will always have the right marketing mix.

How do you make sense of what trends to focus on? At our own company, we deliver “best answer” content marketing programs that integrate influencers, SEO, social, advertising, design and marketing performance optimization. Will optimization for voice search play a part in that mix? Sure. Do AI and machine learning have a role to play in optimizing search and social ad campaigns? How about using AI to surface insights about the best content to create and offers to make? Of course.

As a marketing agency it is tempting to chase shiny marketing objects to differentiate. To know what’s possible, we really have to. But we’re also focusing on customers and the core expertise that satisfies 95% of the performance expectations of our marketing programs. By being exceptional at very specific things consistently, we’ll be able to exceed expectations. We’ll also have room to experiment and find data that supports new and customer-centric areas for innovation.

2017 was also a record breaking year for our marketing agency, TopRank Marketing. We added 15 new amazingly talented staff and had the largest increase in client programs and new customer engagements than any year before. While we’ve seen much success with B2B influencer and content marketing programs, it is our focus on the intersection with data from SEO, social and analytics plus all new interactive design capabilities that has enabled great results and more opportunities.

What are the marketing trends you’re most focused on in 2018?

Digital Marketing News: State of Social, Super Super Bowl Ads, Scheduled Posts on Instagram

State of Social 2018

The State of Social 2018 Report: Your Guide to Latest Social Media Marketing Research [New Data]. Buffer teamed up with Social Media Week to collect data from over 1,700 marketers and create a new report with insights ranging from huge opportunities with messaging apps to how successful marketers are measuring social media ROI. Buffer Blog

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The IAB Offers Guidance to Publishers and Marketers Considering Partnering With Influencers. The wild west of influencer marketing gets some guidelines from the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s social media, native and content committee. The group has produced an in-depth guide for publishers considering new influencer marketing options as part of their branded advertising packages and for marketers and their agencies trying to figure out how to best leverage influencer marketing programs. AdWeek

Instagram now allows businesses to schedule their posts. The official support for post scheduling doesn’t extend to ads, nor is it directly available with the product itself. Instead, the support is being added to Instagram’s API – meaning that social media software applications like Hootsuite, Sprout Social or SocialFlow now have access to the functionality. TechCrunch

Twitter Is Working on a Snapchat-Style Video Sharing Tool. Hopefully the feature will have a better impact for Twitter than Snapchat’s run lately. Twitter shares gained as much as 1.4 percent early Thursday. Snap fell as much as 5.1 percent. Bloomberg

Survey: Siloed Data Stifling B2B Marketing Efforts. A new study from Harvard Business Review reports 55% of marketers say not being able to merge information from disparate silos in a timely manner is “hobbling” their initiatives. Lack of analytics skills and issues with data were also challenges. Chief Marketer

Research: 97% of B2B decision-makers know which vendor they want before selection process. The survey of 113 B2B global marketers also found that in 84% of cases, groups that make purchase decisions contain a ‘champion’, who lobbies on behalf of the winning vendor. Now more than ever, B2B marketers need to engage buyers emotionally as well as rationally. B2B Marketing

Facebook updates branded content policy to clarify what qualifies as content. Facebook will bar publishers and creators from using its branded content tagging tool to promote content that they were not involved in creating. MarketingLand

Live Video

Marketers’ Top SEO Priorities for 2018. Marketers say social media, on-site optimization, and content creation are their top search engine optimization (SEO) priorities this year, according to recent research from Clutch, which surveyed 303 marketing decision makers in the U.S.. MarketingProfs

Digital Video Ad Revs Forecast To More Than Double On YouTube, Facebook. Advertising spend on YouTube and Facebook will hit $37 billion by 2022, up from an estimated $16 billion in 2017, according to Juniper Research. MediaPost

In a blow to marketers, Google will let users opt-out of remarketing ads. Google announced that it is expanding the number of places where its “Mute this Ad” functionality will be available. In addition, it will be applying “Mute this Ad” across devices. Once a user tells Google she doesn’t like an ad, Google will stop displaying it across all the devices that user is logged into. Econsultancy 

Facebook starts polishing its privacy messaging ahead of GDPR. As the May 25 deadline for compliance with the EU’s updated privacy framework approaches, including fines that can scale as high as 4% of a company’s global turnover, Facebook is continuing to PR in the form of “privacy principles”, the changes it’s making to try to meet the new data protection standard. TechCrunch

Twitter will host its first-ever #BrandBowl to honor top Super Bowl campaigns. Twitter will recognize the brands that received the most attention on its social network during the NFL’s championship game. MarketingLand

On the Lighter Side, Super Bowl Edition:

Febreze Introduces a Man Whose ‘Bleep’ Doesn’t Smell for the Brand’s Second Super Bowl Appearance. This year, the brand created Dave—a man who can use the bathroom to his heart’s desire without leaving a single smell behind, or as Febreze so wonderfully puts it, his “bleep don’t stink.” AdWeek

5 Ads You Don’t Want to Miss During Super Bowl LII. From Dilly Dilly to celebrity rap battles: Bud Light, Doritos/Mountain Dew, Pepsi, Kia, and Skittles. AdWeek

TopRank Marketing In the News:

The TopRank Blog – The Ultimate Content Marketing Stack: 26 Essential Resources for Awesome Content. Articulate Marketing

Lee Odden – 13 SEO Myths That Are Probably Killing Your Ranks. Cognitive SEO

Lee Odden – B2B Trends for 2018. SquareDot

Lee Odden – Are Your Influencers Buying Their Followers? Onalytica

What was the top digital marketing news story for you this week?

We’ll see you next week when we’ll be sharing all new marketing news stories. Also, be sure to check out the full video summary on our TopRank Marketing TV YouTube Channel.

What Are Hashtags Really For? #Confused #Blessed #NoFilter

What Are Hashtags Really For?

In late 2014, the hashtag #WhyIStayed was trending on Twitter. Frozen pizza slinger DiGiorno, known for being snarky and clever on social media, wanted to join the fun:

DiGiorno Hashtag Social Media Marketing Fail

There was just one problem: #WhyIStayed started in response to a video of domestic abuse. Women used the hashtag to tell their own story of abuse and talk about the societal pressures that led them to stay with their abusers.

At best, DiGiorno looked clueless. At worst, it looked like they were making light of a very serious issue. All they wanted was a little brand visibility…and they got it, but not in the way they were hoping.

Hashtags are an integral part of Twitter and Instagram (and Facebook, to a much lesser extent). As such, they should be part of our social media marketing on each platform. But as DiGiorno and many other brands have shown, it’s not enough to look at the trending tags and hop on board. Marketers need to understand what hashtags are for and how our audience is using them before we jump in.

Here are the #fundamentals you need to avoid invisibility or embarrassment with hashtags.


Hashtags started as a feature on IRC (Internet Relay Chat) channels back in 1988, when the internet still ran on steam turbine power. The “#” in front of channel meant that it was available for users across the internet, not just on a local area network.

Twenty years later, IRC fans who were early Twitter adopters proposed using the symbol to help classify common topics or groups. Twitter itself didn’t officially recognize hashtags for two more years. In 2009, the site started automatically hyperlinking hashtags to search results.

Facebook added hashtags in 2013, but they don’t see as much use on the platform. By contrast, Facebook-owned Instagram practically runs on hashtags. It’s not unusual to see a post with a four-word captioned followed by a paragraph of tags: #NoFilter #WokeUpLikeThis #BeachLife #SanDiego #ChihuahuaLove. Clicking any of the tags leads to a custom feed of images with the same tag, much like Twitter’s search functionality works.


Hashtags began as a way to categorize information for future searchers, much like the category or topic tags on a blog. In that case, using the right hashtags is more like SEO than anything else; it’s all about making sure your message comes up for the right query.

But hashtags aren’t really for search anymore. Hardly anyone is going to the search box on Twitter or Instagram and putting in a keyword to pull up a specific hashtag.

Hashtags are not really for marketers to boost their brand or their content, either. We can strategically use hashtags for that purpose, but we must remember that’s an off-label use. It’s important to tread lightly on using hashtags promotionally — as DiGiorno and many others can attest.

If it’s not about search or self-promotion, how should marketers think about hashtags? Or, better question, how does your audience think about hashtags?

Odds are, though, your audience doesn’t actively think about why they use or interact with a specific tag. There’s an innate understanding that makes some tags look “right” or “natural,” while others feel “forced” or “commercial.”

The best way I can think of to express that innate understanding is:


Social media feeds move fast. Hashtags are a way for users to block out space to have a conversation. “We’re telling this type of story in here.” “We’re sharing this type of picture in here.” Using a specific existing hashtag should come with the knowledge that you’re entering someone else’s conversation space.

The social media manager at DiGiorno likely wouldn’t go up to a group of people talking about a sad and serious topic in hushed tones and shout, “PIZZA!” But that’s exactly what they did on Twitter.

So before you jump into a conversation, make sure that:

  • You understand what’s being discussed
  • Your brand has (and should have) a position on the topic
  • You have something relevant to contribute

When you’re making your own hashtags, keep in mind that you’re starting a conversation. You can’t control who contributes to that conversation and what they might add to it.

For example, in 2012 McDonald’s used the hashtag #McDStories in a tweet, seemingly inviting users to share their own special memories of the chain. Instead, they got stories about food poisoning, diabetes, heart attacks, and animal cruelty.

It turns out McDonald’s had intended to use the tag to promote stories from employees and others affiliated with the brand. But they accidentally started a much wider conversation. With a little forethought, the mess could have been avoided.

So, when creating your own hashtag, keep in mind:

  • Who are you talking to?
  • What are you trying to say?
  • How else could your hashtag be interpreted?
  • What other conversations might it start?


Good hashtaggery starts with understanding that hashtags are a conversation. From there, the optimum tactics for using hashtags vary from platform to platform. The good folks at Buffer have an in-depth guide that touches on each of the major social media sites.

Here are some simple tips that I recommend to supplement Buffer’s advice:

  • Use hashtags sparingly on Twitter; no more than 2 per post, preferably just one
  • Don’t use tags on paid tweets. They’re proven to dilute your CTA
  • Go nuts on Instagram; 11 hashtags is the optimal number
  • Don’t bother tagging on Facebook. Research shows your post will do better without them
  • Use CamelCase to keep longer tags legible (Remember the “susanalbumparty” debacle?)


Hashtags started as a tagging tool for search. Today, they’re used to create a space for conversations, group people with similar interests, and fill Instagram feeds with puppies. To be most successful with your hashtags, respect conversations that exist already, and be cautious about the conversations you start.

Need to #LevelUp your social media marketing? TopRank Marketing can help.

Death of Facebook Organic Reach = New Opportunities for Influencer Marketing

Facebook Zero Influencers

Earlier this month, marketers were shocked to learn that Facebook would be making more major changes to its News Feed, effectively bringing brand and publisher organic reach to zero by prioritizing high engagement content from family, friends and groups.

In a formal statement posted on his own Facebook page, Mark Zuckerberg said:

“We built Facebook to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us. That’s why we’ve always put friends and family at the core of the experience. Research shows that strengthening our relationships improves our well-being and happiness.”

“But recently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content — posts from businesses, brands and media — is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other. … Based on this, we’re making a major change to how we build Facebook.”

While the announcement seemed to be the final nail in the organic News Feed coffin, the death of organic reach on Facebook has been a long time coming. Back in April 2015, Facebook announced it was updating News Feeds to strike a better balance between friends, public figures, publishers, businesses and community organizations. Then in late June 2016, Facebook said it would be making further refinements to ensure users don’t miss updates from their friends and families.

Now, after an intense year of political and social upheaval — not to mention the emergence of the fake news engine and the Russian advertising scandal — it’s no surprise that Facebook is re-examining things yet again.

But What Does It All Mean for Marketers?

Naturally, disappointed marketers all over the world are wondering how this change will truly impact their social marketing efforts. From our perspective, the change:

  • Ends the organic reach of the News Feed and increases the importance of adding pay-to-play to your marketing mix — something that will likely require a bigger budget.
  • Bolsters the importance of channel diversification.
  • Makes it more important than ever for you to zero in on who your audience is and what motivates them, so you can share content and create an environment that will pique interest and engagement.
  • Means Instagram will more than likely follow suit in the near future.

The Influencer Implication

Since Zuckerberg’s announcement, there’s been one implication in particular that’s captivated our attention. The way we see it, the value of influencer engagement on Facebook will increase even more.

Our CEO, Lee Odden, has long been an evangelist for working with influencers, believing that influencers can help brands bypass several obstacles. AdBlocking, for example, is in use on over 600 million devices, costing business over $22 billion in ad revenue, according to PageFair. Working with credible influencers who are trusted amongst an audience allows brands to bypass the adblocking obstacle and better connect with buyers.

Lee has also talked about other challenges such as distrust of brand advertising. In fact, 69% of consumers don’t trust ads, according to research by Ipsos Connect. And yet another obstacle is information overload. Americans are confronted with an average of 63GB of media on a daily basis (USC/ICTM).

All of these obstacles, according to Lee, are addressed by working with industry influencers. The virtual elimination of organic News Feed visibility for brands and publishers on Facebook is no different and marketers would be smart to think about how influencer engagement can keep organic Facebook visibility alive.

So, to sum it all up: Now that the organic News Feed is effectively dead, new life is being given to influencer marketing opportunities. Here are a few key considerations:

#1 – If you’re not in the influencer marketing game yet, you can no longer afford to wait.

Last year, we saw influencer marketing explode — becoming one of the most talked about topics among marketers and arguably our most-requested digital marketing services among both B2B and B2C clients. In addition, our own research shows that 57% of marketers say influencer marketing will be integrated in all marketing activities in the next three years.

This quote from Lee sums it up well:

“For any kind of content a business creates and publishes to the world, there is an opportunity for collaboration with credible voices that have active networks interested in what those voices have to say. In many cases, [audiences are] far more interested [in an influencer’s insights] than in what the brand has to say.”

With Facebook reducing branded content and elevating content from individuals, there’s no better time to invest in influencers — which can have an impact across all social platforms.

With #Facebook reducing branded content and elevating content from individuals, there’s no better time to invest in influencers. #influencermarketing Click To Tweet

#2 – Influencers now hold more power than ever to more strategically align themselves with brands of their choice.

Influencer marketing was already poised to be big in 2018, but this change to Facebook’s platform will absolutely spur more brands and businesses to dip their toe into the water. As a result, influencers will see an uptick in requests, giving them more power to be very choosy about which brands they lend their time, insights and audience to.

Influencers have more power to be very choosy about the brand they lend their time, insights and audience to. #influencermarketing Click To Tweet

#3 – Influencer nurturing will be more important than ever.

As illustrated by the previous two points, the Facebook change will lead to an increased adoption of influencer marketing, giving influencers more options. So it’s no surprise that it’ll be time to double-down on your commitment to influencer nurturing.

Now, we’ve always said that when it comes to building relationships and rapport with influencers, it’s critical that you put the time and effort into nurturing — rather than simply reaching out when you have a need. There has to be shared value.

But I think most marketers would admit that they have significant room for improvement in this area — and there’s no time like the present to recommit yourself.

With #Facebook’s recent algorithm change, it’s time to double-down on your commitment to nurturing your influencers. #influencermarketing Click To Tweet

Capitalize on the Opportunity

Let’s face it. This “major change” to Facebook’s platform isn’t the first and it certainly won’t be the last. As a result, now is the time to fully capitalize on the opportunity by better working with industry influencers. Now is the time to refocus on connecting with your audience — and influencers can help you do just that by adding authenticity, credibility, unique insights and new eyeballs to your content.

What else is in store for influencer marketing in 2018? Check out these rising influencer marketing trends that you need to pay attention to.

What do you think about the latest Facebook News Feed algorithm change? Tell us in the comments section below.

What Does it Take For Your Business to Stay Top of Mind?

When we’re at work, we want to believe that people think about our business all day long. In our minds, we’re the FIRST company a customer or prospective customer considers when a particular need arises. But you and I both know that’s not how it works.

What does it take for your business to stay top of mind?

This work we’re talking about is called branding. And in the old days, that would mean thinking up names and logos and colors and what have you and you’d call it good.

Kit Kat candy bar wrappers are red. They’re the ones with four “fingers” of crisp wafers surrounded by chocolate. There you go. That’s what they are. They compete with other candy bars by being crispy, easy to share (who shares their candy bars?), and beyond that? Who knows?

Your business isn’t a candy bar (unless it is). And even if you’re a candy bar, that’s a massively competitive space. Anything like this: candy bars, chips, and soft drinks are seemingly easy to brand and sell, but it’s actually a lot of work. (Later in the week, I’ll interview Eric Plantenberg about what it took to bring Humm Kombucha not only to the average soft drink consumer but also onto the shelves of Target and Walmart. He’s their chief strategy officer.)

To stay top of mind, you have to make it utterly clear what you solve for your buyer. There’s an easy starter recipe to build this kind of thing. Want to hear it?

The four levers you can adjust to improve brand awareness and retention

I have four simple ways to look at helping a customer or prospective customer remember your business and your brand (no matter how big or small your copmany). Think of this as a recipe you can work with.

What’s in the mix?

Goal – Any time you intend to reach out and connect or communicate in any form (advertising, bringing attention to the business, reaching out to customers, etc), be VERY aware of the goal of your customer/buyer. Why would they look for you in the first place? What’s THEIR goal that you help them achieve?

Clarity – Any time you talk about your business, be clear. I help companies use tech to improve customer interactions. It’s taken me ages to land on that. Clarity is about making what you solve utterly simple and straightforward. How can you make what you do for people super easy to understand and straightforward?

Simplicity – Clarity almost covers this, but sometimes you can be clear but you might get fancy. Simplicity is just that. Keep the menus brief. Make everything succinct. Don’t over-extend. That sort of thing.

Repetition – Say it. Say it again. Make it tweetable. Make it rhyme, maybe. Make it stick. Repeat. This right here is my biggest miss. I tend to create and release, which lets me brag about my big brain or something, but this doesn’t help STICK into people’s heads the easy story of how I help people.

You can’t be top of mind if you’ve already been forgotten.

The recipe is simple but not easy

Solve their goal. Be clear about it. Keep it simple. Repeat the story. That’s really “it,” but you already know there’s more to “it” in the long run.

And yet, have you mastered this part about your business? Probably not. When you’re not around, would someone you’ve spoken with know how to sell you/your product or service? Not the way you’d WANT them to, at least. Right?

If you want to stay top of mind, this is the work. Build something memorable in service of your customers’ goals and you’ve got a chance. Make it easier for them to buy and easier for them to get what they need, and you’ll stay in the story longer. But for now? Ask yourself how well you handle those four simple ingredients.

And if you need help, I’m here for you.

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Your Customer Data Needs to Be Smarter

One of the new content marketing trends for 2018 is to build stronger levels of content personalization into the marketing and communications workflows you send to your customers. It sounds tricky, but the truth is that the data is often there, and with just a little bit of manual intervention, there could be even more. The big point I want to make in this post to you is that your data needs to be used in better ways to improve customer engagement and to nurture better customer experiences.

Your Customer Data Needs to Be Smarter

If you have customers, you have data. You know their name probably, and there’s a contact method or two, and there are payment records of some kind. Most everyone has that. You might also have purchase history. For instance, at Owner Media, I know who’s bought what, how much they’ve spent, etc. And this is all pretty common for most companies. It’s what ELSE you can do that we’re going to talk about.

We need to collect and/or USE what we’ve collected to better shape the customer experience. What do I mean? What does that look like? Let me lay out a few samples.

Example: Hotel

I stay in plenty of hotels, Marriott often. Here’s what COULD be done with the data Marriott probably has laying around for me:

  • Chris doesn’t care about the view from his room – exclude “primo” rooms so we can save them for guests who care about that.
  • Chris wants lots of plugs for his gadgets – upon checkin, send someone to his room with a power strip for his stay.
  • Chris travels mostly randomly – exclude marketing for specific locations, but include marketing for system-wide deals, and/or maybe destination recommendations.

There are so many other ways to collect and use the data, but those were three quick ones. Let’s move to another idea.

Example: HVAC Company- B2B

Let’s say I’m the operations and facilities guy at a data center. You run the HVAC company that services my systems.

  • Keep Chris’s service calendar up to date, but also product end-of-life dates and “walk back” the start of a sales process conversation so that it matches before that EOL date.
  • Marry the above information to what Chris told us about his company’s purchase process to find the right date to start the re-sale process.
  • Bring Chris weather and power forecast data for his center to help improve Chris’s ability to size and scale his systems appropriately.
  • Stay updated on related and complementary products and services and send updates to Chris, even when (especially when!) they aren’t a product you sell.

Some companies do this, but they are few. Most B2B companies pay attention to product lifecycle and sales cycle information, but rarely go beyond this to collaborate with the client and find other potential opportunities to serve.

Example: Online Grocery Delivery

I’ll tell you that I have a huge desire for someone to build me this.

  • Chris tells the system: plan 6 days of meals for 1 person, vegan, with a $150 budget.
  • System checks for “vegan meals”
  • System checks for calorie and nutrient breakdowns for the meals from allrecipes.
  • System matches finalized meals against grocery store price lists to match the $150 budget.
  • A little rework probably happens
  • System schedules meal grocery delivery to my house.

This is SO do-able. And once you get really smart with the data, you can add in some details, like food preferences (fewer beets and more Brussels sprouts, or whatever).

Start With Tagging

The first step of being able to use smarter data with your customer base comes from mapping out what you want to collect and/or how you intend to use it. You might know the “what” long before you know the “how.” For instance, I know who went to my Boston event and who went to my Portland event at Owner. I can thus start with them when inviting someone to another in-person event. I can then invite whoever’s spent more than $2000 with me. Etc. I can do this because I have the data and have added tags to various accounts accordingly.

What other tag categories should you consider? These are recommendations of tag “categories,” not specific tags. (And when I say “tags,” I’m saying “affix this information to the customer’s record in a way you can query it later. Taxonomy and folksonomy stuff.)

  • Location – you might bucket people up based on where
  • Frequency – are people frequent buyers or rare
  • Interest – this one’s a “duh.” If you know WHAT people like, you can offer more of it
  • Preference – what does your buyer like or dislike
  • Buyer Persona – David Meerman Scott’s great term for what you might also call an avatar, etc
  • NEXT – this one’s fun. Tag people with “people who like this might also like that” data.

Start Somewhere

As I said in my post about needing better CRM, we have to start with creating more smart data to pick from. Then, we can sample and test using that data to drive better customer experiences for our buyers. From here, we can see what works and what doesn’t and grow from there.

But the starting point? Collect, tag, and review some of the data you already have but aren’t using. Look for ways to append this data with more useful information. And build possible maps to see where knowing what you know leads your customer and your efforts to support him or her.

And, as always, I can help.

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My 3 Words for 2018

It’s that time of year. You’re thinking: “how can I make this a better year than last?” Maybe you need a resolution. But no, I’ve found that New Years Resolutions rarely survive the first six or seven days of January. Which is why I started the My 3 Words practice back in 2006. Let me share it with you!

What is the My 3 Words Process?

Every year, at the beginning of the year, choose 3 words that have personal meaning to you that you will use as guideposts for your chosen path forward in the coming year. Make the words such that they influence your choice of actions, encourage you to decide in favor of your goals, and guide you towards lasting results that you want to experience throughout the year.

Write these words down. Post them everywhere. Schedule them to pop up in your calendar. And use these words as part of your decision-making process every day.

How do you Choose Your Words?

The words that you select for My 3 Words are meant to serve as lighthouses to guide you through foggy moments. To that end, it’s important to pick words that have enough meaning that you’ll snap your perspective into alignment with them and build out your days, weeks, months, and year accordingly.

What does that look like?

Let’s say you want to lose 30 pounds in 2018. Maybe one of your words is “green.” It reminds you to fill half your plate with nutritious green vegetables and fresh fruits at every meal, and to make your snacks more healthy, as well.

Maybe you need to focus on your creative projects, like that podcast you’ve been threatening to launch. The word “focus” isn’t bad, but maybe the word “voice” is better, as in “people will benefit from hearing your voice.”

No matter which words you select, make sure they have personal meaning to you that can guide your choices of how you spend your time and which efforts you focus on.

A Couple Quick No-Nos from Lessons Learned

This is just an exercise I created. I’m not some kind of word-warden. But I’ve got over a decade of experience in people’s reported-back results as well as my own. I can tell you some of what doesn’t work well.

  • Can I pick two words? Four? – You can do whatever. I’ve found 3 works best.
  • My 3 words are a phrase: stop the donkey – Phrases often waste one of 3 precious and powerful words. Why waste a year long focus by making “the” a word?
  • Can I change my words mid-year? – You CAN, but most people who do this report having a less-than-successful year.
  • I just want to repeat last year’s words – Are you planning on repeating last year’s results? Has the world changed at all? (Not recommended, but even I repeat sometimes.)
  • I forced mine to be an acronym: BIG – Cool, if all three words work for you. Not as cool if you picked a word to sacrifice a space just so you could spell “big.”

Again, you do you, but that’s what I’ve experienced.

Previous 3 Words from Me

2006 – Ask. Do. Share
2007 – Seek. Frame. Build. Bridge (yes, that was 4. It also was a less successful year.)
2008 – Believe. Loops.Farm
2009 – Equip. Armies. Needles
2010 – Ecosystems. Owners. Kings
2011 – Reinvest. Package. Flow
2012 – Temple. Untangle. Practice
2013 – Walt. Ender. Monchu
2014 – Lifestyle. Monchu. Black.
2015 – Plan. Leverage. Fabric.
2016 – Home. Shine. Win.
2017 – Move.Voice.Game

My 2017 wasn’t so great. It was a lot like 2016, if I squint. I refuse to let 2018 follow suit.

My 3 Words for 2018

And now, here are My 3 Words for 2018:

Ritual – I’ve fallen away from developing habits and operational tempo in my days. I need to build back rituals and make them the guts of how I structure my life and living. This also reminds me to place great strength and power into the simple matters of life, like choosing what I eat and drink, and ensuring that I treat my life as if I’m making moments instead of just clicking off hours.

Execute – Push the button. Make something happen. Take action. I’ve felt a bit sluggish in 2017. Time to power back up. Execute is a reminder to move and take action and do something instead of just think about it. Have the difficult conversations.

Value – Create value. Make sure my time is dedicated to creating value. Build more and more value for myself and others. Help companies see the value in the projects I intend to help them execute in 2018. That’s the big plan. Be clear that I value myself more.

So, those are my words. They’re personal to my challenges, my efforts, what I want from my family and my life and my business. Yours will be your own, of course.

Share YOUR 3 Words for 2018

I’d LOVE to see what you come up with for 2018. Use the hashtag #my3words and share links to your posts or just your Tweets, your IG posts, or whatever. Wherever you communicate with the world, share your #my3words with us, so we can see what each other comes up with!

I look forward to seeing yours!

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Amazon Alexa, The Need for Better CRM, and Trust

Amazon Alexa and Google Home have the same problem: they can do some really clever things that make them feel “real” to us, but the illusion is easily shattered. You might think “So what? That’s Amazon’s and Google’s problem.” But the thing is you need this, too.

Smart Speakers Aren’t All That Smart

I can say, “Alexa, who am I?” She’ll say back, “You told me your name is Chris.” I can then say, “Alexa, my son’s name is Harold.” She will say: “Sorry. I can’t help you with that.” Meaning that the information really has nowhere to go. But this context is important. Let me explain out.

First, Alexa DOES know my voice from other people’s voices. If my son Harold says, “Alexa, who am I?” she won’t be able to answer it. She doesn’t reply that he is Chris.

So that means that somewhere there’s a data “match” to my voice. Meaning, there’s some record stored in Alexa that says “Chris Brogan” is logged into this Alexa unit and I have a matching voice print for what I’m expecting him to sound like. Right?

But why, then, does Amazon need my “voice password” when I order something with Alexa? If she knows my voice is different than my son’s, why does she need a four digit passcode? Isn’t my voice a pretty good passcode? I guess “someone” could record my voice or splice up recordings to sound like I’m ordering them a Bugatti. So maybe that’s why. But I think it’s because Alexa was built to be dumber than we think.

(Note: every single time I’m saying Alexa, I mean Alexa/Google/Siri/Cortana)

And every time I’m talking about these big companies, I want you to think about YOUR place in this, because that’s upon you faster than you think. Voice interaction is here now. Amazon Echo and Echo Dot were the #1 purchased Christmas gift in 2017 on Amazon’s site, and the Alexa app was the most downloaded app on both the iTunes and Google Play store the next day.

Our CRM Needs to Get Smarter

Every company that sells something has a Customer/Client Relationship Management software (CRM). Whether or not they want it, they keep some kind of record of your purchase history tied to a phone number or a credit card or an email address. I suppose in more modern systems we can set the “unique key” to whatever we think will be most permanent. But every system has records of this nature.

But if you look at these, they are often mostly “dumb” data. You bought this thing on that date. You paid with this form of payment. The product was shipped there. All good to know, but not really smart enough.

I’ll tell you a simple one. “Alexa, my son’s name is Harold. Say hi to Harold.”

I want Alexa to be able to store that data record and link it for me. I want to be able to say, “Alexa, did Harold add anything to his wish list last night?” Hell. I want him to be able to say, “Good morning, Alexa” and her answer back, “Hey Harold.”

A lot of hotels are starting to add the option to use your favorite Internet apps there as well. When I check into the Residence Inn, I stick my Netflix (or Hulu or YouTube, etc) account into the room TV so I can binge Peaky Blinders on the big screen instead of my laptop.

Some hotels are adding smart speakers to their rooms so I can ask Alexa everything I ask her at home. (I’m in a hotel room writing this and I’ve tried talking to her about six times so far.) But will those also be tied to my account? And will it know I’m in a different location? And will my skills already be transferable to it?

Remembering is Part of Trust

This is basic, but also deeply true. Ask Jacq. If she tells me something she thinks is important and I forget what it was she told me, it hurts her feelings. She takes every instance of me forgetting (which happens a lot) as a slight against our relationship.

We humans tend to feel this way. We want to be known. We want to be remembered. I told you I’m staying in a hotel room as I write this. I’ve been to this property probably 20+ times over the last year. When I walk through the door, I want pretty much everyone working to give me that “Norrrrrm!” greeting (from Cheers – it was a TV show. Look it up!).

So when chatbots and robots and voice apps can’t remember the absolute basics, it FEELS (and we definitely do feel emotions around these technologies) like someone (your company) has forgotten us. That feeling is massively negative to some and simply negative to many. If you treat me like a first time buyer, it shows me what little value you place on my loyalty or commerce.

Start with CRM

At this point, you might not be building your own chatbots, but what has to come first no matter what is a better way to store and access the data that will make the experience better for all those involved. The ability to capture non-sales-related data and “knowledge” about your customer, I believe, will be the most overlooked competitive business opportunity of 2018 and beyond.(tweetable)

This isn’t massively hard work. Build in some fields to capture some more potential information, when available. Allow it to have flexible labeling sometimes. Because my example was “son” doesn’t mean that someone wants to add in “dog” and “stepdaughter” and “crazy uncle.” And then keep working out what other information might be useful to store that benefits both you and your buyer.

I promise that as “smart” speakers proliferate, the novelty phase will wear off quickly. We will not only demand more of companies using bots and voice interfaces, but we’ll gravitate towards those companies who treat us through these artificial interfaces like we matter and like we belong. The gee whiz phase is now. You still have time. Help make the distance between your business and me smarter. Please?

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China’s Character of the Year. How Machines Learn. Bruce Lee and Freddy Mercury – The Brief for 12.28.17

Here are the notes from the Chris Brogan Media broadcast for 12/28/17. (You can watch this on my Facebook account).

The goal of these posts is that there are trends and ideas here that might impact your business now or soon. Think on the stories here and look for ways to adjust your business accordingly. If ever you’re stuck, get in touch with me and I can help.

This live video was all shot using Ecamm Live (client), the best way to do Facebook Live for Mac.

Please note that all links may be affiliate links. If someone is a client, I’ll call that out specifically.

Stories Shared

My SPONSOR for today? Brogan’s Bakery in Ireland. I really really hope they’re related to me!

I found this nifty video explaining how machines learn. It’s worth the watch when you’re eating something or waiting to pick someone up.

The number one gift purchase this Christmas seems to be the Amazon Echo or Echo Dot. Now’s a good time to think about whether you should teach everyone to be polite to robot helpers.

Shout out to Chick-Fil-A for breaking one of their important rules to feed people strated at an airport. While I don’t agree with the company for a few other reasons, I appreciate their sticking to their values.

What’s the big push in marketing and customer service? AI linked chatbots are now a huge part of most CMO’s radars as they consider the coming year.

More than 50% of food in Africa is wasted, even while millions starve. Here’s a project to fix that a bit, and it’s something we should consider, too.

These five hospitality trends for 2018 are worth a gander.

This isn’t newsworthy. It’s just the best News bloopers of 2017.

I couldn’t not share this. It’s basically toy Bruce Lee and toy Freddie Mercury up to some shenanigans.

Matt shared an all senior citizen CounterStrike team called the Silver Snipers.

And finally, some breathtaking geek art.

Hey, if this has been interesting, consider picking up my weekly newsletter. It’s all unique ideas by me about how to improve buyer interactions and grow your business. Give it a peek

What ELSE is News?

You want to get featured on the Chris Brogan Media show? Drop me an email: and let me know what’s news!

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