It was a while since my last Digital DNA workshop and I jumped at the chance to attend Connecting With Your Audience in the beautiful Armagh City Hotel. Knowing my colleague Jonny Cameron was speaking had nothing to do with it, I promise!
Jonny and I arrived fashionably late but greeted by We Are Digital's Daryl Conway in the grand foyer, we were relieved to hear “bad traffic” had delayed others too and better yet we were still in time for coffee! Result!
After our caffeine boost, we met the other two speakers at the workshop; Avril Keys, a yummy mummy blogger and proud owner of School Gate Style and Lana Richardson, Digital Marketing Manager of NI Parcels.
Once everyone arrived and got comfortable, Jonny kicked things off for us;
Jonny’s relationship with Digital Marketing began in 2008, working for a Government agency in London. I couldn’t believe it when he said there was no such thing as Instagram back then and that Coca Cola weren’t even on Facebook! I say back then like it was the dark ages, it was just 8 years ago, but that’s just how much Digital has evolved and changed in such a short space of time.
We were then taken through the social channels available to businesses today, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. Jonny emphasised that in order to have success, you don’t need to have all of these channels, too many cooks and all that.
He highlighted the importance of first understanding your goals, what you want to achieve from social media, your target audience and their behaviours and then aligning these to the platform that will help you reach and achieve these goals effectively.
Jonny drew our attention to some recent digital trends including, “Content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without relevant images.” He also spoke about mobile and video and honed in on how watching video on a mobile device has become today's norm.
Take your smart phone for example, I know my Facebook newsfeed is inundated with videos day and daily, whether they are novelty and humorous that my friends have shared or informative how to beauty or cooking vlogger videos or brand advertisements, they are there and I watch them! (I know you do too!)
Even the word “vlogger” is a word that wasn’t around in 2008. Jonny reiterated his point that digital today is interactive, it’s visual based and imagery and video are where it’s at for digital marketers. Much more so than in the past, even when Facebook was first born, the emphasis was on text, but not now.
As we all know, nothing in life is free and just like in 2008 many marketing budgets are small and scarce. Jonny embraced this debacle by simply telling the room, “You are not McDonalds.” What he meant was, we don’t have budgets and resources like McDonalds do, we know that, its fact but it doesn’t mean we can’t think outside the box a little and make the most of what we do have to drive awareness and increase conversions for our business and clients.
To prove his point, Jonny demo’d two videos; one by Friends of The Earth, created on a huge budget and a DIY one made by his truly which costed just a fraction of the price. Using just his smartphone and windows media player, Jonny recorded and edited the video and added music and we all got it. We understood the message in it, we laughed and aww’d at all the right moments and it Jonny’s point was crystal clear.
Next to take to the floor was Avril;
Avril Keys introduced herself as a mother, baker singer and lover of fashion! With a past in banking and finance, Avril like a lot of women took some time out to have her family and one day stumbled upon the idea of writing her own blog. Writing for other women like herself, Avril took advantage of the gap in the market at that time and today receives three to four thousand hits on her blog each day!
Her skills in writing and engaging with her audience on social media have been spotted and picked up by local business owners who she has helped in areas such as social media strategy and implementation.
Avril, in correlation with Jonny pointed out the importance of understanding which social media platforms are going to help your business be successful. For her, social media is about making people aware of her blog and driving traffic to it. As a yummy mummy fashionista, photographs and images are key to her social strategy and therefore Facebook and Instagram are her go to social channels.
She enjoys the Facebook insights feature and finds it so useful to measure her results and identify which posts engaged more than others and information about her audience. Even though she does have a twitter account, she acknowledged its real time and more conversational characteristics which drive a different type of post.
For her Facebook audience, Avril made an interesting observation. She noticed that by removing the short blurb that appears when she posts a link to her blog and replacing it with an image or a few images from within her blog article, her post becomes much more engaging and her reach increases significantly. She found that no matter when she posts, if her post includes an image and engaging text, her audience will like and share it and click through to the blog – it’s inviting them in.
Common questions Avril is often asked in relation to effective social media marketing include:
Admittedly, Avril told us she like many other business owners just doesn’t have the time to sit and post on social media day and daily. She posts on facebook around once each day and uses a calendar to identify events taking place each day that she could be involved with on social e.g. International Women’s Day, World Book Day etc. If people are already hash tagging it and shouting about it, then its half the battle and you can join in too.
Finally, it was Lana’s turn;
Lana Richardson was the third and final speaker at the workshop and I have to admit, no matter what she was going to say I already liked her for her amazing red crushed velvet boots!
A Digital Marketing Manager at NI Parcels, and owner of Its HerSelfie, Lana has worn many hats in her career so far. From website editor to journalist and PR guru, she has many strings to her bow and a lot of knowledge to share. Admittedly, Lana told us that writing content for a parcels company is a challenge, but certainly one she met head on.
Lana created a go viral strategy;
This four step process is what Lana tried and tested in the past and she was keen to test its versatility in the courier industry.
She began by researching NI Parcels target audience, she knew who they were, their gender, their age, their behaviours and their interests and created personas to write for. She knew she had to write content that people would want to “remark” on, to be emotional with and to want to share with friends and family. And that’s exactly what she did.
30 reasons why Northern Ireland is weird and wonderful was born and the rest is history. Lana recognised NI parcels audience were purely Northern Ireland based and she made this the focus of her content strategy. She mentioned high profile local "Northern Ireland" celebrities such as Eamonn Holmes and Julian Simmons who endorsed the blog and conrtibuted to its huge reach and awareness.
Since then, through a very well structured marketing plan and a unique approach to engaging content, NI parcels has seen considerable business growth and success. Securing the number one spot in Google Search for numerous search terms, the company are living proof that good content can and will work for anyone if executed correctly.
A short but very sweet content focussed workshop, it was refreshing to hear from industry experts and people working with content and social strategies on a daily basis. We have taken away a lot of valuable insights into social strategy and content marketing that I am excited to mull over and share with our own clients.