Tagged: Social media

How to Increase Click Through Rates Using Emojis

- by Alyson Shane

It's hard to stand out online these days.

Between social media, digital ads, email marketing, and every other kind of advertisement out there, users see an estimated 11,250 ads each month each month. That's a lot to take in, and it's a lot to try to stand out from.

But it's not enough for your business' content to stand out; you also have to get your customers to engage with it, and take action. But how can you do this?

We're going to tell you:


How Emojis Can Solve Your Low Click-Through Rates

The most effective way to tell if your campaign is going well is to calculate your click-through rate (CTRs.) Your click-through rate is “the percentage of people who view your ad (impressions) and then actually go on to click the ad (clicks.)”

Low CTRs are usually an indicator that your campaign messaging isn't resonating with your audience. Sometimes it's the messaging; other times it's the visual elements. Occasionally, low CTRs are due to poor audience targeting. 

Most often low CTRs are because your content sounds stuffy and wooden.

Modern consumers expect their brands to talk and sound like them, with 45% reporting that they like "brands that don't take themselves too seriously." These results, along with the growing consumer class made up of Millennials, may explain why big food brands like Wendy's have started roasting their competitors on Twitter:


Now, we understand that most businesses out there aren't about to start sassing people online, but an easy way to copy the "humanness" of a Wendy's tweet is to start using emojis.

According to one study, 68% of millennials said they are more comfortable expressing emotions using emojis, and by literally speaking their language your business immediately becomes more relatable and will stand out from the other brands competing for their attention. 

But how can you choose the right emojis to increase CTRs without committing emoji abuse and sounding inauthentic as a result?


Be smart with the emojis you use. 

A recent study found that this list of emojis earned the highest click-through rates: 

What do you notice about this list? If you noticed that none of them are faces, then you're correct! In fact, the data shows that using uncommon emojis increases click-through rates by attracting extra attention to your link because people don't see them very often.

Increase CTRs by Adding Emojis to Email Subject Lines and Body Text

Did you know that 44% of consumers prefer email as their favorite way to interact with a brand, and that email users send and receive approximately 269 billion emails every day?

That's a lot of email to compete with. 

Even worse, one study found that even though people are opening your emails, 52% of them are unlikely to bother taking an additional step to click-through to your website.

Luckily, research shows that emojis not only increase email open rates, but emojis increase click-through rates as well. The study compared campaigns for Valentine's Day and Father's Day that A/B tested two email subject line formats: one with emojis, and one without, and the results were startling: 

The Valentine's Day email that included a "lips" emoji in the subject line drove a read rate of 24% and an inbox placement rate of 89%, compared to a read rate of just 20% and an inbox placement of 83% for text-only subject lines. 

The Father's Day campaign that used a "wrench" emoji in the subject line earned a read rate of 22% and an inbox placement of 96%, compared to a read rate of 21% and an inbox placement rate of 88%.

These are huge differences that you can replicate right now just by using emojis in your email marketing campaigns. In fact, there are lots of ways to get creative with emojis! 

Use Emojis Make Your Emails Stand Out

Emojis help your emails stand out in a reader's inbox. Think about most of the emails you get: how many of them are text-only subject lines? 

It's pretty uncommon to see emojis in subject lines these days, which makes using them a power move in terms of grabbing your readers attention.

One of the companies rocking the emoji game is CoSchedule. Check out how they use emojis to enhance their message in their email subject lines:


See how they embed emojis in their titles to enhance their messaging? They catch your eye and make them seem fun without losing their informational value.

Use Emojis in Social Media Ad Copy and Headers

We've already talked about the fierce competition your business faces against the 11,000+ ads audiences see every single day, so businesses need to get creative and think outside of the box in order to create ads that grab attention and drive action.

Luckily, results have shown that using emojis in your social media ads can dramatically increase the number of CTRs your ad generates.

One company called Scoro A/B tested two ads: one with an emoji in the subject line, and another without. Check them out:


The headline with emoji resulted in 241% higher click-through rate. Wow!

Ask yourself: what are some upcoming social media campaigns your business is planning that could use an 'emoji injection' in the ad copy? Get creative and start experimenting!

Use Emojis on Social Media

Adding emojis to your social media content is an easy way to sound relatable and authentic. Check out how thredUP uses emojis to easily respond to a tweet:


We also love how Cath Kidson uses "checkmark" emojis in their tweets to break up the text and create the feeling of a checklist in their tweet:


Use Emojis in Meta Titles

That's right: emojis now show up on search engine result pages. 

Emojis now appear content that's "relevant, useful, and fun." Obviously emojis will stand out in on a results page made up entirely of text, the using emojis in meta titles has an even more important function:

Did you notice that an emoji search for a dragon also returned results without the emoji in the page title? This matters, because Google is showing a variety of results relevant to the specific emoji. 

This means that by including emojis in your meta titles you can show up in search results for emoji searches as well as text based-searches. Not sure which emojis to use, and which to avoid? Check out this list of the most-used emojis

Use Emojis in Your Push Notifications, Messaging, and ChatBots

Does your business have a mobile app, or use chatbots on your website? 

If you answered "yes" to either of those questions, then it's time to start integrating emojis into your copy asap. Check out how Air Tailor uses emojis in the welcome message on their website:


According to this case study, Air Tailor has used emojis in their messaging to grow by 100% every year

This should come as no surprise as research found that push notifications with emojis drive higher engagement rates than those without. This is because emojis sound human, and make the content you're sharing (and the action you want your customer to take) more fun than just text-only notifications.

Improve Your CTRs with Emojis

Using emojis gives your business a competitive advantage by drawing attention to your content and helping your brand sound more "human" and authentic. 

Just like with all your business' content: strategic and thoughtful in what you say, and use emojis to showcase your business' casual and playful side to increase your click-through rates.

How do you love using emojis in your content? Leave us a comment on our Facebook page!

What's your favorite brand using emojis on Twitter? Tweet us your answer!

Looking for a more B2B connection? Follow us on LinkedIn!

Love visual eye candy? Let's connect on Instagram!

Oh, and if you want some help using emojis and a killer content marketing strategy to connect with your audience and grow your business, drop us a line


 

4 Social Media Faux Pas You Need to Stop Doing Right Now

- by Alyson Shane

Have you ever laid in bed and thought about a specific scenario, something that you said or did in a public setting or at an event, that still makes you cringe? If yes, you're not alone! 

Social faux pas happen all the time; whether it's an offhand remark that gets taken the wrong way; a joke that doesn't land; or any other behavior that negatively impacts your ability to make a good impression on those around you, people commit faux pas from time to time.

And just like committing a social faux pas at a party or in real life can make other people feel less inclined to talk to you, committing a social media faux pas can cause people to lose interest in what you have to say. 

Are you committing any of these social media faux pas with your social media strategy that are preventing you from truly connecting with your audience? Keep reading to find out:


Faux Pas #1: Spreading Yourself Too Thin

Many business owners feel compelled to try and maintain an active presence on as many social media networks as possible in order to try to reach as many people as possible. 

So let's put this social media myth to bed once and for all: 

Your business doesn't have to be on every social platform. Full stop. 

Taking the time to understand your business' social media needs and developing a content marketing strategy specific to each platform means you'll be engaging in meaningful conversations on the social networks that matter to your audience.

Applying a "shotgun approach" to your social media, on the other hand, often means you're spreading your resources too thin, and usually means you're spending time on social networks that won't help you connect with potential customers or generate leads. 

Faux Pas #2: Ignoring Context Online

We love our social media scheduling tools, but using a scheduling service without thinking critically about the kind of content you're scheduling (and when) can have dire consequences.

For example, if your company's Twitter feed is exploding with a tragic event or breaking news then it may be prudent to put the promo on "pause" for a little while and take the time to tweet some words of encouragement, condolences, or feedback (where applicable.)

Not only can ignoring context make your business look cold and uncaring... it may make you look like you're asleep behind the digital wheel.

Faux Pas #3: You Don't Listen to Your Followers

Another issue with relying solely on scheduling tools is that they only work one-way, meaning that you can't just "set and forget" your social media content and expect it to drive audience growth and lead generation.

People want to feel like they're being listened to, and that means starting and participating in conversations on your target social networks. 

When was the last time your business started a real conversation on social media?

If you don't know, then it's time to hop back in and get chatting, because by ignoring your audience you're missing out on valuable opportunities to connect with them, build trust and familiarity, and generate new leads and customers for your business.

Faux Pas #4: All Talk, No Strategy

The biggest faux pas we want to cover today is posting and engaging without knowing how or why you're doing it. 

This is where your voice and tone document comes in, as well as a comprehensive marketing strategy that outlines who you're talking to, why, and the topics you want to talk about in order to have authentic interactions with your audience.

After all, while we love memes as much as the next marketer, if you're not taking the time to act with intention then your voice will get lost in the social media noise, and your efforts won't yield the results you're looking for. 

However, make sure not to sound too wooden. Nobody wants to interact with a business (or anyone!) who sound like they take themselves too seriously and act stiffly and without humour. So make sure to toss the occasional joke, meme, or authentic reaction to current events into the mix - your audience will appreciate it.

Do you have a question for us about social media and how to create a killer content marketing plan? Leave us a comment on our Facebook page!

Found a hilarious meme you think we should see? Tweet it at us!

Want to subscribe to our updates? Follow us on LinkedIn!

Love visual eye candy? Let's connect on Instagram!

Oh, and if you want some help with developing a digital marketing strategy that grows your business, generates new leads, and endears your customers to you? Drop us a line


 

Case Study: The Local Oyster Blending Food + Fun for Social Success

- by Alyson Shane

This post comes from our Owner, Alyson Shane.

I met Jen and Nick, owners of The Local Oyster, during a recent trip to Caye Caulker, Belize at a local restaurant called Meldy’s. As the sun set over the ocean we bonded over business, beers, and the best damn coconut curry shrimp you’ll ever eat.  

What struck me about their business was how much fun they had running it and finding creative and interesting ways to promote it. At Starling, one of the challenges our B2C clients often face (and which we help them overcome) is the fear of looking “silly” or “unprofessional.”

In fact, lots of business owners I’ve spoken to over the years have expressed concern over taking an active role in promoting their brand.

Whether that’s by physically being present for photoshoots, hosting and participating in local events, and publishing photos and videos on their social media profiles that aren’t perfectly polished; which is why I wanted to shine a light on this unique and interesting social media success story:

The Challenge

The biggest challenge was raising awareness. “There are several brands that are immediately associated with Baltimore (Natty Boh, UTZ, Berger Cookies, Old Bay, etc) and my hope was that over time The Local Oyster would be one of them” Nick states.

He started The Local Oyster five years ago as a side project to help pay the bills, with the intention of it eventually becoming a full-time business. He began by using a “guerilla marketing” campaign where he plastered stickers featuring The Local Oyster logo all over Baltimore, but without any previous digital marketing experience, it was a challenge to determine the best social networks to use to promote the brand.

“I had tried but never really understood Facebook, and I had never even seen Instagram until someone told me I had to use it for my business,” says Nick. “I originally used Facebook and Instagram to let the few followers I had know where I was going to be set up shucking oysters…”

The Solution

“I’ve always considered myself a bit goofy, so that’s what I do,” says Nick. “I take pictures of stupid stuff and food and post it on Instagram.

Instead of trying to game Instagram’s algorithm or spending time determining the best hashtags to reach the widest possible audience, Nick and his team have instead chosen to focus on being as authentically themselves as possible.

Where many business owners would shy away from handling the social media for their business, Nick decided to play on his strengths and use his creativity and outgoing, goofy personality to create interesting, funny, and timely content for The Local Oyster’s social media profiles that got followers as excited about the restaurant as he is.


Nick regularly dresses up in silly costumes, takes videos of himself promoting local events and collaborations with other restaurants, businesses, and nonprofits, and uses this content to showcase just as much of The Local Oyster’s brand as the delicious, local food they serve.

By documenting themselves having fun at events, posting silly group photos, videos, and by not taking themselves too seriously Nick and his team have cultivated an engaged and excited audience of people who take their restaurant (and their food!) very, very seriously.

In addition to growing a loyal online following, The Local Oyster is now recognized as one of the best oyster bars in Baltimore.Your Takeaway

The fear of “looking silly” often trumps people’s ability to create interesting and unique content for their brand, which puts them at a disadvantage.

This is especially true for many restaurants and other B2C businesses, many of whom are apprehensive about appearing on their Instagram feeds, participating in Facebook Live videos at events, and partnering with organizations like nonprofits which may not be directly “on brand” but which convey their personal and brand values.

However, as we always tell our clients: social networks, algorithms, and hashtags change, but the thing that will keep your customers buying from your brand over and over again is your brand values and personality.

Or, as Nick puts it:

“My ultimate goal with social media is to make the viewer smile a bit or even laugh every once in a while. Most restaurants post beautifully staged pictures of fancy food and are so serious. Just like me and The Local Oyster, I want our social media presence to be fun and engaging, and not so fucking fancy.”

So the next time you feel apprehensive about showing your face on your business’ social media feeds, or balk at an employee’s suggestion to shoot a quick video to promote a special or unique service, be default yes. Don’t take yourself so seriously and have some fun with your brand; your business, and your customers, will appreciate it.

Big thanks to Jen Whalen and Nick Schauman from The Local Oyster for the laughs and memories we shared in Caye Caulker, and for taking the time to answer our case study questions.

Do you need help building an online presence for your brand that's as fun and exciting as The Local Oyster's? Drop us a line and let us know how we can help; we're always looking for innovative businesses to work with. In the meantime get to know us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or on LinkedIn - we can't wait to meet you.


 

4 Social Media "Bad Habits" to Kick in 2018

- by Alyson Shane

The start of a new year is an opportunity to consider what we want to spend the next 365 days doing with our time, and provides an important benchmark by which we can measure our progress.

We say "this year I'm going to get in shape" or "this year I'm going to eat fewer pancakes" (yeah, right). It's also an opportunity to assess how we've done over the past year, and to start setting goals to make positive changes in the year ahead. 

Luckily, there's no better time to start making positive changes than right now, so here are a few "bad habits" that you may be guilty of making on social media over the past year, as well as some handy suggestions on you can improve on them in 2018:

Being "All Business" Online

One of the biggest challenges facing the modern business landscape is how social media saturation forces brands to be more personal, quirky, and entertaining to their potential customers than ever before.

These days it's not enough to have a great logo and a website that converts; your brand has to have a strong set of values, an identifiable voice and tone appropriate for each social network, and the confidence to crack a joke once or be clever in a post or reply. Having a strong brand identity is essential in a world where most markets are over-crowded at best, and by being bold and confident in the content you share helps you stand out from the pack.

Your social media profiles are where your customers get to know you best, so use them as opportunities to show off your personality while still maintaining a professional and courteous approach.  

Steps You Can Take

There are a few ways you can infuse your social profiles with a little extra personality from time to time. Some things you can try right now include:

Sharing curated content

Bonus points if it's from a thought leader in your industry, an industry partner, or a fellow colleague (assuming the content is appropriate.) Sharing curated content says "we liked this and wanted to share it with you. Since we both like this content, we have something in common."

Piggybacking on popular hashtags

Hashtags are essential to growing your audience on Twitter and Instagram and we love using popular hashtags like #WisdomWednesdays on Twitter to share insights from our clients' industries to their followers and help them reach a broader audience using the same hashtag. 

Embracing memes 

We're not suggesting that you start posting photos of Scumbag Steve every time you get a customer complaint, but memes are an easy way to add some "cool" points to your brand, and tools like memegenerator allow you to make your own, industry-specific jokes you can share.*

* If you make any silly industry memes, please tweet them at us.

Selling on Your Personal Facebook Profile

Unless you keep your friends in the dark about what you do, it's likely that you've shared updates and posts related to your business on your Facebook Timeline sometime within the past 365 days - and that's okay, you're a business owner and you need to hustle to keep the lights on. 

What you should aim to nix in the new year is promoting your business directly through your Personal Profile, and working to grow your Business Page Audience instead of posting about promotions through your personal profile.

By focusing your efforts on growing your Business Page to a wider target audience, you increase the likelihood that you'll attract customers to your Page who have never interacted with your brand before, and who probably don't know you personally.

Steps You Can Take

The best way to promote your business on your own time is to re-share content from your Business Page through your personal profile (by clicking "Share > Share on Your Timeline" on the post) and to use your Business Page to find new customers beyond your personal Facebook connections (friends and family.) 

Here's what you can do:

  • Set up a Facebook Business Page (if you don't have one already)
  • Fill in as much detail about your business as possible.
  • Invite people to 'Like' your page.
  • Post to your Facebook Page often, and measure the results.
  • Use existing Customer Lists (if available) to create Facebook Custom Audiences.
  • Use those audiences to create Facebook Lookalike Audiences.
  • Invest in some Facebook Ads to expand your audience beyond just your family and friends.
  • Re-target previous audiences, test, and keep expanding!

(If this sounds like way too much work just give us a shout. We're happy to handle this for you.)

Not Engaging With Your Followers

Real talk: all the content scheduling tools in the world won't help you build an audience who actually care about what you have to say, online or otherwise. 

We believe that the best way to get others to care about you is to care about them first, and that means being engaged and responsive whenever someone mentions your brand. If someone has taken the time to leave you a comment, post a review, or re-share your content the easiest way to show them that you appreciate them is to say so.

Not responding tells your customers that you don't care about them, and that you aren't paying attention to them when they try to talk to you, address a concern, or file a complaint. It may feel tempting to 'hide', 'delete' or just ignore any negative commentary but think about it this way: how would you feel if a brand you used to love deleted your comment instead of addressing your concern?

So be thankful for it all: the bad, the good, and make sure to let your audience know how much you appreciate them.

Steps You Can Take

Showing your audience that you care about them not only builds brand loyalty with your existing customers, but it also shows any newcomers that they can always expect timely, helpful, and positive interactions with you online.

Here's a quick breakdown of ways you can show your audience that you're plugged in and listening to what they have to say:

  • Respond to Tweets, Facebook and Instagram comments as soon as possible.
  • Check your Twitter and Facebook DMs daily. 
  • Check your Instagram Story Mentions and Messages daily.
  • Thank critics for their feedback and never lose your cool.
  • Be genuine in your replies and say "thank you" a lot.
  • Re-share user generated content related to your brand, like Instagram photos and Tweets.

Not Paying It Forward

The best thing you can do for someone else's business is buy from them. If you can't buy from them, re-share their content, give kudos or congratulations, and take time this year to lift up the businesses in your industry and community through your own social media channels. 

Lots of businesses are wary of spending time promoting other businesses or people - we often get asked "what's the benefit of promoting other businesses?" and our answer is always the same: people want to do business with people they like, and the easiest way to be liked is to support others.

Steps You Can Take

By paying it forward with your social media you're directly contributing to promoting a business ecosystem which benefits both your business and those around you. You get to be a good person while also building good will within your industry and community - it's a pretty great deal, if you ask us. Here are a few easy ways to get started:

Showcase your values

Is you're an SME then you probably rely on your connection to your local community at least to some degree in order to keep your business running. With this in mind, re-sharing content that showcases your company's values can go a long way towards helping grow both your community and your customer base.

For example, if your office is full of animal lovers consider periodically sharing news from your local humane society. 

Give shout-outs

Identify businesses in your industry and community that you can support through your online presence, such as other members of your local Chamber of Commerce, nonprofit member associations, and past and present clients (ask permission first)

For example, if your business is sponsoring an event, take the time to give a shout-out to the other sponsors who also made the event a possibility. 

That's a wrap on 2017!

Do you have any big social media habits you plan to kick in the coming year? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter, or drop us a line on LinkedIn!

Oh, and PS: if you're looking for a team of creative, data-driven writers and digital marketers to take your brand to the next level in 2018 we're now accepting new clients. So y'know, give us a shout.

Happy New Year everyone!


 

How To: Create Facebook Lookalike Audiences That Deliver Results

- by Alyson Shane

In our last post we talked about how to choose the right Facebook Custom Audiences for your business' targeted advertising campaigns, and now we're back with an even better, more hands-on set of steps to help stretch your advertising dollars further and increase conversions: 

Facebook Lookalike Audiences

What Are Facebook Lookalike Audiences?

Facebook Lookalike Audiences are exactly what they sound like: they're audiences created from the profile data you've previously uploaded when creating your Custom Audiences. 

This option is a huge boon for marketers and business owners alike, as it allows you to take a relatively small sample size (say, 10,000 of your customers) and create a Lookalike Audience of hundreds of thousands of people. 

Facebook will use the profile data from these audiences to create a new list of Facebook users who share similar demographics and interests. This is a super-reliable way to optimize your campaign targeting and make sure that you're not just re-targeting the same people from previous campaigns. 

Before we get started, you'll need to have the following prepared and in-hand:

  • Access to your customer lists (emails or phone numbers), usually pulled from a system like MailChimp, or Shopify for our e-commerce friends.
  • Facebook Conversion Pixels set up on the pages you want to track results for.
  • The visual assets, headline and ad copy that you want to test*.

* We recommend using at least 2-3 of each, which will allow you to test how different combinations of words and text perform with your audience.

Let's get started!

1. Open your Business Manager and click on the "Audiences" option under your Assets column. 

2. Select 'Custom Lookalike Audience' from the drop-down "Create Audience" menu.


3. Select the Audience Size you'd like to target. We recommend creating two versions of the same custom audience: one at 1% and 3%, which will allow you to target users who most closely match your original Custom Audience, as well as a broader audience of users who may not be as close a "match" as the 1%.

4. Click "Create Audience" and wait while Facebook matches users and populates your new list. 

5. Once this process is complete (it may take a few minutes) open up your Power Editor and begin setting up your Ads as you normally would. When setting up your targeting, just select your new Lookalike Audience from the drop-down menu:


... and that's it! Now you can take your visual and content assets and begin setting up your Facebook Ads like you normally would.

Using Lookalike Audiences to Increase Sales

Now that you've learned how to create your own Facebook Lookalike Audience, it's time to begin using it to drive conversions and increase sales... starting now!

Here are a few ways you can leverage the power of your audience:

Grow Your Facebook Page 

One of the easiest ways to grow your Facebook Page is to target one of your Lookalike audiences. This allows you to save time and takes the guesswork out of targeting new users who may not have interacted with your page before. 

Increase Sales for Your E-Commerce Store

If you run an e-commerce store you can set up Facebook Ads that deliver to your Lookalike Audience which sends them directly to your website to start buying. For example, if you have a women's wear section on your website you can create a Custom Audience of only women, then you can use Lookalike audiences to deliver ads to women who closely match interests or demographics of the women who have completed a purchase.

Increase Subscribers, Signups, and Get Leads

For B2B businesses like us here at Starling, we want to focus on increasing the number of actions which will allow us to connect with other businesses (lead gen). The easiest way to do this is to encourage people to take any of the following actions:

  • Fill out a contact form
  • Subscribe to our newsletter
  • Sign up to receive a piece of gated content

This tactic is similar to what an e-commerce website would do: upload a Custom Audience, create the Lookalike Audience, and then send people directly to a landing page on your website specifically set up to encourage them to submit their information.

Get started!

Now that you know how to set up and use Facebook Lookalike Audiences, it's time to start implementing them as a routine part of your Facebook Ad strategy. If you still have questions, drop us a line or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram. We're always happy to chat.


 

Choosing The Best Facebook Custom Audience for Your Business

- by Alyson Shane

Businesses are starting to wake up to the fact that, often, organic posting and engagement just isn't driving the traffic to their Facebook pages and Instagram profiles that it once did and are turning to Facebook Ads as a cost-effective way to get in front of hundreds or even thousands of new potential customers.

Here at Starling Social we've used Facebook Ads to help our clients increase webinar registration, generate new B2B leads, drive inbound website traffic, and more. We love it because Facebook allows us to dig deep and create Custom Audiences which help us retarget people who have previously engaged with our client's business in some way. This helps us keep their advertising budget low while achieving a high return on investment (ROI) for our efforts on their behalf.

If you're new to the world of Facebook Ads, or if you're still trying to wrap your head around which types of Custom Audiences you should choose for your next Facebook Ad Campaign, then you've come to the right place.

This post is a comprehensive overview on what Facebook Custom Audiences are, and the various types you can choose from to increase brand awareness and generate new leads for your business.

Ready? Let's get started!


What's a Facebook Custom Audience?

Facebook Custom Audience is just that: a custom audience you can create in your Facebook Ads Manager (or Power Editor) that you can target with your ads. One of the options available is o target people who have an existing relationship with your business - say, fans of your Page - and create a campaign which retargets this audience. 

Facebook gives you six options to define the existing relationship between your ad audience and your business, which are:

  • Customer File. Upload a customer file (eg: list of individuals who have purchased from your e-commerce store within the past 365 days) to match your customers with people on Facebook to create an audience from the matches. 
  • Website Traffic. Create a list of people who visited your website or took a specific action which corresponds to your Facebook Pixel.*
  • App Activity. Creates a list of people who launches your game, app, or took specific actions based on the Facebook Pixel installed in your app.
  • Offline Activity. Upload a list of people who have interacted with your business in-store to create a custom audience based on phone numbers or other offline channels.
  • Engagement. Creates a list of people who have recently engaged with your content on Instagram or Facebook.

* A Facebook Pixel is a code you (or your developer) installs on your website or in your app to track conversions from Facebook Ads and collect data to do stuff like build the Custom Audiences we're discussing here.

Let's sink our teeth into the different Custom Audience types available, and how they differ from each other:

Customer File Audiences

Customer File Audiences are based on a list of existing contacts available to you, such as newsletter subscribers or customers who have purchased from your e-commerce site. Syncing your customer list can be done one of two ways:

  • Manually uploading your audience in a .csv or .txt file.
  • Syncing your email CRM to your Facebook Ad Account.

Important: you can't mix data types, so you'll need to upload separate files for emails vs. phone numbers, for example.

We recommend giving your Custom Audience a short, easy-to-identify name which describes the specific audience, such as "Email signups" or "Past Customers."

Website Traffic Custom Audiences

If your business doesn't have a large enough database of emails, phone numbers, or Facebook User IDs to create a Custom Audience based on the steps above, you can use Website Custom Audiences to retarget visitors who have already visited your website.

This is a big boon for many businesses who are in the process of building their newsletter lists, for example, because all you need to do is make sure your Facebook pixel is installed and wait for people to visit your website. When they do, Facebook will recognize the users and automatically add them to an Audience, ready to be retargeted. 

App Activity Audiences

With the explosion of mobile app popularity and Facebook mobile ads, it's no surprise that this option is becoming a popular solution for many app-based businesses.

The option allows you to target people who have previously used your app but haven't come back to use it within the last month (for example), or, you can target people who have abandoned their carts (added an item to their cart but never completed the purchase.)

There are lots of ways to retarget app audiences (currently there are 14 actions/non-actions you can target), but the most popular options are:

  • Achieved a certain level in your game.
  • Completed a large purchase.
  • Recently opened your app.
  • Recently completed a purchase.

By targeted users who have (or haven't) completed a specific action you can tailor your retargeting ads with copy and visual content which compels them to come back, such as new levels, discounts, or ads featuring new items for purchase.

Offline Activity Audiences

The Offline Activity option allows you to build Custom Audiences based on one or multiple offline events, such as Add Payment Info, Add to Wishlist, etc. 

When you choose "Offline Activity" as tour Custom Audience type in Ads Manager, you can add multiple filters to refine the audiences to your specific needs. You can select multiple offline events and filters such as People Interacted Offline, Add Payment Info, Initiate Checkout, and more from the drop-down menu to restrict your list.

If you want to get super-granular, you can refine your data even further using the Custom Value or Aggregated Value options, which allows you to add conditions or values which are specific to your business goals. For example, you can add "source equals to call" to track the number of calls your business has received.

Engagement Custom Audiences

The Engagement option is especially exciting because it means you can use your ads to retarget people who have already shown an interest in your business on social media, which increases the likelihood that they will convert by 70%, according to FetchProfits. 

If you click on "Engagement", a window will appear which will prompt you to define an Engagement Audience based on six different engagement types. They are:

  • Video. This will target users who have watched at least three seconds of your videos on your Facebook Page or Instagram business profile.
  • Lead Forms. If you already use Lead ads, you can get in front of people who have opened or completed your lead form.
  • Fullscreen Experience. This option relates to the Facebook Canvas Ad option, and will retarget users who have opened your Canvas collection ads.
  • Facebook Page. This is our favorite because it allows you to retarget anyone who has interacted with or visited you Facebook Page. 
  • Instagram Business Profile. This is similar to the Facebook Page option, but retargets to people who have interacted with your Instagram business profile.
  • Event. Event retargeting is the latest addition to the Facebook Engaged Audience family, and allows you to retarget people who have RSVP'd to an event on Facebook.*

* Events must originate from your business page. Facebook won't allow you to target people who have attended similar events, or events which weren't hosted from your page.

Bonus: Custom "Lookalike Audiences"

One of our favorite ways to leverage the power of Facebook Custom Audiences is to create custom lookalike audiences. These audiences are exactly what they sound like: audiences of hundreds or thousands of people who don't know about your brand yet, but are likely to become your customers.

Lookalike audiences can be created from:

  • Email Lists
  • Current or Past Customers
  • Page Fans
  • Website Custom Audiences
  • App Activity
  • Conversion or Standard Events
  • Engagement (App, Video, etc)

Want to learn more about the incredible benefits of creating and using Facebook Custom Lookalike Audiences? Stay tuned for our next post! If you're still struggling with Facebook Ads and would like some help elevating your brand and reaching new customers for your business, drop us a line, we're happy to help.

Want to engage with us in the meantime? Subscribe to our newsletter or say hi on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram


 

3 Steps to Building a Community for Your Business

- by Alyson Shane

How businesses communicate their values to their customers has changed dramatically in the last few years. With the emergence of social media and networking sites, businesses have pivoted from relying solely on one-off marketing campaigns, to a long-term content marketing strategy which builds communities of engaged, interested customers who are loyal to their brand and eager to try their new products and services.

Let's face it: building a community can be a challenge. However, research has shown that customers in communities spend 19% more than customers who aren't, which means spending that time developing a community could seriously impact your business' bottom line.

With this in mind, forward-thinking brands should be considering how they can leverage existing social networks in order to talk to (and hear from) their customers and target audience.

The key element to building a community is participation. Social media managers tasked with managing a brand's community need to be just as devoted to their own followers if they expect anything in return. Respect, as they say, is a two way street.


Use the B=MAT Model to Drive Engagement

The idea of building a community, enticing new members, retaining existing ones, and creating and sharing content that engages and produces qualified leads for your business can be daunting when you look at all the details involved, so we recommend starting at the beginning:

When it comes to creating environments that motivate people to take the action you want, we like BJ Fogg's Behavior Model, which breaks actions down into three categories: Motivation, Ability, and Trigger. When a behavior doesn't take place, one of these three elements is missing from the equation.


Image via behaviormodel.com

We can also break these elements down into questions that we can refer to while building our communities:

  1. Are community members motivated to participate?
  2. Do they have the means to participate?
  3. Is there a trigger that encourages participation?

Keep these questions in your mind while designing, managing, and creating content for your community in order to make sure that you're always keeping your members in mind and providing them with opportunities to connect with your brand.

Plan, Build, Grow: A How-To

Building a community is much more than just creating a page and clicking 'Invite'; it takes planning, preparation, and work to build a successful community that speaks to your brand values and encourages two-way communication with your members.

Here are three steps to get you started:

1. Plan

Start out by planning your community. Ask yourself: what value will our community bring to our business and our members? How can we design something that motivates members to contribute and come back for more?

If you're not sure how to get started, ask around. Speak to people in your Sales department, refer to your Buyer Profiles, and speak with Customer Service to determine the questions customers ask the most, their likes, dislikes, and challenges, and how your community can grow into a place that not only helps members feel good about engaging, but encourages them to come back for more.

2. Build

Start small - don't try to be too ambitious from the get-go or you may let yourself (and whoever you report to) down. The best, most successful communities are the ones that start small and build organically thanks to ongoing member engagement and successful "triggers" from you. The most effective way to do this is to invite members slowly, over time, to avoid a huge influx at the start and avoid "empty bar syndrome" which occurs when your community looks empty, and as a result members disengage because they don't want to be the only ones participating.

By starting small and building up you can show your community members how to engage with your content and each other. This creates a positive and active community that members will want to return to over and over.

3. Grow

You've done your research, consulted with key stakeholders, and have created a game plan to build and your community organically and in a way that promotes engagement and activity within your member base. Now it's time to think about growing your community so that it can continue to grow and meet the needs of your members and generate confidence in your brand.

Some ways you can organically grow your community include:

Connecting to existing events and brand initiatives

Link to your community on your website's home page; promote an upcoming company or industry-related conference; post about community initiatives, sports teams, or other local events your brand participates in or supports.

Use your community to showcase who your brand is, not just what they sell or provide to their customers. By showcasing multiple facets of your organization you can appeal to a wider member base who will start to visit your community regularly, and may even invite others to do so as well.

Identify Community Champions

Your Social Media Manager shouldn't be the only one welcoming, encouraging, and interacting with new community members. While these tasks are important, the key to long-term community success is to find "advocates" for your brand who are actively engaged with your community, and who

One of the best ways to do this is to have a few employees, stakeholders, or parters involved in your community who are invested in seeing the community succeed. These individuals should be tasked with Liking, Commenting, and engaging in conversations with community members; this way members are engaging with more people than just your brand.

Next up: It's Time to Engage!

Stay tuned for our next post on building a community around your brand, and make sure to sign up for our newsletter to get your copy of our free ebook Get Social! Content Marketing for You & Your Brand, which is full of questionnaires and worksheets to get you started with building your community.


 

20+ Essential Social Media Marketing Tools to Grow Your Business

- by Alyson Shane

You're a smart, savvy business owner who knows that social media marketing is a critical aspect of promoting your business, reaching your target audience, and connecting with your customers.

However, without the proper tools to manage, track, and hone your social media activities managing your profiles can feel overwhelming, frustrating, and downright confusing.

Why? Because not all social media marketing tools are created equal.

The right social media management tools will streamline your processes, help you stay organized, and keep you on track, but it can feel confusing and overwhelming when you're trying to figure out which ones to use.

Here at Starling Social we use a variety of tools to manage our client's activities, and today we want to share some of our favourite tools to take you from social media novice to pro in no time.


Managing Social Media Content

1. Buffer

Buffer is our go-to scheduling app for social media content across multiple platforms. Paid users have access to a calendar view which is incredibly useful for plotting out what we want to share and when, as well as comparing when we shared previous pieces of content.

"Buffering" your posts will allow the app to publish your content at a time that Buffer's analytics engine deems appropriate based on when it believes your content will earn the most clicks and shares.

However we don't recommend relying solely on this feature - tracking your engagement levels is the best way to determine when to post.

2. Hootsuite

Hootsuite is another social media scheduling app, but with an important feature: Hootsuite allows you to view "streams" of each social network you manage in order to stay on top of the action. This can be especially useful for checking Twitter Lists, and for staying on top of comments, @ mentions, shares, and direct messages.

We keep Hootsuite open in a tab all day long and use it to track engagement as it happens in real-time across all of our client's social networks.

We'll admit: we're not wild about using Hootsuite for scheduling content (we prefer Buffer's user interface and range of scheduling options) but ultimately it's up to you which tool you prefer.

3. Edgar

Meet Edgar, your new content BFF: this adorable little octopus is actually a super-powerful app which allows you to create content "libraries" that you can re-use again and again. Once you've added some content to your library (eg: "My Blog Posts") you can select a social network to post to and schedule it to post as many times a week as you'd like/ This means you can schedule weekly, recurring content across multiple social networks without having to worry about re-scheduling it every time it gets shared out - major time saver!

Not just that, but Edgar will analyze your content to determine which posts in your library have earned the lowest levels of recent engagement and will re-share that content in order to help it get seen by more people. So, if you have a 6 month old blog post that hasn't been seen in a while you can count on Edgar to make sure your followers see it again.

4. IFTTT

If This, Then That (IFTTT) is a powerful app which connects multiple apps for you. IFTTT can do things like automatically push out a new blog post to your social feeds when you hit 'Publish' on your website; automatically send out reminders each week; and so much more - the 'recipe' possibilities are basically endless.

5. RePost for Instagram

Re-sharing content on Instagram is a hassle no matter how you slice it, but RePost allows you to re-share Instagram content without having to take a screen shot, crop the image manually, and re-create a post within the app.

This is an invaluable tool for anyone who regularly re-shares content on Instagram, so make sure to add it to your list of "must have" mobile apps.

6. Tagsforlikes

Searching for new hashtags on Instagram can be a hassle and a challenge if you don't know what to look for, or aren't regularly doing research into the most popular tags being used.

Tagsforlikes is a tool which generates popular tags for you to include in your content based on various topics and themes, though we recommend saving these in a separate document to reference later if you plan on using them more than once.

Help Your Content Stand Out

7. Emoji App

This one probably feels obvious, but using emojis in your social media marketing is an easy way to create additional visual interest and help your content feel more fun and engaging.

Plus: it's free!

8. Bit.ly

Nothing clutters up a sharp-looking social media post like long URLs, and bit.ly is a great tool for shortening links that would otherwise take up your entire character count.

Not just that, but bit.ly users can also track click-through and engagement rates on their shortened links, which can be incredibly useful for tracking user engagement. We like to set up multiple landing pages with custom bit.ly links in order to see which ones are performing the best on our client's social feeds.

10. Trello

Trello is our favourite project management tool, especially when multiple parties are involved with creating, editing, reviewing, or managing a project. Trello allows you to create columns with 'Cards' for each task that you can use to create checklists, attach images, files, and links, assign actions to specific users, and more.

Find Killer Content to Share

11. BuzzSumo

BuzzSumo allows you to search the most popular content being shared most often across all social networks relating to specific keywords, find influencers in your industry, and find content to share on your social networks in order to engage with your target audience.

Even better: you can set up alerts to receive notifications if content mentioning your identified keywords gets published.

12. AllTop

Alltop is another content aggregator website which allows you to search through multiple headlines from across the web.

We like it because it will organize content topics into groups based on where they were published (e.g.: Forbes, Business Insider, TechCrunch, etc) which saves tons of time and research.

13. Feedly

For those of you that still use RSS readers, this tool is for you: Feed.ly is basically an RSS feeder which allows you to follow content from any websites or blogs that you follow.

You can organize your content, read saved content again, search for new and interesting content topics and sources, and more.

14. Scoop.it

Scoop.it is a content marketing tool which allows you to set up content objectives, build content calendars for your social media profiles, blog and newsletter (read more about creating eye-catching newsletter content here).

Scoop.it scrapes the internet for content every day and will deliver customized content relevant to your niche to you every day, providing you with an easily accessible list of fresh content to read and share.

Creating Visual Assets
(for Non-Designers)

15. Canva

Canva is our favourite tool for creating beautiful and eye-catching designs in a heartbeat.

Not only does Canva come pre-loaded with trendy and varied layout templates, backgrounds, graphics, and stock images, but you can create images sized perfectly for your blog, social networks, newsletter, and more.

16. Stocksnap.io

Free stock images are a must-have for creating social media graphics, and while there are a variety of websites and options available, Stocksnap's extensive, searchable library makes it our go-to whenever we need some sharp stock images.

Other options include: Pixabay, Death to Stock, and Unsplash.

17. GoAnimate

Need to create animated videos in a pinch? Use GoAnimate to customize backgrounds, characters, and scenes easily in order to promote your product or service.

They offer a 14-day trial with a variety of pricing options depending on your needs, an extensive library of content, and offers a hands-on, DIY approach to creating fun and interesting animated videos.

18. VidYard

4x as many consumers would prefer to watch a video about a product than to read about it, which means if you aren't leveraging video as part of your social media arsenal you're missing out.

Vidyard allows you to create short, professional-looking videos without all of the equipment and setup traditionally associated with video productions.

Managing Your Information

19. 1Password

Tired of logging in and out of your accounts all the time? Struggle to remember your passwords for all your social media accounts? Use 1Password to keep track of your passwords so you don't have to.

Other options include: LastPass,

20. Backblaze

When was the last time you backed up your data? If you've ever experienced the stress and anxiety that comes with a hard drive crash then you know how important it is to keep backups of all of your information, whether it's work-related or not.

We recommend using Backblaze, which is cheap like borsht, which automatically backs up all of your data and will store it safely in case of an emergency.

21. Google Drive

There's nothing worse than not being able to access your information wherever you go. Instead of relying on emails or thumb drives (which are being phased out anyway), start storing your information in Google Drive, which is free if you have a Gmail account. Google Drive keeps your files synced, stored, and easily accessible no matter where you are.

Other options: Dropbox

22. Insightly

You don't have to be a sales rep to benefit from using a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool for your business. Keeping track of who you meet, where you met them, and your relationships not only helps you track where your leads come from, but you can use Insightly to track your sales funnel and identify where your bottlenecks are in your sales process.

Other options: BallPark, HubSpot

23: Toggl

One of the best ways to figure out how to optimize your processes is to track your time, and we depend heavily on Toggl to help us track how much time we're spending doing different tasks.

For example, if we look at our week at-a-glance we can see how many hours we spent doing specific tasks for each client, and can use that information to find ways to improve our processes.

Do you use any of these tools? Did you learn about a new tool today? Tweet at us and let us know!

Want more insight and tools to help your brand stand out online? Download our free ebook Get Social! Content Marketing for You & Your Brand now.


 

How to Take Better Social Media Photos for Your Business

- by Alyson Shane

One of the easiest ways to grow your business and communicate value to your customers is to use social media to showcase who you are and develop an easily recognizable brand.

Once upon a time businesses had to rely almost exclusively on professional photographers to showcase their products, services, and brand values, but in the era of smartphones it's easier than ever to capture beautiful, professional-looking photos for your Instagram and other social media feeds quickly and easily.

Just follow these tips to create high-quality, share-worthy photos to help your business grow and thrive online:


Take Different Approaches to Your Visual Content

As a business owner, you’re constantly on-the-go meeting clients and developing ideas, so use this as an opportunity to capture the beauty of these everyday activities by taking photos of otherwise “normal” events.

When leading a workshop, take a crisp photo of the whiteboard. If you have a client meeting, be “that” person and snap a pretty picture of some latte art next to your notebooks. Take photos of your workspace, or the places your business is operating.

Running a business is a form of art, so represent even the most unglamorous occasions with beauty and watch the Likes, comments, and engagement roll in.

Use Videos and Animated Content

It's important to try to break up your content and keep it fresh and engaging - nobody wants to look at the same sorts of photos on their social feeds, no matter how nice they may be. Capturing yourself in your daily grind helps viewers build a relationship with the individual behind the brand, and provides a genuine insight of your daily life.

An easy way to create visual content that keeps your audience engaged is to shoot videos and create gifs using tools like Boomerang to spice up your day-to-day visual content.

Videos and Boomerangs can be especially useful if you're promoting a business that has a lot of physical activity involved, or where you do a lot of setting up and tearing down. Invest in a tripod for your phone and use an app like Hyperlapse to record a fast and fun video to share with your audience.

Spend some time playing around with different videos and Boomerangs and experiment with different angles, video lengths, using time-lapses to showcase your daily operations, and more!

Be Mindful of Your Lighting

Lighting is everything when it comes to creating engaging and interesting photos, so it's important to take elements like lighting and brightness into consideration when taking photos.

As helpful as lighting kits can be, they are a considerable investment that your business probably doesn't need unless you have a photographer on staff (in which case you probably don't need this article.) Instead, spend some time playing around with your workspace and the areas you frequent in order to understand the best places and times of day to take eye-catching photos.

And don't worry: if you struggle to take bright photos, you can always edit them with apps like VSCOcam, Snapseed, and within Instagram itself to play around with the brightness and exposure to help make your photos really stand out. Just practice and see what works!

Focus on Composition

So what's the real key to taking beautiful and interesting photographs?

The answer: intriguing dimensions.

Most people tend to take photos with the important element smack-dab in the middle of the image, but having this classic composition posted repeatedly on visual apps like Instagram can cause your followers to lose interest pretty quickly.

Instead, try the “rule of thirds”: divide your image space into thirds, or rather, a tic-tac-toe grid. Capture photos with the important elements lying along one of these lines. Having the main subjects of any photo off-center, aligned with this grid, adds intrigue and depth to your photo feed.

Along with the rule of thirds, maintain your brand throughout your feed by including items that have your brand colors throughout the photos. Whether that be a pen, notebook, shirt, or other obscure item, recognizable color trends throughout your photos helps viewers to distinguish what sets your feed apart from others.

Do you have any other stellar tips on taking great photos for your social media feed? Tell us in the comments or get in touch with your questions.


 

Forget Fake Engagement: Why We Don't Use Instagram Bots

- by Alyson Shane

Let's face it: driving organic engagement on Instagram is time-consuming. Which is why many marketers and agencies have turned to using Instagram Bots - or "botting" - to generate engagement.

While this may seem like a great way to cut costs and drive users to your page, using Instagram bots to create fake engagement is not only inauthentic, but it can drive away your customers and damage your brand's reputation.

What exactly is botting, and why is it bad? Keep reading to find out why we're 100% against this sketchy marketing practice:


What is Botting?

Botting is the process of allowing third-party automation software to access your Instagram account and use algorithms to determine accounts that you should be following and engaging with. Basically, botting is pay-to-play engagement, where you pay an automation service to grow your Instagram audience for you.

Marketers can program bots to target specific areas, users who use specific hashtags, and more, in order to create a level of fake engagement which is intended to drive traffic to your Instagram profile.

Sounds great, right?

Except it's not.

At Starling Social, we believe that all engagement should be as organic as possible, which is why we've never used Instagram Bots (or "gone botting") to generate engagement for our clients.

Sure, it would free up more of our billable time, but we wouldn't be delivering the best possible experience to our clients if we relied on bots to handle our engagement for us.

What's Wrong With Bots?

Below are just a few of the reasons that we believe Instagram bots are bad for business:

Current AI doesn't understand context

Have you ever posted a photo with a sad caption, only to receive a weird, upbeat comment like "keep posting great content "? Then you've encountered an Instagram bot.

Not only are these interactions awkward for the person posting the update, but they also clearly demonstrate that there isn't a real human being looking at your content, because why else would someone day "this is awesome!" on a photo of someone and their Grandma in the hospital, for example?

Experiences like these can get even creepier: on the Hootsuite blog, one employee recalls experimenting with an Instagram automation tool and discovered that the bot had left the comment "my pics > your pics" on a selfie of a boy who was clearly in middle school. Yikes!

Bots don't always follow the right people

Curating an Instagram news feed which is populated by content that matters to your brand - updates from customers and people in your industry, for example - is just as important as generating strong content on your own profile because it allows a level of engagement that is customized to your growth and engagement goals.

Bots, on the other hand, tend to follow hundreds or even thousands of users who may fit within specific criteria, such as living in your city or using a specific hashtag, but that doesn't mean they're actually part of your brand's target audience.

The only way to ensure that your Instagram account is engaging with real people who care about your brand is by ensuring real people are doing it for you.

You're going to annoy the h*ck out of your target audience

Bots are annoying. There, we said it.

There's nothing worse than posting something to your Instagram and receiving a slew of comments that look like this:

  • Super cool!
  • Lol I'm so jealous!
  • Great page!

You get the point.

As a user, you know that Instagram bots exist, and so when you see the same, non-specific comments appearing over and over again, you already know that whichever account is commenting isn't doing so authentically.

Even worse: as a business, your goal is to entice and excite your customers, not annoy them and make them turn off from your message. As with all things online: authenticity is key, and if your customers catch a whiff of inauthenticity from your Instagram profile, they're less likely to engage with you and give you that highly sought-after "Follow".

You may have your account suspended

Botting goes against Instagram's terms of service, which means that you could have your brand's account suspended!

This is bad for a company managing its own digital marketing, but for a marketing agency to engage in an activity which not only abuses customer trust, but puts their client's accounts at risk just isn't worth it.

One last thing about marketing automation

If this post has you feeling stressed out: don't worry, not all marketing automation tools are created equal. There's a big difference between marketing automation tools like Buffer, Hootsuite, MeetEdgar, and MailChimp (some of our faves), and Instagram bots:

Marketing automation tools help manage processes which allow time for real engagement; Instagram bots pretend to create engagement where there isn't any, and can cause real damage to your brand's online reputation.

So why take the risk? Spend the extra time building a real, engaged audience of Instagram followers and feel confident that the users following your brand legitimately care about what you have to say.

Still confused about Instagram bots, and how real, hands-on engagement can help your brand succeed on Instagram? Give us a shout, we're happy to tell you all you need to know.


 

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