Tuesday, August 16, 2016

How Instagram Stories are kicking Snapchat’s Butt

The new Instagram Stories feature hit the social media scene on August 2nd and has been making more of a splash than anyone expected. Instagram stories are photos or videos where you can add text that only appear for a period of 24 hours.

Among my own personal network, I’ve noticed a surprisingly consistent decline in Snapchat usage ever since Instagram stories launched. Gone are all the stories from my friends and family, stories of the few celebrities I follow are seem to be the skeletons of what remains.

This could also be attributed to the unfortunate timing of launching an anime inspired filter that many thought to be racist and caused multiple brands like Buffer to jump ship from Snapchat. This was the perfect moment for Instagram to creep up and steal the spotlight, while many users were already questioning Snapchat’s values. Although Snapchat removed the filter and made a statement ensuring it wouldn't be put back into rotation, the damage was already done and the opportunity created. 

Here’s how Instagram seized it:

  • Going after growth
One of the main reasons Instagram stories are successful is because they aren’t trying to covert current Snapchat users (even though they may successfully do just that), rather they are going after the ones who haven’t jumped on the Snap bandwagon yet. They aren’t trying to diminish or take over the app and it’s current following, but tackle it’s opportunity for growth. This TechCrunch article does a great job of explaining how they are using the “good enough” strategy, stating that "The real target for Instagram Stories, though, are all the people who've been curious about Snapchat's fun creation tools and format, but either tried and abandoned it, or wrote it off as just for teens or too much work to adopt"

  • One platform
Instagram stories offer the added benefit of being embedded right into Instagram, allowing you to have both features (short term stories and long term photo posting) in just one app. In a world where a new “it” app is popping up every day, and storage space on our cell phones is a constant struggle, this is huge. We already have so many apps to keep up with on a daily basis, adding stories to an app you’re already using anyways simplifies your life, and who would say no to some simplifying? Not me, that’s for sure!

Instagram CEO even openly admitted "They (Snapchat) deserve all the credit. This isn't about who invented something. This is about a format, and how you take it to a network and put your own spin on it."

  • The numbers
I’ve read multiple articles about how Instagram stories are booming, but I always like to test the theories for myself for multiple reasons: 

1) Many of the articles are based out of the US and don’t take into account a Canadian market, 


2) they usually use large companies as examples for statistics and numbers, which isn’t overly pertinent or accurate when it comes to small business and/or personal branding.

On average, my Snapchat stories get between 20-40 views. I would attribute this to many factors, how many friends I have, time of day, content, etc. My very first Instagram story received over 90 views within the first few hours. I’ve been on Snapchat for months, but have been on Instagram for years. It only makes sense to take advantage of the platform you’ve invested more time into building your brand and audience on.

Facebook owned Instagram clearly had timing on their side, but also had strategy to back it up to ensure success.

Have you used Instagram stories yet? Which social media platform do you think will win the battle to share our stories?

Friday, May 27, 2016

Team Canada: A Nation of Success

Over the past several decades, Canadians have been able to come behind individual athletes to watch them achieve greatness. Though unable to compete themselves, the loyalty and devotion shown to them as fans has been a driving force in the success known as “Team Canada”. Team Canada’s social media is an avid portrayal of their willingness to make sport accessible and to demonstrate that anyone is capable of achieving greatness if they only believe. From inspiring graphics that feature athletes young and old alike, to articles that showcase Canada’s triumphs on the playing field, Team Canada is able to perfectly capture what it means to be Canadian. 
Due to the fact that Team Canada is nearly a cult phenomenon, they have a fairly large social media presence and therefore are able to gain a lot of traction with their posts and content sharing. The Team Canada Facebook page has 756,992 page likes, with post likes ranging from 24 to 50,000 depending on the content relevance. Twitter comes in with a close second at having 561 thousand followers, and Instagram with 84.5 thousand followers. Though not reaching over a million likes/followers on either page, Team Canada  also maintains several other forums, such as the Paralympic pages, the Canadian Olympic Team Foundation, and individual sport pages (Cycling or Hockey to name a few). Surprisingly however, they are able to interact with their followers on nearly every platform; whether it’s by adding to the conversation, addressing concerns or simply stating another point. They seem to keep their commentary relatable and often times add inspiring messages to satisfy their fans. By using the “Join the Olympic Club” slogan, they are able to make the Olympic team exclusive yet also widely attainable for anyone who wishes to participate. By highlighting the word ‘Club’, Team Canada has ensured that their fan base will feel included and apart of the selection process for every Olympic Games. In some ways, they encourage you to pretend to be an Olympian without actually having to be one.

Though the message that they are sharing online is relevant to their content, the one noticeable issue with their three social media platforms is that the same content is shared across the board. Their Instagram and Twitter are fairly similar with an image and a link being shown for both; the same image and link is later shared in full on the Facebook page. By having the same content across three platforms poses the risk of losing a follower base for each one. If viewers see that the same content is being shared on all three platforms and they follow all three, they will most likely unfollow one or the other due to repetitive content – no one wants to see the same thing twice (or three times in this case). The upside to this however is that the content itself will get more views and more traction because it is being shared on multiple platforms; everyone has their chosen media source and therefore will prefer one over another. Instagram leverages graphics and images, such as one of their most recent campaigns, the 100 day countdown to Rio 2016. Everyday Team Canada showcases a moment in Olympic history achieved by a Canadian Athlete; they highlight up and coming Olympic athletes and give them an opportunity to say hello!
The use of these images on Instagram are clean and easy to understand, and basically begging to be shared and screenshotted for use on followers accounts. By having athletes as the mainstage of nearly all their posts, fans and young athletes alike can print out the images of their favourite athletes for inspiration. In some ways, this brings back a devoted follower base who rely on real time images of their favourite athletes to watch; the Team Canada page gets more hits and interaction if you have people returning for content based images and ideas. Take the #iceinourveins campaign for example; the use of new and veteran athletes has people returning to the site time after time to re-watch the magic of what enfolded in the Arctic. In fact, this video now has over 75,000 views on YouTube and thousands more across the platforms on which it has been shared. 

 The #iceinourveins campaign was an idea to demonstrate that Canadians no matter where we go, will take a piece of our northern pride with us. Even though we are travelling to Brazil, we will take the snow and ice with us to win Gold this summer. The video is a great portrayal of who we are as Canadians; individuals who can brave the cold to achieve their dreams however, it would have been interesting to see this version of what they did, shot down in Brazil. It could have been foreshadowing showing Team Canada arriving in a gust of cold air and swirling snow (embracing the stereotype) and emerging as victors in the hot summer sun. Instead of using the #iceinourveins by itself, you could introduce a second hashtag, #heatinourhearts – Team Canada is fired up for Gold!
Overall, Team Canada’s social media can be considered to be greatly successful. They help athletes find sponsors, motivation and help them realize their fan base. They do an excellent job of reaching out to their fan base and encouraging them to donate, connect and envision themselves as a part of the team; after all, the slogan “Join the Club” is used throughout every platform. Though the content that they share could be divided more equally between platforms, the message itself is for the fans and those fans seem to enjoy exactly what Team Canada is serving up.




Monday, March 28, 2016

How Do You Maintain Real Relationships From Behind a Screen?

In today’s day and age, most of our lives are spent behind a screen, whether it be a desktop, laptop, cellphone, tablet, or some kind of gaming device. So naturally this corresponds to our ever evolving work life. It’s almost impossible to work a job, let alone run a business, without using some type of electronic device. Therefore how do we not get lost behind the screens and lose the sense of actually talking to an individual? Here are some helpful tips that we’ve implemented to help maintain as much of a real life relationship with people through screens as possible.

1: Respond to e-mails and text messages as soon as possible
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how often people don’t check their e-mails regularly and lose clients over a lack of response. People like to feel valued, so make them a priority. Even if you do not have a response for them right away, shoot them a text or e-mail back letting them know that you see their questions/concerns and will get back to them as soon as you know more, or you’ll keep them updated as the details unfold. When people feel like they’re a priority in your life they’re more likely to give you more time to come back with the full answer when they know that they are not being ignored. When you show respect for their time, they’ll show you respect right back.

Challenge: Set the standard, commit to always responding to people’s emails within 24 hours and see how much of a difference this will make in their patience and attitude towards you and your business. If you want to take it one step further, turn on your read receipts and watch it keep you accountable that when you read their text message, you should respond right away, because they’ll know that you’ve seen it. 

2: Be professional, but personal

Now one of the worst things to do, especially when interacting with or looking for new clients, is to send them a message that looks like you just simply copy – pasted it and sent it out to everyone. People like to feel valued, so take the time to send them a personal message. You don't have to spill your personal life to them, but you also don't have to come across like you don’t have feelings. Find the happy medium, and read the message out loud to see how it comes across. After sending the initial message, it never hurts to observe how they respond to you. If they come back with a very professional message continue with that, but if they add some smiley faces, exclamation marks, etc. it doesn’t hurt to throw some in as well, so that you can become more of a real person to them. In the beginning it never hurts to lean more to the professional side, you can always tone it down a bit later on as the relationship grows.

Challenge:  Find a friend/colleague that can be honest with you and get their opinion on what you’re intending to send your client – at least the first few times. What could be normal to you, could come across pushy or annoying to others. A second opinion never hurts!

3: Get to know your clients

Now that all of our lives are constantly exposed online, we have all have done some social media stalking at some point in time.  "Stalking" or "creeping" might not be the best definition, but it doesn’t hurt to get to know your clients on a more personal level, especially if you plan on working with them for any long period of time. Find a way to get to know their likes, dislikes, if they have a family, if they like sports or music. Take the time to check them out on professional networks like LinkedIn, social platforms like Twitter, and even Google. People like to feel that you actually care and are taking an interest in them, they’ll be more likely to want to use your services in the future if they feel like they’ve built a relationship with you, so find a way to casually get to know them, ask about their week, and see where it goes from there.

Challenge: When adding a new contact in your phone, take some time as you get to know this person to write down a few things that you learn about them in the notes section of their contact information. Make a point to comment on last night’s hockey game, or ask about a recent concert they’ve been talking about. If they have kids, people love bragging about their kids, so ask about them and get interested. It may seem forced to you at first, but as your relationship grows you’ll become genuinely interested in how your client’s daughter’s cheer completion went and if she beat out last year’s nationals winners. 

4: Make time for face time.

As much as we all use our screen these days to do just about anything in our lives, it’s always good to make time for actual face to face time. Everyone’s schedules are so overloaded these days, but making time to meet over coffee, lunch or even drinks (depending on the type of meeting it is) can make all the difference. People appreciate being able to put a face to a name, and making an effort to do so can greatly increase your chance of obtaining and maintaining clients throughout your career. If you are working with clients that do not live close to you, set up a time to Facetime or Skype them. As I’ve mentioned throughout this post, people appreciate being valued and the fact that you’re willing to set aside undivided time for someone will mean a lot to them, and boost their confidence in you. 

Challenge: Make a point to meet with or plan face to face screen time with each of your clients, at least once, to show that they are a priority to you, and see your business flourish! It can be a bit nerve-wracking at first, but the more you do it, the more natural it will become.

I hope this has started your mind rolling and thinking about different ways you can create a more personal relationship with your current and future clients. With how much we all use electronic devices, there are many ways that we can easily use them to communicate more effectively. This is just the tip of the iceberg to get you thinking, please feel free to post your comments and any more ideas you use to try and keep a personal relationship with your clients. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Canadian Companies that Rock Online

In order for a brand to be successful online, they must maintain a high level of interaction. Most would agree that the feeling you get when someone follows you or likes your post is pretty great. You may even think to yourself “Someone cares what I have to say, someone is connecting with my message, the sky is no longer the limit!” But then like any good thing, that high stops and you have no other response. Successful companies know that in order for them to remain relevant, they can’t just have likes and follows, but they need to take it a step further with comments, replies, and questions. These three ways of engaging lead to the most important word of all: interaction.

Personally, the only way I follow someone on Instagram or Twitter, is if their content interests me. Usually it will be scenic photos or fascinating places in the world – I have the travel bug (bad), or tips on how to live a healthy lifestyle or what’s new in the “trendy” world. There are three companies that I have taken an interest in over the years: Lululemon, Herschel and David’s Tea. All of these are iconic Canadian brands have been created and nurtured right here at home. To the average consumer, they are everyday items that have so perfectly placed themselves in your life that you haven’t even noticed that they are all around you. From the best-selling black Lululemon legging that every girl owns (men too, I don’t discriminate), to the well-known brown leather diamond of Herschel, to the drink that you consume on a daily basis. But what really makes you return to the product again and again? How do they stay relevant in a world where new tea ideas are brought forwards every day and your average legging now comes in fifteen different styles and thirty new colours? We come back to that one word that makes any brand stay relevant: interaction.
David's Tea
David’s Tea has a great online presence considering all they do is sell tea. With their first store opening in Toronto in 2008, they have taken the tea world by storm. Similar to Starbucks with their iconic white cup (red for the holidays of course), David’s Tea created a turquoise version with their name stamped beautifully across the side. They have over 100 different flavours ranging from “Cold 911” to “Egyptian Chamomile”. This is where their social media mastery comes in to play. Due to the fact that they have so many teas and no one wants to scroll through dozens of pages online, David’s Tea releases their weekly tea menu to their various social platforms. They share it to Facebook where their 228,751 thousand followers can like and comment, and they share it to Twitter where their 77.2 thousand followers can re-tweet and engage in conversation with a David’s Tea professional. 
Now back to my word of the day, David’s Tea does a great job of interacting with their Twitter followers. If you go onto their page you will see David’s Tea liking and commenting on everything! From answering questions that concerned consumers have, to engaging in debates on which tea is better. This is what makes them stand out from other brands. Shoppers will continue to buy their tea if they feel like they are being appreciated. This goes for Facebook as well. By not posting as many lifestyle pictures to Twitter and instead posting them on Facebook, they are encouraging consumers to like and follow both Twitter and Facebook. This creates a wider platform to spread their message. David’s Tea has such excellent graphics that they even started making phone backgrounds for the real “tea lovers” out there!


Now Herschel is a brand which in some ways, does the complete opposite then that of David’s Tea. They have more followers on Facebook then “DT” does – 396,335 thousand, and have 736 thousand followers on Instagram. Unlike David’s Tea where they comment on everyone who tweets or mentions them, Herschel doesn’t follow a single person back on Instagram, yet they have a higher like ratio. So what makes them so special? They clearly disregarded my word of the day, so how is their social media presence so great? Lifestyle. The trend with today’s generation is to get outside and take pictures of all the amazing places that you have been. Whether it be hiking the Mohave Desert, climbing a mountain in the Rockies, or exploring caves in Oregon, Herschel will be with you every step of the way. The pictures they post on Instagram are defined by the term “Wanderlust”. It makes consumers want to be there and want to have that backpack with them. Though they aren’t interacting with the consumer, they are catering to what every young adult wants most in the world right now. 

They are a fueling a desire for adventure and by continuing to post content like this, people will buy their product because of what it represents. Their social media presence will continue to grow based on the fact that individuals like having gorgeous backgrounds and photos of unique places on their phone. I for one take no shame in admitting that that’s why I follow them. The videos that they post on Facebook are engaging and easy to watch because they look good with no sound. You can sit at your desk at work or in class and watch Herschel take you around the world. This is why they are succeeding in the social media world. We are relying on them to take us to places where we haven’t been yet and to be honest, their backpacks are amazing quality.

With the mention of quality, I bring myself to the last brand in which we are discussing – Lululemon. Known for its spandex, leggings and Yoga attire, they has an impressive 814 thousand followers on Twitter and an even more impressive 1.2 million followers on Instagram. Lululemon was the one who really started the legging craze. Before them there wasn’t really a need for black spandex to live your life in and now there is. With some tweaks to their social media they have maintained a steady and growing consumer base. After what was dubbed the “PR nightmare of 2013” by their then founder Chip Wilson, Lululemon switched up their social media strategy. They were being accused of catering to a specific lifestyle; one that was meant for thin athletes who used their product daily. Their social media was all about showing a high performance vision and this is what cost them an estimated $45 million in sales. I scrolled back on their Instagram about two years. I saw pictures of Olympians and people do insane weights and gym regimens – definitely not the relaxed style they promote now. Flash-forward two years, its all about Yoga, being happy with yourself, interesting places to do Yoga in your “Lulus” (again feeding that “Wanderlust”) and new lifestyle things for you to try.
With regards to interaction, no one does it like Lululemon. I have mentioned them in four tweets now at different times, each in a different context. They have either liked my tweet or have commented and continued a conversation for two or three tweets. For a company of their magnitude and with the amount of followers they have, it’s impressive the amount of dedication that they have shown to their media. For them interaction with their customers is key. Whether it ‘s by liking a post or sharing content that can benefit the individual, Lululemon is maintaining their client base because they show that they appreciate their customers. 

At the end of the day it really is about interaction. Each of these brands have shown in one way or another that they understand the trends of today – it’s the only way a brand can be successful. With so many relying on social media these days, it's crucial for Canadian brands to take their piece of the pie. If the consumers don’t agree with what they post social media wise, then the brand will suffer. You have to adapt and in today's day and age it happens to be by interacting. 

What other Canadian companies do you know that have a great online presence?