business, marketing, social media

Utilizing Paid Social Media

Social media has been a buzzword for quite some time now in the digital landscape, but paid social is a newer concept. Everyone wants to know what they should be doing on the social platforms, and which ones they should or shouldn’t be using. I like to distill it down.

There isn’t a wrong way to use social media. The bare minimum is definitely to have an account, and post with decent frequency across your channels. Obviously that isn’t enough, but it’s a start. If you have a good digital presence and post with regularity, but find yourself stuck from an engagement perspective, either in terms of raw numbers (likes, comments) or in your followers, it may be a good time to start looking at boosting your posts or initiating paid social media campaigns.

It is important to note that you don’t need to be struggling or even stagnating to use paid social media. You can think of it much like you think of any other campaign you may use; at its core it is advertising. Campaigns will look different on different platforms. Facebook gives you more opportunities to sponsor and boost posts, while Linkedin has a more robust ad campaign manager. Both give you all of the aforementioned options, however. Twitter also has all of these options, but is used mainly to sponsor and boost your posts or your account (from my understanding). As a disclaimer, my experience in paid social is from Linkedin and Facebook, not Twitter.

For a sponsored post, you may want to ask yourself some questions. What is it that you’re trying to promote? Is it something that people will be interested in and want to see? Are you solving a particular problem or posing a thought-provoking question? It’s important to consider how people will be interacting with your post, like sparking conversation and debate, or shedding light on a product offering. Another important facet: is it a one-off or a series? In other words, is what you’re saying a stand-alone post or could it be a string of posts? If it’s the latter an ad campaign may be more effective.

Ad campaigns follow more of an over-arching structure. You have a daily/weekly/monthly budget that you oversee, and pay less or more depending on how your target audience receives you. If the ads have a high click-through rate, you may be more open to opening up your budget, while low engagement may send you back to the drawing board to create more compelling content. At the very least, it should get you to re-consider where your prospects were missing you. Were they not relating to the message, or simply not seeing it? Maybe your target demo (for something like an event) is in a particular state, or people interested in a product could be in a specific industry, like engineering. You could refine this by targeting (at least on Linkedin) by job title or skillset.

It’s also important to note the differences in terms of word count when switching between platform and campaign. On Facebook and Linkedin, a sponsored post can be very lengthy. Meanwhile, a sponsored post on Twitter is still a slave to the (newly enlarged) 280 characters.

An ad campaign is even more limiting. On Linkedin, the headline for an ad campaign is 25 characters, while the description itself allots a whopping 75 characters. If you can say less and get your point across to draw people to a product or website, go for it. Otherwise I would stay away from an ad campaign, as the tiny logo and text requirements are too much to overcome if you have poor brand visibility and even poorer descriptive skills.

That said, you may be able to satisfy the word count without sacrificing, while displaying a clear messaging strategy that is suitable for 4 or 5 ads. Ads can be switched out or run against each other, as long as you have one campaign running, only one ad (the one performing the best at that time) will display.

Who knows if I’ve described your current (or potential) social media strategy, but hopefully you’ll be able to take a tidbit from here and apply it whenever you get the inkling to go the paid route.

business, marketing

Papa John’s and Crisis Management

The Papa John’s controversy won’t seem to die. The initial shock came when founder and CEO John Schnatter was found to have used a racial slur (it starts with n) on a racial sensitivity call. Immediately, the pizza giant went to work on distancing themselves from Schnatter.  They started by removing Papa John from all marketing materials and advertisements going forward. He was removed as CEO and resigned from his chairman position, although he remains on the board. Then the company took it a step further by terminating his office space at Papa John’s headquarters.


When all seemed said and done, Papa John fired back. His lawyers were quoted as saying he would not “go quietly into the night”. Papa John’s responded swiftly with a “poison pill” policy. Essentially, it would prevent Schnatter from gaining majority ownership of the company, as he currently owns 30%.

This post is a long time in the making. Sure, I’m busy and had a few days where I meant to post this. But the reality is, shit kept hitting the fan. When Schnatter was removed from advertisements and marketing materials, or no longer the public face of the company, I thought that would be it. Then the office was taken away. Then the lawyers and Papa John had their say. Then the poison pill. Each step in the process I thought would be the last we’d hear publicly from Papa John’s for a while, but the hits kept coming.

Crisis communications is tricky these days. Today, it seems as though you can never punish an individual, an organization, or anything too much. The public will always lash out at your decision (or lack thereof) and you’ll really never get hit with negative PR for going overboard in your ruling. We are a society that loves to build up and break successful people down, which has only been exacerbated by the proliferation of social media. But I still have to believe there is a better way to handle such matters. And no, I’m not making light of the word Schnatter used. He deserved to have something happen to him, and Papa John’s had to act or be deemed a company that condones racism.

To me, once Schnatter was no longer the public face of the company he founded, and he resigned as chairman, I think the public was ready to move on. Sue me, but I no longer cared about the Papa John’s ordeal. Then I would arrive at my desk the next morning to find on social media that it wasn’t over. Each day, more news. When Schnatter was booted out of the office, that was a little far in my opinion. He was already going to be in the background from here on out, both publicly and from a tactical standpoint. However, I wasn’t bent out of shape about it. Don’t want to deal with TV crews camped outside your headquarters? That’s fine. But then the “poison pill” came into effect and the controversy went from another media maelstrom to an all-out war.

Regardless of your view on office politics, this is the part that you could keep private. Alerting the media that you are intent on doing everything in your power to make sure your founder never becomes the majority owner again is a strong stance, and one that the company’s brand didn’t need, much less the shareholders. The stock plunged even further after this most recent announcement. Kicking out Schnatter entirely would’ve been controversial even in private, but not unprecedented.

At best, the latter stages of Papa John’s war against Schnatter presents itself as protecting their interests. At worst, it looks like a knee-jerk reaction to please the public. My problem with this tendency to do the latter is that it is disingenuous and underscores the reason for the initial punishment. Think of it this way. You miss a friend or family member’s birthday party that you didn’t really want to attend anyway. Instead of allowing them to vent to you, you cut them off. “Oh my god, I’m so stupid. I’m the worst person in the world. I can’t believe how terrible I feel.” You keep spewing the sorry spiel, and effectively tire them out by relentlessly reminding them that you have a conscience, and not so subtly telling them to take it easy on you. They respond in kind, probably by doing just that; still trying to let you have it a little, but going decidedly easier on you than they would’ve had you said nothing at all.

I understand the rationale for these efforts. We will do anything we can to avoid being a punchline in 2018. It has become routine for major companies to be in the headlines for the wrong reasons, and often times the brand can take a bigger hit than any individual. In a case such as Papa John’s, where the brand and the person are literally intertwined, it is integral to do more than put mere “distance” between you and the face of your company.

However, I think the most underrated part of all of this is something Papa John’s and many others have totally missed the boat on in recent missteps. Don’t be afraid to disappear. If Papa John’s had nipped the Schnatter thing with all of its fireworks from the get-go, the story would’ve lasted the typical three days to a full business week. It really would’ve been old news. The public would’ve forgotten about it, and no one would be blasting the pizza joint or Schnatter at this point. But they refused to let the story die by insisting on controlling the message, which you can never do in an age where everyone has a megaphone.

A few weeks, maybe a month could go by, then Papa John’s could make a come-back. Maybe something along the lines of the Domino’s campaign a few years back where they basically told everyone that they know their pizza sucks so they made it better. If they chose to go this route, it would at least give the perception that they went back to the drawing board and did some honest introspection. They could claim to be a changed company, minus the dead weight and racism (Schnatter) while using it as momentum in a last-ditch effort to reclaim their pizza glory over market leaders Domino’s and Pizza Hut. Papa John’s lost their exclusive NFL contract to the latter shortly after the season ended.

All of this is a long way of saying, less really can be more, especially in crisis communications. Take some time, formulate your message and stick with it. You don’t have to beat your company up, the public will do that for you. The only problem with companies is that, like people, we always overestimate how much others think about us, and underestimate how short people’s attention spans are.

business, guidance, marketing, self-help

How To Market Yourself

This is something I am still trying to perfect, and will be the first one to tell you I am nowhere near where I want to be. Regardless of your career, it can feel impossible at times to position yourself as a thought leader or expert in a particular area. Choose too small or segmented of a niche, and you run the risk of hurting future job prospects or pigeonholing yourself down a specific path. Either way, anyone will tell you it’s a slippery slope and there is no “right” way to market yourself.

I will try to give you a few “rules to live by.”

  1. Do some exercises. A Venn diagram never hurt anybody. Find the intersection of what you like, what you are good at and what people will conceivably pay you for. Anything in there is your sweet spot and should be further considered.
  2. What do you want to be known for? — It doesn’t matter what your interests are or what you like to do. More importantly think in the mind of your audience, or as Stephen King would say, your “ideal reader”. Who is your target demo and what do they like? What content do they want to see and what are the hot button issues they want to hear your voice on?
  3. What are your goals? This may seem repetitive, but if your goals aren’t in line with who you want to become, you may have to go back to the drawing board. For example, if you were to set up a site to help yourself stand out and gain some visibility in a very crowded field like marketing where it is very difficult to separate yourself (me), you’d better want a career in marketing and have your goals reflect that (like becoming a consultant, director/VP of marketing, etc).
  4. What is success to you? Another vital tidbit to consider. Success looks very different from person to person. Success could be positioning yourself as an expert for a better job or opportunity, or becoming fully self-employed and a true entrepreneur. Even in the same industry these sites, social media pages, ads (whatever you’re working with) should look very distinct from one another.
  5. Where do you want people to find you? You can put out the best content with the perfectly curated message, only for it to fall on deaf ears. First, make sure there is an interest for what you’re putting out there. Then (like point #1) figure out who you’re going after (and who you want coming to your site/page), then find out where those people live online. Is there a forum where they all discuss the latest trends and news in that industry? Become a regular commenter and ingratiate yourself to your community. Once you do that, you can eventually make them aware that you are into similar things and start sending qualified traffic your way. If it’s any good, they’ll be more likely to share.
  6. Know what to share and what not to. An “influencer”, wow I hate that word or someone with a “persona” is going to be expected to share far more of themselves and their personal struggles and experiences than someone who is just trying to raise their profile to be more attractive in a future job. Know the distinction. If you want to be the next Tony Robbins, have at it. Otherwise, treat your online persona as an online resume, and don’t post anything you wouldn’t want a future employer or client to see. Also, make sure you’re only posting/producing content that is relevant to your niche. You may love clean energy (so do I) but Exxon Mobil probably isn’t interested (if being an oil tycoon is what tickles your fancy).
  7. Find the right medium. For a Youtuber it’s pretty self-explanatory (Youtube), but for most everyone else it can be pretty tricky. For most companies Twitter and Linkedin should be used most heavily, followed by Facebook. Every rule has its’ exception, as an ice cream shop or pizza joint should absolutely be using Facebook more heavily. Finding the right medium also doesn’t have to be on social media. For some it will be over the phone or in person, which may be a bygone era, but we’re simply talking where you’re doing your promotion and casting a net to draw people in. Every person and every business have to have a website at the bare minimum for legitimacy’s sake. LinkedIn may be changing that, but if marketing yourself involves anyone giving you money, you will want the website. Also, in today’s increasingly digital age, having a website is basically like having an online portfolio.
  8. Knowing how often to post. This is also critical. A comedian or comedy troupe trying to get their start would want to post as much original content as possible on Youtube. Meanwhile, in a more professional setting, posting daily could make you look like a petulant child who demands attention. Your strategy needs a cadence. Should you post daily or weekly? This also depends on your “ideal reader” again. How often do they consume content and for how long in a session? Do as much of your own market research as you can. As for the cadence, even the comedian could benefit from a planned posting day or time. Once you start to build a following, people will want to know when to expect your content. Posting everyday at 5pm from the get-go would eliminate any potential hiccups and ensure you don’t get lost in the shuffle. If you give anyone a reason to forget you, they will.
  9. Putting it all together. Now that you know who you want to be, your audience and where to find them, how much to share, what mediums to use (and in what proportions) you’re ready to go.