The Time to Be Human is Now

We’ve all seen it. The automated bot messages. Twitter accounts that are completely on autopilot. Email automation that makes us simultaneously cringe and want to punch a robot in the face (not recommended, I don’t think you’ll win that battle).

The world is becoming more and more automated, and people crave real human interaction more and more. But not just any human interaction. We need genuine, trustworthy, relationship-building humanity. The recent results of Edelman’s Trust Barometer study shows that we are severely lacking in this right now, across the board. It’s time to act. It’s time to connect. It’s time to be more human!

But being human takes time. It takes patience. And many marketers are strapped, needing to make results happen. In this webinar for MarketingProfs, I explain a couple ways you can achieve a human voice at scale, to help you reach more people in an authentic way.

TL;DW (too long, didn’t watch)

I’ll sum up some of the points and provide time stamps in case you don’t have time for a full 40 minute webinar, because we’re all busy.

Incorporate Influencers

(6:50) There is a reason influencer marketing has become such a hot topic. Almost everyone has someone they follow that they trust and listen to. Find people who have the trust of the type of audience you want to reach, and work with them in a way that helps them provide value to their audience. In this segment, I provide some specific ways you can reach out to influencers, track your progress, and a B2B example of how we did it when I was at MarketingProfs.

Activate Advocates

(15:32) Chances are, you have people who are excited about your brand or your products. These could be longtime customers, early adopters, blog commenters, or even employees. Putting the power in their hands, and rewarding them in ways that are appropriate to their needs and wants, provides a human face to your marketing. In the Edelman Trust Barometer study mentioned above, 60% of people trust “people like me” most of all, and that tops the list of people they trust. Employees come in as the most trusted spokesperson on nearly every aspect of business. You need to make these people part of your marketing plans. I also provide a case study on how we did this for MarketingProfs.

Each segment ends with actionable takeaways you can start implementing right now to make your marketing more human, and how to approach influencers and advocates in a genuine way so they’re more willing to work with you.

Unplug the robots. Bring back humanity. Make social social again. We’ve got this.

What’s Trending for 2017? Look to Snapchat.

The beginning of the year is the time everyone starts reflecting less on the year past and more on what is to come, especially in the world of social media and marketing. If you’re curious what kind of things we can expect in the social media landscape, however, you need only look to the direction of one app: Snapchat.

I know, I know. You’ve heard a ton of hype around this app, and you may or may not have adopted it—especially with Instagram nipping at its heels and fighting feature-for-feature with Snapchat. But I’m not trying to convince you to hop on board. I’m simply pointing out some of the features this app has implemented that are steering the direction of what we can expect from social in 2017 and beyond.

A constantly changing landscape

If Snapchat has been anything this year, it has been ever-evolving. Adding some functions, taking others way, and even making some simply temporary. The constant iteration of facial recognition filters, and now augmented reality filters, keeps users on their toes wondering what is next. It is also a way to find out (via clamoring when they’re gone) which ones users are particularly attached to. This constant evolution keeps the app fresh and new, giving them plenty of press and making each update something to look forward to. Iteration like this, or simply keeping your company fresh and in the spotlight, will be a challenge brand marketers and app developers will need to be prepared for in 2017. This ain’t going away.

A convenient aspect of an ever-changing landscape is the ability to push the boundaries, sometimes to a weird place. Let me tell you, there have been some absurdly odd facial filters on Snapchat. And since they’re only there temporarily, it gives Snapchat the ability to experiment. One bonus to this weirdness though, is that it creates virality. People appalled or amused by some of the filters are more likely to screen capture and share on other social sites, leading to more popularity potential for Snapchat. In a sea of weird selfies, brands will need to figure out how to stand out, how to experiment, and ultimately how to stay relevant.

Augmented reality and interactive media

In Q4 of 2016, we saw Snapchat do some really ingenious things with AR and their filters. One that really stood out to me was the ability to turn your own face into an old school slide puzzle game (see below), with only 10 seconds to successfully solve it (since Snapchat videos are only 10 seconds long). Entire apps are created around a game like this to pass the time. Snapchat put it IN their app. How will brands create interactive experiences that make customers and prospects feel like they are part of the fun?

There was also a skiing game, reminiscent of the old Ski Free game on Windows computers (for those of you my age) that put your face on the skier. You had to tilt your phone to move the skier and avoid obstacles. You literally become the game, and could share it with your friends to find out if they could do better than you in 10 seconds. A messaging app became an interactive game with AR functionality. Whoa.

Chris Pratt mindblown gif from Guardians of the Galaxy

Bringing people together

While this isn’t necessarily a new thing, going from one-to-one chat, to one-to-many chat has taken off (live video anyone?). Snapchat does this in a few ways. The Snapchat Stories feature isn’t anything new (and has also been copied by Instagram), but the ability to do two-person filters and face swaps encourages you to take more than selfies—ussies, perhaps. A new feature Snapchat added this year is group chat for up to 15 people, which still disappears after 24 hours as has been their M.O. This builds friendship and community through a chat app while still staying true to itself. Want to stay top of mind in 2017? Be the hub for your community.

Snapchat holiday filters reindeer
Just my lil sister and I at holiday time, filtering around.

I read an interesting post claiming that Snapchat’s non-intuitive interface may actually work in its favor by encouraging collaborative learning. By actually learning how to use the app from another (possibly younger) person, you’re forming a relationship with them via the app. Now this claim hasn’t been substantiated by Snapchat, nor would it be. Some have claimed this would never work for another app, and it only works because Snapchat has buzz behind it already. I can agree with that. But it’s an interesting perspective to consider, and there is a lesson here. If you can find a way to encourage your community to help each other, with you being the connection point, you’ve just become vastly more valuable to both teacher and student.

Adapting to the way people use the product

Listening to your customers? Whoda thunk it? Snapchat has done a really good job of paying attention to which features and filters people use and love, and how people use the app. For example, people were often taking screen captures of their own content, so Snapchat added the ability to save to camera roll and in the cloud in a section called Memories. Then people wanted to be able to upload photos from their camera roll and edit them, so the functionality was added. Actually, there are even a special set of paintbrush filters specifically for images pulled from your camera roll, like below.

A look at Snapchat's paintbrush filter

As more companies become agile, listening to feedback and acting on it will be key to success. Snapchat exhibits this approach very well. While some companies will find an agile approach daunting due to bureaucracy and red tape, being able to quickly pivot and make changes based on customer feedback can be another key to success in 2017.

So, what do you think? How will these shape up in 2017? Where do you stand? Are you already on Snapchat, and if so, what is your favorite newer feature? Tell me in the comments. Also, feel free to follow me by snapping a photo of my code below.

Robzie81 on Snapchat

Why vanilla is the worst flavor of marketing

I have a friend who recently wrote a blog post for the agency she works for. It was a great post: well written, included graphics she made herself, was helpful and offered takeaways, and had a title just interesting enough to garner clicks without being click bait. Then, the CEO had her take it down. “It might give the wrong impression.” (It didn’t.)

Vanilla is the worst flavor of marketing-title image

Vanilla is the worst flavor of marketing

Maybe you love vanilla ice cream, or vanilla pudding, but no one likes vanilla content. To make an impact among the overly crowded digital marketing space, you need to do something to stand out. You have to take a position. You must offer helpful information while not turning your content into a snooze-fest lecture. With the concept of Content Shock looming over all of us marketers, you have to write something worth reading.

Maybe try chocolate instead

Embrace a deep, rich, and possibly darker side of content. Piss someone off, start an argument, take a stand. But be willing to back up your argument with informed points and a reasoned point-of-view. Don’t just troll the world. In Jay Baer’s “Jay Today” video series, he goes on some pretty serious rants—calling marketing and service mediocrity where he sees it. Some people may disagree with him on some points, and that’s ok. His definitive, and sometimes angry, perspective is visceral and real. People remember it and share it if they relate to it. Do you have a viewpoint in opposition to the status quo? Talk about it! I did in this guest post, and things got pretty hairy, but I stood by my points and even helped some people in the process.

Vanilla marketing click to tweet image
Click the image to share this post

Don’t forget the savory bits

My choice would be salted caramel, but you do you. Ahem, I digress. Give people definitive takeaways and sharable tidbits in your content that they just can’t help but share with their friends and followers. For example, provide a click-to-tweet takeaway image (like above) that makes sharing those points seamless (something else Jay Baer does really well with his Social Pros podcasts). Try putting some key takeaways in bullet points to visually sum up what the reader should get out of a post. Before you hit publish, seriously ask yourself, “What exactly will someone reading this post/article/blog get out of it?” If the answer isn’t clear, fix it.

What’s better than regular ice cream? A sundae.

Don’t be afraid to mix up your content. Slap on some toppings, mix up some flavors, and create a tantalizing piece of content people can’t help but share. Here are some examples of how you can incorporate different media to see what resonates with different audiences.

  • Embed a slideshare in a blog post to reinforce the points you’re making.
  • Record a video clip to break down a complicated concept rather than writing a long-form post.
  • Try embedding tweets surrounding a hot topic you’re discussing to show its relevancy and highlight important points-of-view.

Your content has to have some character, something uniquely you. There are likely other posts in the world on the same topic you’re writing about, so what makes yours different?

Admit it, you totally want some ice cream now, don’t you? Sorry about that.

Now go get your social on!

Building Relationships and Networking: It works.

Building relationships with people and taking the opportunity to network without expectation of return can lead to huge things.

Building Relationships and Networking Works

by Rob Zaleski
Originally published on LinkedIn

Let me tell you a story. A story about how simply building relationships with people and taking the opportunity to network without expectation of return can lead to huge things.

It all started with Mark Schaefer’s blog, Businesses {grow}. As an avid blog reader, I did what most people do: I’d leave my commentary on the blog and add feedback on other people’s comments, share the posts when I felt it appropriate, and tried to be part of the blogging community (as a blogger myself). In February 2013, Mark ran an email contest surrounding his upcoming book release with Stanford Smith, Born to Blog. These two authors were among my favorite bloggers, so I felt compelled to at least try and win the book. I sent the email laying out why I’d love a free copy of the book, and shared my interest in the topic.

To my surprise, I received a personal response from Mark that very day. This led to an exchange in which we ended up discussing SXSW, because I live in Austin and SXSW was just around the corner, and that perhaps we’d run into each other while he was in town. I figured the exchange would end there.

About a week later, again to my surprise, I received another email from Mark, inviting me to join him and a group of friends and visitors for dinner and drinks while he was in town for SXSW. After completely geeking out for a few minutes, I responded that I’d love to meet them.

When I got to the restaurant later that week, I met Mark in person for the first time, as well as Stephanie Wonderlin and Kerry O’Shea Gorgone, among others. We had a blast, and it was an interesting night full of marketing and social media talk. We all started following each other on all the important social sites (as you do), and went our separate ways. I figured it would be a one time thing and that would be that, but I was thrilled to have taken Mark up on his offer.

Mark W. Schaefer at SXSW
I was obviously pumped to meet this guy.

I kept up with everyone online because I genuinely enjoyed talking to them, and great conversations continued throughout the year (you should check out Stephanie’s GoPro capture of her wedding). Now, fast forward to the next year; Mark announces that he’ll be speaking at SXSW 2014 on the topic that had recently become very hot: Content Shock. I congratulated him and told him he’d have to let me know how the talk went, as I couldn’t afford a SXSW ticket this year. Being the generous guy he is, Mark reached out to me via email to let me know that he received a free day pass as a speaker, and asked if I’d like to use it so I could attend his talk. Who could say no to such an offer? I attended, and the talk was fascinating. If you haven’t seen Mark speak, I highly recommend it.

Being a fellow marketing professional and friend of Mark’s, Kerry O’Shea Gorgone was there too. Afterward, we got to talking, and Kerry invited me to hang out with her and a few others as they hit up some other discussions and the trade show floor. I originally planned to hit a bunch of other separate talks alone, but I decided to forego my initial plan and hang out with some cool kids instead. I had a complete blast, and was able to meet even more people because of that decision. Again, I figured it would end there (I still wasn’t getting the hint).

A few weeks later, I received a Facebook message from Kerry. She told me that a position had opened up at MarketingProfs (where she does the Marketing Smarts podcast and Professional Development seminars) and that she immediately thought of me for it. She asked me if I’d like her to put me in contact with the proper person. As a fan of MarketingProfs and their vast resources for content marketers and social media managers, I knew that simply interviewing with the people there would be a huge networking opportunity (I wasn’t actively looking for a new job at all), so I took the chance and said yes. What followed was the most fun series of interviews I’ve ever had, including a fantastic conversation with Ann Handley. Being that MarketingProfs has always been an information source I’ve personally gone to as a Content Marketer, the entire time I figured they would never hire me. Surely, they wouldn’t hire me. Maybe they’ll hire me. They might just hire me. They offered me the position.

To sum it up, two years worth of making real connections with people turned into a huge opportunity. I wasn’t trying to get anything out of Mark or Kerry. I genuinely respected both of them and simply enjoyed (and continue to enjoy) having conversations with them, both personal and about marketing. So take those chances, utilize those opportunities to get to know people by being personable. At minimum, you’ll make great friends. At most, it may alter your course.

A Blogger not Blogging

Confused  Face

If you’re a blogger, I don’t have to tell you how difficult it can be to keep pumping out interesting and relevant content. I haven’t posted in a while. Partially, it’s because I’ve been swamped with a gazillion other things, and partially because I’m having an existential meltdown. These things happen, I suppose.

Whenever I work out, I listen to podcasts: Marketing Over Coffee, The Human Business Way, The Content Warfare Podcast, Social Media Marketing, and others. Sometimes, I have no idea what they’re talking about when they dive too deep into the true marketing and analytics side of social media marketing. I’m a people person. I love the people and social side of this digital stuff. The numbers and ROI and analytics are all things I’m struggling to pick up. Recently, there have been a slew of interviews with Seth Godin and C.C. Chapman, both promoting their respective books. These interviews have been inspiring, invigorating and terrifying…

Podcasts worth listening to
Some of my favorite podcasts from geniuses on the internets

Both of these guys are pretty into the human side of things. They also tout the mantra of “find what you love, and go make money doing it!” I love that. It’s brilliant. It’s obviously the key to happiness. Just one problem…what if you have no idea what you want to do with your life? How do you commit gung-ho to something when you have no idea what it is? This is the conundrum that I find myself in.

I write this blog. I feel I’m ok at it. I’m not terrible, but I’m no Mitch Joel or Chris Brogan and don’t believe I ever will be. I work in social media as a community manager. I’m pretty good at it. I write some content that gets engagement, and I love the interactions when it does happen. I’ve worked in retail and was pretty good at that, often loved by my customers. Nothing ever seems to fully click, however. I never feel like, “Yes. This is what I should be doing. This is that gratifying thing I’ve been searching for!” Now, I’ve never been fired from a job, so maybe I’m not experiencing Seth Godin’s idea of having to fail to succeed. How does one push oneself into new and dangerous territory, when you just don’t know where to start? This, readers (all, like, 8 of you), is the situation I find myself in. Any advice for a lost soul? If you made it to the end of this post, and my existentially grasping questions, thanks for hanging in there. I’ll get back to writing about social media soon.

Thanks for reading. Now go get your social on!

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