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“Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” This slice of Jeff Bezos wisdom is likely not new to you. For marketers it naturally raises several more questions: What do they say when I’m not in the room? What do they like? What don’t they like? Who or what else do they talk about?

The answers to these questions reach beyond brand and even marketing. They provide insights that can inform an entire business strategy. Before the proliferation of social media, brands sought these insights through a variety of different tactics: surveys, focus-groups, shop-alongs. But social—unlike most communication channels— offers an equally, if not more effective solution.

Sprout’s own Justyn Howard explains the opportunity that lies ahead when brands turn to social listening to solve business problems:

“Social data represents the largest source of business intelligence that has ever existed. With billions of daily messages reflecting the candid thoughts and opinions of the world, in real-time, social listening can provide the answers to any question a business might be facing. From consumer trends, market research, product feedback, competitive intelligence and strategic direction – armed with the right tools, every business the opportunity to improve with social data. When every business has the data they need to improve, we all benefit.”

We all benefit because you can intimately understand your audience, helping to better build community and connection. A connection consumers crave; a connection that comes with a tangible business impact. According to our most recent Brands Get Real report, 76% of respondents expressed that they are more likely to buy from a brand they feel connected to than a competitor.

But simply listening isn’t enough. Putting insight into action is where brands truly capture the opportunity to better drive connection. Offered as a new Premium Add-on, Sprout’s Advanced Listening solution is fully integrated alongside the engagement, publishing and reporting tools you rely on everyday. Now you can use consumer and market insights to make more informed marketing and business decisions—and enact them all from one unified platform.

All the functionality you need, under one roof

Being integrated alongside industry leading publishing and engagement tools means you can quickly turn insight into action to capture identified opportunities. Sprout’s robust content planning tools, for example, are never more than a click away. As you and your team uncover inspiration for content, everyone can easily produce drafts and collaborate on post creation—or even take advantage of the moment and publish right away.

In addition, take your day-to-day brand monitoring a step further and turn it into brand analysis. As you start identify common threads in your Smart Inbox or are notified about interesting events with Message Spike Alerts, you can turn to your brand-related listening Topics to find trends, track sentiment and see a fully informed picture.

Advanced Listening also brings new channels into the fold with data from Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, Youtube, Tumblr, Blogs, Forums and more to make sure you can get a complete view of the social conversation around your desired topic.

Get to your “aha!” moments, fast

The power of social listening data and the benefits of an integrated solution are multiplied through accessible design. Sprout’s new Topic Builder has reimagined the traditionally cumbersome process of constructing queries. Building rich, low-noise queries is easy and doesn’t require you to be an expert in Boolean search. While building your query, the Topic Preview gives you a look at the data that will be included so you can make necessary adjustments to ensure you measure twice and cut once.

Seamless Topic building is only one part of making listening accessible. Analyzing and interpreting the data is as intuitive as one would expect from Sprout. Not only does the layout make it easy for the social team to highlight top content, spot trends and find influencers, but beautiful data visualizations and contextual tools, like the Word Cloud, are designed to be approachable for those not familiar with the social space. Your team’s time should be spent acting and analyzing, not implementing.

Flexible enough to answer the tough questions

Making the data accessible requires more than just intentional design. Performing research and data analysis to answer tough questions requires data be offered in a flexible format. Sprout’s listening tools are bursting with ways to slice and dice your data. Every chart is dynamic offering multiple ways to breakdown metrics or tailor the visualization with exactly what you need to see. Each table is sortable and can be customized to add, remove and rearrange data as needed.

In addition, the keyword search capability offers a “search engine for social”, making it easy to quickly dive into different focus areas within your brand, industry or competitive Topics. Quickly sorting through a large data set based on keywords, hashtags and users unlocks targeted analysis without the need to set up brand new queries. Data analysis has never been easier—track sentiment, identify emerging trends, calculate share of voice insights and benchmark content performance, campaign success and competitors.

Put social data in the spotlight

Coupled with with an intuitive layout and filtering capabilities, Advanced Listening gives social teams the channel coverage they need to perform deep dive analysis into their campaigns and audiences, product teams the insights required to develop new products or align existing products with consumer demand, and CMOs the competitive intelligence required to develop an empathetic, and effective strategy.

If you’re ready to start driving your strategy with listening insights, request a demo of Sprout Listening here.

This post Drive authentic connection at scale with a sophisticated listening solution originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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The Sprout agency team and I work with 1,000 agency partners and thousands of agency customers.

These social media and digital marketing agencies offer best-in-class services and consulting to their clients, big and small.

One in five provide full-service marketing to clients, and nearly 25% have a full-blown paid social media services offering to supplement the integrated marketing campaigns they execute on social. That, plus SEO, SEM, PR, email marketing, web development and more.*

It’s a lot.

Which is why we take a moment every year to recognize the excellence our agencies achieve with our Agency Partner Value Awards.

These awards echo a tradition we have at Sprout to celebrate those that achieve great things and move our company forward.

Our Partner Value Awards recognize agencies who Cultivate their clients’ success, have an Always Be Growing mentality, are MVPs in the #SproutPartner community and work hard to build amazing Social Media Campaigns.

The culmination of these awards is our Partner of the Year: the agency that embodies each and every one of the categories and helps us all move the industry forward.

We couldn’t be more excited to recognize this year’s Partner of the Year: Digital Natives Group.

 

 

Why?

Our Director of Marketing Strategy and founder of the Agency Partner Program, Tara Robertson puts it best:

“At Sprout Social, we care deeply about the success of our team and customers, and we look for that same type of dedication from our partners. Digital Natives Group is a perfect embodiment of these values, and this is why we are so excited to recognize it as our 2018 Agency Partner of the Year. From delivering world-class client services to creating innovative campaigns to continuing to push the agency community forward, the team at Digital Natives is a shining example of how great relationships are born from putting your team and clients first.”

A member of the partner program’s founding class, Digital Natives has consistently invested in its social offering and how it impacts clients’ bottom line.

An example of how the team puts clients first:

Thank you to the team at @ComcastNBCUCI for a year of storytelling around purpose and mission, work that inspired us to consider how we could improve the way we incorporate these values into the work we do.

— Digital Natives (@NativesGroup) January 18, 2019

And an example of how Digital Natives moves the industry forward:

 

Don’t miss this. Plus, I’m co-hosting a #SproutChat about fostering transparency, communication and collaboration with clients through an agile approach with friends like @BrookeSellas. Grab your spot. #SproutSessions https://t.co/v3y9vNEofD pic.twitter.com/peH3nSJUKP

— Jonathan Jacobs (@JonEJacobs) November 19, 2018

We’re proud to partner with Digital Natives Group to help organizations and brands connect with their audiences on social and deliver world-class services. Digital Natives is an example of how we can all double down on good strategy, great creative, powerful storytelling and true connection between people and the brands they love to make the social media industry just a little better for everyone.

“More than anything, this award is recognition for the clients whose incredible stories we’ve been able to tell in the past year. It’s their message and purpose that have allowed us to create the campaigns and partnerships that this award is intended to recognize,” said Jonathan Jacobs, Partner at Digital Natives Group.

Congrats to the Digital Natives team! We can’t wait to see what you achieve in 2019 and beyond.

Want to find out how you can join the Sprout agency partner community? Learn more and apply here.

*We asked our agency customers about their businesses, and they told us how they are pricing, packaging and evolving their offerings. If you want to see the full data report, reach out to us today.

This post Celebrating agency excellence: our 2018 Partner of the Year originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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“The bots are coming.”

This sort of line has been popular among marketers over the past couple of years.

But is that reality finally coming to fruition? At this point, are chatbots really here to stay?

Based on industry data and what we’ve seen firsthand at Sprout, the answer is a resounding “yes.”

While chatbots for marketing were once seen as uncharted territory, more and more brands are getting on board with bots.

Why, though?

As noted in our guide to 2019’s social media trends, the need for conversational commerce is growing.

With over half of consumers seeking customer service through social media, today’s social bots can address such concerns around-the-clock. Chatbots are projected to save businesses billions by 2022 by streamlining customer service and bot-based commerce.

And if you think that bots are too “cold” or impersonal for your customer-base, think again. In fact, 69% of consumers prefer communicating with chatbots because they offer speedy answers and solutions.

11 effective chatbot marketing examples

Let’s get real, though.

There’s a huge difference between a bot answering “yes” or “no” questions and a bot that provides meaningful experiences.

And so the positive impact of chatbots really hinges on the quality of a brand’s bot.

This begs the question: what makes a “good” chatbot, anyway?

Hey, we’re glad you asked!

We’ve put together a list of chatbot marketing examples that not only shows practical uses of bots in action but also highlights the diverse range of businesses rolling out bots. Check out how these brands are killin’ it with bots and what your business can learn from them.

1. Hello Fresh

Let’s start with Hello Fresh, one of our favorite chatbot marketing examples because it ticks all the boxes of what a bot should do.

For starters, their Messenger chatbot is self-aware.

No, not-self aware like the Terminator. Self-aware in the sense of the Hello Fresh immediately present their chatbot in a friendly way rather than trying to play off their bot as a customer service rep.

Listen: your customers are smart. They know when they’re talking to a bot and when they’re not. Hello Fresh manages to show off their brand voice and playfully introduce their bot from the word “go.”

Also, note that Hello Fresh provides a variety of prompts to help guide the conversation from point A to point B. The bot suggests questions, likely based on the most common questions their in-person reps receive.

As you’ll see with most of our chatbot marketing examples, most bots try to stay away from totally open-ended messages that could result in errors. Remember: bots should make for better user experience, not a more complicated one.

In addition to answering questions, the bot also has a built-in social selling component by offering bot-exclusive discount codes. Expect for these sorts of offers to become increasingly common as brands look for more incentives to encourage people to interact with their bots.

Note that their discount codes are bot-specific (FRESHBOT25 and BOOZYBOT), which makes it easier for the brand to track and assess the ROI of their bots.

2. Universal Studios

Universal Studios is unique among our chatbot marketing examples in the sense that they’re primarily selling an experience rather than a physical product.

Like Hello Fresh’s bot, Universal’s bot playfully acknowledges its powers and notes that users can fetch a flesh-and-blood rep at any time.

Beyond booking reservations and buying tickets, guests can rely on the Universal bot to provide practical information while at one of their parks. For example, the bot can tell you where the nearest restroom or restaurants are based on the last ride you went on.

Perhaps most notable is the bot’s ability to inform guests of ride wait times in real-time. Rather than rely on a third-party app, guests can see within Messenger whether they should expect long lines or adjust their plan of attack for what to ride next.

 

This sort of real-time information on demand is exactly what makes chatbots so valuable.

3. Plum

Plum is chatbot-exclusive service rather for Facebook Messenger than a business using a bot.

In other words, they are a bot.

What’s notable about Plum is their onboarding process. The conversation with Plum is entirely prompted, giving the customer a choice to sign-up or learn more information in smaller “chunks.”

This might not seem like great UX, but it’s actually one of the better chatbot marketing strategies out there.

How so? The interactivity of Plum’s bot certainly beats a boring wall of text or a traditional Q&A.

Also, the bot’s casual tone, emojis and conversational calls-to-action keep the reader naturally scrolling and tapping rather than feeling like they’re being sold to. This is a prime example of how to funnel a customer through a conversation to eventually lead them to take action.

4. Domino’s Pizza

With the rise of social selling and mobile shopping, brands are constantly scrambling for ways they can score more sales from their social channels.

And hey, chatbots can make it happen.

For example, the Domino’s chatbot allows users to customize and order pizzas just like they would online. The ability to save and repeat orders makes it a cinch to score your favorite pie without having to leave Facebook.

This is arguably one of the best chatbot marketing examples for highlighting how a bot can take something done via mobile and make it just as good (if not better) on social. Although digital ordering is nothing new, ordering through a chatbot requires no native downloads or sign-ups on an app.

5. Arsenal FC

As noted earlier, chatbots are fair game for businesses of all shapes and sizes.

That includes superstar sports teams.

English soccer powerhouse Arsenal FC shows us how bots can be used for breaking news and timely content delivery. For example, their bots send out score reports for users who can’t watch their matches in real-time.

The bot also provides users with upcoming fixtures, team line-ups and news articles. Arsenal’s bot drives home the fact that chatbots can be about so much more than customer service.

6. Patrón Tequila

Patrón’s chatbot manages to combine customer service and content delivery, all the while totally nailing their brand voice.

To kick things off, they introduce their “Bot Tenders” to serve up a variety of cocktail suggestions to users.

The bot then provides a recommendation based on your preferences. Looking for something to pair with bunch? Dinner? This is a fantastic example of effective marketing personalization in action.

 

But what’s truly noteworthy for Patrón among our other chatbot examples is how the brand aligns their bot with their user-generated content strategy.

After hooking you up with a recipe, the bot then invites you to share your creation on social with their #SimplyPerfect hashtag. This is a simple, low-hanging strategy to encourage more UGC among your satisfied customers.

7. Sephora

Sephora’s is easily one of the most documented and lauded chatbot marketing examples.

And yeah, there’s a reason for that.

The bot acts as a sort of digital concierge, allowing users to take a variety of actions without having to leave Messenger.

Want to browse products? Book an appointment? Try on makeup using augmented reality technology?

Yep, you can do all of that and then some. Sephora’s bot captures how brands can use various chatbot marketing strategies to create a compelling experience.

Also, Sephora illustrates how a digital chatbot can drive brick-and-mortar sales. For example, the bot is capable of letting you know where products and bookings are available based on your location.

8. Adobe

Here’s some food for thought: not all chatbots have to be complicated.

Adobe’s bot is relatively simple and straightforward but does exactly what it needs to do.

In short, the bot acts as a sort of knowledge base where users can ask questions and troubleshoot common product errors. Users are then guided toward a solution based on specific prompts.

Based on the users’ issue, the bot presents the option of speaking with a human or checking out a more detailed troubleshooting page on-site.

Brands shouldn’t pressure themselves into building mindblowing bots. If all you need are simple queries to serve your customers, you’re golden.

9. GoPro

GoPro’s is known for stunning visual content on social media and their chatbot doesn’t disappoint in that department.

To kick off the conversation, the bot introduces itself and suggests a few actions such as shopping for cameras.

The bot then asks some questions to help you find the ideal camera based on your needs.

Unlike any of our other chatbot marketing examples, GoPro goes the extra mile sprinkling .gifs and social video into throughout responses. This not only helps catch one’s eye during a conversation but serves as social proof to sell their products.

 

This combination of personalization and imagery provides is yet another example of bots creating compelling experiences for users.

10. Evernote

Evernote illustrates a simple way to use chatbots for marketing that smaller businesses can learn from.

Simply put, the bot acts as a sort of “one-pager” for customer concerns. The bot encourages people to contact their Twitter support team in addition to their community forms or email support.

While the experience is less elaborate, this quick overview highlights all of their key service touchpoints. Plus, it illustrates that marketers have to pick and choose their battle. Evernote successfully uses their chatbot to encourage their best form of service. As long as you’re getting customers what they need, your bot is doing its job.

11. Sprout Social

Last but not least, we think that our own chatbot is pretty rad!

We provide a prompt-heavy bot to provide customer service with exactly what they need.

Customer support? Account issues? Features and pricing plans? It’s all there and just a tap or two away.

 

 

And list most bots, we provide our customers with the option to speak directly to one of the lovely humans on our support team.

 

What’s much cooler than our own bot is Sprout’s chatbot builder, though.

Despite popular belief, you don’t need to be a technical wizard or programmer to get started with social bots. In fact, Sprout’s bot builder provides a variety of pre-built bot templates that make the process even easier.

Need a customer care bot? Lead bot? Shopping bot? It’s all there and then some.

Based on your business’ needs, you can put together actions and workflows that also show off your brand’s personality.

Whether it’s a few simple queries or something more complex, we can help you build an awesome experience for your customers.

Are you on board with chatbots for marketing?

Although chatbots might have been seen as little more than a novelty in the past, times are quickly changing.

More specifically, our customers are changing.

The speedy service offered by bots is exactly what people crave in the era of instant gratification. Rather than let customer concerns or potential sales fall by the wayside, social chatbots can pick up the slack and keep your business “open” around the clock.

If you want to learn more about what bots can do for your business, we definitely recommend you check out Sprout’s ultimate guide to chatbots.

And if you’re interested in building your own bot, watch the video below to see how Sprout can help.

How To Use Sprout Social's Chatbot Builder - YouTube

This post 11 chatbot marketing examples to boost your bot strategy originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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Brand storytelling on social media influences customers by increasing brand awareness, reach and attracting new followers. Your story is how your company will be remembered by customers.

Building a unique brand story on social media involves telling it through different social platforms. It can be a challenge, though, to figure out the best way to translate the brand story you’re familiar with inside your company to social media.

According to a survey by The Manifest and Smart Insights, 24% of social media marketers said missing a formal strategy is their top social media marketing challenge. Another 24% said building a community of followers is a top social media marketing challenge.

“Social media is an essential but complicated part of a business’s marketing strategy,” writes Kristen Herhold, senior content writer and marketer at Clutch.

The good news is that engagement doesn’t have to be a mystery. It can be achieved. When you tell your brand narrative on social media in a way that resonates with the right customers – the customers who will actually use your product and services – the follows, clicks, tweets, or likes will come.

Know your audience

Before you can talk to your customers on social media, you’ve got to understand who your audience is.

One way to understand your audience is to create customer personas. You can create these personas by collecting data about your customers through customer interviews, a social media platform, and Google Analytics.

By matching the needs, hopes, wants, and desires of your audience with your brand story, you can get customers to feel a real emotional connection with your brand.

Here are four examples of brands successfully engaging with their customers with brand storytelling.

Create resources

The resources you create, which relate to your brand, should be helpful and useful for your audience. For example, restaurant operation software Toast provides resources that are relevant for restaurant operators.

Another example of a B2B company that is producing great resources is customer identity company Signal. Here’s an example from a post on Twitter that talks about their 2019 Marketing Predictions eBook.

Signal is providing a valuable resource for digital marketers. Because it’s their own content, it shows that the company cares about their community and wants them to be successful, as well as demonstrating their expertise in the space.

Takeway: If you have blog articles, eBooks, or white paper landing pages, use those across your social media accounts. When writing up a post, remember you are talking to human beings — so be helpful and use personality in your posts.

Brand storytelling in action: Shinola

Brand storytelling has to start with a story.

Let’s take a look at the luxury goods brand Shinola, which emphasizes their presence manufacturing in Detroit and their attention to detail and quality. It’s a good example of how a brand uses storytelling and community as a basis for their company.

“We know there’s not just history in Detroit – there is a future,” Shinola’s website reads.

The story continues: “In a world that’s rushing, we stand for something different. We believe our lives can be crafted just like our products, with intention. It’s about making time for the things that make you happy. It’s about investing in the things that are important. It’s about working with people who care the same amount, because it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it.”

The company has a watch factory, a leather factory and a bicycle workshop in Detroit, and most recently opened a hotel there.

So how does Shinola translate their story to social media?

First of all, Shinola posted a grand opening video of their hotel on Instagram:

The video shows the hotel lighting up on the streets of Detroit. The hotel itself adds to their story. I know you might be thinking, So you’re saying I have to open a hotel to engage customers on social? No, not at all. Although, it certainly can’t hurt!

The good news is you don’t have to open a hotel to get customer engagement on social media. You just have to know how to tell your story. And a huge part of Shinola’s story is their presence in Detroit.

Takeaway: In what city is your business based and what do you stand for? Share stories about your community, your employees, and your products.

Use content from your community

Shinola also creates connection to its community with user generated content. When a customer purchases a watch from Shinola, the brand invites the customer to share the watch on social media with #MyShinola. There have been 12,400 posts with #MyShinola on Instagram alone.

Inviting your customers to be part of your brand is an excellent way to get them engaged on social media.

Intrepid Travel focuses on small group adventure travel. They post travel images from their past customers on Facebook to show prospective travelers how awesome a travel experience can be with Intrepid.

Takeaway: Use a hashtag that involves your customers. Or, feature your customers’ photos when they help tell the story of your brand.

Give back

The Tote Project gives 10 percent of their profits to Two Wings, a U.S. nonprofit dedicated to helping sex trafficking survivors. All of their bags are made in Calcutta by women who are survivors of trafficking or at risk of being forced into trafficking because of poverty. The owners of The Tote Project are therefore able to provide jobs for women who might not have any other options.

The Tote Project posts on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook are inspiring, detailed, and all relate back to their mission: To end trafficking through spreading awareness, ethical manufacturing, and giving back.

Takeaway: You don’t have to donate 10 percent of your profits to charity, but focusing on giving back to the community will get your audience’s attention — especially if you give back consistently.

Stand up for something you believe in

Like The Tote Project, brands need to take a stand for the causes and issues that are most meaningful to them — and to their audience.

This involves being authentic. When creating a social media marketing plan, make sure you are being you. Authenticity is what the brands I mentioned in this article have in common. According to Sprout’s #BrandsGetReal study, 66 percent of people said it’s “important” for brands to take a stand on current issues.

Takeway: Tie the storytelling of your social media campaign to something your brand and your audience believes in. This could be things like helping feed the homeless, helping women get out of poverty, or protecting the environment.

One last thing

Your brand’s story needs to be told in a way that involves your customers and your community to make people feel like they are part of your brand story and connected to your brand.

If you’ve got content, share it. If your company helps the community, make it known. Involve your customers in your brand.

Your brand’s story will engage customers. You just first need to define what that story is, then make sure your customers know what your story is, too.

This post How to engage customers on social with brand storytelling originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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Welcome to planning season!

For social marketers, this is the most exciting time of the year.

Oftentimes it’s the most stressful, too.

Because coming up with a social media marketing plan means making some big decisions well before the new year gets into full swing.

And after all, the social landscape took quite a few twists and turns in 2018.

We saw Facebook’s algorithm update rock the business world, for starters. Thanks to Facebook, social media at large received some serious mainstream attention in regard to consumer privacy and the crusade against “fake news.”

We also saw a whole slew of social ad types and fresh business features roll out for brands. From social selling to advanced analytics, social-savvy brands have more opportunities than ever to sell directly to their audience.

Oh, and we also saw a notable shift in social content marketing. As predicted, brands are going all-in on video and ephemeral content in lieu of more “traditional” posts.

Sounds like a lot to process, right? How can you possibly turn these trends into a concrete plan?

Don’t panic.

We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to coming up with your social media marketing plan for 2019 to help you start the new year strong. Regardless of your industry or audience, this approach to planning can work for you.

How to use this social media marketing plan

Throughout this guide, we’ll walk you through the social marketing planning process and how to adapt your business’ strategies to industry standards. This guide and attached editable planning worksheets will help you:

  • Set realistic social marketing goals to align with your business objectives
  • Determine how you will measure your social marketing efforts by the numbers
  • Integrate emerging trends and best practices into your 2019 social media marketing strategy
  • Plan out your best possible 2019 with editable planning worksheets to simplify the strategy-building process

Don’t make the mistake of diving into the new year without a concrete social media marketing plan. This guide covers everything you need from A to Z, serving as your go-to resource for your social strategy in 2019.

Click the button below to download our editable worksheets for your social strategy (just open in Apple Preview or Adobe to edit!).

Download Here

2019 goal setting and metrics to match

Here at Sprout, we’re all about metrics.

We believe that brands succeed when they take a goal-driven approach to social that’s rooted in data.

Before you obsess over trends and what content you’ll create in 2019, take a step back. Consider why your business has a social presence and the business goals you hope to achieve through social media. Understanding these goals and metrics will set you up for an actionable, measurable ROI.

Below are some common goals for businesses on social media alongside the metrics you can track to help you better reach those goals.

Increase brand awareness

According to Sprout’s 2018 Social Index, increasing brand awareness is the primary goal of 80% of business on social media. Raising that level of awareness means not just publishing content, but posting the types of content that engage and attract new followers.

Awareness metrics

Bear in mind that these metrics need to be measured from platform to platform. Sprout Social not only provides a big-picture overview of your content’s reach but also drills down to specific posts and social networks. For example, our Facebook impressions report can clue you in on whether or not your posts are actually getting in front of your audience.

The more time your business spends creating content and publishing it, your level of awareness should ideally tick upward. If not, it’s likely time to make a change.

Increase brand engagement

The beauty of social media is that businesses have a place where they can directly engage with customers without having to wait around.

Followers are capable of sounding off at any time. Customers are empowered to ask questions before making a purchase.

These touchpoints are valuable for marketers for both figuring out what their audience wants and providing stellar customer service. Typically, high levels of engagement with your brand and social content signal that your marketing strategy is on-point.

Engagement metrics

Each of these metrics represents an incredibly powerful currency for brands today. Likes, comments and shares effectively confirm that your content strategy is resonating with your audience.

Although some might see these data points as vanity metrics, it’s crucial to look at them in context. For example, a flurry of likes or comments on a specific post means that you’re capable of creating buzz with that type of content. Link clicks have the potential to clue you in on what products people are interested in, eventually leading them to buy from you.

Sprout’s reporting makes it a cinch to keep an eye on your engagement metrics.

But perhaps more important is the ability to do so in real-time. Via Sprout’s Smart Inbox, brands can monitor individual interactions and ensure that they respond in a timely manner. In a day-and-age where consumers expect timely replies, this feature is a game-changer for making sure no engagement goes unnoticed.

Drive website traffic

Based on current statistics, the average person is spending more and more of their time glued to social media versus traditional sites.

This challenge signals both the need for brands to market their sites to social users, but also tap into social media as a primary source of traffic versus organic or paid search. Through content marketing via social, brands can give followers a much-needed incentive to check out what their sites have to offer.

Web traffic metrics

These metrics can be found in Google Analytics. For example, the “Acquisition” tab can clue you in on which social networks are driving the most traffic and how those users are behaving once you land on-site.

Based on behavior highlighted by bounce rate and average session duration, businesses can see where their most engaged visitors are coming from. This can directly influence your social strategy as you spend more time driving traffic from the sources that make sense.

Generate new leads and grow revenue

Transforming social followers into long-term customers is the desired end-game for most marketers.

Making this happen means funneling your followers to your website where they can read content, check out products and ultimately convert.

Lead generation metrics

In addition to monitoring website traffic, brands should set specific conversion goals to better determine their social media ROI. Setting up those goals in Google Analytics can help you determine exactly what your social traffic is worth in terms of dollars and cents.

Although any top-of-funnel social traffic is a good sign for brands, the ability to measure the financial value of that traffic is crucial for accountability. By knowing what your social traffic is worth you can justify your time and money spent on social.

Speaking of which, the increased emphasis on paid social ads puts even more pressure on marketers to produce results. Paid performance reports through Sprout provide a crystal clear picture of ad performance including clicks, conversions and the overall cost of generating leads.

Objectives and key results

Seasoned marketers will always set clear objectives before planning or implementing a new social campaign. Objectives might vary depending on your industry or brand, though.

For example, some brands want to tailor their campaigns to increase customer retention, while others are focused on amplifying reach in the marketplace. Your objectives can be fairly broad but should be the guiding principle behind the rest of your campaign plan.

We recommend the Objective and Key Results (OKR) Method to identify broad objectives that are supplemented with specific, numbers-driven key results that align with our predetermined success metrics. These success metrics could reflect engagement metrics including shares, likes, and comments, or could focus on conversion tracking to determine the business value of shared content.

Here’s what a social marketing objective could look like for your brand:

Objective: Increase web traffic from social media in Q1 2019.

Key Result: Increase unique page visits by 10% in Q1; increase click-through rates on Facebook and Instagram posts between January and March 2019.

Your main objective above is to increase web traffic driven from social media. Success for this objective will be determined by the number of unique page visits and the click-through rates attributed to your selected social channels. Your key results should define what metrics you will analyze, what success looks like and how you will determine if your campaign has positively impacted overall business objectives.

Organic or paid content?

The organic content you share on social has a tremendous impact on SEO and the community-building process around your network.

However, organic reach is dwindling with increased noise and competition in the social space.

This means that any worthwhile social media marketing plan should include a hybrid paid and organic strategy. Supplementing organic content with paid ads is becoming increasingly common for up-and-coming businesses as well as established brands.

As you start planning for 2019, consider whether or not paid social will benefit your business. Let’s quickly dive into the difference between organic and paid social and how you can boost your organic efforts with a paid social strategy.

Organic social

Organic social content consists of using free tools provided by the social networks to share posts, respond to customers, and interact with your social community. All modern social networks provide native analytics and opportunities to engage followers at no cost.

Paid social

Your paid social strategy encompasses content you’re paying to display, including ads (text, image, video, carousel) or sponsored messages, all targeted to a specific group of social network users based on user profile.

While auditing your content from 2018, try to identify your most effective pieces.

For example, was there a specific blog post that performed better than others when you shared it on social? If so, would boosting that content with a paid advertisement make a significant impact on your lead generation or conversion rate?

Organic content is essential and your past archive of assets can still prove beneficial in the new year. Think of ways you can retarget or update your content to ensure that what you share on social is reaching your target market through the right channels — and don’t be afraid to invest (or reinvest) in your top-performing posts.

Coming up with a detailed social media marketing plan

After you’ve determined your objectives and key results and have considered the role of organic and paid campaigns, you can start building out a detailed social media marketing plan for your content.

This plan outlines your target audience, the type of content you will produce, where it will be shared and any resources or budget you need to implement the plan.

To help make the campaign planning a bit easier, we’ve constructed campaign planning worksheets (editable in Apple Preview or Adobe) for social marketers to use that align with where their customers are in each stage of the buyer’s journey.

<p class=”tc”><a class=”button” href=”https://media.sproutsocial.com/uploads/2018/12/Social-media-planning-worksheet-2019.pdf”>Download Here</a></p>

Top social media trends heading into 2019

Trends come and go. Social marketers probably know this better than most.

However, there are a number of trends and behaviors that have become staples of social media and industry best practices.

Understanding social trends will not only enable you to diversify your content but will keep your business competitive in the over-saturated social media environment.

Below is a quick list of emerging trends that you should consider as part of your social media marketing plan. These trends can provide some much-needed inspiration as you brainstorm your content for 2019.

Brands going all-in on social video

Perhaps the most pressing trend that shows no sign of slowing down is the rise of video content.

Whereas 2017 saw a boom of live video and video-centric Stories on Facebook and Instagram, long-form social video saw a sort of resurgence in 2018. Instagram’s announcement of IGTV signals that brands are expected to move beyond bite-sized video and step up their production value accordingly.

As highlighted in recent research by Cisco, video content is taking over the web at large. From casual streaming to live video and beyond, people are increasingly inclined to consume video versus a blog post or any other form of content. Facebook themselves notes that video receives the highest rate of engagement on their platform.

Interactivity and immediacy

Social media has shaped some very specific consumer expectations when it comes to customer service.

As noted in our guide to Twitter customer service, people see social media as their go-to channel to communicate with brands.

Why? Because customers expect timely updates and responses from brands rather than tedious back-and-forth. For example, Twitter provides the perfect avenue to keep customers in the loop about your business without having to worry about blasting an email.

This sort of interactivity and immediacy serves as proof that you’re looking to put your customers first. It’s also the same reason we’re seeing brands roll out robust chatbots which address customer concerns around-the-clock.

Think such bots are just a novelty? Think again.

Here’s some food for thought: 24-hour service is the number one benefit of chatbots according to consumers. The ability for brands to “be there” 24/7 could be the difference between your next deal and somebody bouncing to a competitor.

Emphasis on employee advocacy

As noted, the amount of noise and competition in the social space has reached an all-time high.

Standing out means having as many people as possible singing your brand’s praises, including your employees.

According to Bambu, promotional content is re-shared 24x more often when shared by employees versus brands by themselves.

Don’t just limit your content to your business account’s followers. Embracing employee advocacy opens your brand up to new audiences and provides your brand with a much-needed sense of authenticity. Having more human voices behind your brand immediately sets you apart from the competition, plus it expands your reach.

Empowering customers via user-generated content (UGC)

Speaking of advocacy, there’s arguably no better place to source social content than your own customers.

User-generated content receives more engagement than branded content and is likewise perceived to be more trustworthy. There’s a reason why brands today love to put their customers and their respective success stories on display.

Beyond serving as social proof, encouraging UGC makes it easier to fill out your own content calendar. Through branded hashtags and social listening, brands never have to wonder where their next post is coming from.

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If a strong visual strategy is key to your business, it’s likely that you’ve spent countless hours – or dollars – designing perfect image after perfect image. It’s no secret that creating high-quality content is time-consuming and costly, which means that the pressure is constantly on to maximize engagement, optimize distribution and deliver ROI with each image you share.

And when it comes to social, timing is of the essence. In addition to finding the right image, you have to effectively caption, hashtag, and target to the proper audiences. To save you some time when executing your visual strategy on Instagram and Pinterest, Sprout has invested in a variety of simple tools that will help you streamline content curation, increase reach on your posts – and most importantly, extend the life cycle of your posts.

Streamline content curation and publishing

When it comes to text-based content like blogs, many social teams tap into third-party content to capture the full breadth of their digital strategy. Curating and highlighting content from other notable publications or blogs is a reliable way to promote your brand, form partnerships with similar brands and deepen community trust.

Leveraging third-party content should also play a part in your visual strategy. That’s why we’ve made it really easy to curate and share third party content for Instagram and Pinterest in Sprout. With a simple workflow using Sprout’s Browser extension, you can quickly save Pins on Pinterest for content curation and publishing. And when gathering new content to feature on your Instagram profile, you can also make use of the browser extension to regram posts and choose to either save, schedule, or queue your post.

More visibility, more engagement

As a best practice, many brands add a long list of relevant hashtags to every Instagram post for more visibility, profile visits and audience growth. On Pinterest, the same practice also helps to surface more of your Pins in relevant searches and feeds when hashtags are included in the Pin description. When it comes to Instagram, some of the more sophisticated marketers have discovered that the best way to incorporate hashtags into posts is to add them as the first comment. By adding hashtags as a first comment instead of the caption, you avoid cluttering your message content and and keep your audience focused on your brand’s message.

When planning your social strategy, every minute saved is an opportunity to engage with your community, discover new content or optimize future marketing efforts. While crafting your Instagram content, save some time by planning or publishing the first comment for the additional hashtags directly in Sprout – without sacrificing a clean and polished caption.

Utilize the social snowball effect

Cross-promotion is a key component of any digital strategy because it enables brands to maintain a following across multiple platforms and networks. Tapping into each network’s unique strengths increases engagement for social posts. While Instagram lends itself to immediate engagement, Pinterest builds engagement over time.

By cross-posting published Instagram posts to Pinterest, you can surface your content across Pinterest’s discovery surfaces (homefeed, search and related Pins) over the coming weeks and months; fostering more engagement on your media and growing both your Pinterest and Instagram followers. When brands cross-promote, the content lifecycle extends beyond its publishing date; providing more opportunities for new audiences to view, engage or connect with your brand. Luckily, you can easily implement this technique in Sprout and cross-post your Instagram content to Pinterest directly from the Publishing Calendar.

Efficiently cross-promoting visual content on Pinterest to Instagram creates a positive snowball effect – driving better results on Instagram by tapping into the long-term nature of Pinterest content. If you have not yet done so, get started by claiming your brand’s account on Pinterest for improved content distribution and access to additional features or resources.

There’s a ton that you can do to enhance your visual strategy – curating, commenting and cross-promoting are just a few tricks that will help to kick you into high gear. If you are looking to get started with a more advanced visual strategy and leverage the power of Pinterest, you can learn more about our Pinterest integration here.

This post 3 ways to optimize your visual strategy with Instagram and Pinterest originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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With every year, new Twitter tools pop up and others die off. Here’s an updated list on which Twitter tools to keep in your marketing arsenal.

In mid–2018, Twitter made some changes to their API like removing an automatic timeline refresh and limiting some push notifications. This change affected all third-party apps and consequently, how some users interacted with the platform. To understand how APIs affect your work, review our guide here.

All of the tools below are built on top of Twitter’s API, which means that a change to it could affect how useful the tool is. This is something to consider when you’re looking to bring another Twitter tool into your workflow.

The following tools are meant to be used to supplement your current social media marketing management app or platform. These tools shine in features like audience segmentation and hashtag prompts. If you’re looking to supplement your reporting with additional Twitter analytics tools, we have a handy guide here.

BuzzSumo

A veteran on lists like these, BuzzSumo offers a variety of services to pair with your social media management platform. Some of their handiest tools are free to use with limits on the number of searches you can perform in a day. Want to know which blog posts are receiving high fives on a competitor’s website? Enter the URL into their content analyzer.

If you’re doing preliminary influencer research in a new industry, BuzzSumo offers a keyword search in Twitter bios to find the biggest influencers. Within each account, you receive details like average retweets, reply ratio and a list of links they’ve shared.

Another useful feature is its content discovery tool. With entered keywords, search results show what’s currently trending and on which networks. Having this tool in your kit puts you ahead of trending articles and topics.

Visit BuzzSumo
Good for: Content sourcing, influencer research, competitor research, and more
Price: Free features, free trial, paid plans starting at $79 per month

RiteTag

Part of the RiteKit family, RiteTag is designed for the hashtag lovers. If you’re at a loss on which Twitter hashtags are the best for your current Tweet, then RiteTag is for you.

With integrations in native Twitter, Chrome and management apps, RiteTag offers suggestions for the most engaging hashtags based on either a photo or text you use. For example, if you were about to Tweet an article on SEO, you would start typing “#SEO” and the related, most engaging hashtags appear.

The other useful feature of RiteTag is the ability to show which hashtag is trending right now and what the stats are. It mirrors Twitter’s own trending features but adds more information like what the exposure and unique Tweet counts per hour are.

For those who incorporate hashtag marketing into their Twitter publishing, RiteTag is a useful tool to increase your Tweet’s impressions and engagement numbers.

Visit RiteTag
Good for: Hashtag suggestions, monitoring trends
Price: Free trial, paid plans starting at $49 per year

SocialRank

SocialRank began as an audience segmentation tool and soon expanded into content analysis and market research. With a connected Twitter account, SocialRank takes a deep look into your account’s audience and their behavior. You can sort your audience by filters such as Most Valuable or Most Engaged. Other options like narrowing them down by location or bio keywords are also available. These search results can then be saved or exported to a Twitter List.

The segmentation tool is powerful for understanding your audience on a granular level and sorting them into useful advertising audiences.

Their content analysis tool provides insight on why a Tweet might’ve gone viral. Where in the timeline of the Tweet’s age did it start gaining traction? Influential accounts are tagged and now you’re armed with some new, useful knowledge for your next Tweet.

Visit SocialRank
Good for: Content analysis, audience segmentation, market research
Price: Upon request

Sprout Social

Sprout Social offers many tools in one for companies that are heavy Twitter users, plus it integrates with your other social networks. The Smart Inbox feature takes your brand’s Twitter mentions, new followers, Retweets and brand keywords and puts them all in one area. If you have a very active Twitter presence and multiple people on your team, the Inbox comes in handy. You can easily see if someone is working on a response, add quick reply templates for frequently asked questions and respond even when someone doesn’t mention you.

On the publishing side, Sprout’s ViralPost feature analyzes your Tweets’ past engagement performances and suggests optimal send times. Use the Queue feature for this to automatically schedule.

Finally, the analytics reports in Sprout give you competitor performance comparisons and account analyses, all filterable by a wide date range. There are no limits to report generation and you can easily export the data to as a csv or PDF file.

Try Sprout Social
Good for: Content publishing, teams, analytics, workflow management and more
Price: Free trial, paid plans starting at $99 per user per month

Trendsmap

The basic, free feature of Trendsmap gives you what’s trending around the world and a 7-day history of Twitter trends. These include topics, hashtags and users. The interactive map adjusts the trends as you move from country to country or zoom into a specific city. Clicking on a trending topic brings up a line graph on how the topic has performed in the last 7 days, along with the top Tweets.

Another free feature is account-level analysis for the top 1000 Twitter users. At the moment, Katy Perry is reigning. Exploring more tells you when she Tweets the most, what type of content she prefers and even her favorite emojis.

A paid plan includes useful features like adding an alert for your topics, extended Twitter history searches and visualization of any topic.

Trendsmap is best used for those who need to stay on top of what’s happening around the world. This includes accounts like journalists, news agencies or politicians.

Visit Trendsmap
Good for: Trend monitoring, account analysis
Price: Free features, free trial, paid plans starting at $25 per user per month

Tweriod

Tweriod is a free tool that analyzes up to 1,000 of your followers. The analysis report that’s generated looks at both your Tweets and your followers’ Tweets to determine when the best time to Tweet is for you.

While recommendations for best times to Tweet are based on an average across industries, a report like Tweriod would narrow down the times for your specific account.

It’s possible that your audience may be more engaged on the weekends than another account’s audience. Without looking at a report, you wouldn’t know.

Visit Tweriod
Good for: Audience behavior analysis
Price: Free features, one-off paid analysis starting at $5 per analysis, paid plans starting at $4 per month

ClickToTweet

ClickToTweet is a tool that allows you to create clickable links to embed within your blog posts. If you’ve read enough blog posts in the last few years, you’ve likely seen the embedded images. Grab the best, Tweet-able quotes from your blog posts and insert them in between paragraphs. All a reader has to do next is to click to Tweet out the quote.

Within your dashboard, you’ll find the click activity for each of the Tweets that you’ve generated codes for. A filter for date ranges is also available.

For content marketers, this feature ensures that your readers can Tweet easily and with the most quotable parts of the story that you control. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Visit ClickToTweet
Good for: Bloggers, content marketing
Price: Free with limits, paid plans starting at $4.97 per month

Daily 140

Daily 140 is an email that’s sent about the activity of accounts you track. Events like who they follow and what they favorite are automatically generated into the email for you.

This email can be used in a few different ways. You can watch what influencers are paying attention to, see who celebrities are following and track what your competitors are doing.

The automation is easy to understand and the emails are delivered in text format. You can change the accounts you follow at any time, as many times as you wish.

Visit Daily 140
Good for: Tracking accounts
Price: Free with 3 accounts, paid plans starting at $5 per month for up to 10 accounts

Conclusion

This is not an exhaustive list of Twitter tools. Look for Twitter tools that complement the current tools you have and are in line with your goals. For example, if your current tool is robust in monitoring and you want to increase your brand exposure, you’ll want to look into a tool that’s great for surfacing influencers.

Take full advantage of the free trials or similarly featured free services if you only want to dip your toes into a feature type. And lastly, keep in mind that the tools available are only because of what Twitter makes available through their API.

We’d love to hear what you enjoy using on Twitter @SproutSocial.

This post 8 Twitter tools to complement your social media marketing originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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Sprout Social, a leading provider of social media marketing, analytics and advocacy solutions for business, today announced $40.5 million in new funding from Goldman Sachs, New Enterprise Associates and led by Future Fund. This latest round of investment brings its total capital raised to $103.5 million and underscores Sprout’s momentum and foothold within the social media software space. New funds will be used to accelerate the company’s plans for deepened platform capabilities and increased international expansion.

“Social marketing and social data have become mission-critical to virtually all aspects of business. Sprout’s relentless focus on quality and customer success have made us the top customer-rated platform in every category and segment,” said Justyn Howard, CEO of Sprout. “In many ways, social is still in its infancy, and we’re fortunate to help so many great customers navigate this evolving set of challenges.”

Sprout has experienced sustained, rapid growth in recent years, acquiring social analytics firm Simply Measured and recently surpassing 25,000 customers and 500 employees around the globe. The funding will allow Sprout to further accelerate that growth with investments across the business and their expanding platform.

“The Sprout team has built a remarkable company, evidenced not only by their performance but their focus on culture, quality and their customers,” said Jason Kreuziger of the Merchant Banking Division at Goldman Sachs. “Since our initial investment in 2016, Sprout has continually demonstrated their ability to lead and transform this category through best-in-class technology, tremendous leadership and their customer-centered approach.”

“As social media’s impact on business and the world expands, we are committed to providing software that enables our customers to navigate this transformation, create real connections with their audience and drive their businesses forward.” said Howard.

ABOUT SPROUT SOCIAL

Sprout Social offers deep social media listening and analytics, social management, customer care, and advocacy solutions to more than 25,000 leading brands and agencies, including Evernote, adidas, West Elm and Edelman. Sprout’s suite of solutions supports every aspect of a cohesive social program and enables organizations of all sizes to extend their reach, amplify their brand and create the kind of real connection with their consumers that drives their businesses forward. Headquartered in Chicago, Sprout is a Twitter Official Partner, Facebook Marketing Partner, Pinterest Marketing Partner, Instagram Partner Program Member, LinkedIn Company Page Partner and Google+ Pages API Partner. Learn more at sproutsocial.com

This post Sprout Social Raises $40.5 Million Series-D Fundraising originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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The Facebook ads platform may have dominated the social advertising space at the onset, but marketers’ paid social strategies are continually diversifying across social networks—and with good reason. LinkedIn, for example, is expanding it’s share with broader access in its audience network and the unique opportunity to target specifically around the workplace. More networks in play, means the need for more experimentation, optimization and analysis.

However, generating cross-network insights can be time intensive, hard-to-digest and just plain tough. In fact it ranked as the second biggest challenge facing social marketers in our 2018 Index. There’s good news though! We are excited to announce that Sprout’s Cross-Network Paid Performance Report is here to help. By working campaign-level paid data from Facebook (including Messenger), Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter as well as their associated audience networks into one report, you’ll get that time back and a few major benefits.

A complete look at social ROI and spend

For many, just getting an accurate account of Cross-Network spend in one place will be a big win. Now in Sprout you can understand spend, conversions, impressions, cost-per metrics and more in one report without any additional work–and then easily aggregate and sort every campaign from each network by KPI.

Using the Cross-Network Report, you can quickly solve for your most valuable channel, generate a Cross-Network campaign overview or identify your best performing campaign to determine where your money will be most impactful. You might find, for example, that your CPV is twice as high for Facebook as LinkedIn. With this information in hand, your team can determine how to shift spend and have a true impact on ROI.

Agency life, simplified

Time-spent generating reports is an especially pronounced hurdle for agencies. If you have 12 different clients, all needing both monthly and campaign specific reporting, your team will likely spend a good bit of time generating reports. Instead of trying to cobble data together, using the Cross-Network report, you can easily accommodate all of the campaign data you need and quickly share it out with key stakeholders.

In Sprout, this workflow is made simple: All you have to do is click the campaigns you want included, select your timeframe, and choose the client with whom you’d like to share. Or download to PDF for inclusion in your summary deck. Now, you have more time to focus on valuable strategic decisions that will help to grow your clientbase.

Elegant, to-the point reporting

As mentioned earlier, aggregating data is only half the battle. If the data isn’t accessible to you and digestible for your stakeholders, then what’s the point? The Cross-Network Report is formatted with the same intuitive design you’ve likely come to expect from Sprout. Better yet, now that paid cross-network insights are under the same roof, as organic reporting and Listening, you can use the downloadable PDFs or screenshots to create an all-up campaign overview.

Let’s say for example, we at Sprout wanted to define the value of our #sproutchats. We could take data from Listening or the Twitter Keyword report to measure earned conversation, use the Group Report to track our owned posts promoting the event, and rely on the new Cross-Network Paid Report to tell us how the paid side of things faired.

What’s next

Ultimately, the Cross-Network Paid Performance Report ensures gathering cross-network data is easier and getting a complete look at your paid strategy becomes daily routine. We have even bigger ambitions for our paid analysis tools moving into 2019 including deeper data to help you better optimize and new channels so stay tuned for more updates to come. And if you’re interested in checking out our paid tools, reach out for a demo here.

This post Cross-network insights to drive your paid strategy originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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There are nearly 1 million franchise operations in the United States, employing about 9 million people. It’s a huge part of the US economy, raking in over $800 billion per year.

Add in the rise of tech and digital marketing, and with that much bank up for grabs, franchise social media is a revenue channel that can’t be overlooked.

What is a franchise?

For anyone unfamiliar with franchising, a franchise is a business that lends its name, logo, and full-on support to others who buy into the franchise and open their own location or branch.

For example, McDonald’s is a franchise corporation, and each McDonald’s location is owned by separate individuals who bought the franchise license. In exchange, McDonald’s corporate helps the new owners choose a business location, order supplies, and market the new location.

Franchisor: the owner of the corporation or umbrella business. In our example above, McDonalds corporate is the franchisor. The franchisor maintains certain bits of control over the franchise branches, like branding.

Franchisee: the owner of one of the locations under the umbrella corporation. The franchisee pays a one-time fee to the corporate owner, usually to cover the costs of onboarding and getting the new business set up (a new McDonalds location costs about $1 million). Then, they pay a percentage of their profits or revenue, depending on the arrangement, to the franchisor in exchange for their ongoing support and use of the brand.

Franchisor social media challenges

Franchises are complex structures, often involving hundreds of chains across the U.S. or globally. And, social media isn’t an easy job either, with multiple platforms and content schedules to manage. When you add in the different needs of franchisors and franchisees, challenges can frequently arise when trying to align social media goals between the two.

Common challenges franchisors face

The overarching problem for franchisors is control, or more specifically, determining what to control vs. what not to control. Too little control and you lose brand authority, too much control and you won’t attract customers specific to your different locations and branches.

Establishing social media guidelines and budget

This is the first step for a franchise looking to unify their brand’s voice while keeping each branch unique enough to draw local audiences.

The first step in establishing social guidelines is to establish a brand or voice. Your brand/voice won’t come overnight—in fact, it’ll evolve as your company grows. But, a great starting point (if you don’t have an established brand already) is to put together a mission statement.

Next, you’ll decide how you want to “sound” on social. Will your company use emojis and appeal to the millennial masses? Or, will you opt for a more professional tone? You may even consider some humor or sarcasm, like the Wendy’s franchise is popular for:

After you’ve got your mission and brand defined, you can focus on setting goals. You need to know specifically what you want to accomplish with social media. Here are a few questions you can answer to get a head start:

  • What segments and personas are you targeting? Marketing to millennials is much different than marketing to businesses. Marketing to women is different than marketing to men. Defining your audiences in detail will help you determine your strategy.
  • What types of content will you share? Will you share video and photo content? And if so, are you focused on product images, inspirational lifestyle content or other types of visuals? Will you share blog posts? Behind-the-scenes pics on Instagram that show off your company culture? Make a list of all the types of content you plan to share.
  • How often will you and your branches share each type of content? It’s important to be consistent. And, you need to establish how often each type of content should be shared. Learn more about content types here.
  • Who will manage social media for your team? This can vary depending on the size of your business. In some cases, each branch may have a corporate manager and someone responsible for social. For franchisors with fewer branches, there may be one social media manager at HQ that covers everything.
  • How will the different channels be set up? Will your franchisor social media username be YourCompany while your franchise locations are YourCompanyLocation? Consider what makes sense for your business and your audience’s expectations.
  • How will you measure results and optimize your efforts? It’s important to track your progress and make changes that increase engagement. The best way to do this is to put your social profiles into a management tool like Sprout.

Once you have answered these questions, you should be able to start piecing together a solid social media plan and social media brand guidelines for your company. You need to set goals and guidelines for your franchisees. Both your goals and your overall plan can inform one another. For example, you can consider how many times per day you’d like your franchises to post, and what your engagement goals are per post.

Calculating return on investment (ROI)

Anytime a business invests money into a software solution (like a social media management tool) or resources (like employees), they need to know what the returns of those expenses will be.

Calculating return from social media can be a challenge even when you’ve got just one, corporate brand to track. Throw multiple franchise locations into the mix, each with different social accounts, and it becomes a much bigger challenge.

Here are a few tricks for franchisors that’ll help track social media ROI for both corporate HQ and branches.

  1. Set tangible, reachable goals for social media. For example, you might want 1,000 new email subscribers this quarter. Or, you might want to direct 10,000 customers to your website from Instagram.
  2. Give individual social managers tactical goals. For example, instead of telling your locations’ social managers to get 1,000 new email subscribers, tell them to share your subscribe link in a certain number of posts per day.
  3. Measure your output. This one may seem obvious, but you need all of your social accounts in one platform so that you can monitor and measure progress from each account.

Check out our guide to learn more about calculating social media ROI.

Common challenges franchisees face

Franchisees have social media challenges just like their franchisors. Besides adhering to brand guidelines and meeting social media goals, franchisees need to stand out from the other branches—and stand out from competitors.

Standing out from competitors

Breaking through the noise is one of the biggest challenges for any brand on social media. When it comes to grabbing attention with your posts vs. the posts of your competitors, it’s best to keep an eye on the performance of your posts and use tools that give you an edge on what your users are looking for on social.

This is when it’s important to monitor not only your hashtags, but also brand keywords that your followers are using. For example, looking at our example ‘Sprout Coffee’ franchise, you might monitor Sprout Coffee mentions for both corporate and specific locations, like #SproutCoffee and #SproutCoffeeBrooklyn.

Differentiating from other franchise locations

How is your coffee shop going to differentiate from all the other coffee shops in your vicinity? And at the same time, differentiate from all the other locations in your franchise? This can get particularly challenging when a franchise is operating in a single region, such as one with locations that are all within New York City.

To stand out amongst branches, it’s best to get a sense for what the folks in your neighborhood prefer.

  • Monitor your social analytics to get a feel for what’s resonating with your particular following.
  • Use neighborhood hashtags instead of city hashtags to feature your specific branch if there are multiple branches in your city. If your franchise is nation-wide and limited to one per city, stand out in your city by using it in the hashtags instead. Check out this example of Burn Boot Camp in Davie, Florida using brand colors and style, but tagging for their specific audience and offering a location-specific coupon:
  • Use a tone appropriate for your customer base. For example, a Sprout Coffee location in New England is going to use a much different style than a Sprout Coffee in Brooklyn, whether it’s referencing local traditions, sports team or visuals connected to their neighborhood.
  • You can even use search engines to gather information on the demographics (average age, average income, etc.) of your specific location and use that to tailor your branch’s tone.
Limited bandwidth and staff

Small shops don’t have the same resources as big, corporate headquarters. So, franchisees may not have the time or money to devote themselves fully to social media. Plus, when resources are strapped, teams are small, and often don’t include someone with the skillset to crush it on social media.

To battle limited resources, consider:

  • Using an experienced freelancer to manage social media efforts. Just make sure that they’re working in a platform like Sprout under an account that you own. Data is invaluable. And you need to own that data should the freelancer not work out. You can find social media freelancers on sites like Upwork or by asking around for recommendations. It’s best to get someone with experience with your particular audience or market.
  • Managing your social media calendar with social media software. Sprout’s scheduler makes it easy for you to schedule your content well in advance. You can also use ViralPost to let Sprout identify the best posting times for your content.
Keeping social media cohesive between franchisees and franchisors

In addition to building out brand guidelines for social media and creating a plan with actionable goals, there are a few solutions that will ease the problem of aligning the corporate, umbrella brand with franchise locations.

Solution 1. Map umbrella goals and individual branch goals

The easiest way to maximize your social media engagement across corporate and branch locations is to create a plan for both parties.

The corporate plan should contain:
  • Brand guidelines: your corporate logo, colors and mission statement, as well as general style and tone guidelines (such as what types of humor are acceptable).
  • Overall goals: you might include an overall company KPI like total followers or total shares, and how much each location is expected to contribute to that goal (i.e. each team contributes 10%). You might even reward the best franchise.
  • Actionable goals: Make sure you set actionable goals that define your posting strategy like posting x times per day or sharing 3 articles per week.
The branch plans should contain:
  • Individual goals for the specific location: how many new followers they’re expected to generate, how many posts per day, which channels should they be active on, etc.
  • Regional best practices: check out what competitors in the area are doing. What’s working for them? Gathering specific info like top hashtags and special offers will help pinpoint a local strategy.

Check out this example of Dickey’s BBQ. The corporate account posts images and videos that are well branded and engaging while the franchises post about local events.

Solution 2. Create a publishing workflow

Social media is the perfect platform for telling a unique story. You can start small with one or two accounts where you set the tone, then scale out to include more locations as you grow or as you onboard current branches.

Use a social media management tool that has scheduling features to ease the burden of posting all day every day. These tools are scalable, too. This means you can start with one account such as the corporate account, and add users, like franchise locations, as you grow.

This saves a ton of time and resources, and so, as mentioned above, it will ease the burden on smaller franchises that don’t have the bandwidth or talent to manage social media. You can easily schedule posts across multiple accounts and channels with Sprout’s scheduling tool. Finally, workflows that include the option to require authorization on posts help maintain consistency in brand voice and help you avoid social media crises.

Solution 3. Measure and optimize your efforts

As cliche as it is to say at this point: You can’t improve what you don’t measure. So, you need to have both your corporate and franchise locations set up with social media analytics.

Plus, tagging and brand keywords can help organize your posts and find how people are reacting to them. You can use tagging to group posts by specific campaigns and traits, including by individual franchise locations vs. the national franchisor account.

A franchisor might want monthly or quarterly reports on the performance of each branch’s social media. Sprout provides highly readable reports that let you monitor your overall strategy and pinpoint any particular areas of improvement each branch could make. They can also be put together quickly, meaning that franchisees can keep on top of their social media performance with limited time.

Conclusion

Social media is no easy feat—and it’s especially not easy when you’re managing or overseeing many accounts in various locations.

Scheduling out your content calendar can ease the burden on bandwidth. With a plan and set goals that are aligned across all levels of your company, neither the franchise nor franchisees will be flying blind.

What are some of your favorite strategies for franchise social media?

This post Social media for franchise businesses originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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