Lead generation has become a key focal point for B2B enterprises looking to make the most out of their marketing efforts with measurable results.
While lead generation is an exercise measured with relative ease from a quantitative perspective, its ability to drive business results is largely dependent on the quality of the audience created. As such, companies are being forced to look beyond metrics to support their initiatives. For most businesses, regardless of the industry or products and services being offered, lead generation is a critical component of a successful sales and marketing strategy. But not every business understands the difference between lead generation and lead nurturing, and the importance of implementing both tactics into their overall sales process.
You can generate leads in every which way you choose but it’s no guarantee to increasing sales. You need to stay close with those leads, and nurture them until they’re ready to buy. You have to constantly remind you’re better than the competition.
Public Relations (PR) is a fundamental, nurturing element in the quest for quality leads because it offers reputational leverage and credibility that differentiate businesses from their competitors. From creating content for case studies and blogs, to testimonials and thought leadership pieces, these tactics not only serve as the key to differentiating factors in B2B decision-making but also help improve relationships – keeping you at top of mind with your clients and prospects.
By forming a strong relationship with each of your potential customers, and by nurturing that relationship through various forms of consistent communication through PR efforts, this allows you to deploy the tactics and techniques from your sales playbook to nudge them closer to a paying customer.
Build Reputation and Credibility
When it comes to generating qualified B2B leads, your company’s reputation is a huge deal for business prospects. After all, it is the face of the business. It takes time and effort to build a reputation, but if not managed properly, your company’s reputation can disintegrate quickly like a house of cards. So, take the time to analyze your current state of affairs – make it a point to read online reviews, search engine results, blogs and other websites related to your business. You also need to monitor your reputation closely. Have someone check out the different channels for information regarding your business; respond to negative reviews and complaints quickly; and always strive to improve the level of your customer service.
Be a Thought Leader
For a business to remain relevant in an ever-shifting business environment, it’s important to demonstrate expertise and foresight in the field. By regularly publishing content on platforms like blogs and through media outlets, businesses are able to critically differentiate themselves from the competition. Through social media platforms like LinkedIn, self-publishing blogs, articles and e-books, businesses can establish thought leadership within the industry, creating recognizable spokespersons with whom customers and partners can relate to. This way, you become the expert resource that everyone runs to. Yes, especially the media!
Create Compelling Content
In an over-saturated, highly competitive media market, it takes more than a press release to catch the eye of journalists. These days, some companies are doing away with press releases, opting instead to create their own content, such as informative articles on topics related to a company’s business, to engage their audiences, and hopefully create new business opportunities. These self-written pieces are uploaded to corporate websites and shared via social media channels, and can also be repurposed for sales brochures and other marketing collaterals. That is not to say press releases are obsolete – it’s just that they’ve evolved! The key to using press releases effectively is to focus them on newsworthy events that should be used where appropriate, and as part of a wider media strategy that includes extensive digital outreach.
Amplify and Glorify
Make sure that you get as much mileage from every mention as you can. Republish, link to and print news stories that include your company and post these on your website, marketing materials and on the various social media channels. Customer testimonials are a great way to fire up the grill! What can be more persuasive than customers talking about how your product or service helped their business? Talk to your best customers; ask them if they’re willing to say some nice things about your company or product. More than words, a video testimonial will make the message even more impactful!
Nurturing leads to a sale takes time. It is not done in a month or even half a year. It requires dedication, cooperation and lots of hard work. While many companies give up on customers by the second exposure, others have seen a great return on their investment through lead nurturing. It’s a simple but effective way to communicate with your customers and guide them through the purchasing cycle.
Posted by Irene Gomez, CIO, CorpMedia
Imagine a world without marketing. Brands would cease to exist, and the economy would probably collapse in no time. The world would be completely different.
Businesses today all speak marketing.
It’s all about developing brand awareness and utilizing different marketing channels to disseminate information to the public. With the advent of the Internet, digital marketing has shaped the marketing world greatly.
But real-time marketing is the new game changer.
What truly sets it apart from the rest is that it is opportunistic – marketers seize the opportunity to generate content that ties the brand to the latest trending topic of relevance, ensuring that it is not only pertinent, but felicitous too.
The tastes and preferences of consumers constantly change as well. The marketing industry is obsessed with the now, and consumers these days seek instant gratification, placing pressure on brands to be more forthcoming and transparent than they have ever been.
As real-time marketing continues to grow, brands are also keeping up with the trends by engaging the public with shareable, bite-sized content.
Leveraging the love for cheese fries amongst consumers, McDonald’s stepped up their French fries game with the launch of its Cheesy Loaded Fries just last December. Featuring its all-time favourite golden and crisp fries, topped with chicken bacon bits and drenched with nacho cheese and sour cream sauce, this limited edition side had garnered much hype.
But, alas, dissatisfaction overwhelmed fry lovers who flocked to various chain outlets with great anticipation for the Cheesy Loaded Fries, and when the dish did not resemble anything as advertised, they vented their cheese-deprived anger on the fast food chain’s Facebook page.
While McDonald’s expressed sincerity and was swift in responding to the complaints regarding the disparity between the advertised Cheesy Loaded Fries and its actual presentation, their efforts were evidently not adequate to satisfy cheesed off customers!
Oops. Shots fired.
Instead of Cheesy Loaded Fries, all they got was Fully Loaded Disappointment… perhaps, with a miserable drizzle of cheese?
In light of this big hoo-ha, KFC Singapore cleverly turned the tables around as they identified this situation as a marketing opportunity and jumped on it to produce a timely and relevant piece of content, gaining both acknowledgement and commendation from the public.
KFC simultaneously introduced its new, improved cheese fries as “the real deal” using the hashtag #KFCRealCheeseFries. Indeed, what a timely post to remind Singaporeans why they love KFC’s cheese fries!
Now that’s what you call real-time marketing.
Social media real-time marketing can make or break a brand. For KFC, it evidently made the brand, but it was clearly the contrary for McDonald’s. Another case in point: Cheerios.
When music legend Prince passed away in April 2016, Cheerios responded by tweeting a purple “Rest in peace” sign, replacing the dot above the letter ‘i’ with a cheerio, and tagging the tweet with the hashtag #prince.
What started out purely as an innocent condolence message over the loss of an iconic musical legend in Minnesota on the part of Cheerios turned out to be a seemingly exploitative marketing gimmick in the eyes of the public, especially Twitter users.
Compared to McDonald’s and Cheerios’ fiasco, KFC proved how real-time marketing, when used brilliantly and appropriately, can make the brand.
Here’s why their strategy worked:
Consumers today care less for slow and disconnected experiences. Quick response time is a crucial factor they look out for in a brand. Brands should be able to respond to customers appropriately, by creating the right content that appeals to the right people, at the right time, and appropriately.
Context is equally important as content. Lacking in either one will not make the strategy work. In real-time marketing, brands often fail when they force themselves into conversations or trends that they have unfortunately little or no relevance in. What’s vital is to ensure your brand can be tied to what’s happening, with sensitivity and transparency. Failing which brands risk the wrath of the social media army!
Posted by Shermaine Sim, CorpMedia.
The end of the year marks a threshold and invites a pause for reflection. It’s a great time to take stock of the year behind and look ahead. For CorpMedia, it’s been quite a ride! New challenges, new opportunities, new clients, new friends – we feel very blessed to be able to help our clients with creative ways to communicate their brand(s) and grow their business – by simply doing what we love!
But enough about us! Now, it’s all about getting ready for a brand new year. For most of us in the business, it’s communications planning season! Before you hit the road, en route to the month-long festivities and merriment, here are some end-of-the-year tips to make sure your 2018 plan hits the mark – and we will keep this short!
Future-proof your strategies: The one thing to remember is that while your plan may not be broken, change is necessary to keep up with evolving trends. Revisit old competitors. Explore emerging channels. Consider new technologies. Evaluate your processes and performance. Even small shifts in your communications strategy can benefit your business in a big way.
Listen to social conversations: Social media offers easy access to people’s opinions and behaviour. By intently following what your ideal customers are talking about and who they are interacting with on social media, you can gather a plethora of knowledge, such as how they perceive your brand, what qualities they look for in products and services. Social listening allows you to go to the heart of the discussion to hear what people are saying and what they are thinking.
Target your audience: Knowing the audience that you intend to communicate with is important. You can communicate until you’re blue in the face, but if your message falls on deaf ears, you’re just wasting your time, energy and effort. Research your market regularly. Start with the question “Who is my company’s ideal customer?” Be realistic – your customer can’t be everyone.
The right messaging: Today’s customers are just not into “buying things.” They are buying into solutions, e.g. expert advice, knowledge, experience, guidance. Your messaging should reflect this mindset. Are you solving problems with what you’re selling? Are you satisfying your client’s needs? Focus on what differentiates your brand from the competition and you will increase engagement with prospects, strengthen relationships with existing customers, and improve market value.
Set realistic goals: Prioritise and hone in on the two to three goals that must be achieved in a year that will contribute to your business growth and success. Resist the pressure to list anything that is immaterial, cannot be realistically achieved or accomplished. Remember, reality trumps aspiration!
Once you’ve developed your “buyer personas” you can then build your communications plan with purpose and direction, knowing who your target audiences are and how to reach them. Not only will this make your plan an easy sell to your team, it will make the entirety of your year much simpler and successful. With your ideal buyer in mind, crafting content, monitoring social media, conducting media outreach and implementing other communications tactics is streamlined and results-oriented.
After all, that is the kind of value you need to deliver, right?
To sign off, the team at CorpMedia would like to thank you for your business and support. Go out and have fun and close the year with a big bang – you deserve to! And here’s wishing one and all a fantastic new year ahead!
Posted by Irene Gomez, CIO, CorpMedia
Caricatures have often represented Generation Y as a cohort of contradictions – the millennial is plugged in, yet notoriously distracted; engaged, but mostly in the realm of social networks; self-involved, yet can be enthusiastic advocates of social causes.
These multiple stereotypes, while not adequate (or entirely wrong!), highlight the broad tendencies of a group that makes up over a quarter of the global population. Understanding Gen Y’s unique experiences not only allows companies to better market their brands to this powerful target group, but can also help build meaningful, long-lasting connections.
But first, who are the millennials, what fuels them and what habits do they share?
Born between 1980 and the mid-1990s, Gen Y was bred on a diet of technology and grew up in a culture dominated by change, which largely explains their adeptness at embracing everything new and exciting. Socially liberal, experimental, and incredibly tech-savvy, the millennial cohort values being engaged, staying in the loop and immersing themselves in exceptional experiences.
This group of consumers is already reshaping the economy with their purchasing power, preference and influence. So how can businesses and marketers capture the millennial imagination? Here are some tips:
The Digital Natives
With technology as the pulse, it comes as no surprise that Gen Y thrives on virtual transactions and digital communications. Comfortable with using social media to broadcast their concerns, foster connections and educate themselves on products and services, millennials see social channels as repositories of “wisdom”, connecting them to peer reviews and trusted endorsements while allowing them to share opinions before committing to any form of purchase.
To effectively reach out to millennials, brands have to meet them where they are – this means operating across a multitude of social platforms with dexterity. Businesses need to actively engage millennials by responding quickly to queries and posting feedback on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and the like; regularly upload multimedia content that can be easily shared (short, captioned videos are best at hooking viewers!); and leverage user-generated content to build brand awareness and loyalty.
Given Gen Y’s affinity for technology and interactivity, a static digital presence is no longer sufficient. Marketing that optimises the word-of-mouth culture, exciting interfaces and visual languages, and mobile-friendly promotional media is key to capturing and sustaining the attention of millennials.
Provide the Ultimate Experience
While the generation that preceded them was more focused on living in preparation for the future, millennials are generally associated with living for the now. Gen Y favours spending money on experiences rather than material possessions. In their search for great experiences, millennials often forego some of the basic luxuries to get the most value out of their dollar.
Millennials’ spending habits have since given rise to the sharing economy, resulting in the growth of businesses like Airbnb, Grab and Uber. These companies, through their shared products and services, remove the burden of ownership, and simultaneously help users save on expenditures.
With information, reviews and cost comparisons at their fingertips, millennials are inclined to trawling online resources before deciding on products or services that promise incomparable experiences at the best prices. Brands can deliver special deals and product trials on social channels and apps to appeal to this consumer base. Events or offerings that seek the involvement of millennials will also make it easier for brands to resonate with this group.
Sell Your Purpose
Millennials are known to take up or advocate a plethora of social issues, and expect brands to do the same. Companies should look beyond marketing products that enhance lifestyles, but seek to connect with Gen Y on an emotional level. Millennials care about content that speaks to them, and if brands similarly promote values that they uphold. Immune to most traditional sales pitches (they’ve seen it all!), millennials are likely to use their buying power to support businesses that stand for more than their bottom line receives.
Above all, marketing messages have to be authentic. Many businesses have seen how a forced relationship with a cause or the lack of genuineness can backfire. Take a leaf out of Patagonia, TOMS and Heineken’s books – all great examples of brands that have successfully delivered impactful cause marketing campaigns.
Businesses have to first invest in understanding millennials before they can take advantage of their immense social clout. By directly addressing the millennial generation and recognising what they truly care about, brands will be able to spark a connection and effectively sustain consumer-centric conversations.
Posted by Rahimah Amin, PR Executive, CorpMedia
Instagram recently surpassed the 700 million user mark and that deserves a huge “Wow!” If you’re wondering about who, what, when, where, why and how, then you only need to look to Mark Zuckerberg. No one gets it better than Mark. By investing heavily in Facebook products such as Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp and Instragram, he’s created an ecosystem where millions of people get to connect and share their stories online every day.
But enough about Mr Zuckerberg, let’s get back to the Wow. With more than 700 active million users per month, Instagram offers a large gathering of followers that can benefit your business. These followers could very well become your customers, so they’re worth pursuing. Especially since Insta users have shown that they’re ready to engage with businesses within and outside of the app. More than 80 percent of users follow at least one business, and over 120 million users visit a website, get directions, call, email or direct message a business every month from the app.
Instagram is all about being seen, and which business wouldn’t want to increase their visibility, right? More visibility means new users finding, following and engaging with you, and yes – eventually buying from you. The key to increased visibility is to expand your reach.
There are three basic elements to bear in mind when looking to increase reach and promote growth: content, caption, time. It’s all about creating a voice behind the brand, producing engaging content, and building a relationship with your followers.
Engagement on Instagram is not so easy as it’s a rather isolated space, compared to other platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, where interactions happen publicly. If someone were to comment on a Instagram post, chances are you won’t see it unless you’re following that brand or if they tag you.
If you’re planning to use Instagram to grow your brand or business, it’s important to develop a good marketing strategy that will help keep you on track along the way. You will soon realize that follower engagement plays a vital role in growing your Instagram account as well as your brand. While there’s no magic formula to getting more followers, here is a list of tactics that will be helpful along the way.
- If you want a massive Insta following, you need to be posting high quality content (photos and video) ALL of the time – not just post randomly or once every week or so.
- Write descriptive captions. Storytelling will help generate engagement and sharing.
- Interact with top influencers; aim to become one of their favourite people or brands.
- Promote your dedicated hashtag on your other social media profiles, on your website, and your email blast.
- Get creative with your hashtags. Be funny, be outrageous. Be different but not boring!
- Scan for relevant topics and trending hashtags. Join these conversations to get in front of more people.
- Emojis are becoming a universal mode of expression. Nearly 50 percent of all captions and comments on Instagram now have an emoji or two. Make sure you use the right emoji to convey your message.
- Cross-promote your Instagram account and content on other social channels.
- Use your weblink to drive traffic to your newest or most popular content.
- Use the call-to-action buttons such as Shop Now and Install Now, as people will be able to learn about a product or service and take action directly from an ad to sign up on a website, buy a product, or download an app.
Many businesses still struggle on Instagram or avoid it entirely, because they don’t find the site intuitive and they aren’t sure how to actually build a list of active, engaged followers. Not utilizing the network could be a huge mistake for a business as an established Instagram profile with a lot of followers can open up opportunities to establish your brand as a trusted authority within your industry, promote your business and increase sales. So give it a shot!
Posted by Irene Gomez, CIO, CorpMedia
Just last year, Instagram hit an incredible milestone of 600 million users. Combined with the recent launch of Instagram Live and the wildly successful Promoted Posts in 2013, Instagram’s strategic focus on Influencer Marketing is making waves in the world of digital marketing.
Over the past three years, Google Trends observed a steady decline in print advertising. Within the same period, influencer marketing has steadily grown in popularity and is quickly narrowing the gap with video advertising. To date, AdWeek reports that 94% of marketers believe in the strategic effectiveness of influencer marketing, with most spending between USD25,000 and USD50,000 for an influencer campaign.
The Rise of AdBlock
In December of 2016, Apple released the iOS 9 for its chain of devices. With the new software came the added support for AdBlock – a program to block banner advertisements on websites and social media platforms alike. In the same year, Digital News reported that 47% of online consumers used ad-blocks. What was once a program solely used by experts in the field had now become mainstream, throwing marketers into a frenzy of re-evaluating their monetizing and advertising strategies.
Growing Immune to Traditional Advertisements
Traditional marketing strategies have also spiralled downward in terms of actual effectiveness. In the past, brands paid an average of USD5 million for a 30-second commercial between breaks of primetime telecasts. Today however, consumers are rarely glued to the screens of their TVs, with only 14% remembering the last ad they saw, reports Leverage Marketing.
Rethinking and Realigning Content
Navigating through these changing tides of marketing, brands recognize the need to adopt strategies that incorporate their products into popular content that is being consumed on social media. In this day and age, it’s all about “integrating a customer’s attention organically with a product or a service” and fortunately for most brands, influencer marketing offers the solution to all their problems.
In 2015, a study by Nielsen revealed that 84% of consumers perceived recommendations from friends and families as the most trustworthy factor in their purchasing decisions. Influencer marketing similarly uses the age-old Word-of-Mouth strategy, except that recommendations extend beyond people within our social circles to include influencers – key individuals on social media who are recognized as experts within their specific fields.
Traditional celebrities are removed from their audiences. Whether on stage or on movie screens, celebrities present carefully constructed caricatures from behind glass walls. Therefore, many idolize and admire them from afar, but very rarely are celebrities relatable to the average Joe.
Comparatively, influencers appear to present themselves as they are, making them more approachable, relatable, and trustworthy. Before selling a product, brands in the modern market are selling trust.
From garnering higher click rates to conversions, it may be tempting to jump on the bandwagon of influencer marketing. But before you do, here are some tips:
- Understand Your Audience
If you are operating in a niche market, working with the most popular influencers may not be your best bet. Instead, look for experts in your field to garner a higher level of engagement as a result of hyper-targeting loyal audiences.
- Allow Room for Personal Creativity
Influencers have amassed large followings because of their unique content and voice. Dictating and limiting them excessively results in just another “advertisement.” Listen to them because they know their audience better.
- Fostering Long-term Relationships
From an audience’s perspective, it becomes harder to believe someone who switches teams regularly than someone who frequently posts about the same brand. When done well, audiences are less likely to see it as product placement, and more of the influencer’s personal brand.
Posted by Roselynda Afandi, CorpMedia
Meet Amy Brown: The absolute genius who catapulted the Official @Wendy’s Twitter account into overnight fame. Amid the growing political tension, Amy Brown may not have been the hero we expected, but she certainly became the hero that we all needed; unifying us over our universal love for sass and witty clap-backs.
Navigating through these rocky waves of political divisiveness, brands typically opt for political correctness and template replies when responding to customers online. With just a single tweet however, Amy Brown changed the game forever – and social media managers from all over called into question their age-old strategy.
The Art of the Roast
@Wendy’s tweets are a breath of fresh air, unconcerned with diplomacy or appeasing their customers. Brown made this abundantly clear with a sassy response that ended the earliest Twitter beef of 2017. In January, Twitter user @NHride challenged @Wendys claims of serving “fresh, never frozen” beef in its hamburgers. Within minutes, @NHride was schooled. And the Internet went wild. #win.
But Brown and her team did not stop there.
Unsurprisingly, @Wendys was not the only one serving up sass and wit this year. Celebrity chef @GordonRamsay earned himself quite the reputation on Twitter for dishing out some savage burns, much to the delight of his now 5.52 million followers. If you can’t handle Gordon’s sass, then get out of his mentions.
Here’s why their strategies work:
Brands today are far too concerned about stepping on toes. Interactions on social media are less social, often laden with feigned sincerity and careful calculation. It’s a mundane cycle that distances a brand from its audience; and throwing shade breaks this routine. It’s refreshing, it’s novel, and most importantly, it reflects a very human response. Or as the kids would say, #relatable.
Speaking to Simply Measured, Brown explains that “Wendy’s voice is a ‘challenger with a charm’. Having a strong sense of our brand and what we should sound like ensures that we come across consistent in our communications, whether we’re handling a specific complaint or gently roasting some of our followers.” Brands that participate in online roasts are willing to risk controversies to create more attention for themselves; and that, is a good lesson for all businesses looking to set themselves apart.
At the end of the day, both Brown and Ramsay have achieved – in a short time – what many have set out to do. Their perfect recipe? A dash of funny, a hint of sarcasm, and a spoonful of pop culture references. But every brand is different. For more serious brands, this may just be a recipe for disaster. The best online strategies begin with a good understanding of your brand’s voice and identity. Find that, and the rest will follow naturally.
Posted by Roselynda Afandi, CorpMedia
It’s out with sex and in with activism; marketing and branding specialists alike have dubbed 2017 as the year that “activism comes of age”.
Following a series of polarizing elections and debates, it’s clear that the world is now more divided than ever. Demonstrations, protests, and marches fill our streets and dominate the conversations on our social media feeds – there simply is no avoiding the topic of activism. Fuelled by millennials – who see themselves as active agents of social change – this wave of social activism has set off new ripples in the marketing world.
It’s gone beyond supporting a cause – audiences are now demanding that everyone else does the same. And while this may present a risk of alienating segments of their consumers, brands are beginning to dip their toes into politics. The potential virality of brand activism in the era of social media marketing has helped brands gain more exposure, attract new customers and cement old loyalties. In most cases, the benefits far outweigh the harm.
No longer excused from sidestepping conversations about pertinent socio-political issues, it does little good for a brand to remain sitting on the fence. Take Uber for instance. Earlier this year, the company suffered a major setback after the hashtag #DeleteUber trended worldwide on Twitter. Close to 200,000 users deleted or deactivated their accounts within minutes, following allegations that the company was endorsing Trump’s controversial immigration policies by remaining neutral during protests. Meanwhile, in announcing its $1 million donation to the American Civil Liberties Union, Lyft (Uber’s competitor) received high praise for its denunciation of Trump’s outrageous executive order. By the thousands, angry consumers began switching their allegiance to Lyft and within hours, the company saw a drastic expansion of its user base – exceeding the numbers of Uber for the first time.
Riddled by heightened emotions and drastic political changes, consumers want to be more involved – associating themselves only with brands that share the same ideologies and values. Consumers are making their voices heard with their wallets: every purchase is a political statement. Thus, explaining the biggest rise in brand activism observed in the history of marketing and advertising. But riding this wave seems a lot easier said than done. While brands like Heineken and Dove have successfully crafted campaigns around the importance of unity and feminism respectively, others like Pepsi have completely missed the mark.
Heralded as “The Great Pepsi Shakeup” the three minute Ad was quickly pulled following the global #boycottPepsi on Twitter. Commentators on social media were understandably aggrieved – accusing Pepsi of appropriating imagery from the real protests and completely undermining the dangers and frustrations of these group of people. In attempting to resonate with the millennials, Pepsi completely neglected the most important aspect of brand activism: sincerity. Attempting to “join the conversation” (as preached) without discussing real issues, portrays the brand as opportunistic and more detrimentally, offensive.
Following this fiasco, Heineken, on the other hand, made a political statement of their own with a video titled “Worlds Apart: An Experiment.” Six strangers, each with diametrically opposed socio-political views were paired and encouraged to foster an understanding and open friendship despite their differences. Where Pepsi enraged, Heineken pulled at the heartstrings of its viewers. In this, there are two key differences:
(a) Heineken’s Ad discussed real controversial issues concerning transgender rights, climate change, and feminism while Pepsi adopted a more generic claim for unity and peace – whilst appropriating the imagery of real protests.
(b) Heineken proposed an actual, practical solution of encouraging discourse and fostering understanding despite our differences, instead of portraying themselves as the miraculous solution to all problems.
Gone are the days where sex was enough to sell. In the advent of progressive political changes, consumers and audiences alike have become more politically engaged, often interacting on social media where reputations are made or lost within a matter of minutes – aka the age of the millennials. Ultimately, as much as consumers love thought-provoking ads that tackle the real-world issues we face today, brands should always remind themselves that sincerity and authenticity should underlie all efforts geared towards harnessing the power of brand activism.
Posted by Roselynda Afandi, CorpMedia
Between fake news, fake apps, and “alternative” facts, there seems to be no let-up in the barrage of misleading and outright false messaging. Fake news is not new, but its amplification through social media gives it a new dimension, causing it to become more pervasive. Unlike the PR spin, fake news is completely and intentionally made up. And because of the false narrative, a slight blend of truth to a story can make it difficult to discern the accuracy of its claims. Not surprisingly, this has created an opportunity to influence and exploit for political or personal gains.
Social media has rapidly become an integral part of all of our lives – it is the primary source for news and updates. The epidemic of fake news and alternative facts spread quickly like wildfire on social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter – reaching tens of millions of people in milliseconds! If you use any social media platform (duh!), you’ve probably been hit by some of these. Information doesn’t need to be true or funny to go viral – it can be a half-truth or even an outright lie.
Sometimes it may be something that fits a certain narrative that we have in our mind about a person or organization and we want so much for it to be true that we fall for it. On the other hand, a story is so outrageous that it’s easy to spot. No more was this more evident than during the 2016 US elections. Let’s see – “Hillary Clinton has brain Damage!”; “Pope Francis endorses Donald Trump!”; “Democrats to impose Sharia Law in Florida!”
Algorithms are part of what spreads fake news – because false stories which become popular can be pushed out by the software that runs social networks. But some programmers think computer code could also be part of the solution.
Google and Facebook have announced measures to combat fake viral stories online. Google has added a new feature, i.e. Fact Check (https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/07/fact-check-the-world-is-flat/) to Search and News to identify news reports as having been fact-checked by other news publishers and fact-checking organizations. Facebook is testing a new tool, located at the top of the News Feed to users in 14 countries (http://www.ubergizmo.com/2017/04/facebook-creates-new-tool-to-combat-fake-news/). It is an educational project intended to help people spot and stop fake news from going viral.
Advertisers can help to solve this issue by paying closer attention to where their ads run and the environment in which their brand messages appear. For publications and news outlets – once the financial incentives for running click-bait, fake headlines disappear – the number of false news stories will decline.
What Can We Do?
- Beware the click bait: One way that fake news gets amplified or sensationalized is because busy readers may not look past the headline before they decide to share an article. Go through the whole article – you may find that it actually has nothing to do with the headline!
- Check out the news outlet: To trust or not to trust? Again, go beyond the pop-ups and loud ads. Google a site’s name and check out similar articles on various sites to determine if it’s trustworthy. Pay close attention to URL names of pages that look suspect to make sure that it’s not a spam site pretending to be a trusted source.
- Who’s the author: Looking at the writer of an article can reveal a lot of information about the news source. Searching through the author’s previous articles can show whether they are a legitimate journalist or have a history of “misleading and false” articles.
- Know your source: A lack of links or sources for claims in an article is an obvious red flag that the post may be false. Fake sites also provide numerous links to sites that appear to back up their claims, but are themselves spreading misinformation.
- Photos or photo-shopped: It’s common to take a photo from one event and say it is from another. Images can also be altered for a certain story. Reverse image searches on Google, Facebook, and TinEye can help you find where an image originated.
- Fact-check and verify: People are often drawn to stories that reinforce the way they see the world and how they feel about certain issues. It’s important to check that news stories are based on fact, rather than sharing them because they support one side of an argument to bolster belief or support.
Can We Ever Escape Fake News?
Unfortunately, there’s no one simple solution but we can start by not sharing stories just because they make us mad or tug at our heartstrings. News rightly gets an emotional rise out of us when a story is true, but when it’s false, that emotion can give power to baseless accusations and sow seeds of doubt. We can probably never escape it all together. But it’s up to each of us to use our intellect and common sense.
Posted by Irene Gomez, CIO, CorpMedia
In an increasingly digital age, online conversation plays a huge role in shaping brand opinion and anybody with an Internet connection can be a potential contributor. Your online reputation is accessible with a click and you can be sure that at any time, someone, somewhere, is going to turn on a device and check into a search engine to find out all they can about you.
When prospects encounter negative content related to a brand, they are likely to switch to a competitor, resulting in lost leads and sales for your company. The correlation between a brand’s reputation and its sales is different for each industry and unique to each field, but the link is painfully obvious to those brands that have fallen into disrepute or those personal brands that have fallen out of favour with the mainstream media often caused by negative reviews.
It’s not just your customers who will search online for information about you but the media, business partners, prospective employees, and even personal contacts. If you don’t protect yourself and your business, someone can easily post a comment, create a blog post, promote your competition or worse. The results of a negative online reputation can be as subtle as a potential customer clicking on a competitor’s search result instead of yours or it can be as damaging as an industry-wide boycott of your products or services. Case in point – the recent #GrabYourWallet boycott that saw US retailers like Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Sears, among others, drop the Ivanka Trump clothing line.
With increasing numbers of people turning to online resources for information, how does a business take ownership of their online reputation? Taking a proactive approach is the way to go. Managing your online reputation is not only a means of defence but it is also best practice.
Here, we share key initiatives that are integral to an effective brand reputation management strategy:
Public Relations: A strong PR program positions you as a thought leader and expert resource in your field in major newspapers, business and trade publications, and social media platforms. As a critical component to successful brand reputation management, PR can improve brand perception, manage negative sentiments, share positive customer opinion, and increase your web presence. A professional PR team can also secure high profile speaking engagements and opportunities (online or onsite) to promote your brand and gain top mind share.
Social Media: Social media is an integral part of brand reputation management. It’s a great way to make your business accessible, personable and focused on the customer. Being active on social media gives companies the opportunity to monitor their social reputation, as well as to act and react accordingly. Social media listening tools, like Hootsuite, SocialMention and Radian6 can research and collect user generated content such as blogs, comments, reviews, and alert a business of any negative conversation going on.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO): SEO strategies put you at the top of search engine results, where customers are searching for resources and solutions to real-time problems. If you are not present where consumers are searching, you will be left behind to competitors who are there. Leveraging strategic keywords and useful content can help to drive more web traffic and increase sales that are essential for your company’s strong brand reputation.
Content Marketing: Raising awareness about the brand through content marketing tools like white papers, blogs, targeted article contributions, and industry research reports can help in a company’s brand reputation management. Producing lead-generating content across an array of channels raises awareness about your brand and your products. By positioning your company as an informative industry source on topics your audience is interested in, you will gain more website visitors and potential customers.
Website Development: Designing a website that’s easy to navigate, with interesting and user-friendly features will definitely help a business in its reputation management. It’s important to make sure that the website works in tandem to the needs of customers – this helps them find relevant information easily and quickly. A strong website not only enhances a company’s online image but also helps to grow brand loyalty.
In the hustle and bustle of normal business operations, it can be easy to lose sight of the importance of brand reputation management and its impact on corporate growth. But lack of brand reputation management can significantly and negatively impact an organisation’s overall success.
It takes time to tackle these crises and turn the ship around, but such issues can be fixed with an appropriate online reputation management strategy. Clear, achievable goals will help restore your company’s good name and keep your business reputation clean.
Posted by Irene Gomez, CIO, CorpMedia