The Future of Marketing is in Gaming Hands

The Future of Marketing is in Gaming Hands

In the consumerist world that we live in, we’ve come to expect ads in a lot of places. Whether on billboards, newspapers, or cinema screens, we witness advertising on a daily basis. But in the future of promotion, there’s one channel that’s set to boom in popularity – video game marketing.

Gaming in a Global Pandemic

Video gaming is already known as a popular activity; however in 2020 as we spent more time at home than ever before, more of us began playing video games. This created a surge in gaming during lock down, with some games soaring to become world sensations.

For instance, when game developer Nintendo launched ‘Animal Crossing New Horizons’ for the Nintendo Switch at the beginning of the first global lock down, it became a talking point on line and subsequently a a runaway success. It has already sold over 33 million copies with an additional 24.10 million Nintendo Switch units sold. 

It’s not solely gaming consoles that are getting our attention. Mobile Gaming (playing games on a smartphone) saw a surge in users in recent years. According to WARC, an overwhelming 71% of internet users play games on their smartphones, making mobiles the most popular gaming devices to-date. 

Who is playing video games? Generation Profiles 

Unsurprisingly video game adoption rates are highest among Gen Z with over 90% of these internet users attesting to playing video games. Older age groups are seen to be adopting video gaming at the fastest rate across all generations. In 2020/21 more than two-thirds of internet users aged 55 to 64 around the world play them

Now that the popularity of gaming have been discussed, we can dive into it’s significance in relation to marketing. 

Marketing on an Interactive Landscape 

The video gaming marketing industry is currently estimated to be worth $4.1 Billion in 2021. One of the most useful features of video game marketing is the medium they’re played on – phones. As of 2018, Mobile games contribute 51% to the global revenue generated by the gaming industry. It’s also the fastest growing category of consumer behavior activity on mobile devices. With such a large frequently interactive audience, mobile gaming offers a channel to target them directly. 

How Can We Market Effectively Through Gaming? 

If you’re searching for a great example of marketing on mobile gaming apps, look no further than media sovereign Disney. In 2017, in order to promote the film studios newest ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ film, an immersive video ad campaign was launched. The ad would appear to users playing mobile games and instruct them to tap their phone screen during the video to ‘collect treasures’. By participating in the ad, users unlocked exclusive content (mostly trailers for the film). The ad was successful for a number of reasons; it blurred the line between game and ad, avoiding interruption of the ‘gaming experience’ and encouraging interaction. Likewise by rewarding users for interacting with the content, it offered a great incentive for longer periods of ad engagement. The campaign achieved raised brand awareness of the ‘Pirates’ film franchise and increased hype for it’s upcoming release.

Final Advice

Digital marketing institute notes that marketing your brand in the video gaming landscape isn’t a challenge in finding new ways to engage target audiences, but how to maximize effectiveness with resources already available. With an open field of options for creative advertising and diverse audiences to target, video games may become the best way to deliver future marketing campaigns.

Lottie Kelly is a third year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She is currently on her placement year at AV Browne, an integrated communications agency in Belfast. Lottie was a student member of the CIPR Northern Ireland committee on 2019-20. She can be found at: LinkedIn and Twitter. Lottie’s personal blog is here.

The rise of the Momfluencer

The rise of the Momfluencer

A help or a hinder?

influencer

[ˈɪnflʊənsə]

NOUN

a person or thing that influences another.

“he was a champion of the arts and a huge influencer of taste” · 
            marketing

a person with the ability to influence potential buyers of a product or service by promoting or recommending the items on social media.


The universal definition of an ‘influencer’ that comes up when you type the word into google. It is hard to define the term influencer in everyday conversation. Does it depend on your  amount of followers? Amount of likes? How ‘pretty’ you are? Your fashion sense? How many brands want to work with you?. The influencer marketing hub carried out research on influencer marketing in 2020 and found large companies have doubled the amount of creators they activate per campaign in the past two years. The influencer marketing industry is set to grow to approximately ¢9.7b by the end of 2020. But with the rise of influencers, comes the rise of the momfluencer. 

There are many types of momfluencers, in the same way there are many different mums. The indie, hippie, van travelling mum. The stay at home, cleaning obsessed, bargain hunter mum. The picture perfect, themed snack, full time job mum. All different but in a lot of ways all the same. Mum blogs, parenting websites and online support groups have all been around for a long time, however the momfluncer is a new wave of ’support’. A lot of fellow mums question whether momfluencers really are there for support and advice, or are they just there to make you feel bad about what you’re not achieving. If you follow mums from each of these categories, you’re going to wish you could be just like each of them in different ways, which is impossible. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of momfluencers who are honest and open about the realities of motherhood. The sleepless nights, tears and tantrums (and not just from the children), the relationship struggles, financial worries and mental health problems. However, when you look at some momfluencers with their matching pyjamas, full-face of makeup, multiple smiling children and gleaming house you wonder how much of it is real and is it truthful advertising?

Stacey Solomon, a popular ‘Momfluencer’.

It is hard to judge momfluencers as a whole, as there are so many, both macro and micro influencers. Some who aim to spread awareness of important topics such as maternal mental health, baby loss, pregnancy struggles and parenting advice. Others give useful tips on cleaning, cooking, juggling work and relationship advice. Like most things, exposing yourself to momfluencers can be good in small doses. It is really up to the individual to manage their exposure, and take time to learn that not everything online is what it seems. Momfluencers are here to stay, so love them or hate them, choose the ones that are a help and not a hinder.

Brand’s however, love the momfluencer. Momfluence.co is a website that was launched specifically for brand’s to find the right momfluencer: ’Our platform will make it easy for you to find the right momfluencers for your brand, and set up campaigns that actually make you money and grow your business’.  Brand’s such as Pampers, Dove, Johnson and Johnson, Ella’s Kitchen and Tommee Tippee all use brand ambassadors, influencers and paid stories and posts in their marketing. Influencers can paid anywhere between £50 – £500 to advertise a brands product or service. Mum’s buy things more than any other consumer group, and with mum’s always having a fear of judgement or not seeming good enough, most will do (buy) whatever it takes to keep up the image up of a good mum. 

With lockdown babies continuing to be born through the current pandemic and online shopping not showing any signs of slowing down, the Momfleuncer is here to stay.

Aileen Gallagher is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at LinkedIn and Twitter

HOW FASHION COMPANIES EVOLVED THEIR BRAND TO SUIT DEMAND

HOW FASHION COMPANIES EVOLVED THEIR BRAND TO SUIT DEMAND

Fashion is a market that thrives on evolution. Every season, we explore a new trend, influenced by ever-changing pop culture, runway design and brand marketing. The fashion industry is equipped to deal with fast paced universal change.

Although, I am not so sure they had anticipated a global pandemic that would overturn the world. 

COVID-19 was completely unprecedented (a word we hear all too much, I know, I know), hijacking the fashion industry in a matter of weeks. Many retailers struggled to sustain their business, resulting in a decline in revenue, staff layoffs and company closures.

We often hear the term ‘we are worlds apart’ being used to describe the differences between cultures and countries. Depending on where you are in the world, fashion is different. This is due to diverse trends, lifestyles and inspirations. It could be argued that this is no longer the case and for the first time ever, the world has never been so comparable.

Thanks to mandatory lockdown which strained to all corners of the world, our new daily routines are surprisingly similar. We are all staying at home, working remotely and finding ways and means to entertain ourselves in our free time (which there is noticeably a lot more of… so long social life). 

Although this situation is far from ideal, I think it is extremely important that we realise how lucky we are to have social media, allowing us to remain together, in a time when it is so important to remain apart. Not only does social media help us to keep in touch with our families and friends, it allows us to connect and share our experience worldwide. The pandemic has evolved consumer behaviour considerably, leading to unique global trends that suit our new ‘at home’ lifestyles.

Have you baked banana bread, learned Tik-Tok dances or completed a Chloe Ting workout?

No? Why lie? Of course you have.

The fashion industry has particularly benefited from this ‘global connection’ and has found itself amongst some of the most popular lockdown trends. In order to maintain sales, it is important that fashion companies place a high focus on monitoring these trends, evolving their brand to suit the demand.

Quick-thinking companies jumped at the opportunity to transform their brand into COVID-19 Chic. With the world now working from home, gone were the days of office dress codes, smart shoes and warm coats. The trend of 2020 quickly became driven by comfort dictated consumer spending, with loungewear coming out on top, with the slight exception of a smart shirt for a zoom meeting.

MODELS AT HOME

An area that was hugely impacted for the fashion industry was modelling opportunities. E-commerce fashion brands rely on models and clothing shoots to advertise their pieces online. Regrettably, like everything else, this could not happen, as these shoots involve a huge entourage of professionals in a studio to get the perfect shot.

Fashion brands have had to once again get creative, asking their models to style their new-in looks at home. This strategy proved very effective for brands, especially ASOS who have launched their ‘Models at Home’ campaign. Seeing clothes being styled at home by models of all different shapes and sizes, allows consumers an insight never seen before.

This ‘Models at Home’ strategy has created a refreshing change, removing the robotic, studio environment, allowing consumers to see how ‘normal’ people style outfits in their own environment.

FACE COVERINGS

Face coverings have quickly become an essential accessory during this crisis and in some cases have been a lifeline for fashion companies. The demand for face coverings was immediately colossal, becoming a wardrobe staple overnight.

Brands have been quick to avail of this demand, creating fashionable masks to allow consumers to replace their disposable, unflattering versions with trendy and exciting creations.

This trend was valuable for fashion brands in several ways. It has created a new design path to go down, generating product sales to make up for those that they will have lost. It has also created a demand for work within companies, saving jobs and creating new trends.

Face coverings have created a new way for fashion brands to increase their sustainability, allowing them to use their material offcuts, reducing waste. This is beneficial for their environmental reputation, something that often has negative connotations for fashion companies.

These companies can create positive media exposure for their brand by utilising the sustainable approach and showcasing this on social media. This will benefit them in several ways, promoting their desire to contribute to the fight against COVID-19 and creating an effective sustainability PR campaign, presenting their drive to increase sustainability within the fashion industry.

Social media influencers have embraced the fashionable face coverings. With lockdown restrictions easing slightly, there is a desire to dress up when we are finally getting out and about again. To keep up with this evolving trend, it is important that fashion brands not only create pretty face coverings but also create co-ordinating versions, to allow consumers to match with their clothing. This links with the sustainable approach, using patterned offcuts as well as generating further sales.

Matching your mask to your dress? That’s so fetch.

LOUNGEWEAR

A ground-breaking trend during lockdown has been loungewear. Wardrobes once overcrowded with uncomfortable jeans and stiff blazers are now significantly softer, showcasing comfortable, yet respectable transitional pieces. Although we were all advised to ‘stick to our work routine’ when at home, I think we can all agree that the work uniform was the first thing to go.

The demand for loungewear had already increased pre-lockdown, with social media influencers showing off their casual outfits of the day (#OOTD) for their workout routines and online meetings. It could be argued that many influencers already lived that ‘Working from Home’ lifestyle due to their workload being predominantly online.

However, this could not have prepared the fashion industry for the immense appeal for matching gym sets and velour tracksuit bottoms. Like all of us, fashion companies were unsure how long this pandemic would last and therefore did not know the longevity of demand for loungewear. It was important for brands to create something that would be comfortable yet functional and versatile, ensuring the pieces could be used both lounging at home but also could be dressed up for a socially distanced lunch date in town. 

Brands such as ASOS, Pretty Little Thing and Topshop utilised the ‘comfortable yet functional’ ideology when creating their loungewear pieces, ensuring they looked stylish, steering clear of the dreaded ‘is that loungewear or pyjamas?’ question.

With most of the world working from home, it can be agreed that the office dress code has been long forgotten. This begs the question, ‘will it ever return?’ After spending months curled up on the sofa with our laptop, in our cosy, yet oh so stylish loungewear, will we be itching to get back into our blazers for a sense of normality, or have our priorities permanently shifted?

The fashion industry has so far excelled throughout the pandemic, adapting to a huge change in trends, assisting in the making of personal protective equipment (PPE), maintaining a presence on social media, without the help of fashion shows/runways and using their imagination in order to fulfil tasks.

At this stage, we cannot be sure when this will all come to an end but one thing, we can be sure of is… WE HAVE CHANGED.

Will we ever return to our office uniform?

Will we ever put ourselves through the torture of high heels in a nightclub again?

Will face coverings ever go away?

Who knows?

But one thing is certain, COVID-19 has changed the fashion industry forever and companies have evolved their brand to suit demand.

Ellen Turbett is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram and LinkedIn.

TikTok is thriving, but have you got what it takes to go viral?

TikTok is thriving, but have you got what it takes to go viral?

It is no secret that the social media platform has taken us all by storm over the past year, but what sets TikTok apart from all the others and where does your brand fit on the platform (if at all)?


Let’s go back to the start. Vine has been and gone, the mums/Karens have taken over Facebook, Instagram is full of advertising and irrelevant content. It’s 2019. (Brighter days might I add). You see your 13yr old cousin performing some strange form of dance whilst recording themselves on the latest iPhone they got from Santa, while lip-syncing at the same time. You ask them what they’re doing. “Making a TikTok” they respond. This is a foreign phrase to you at this stage, but you’re intrigued. You type ‘Tick Tock’ into your search bar on twitter, your go-to platform these days when you unlock your phone, to find not much more than a Rolex advert and a few dodgy memes. You go about your day all the same, unphased.


Later upon opening Facebook, you come across a sponsored article posted by LADbible- ‘How TikTok Is Making Teens Thousands Of Pounds For 15 Seconds Of Lip-Syncing’. You think to yourself, ‘was my phone listening to my discussion earlier?’ You click to open the article wondering is your cousin making thousands of pounds from what she was doing earlier. You come to learn that TikTok is an app which allows for 15sec videos of dance, lip-syncing, comedy, creativity, tricks and the list goes on. You decide to download it (but vow you will NEVER post) and suddenly you find yourself down a rabbit hole of hilarious, engaging entertainment 4hours later sat in the same position as when you downloaded the app.


And we’re back in 2020. Although TikTok was founded in 2016, 2019 was when it started to really gauge traction and recognition, priming it for the success it possesses today. Since then, the app has evolved massively by listening to its consumer and improving features such as- allowing for better quality in-app editing tools, longer recording times and overall has become more accommodating and complex. It might be difficult to get a grasp of the app from a brand perspective, but if TikTok is something you’re thinking of getting on to then you must read the room first. Will TikTok reach your target audience? Do you have the budget for their pricey paid content options? Are you going to learn the latest trending dances and include product placement in your clip? There are so many things to think of before jumping on the band wagon. Hopefully I can give you advice here, as someone who’s video went viral with over 20million views while working for a popular beauty brand (shameless plug I know, but I like to think I know what I’m talking about).

You may be reluctant to join, yet there is indeed room for everyone on the app, as long as you remain true to brand tone of voice. For example, if you are a high fashion brand, it may be too cheesy and irrelevant for you to jump on the latest trends to get noticed. Instead, you could gift clothing to some of the leading ‘creators’ on the app that fit with your brand, or hone in on the creativity aspect of the app and show how some of your pieces in their journey from a design idea to a finished good. The key is to remember that you need to have your own voice/USP and to refrain from copying what the other brands are doing. I have highlighted two successful examples of viral content from completely different brands below.

  • Chipotle: With 1.3million followers, the American food chain have gone viral gaining millions of views on a single post, numerous times. Their USP is very much so humour, as it only takes a quick scroll through their videos to have you giggling. They create and partake in trends that are relevant and re-post humorous videos created by other users. They’ve ran their own #GuacDanceChallenge and more recently they launched a collaboration with an American TikTok house (house full of TikTok creators) to promote their new group ordering feature on their app. They ran a competition with the hashtag ‘#ChipotleSponsorUs’ in which users would create a video explaining why they should win a free takeout using the group feature, with 5 winners. The challenge received an overall reach of 38million, which is great for an organic, unpaid challenge on the app.

  • The Washington Post: Similar to Chipotle, TWP use humour to engage their audience. A further USP for the American Newspaper is that their staff feature in almost all of their videos, to the point they are recognisable and almost ‘influencers’ in their own right. This is a really good example of showing a more personable side to a brand that consumers wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Their content may not be heavily branded, but they have definitely succeeded in reach with over 750k followers. This is also proof that TikTok is a way to engage with consumers that may be outside your target market, as Gen Z may not physically go out to buy a paper, yet they will engage with the brand on social media.

From the examples mentioned and a quick nosey at other brands on TikTok, it is clear to see there is space for every type of brand on TikTok. The app in itself is very light hearted and this is the approach that all viral brands have in common. It’s important to think outside the box and take a risk with your content. It may flop, but it’s often the underdog videos that end up viral. My three main takeaways I will leave you with if you’re thinking about getting started on the app would be; don’t take it too seriously, get creative with your content, and stay true to your tone of voice. Go get ’em!

Grace Blaney is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter and Linkedin.

HOW TIKTOK SKYROCKETED SALES TO THE ‘LITTLE’ MOON

HOW TIKTOK SKYROCKETED SALES TO THE ‘LITTLE’ MOON

It is becoming more apparent each day that traditional media platforms are taking a back seat in the marketing world. Although newspapers, radio and television are still prominent features within the household, the instantaneous nature of social media takes preference in delivering information to society.

Whether it is a swipe up on Instagram or a scroll down on TikTok, we are constantly being influenced and a lot of the time, we don’t even realise it. The global pandemic has introduced many new trends into society, including home workouts, banana bread and TIKTOK.

Would I be correct in saying this time last year, you had absolutely no intention of downloading TikTok? “It’s a children’s app” you laughed. “Not for me” you urged. Just wondering what your TikTok screen time is now?

Nevertheless, as COVID spread across the globe, we all became desperate for an escape from the deadly news and isolation boredom and TikTok provided just that. Initially, we all learned a dance or two, tie-dyed our jeans and made whipped coffee. The popularity of the app became apparent very quickly, with unheard songs going to number one after a dance trend and normal people becoming mega influencers, with millions of followers LITERALLY overnight. Addison Rae, Charli D’Amelio and Noah Beck… to name a few.

Many platforms seen a surge of interest throughout the pandemic, including Etsy, online fashion stores and most predominantly, TikTok. Currently TikTok boasts an incredible ONE BILLION monthly active users in contrast to 680 million users in late 2018. These avid scrollers spend on average 52 minutes everyday on the app, with the most popular age group of users, Generation Z scrolling for up to 80 MINUTES. Bearing in mind most videos on the app do not surpass 15 seconds, so that is a LOT of scrolling.

The popularity of the app resulted in plenty of ‘TikTok made me buy it’ moments – including North Face puffer coats, Juicy Couture tracksuits and most recently LITTLE MOONS.

Little Moons were created in 2010 by brother and sister, Howard and Vivien Wong who were keen to introduce the world to the delicious Japanese treat, Mochi. Brand awareness has undoubtedly skyrocketed for the sibling duo all thanks to the exciting algorithm of TikTok, seeing their sales increase by an incomprehensible 700% with their predominant suppler, Tesco.

HOW – you might ask? #LittleMoons

The instantaneous popularity for Little Moons has resulted in mass sell-out, making the sweet treat GOLDDUST and virtually impossible to get your hands on. This search process has become a trend in itself, with many TikTok users sharing their experience on the hunt for the treasured desserts, visiting endless ‘Big Tesco’s’ in their area. Therefore, you can guarantee those lucky enough to get their hands on them are going to take themselves to TikTok to do the all important ‘Taste Test’, contributing to the trend, generating views and popularity for both themselves and for the brand.

Win-Win situation – you get 100k views on a TikTok video and Little Moons get £100,000 in sales, seems fair… right?

With 55 million views on the #LittleMoons hashtag, simply from consumer involvement, this ultimately begs the question, do we still need to spend a huge chunk of our budget on marketing and brand awareness tactics?

The recent success of Little Moons did not involve a big billboard in London or an extortionately funded Instagram campaign. It involved the importance instilled in young people to jump on trends to stay relevent, the influence of user-generated content on the consumer and creative, inviting video marketing.

Unfortunately, I have not been lucky enough to get my hands on the sweet treats. I thought my job in Tesco would make the hunt slightly easier, but OH BOY was I wrong? Recently, I have noticed the freezer isle has become particularly popular with young people, hovering just incase the bare shelf will be restocked. I live in hope that someday soon, there will be a box left over by the time I finish my shift. I highly doubt it though. Eagle eyed individuals have even noticed some Tesco employees (not me Tesco) have been hiding the desserts behind other items to snag after work – and in true TikTok style, have taken to app to snitch on these workers, showing viewers all the hidden nooks and crannies to check before they admit defeat. It really is an extreme sport.

Selfridges in London were ahead of the hype, boasting a Little Moons counter, where you can choose numerous favours – like a Mochi Pick n’ Mix. Current government restrictions have allowed Selfridges to open their food counters, for takeaway, which, yes you guessed it, EVERYONE is taking advantage of. Videos on TikTok have exposed the huge queues gathering at a social distance outside the London department store, with newly hired security guards to control the demand.

SECUIRTY GUARDS for Little Moons? Can you believe it?

Although trends come and go, it is clear if the organisation get involved and push to maintain their popularity, it doesn’t have to be a one hit wonder. Little Moons were straight on the ball, jumping on the TikTok trend, creating their own videos, as well as promising to increase their supply to meet demand.

The million-dollar question is, WHAT OR WHO IS NEXT? As I scroll down my TikTok, which I admit, I do a lot *facepalm* there is a newfound rising popularity surrounding weighted hula-hoops, and feta cheese in pasta. Even in the early stages of popularity, I have noticed feta cheese is becoming sparse on the shelves in Tesco. The sheer power that TikTok holds over modern society is mind blowing and it is extremely important that organisations recognise this influence and begin to navigate this new wave of marketing effectively.

Ellen Turbett is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram and LinkedIn.

From student life to adult life, my placement experience.

From student life to adult life, my placement experience.

In May 2019 I started my yearlong placement in the Marketing Department of Harry Corry Interiors.  It is fair to say I was very nervous starting this role as I was used to living the student life and only ever working part time. I had never experienced working in an office 40 hours a week and being part of a team who had to do deliver results for an ACTUAL successful company! I felt a lot of pressure joining a business filled with experienced professionals who had already received their degrees and had been working in the industry for a long period of time, and here I was 3 years into my degree.

On my first day I walked in feeling anxious yet excited to gain experience from the Marketing experts. Immediately I was made to feel very welcome and a part of a great team. I jumped right in as I joined during the middle of Harry Corrys summer sale which is the second biggest sale of the year. I helped the team with promotional work and started to learn all about the role marketing plays on these key occasions.

I am very grateful for my experience on placement as I did learn a lot.  For example, I learnt how to use email marketing, social media marketing, and importantly how to market a campaign. During this period, I gained a qualification in Adobe Illustrator and had the opportunity to act as a photographer during their seasonal campaign photo shoots. There is no doubt that by having first-hand access to all these great experiences, I can implement these new skills in future job roles and add them to my CV which is always a bonus!

One of my favourite campaigns was the “Sleep Awareness Week” campaign. During this campaign we got to collaborate with local influencers. We sent them sleep essentials hampers which included duvet covers, bed sheets, lavender diffusers, towels and so on. I really enjoyed this process because as a team I felt it was perfect for us to dive into this collaboration and bring Harry Corry furnishings to a new audience. I found it very satisfying sending all the baskets to each influencer and seeing their positive reaction. I personally loved social influencer “Gerry Lavs” reaction on his Instagram as he thanked us, he expressed how much he appreciated the hard work that went into the campaign and he even said our boss should treat us to a day at the races (Didn’t happen).

Even though I learned so many great skills during my time on placement I am not going to lie and say it was easy. Working 40 hours a week, being the only placement student in the team, not being able to see my family and friends as much as I used to, not being able to join social events gave me serious FOMO. Also driving 2 hours, 5 days a week can be very challenging as it is something I had never done before. I now have a new respect for adults working full time, balancing their personal life and family life because I know for a fact it cannot be easy. I learned a lot about office culture and organisational culture which is a module I am currently studying, and I am very interested in as it is something I now have experienced for myself.

It was certainly challenging for me going from being a student in university 2/3 days for two years and working a couple days a week, to completely making that switch to a full-time working adult life. Overall, I am grateful for my placement experience as I now know what to expect when I make that transition although, more importantly I now know what I want in life, what type of work  environment I thrive in and what industry  I want to work in. In essence, my placement opportunity helped me figure out what I want to pursue in my career and crucially it helped me find my passion.

I would encourage everyone to take part in a placement year as it really does introduce you to adult life, offers you an insight into that work life balance and on a personal level helps determine where you want to be when you graduate from university. I now feel as if I am equipped to working full time in a business setting because of that experience but for now I am happy still being a student! I want to enjoy every moment before I graduate while I can.  

Tara Hamill is a final year student in Ulster University studying Communication Management and Public Relations. She can be found on Twitter, Linkedin and Instagram

Social Media Marketing And The Instagram Algorithm

Social Media Marketing And The Instagram Algorithm

Social media can be an excellent tool for outlining what your business stands for, what your over arching values are. It helps identify quickly the ideal client base to start building relationships with. Social media for business is a sustainable way to reach the right demographics, audience and keep in touch with them while increasing brand visibility.

Social Media Marketing is multi-faceted and encompasses many different forms across the relevant platforms, there is something to suit any kind of business. Whether that is Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn or Facebook – all can be essential, when utilised correctly, in building long term brand relationships and reaching key clients. Having someone within your company’s marketing team that understands these platforms is crucial in ensuring that this is well executed.

There is a lot of talk on social media about algorithms and how they affect reach on social media platforms. Most notably Instagram, the platform that changed its chronological algorithm back in 2016 to a more calculated and engagement driven algorithmic feed – like Facebook’s. This was met with an uproar from those who businesses relied on their Instagram posts being received by their followers. The new algorithm meant a serious drop in engagement and at times less than 7% of followers seeing posts from Instagram accounts. For e-commerce businesses and influencers alike, whose income and business model depended heavily in engagement and reach this was a very negative change on the part of Instagram. Ever since this the topic of the algorithm has been one of serious contention.

The rise of social media for business and many people running successful businesses as a result of a well engaged audience and large following has meant the subject of the algorithm is always relevant. Even the biggest of influencers and e-commerce accounts can be found mentioning the algorithm and how it has effected their specific reason for using Instagram. The contention comes with the argument that users are complaining about the technical side of the app and not looking upon what they could be doing wrong.

A quick google search will bring up a plethora of articles that discuss what the current algorithm means and how to utilise it for best engagement. Top tips on why it is perhaps the user’s fault that their engagement is lower and how they can improve their content to tackle this decline. Tip such as, increase photo quality, consistency in posting, engaging with every comment on your posts and making use of al the functions that the app offers. The theory is that Instagram favours those that use the app as a community style hub. Those that go live, use the direct messaging service and engage with relevant content within their niche.

Finding your Instagram niche seems to be a key way of conquering issues with the algorithm, there are excellent examples of account users going ‘viral’ as such due to those in their niche. A recent example here in Northern Ireland is an Instagram account Smyth Sisters, run by local influencer Marianne Smyth. In an attempt to get the much coveted 10K followers, that offers the swipe up link to accounts, she had her account shared by some larger accounts within her niche. Her niche being minimalist fashion and styling high-street clothes. Due to her account connecting with the algorithm at the right time and style her account was reached by many large accounts that then went on to share her also. Within 6 weeks her account reached 150K an increase of over 144K followers, subsequently jumping further to 282K in under 10 months. 

This is a very specific and rare example but nonetheless a true showcase of how the new algorithm when championed can be exceptionally effective. So maybe the answer on how to champion the issue of algorithm is simply be your best digital self?

Maria Macfarlane is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram and Twitter.

The Rise of TikTok – Influencer Marketing

TikTok calls itself ‘the destination for short-form mobile videos’ – essentially a 2020 ‘Vine’ (in fact, many of TikTok’s biggest creators started on Vine like David Dobrik). TikToks range from five to sixty seconds and trends can be based on just about anything.

The beauty of TikTok is the ability to go viral at anytime. TikToks algorithm is the key to the app’s success, giving every TikTok user a curated ‘For You Page’ (FYP) with content directly tailored to them based on interactions. Users can still follow creators; however the ‘For You Page’ is definitely where users spend their time scrolling.

What is Tiktok?

There is no one way of using TikTok. From dance trends to clothing hauls to lip syncing, the content on TikTok is endless. I would compare it to YouTube, but more convenient and far more addictive.

Videos can be uploaded or created in-app with effects, filters, audio clips and plenty of other fun tools. Aside from videos, live streams are increasingly popular for TikTok creators… and plenty of money can be earned from them.

Trends are the heart of TikTok and creators have literally earned a living off viral trends. Trends typically involve a hashtag or a viral audio clip and that is just about it. Users jump on trends to try and go viral, it is just that simple.

TikTok Marketing

With over 800 million active TikTok users, the platform has quickly become the most popular social media app making it a highly valuable marketing tool for brands.

There are a range of marketing methods on TikTok.

  • In-feed Ads
  • TopView
  • Brand Takeover
  • Branded Hashtag Challenge

Given how much of an impact TikTok has had on music streams, it is no surprise musicians have used TikTok to market their new releases. Creators often get paid just to use a 15 second clip of a new song.

TikTok has been quick to identify the app as a huge marketing platform. TikTok recently launched a Creator Marketplace to connect brands with content creators. It allows brands to find creators based on performance data and analytics and create collaborations together.

In-feed ads typically get the best results from small businesses. Other Ad’s on TikTok are usually only open to large companies with bigger marketing budgets.

Influencer marketing.

Nearly 86% of marketers have used influencer marketing to boost their brand awareness and sales.

Asking a creator with a large following to review your brand or product on TikTok allows for exposure, and can be done very cost effectively. The key to successful influencer marketing on the app is to target influencers whose following resembles your brands target market.

Influencer marketing on TikTok is likely to be the most effective marketing method due to not having to worry about the negatives of ads and you don’t have to think about building an audience yourself – the audience is already there with the influencer promoting you. Influencer ads work the best when the creator is given creative freedom and the partnership is disclosed. Brands can see the success of the collaboration by viewing insights and analytics.

There are several sites to help brands identify and select the right TokTokers for their brand collaboration.

  1. Julius – Julius enables brands to look through a database of over 100,000 creators. With many filters, brands can narrow down the large pool of creators to find some that suit their target market based on a number of criteria.

2. FanBytes – FanBytes is the first dedicated platform for finding TikTok creators and has over half a million influencers listed. FanBytes runs its own TikTok influencer campaigns making the platform a very reliable source for brands to utilise.

Are you ready to market your brand on TikTok?

Now you know the ins and outs of TikTok marketing, you are ready to launch your own TikTok ad campaign.

Will you use TikTok as a way to market your brand? Let me know!

Elise Ralph is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn

How a number of global brands and small business’ have used the pandemic to their advantage

How a number of global brands and small business’ have used the pandemic to their advantage

When COVID-19 transmission started to spread from country to country, from the big cities to the small country towns and from household to household, with it came a big question mark over the economy for the rest of 2020. The economy took an immediate hit in March, with thousands of people furloughed and let go from their jobs permanently. 

It’s complicated when looking at the effect localised and national lockdowns have had on small and large business’. Some have thrived while others have fallen, with many unsure about the future for their company and others about their employment. However, a small few have either been lucky such as toilet roll companies and the pharmaceutical industry, while others have used the pandemic to their advantage, whether it be making face masks from home or tradesmen substituting fitting windows with fitting perspex screens in retail stores. 

When the majority of normal life and day to day activities were moved to the home back in March, people found themselves living a new reality. Streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Video, Spotify and Apple Music all seen an increase in memberships and downloads. Millions of students across the world were sent home from school, while others who were furloughed or even working from home had a lot more spare time. This also lead to an increase in home renovations and many attending to much needed DIY around their homes, that would have got the ‘I’ll do it when i have time’ remark. The majority of hardware stores stayed open throughout lockdowns and saw an increase in sales in things such as paint, wood, toolkits and fixtures and fittings. People now working from home wanted a pleasant experience, splashing out to make their new home office as comfortable as possible, noticing now more than ever what they did or didn’t like about their surroundings at home. 

Ikea’s ‘stay at home’ catalogue cover

Online shopping retailers such as ASOS seen a rise in sales since the start of the year, with their profits having quadrupled. Others such as Next seen their website crash multiple times, due to such a high volume of customers shopping at the same time. E-Commerce sales doubled for Amazon. Hundreds of thousands of items were being shipped daily all across the world, even leading to Amazon falling behind on their next day delivery promise for paying prime members. Despite Amazons success during the pandemic, seller experience worsened as they were still being charged the monthly fee to sell but not all items were being accepted into warehouses.  

Many global brands also used COVID-19 to their advantage in their marketing and advertising. Brands such as Uber, Dominoes, Guiness and Burger King all produced ‘COVID themed adds’ entered around quarantining and social distancing. Apple created a reassuring add, encouraging and reminding people they can still be creative through the pandemic. You can watch the moving add here, https://youtu.be/Kl1NW7h7lrY

When we look at the economic effect COVID-19 has had locally, it has been damaging to many peoples livelihoods. Pubs and Restaurants were closed for nearly 4 months many not able to accommodate take-away. Small independent retail shops were left with no source of income, with just a small grant from the Government. The UK launched a ‘Eat out to Help out’ scheme, in which customers got 50% off food Monday- Wednesday in participating restaurants. Many restaurants and cafes reported being busier than they had been in years, with tables booked up from opening to closing. The Government however then making a U-turn in Northern Ireland in October, deciding to move all food and drink back to take away only. There was a also a big push across local communities and online, showing the importance of shopping local. Many consumers opted for shopping at their local fruit shop or butchers instead of the large supermarkets. 

Quarantine also give people the time to put the extra bit of time and effort into that business idea that they have had or turn their hobby into one. Home- bakers started to sell and ship goodies nationwide and people started clearing out closets to sell clothes and bits and bobs on depop. Business ideas were perfected, and it also give people time to put effort and concentration to their online marketing and learn more about social media and how to use it to their advantage. 

As mentioned before, those able to use a sewing machine were able to make masks by the dozen and advertise, sell and ship all from their home. Local gin distillers, used the opportunity to produce hand sanitiser in the masses, to accommodate neighbouring business’.

Despite the economy taking an overall hit due to this pandemic, it is reassuring to know that there are local people out there who have used this time to better their ideas, their business’ and their lives, all while hopefully making that bit of extra cash! 

Aileen Gallagher is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at LinkedIn and Twitter

WFH? 6 Steps to elevate productivity levels!

WFH? 6 Steps to elevate productivity levels!

*Inserts Covid-19 related quote along with sentence on how the world has been turned upside down, back around and discuss the fear of uncertainty.*

I’m as optimistic as they come but I can’t be 100% honest in saying lockdown 1 was a walk in the park…it hasn’t for any of us by any means but I think I speak for many people when I say we’re now just riding the wave, waiting to get back to shore – no one is deep diving and breast stroking their way faster than others, we’re all in the same boat.

Working from home has been a breath of fresh air for many and a nightmare for others. Connectivity issues, loud pets, lack of motivation and distractions are some of the many barriers people have had to eliminate in order to find themselves performing at an efficient and effective level.

I’ve been lucky to have a mixture of both, after returning back into the office in June I’ve now had a staggered schedule which include a few days at home, a day to catch up with university work and the rest spent in the office (socially distanced of course).

With shorter days, colder weather and the threat of a second lockdown in December looming over us, the motivation levels have also got shorter and colder to say the least. When it comes to relating to specific quotes and motivational speeches, I’ve kept it pretty basic and there’s really been one that resonates with me this time round = JUST DO IT!

Do it to get the job done, do it to reach the word count, do it to finish that report, do it to make yourself feel better.

JUST DO IT!

I’ve found making slight changes in my routine & staying consistent has helped me keep focused and follow the day through with productivity at an all-time high so I thought why not share this with some of you. It might help, it might not but it’s worth a shot – if you do anything different that you can recommend, let me know I would love to hear your recommendations.

  1. Consistent Morning Routine

Try waking around the same time every morning, you may start work at 8AM so maybe it’s best to not wake up at 7:55AM…yes you might get an extra few minutes in bed but we all know you wake up flustered, groggy & generally not prepared to take the day on. If you really love your extra time in bed, maybe pick a Friday to lay on. (Treat Yourself)

2. Get Dressed

Now when I speak about this point, I’m guilty of being miss professional on zoom from the waist up and miss loungewear from the waist down. After all, comfort is key so make the effort…even if this means changing from one pair of pyjamas to the next.

3. Make a list

This is one I swear by, in office and at home. I prefer the old fashioned way of writing down a list into my diary and ticking off as I go along. Many people prefer doing this on their devices and that’s perfectly fine, whatever works for you. Anything to keep track of what you have to do, this not only keeps you accountable for your actions but also allows you to reflect on what has been accomplished at the end of each day.

4. Network with others in your industry

As I’ve said, we’re all in the same boat looking for great ideas and recommendations to make our lives just a little bit easier. Share your best tips on LinkedIn or on your own favourite platform, even if it helps one person you’ve done a great job! Speaking with others within your industry will also give you an insight into what’s out there at the minute in terms of free courses, webinars & podcast episodes which will help you level up.

5. Go the extra mile…it’s not as long as it seems

All this extra time at home gives you the perfect opportunity to improve your skills. We’ll never (hopefully) get this chance to be at home with nowhere to go again, so take it in your stride and get productive. There are SO many free beneficial courses available, industry specific ones too that will look great on your CV along with your LinkedIn channel. REVISE – UTILISE – STRATEGISE.

6. Be authentic to your true self

If something does not feel right or you feel like you could add to a campaign by sharing your ideas = do it. You don’t ask you don’t get; you don’t contribute you don’t get featured. Even on the other end of the scale, if you feel pressured with work and need to take some time to catch up, speak out, this is NOT a sign of weakness or a sign that your incapable of handling your work load. If you have a strong & caring support group around you they will be more than happy to help you out…trust me.

I really could go on all day about there being so many tips, guides, and resources out there which can help all of us in many ways:

  • Those still working from home who need extra motivation.
  • Those transitioning back to office wanting to find their groove again.
  • Those who are seeking for new opportunities & want to add to their CV and personal brand.
  • Those looking for new job roles who want to increase their social media presence on a professional basis.

Of course I had to add in a few courses and free E-Books which I’ve found beneficial and valuable…you might too!

Thanks for reading!

Domilia Timonyte is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram and LinkedIn.