Keeping on top of your digital strategy

I’ll start off easy. For many of you who don’t study anything business or marketing related, you may look at the words ‘Digital Strategy’ and freak out. More haunting words that sound like you’re travelling down the wrong path, but once you come to grips with it you can turn your business into an overnight success. Okay, maybe not overnight, but you get what I mean!

Image result for digital strategy

Having a clear understanding of what Digital Strategy is, allows you to start working on building your reputation and stacking up the dollars on a digital scale. ‘Digital strategy’ can be summarised in seven words – “achieving marketing objectives through applying digital technologies” (Chaffey and Ellis-Chadwick, 2012). Analysing a straightforward definition like that makes it feel like we’re reading ‘Digital Strategy for Dummies’ and that it could all be so simple, but we still need to consider our hyper-competitive marketplaces to allow us to take control.

So how powerful is a Digital Strategy?

In a recent study ‘Managing Digital Marketing’ by Smart Insights it concluded 46% of brands don’t have a defined digital strategy. Shocking. We’re now in 2018 and almost half of business leaders don’t realise this is how you let your business grow? You need to start making a plan! And fast.

Thankfully we have progressed since the release of the first website and the digital world continues to get more interesting. Your business can now take to the stage in more than just the newspaper, it can feature on social media sites I’m certain you’re familiar with (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter), e-mail marketing, classified ads and the easiest way of-mobile marketing. All inside that device you throw into your back pocket-well that’s if you’ve progressed from the Nokia 3310, also known as ‘The Indestructible’.

Image result for indestructible nokia gif
Depending on the aspect you want your business to take and the marketing strategy you have in place, ensuring you’re going to reach the target audience you want, your knowledge of the route you want to lead needs to be concise and creative in order for it to work. Websites that are easy to use are key, keeping up with market trends, your performance as a business-how quickly you respond and the manner that you respond in, also promotional messages. Simple actions will have loyal customers rolling in, forming that purchase and re-purchase behaviour. For example-Domino’s daily texts and e-mails with discount codes and saying that they missed me encourages me to scoff those carbs down with no regret. They don’t shy away from the innovative marketing tactics and neither should you. (Which reminds me my Sizzler should be here by now, brb.)

Snapchat recently have integrated a ‘Website link’ feature which allows brands to attach their website in their snaps and direct consumers straight to their website address and browse it without having to close the app. An innovative way to up sell products, especially for smaller businesses who have just started up, increasing their digital presence and opportunity. Hurts my bank balance though.

Image result for snapchat

Do I need one?

Y-E-S! Having no direction within a business can be an absolute nightmare. And a strategic plan that is not too complicated will allow for the digital objectives that you want to pursue to be achieved. This will allow for a stronger connection with existing customers whilst developing new relationships as a result of adopting use of those digital tools. The start of your plan should be based on a detailed situational analysis. Summarising this as the process by which the company develops a clear understanding of each individual market and then evaluates its significance for the company and for other markets in which the business operates.

Google Analytics is an easily accessible tool can help to monitor these aspects, giving a stronger indication of how your success can measured. They proliferate your awareness of your target audience, improve engagement and interpret the data you need to continue to create this effective digital strategy.

Following PR Smith’s model; SOSTAC allows for a balanced strategic plan and can be used no matter if your business is big or small. Once you have analysed the situation, your objectives come into practice and you want to start engaging with your customers and ensuring their needs are satisfied. The strategy now in this modern technological world would involve getting your advertisements out on social media sites, making yourselves known, zoning in on the areas you want to target and who. With your focused and efficient tactics, the model will allow you to monitor and control, so if problems arise, they can be easily construed and stopped in their tracks before anything too crazy happens.

Image result for sostac

What makes it so effective?

Brand identity. Is your presence known? If it’s not then you won’t be remembered in a hurry! You want to make yourself aware on and off the internet bringing brand promise, this needs to be consistent. Kapferer created a brand identity prism that is a good framework for helping you source the answers to questions like; ‘What makes a brand distinguished?’, ‘What is brand equity?’ Kapferer’s (1997) argument that this new model adheres to, is that brand identity is a richer concept to understand and build brands, than just focusing on positioning. Allowing you to determine possible limits for brand development and variation. Then, you’re on the path to success.

See, it’s simpler than you think. Although I do advise that you always plan for the worst as you cannot control every situation or employee that crosses your path. Feedback from customers can be a heart-breaking or a ‘made my day’ experience, reels in opportunities to boost your business, being inspired to improve. As Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon says; “A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.” Reputation makes customers.

Image result for reputation pr

 

Fionnuala Hegarty is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on: Twitter – @fionnualaheg,  LinkedIn –Fionnuala Hegarty, and Instagram – fionnualahegarty

Business Owner at 18 : Promotion through Social Media

OM1At the tender age of 20 years old, one might ask what words of wisdom could a fresh-faced student have for a world of entrepreneurs? Well I can tell you that after turning 20 in June and going through a roller coaster of a year and seven months in business, that social media is your best friend!

After turning 18 in June 2016, I headed off to University, confident my life was on the right track. Prior to opening my business, I grew up making myself money. By selling my old clothes on eBay, cleaning anything I could around our house for extra money. I always enjoyed the idea of being my own boss. After completing 4 long years of GCSE & A-Level Art, I realised my passion was Make-Up. (queue many readers switching off).

I opened my own freelance makeup business in March 2017 at the rare age of 18 with possibly £200 to my name, a chair and a Facebook page. I had absolutely no clients and no clue how to get them. Now, over a year and a half on I have a big client base, my own premises and thankfully looking forward to the next few years, as well as being able to blog my thoughts on social media.

So firstly – 1. use Facebook as a promotional tool

I began posting up pictures of my work on my Facebook page to achieve higher engagement. In the first few months of business I done a lot of free work to get myself noticed in my area, to build a client base. I worked at a loss and I made so many mistakes. Facebook for me was a great client builder. I was able to post client photos, allow them to post reviews of my services and it formed a base for my business.

  1. Instagram is your best friend!

In 1 year, I gained over 6,500 followers on my Instagram page from posting content. Now I’m the first to say its not all about follows, likes etc. however in my business, I thrive from engagement. If you’re opening a business which focuses on visual aspects Instagram is where you need to be! Using Instagram as a marketing tool is one of the best and easiest ways to strengthen your business and interact freely with your audience. By using Hashtags to raise awareness & advertise your company.

For me many of my clients are young girls under between the ages of 13 and 20, so as you can imagine Instagram is the perfect place for me to grow my brand. Choosing a platform that connects with your target audience is the key to success.

  1. Post good quality pictures

Nobody wants to see blurry photos that look as if they’ve been taken on a toaster. Everyone on social media is upping their game which means you should too! Take a look at what your competition is posting as a way of bench marking. Studies show that users on Instagram decide whether to follow you or not based on the 3 most recent posts on your profile – so every post counts.

Try to take your pictures against plain (ish) backgrounds & make sure not to upload things nobody wants to see, try to link your uploads back to your business.

  1. Get Tagging

By tagging bigger brands, influencers etc. this encourages them to re-post your work which in turn gets your page more engagement, which is what counts. If your business creates products, posting pictures and tagging relevant Instagram accounts will help your account reach a larger audience.

  1. People want results!

For me as a makeup artist, I gain clients through posting pictures of my makeup on myself and others. As well as posting before and after pictures which shows your skills. This doesn’t just apply to businesses like me, consumers want to know that your product works / creates results before they’ll purchase. Sharing testimonials, reviews and pictures are a great way to show off your products/services on social media.

  1. Choose your social media according to your audience

For me, I want to target all ages. I post on Instagram, Facebook & Snapchat, each for different reasons. I find the older generation use Facebook more than Instagram and this is my method for advertising to an older clientele. Younger people follow me on Instagram and snapchat, therefore I market myself differently due to the difference in followers. With snapchat I feel I can be more open as its not as public as the likes of Instagram & Facebook, however I find snapchat to be the most effective in terms of selling power.

 

So, I hope you might have gained some insight into the world of social media, for me social media has changed the way we are able to promote ourselves and business. It has enabled us to target different people in ways that are engaging to them.

Olivia McVeigh is a Final Year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Instagram – @oliviamcveigh_ ; Linkedin – Olivia McVeigh ; WordPress – https://oliviamcveigh.wordpress.com/blog/ ; Twitter – @McveighOlivia

 

The Ghost of Snapchat Past?

UM1

Kylie Jenner – is there anything she can’t do?  She boasts the title of being the boss of a multi-milion dollar cosmetics company, a yummy twenty-something mummy, and even an expert in predicting stock market trends.  Amazing!

If you’re a little lost here, let me fill you in.  After Kylie sent out a tweet explaining that she was feeling a little less than impressed with recent changes to the Snapchat app, their stocks plummeted $1.3 billion in value.

UM2

By the tone of the tweet, I feel like Kylie probably wasn’t even thinking very much about it at the time of writing.  It was probably just a normal Wednesday for her, chilling out in her mansion, sipping an iced tea, smashing billions in value off the stock market with a single comment.  Average midweek stuff.

While some have marvelled in horror at these events and pondered what kind of world we live in when the Kardashians have sole control over who lives or dies on Wall Street, others have pointed to Snapchat having experienced a general downward trend over the past year – with Kylie’s comment simply kicking them while they’re down.

Last March, Snapchat went public, and despite warning investors that the app may never turn a profit, share prices spiked immediately after hitting the market.  However, the year since has been turbulent.  The company saw a disappointing 17% drop in their shares in mid 2017, with not a Kardashian in sight – the culprit behind this dip was social media giant, Facebook – owners of Instagram.

Snapstagram?

I can actually remember my first reaction when Instagram began rolling out their suspiciously Snapchat-like updates.

UM3

Funnily enough, Instagram’s market value went completely unaffected by my tweet.

But despite Instagram blatantly plagiarising the most popular aspects of a rival app and integrating them into it’s own features, Instagram Stories flourished.  They introduced new and different features that Snapchat lacked, such as different fonts, filters and gifs, and of course, the endlessly popular boomerang feature, which allows us to watch other people clink glasses not just once, but several times in a loop!

Their tactics worked, though, and Instagram Stories alone now boasts more users than Snapchat.  And in keeping with the latest trends, Kylie Jenner gave fans the first peak at her new baby Stormi earlier this year, not via Snapchat, but on Instagram, in a post that became the app’s new most liked picture ever.  It seems that everything Kylie touches turns to gold, and so this gesture probably indicates that we should all invest all of our money in Instagram as quickly as we possibly can.

Redesign – or Re-disaster?

Never mind the threat from Instagram, though – Snapchat may have actually shot themselves in the foot with new updates that nobody asked for.  The company began rolling out a redesign of the app in late 2017, and their shares actually picked up by 25% in response as investors anticipated the effects of these new changes with optimism.  That fell a bit flat however when the changes rolled out…and just about everybody Hated them.  With a capital H.

As the full extent of the redesign was rolled out to user’s phones, the reaction was not good.  In fact, it was sort of dire.  Kylie was not the only one not feeling the apps new layout, with users complaining that the app was now ugly, confusing and difficult to use.  Some users despised the changes so much that a change.org petition aimed at Snapchat asking them to revert the app back to it’s old look gained over a million signatures.

UM5

UM4

Personally, while I wouldn’t say I despise the changes, having to scroll for what feels like years to find someone I messaged yesterday while the names of random people I barely know and would never wish to speak to personally in a million years appear at the top of my feed is just a tiny bit annoying.  Or, you know, massively infuriating, depending on what mood I’m in.

Snapchat commented on the whole debacle by arguing that the update aimed to make the app ‘more personal’ and that users simply needed to get used to it, while promising more changes soon to be rolled out which would make the app experience more ‘customisable’.  While I’m not a tech expert by any means, am I crazy for thinking that if your customers don’t like changes, it’s unlikely you’re going to fix their negative attitudes with more changes?  Or maybe I’m just crazy, who knows…

So is this the death of Snapchat?

As a company that isn’t currently all that profitable, Snapchat’s future lies in the value of its shares.  They need investors to believe that Snapchat is growing and that it’s here for the long run, and not just a social media fad that will disappear into irrelevance as easily as one of its 24 hour stories.  This kind of volatility in its market value could spell disaster for a company that’s still only really in its early years.

Overall, I think there are a few lessons to be learned from the Snapchat redesign disaster, one of which being that the customer is always right.  A little more pilot testing and research into what the audience wants could have saved Snapchat a whole lot of stress and headaches over the past few months.  However, it’s yet to be seen whether or not this whole series of unfortunate events will see a decline in Snapchat’s actual user base, as it still attracts 187 million users a day – it hasn’t quite died and joined MySpace and Bebo in social media heaven just yet.

And personally, until the day I lose all of my 200+day long streaks, Snapchat will still be my go to.

 

Una McHugh is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/una-mchugh-a11956106/ and Twitter @unamickq

 

A 14 Year Old and a GoPro Walk into a Field…

My cousin Katie came home from her first day of secondary school gushing to tell me all about her classes and the people she met. She was decorating her diary, filling in her timetable and telling me all about the day’s events. I flipped through the pages of her diary and was horrified to find a page called ‘Snapchats’ with everything from EllieXoX to Hollie123 (I could tell you about the day she lost her phone and gone were the hard-earned 237 day streaks, but that’s another story in itself.)

What ever happened to the good ol’ days of giving out home phone numbers? Gone now are the glory days of your mum shouting at you to get off the house phone because Nanny’s probably been trying to get through for the past 3 hours. To this day I’m still annoyed I couldn’t three-way call like Lizzie, Miranda and Gordo.

RW6

I’m not claiming that I don’t use Snapchat or any other forms of social media to keep in touch with my friends, I love aimlessly flicking through Facebook looking at memes and cat videos as much as the next person, I’m just sad to see so many young teenagers glued to their smart phones.

However, every once in a while we meet someone, an absolute anomaly, who isn’t obsessed with uploading their next Instagram post at prime time or with the latest iPhone that’s going to smash sooner than the last one (and I’m not talking about your dad that still has a Nokia 3310). Enter Katie’s older brother, James. His interest: farming and absolutely nothing else; whilst most teenagers would come home and go on Facebook, James got straight into his overalls and headed to our Granda’s farm, when other teens were getting play stations and footballs for Christmas, James was getting tractor simulators and new work coats for the farm. But alas, nothing lasts forever.

As James got older he became glued to his dad’s iPad watching YouTube videos by farmers called the Grassmen, a group of men who decided to experiment with cameras in their tractors and fields and soon developed a mass following with some videos gaining almost 5 million views. James watched all their videos and couldn’t wait to tell me when he met Donkey at The Balmarol Show. Naturally I assumed he meant the character from Shrek; I soon learned that Donkey was one of these Grassmen and a major influence on James.

RW4

My interest was piqued when James’ parents asked if they could buy GoPro accessories for James from my Amazon account for Christmas. James? A GoPro? He’s not travelling to Thailand this summer to find himself, why does he have a GoPro? When I thought about it I didn’t know many people who owned a GoPro, never mind any 14 year olds. I was on placement in London at the time and soon forgot about it until one day my mum sent me a YouTube link with the message: “Watch this”, and five minutes later: “Did you watch it yet?” James had uploaded his first video – my reaction: instant fan-girl.

Being from the country I’ve seen plenty of tractors driving around and, as many of you probably know, it’s really not that exciting. With a variety of editing and the addition of music James managed to make something that people would generally find quite boring really fun to watch. The video currently has 364 views (of which I think 64 are mine). I remember showing my co-workers the next morning with pride written all over my face, their expressions were mere confusion as many of them most likely hadn’t seen a tractor in central London nor knew anyone that drove them. I’ll let you decide for yourselves but I’m sure you’ll agree the results are amazing, especially for a 14 year old that wouldn’t have touched an iPhone just a few years ago.

It turns out James wasn’t just producing short videos but was also uploading images to an Instagram account of the tractors and the fields. We still joke about him lying down in the grass to get the perfect shot, but the truth is the pictures are amazing:

RW5

Some people are paid thousands to make content for social media and here was my cousin spending his time doing it for free all because he loved farming. So, as much as we want to roll our eyes and moan about “kids these days” with all their gadgets, at the end of the day they’re allowing teenagers to be creative in ways we never would have dreamed of just a couple of years ago. It also goes to show that social media isn’t just for the travel and beauty bloggers, farmers are even starting to get a piece of the action!

Roisin Watters is a final year BSc Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be contacted at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/roisin-watters-661a03a6/, and on Twitter @Roisin_Watters

Three weeks of social media rehab

HM30

We’ve all been there. That gut wrenching, heart pounding moment you realise you can’t find your phone. You frantically pat your body up and down, hoping, praying that it’s lodged deep within your pocket. Know what I’m talking about? Not nice, is it?

Anyone who knows me knows that I love social media. I struggle to go a day without uploading a Snapchat story and often am guilty of uploading more than one Instagram in a single day. I know; social suicide! My social media addiction often acts as a great source of entertainment for my friends. “Oh, there she is! Social media queen! Make sure to get a Snapchat of that, Hannah!” … the jibes are endless but (as us Northern Irish like to say), completely ‘fair enough’.

So, when the battery in my two-year-old iPhone 6 decided to completely cut out during a celebratory post three assignment deadline trip to Dublin, I was phoneless. You can imagine my despair. I hadn’t lost my phone, but holding it in my hand while it refused to turn on, smugly replaying the apple restart logo with the somewhat aggressive “CHARGE YOUR PHONE” symbol constantly appearing on the screen, almost made me wish I did. I wanted to throw it out of the car onto the M50. A weekend exploring a perfectly decorated Grafton Street at Christmas, walks along Malahide’s beautiful coastal path, copious portions of poached eggs and smoked salmon for brunch, pints of Guinness in Gibneys and all without a single Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook post. In fact, I was so quiet on social media that my friends actually started to express genuine concern for my wellbeing. A digital silence? Nope. Not for me.

Once back in Belfast, I was on a mission. An urgent visit to Three and I had managed to bag myself a new phone. I took my brand-new rose gold iPhone SE home and eagerly awaited my social media fix… Until…

“To verify your iCloud account, a code has been sent to your device ending in *********06.”

Sorry… what? My number ends in 54, not 06! Great.

To save explaining every boring, intrinsic technicality, I’ll just cut to the chase; I was locked out of my iCloud (and subsequently all apps on my new phone) for a grand total of THREE WEEKS as the wrong number had been verified to my account. That’s right. Me; girl who can’t leave her phone alone for three minutes has 0 access to anything other than texts and calls for three weeks.

So, what did I learn?

  1. The gym is a terrible place to be when you’re phoneless.

 I never realised how much I rely on music to keep me motivated during a session in the gym or how loudly I stamp on the treadmill when I run and… let’s not even talk about the heavy breathing. Sorry fellow gym members.

  1. The memories you gain from real life experiences are long-lasting, even when they aren’t documented on social media.

 Don’t get me wrong, I think social media is an excellent way to capture and record memories and I will continue to do so. I now know, however, that I don’t have to photograph or record everything – something I’m sure my friends will be pleased to hear!

  1. I could focus on my work more

Whilst I might enjoy receiving Snapchats of my housemates attempting to sing or of them scaring each other in our flat while I’m in the library (sometimes a little too much when I struggle to hold back uncontrollable laughter in the McClay), I did find it much easier to concentrate on assignments without my phone.

  1. I could focus more in real life

 Without the subconscious distractions generated by nonstop notifications, I was more engaged in day to day life. I wouldn’t zone out of a conversation because a message came through to my phone and I would take in my surroundings when walking from A to B. It sounds silly to say but I started to look up and around me, rather than down at the HD screen in my hands.

  1. I was far more sociable

I managed to have better conversations, with the people that mattered to me. Not over text, not on Facebook, Snapchat or WhatsApp, in person.

  1. I didn’t miss social media as much as I thought I would

If I was told three weeks ago that I wouldn’t be allowed access to my social media accounts for this length of time, I would not have been happy. Social media has become an integral part of our lives and I couldn’t possibly entertain the idea of being off it for so long. But did I really miss it that much? Honestly… no. I enjoyed the  much needed detox!

Recent research published in The Times claims that social media is bad for your mental health. Academic studies continuously suggest that intense use of social media is linked to depression, low self-esteem and feelings of depression.

Maybe a break from it every once in a while would be of benefit to us all?

Now I’m not going to start anti-social media protests outside the City Hall, nor am I going to deactivate my accounts, in fact I’ll probably be back to annoying my friends very shortly, but now, at least I know the positive benefits and the headspace going digitally teetotal can bring about.

 

Hannah Martin is a final year Bsc student in Communication, Advertising and Marketing at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter @HannahMartin596, and Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/hannah-martin-b31334112/