• Why your thing has to be good first

    Why your thing has to be good first

    If you want people to pay in the future, your free thing has to be really good: LinkedIn, Spotify and the freemium model.

     You know what I find strange? That the freemium model of business — that is, you get a base level of something for free and you can pay for a better version of it — seems to be built around the idea that ads are terrible and nobody wants them.

    So, on Spotify’s free service, you’ll get barraged with ads in between songs, including in-house ads that say things like ‘Isn’t life so much better without ads?’ Yes, I agree Spotify, it is.

    But don’t the clients for these ad-supported services get annoyed that their audiences are constantly being told to upgrade so they don’t have to endure ads? You have to wonder.

    Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that, in the freemium model, the free version in general is deliberately hobbled in some way.

    After all, while ads are the way many freemium services pay for the ‘free’ part, sometimes it’s additional features are the lure.

    This is the case with LinkedIn.

    Now, I have to assume that part of LinkedIn’s strategy is to make its base model functionality really annoying so you upgrade. However, at $55 per month, I’m not yet in a financial position to find out if that’s the case, so I’m just speculating.

    (By the way, are they kidding with that price? That’s what you pay for Adobe CC.)

    Considering Facebook is free and LinkedIn isn’t, let’s do a little comparison in terms of UX.

    Free LinkedIn vs. Free Facebook

    Despite being free, there are basic things that Facebook gets right that LinkedIn doesn’t seem able to. For example:

    • Notifications opening in a new page, instead of a floating panel. This means that if you want to check your notifications, you have to leave your place in the newsfeed or open them up in a new tab.
    • Tagging. Uniformly, tagging sucks on LinkedIn. Nine times out of ten, if I type @ and then the name of the company or individual I want, it either won’t provide me a list of the correct accounts or nothing will happen at all.
    • Data on sharing. Did you know you can share posts on LinkedIn, just like on Facebook? Have you ever been notified directly of this? Probably not. It’s even worse if you have a business account.
    • The way articles display. That is, not at all. Wouldn’t it be great if all the articles (formerly ‘Pulses’) that LinkedIn’s users create existed on an easy-to-find main page, much like Medium’s home page? You’d be able to see which articles are getting people talking, what’s been recently published and it would give less-popular users a platform to generate some reach outside of our own networks. This would be one big way LinkedIn could really differentiate itself from other social networks, beyond just it being ‘the Facebook for professionals’.
    • Groups are even worse. On Facebook, posts from your groups will show up in your feed, so you can see what the conversations are. On LinkedIn, good luck even finding where your groups live. Discussions from them don’t appear in your timeline, meaning there’s little engagement with posts and you rarely get notified about them beyond a weekly email.

    So, are these just bugs or has LinkedIn made the platform worse for free users?

    Make your free thing good

    The irony is, if I was sure of a better service/UX with an upgrade, I might consider it. None of this is to denigrate LinkedIn. On the contrary, I enjoy LinkedIn for its business insights, connections and general no-nonsense communication (at least compared to Facebook, people are relatively polite). It’s just that when they can’t seem to get the basics of a social network right — or how people actually use social networks these days (i.e. mobile-first) — it doesn’t inspire confidence in me to upgrade.

    This brings me, in a roundabout way, to my actual point: if you want people to pay for something later, you have to make the free thing really good first.

    The reason, perhaps, we’ll put up with ads on free Spotify is that the base model is actually a really good and valuable service if you’re a big music fan. And if you do upgrade, you’ve likely done so because you recognise that Spotify Premium is what you already like but better.

    Similarly, whether you choose to upgrade on LinkedIn or not depends to some extent on how good the base platform is (you know I love you, LinkedIn, I’m just foolin’).

    All this applies to social media marketing too. If all you give your followers for free is sales-speak and ads, they’re not going to want to click through to your website. Or buy your product. Or sign up for your newsletter. They’re not going to want to join your premium closed group that costs $10 a month — Unless you’ve shown them value in what you’re giving away.

    This is where content creation — good content creation — beyond just advertising and marketing can really help your business. This isn’t a new idea either. It goes all the way back to pre-digital media.

    Adding value, adding customers

    My publishing hero is William M. Gaines, who published Mad Magazine without ads for 44 years. And when he finally had to succumb to market forces and put ads in the magazine in 2001, people largely accepted it because the audience knew that Mad Magazine had great content.

    So don’t think of a great thing, then deliberately make it less good just to charge money. That’s just gross — not to mention uncreative. Plus, it most likely won’t work. At least not in the long term.

    You have to demonstrate that you can deliver what you’re offering by making your free offering great. Then find a way to augment and add value to it so that your built-in audience of fans and followers will want to pay for that access, that product or that service. (Podcasts do this really well, by the way.)

    If you can show people through quality free content why your business is worth investing in, before long you’ll have some very loyal customers.

    If you want help with your social media content creation and management, get in touch today.

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  • Does your brand need social media anyway?

    Does your brand need social media anyway?

    What would your business be like if you didn’t use social media?

    Big brands such as Tesla, Playboy, Mozilla and Sonos recently left Facebook amid the Cambridge Analytica fiasco. Theoretically, these companies made a moral choice about Facebook’s misuse of data and the potential exploitation of the platform.

    But maybe they just realised they don’t actually need social media all that much.

    This is something to consider: maybe social media isn’t for you. Or your business. It’s right for a lot of businesses, but not all. Some businesses don’t require it, so be honest with yourself: What would your business be like if you didn’t use social media?

    Social media can be a great tool for small businesses and single traders who are in a position to really connect with their fans in a content-directed way. However, larger companies that have no desire or use for creative content might not need it at all.

    After all, a lot of big brands’ social media accounts only exist to have some online presence and to field a deluge of complaints every day. It must be a relief for these #deletefacebook companies to not have to deal with that anymore.

    And since Facebook decided in December 2017 that it was reverting to a more friend-focused model, maybe the Cambridge Analytica scandal could not have come at a better time for brands finding their reach and engagement levels way down.

    Harkening back

    So, some brands can get away with removing Facebook altogether — and maybe their other social accounts too. That’s still a little drastic for most companies though. But it does provide a good launching pad for thinking about other avenues that brands can be too blinded by social to consider.

    With Facebook’s recent changes to how business accounts to operate, we’re seeing a move to an older form of internet marketing, more linking back to owned assets like websites and direct marketing in the form of email newsletters, still one of the more reliable formats in terms of conversions.

    At one point, Facebook was great for levelling the playing field between the big guys and the little guys. For better or worse, it flattened everything out, gave every company a clean design. It made it hard to tell who was a big player and who was just a pretender. It gave even the smallest of businesses a modicum of professionalism.

    However, now that the only way to get much benefit out of your business page is to pay for reach, all that hard work building an organic community or people for naught, some brands are deciding that it’s time to pack up and move things back to where you own everything and have control: your website, your email newsletter, events, your other social networks. Social as publishing

    Marketing beyond social

    Back in the days before social media, brands would actually have a marketing strategy other than Facebook. They had magazine ads — to its dying day, still a better branding tool than it was given credit for. They had outdoor advertising. They had event signage and point-of-sale. They had TVCs that were actually on TV. Then came social media, which people saw as a way to save lots of money and abandon all other marketing.

    At Hook Media, we’ve always thought about social media as just one channel to spread your business message and treated the actual content as the key what defines how your brand represents and defines itself. With a background in publishing, we like to think of it as another kind of publication, albeit one with content all broken up rather than combined in one package, like a magazine.

    So if one platform isn’t working anymore, that’s not the end of the world. That’s just a new opportunity to change tactics and come at it from a different angle. It’s the brands who are still trying to play the same old numbers game that will suffer.

    The recent upheavals with Mark Zuckerberg’s platform just serve to illustrate once again that it’s still a good idea to have a media strategy aside from social.

    Social media isn’t dead — there are other options besides Facebook, after all. But you might not need to place as much importance on it. It’s just one weapon in your arsenal.

    It’s just too bad everyone already abandoned the magazines.

    If you need communications advice, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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  • Walking the walk: How (not) to be taken seriously on social media

    Walking the walk: How (not) to be taken seriously on social media

    How are you coming across on social media?

    In my previous career as a magazine editor, I would often come across a strange phenomenon. Contacting athletes for a feature or interview, I was often struck by how many did not match what they put out through their social media channels.

    I’m not talking about Photoshopped images and Instagram filters. This was more about how they would choose to interact with the world. Athletes who preach focus, consistency and dedication barely put in the effort to use proper punctuation in message. Posts that castigated others for being lazy came from people who couldn’t be bothered to fill out a Q&A. Those who spoke of respect and ‘getting it done’ every day took weeks to reply to an email.

    And often those who tried to motivate people with platitudes like ‘if you want something, you just have to hustle’ would lose their motivation when our media outlet would try to engage with these athletes, be it setting up a meeting, asking for some content, an image or anything that might help their brand out — suddenly they weren’t very motivated. So much for hustle.

    Obviously in the fitness industry these kinds of posts mostly refer to fitness. Still, it struck me that these athletes who presumably wanted exposure and potential business would not apply their successful philosophies in one area (fitness) to how they dealt with the rest of the world (media, business, etc.).

    (Indeed, it’s no coincidence that those who manage to apply one discipline to another are often very successful.)

    Helpful hints

    However, it is possible that some people do not realise that this is how they are coming across. In fact, I’m sure most of the people I’m thinking of would be horrified to know. In that spirit, here are a few helpful hints to being taken seriously outside of the social media world (aka the real world):

    • Don’t preach consistency and attention to detail when there are spelling errors all through your social posts.

    • Don’t bang on about hard work when you can’t be bothered getting back to people in a timely manner.

    • Check each post before it goes out and evaluate it for what you’re actually communicating. Is it something that fits with how you genuinely see the world or have you jumped on a bandwagon?

    • Don’t go on about staying humble and having respect in your social posts when you’re rude to people who want to contact you.

    • Understand that when somebody gets in touch, they are a potential client, customer or contact. If you are truly too busy, send a quick reply acknowledging that you received their message and you’ll endeavor to get back to them when you can.

    These obviously don’t only apply for those in the fitness industry. Anyone who uses social media to engage with clients, customers or fans should be aware of how their non-social media behaviour can impact their perception and reputation.

    Takeaway message

    If you’re a social media personality trying to inspire your followers to do ANYTHING — buy your product, become your client, follow your page, whatever it might be — don’t go against what you’re saying in your posts in your dealings with your fans, the media and, by extension, the world in general.

    Sure, we all have personas online. Our social media presence does not equal the sum of our value as a person. That said, if you’ve decided to have a social media presence, what you put out there better be at least somewhat representative of you as a person.

    And who knows? Maybe you’ll even become more successful as a result.

    If you’re an athlete or business that needs help with their social media strategy, get in touch with us at Hook Media.

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