Social Media

  • Social Media Strategy for Small and Emerging Businesses An interview with Jim Panagas

    In Chapter Events, Social Media on

    By Ariana Revelas, PRSA Boston Faculty Forum Student Correspondent – Bentley University


    Jim Panagas is a Boston-based marketing and communications professional with deep experience managing major brands, hiring and managing agencies, and running his own business. He believes companies should take full advantage of the full marketing communications mix — from video content to webcasting, social media, PR, and analyst relations — to connect with key audiences, communicate better than their competitors, and achieve market leadership.

     

    I asked Jim to discuss his experience in counseling small business owners, in particular about their PR and marketing initiatives.  He shares how small businesses face a different kind of challenge when it comes to PR and Marketing:

     

     

    Please share some insights on counseling small business owners.

    Often times, small and emerging businesses simply don’t have a marketing or communications professional on board yet. So, you’re often dealing with a point of contact who doesn’t have a lot of experience in this area. He or she may not know the right questions to ask and what is appropriate to spend at this point in time, and may unrealistically expect immediate results (as in closed sales opportunities).  

     

    What is your approach for counseling small business owners in the technology industry in the strategic use of social media and PR?

    My clients reside in the technology space. I tend to point them toward LinkedIn and Twitter. It is important that a company builds and maintains a company page, sends out announcements on a regular basis, and engages in online discussions. The richer your content (such as including a photo, video, survey, study, etc.), the more likely people will read what you have to say, comment, and perhaps forward that information to their friends and colleagues. When you’re sharing information on LinkedIn, there is an option to simultaneously share that same information with your Twitter audience, which I strongly recommend.

     

    That doesn’t mean that you can’t put some exclusive content on LinkedIn and/or some exclusive content on Twitter. It just means that, in general, you want to ensure that comparable information is being shared on both platforms. Social media is key to getting people to know about and talk about your company in the short term.

     

    What should businesses look for when hiring a digital marketing expert?

    It makes the most sense for a small business to engage a marketing consultant or agency rather than hiring marketing staff right out of the gate. This is particularly important because the marketing industry is in a period of extreme change at the moment and marketers tend to fall into one of two camps:  “classical marketers” i.e. people who can write, design, strategize and come up with innovative ways to generate visibility versus “digital marketers” who are primarily trained to run a marketing or sales automation platform.

     

    If a business is looking for someone to run a particular platform such as Marketo, Pardot, or even Salesforce.com, it probably needs a person or agency with more “digital” expertise. However, a business needs to crawl before it can walk, and that early formative communication is much more likely to be developed by a classical marketer. I don’t mean to overstate this schism, but it exists and the delta between them is getting wider. I cannot overemphasize the importance of these small and emerging business to engage a high quality writer. That way, they are building on a solid foundation.

     

    What are the current social media strategies that businesses should take advantage of?

    To win in today’s marketplace, it’s about quality of communication – not quantity. It’s more important to have senior, influential people within the organization communicating about your brand through social media channels rather than having a small army of people across your company – people who are not trained writers – sending out content. Again, it’s about quality of content, not quantity.

     

    Increase use of video content. 

    If you’re having a 5-minute discussion with a member of your management team…or a subject matter expert…or a partner, you should capture that conversation on video and share it through social media channels. People are used to watching video.  They are more likely to remember something that they heard or saw in a video clip than something that they read. 

     

    Update your website with compelling content.

    Your company website should contain significant content that your audience will find both useful and interesting. Here is a short list of must-haves in order to be effective on the web:

    1. List your address, phone number, email address, etc., so that people can easily contact your organization. Make it EASY for people to contact your company.
    2. Your leadership team should be clearly identified on the site with photos and bios.
    3. Feature downloadable assets such as data sheets and success stories.
    4. Webinars are a great low cost and broad vehicle for attracting qualified prospects.
    5. In addition to being shared via social media, video content can also find a home on a company’s website. If the videos are short – less than 1-2 minutes in duration – website visitors are very likely to click on them.
    6. Make sure you have a mailing list that website visitors can join, so that you can stay engaged with them over time and they can keep track of what’s happening at your business.

    The bottom line: find the right professionals. Find marketers and communicators who think like you do, who understand exactly what your business does and recognize why it’s important. If you’re in the technology space, look for marketing, communications, and PR professionals who have done a lot of work for technology companies over time. Ask about their background and credentials. Read their referencesTake the time to look at samples of their work. Hire the right person or agency, and great things can happen. 

     

    To find out more about social media strategies, attend our 7th Annual Social Media Summit, May 3, at Bentley University.  You’ll hear from some of the region’s most forward-thinking agencies, organizations and content creators!

     

  • April 4th Preview: Cannabis Entrepreneur Rob Toof On Leading MA’s Newest Beverage Category

    As co-founder of Altatude Beverage Company, Rob Toof has now traveled the entrepreneurial continuum full-circle with his first investor-supported venture. Rooted in product development and sales, he has worked on the front lines of word of mouth / influencer campaigns (BzzAgent), funding performance (NextGen Venture Partners), building and selling his online education platform to a fortune 500 company (Pearson) and marquee special event planning (The Boston Cup). Just back from an international sales trip, Loring Barnes caught up with him after his latest Logan touchdown to talk about the role of deliberate communications to support the launch of a new cannabis brand and what being a trailblazer requires of a business owner.

    Q. So I’m going to jump right into the deep end: the Wall Street Journal has declared cannabis beverages as “tasting terrible,” with such yummy flavor descriptions as “hints of dirty socks,” a “gross aftertaste” like “dish soap and urine.” Ouch! How do you overcome such caustic critiques to distinguish your brand as being something familiar or appealing and get people to actually track it down and try it? 

    Before I started the business I went from LA to Vancouver with my attorney (him driving), trying and ranking every cannabis beverage we could get our hands; judging them based on taste, dosage, price and packaging. Out of 60 different beverages we tried, for taste five were good, the remaining were undrinkable swill. Why? Beverages are hard to produce and they are at a higher risk of contamination because they’re always wet. It’s highly possible many of the samples we tried were filled with microbials due to lack of preservatives or food science.

    Alta is a line of beverages formulated to mask and accentuate specific cannabis flavors and aromas while also enhancing the effects. With sophisticated flavors that are unique yet familiar, Alta moves beyond beverages to deliver a “reefined” experience for the discriminating cannabis consumer.  Each product is made in small batches and tested by a third party to ensure food safety standards are being met/exceeded.

    Our team bench is deep in beverage experience including: a food scientist, a sommelier, a café owner, a soda company owner, a vermouth maker and a cold brew expert. We feel confident on the flavor front.

     Q. Communicators with IPO-readiness experience understand that an investor-backed start-up needs a strategy that supports a payback end-game, and possibly an acquisition as an exit strategy. You’ve been down this road as an investor. Now you’re the owner accountable to investors. How does this perspective shape how you value and use public relations as a value driver to build revenue?

    I’ve run my own company with a successful exit to a publicly traded Fortune 500 company. Prior to that I ran word-of-mouth campaigns for brands like SC Johnson, Kraft and IBM on launching new products, which worked closely with PR to get the word out. Word of mouth is the most important aspect of our brand strategy. Shortly behind that is traditional PR. Any credible third party, especially for a cannabis product, means the brand name is trustworthy.  There are a lot of bad products out there and in the end, it will come down to brand reputation.

    Q. Is there any aspect of investment performance that risks impatience for your company to mature and achieve its intended potential? How does financial discipline shape your marketing and PR priorities?

    A: Canning equipment is the biggest. So, if you think of us both as a brand and as a platform, we have two main goals. Our first goal is to expand our own brand. Our second goal is to help other brands produce their beverages on our platform when we have latency. We believe this strategy allows for frequent content creation, PR opportunities, and unique brand experiences that we can budget and plan for before a project even begins.

    Altatude is in a unique real-time challenge: defining a new product category and carving out a distinct brand personality within it. That’s a tall order, at a time when you are spending to hit the retail and restaurant marketplace on all cylinders. How much of your messaging is directed to educating the general population versus customers and buyers?

    A: We are a sales organization first and foremost, which means I’m measuring number of store fronts and units moved weekly, not brand awareness mostly right now. That being said, we know patients and budtenders are influencers to their networks, so we are beginning to work more closely with these audiences to help them understand the value of drinkables, nanotechnology, micro-dosing and sipping Alta.

    Q. The role of social media in the media mix has some restrictions for cannabis where marijuana is not yet universally legal. When you look at earned, owned and paid media, which of them is proving most productive for Altatude? How do you look to measure the impact of your overall media strategy, and as the owner, are you willing to pay for measurement as a feature of your overall communications program?

    We use Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, which we update regularly. We are in an interesting spot as we are about to launch our own CBD line, which is hemp derived, which opens up a bunch of legal questions regarding what we can and can’t do from a promotion stand point. At this point, I’m not willing to pay for measurement beyond SEO and CPA for online reservation, delivery and orders/subscriptions.

    Q. PRSA Boston embraces mentoring and is a career gateway to new graduates and early-stage public relations, social media and sales-focused communicators. Does Altatude offer paid internships and if so, how should someone make themselves known to you? Does it go without saying that interns or employees have to be cannabis consumers, in whatever form that is?

    A: We would love to hear from PRSA affiliated interns. Pay is based on a case-by-case basis. If you have interest in working at Altatude please email info@altatude.com. Consumption is not a requirement. 80% of our team consume less than once a month.

    Q. What is the biggest misconception about the cannabis economy that you would like legislators and/or journalists to better understand?

    A: Dosing is very individual and there needs to be more understanding/less restriction within dosing for the recreational market. For example, recreational beverage have limitations in Massachusetts of 5mg per serving/can/beverage. In that same recreational transaction, a consumer can buy a syringe with 850mg of THC, which they are more likely to over medicate with. So long as there are concentrates for sale, drinkables shouldn’t have dosing restrictions as low as they currently do.

    Q. You’ve been traveling, but you likely haven’t found Altatude at an airport bar in between flights. When you’ve got time to kill, what is your beverage of choice?

    A: I don’t drink much alcohol anymore now that I’m drinking cannabis. No hangover and lower calories. Staples though are water and coffee.

    Meet Rob Toof on Thursday, April 4th and hear about beverages as the newest cannabis industry’s  product category (plus sample some Alta Fueganon-infused). He joins an A-lister panel of marijuana business experts and policy influencers. The lively discussion will be lead by Jess Bartlett (@BOSBIZJess), veteran cannabis and craft beer beat journalist for the Boston Business Journal. Click on this LINK to get your ticket.  Special rates for students, young professionals and members. 

    **With special thanks to our generous hosts, Zazil Media Group (@zazilmediagroup). A donation from the program will be made to the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • April 4th Preview: Meet Cannabis Control Commission’s Exec. Dir., Guiding MA’s Hottest Economy

    In 2008, the vote by Massachusetts to decriminalize marijuana set the BayState on its journey to legalizing cannabis by a ballot initiative eight years later. This set into motion the need for a centralized authority whose purpose was to operationalize the law for the opening of medical and recreational retail dispensaries across the state. Enter the Cannabis Control Commission, (CCC) which has handled the dizzying charter of providing host municipalities with guidelines intended to balance community impacts with new revenue opportunity. As its Executive Director since the agency’s found, Shawn Collins brings the most current perspective on this growing industry. He recently shared his insights about how public affairs have been an economic driver with Loring Barnes for a PRSA Boston’s Fast Five… and a few more questions.

    On April 4th, some members of the Cannabis Control Commission’s communications team will be in attendance. Our team includes:

    We draw agency talent from the State PRF60 Contract for advertising, graphic design and public awareness, including this campaign:  “More About Marijuana

    Q: We share the experience of holding elected office in respective hometowns. Interestingly, you were chair of your school committee. As a general statement, schools are a municipal department that will claim new budget needs to fund educational impact or mitigation programs stemming from the arrival of local cannabis cultivation or dispensaries. How has your insight from your elected office tenure factored in decisions as related to deploying state-level marijuana health and safety programs targeting youth, families, staff nurses and educators? What is the delineation of educational resources to be provided through the CCC versus the Department of Public Health?

    A: Public education and awareness, especially during the infancy of this industry, is critical.  Our campaign, “More About Marijuana,” specifically identifies the importance of parents talking with their children about the potential impact of youth access.  It also reminds parents that if they intend to purchase and consume adult-use cannabis, they also have an obligation to keep those products safe and secure within their home.  We have made these public awareness materials, including rack cards, available through the state’s clearinghouse and shared them with superintendents across Massachusetts. Education and awareness are the best tools we have, and we’ll partner with anyone that can help us get those messages out.  That includes other state agencies, as well as local and community partners.

    Q: You’re an attorney. How do you reconcile protection of First Amendment rights with the recent actions taken by Instagram and Facebook to delete social media accounts of early-stage marijuana businesses, to include those newly opened in Massachusetts? For a small business, social media is a key engagement tool used for marketing and education.  Is the CCC taking an advocacy position or providing guidance to these businesses as how to navigate social media?

    A: I’m an attorney, yes, but I’m not in the best position to offer legal advice in this particular area.  The Commission, consistent with our objective to be as available and transparent as possible, does seek to leverage social media as often as possible to get our own message out.  We know that a lot of our key constituency can be found on these platforms. We also know, too, that kids are present and active on these platforms. So, we do expect any of our licensees to be mindful of that when using these tools.  

    Q: A cornerstone of the cannabis industry is social equity, which is a program described as a deliverable by the CCC. How does the CCC advance access to small business investor capital, grants or other benefits for minority or underrepresented business populations if federal lending laws make it so difficult?

    A: This is really the challenge that is facing this industry and these entrepreneurs across the board.  Access to capital limits everyone’s access to this market, but especially hinders those small business owners that aren’t independently wealthy.  Given the federal constraints, the solution may have to be multi-faceted. This could include state-run and supported programs, including grants and loans, as well as private investments targeted specifically to small business, particularly those economic empowerment applicants and social equity program participants.  There is no one, single solution to this.

    Q: Does the CCC hire paid interns for experiences supporting communications, public affairs or outreach functions? Will the CCC be expanding to meet the needs of the growing cannabis industry?

    A: As a start-up agency, our Commission is always looking to add additional resources and support.  We have tried to develop a strategic approach to public awareness and community outreach, and both are two areas of potential growth within the Commission.  We do not currently have any opportunities for internships, but think they are something we will absolutely consider in the future.

    Q: What is the biggest misconception or information gap that the CCC is working to address?

    A: While the Commission has broad regulatory authority, we do not oversee all things cannabis-related.  We rely on other state agencies and scores of local partners to regulate this new industry. Relatedly, residents have a lot of rights with this new law, including the ability to grow plants in their home.  This isn’t something the Commission has the authority to police, but we’d gladly work with residents to understand their rights and limitations, as well as local authorities in a similar manner. Lastly, I think it is important for folks to remember that we’re still a young and growing agency.

    Q: In the morning when you’re enjoying your morning coffee, what are you reading to start your day? Then during your commute, do you listen to podcasts or news stations as might intersect with your need to keep on top of cannabis-related topics?

    A: I rely on local media in the Boston area and other regional outlets in the state to get my news every morning, including the Boston Business Journal and Boston Globe.  I also make a point to scroll through Flipboard, which helps me cast a much wider net for all news – including cannabis.  As for my commute, I’ll admit I’m much more likely to listen to “The Daily” from the New York Times, or “Up First” from NPR, as opposed to cannabis-related podcasts.  Sometimes I need the break.

    Meet Shawn Collins on Thursday, April 4th and hear from the agency tasked with shaping a safe and equitably accessible cannabis industry in Massachusetts.  He joins an A-lister panel of marijuana business experts and policy influencers. The lively discussion will be lead by Jess Bartlett (@BOSBIZJess), veteran cannabis and craft beer beat journalist for the Boston Business Journal. Click on this LINK to get your ticket.  Special rates for students, young professionals and members. 

    **With special thanks to our generous hosts, Zazil Media Group (@zazilmediagroup). A donation from the event will be made to the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance.

     

     

  • Fast Five with Deirdre Breakenridge, 2018 Social Media Summit Keynote Speaker

    Deirdre K. Breakenridge is Chief Executive Officer at Pure Performance Communications. A veteran in PR, marketing and branding, Breakenridge is the author of six books, including “Answers for Modern Communicators”, “Social Media and Public Relations: Eight New Practices for the PR Professional”, “Putting the Public Back in Public Relations” and “PR 2.0: New Media, New Tools, New Audiences.

    Deidre teaches online PR and social media courses for the UMASS at Amherst  and for Rutgers University’s PR Certificate course. She is also the host of a podcast program, Women Worldwide, interviewing women around the globe who are encouraged to share their incredible stories, educating, imparting advice and offering insights to show listeners. Women Worldwide has recently joined the C- Suite Radio Network, where Deirdre is recognized as a C-Suite Advisor.

    Deirdre will be the opening keynote speaker at the 2018 Social Media Summit on May 11 at Bentley University.  Join Deirdre and a host of other speakers for an amazing day as we explore how social media is being integrated in communications strategies at some of the region’s most visible brands.  Learn more and get your tickets here

    What prompted you to start PR Expanded?

    I launched PR Expanded (formerly PR 2.0) when I was researching and writing my book PR 2.0: New Media, New Tools and New Audiences. The blog was a way to document my social media journey, share topics covered in the book and gauge community member reactions and thoughts that I would include in my manuscript. Since the launch of PR 2.0, I’ve rebranded my blog as PR Expanded, which represents the many opportunities for PR professionals today. PR Expanded continues to showcase new roles and practices in PR as a result of the changing media landscape, advancing technologies and shifting consumer behaviors.

    What is a recent winning move your social media team has made for a client?

    We work with a digital marketing agency that is taking a stand on Artificial Intelligence and marketing ethics. A recent study of 6,000 consumers in the US, UK and Germany reveals consumer attitudes and concerns about AI. Our team was able to immerse ourselves in the survey data to come up with creative pitch angles. Our pitches have led to more media exposure in the form of byline articles, Q&A guest posts, radio interviews and expert commentary in business, technology and industry trade publications.

    What top deliverables do you look for in your social media team?

    Your social media team must deliver outcomes for your business. Yes, there are communication goals as a result of your campaigns, but you’re also tying what you do to higher-level business goals. A social media team that has a purpose and goals and sets up a measurement program that shows how social media directly relates to sales and lead generation, marketing optimization, customer satisfaction or brand health, is a team that gets the attention of the company leaders.

    What big goals or programs do you want your social media team to accomplish this year?

    Companies need to share stories and share meaningful information with the public, but they also need to create a sharing culture on the inside of the organization. Our social media teams are focused on igniting employee champions within the organization to create more strategic participation and greater momentum and engagement through employee networks. As a rule, good communication (including social media communication) starts on the inside of the company.

    What do you look for in a social media professional when you are hiring?

    A social media professional needs a balance of IQ and Emotional Quotient (EQ). It’s great when a candidate knows the areas of social media management, data and analytics and good writing and communication skills. However, the EQ is important when you’re dealing with a community and any issues or concerns that may arise. Showing EQ means stepping back to evaluate a situation in a social media community and having more empathy for your customer. When you blend the strategic with the empathy, you can solve problems and prevent the escalation of issues for your brand.

    When your clients just don’t get social media, how do you explain it?

    When clients don’t understand social media you have to show them why it matters in their world. Showing them could mean sharing the results of a competitor audit and how the competition uses social media. You might also reveal that the top companies in their industry are using social media to attract the best talent. You can also share how their customers, employees, media, and other important stakeholders are on social media giving them a reason to monitor or to engage directly. For these clients, it could be a crawl, walk run approach to get them comfortable with social media and understanding the meaning and value for their business.

    About Fast 5

    This is a feature of PRSA Boston’s Hot Topics blog page. The expert subject is someone who is clearly in demand, on the go, and nailing them down for a conversation is about as easy as … winning Powerball at $1.5 billion! But we know leaders like to share, so check back for insights, wisdom, author’s books about to hit the stands and other valuable tips. @prsaboston #prsabos

    Do YOU have a candidate for a FAST 5 interview? Email: Joshua Milne at josh@joshuamilnepr.com and pitch your subject expert!

    Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author or the individual being interviewed and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of PRSA Boston, PRSA National, staff or  board of directors of either organization. 

  • Fast Five with Melissa Mann, EF Education First

    Melissa Mann is the social media and content manager for EF Education First, the world’s largest international education company and #1 Top Place to Work in the Boston Globe’s 2017 list. Melissa got her start as a fashion copywriter and remembers the day Instagram launched—she’s worked in social media ever since. She’ll be sharing her knowledge at the 2018 Social Media Summit on May 11 at Bentley University.  Learn more and register here.

    What prompted you to join EF Education First?

    I was working in the fashion industry, managing social media for an ecommerce brand and had the wakeup call that I didn’t actually care about fashion. Since studying abroad in college, I’d realized the benefit of travel and felt very strongly about the doors and perspectives it opened. So when I started asking myself what my values were and looking to align my work with something I believed in, travel was the theme. I found EF Education First through a former colleague and once I learned more about what EF stands for—opening the world through education and breaking down barriers through travel, cultural exchange, and language learning—I knew it was the perfect fit for me. Walking in, you can really feel the culture and the passion of the people who work at EF. I haven’t looked back.

    Do you have a favorite social media campaign? 

    I love seeing what other brands are doing in the social space and there are always a ton of good ideas out there. I really like what Southwest is doing with their “every seat has a story” campaign—it feels a bit like what we’re trying to do at EF with our storytelling and focus on our people. I am also a huge fan girl of Wendy’s on Twitter. They really own their voice and have such a strong personality that actually encourages other brands to pitch in. They’re super fun to watch.

    What are the most common mistakes – and winning moves – social media managers make?

    I think one common mistake is trying to retro-fit a channel to a solution. We’re always looking out for “the next big thing” and it’s easy to get wrapped into the craze of “let’s do this on Facebook live!” or “let’s add 5 polls to our Instagram stories!” I think it’s important to be able to take a step back and really identify what the goals are and decide what the best platform is to accomplish those goals. Winning moves are when you can adapt quickly to those changes, however, and leverage them in a way that supports your business. The sooner you can take advantage of updates like customizing your ad creative for Facebook, the sooner you’ll see that ROI.

    What are the top three skills in demand by your management?

    For anyone going into social media, I think it’s important to know a little bit about a lot of different areas of marketing. Of course you need to be specialized in social media, but there are a lot of us out there whose roles touch so many different pieces, from acquisition to customer care to email marketing.  Having some knowledge in each of those areas will make your role as a social media manager that much easier (while making you more marketable). So that being said, knowing how to run and manage some paid media (in particular, Facebook and Instagram ads) is a huge benefit. Knowledge of analytics and experience with tools like Google Analytics or Moz are also incredibly useful skills to have in your toolbox—bonus points if you can build your own reporting dashboards and make it easier to present that to your stakeholders. Finally, I think it’s super important to be detail-oriented. Social media is big and it’s fast, and it’s easy to make a mistake, like push an Instagram post to the wrong account (been there). Being organized and giving your attention to the small details will help keep you on top of it all.

    When management just doesn’t get social media, how do you explain it?

    This is a tough one; I think all social media managers and content producers go through this. I try to focus on the engagement and nurturing piece. Social media ROI can be really difficult to prove, but what you’re really building through social is a loyal, engaged community. Social gives you the opportunity to keep your brand top-of-mind for people (potential customers, e.g.) who are interested in what you have to say. By producing relevant, interesting content that ties back to your brand, your followers will remember (and choose) you when it’s time for them to make a purchase.

    About Fast 5

    This is a feature of PRSA Boston’s Hot Topics blog page. The expert subject is someone who is clearly in demand, on the go, and nailing them down for a conversation is about as easy as … winning Powerball at $1.5 billion! But we know leaders like to share, so check back for insights, wisdom, author’s books about to hit the stands and other valuable tips. @prsaboston #prsabos

    Do YOU have a candidate for a FAST 5 interview? Email: Joshua Milne at josh@joshuamilnepr.com and pitch your subject expert!

    Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author or the individual being interviewed and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of PRSA Boston, PRSA National, staff or  board of directors of either organization. 

     

  • Move Over, Millennials: Brands are Targeting Gen Z on Social

    In Social Media on

    By Caroline Lee, guest blog contributor

     

    PRSA Boston’s Faculty Forum, a group of passionate educators creating the next generation of leaders in PR, is offering a series of guest posts written by talented students majoring in the communications field. For this guest post, we welcome insights from Caroline Lee. An aspiring journalist, Caroline is a senior at Boston College with a double major in Communication, and Applied Psychology & Human Development.

     

    For the past years, Millennials and their unrelenting obsession over their cellphones and social media have been hot topics in the media, and an opportunity for brands to drive sales. Numerous prominent brands invest in social media to connect with this growing population. Yet, in the fast-paced world of social media and branding, Generation Z members – born between 1995 and 2012 – are quickly surpassing Millennials as a key target audience for brands.

     

    Generation Zers are just like Millennials in many ways, just more wired to their devices. Members of Gen Z, the cohort immediately following Millennials, are the first to be born completely immersed in the digital age. They hold an estimated buying power of more than $44 billion, making Gen Zers an appealing and lucrative target audience for businesses.

     

    If businesses want to connect emotionally with Gen Z, and drive brand loyalty and gain market share among these young digital natives, investing in social media is the best bet. According to a study, 80 percent of the shopping decisions made by Gen Zers are influenced by social media.

     

    Which Channels Should You Choose to Use?

    PR experts can connect with Gen Zers through their channels of choice, namely Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat. Today, Instagram may be the most important social media platform for public relations and integrated marketing campaigns. According to recent data, 44 percent of purchases made by Gen Zers were impacted by Instagram, making this social media channel the most influential when it comes to making purchasing decisions. YouTube was second, followed by Snapchat, according to the study.

     

    Snapchat—with its Story feature that allows users to post pictures and short video clips that can be viewed an unlimited number of times for 24 hours before they disappear—used to dominate the Gen Z market. However, Instagram Stories are quickly becoming more popular than Snapchat Stories. Instagram reported that, as of April 2017, more than 200 million users engaged with Instagram Stories, which is 40 million more than those who use Snapchat Stories. This user-base, which only took months for Instagram to accumulate while it took Snapchat years, continues to grow rapidly.

     

    Stories allow a business to post a series of photos or short video clips— instead of just choosing one or two—in a more casual way because they know their stories are only temporary. This creates a more authentic feel, which Generation Z members enjoy, according to research. Plus, users get fresh content daily and companies can market their products and services on a daily basis. Ephemeral media content is only growing in popularity, as Instagram continues to attract a vast user-base that has a taste for instantaneous media content that is constantly being updated.

     

    Instagram also reported that 80 percent of Instagram accounts follow a business profile. And even when users aren’t following business accounts, more than 200 million users visit at least one business profile daily. Instagram users are not shy about following brands they like, giving companies plenty of chances to post content that will resonate with potential Gen Z customers.

     

    PR practitioners, marketers and advertisers should seriously consider hopping on the social media train. Whether they like it or not, social media is increasingly becoming an integral part of peoples’ lives. And it may be the most effective way to reach the millions of Generation Zers – many of whom have never gone a day without using social media.

     

    To learn more about social media and how it can boost business to consumer engagement, save the date PRSA Boston’s 6th annual Social Media Summit, May 11 at Bentley University. The Summit will feature trends and insights from a wealth of social media experts. Last year’s Summit drew more than 300 PR and marketing professionals from the New England region.

    Get your ticket HERE!

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