Social Media Tools All Publicists and Marketers Should Use

It is no secret that social media changed the landscape of PR forever. With 1.94 billion monthly active users on Facebook and 328 million monthly active users on Twitter, this modern-day obsession is impossible for anyone to ignore, especially PR professionals. At Touchpoint, we use social media (mainly Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat) every day for our clients because we recognize users as our target market.

Due to our lack of access to the viral nature of Kim Kardashian’s selfies, our social media content curation is a little more complicated. Here are few tools that we use at Touchpoint to make this vast world of sharing and screen-shotting work for us:

Graphics Grab Attention

Canva makes it simple and quick for us to create polished graphics that are ready to post across all social platforms. It allows us to add text, multiple photos and fun backgrounds. The site even comes equipped with tutorials to make it the most user-friendly image creator we have ever used. Thanks Canva!

Organization for Optimization

Google Sheets is the Excel of the future. This is a really easy way to stay organized, and show-off how organized we are. We use this to coordinate social media content. Once created, the Google Sheet can be shared and edited by multiple users at the same time (don’t worry – there is an undo button in case you happen to be the user that accidentally deletes the entire document…speaking from experience!)

Schedule to Stay A Step Ahead

Hootsuite is a very sophisticated calendar; it’s a digital platform that allows us to schedule social media posts for clients on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We stay a step ahead in the fast-paced social media environment thanks to Hootsuite.

Sharing is Caring

We use the above tools to create social media content that people want to share. Consider this: 84 percent of all social shares are Dark. “Dark social” refers to “content that is shared peer-to-peer through channels other than social media – over emails, chat services and messaging platforms including text messaging.”  Shift Communications notes that this type of social is considered dark because we have no way of tracking the number of times content is shared. This is basically digital gossiping: It’s sharing content without the content creator knowing you shared it. And it’s awesome.

Our goal for all of our clients is to receive as many likes and shares as Beyoncé’s pregnancy post. High expectations…we know. But heck we can dream!

Written by our intern, Sidney Harper.

Social Media Strategy Straight from Facebook HQ

One might assume that I’d return with all of the answers after hearing from a few of the brightest minds in the biz at Facebook HQ for Ragan’s Social Media & Storytelling Summit over the summer. My brief stint in Silicon Valley led to divergent thinking while also confirming what most content strategists already know.

As silly social-media-strategy-touchpoint-cmmunications-sc-blogas it sounds, social media is a lot like weight loss. What works for one person, and in our case, client (business, public figure, nonprofit etc.), may not work for another. There is no easy solution, no magic formula, no shortcuts.

For example, just because Pokémon GO was a phenomenon, tailoring social media posts to include references to the game might not have made sense for your brand. It’s not necessary to jump on every trend. It may have helped increase the social reach of game stores and the like, but does it elevate your business? Or is it an (off-brand) attempt at gaining followers? If the answer is the latter, then this type of post will seem tone-deaf to fans.

It’s important to experiment, but don’t let social content deviate too far from the strategy outlining where you want the brand to go. When creating content, ask yourself, “will this help the client get there?”

Just as you probably wouldn’t lose 10 pounds without paying attention to what you’re eating, you won’t gain a significant number of followers by posting random content. This is where social listening comes in: You have to know what your brand’s followers want to see, and you learn that by following them and incorporating them into your brand’s story.

Strategy relies heavily on trial and error, considering the rate at which the rules of social media algorithms and advertisements develop. These “rules” and best practices aren’t changing by chance though, the consistent shift to content that’s (even more) instant, visually-oriented and authentic is a direct reflection of what emerging generations need to stay engaged.

Generations are refreshing faster and technology is changing monumentally in short time periods. The summit’s first presenter, Jeffrey Eagle of AARP, said that when you’re creating content “Keep short attention spans in mind: As short as it can be, as long as it needs to be.”  

It became apparent by the end of the first two presentations that a pattern had emerged. From AARP’s poignant videos on aging that people of all ages have shared to their own social media followers, to Southwest Airline’s proven success in social listening, certain themes are gaining momentum.

  1. Authentic content performs best, keep things relevant to your audience
  2. Followers want in, give them behind-the-scenes access
  3. Evoke emotions and inspire
  4. Don’t chase shiny objects

Each theme is a world of its own that we’ll delve into in future blogs. Staying true to the strategy with social content will help you decide which “shiny objects” you should experiment with and which you should leave alone. Nothing is more inauthentic than posting for the sake of “fitting in.”

Overall, content that hits a nerve — whether it tickles the funny bone, arouses sympathy or is extremely relatable, has the power to be shared across social channels to viral levels.

*written by Account Executive Emily Portoghese

Two Ears, Two Eyes, One Mouth

blog photoOur friend, Rick Jones (Fishbait Marketing) has lots of great sayings, and one that strikes us as most pertinent these days is: the Good Lord gave humans two eyes, two ears and one mouth –and we should use each accordingly.

Or put another way – shut up and pay attention.

What has us thinking of this happens to be a cascade of recent meetings that had prospective or new client partners bemoaning past relationships with firms that just “didn’t listen.”

We are big believers in the power of patterns, and this one is proving to be persistent. And we think we know what’s going on here. There are cultural and business trends afoot that prompt professional communicators to spend more telling than listening and watching.

  1. Business is good! For many fortunate folks, there is an abundance of opportunity these days. Faced with a surplus of clients, it can be challenging to remain fully present. But we must. Few clients appreciate being “templated. They seek unique, meaningful solutions to their challenges. And those come from really leaning in.
  2. We’re so smart, we’re getting dumb. That’s right, we are all so incredibly plugged in and up-to-date that we are failing to pick up our heads and look around. We seek the Googleable, the benchmarked, the “proven.” And that means we sometimes fail to think anew as often as we should. Not all answers lie within our past successes.
  3. We are possessed by our technology. Email is easy. Texting is fast. Analytics are sexier than gut instinct. But we fail our clients when we fail to pick up the phone or hop on a plane (heck, to even drive a few miles!) and check in with them. Truly immersing ourselves – physically – is one key to “getting” what clients are doing.
  4. Listen for what’s not being said. Sometimes clients are completely forthcoming. They tell us what they need. They ask us for more engagement, more care. We professional communicators fail when we brush off these approaches. Listening is about more than hearing, and seeing is about more than vision. Absorbing intent and taking action – that’s the sweet spot.

Admittedly, we sound a little preachy here. And we must also acknowledge that we don’t always get it right. It’s easy to get swept up in the current of “now” and forget to connect, collaborate and conjure. We appreciate the times client partners are willing to let us know where we fall short.

So how are you engaging – and are your teams trained to really listen, look, and repeat?

Have you noticed a similar pattern lately? We’d love to hear from you!

Phew – Lessons from a Busy Spring

FullSizeRender 2Around here, we’re pretty enthusiastic organizers and promoters of public events. Over the past few months, we’ve had a hand (or all hands, heads and feet in some cases!) in more than a dozen events ranging in size from a dozen attendees to 5,000.

Of course, we approach every event as we do any communication exercise: with a clear goal in mind, and a whole-hearted commitment to exceeding that goal. Reflecting on what it takes to be successful had us considering a list of “must do’s.” We share a few here. And if you would like to know more, we invite you to give us a call to chat about how we can help YOUR next event soar!

  • Set your date early and avoid overlapping with other major local events. This is super challenging in Charleston, where events define our every weekend. But at least be mindful of any events that seem to focus on the SAME audience you seek.
  • Get details out quickly on social media and your website. Sponsors and attendees alike will be visiting you online for Intel. And that continues THROUGH your event, where social listening and responding becomes a critical communication function.
  • Send updates to event attendees on various platforms: social media, e-newsletters, your website. Never underestimate your audience’s desire for information!
  • Clear signage and directions/instructions are a must. The very best event plan can break down simply because logistics were not fully fleshed out – nor communicated. One trick we like is to walk/ride your event a week before, imagining you are a first-time attendee. What “touchpoints” along the way are ideal for communication and illumination?
  • Ensure sociability by strengthening your on-site Wi-Fi signal. Our cultural FOMO has your guests posting their whereabouts and braggies with abandon. But only if they can access some juice. Help them do that!
  • Collect feedback! We find that it is human nature to end a big event and consider it “over.” But that misses the important opportunity to learn and grow and improve. Ask guests what they loved, what they loathed, and anything in between and you will guarantee an even better run next time around!

The Closest Thing to Super Powers

In our ever-changing digital world, social media is a superhero that awes its users with constant, creatively displayed content and instant connectivity. When it comes to harnessing the power of this platform, the closest thing to super powers for a social media marketer is the hashtag.

A The New York Times article, #InPraiseOfTheHashtag, notes that since its birth in 2009, the hashtag has infiltrated one in eight tweets. Huffington Post even claims that the hashtag has changed the way we communicate through tagging our thoughts, i.e.: #HuffPoRocks!

Through my time as an intern at Touchpoint Communications, I have spent a lot of time with this sociable Superman (against whom I feel like Lois Lane).hashtags

Sure, our relationship has had its ups and downs. From navigating through Hootsuite to learning how to convey your client’s brand in 150 characters, I’ve been pushed to work magic – to make content stand out.

And key to standing out is that seemingly humble hashtag. I witnessed its power at this year’s Charleston Fashion Week, when attendees were encouraged to use #chsfw. This hashtag amassed over 15,000 posts and allowed for the event to get social media buzz. Simply clicking allowed others to engage in the event.

I also observed this phenomenon through the eyes of a content creator. Anyone who lives in Charleston knows that the Bridge Run is one of the bigger events in the spring programming. The Bridge Run brings people from all over the Lowcountry to the Charleston area.

And you know what that means? Plenty of eager visitors looking for places to celebrate one of Charleston’s signature events. Social media – studded with hashtags – allowed us to match client restaurants with hungry, thirsty racers. We brainstormed messages that would speak to the bridge runners in a creative way. Our restaurants had wonderful Bridge Run crowds. Now tell me that is not #powerful!

From the integration of the hashtag in our society, culture, and thought process, it looks like the pound sign is here to stay! It is our job as social media mavens to throw on our superhero capes and embrace the #powerofthehashtag.

Written by Aliana Holliday – PR & Social Media Intern

Spot-on – Make That Elegant – Advice From a Fashion Icon

The 10th annual Baker Motor Company Charleston Fashion Week (CFW) strutted into downtown Charleston March 15-19. We were there … providing local and regional PR efforts and having plenty of fun along the way. In preparation, we traded in our flats for stilettos and rustled up some serious fashion press for the week of shows under the tent.

For those who have never been, CFW showcases emerging designers and model talent hailing from along the East Coast. It has become one of the premier fashion weeks in North America.

This five-night celebration under the tents in Marion Square featured more than 40 runway shows, bridal show, Rock the Runway Model Competition™ and of course, the hotly-anticipated Emerging Designer Competition.

We rubbed elbows with top fashion bloggers, the Charleston elite and even one of the biggest icons in fashion – Fern Mallis. She is credited with founding New York Fashion Week and is a celebrated international fashion consultant. We escorted her to a TV appearance at Lowcountry Live, to her book signing at RTW and to the Art Institute of Charleston.

During her appearance at the Art Institute, Mallis turned to hopeful designers to dish out some advice. And was that advice what you’d expect from a fashion titan? Did she tell people to behave like divas? To forget everybody they met on their way up? To pursue fame at all costs?

Nope. Fern told the students and fashionistas: “Be nice!” Simple, elegant and spot-on.

We haven’t stop thinking about this advice since, because it rings so true. Here’s somebody who has built her own successful brand in a tough-as-nails business. As they say on Project Runway: in fashion, one day you’re in, the next you’re out. Fern has stayed in the game a long time, and now we believe it may just be because she combines smarts, taste and niceness. Now that’s a winning collection!

She’s not the only one saying it either. Huffington Post published an article titled, 6 Ways Being Nice To Others Is Actually Good For You which proves that being nice actually has health benefits.

Finally, it may come as little surprise to hear PR practitioners counseling niceness. But truth be told, we’re not all people pleasers in this business. If we’re good at our jobs, we dispense tough love on a regular basis. But if we’re doing it right, we’re delivering it with a spoonful of sugar.

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We’ve Got A Spark!

IMG_5129Summerville’s Guinness World Record-breaking sweet tea event last summer netted the town more than 70 million media impressions, thousands of event participants, and real revenue from post-event sales. And as a result of their support, we earned a Spark Award from the Charleston American Marketing Association in the category of Best Event Marketing.

We provided national, regional, local and social media support for the event, which was the brainchild of town staff. While Guinness record breaks have become relatively common activities, the Summerville sweet tea event harnessed numerous special features: it paid homage to the town’s claim as birthplace of sweet tea, enveloped a number of local vendors to help break the record, and engaged thousands of attendees.

We were thrilled to help the Town of Summerville gain national recognition for this record-breaking attempt. We are also honored to be recognized by the marketing community for this work.

Bone Up On What is Essential

During a general session at this week’s SC Governor’s Conference on Tourism, flash artist and motivational speaker Erik Wahl did some amazing work. He painted portraits in moments, got the audience squirming, and elicited some very teary eyes.

But what really struck us was this: when approaching a new painting, Erik focuses on the most basic lines of the drawing. He eliminates all the excess “noise” right from the start, and only then builds up with color and texture. The result is something beautiful: the essential truth of the painting.

It reminded us of a landscape architect we know, who once shared that the best gardens start with bricks and concrete. Hard-scaping comes first. Showy plants come last.

After all, a living being cannot be fully healthy if its skeletal system is weak. The same is true for a garden. Or a communications program.

Getting at the essential truth of any pursuit is, ultimately, a key to success. Erik knows that – and it’s why he preaches this notion of essentiality to corporate audiences.

We happen to also believe that every great campaign, event, press release or blog post (!) has to start with a solid skeletal structure. Strip all the other noise away before you begin to work. And then, build from there.

One of our client/pals, Jennifer Howard, is a master of this technique. She is great at addressing a large group of super smart people with the most basic – and often challenging – question imaginable: what problem are we trying to solve here?

Focusing on the essential deliverable has a way of getting everybody at the table rowing in unison toward a goal.

Likewise, we recently organized a pretty complex event in one location. In reality, it was two events, held concurrently, in one fluid space. By asking ourselves what the client ultimately wanted to achieve, we were able to conjure a winning answer. (By the way, what they wanted was to connect people to one another in distinctly different yet warm, welcoming ways. That was a great strategy brief from which we could do meaningful work).

And one final proof point speaks to general public relations. We believe we’re pretty good storytellers. So we often begin a PR assignment as an effort to pare down before we build up. What is the key message we want our readers to embrace? Knowing that answer makes the work efficient, and effective.

So the challenge we’d lay down to others is this: on any given day, what is it you’re trying to achieve? What are the bones of your story?

Using Competition to Boost Creativity

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 1.08.46 PMWhen it comes to landing media placements, winning industry awards or even ordering lunch, we are pretty cutthroat around here. Our competitive streak really picked up after the umpteenth time somebody walked in all self-satisfied with her morning workout.

So we came up with a way to encourage healthy competition: Every time we exercise, mark it on the calendar. At the end of the month, the person with the most stars earns a little prize, and most importantly, bragging rights.

Nothing motivates us like some competition, so our contest keeps us healthy and gives us something to chat about (not that any of us need help in that department!).

It also encourages a workplace philosophy where it’s OK to step away from the computer and go for a quick walk down King Street to clear the mind and reignite creativity.

We all know the physical benefits of exercise, and most are aware that working out can help reduce brain clutter. But, it also boosts creative thinking.

A study by Stanford University found that a person’s creative output (divergent thinking) increased by an average of 60 percent when walking. The “working memory” focuses on walking while a person’s thought process gets some free time to roam.

Now that we know a morning spin class or even a quick stroll will stimulate our creativity, it gives us another reason to reach for the title of monthly exercise calendar winner at Touchpoint.

We are always brainstorming new and exciting ways to tell our clients’ stories, but being able to say “So the best idea came to me during my morning workout” at internal meetings is an easy way to brag a little while providing better service to our clients.

Reinforcing Our Resolutions

The New Year brings a great time to sit back and conjure ideas that lead to continuous success, and ways to bring enjoyment to every workday. After all, work doesn’t have to be boring and shouldn’t be – especially in a business like ours!

From reorganizing our workspaces to amping up networking efforts and volunteer service, we have big plans for 2016. How are you planning to make ’16 sweeter than the years before?

Here are ways that we are starting new this year on the right foot:

Switch It Up. On average, Americans spend 40 hours a week at the office. Whether or not you are fond of your coworkers (we are!), it’s smart to use a portion of that time together to connect and collaborate.

Our shared office space naturally fosters a collaborative environment. And it also allows us the luxury of switching up where we sit.  Whether we sit at our desks, kitchen table or “diner,” we are able to mix it up.

These seemingly small changes in location or team connection often trigger creative thinking. Flexible space gives us time away from others when we need it. Meanwhile, an “open door policy” allows us to tap into the minds of our talented coworkers.

ad2d864da1624485dffd9b14bed55b6cKeep the clutter in check. Before the holidays, we neatened our desks and decluttered the office, so we would return to tidy workspaces in the New Year. We stemmed the spread of magazines, newspapers and loose papers containing client media clips before it got out of hand by taking just a few minutes to reorganize.

Now our recent media placements live in a much less conspicuous area, hiding them from our line of sight. The ongoing challenge, and our resolution, is to keep up with the filing with the help of our incoming intern so these items don’t begin distracting us typically tidy Touchpointers again.

Get Out There. Writers for Inc. Magazine agree that “going to networking events every few months can help keep you active in your industry, help you make valuable connections and learn new things, and help you improve your skills as a professional.”

As PR professionals, it’s important to network to maintain existing relationships and build new ones. We are always eager to meet fellow industry professionals, writers, bloggers and potential clients. We make it a point to establish new relationships by attending events held by the American Marketing Association and Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, in addition to other industry and professional development events.

We volunteer for organizations close to our heart. Every team member gives back to the community we love in some way. We lend our expertise to young professionals, nonprofits and creative organizations, and are always happy to help friends and acquaintances who could benefit from our professional know-how.

As our founder likes to say, “If it’s community-building and it matters to us, we want to work on it.”

So those are our simple business resolutions for the new year. We’ll be tracking how well we adhere to them in the months to come. And we would love to know yours!

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