TikTok is the hottest platform right now, with Gen-Z leading the way. Everyone else, ranging from Millennials to Boomers, is also flocking to the app. After seeing so many individuals, businesses, and megacorporations succeed on TikTok over the past year, your small business may want to jump on the rocketship.

Let’s take a few steps back and think about what that means.

Is TikTok the right place for your brand?

Many businesses have found their niche on TikTok. From lawyers to real estate agents to restaurant owners and museum curators, there’s a ________-Tok for everyone. However, it takes more than showing up to make a splash on the platform, and TikTok’s paid advertising is not always well-suited to smaller budgets. So what should your company be posting that’s going to differentiate you on the platform? 

It takes a willingness to create engaging and exciting content that wraps a personality around authentic moments for your business. Creating quality content can, but doesn’t have to be, a heavy lift for your team. like with all new things, it’s essential to evaluate your digital presence and figure out how to best allocate your resources.

Content, Content, Content

The TikTok algorithm is a ruthless enigma. Every guide will tell you conflicting information on how to get your content in front of the right people, and everyone is both wrong and right in some ways. With that said, the only guarantee that someone will ever see your business’ content is to actually create content. TikTok is a platform where there is no such thing as posting too much. And the more your content is viewed, the longer people watch it, and the more people interact with it―the better chance it has of being seen by new audiences.

But what exactly are you posting? There are endless options, but an easy place to start is to showcase your business and what you do. If you produce a product, give viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the development and production process (including the successes and failures). If you’re shipping items, pack orders on a video and explain what that person is getting (bonus points if you have attractive and creative packaging). 

@candymeup

What would you put inside?! 🍭 #slaps #cachetada #slapscreation #mexicancandy #dulcesmexicanos #candymeup

♬ original sound – CandyMeUp

If you work in a field that provides people with services, give some tips or “hacks,” show your workplace, and take your viewers along with you for a “day in the life.” Overall, we know it’s effective to humanize your business. Introduce your team, show them going about their day, and whatever you dostay genuine and don’t force it.

@lawbymike

Bet you didn’t know this life hack! #LearnOnTikTok #TikTokPartner #psychology #tips

♬ Law X Mike By Chase Hattan – Lawyer Mike Mandell

Personality

Posting TikToks that showcase your business, its people, and your products and services are excellent. But don’t forget to also show off your personality! Before posting any content, take some time to figure out your TikTok brand voice. Is your account going to be funny, punny, wholesome, or self-deprecating? People don’t want to simply watch a production line; they want to hear what’s happening and engage with a story in a creative manner. 

@izolas

Happy Wednesday #izolas #hinesvillegeorgia #nearsavannahgeorgia #scoopthatmac #foryou #fyp #lovewins #FtStewartGeorgia

♬ original sound – Izola’s

It’s a Community

TikTok is a very interactive community, and comments are a great way to interact with your audience. Don’t feel pressured to interact with every single comment, but make sure to like a few, reply, and if someone posts a question, reply with a video. This allows you to show your expertise, humanize your brand, and generate more content. 

There’s also a rich creator community on TikTok. Interacting with others is a great way to grow your following. Connect with similar businesses and creators that post related content or someone who has a great TikTok presence that you can add something to. 

https://www.tiktok.com/@wishescandleco/video/6978982642645601542?lang=en&is_copy_url=0&is_from_webapp=v1&sender_device=pc&sender_web_id=6979663120851863046

There is No Right Way

Some of your TikTok efforts will succeed and some will most definitely not. Don’t rely too heavily on early analytics and metrics, as some of what you consider to be your best content may flop, and your worst content can go viral. Finally, don’t expect a smash viral hit or a massive boost in sales. On TikTok, being creative and having fun is part of the learning process.

How can YMC help?

If you’re interested in learning more about TikTok, social media marketing, and influencer campaigns, we’re here to help. At YMC, we specialize in connecting brands with Gen-Z and Millennial consumers, and we’d be happy to share our wealth of knowledge with you. Contact us today!

COVID-19 On Campus: A Reflection On Campus Marketing in 2020 and Predictions for 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the lives of people around the world. This has been especially true for college students.

So much of the traditional college experience hinges on interpersonal connections and shared spaces. But, given the nature of the COVID-19 virus, colleges and universities have had to take things in a drastically different direction without much warning. Institutions have been forced to adapt to a new normal, which put the health and safety of students first. 

In-person classes were replaced with Zoom lecture marathons and countless hours in front of dual screens; crowded dining halls and student unions were forfeited for virtual events and distanced social interactions; and much more.

As you can imagine, these sudden changes also drastically impacted campus marketing efforts. At YMC, we adapted our campus marketing strategies to engage students no matter where they’re living, studying, and sharing in 2020.

With 2020 in the rear view mirror, we wanted to share some of the valuable things we’ve learned and our predictions about what campus marketing will look like in 2021.

Every School Is Different

After unexpected school shutdowns in the spring 2020 semester, colleges and universities had a bit more time when strategizing their opening plans for fall 2020. One of the main things we noticed was the wide variance in the operating status of campuses based on state, local, and university-driven COVID-19 regulations.

Leading up to the fall semester, we referenced The Chronicle of Higher Education’s list of campus reopening models daily to stay on top of the national landscape. On the local level, we found that our YMC student network and ambassadors provide the most accurate information regarding students’ locations (living remote, on, or off campus) and behaviors. 

We’ve leveraged this information to adapt our campaigns in real time and adjust expectations by campus. We always treat each school individually when managing college marketing programs; and in this situation, input from students helped us optimize what we could safely execute for the best results. 

Maybelline No Touch Product Sampling Example

“No Touch” Sampling Can Be Highly Effective

As we studied the varied reopening plans for the fall 2020 semester, we found that many campuses selected to offer adjusted in-person or hybrid learning models. In these cases, we found that working with local students to understand the protocols associated with activating on campus, the access level to students, and the overall comfort with face-to-face (always masked) interactions has been beneficial.

For our Maybelline program, we worked with college ambassadors to distribute pre-packed product sampling bags and gifts to on- and off-campus housing complexes and outdoor gatherings. This varied from pre-COVID interactions where Maybelline ambassadors offered students high-touch product interaction and trial experiences. 

Because in-person brand interactions were so limited in 2020, students expressed increased excitement and appreciation for Maybelline’s efforts to reach them during a difficult time. Product sampling bags reached thousands of students and resulted in over 10k product link views and a 5% conversion rate to purchase.

Pentel Digital Event Example

Digital Events Work

Digital events have also been successful, as they’ve enabled our brand partners and ambassadors  to provide brand experiences to broader audiences.

We found that college students are most likely to participate in events hosted after 7 PM EST on weekdays and early-to-mid afternoon on the weekends. Digital fatigue is real and this timing provided students with a break in between classes and another virtual activity. Meeting platforms (such as Zoom and Google Hangouts), microsites, and Instagram Live have offered the best interaction with this audience.

In our work with Pentel, we transitioned a longstanding in-person art experience into an online format and encouraged students to relax and create in their own space. We partnered with Pentel to host a 3-night Pentel Sketch Session event series featuring calligraphy, watercolor, and line drawing classes with featured artists. Hosting these events digitally allowed Pentel to bring in experts to showcase skills and answer art-related career questions with college students at scale. 

@hikari.murakami

Join the #AerieRealpositivity challenge, uplift each other and @aerie will donate to America’s Food Fund! #aeriereal #aeriepartner #aerieambassador

♬ 100% Real Love – PopUpGirl

Social Media Is Essential

While Gen-Z has been using TikTok for a few years, the pandemic and stay-at-home culture have accelerated mass adoption and endless scroll time on the platform. We found success in encouraging ambassadors to leverage short-form video clips on TikTok and Instagram to further engage their followers and feature brand products. Students were able to amplify existing brand challenges or create their own by pulling from the latest trends.

Our brand ambassadors played an important role in the launch of Aerie’s first TikTok challenge. The #AerieRealPositivity hashtag challenge created a movement around expressing yourself and sharing positivity at home. With the amplification of a paid campaign and celebrity role model support, this campaign generated 6,600+ user-generated videos with 2.1 billion views. 

Looking Ahead at Campus Marketing in 2021

As you can see, we’ve learned a lot in 2020. And, while the pandemic isn’t over yet, we’re feeling an increased sense of optimism about the year to come. 

Now that colleges and universities have more than 10 months of prevention and testing experience under their belts and the COVID-19 vaccine is in early stages of distribution in the U.S., some institutions are preparing for an increase in in-person and hybrid course offerings this spring.

As we begin planning for this year (and beyond!), we wanted to share a few predictions about what campus marketing may look like in 2021. Please note that the following are subject to national, state, and local policy, as well as CDC guidance.

January – March 2021

The early part of 2021 will likely look very similar to the past few months, with limited in-person events and classes.

Late March – April 2021

In the late months of the spring 2021 semester, we expect campuses with in-person and hybrid learning models to begin to explore the possibilities of holding outdoor, in-person events and activities. This will likely be especially true at warm weather schools in the South and West regions of the U.S..

Fall 2021

The fall 2021 semester presents the best opportunity for a potential return to “regular” campus life. At this time, it’s likely that the health and safety precautions introduced in 2020 will remain at the forefront for the next several years.

In summary, we recommend that brands continue to lean on digital events and social tactics to engage students in the early part of the year. As the weather starts to get warmer and students spend more time outdoors, “no touch” sampling can resume and the possibility of highly regulated in-person events can be explored. The summer months should allow for more in-person brand engagement, while full-on experiential activations, mobile tours, and student-led events are more likely to return in the fall 2021 semester.

How YMC Can Help

If you’re interested in learning more about college marketing during this unique time, we’re here to help. At YMC, we’ve been connecting brands with 15- to 29-year-old consumers for two decades—we’d be happy to share our wealth of knowledge with you. Contact us today!

4 Instagram Metrics Your Brand Should Be Tracking

When it comes to measuring success on Instagram, there are a few common metrics that brands often track based on their goals—impressions, reach, follower growth, engagement, etc. These things are important, of course, but there are also a few less common metrics your brand may be overlooking.

The following four Instagram metrics will help you obtain a better understanding of the full impact your brand has when it comes to Instagram-based marketing.

1. Story Reach Rate

It’s no surprise that the Instagram Story feature has become an essential piece of every brand’s digital marketing strategy. According to an infographic released by Hootsuite, about 500 million people use the tool each and every day.

One of the most common goals brands have for their Instagram Story posts is to engage the brand’s existing audience in a more informal way. Thanks to Instagram Insights, it’s easy to see how many people view your brand’s Instagram Stories. But, that number doesn’t tell the full story. That’s why it’s important to also measure your the reach rate for each of your brand’s Instagram Story posts.

Reach rate is calculated by dividing an Instagram Story posts’ total reach by your brand’s follower count and then multiplying by 100 to determine the percentage. Here’s the formula:

total reach / follower count * 100 = reach rate

This metric indicates what percentage of your brand’s existing followers are seeing your Instagram Story posts. By monitoring the reach rate of Story posts over time, your brand will be able to determine if the posts are resonating with your existing audience, which can inform improved content decisions moving forward.

2. Post Saves

We all know that Instagram engagement metrics like comments and likes are important when it comes to measuring content performance. But, one of the most important engagement metrics to arise recently is a bit less visible than the others—post saves.

The Instagram Saves feature provides a way for users to save a post that they like for future reference—even if they don’t directly like or comment on that post. Once saved, users have the ability to organize their saved posts into folders (read: wish lists, travel destinations, funny quotes, etc.). 

The Instagram algorithm uses the saves metric as a measure of post quality. Posts with great engagement (including saves) will be shown to more people in the Instagram feed.

By measuring the saves on your brand’s Instagram posts, you’ll have insight into the content that resonates with your audience so you can produce similar content in the future.

3. Story Interactions

Many brands set engagement-related goals for social media. If your brand falls into this category, then Instagram Story post interactions is a set of metrics you should be focused on.

Similar to how it sounds, interaction metrics are those that are directly related to the number of interactions a brand has obtained via their Instagram Story posts (they are a form of engagement metrics). Metrics in this category include the following:

  • Profile visits
  • Followers
  • Website visits
  • Shares
  • Replies
  • Contact (calls, texts, emails, etc.)
  • Sticker taps
  • Product page views
  • Product page views per product tag

Based on your brand’s specific goals, some of these interaction metrics may be more relevant than others. For example, if your brand has a goal to increase followers, it would be important to determine exactly how many followers your Instagram Story posts have captured (bonus points if you measure the percent of followers as it relates to profile visits driven from Instagram Stories!). 

Don’t forget to grab Instagram Story metrics within two weeks of posting! You’ll only have access to these types of metrics via Instagram Insights for a short time.

4. Referral Traffic

In addition to collecting Instagram metrics directly within the social platform, it’s also important to evaluate information related to Instagram efforts on your brand’s website. This is especially important if your Instagram campaign goals focus on driving traffic to your brand’s website to capture emails, drive sales, and more.

Tracking referral traffic sent by Instagram to a website can be tricky, however, because the only place for clickable post links for the platform is within your brand’s Instagram bio. So, to accurately track referral traffic, it’s important to make use of Google Analytics (a free website tracking tool).

Referral traffic insights related to your brand’s efforts on Instagram can be found under the acquisition data category. By exploring the provided list of referral sources from social media, you’ll be able to form an understanding of how many website sessions occurred as a direct result of your brand’s efforts on Instagram.

If you’re a real Google Analytics whiz, you can take things even further by attaching tracking codes (UTM parameters) to links used in your Instagram efforts to further pinpoint which campaigns drove the most referral traffic and conversions to your brand’s website.

A few takeaways

It’s important to use metrics and insights to determine the results of your brand’s efforts on Instagram. It isn’t enough, however, to simply rely on basic metrics like engagements and reach. 

The four metrics outlined above will help your brand to understand more about how your Instagram campaigns are performing—from which posts users are saving for later to how many people your content is driving to the website. All of the insights collected will help you to continuously adapt and improve your Instagram marketing efforts in the future.

How can YMC help?

If you’re interested in learning more about digital marketing, we’re here to help. At YMC, we’ve been connecting brands with 15- to 29-year-old consumers for two decades—we’d be happy to share our wealth of knowledge with you. Contact us today!