6 Things I’ve Learned Working as a Lead at a Strategy Consultancy

When I first became a manager almost two decades years ago (there I go dating myself), I probably wasn’t quite ready for it. But then again, it’s like what they say about having a baby — you’re never quite ready until you actually do it. As I’ve learned since, managing other people (both those who report to you, and those you report to) isn’t so much the art of orchestrating plans as much as being able to guide teams through plans gone off course. To do it, most successfully, I have learned quite a few things — and I am still learning. But, these six things are what I find the most important to keep front and center:

1. Embrace change.

As a leader, your daily challenge should be to drive change, not avoid it. Technology, design trends, innovation can turn multi-billion dollar industries upside down overnight, and if you’re complacent and too set in your ways, you won’t see it coming. A big part of “seeing around corners” is being proactive about change when things are working well — before problems actually arise — and then you’re primed to adapt and hit the ground running.

2. Be decisive.

A reality for any leader is that many people need decisions from you, and if you can’t make them quickly your organization is going to suffer. Get high-level summaries, weigh the options and then make the call.

Don’t agonize, over analyze or second-guess yourself. Many times, no decision is worse than a wrong decision because inaction paralyzes staff, prevents progress and destroys morale.

3. You must like dealing with people to be a great leader.

People skills are the very attributes and competencies that allow one to play well with others. Having the ability to relate to others and their position or viewpoint is crucial. Sometimes being able to relate to others simply means that you’re willing to agree to disagree with mutual respect. The type of people who become great managers genuinely like working with people. They see problems of motivation, personal roadblocks, or unclear alignment as challenging, but fulfilling to tackle.

Leslie Knope

4. Having all the answers is not the goal. Motivating the team to find the answers..now, THAT is the goal.

Having all the answers is a leaders or managers job, right? Wrong! Thinking that way means you don’t question yours or their decisions enough. Sure, questioning decisions of others may often lead to some passive-aggressive resentment. But, if something feels off on the team, bring it up as a problem they should go solve, or come with your own recommendations towards a solution.

That kind of thinking is exactly the kind of thing that contributes to perfection-oriented culture, where people are afraid to admit weaknesses or failures, and we all pretend to wade on the surface while we’re really dog-paddling furiously underneath.

5. Never stop learning.

jfk-lg.pngThere are always new skills to learn and techniques for us to adopt. When you look at the most successful people in the world, they understand this. I regularly listen to podcasts on topics from technology, females in business and innovation to pop culture, movies, music, art and even wedding planning (yes, I am getting married in October). I read/listen to books and online media about subjects I don’t necessarily have any experience in, or that may even seem unlikely for me to have an interest in – like American history, crypto currency, finance, women geeking out, Chinese ancient art, cartography, psychological thriller mysteries, sports hero biographies and even cook books. When you constantly learn you’re able to be a better teammate, stay humble, be happier, and remain irreplaceable to your team.

6. Be authentic.

As time goes on, some leaders develop an artificial public persona which they believe is more “leader-like.”

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Leaders can be introverts, extroverts, funny or serious, but to truly win respect you have to be authentic. Never waste time trying to be someone that you’re not, because it’s a recipe for failure.

Facebook reveals its 10-year road map in one graphic

Today, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg just showed off the company’s 10-year road map in one graphic at the F8 developers conference on Tuesday. Below is how he sees Facebook’s next 10 years:

 

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Via Facebook

 

“That’s the road map for the next 10 years,” Zuckerberg said. “We are building the technology to give anyone the power to share anything they want with anyone else.”

The focus is on products and revenue during the next three years involves the company’s ecosystems, while video, search, groups, and the family of apps such as WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram play out in the next five years.

But, the 10-year game involves more ambitious efforts to be made in technology, such as artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR), and new connectivity offerings, such as drone-delivered internet service.

F8 is taking place at Fort Mason, San Francisco, and the company is expected to announce a bunch of new products and features.

Instagram Tools to Tackle the New Algorithm

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Is your business ready for Instagram’s new algorithm? Everyone can calm down just a little. Instead of getting nervous about audiences finding your content, let’s focus on ways to analyze your Instagram engagement. Tracking engagement will help you execute quality content that keeps you at the top of the Instagram feed.

Here I’ll outline three tools to track and evaluate how people respond to your content on Instagram. A couple weeks ago, Instagram announced that they’ll be releasing an algorithm that will prioritize what’s shown in users’ feeds. This algorithm will determine what content Instagram believes people will be most interested in and then show the most relevant posts at the top of the feed, regardless of how many accounts users follow or what time zone they’re in.

If you use Facebook for content marketing, you know how important it is to make sure you’re ranked highly within a social media platform’s algorithm. Algorithms that prioritize content in a user’s feed can (and will) inevitably affect your business on those platforms.

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When the Instagram algorithm kicks in, maintaining high levels of engagement will help keep your content on top, whether you’re a small company or a large one.

Your focus should instead be Instagram Analytics Tools.

As the algorithm launch approaches, it’s important to use analytics tools to see which portion of your Instagram audience is interacting with what content, what content is performing best, and which audience segments you may be missing. As you learn from these analytics, you can create stronger and more relevant content that your audience will be more receptive to.

Though Instagram shares the same ad platform as Facebook, the platform does not yet have an analytics tool like Facebook’s Insights and Audience Insights. But, we’re in luck! There are a number of third-party Instagram analytics tools available for businesses and marketers to measure their marketing efforts.

The following three tools will help you to track and evaluate the success of your content & strategy around it on Instagram.

Simply Measured

Simply Measured offers a variety of reports and analyses, some of which are free and some are available only with a paid plan.

free report on instagram engagement from simply measured

Simply Measured’s free user report offers detailed analysis for a single Instagram account, including metrics on top posts, best times for engagement, and the amount and types of engagement.

When you first visit the site, you can get a free user report on any Instagram account (with up to 25,000 followers) in exchange for following the company on Twitter. This user report provides an in-depth analysis of the past two months, including your top post, best days and hours for engagement, top photo tags, top filters, and the amount and types of engagement you’ve received on your posts.

simply measured graph of optimal times to post on instagram

Knowing what days and times are best to post content can help you increase your engagement on any platform.

Additional analytics tools come with pricing plans starting at $500 a month, and include features like cross-platform analysis, social brand and hashtag monitoring, and the ability to add unlimited users to the account at no additional charge.

Iconosquare

Iconosquare is my go-to tool for anything Instagram, including contests, management tools, and so on. It’s also decent for analytics.

iconosquare metrics for instagram spread rates and talk rates

Iconosquare evaluates metrics you don’t see as often, such as spread rates and talk rates.

Iconosquare’s analytics allow you to track important metrics like follower growth and losses, best times to post for maximum engagement, engagement rates, and engagement growth. It also shows your best performing content, both in terms of likes and comments.

iconosquare graphs of instagram growth history

Being able to evaluate your Instagram growth history over long periods of time can help you continue to grow your presence on the platform.

Iconosquare offers a 7-day free trial, during which you can access the analytics information to see if the tool is right for you and for your business’s needs. The plus plan is currently $28.80 a year and includes features like daily email reports, comment trackers, and analytics on the key Instagram metrics discussed above.

Sprout Social

Sprout Social is a popular tool that many businesses already use, and it offers detailed reporting on a profile’s Instagram activity.

You can find analytics under the Reports section. You can see detailed information on daily growth in followers (and how much that number increased or decreased in the past month), the number of posts you’re sharing, your most used hashtags, your most engaged hashtags, and the number of engagements (both in total and the rate of engagement per medium).

sprout social instagram audience growth graph

Being able to evaluate your Instagram audience growth by day makes it easier for you to spot growth trends.

The only downside to Sprout Social compared to the two analytics platforms above is that it only accumulates Instagram data for the analytics once your profile is connected – no past data is provided, which is a bummer.

engagement graph for instagram from sprout social

Sprout Social provides stats not only on the total amount of engagement received, but also the rate of engagement per medium or post.

Sprout Social offers a 30-day free trial, and the comprehensive reporting is available with the Deluxe plan, starting at $59 per user per month.

So, just the use of a few tools can be very important to your long-term success with Instagram marketing, as they continue to tweak the service and their algorithms. This is especially true with the upcoming news feed algorithm. The three analytics tools in this article can give you great insights that you need to create higher-performing content, both immediately and in the long run.

Yes, Instagram has changed its timeline algorithm, but no, it is not the end of the world for businesses.

My additional tips:

  • Create great content that’s valuable
  • Throw some money in the mix to create additional brand awareness and grow followers using all the amazing targeting options available
  • Change up your content with video
  • Get on the #hashtag #bandwagon – but DO NOT OVERDUE IT.

If you’re a brand that does not care about your followers, or if you don’t care if your followers find value in your content, Instagram may be dead for you. But, if you are like most business owners, you do care about your customers and want to provide value to them. After all, if there is not value in your brand, your product, your service, and ultimately your content marketing strategy, why would anyone care anyway?

In conclusion, fear not. Instagram is definitely not dead. In fact, this is an opportunity for you to fine-tune your content strategy when it matters most.

What do you think? How do you feel about the upcoming Instagram algorithm? Do you use any of these Instagram analytics tools? Share your experience. Do you use one that I didn’t mention here? Share your thoughts, experience, and knowledge in the comments below.

Know Your Audience: The Future of Data

Almost everywhere you turn you can read about the benefits of big data. At best, these articles are confusing and, at worst, they create huge anxiety. We hear terms like structured and unstructured data; and qualitative and quantitative analysis. We’ve seen the rise of data scientists and hear about frameworks like Hadoop, database management systems like Cassandra, and predictive modeling tools like Tableau. But without getting a degree in computer science, how do regular folks like you and I benefit from big data?

As a very research-focused marketer, I’m loving the new generation of tools that are coming onto the market. Roughly, they are known as social intelligence tools and, unlike their predecessors, they don’t focus on the brand or reactions to existing social programs. Instead they help you understand the audience before you set a strategy in place.

Prior to the web and the ability to track real-time customer activity, we did a whole lot of guessing with a little bit of surveying and observation to piece together things like customer journeys, decision trees, motivations, and patterns. Prior to social media, there was very little data on our customer/potential customers’ affinities, tastes, needs, desires, influences, challenges, hopes, and dreams.

But we now have the web – where we can track just about every customer pattern – and social media – where customers are practically handing you the key to everything they are. And no, not everyone is active online or is bearing their souls on social media, but compared to the data we extrapolated our insights from prior to the web and social media, this is huge.

There are still problems with social media tracking tools that we’ve been using for years and why I’m so excited to see the emergence of what are being called Social Intelligence Tools. Forrester defines these as:

“the management and analysis of customer data from social sources, used to activate and recalibrate marketing or business programs”

So in a nutshell, Social Intelligence Tools allow you to use pro-active social listening in order to find valuable insights into what customers need and desire so that you can do a better job of reaching them. The real promise of big data is finally being realized through Social Intelligence Tools.

They will help you understand the full picture of your customers and potential customers – not just what they are saying about you and your products. And why would you care about this? Because you are not the center of your customers’ universe, no matter how much you think you are. Understanding your customer is key to unlocking the insights that will help you create better products (innovation), forge deeper relationships (customer service), and figure out how to give them great experiences that they will want to share (customer loyalty).

My favorites as of the last 6 months are: BrandwatchAffinio, Nexalogy, UnMetric, and NUVI. I suggest you demo them if you haven’t already.

 

Drive Event Engagement With Social Media

Social media marketing is a necessary tool for building great events, and it can also be fantastic for driving engagement during your event too. Here are a some surefire ways you can drive engagement before, during, and after your event using social media marketing.

Before the event:

  • Create a content plan: Your event content plan should feature content that educates followers about the event topic, industry, speakers (etc.). Your content plan should also drive traffic to the event website, and include sales messaging.
  • Designate that hashtag: Every event should have its own naming system and hashtag to encourage and drive organic online engagement.
  • Email marketing: Use email marketing to keep prospects and ticket holders up to date with speaker content, agenda updates, discounts, accompanying event materials etc.
  • Get speakers/sponsors involved! Equip everyone involved with messaging and images to share with their networks. Create content about individuals speakers and make sure to tag them and any sponsors in social media messages.

During the event:

  • Live updates via your social media networks. Use Twitter to live tweet and interact with attendees sharing with the event hashtags. Tweet quotes from speakers and share photos. You can also share photos on Instagram. On other social networks where you can’t post as frequently choose your updates more carefully.
  • Live Feeds and Twitter walls. Digital Twitter feeds are usually a big hit. It visiaull helps an event’s design and look & feel. Attendees love  seeing their own content displayed. And there are tons of tools to help you build the best feed affordably. A favorite of mine is Tint, and others I’ve used are TweetBeam,  Twitterfall, and HootFeed from Hootsuite.
  • Live stream or record parts of your event.  You can live stream using Periscope or Meerkat, Facebook, and you can also share snippets of the event via Snapchat or Vine. And be sure to save videos so you can use them for post-event content.
  • Social media kiosks. If you’re not sure how social savvy your event attendees are, teach them. You can set up a branded social media stations. Make the station fun with photo ops and giveaways complete with the event hashtag. Take time to engage with visitors letting them know the social campaigns happening around the event or sign them up for Twitter and help them send their 1st tweet. A favorite vendor of mine is Fonteco.

After the event:

  • Thank event attendees via social media channels. A personal thank you goes a long way and helps sustain authenticity.
  • Compile shared moments and share them with your audience. You can use Storify to pull all messages using your event hashtag onto one landing page. I love Storify because it lets the people included know they are part of your Storify via Twitter – driving instant traffic.

And post post event? Use all the content (quotes, pictures, etc.) that you’ve collected during the event to create even more wonderful recap content and build awareness for the next event.