PPPPublic Offerings - Four P's #152
Early adopters, IPOs, Improving the Police, & Instagram Growth Hacks.
I’m often (occasionally?) asked why are there four Ps? Why not three? Or five? In short, there probably could be. But the variety of subjects is what’s most important. This week’s topics demonstrate the full range of what often occupies my brain, and reflect the true essence of why I started the Four P’s in the first place.
We are not single-subject creatures. I could be helping a client with their Instagram strategy… while also pondering how our country still has a long way to go in battling racial inequality… and then go check my stock portfolio 10 minutes later. Our personal lives and professional lives do not have clearly defined lines that separate them. Maybe only two or three of the four Ps are relevant to you. And that’s fine. Feel free to skip or engage where you want. And, of course, feedback is always welcome.
A Bit of Clout.
Dropping the Base.
Racing to Erase Police Racism.
Building Your Instagram Brand.
Something Practical: A Bit of Clout
If you're anything like me, you get really excited to be an early user of new digital technologies or platforms. Even if you don't fully understand it. Sometimes they hit, sometimes they don't. The latest such opportunity is BitClout, which has been all over Twitter and starting to get some mainstream attention. It's got some really smart, connected, innovative, well-funded, public investors not only on the platform, but promoting it. So get in early. They just raised a bunch of funding that puts the valuation at over $1B.
Essentially, BitClout combines social media and bitcoin. I was early adopters of both, so why not? BitClout gives users the ability to buy/sell "creator coins" of Twitter profiles, including celebrities, brands and other personalities. It's already somewhat controversial, as it creates market value for these profiles even if the profile owner is not active or even aware of people trading their coins.
I'll be honest - I can’t fully grasp this one yet. I understand how it works, mostly, but I am not sure on why or what broader social value it is creating. Entertainment value? Possibly? Real financial growth opportunities? Maybe. I've transferred a small amount of BitCoin into my profile to "buy" others' coins. Who knows? If you're intrigued, though, check out (and buy) my coin here.
Which makes me think of Klout. Remember that one? Way back, more than a decade ago, in the early days of social media, Klout launched as a ranking and weighting tool, measuring individual profile's activity, engagement, reach, impact and influence. The app also analyzed and scored users’ Twitter and Facebook accounts for followers, retweets, shares and mentions and then awarded you a “Klout score” – a number between one and 100 – that reflected how "influential" you were. It also ranked scores on more specific topics. (At one point in my early social media leadership days, I had the highest ranking Klout score for topics such as "Facebook" and "cupcakes.")
Klout was ultimately acquired by a company called Lithium Technologies for $200 million a few years ago (which has since become Khoros). At the time, they planned to harvest the tool’s artificial intelligence and machine-learning capabilities. The application, itself, was shuttered in 2018. At the time, Lithium/Khoros CEO Pete Hess said about sunsetting Klout: "I’m pretty sure someone out there is already pledging to bring Klout back on the blockchain and is frantically writing up an ICO whitepaper as we speak because that’s how it is these days." And here we are.
Klout, like BitClout, was controversial, called tacky and basic and cheap." But the fact that BitClout has a marketplace (albeit speculative) with real currency gives it much more legitimacy, certainly. And while I still don't understand what gives certain profiles more value than others or have any idea what the fuck is going on…. it's more fun than you think.
Something Personal: Public Response to Dropping the Base
Retail investing has become increasingly popular in this digital, mobile age. Which also makes it risky. There is a reason why professional investors and traders make so much money. They understand the market. But this should not be an exclusive advantage, either. Last week's IPO of Coinbase shows how even the smartest of retail investment app users can get squeezed.
A personal tale: as a longtime cryptocurrency owner advocate, I've been a Coinbase user since 2016. With the buzz around its public offering last week, I thought the opening stock price ($250) was low, and I was excited to buy in as soon as public trading was open. I spent the morning refreshing the so that I didn't miss an early run. A little after 1pm, the stock was finally available to purchase on Stash at the IPO price, and I placed an order to buy. Then I waited. Two hours later, I got a notification that my purchase went through... at $370 per share. More than $120 above its opening price. By the end of the day, the stock price sunk back to $320 per share. This means that instead of seeing a 30% profit just a few hours into public trading, I suffered a 15% loss. Even in an age of instant digital connectivity, trading professionals and insiders have a leg up. I was furious, and I'm sure I was not the only one.
As a result, one of the other retail stock trading apps, Public (which I've raved about here as an integrated social/community + investment experience) has committed to building a feature or functionality that will enable every day app user/investors to lock in purchases at IPO launch prices. They already opened up the waiting list while they build, and this will be a gamechanger for the increasingly enthusiastic early investor. As soon as it's ready, I'm closing down all of my other retail investment app accounts and moving fully to Public. And you should, too.
If you join with this link, they’ll even gift you a free stock!
Something Political: Racing to Erase Police Racism
Almost every week now, we learn about another terrible, tragic instance of a Black person dying at the hands of police officers. What ensues is public grief, protest, and then an ensuing flood of commentary about whether or not the police were right to use force. As the trial of George Floyd’s murderer wraps up in Minneapolis this week, the country is dealing with two more deaths of minority youth at the hands of police: Duante Wright in Minnesota and Adam Toledo in Chicago.
Racism is a horrendous part of America’s DNA. Whether it’s the country’s history of slavery, the widespread police violence, or the small, day-to-day injustices Black people experience, the burden of racism is best described as a cumulative trauma caused by historical, social, and personal events. If you’ve watched the news or read a newspaper in the past five years, “Black Lives Matter” and other social justice movements have brought these issues even more into the mainstream. But racism won’t just disappear through the social and political activism of Black Americans, alone.
For many white Americans, racism is so deeply ingrained into our nervous systems that we don’t even register how we contribute to it. For Black Americans, on the other hand, racial injustice is something they are aware of constantly. They suffer disproportionately from physical and mental distress, are more often subject to direct violence, such as police brutality, and they experience higher rates of stress, depression, and anxiety. They also suffer from stress-related diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and alcoholism.
White supremacy, both conscious and unconscious, is the reason why police routinely kill innocent Black people, but peacefully arrest white mass shooters. Police violence against Black people is an epidemic in America today. Yes, police work can be extremely stressful and occasionally dangerous, but police in America often behave as if their purpose is not to SERVE their communities, but to subjugate them. Individual racism is terrible. Institutional racism is even worse.
Historically, police departments were created to protect white society, with roots in “slave patrols” established in South Carolina in 17th century. Today, police departments have important responsibilities in our cities and towns. There are high-stress situations, and not all police officers are trained to properly diffuse tensions while on-duty AND off-duty. Police departments offer little guidance in how to manage stress because they're so mired in legacy ways of working. They incentivize the wrong things, like arrest rates. Real change requires police leadership to admit there is a problem (some already have, but not enough) and then offer training and other support, such as meditation sessions, exercise classes, and regular therapy.
Modern policing must be community policing. This is a form of policing that emphasizes the police’s role as a friend and helper, rather than an antagonist. Better training in mental health and psychological first aid will help them approach people in distress more safely. Off-duty volunteering, coaching or mentoring will also help foster relationships in the neighborhood.
We can create a culture of anti-racism by coming together in our own communities, and then expanding outward. As we start to nurture a new, collaborative culture, the processes of healing from racism shouldn’t be isolated, but run parallel – with lots of collaboration and coordination between.
Something Professional: Building an Instagram Brand
I was meeting with a new client last week, an emerging beauty brand with a cult following and an incredible product line focused on skin health. This company, despite having a significant global presence, is not as mature on digital and social platforms as they should be. They only have a few hundred followers on Instagram. even though its target audience is quite active. In fact, this brand is already featured in millions of user-generated posts and consumer/fan conversations around the world. So how can they, and other, emerging businesses grow their Instagram audience in 2021?
1. Know Your Role.
Any good relationship requires commitment, so don't jump into (onto?) Instagram unless you're ready to go all-in. Instagram has become much more than a place to show off product pictures. The competition for user attention is fierce, and the algorithm (it is a Facebook product, after all) is always evolving. Study your competitors, your audience, and even other brands outside your category (both qualitatively and quantitatively) to see what inspires you.
2. Plan The Content.
A well-populated Instagram feed full of fresh content helps to attract followers who love your products. Brands have multiple objectives, from product awareness to engagement to conversion. Not all of these priorities can be accomplished in every post. Developing a few different, but focused, themes is important. These themes will help to strengthen your brand’s appeal and remind followers what you’re all about. It’s also an opportunity to make the brand more memorable.
3. Go Big with Video.
Video has become one of the most valuable tools on Instagram. In addition to posting video to the grid/feed, there are more video options from which to choose:
Instagram Reels, which are shorter TikTok-like snippets, is the most recent addition to Instagram videos. Heavily-skewed towards engagement.
IGTV is ideal for audience-building, as it gives you access to another section of the Insta app.
Instagram Live is a best for showing personality, humanity and authenticity. You can introduce team members or influencers (see below) and show what's happening behind the scenes.
4. Leverage Influencers.
Influencer marketing isn’t new. In fact, it's become so popular that its lost some effectiveness (oversaturation or poor influencer vetting). But partnering with experts and other niche personalities is one of the best ways to build credibility through association. We used to call it "borrowed relevance." Now we just call it an important part of the marketing diet for creation, curation and amplification. Some tactical options for working with influencers include takeovers, giveaways, and competitions.
5. Be Authentic.
This sounds cliché, yet remains the most overlooked and underappreciated guidance for brands on Instagram. Beautiful and compelling visuals are important, but consumers want to see "real." Users are less interested in what products or services you can offer, as much as who you are, and what the people behind your business are like. This can be accomplished through access, testimonials, behind-the-scenes videos, emotion-based captions, connections with real people. answering common follower questions with videos, pictures, and creating how-to guides.
6. Tell Stories
Or more like “Use your Instagram Stories.” This is a great feature for combining various images, clips, and captions into a more engaging experience for your audience. And while you should plan them out, they’re only temporary, so it can certainly be less polished.
Pay attention to the tags trending on the “Explore” page, or you can also "cheat" with a hashtag generator. For the best ongoing results, remember to use branded hashtags regularly.
8. Schedule and Publish Consistently
To optimize results and grow your Instagram following, you’ll need to publish quality content, and do it consistently. At a baseline, that means scheduling your content in advance to take advantage of national holidays and generate buzz for upcoming events, but the true objective is to keep your feed from growing stale. A well-planned content calendar also means you don’t have to worry about having a day without inspiration. Insights tools can help determine when your customers are most likely to be active, and platforms like Later, Buffer and Sprout Social let you schedule your posts for Instagram (and also have a range of other features). For now, you'll still need to tag your products for shopping and commerce on the native platform, itself, but these can also be big commerce-drivers, when done correctly..
9. Optimize Your Profile
Not all consumers will see all of your posts, but all of them will see your profile at some point. Don't overlook the opportunities to optimize everything on this page in order to deliver results:
Profile Picture: The ideal profile picture might be a snap of your logo, or even an image of your product. For the most part, however, people like to see other human beings on Instagram.
Bio: Where you inform your audience of the most important things they need to know about you. You only have 150 characters here, so stay concise and to the point, but use #brandedhashtags, unique fonts and emojis to help your bio stand out and generate engagement.
Link In Bio: One of the most valuable tools you have on Instagram, this link is often the only way to drive traffic to your website and other online assets. Regular refreshes can be tiresome, so a "link-in-bio" tool (like url.bio) can help you get the most out of that single link.
10. Media and Other “Growth Services”
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Facebook's ad/targeting platform is the most powerful advertising tool in history. The initial stages of building reputation and generating credibility cam take time. To speed things up (and reduce the weight on your shoulders), it’s important to go beyond organic growth and spend some money. How to best do this could be an entirely different post altogether. So just email me...
All 10 of these tips will help brands strengthen the relationship with customers and show followers what the business is all about! And never stop creating, my friends!