Making Pictures Part of the Social Story


Posted by Jennifer Heckner, Project Coordinator

Do you remember those very first trips to the library as a kid and how the selection process usually came down to finding the books with the best (and most colorful) pictures?

It makes perfect sense since we tend to process visuals 60,000 times faster than text.

And while the words and chapters and plotlines and characters become increasingly important to us over time, there is always a place for the pictures.

This is especially true in marketing today as we shift toward digital communications and embrace content marketing and company storytelling. It’s also becoming very clear in the social media realm as we see visual-based sites like Pinterest and Instagram moving to the forefront.

But many businesses wonder how to incorporate visuals as part of the social sharing process.

With a strategy, most any company can do it. The biggest tip: be resourceful. Start with the social channels you already use and re-assess your standard visuals. Are your profile and cover images a good representation of your business or could you replace them with better, more expressive images?

From there, think of how you can work some visuals into your everyday posting strategy. Consider these ideas as a starting point:

  • Behind the scenes – What is an ordinary day like at the office or on the floor? Give followers a look at the happenings they might not otherwise see or experience.
  • Creative uses of product – Are your products multi-purpose? Show them in action! Find creative ways they’ve been used or applied and capture them.
  • Customer successes – People love to see how products and services have addressed a specific challenge. Happy customers are one way to illustrate this.
  • Before and after – Do your business solutions result in a significant change from before to after? Let readers see the difference.
  • Team shots – A great way to showcase your team, post photos that include staff interactions. People always like to put a name with a face.
  • Fun moments – Host a fun event or activity that was filled with smiles and laughter? Share the positive energy.

Need some more inspiration? Check out the social sites you’re connected to and see what kind of visuals other businesses are putting out there. Take some notes and develop your own plan.

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From A Pint-Size Perspective


Posted by Erin Schroeder, Copywriter & Online Specialist

Every time I scan my mounting batch of to-read e-newsletters, it seems the ones labeled “Top 10 Tips” or similar always get opened first.

That was the case this week – and thankfully so – as I stumbled upon some really good stuff in another advice-filled article from Social Media Examiner.

When talking about social coverage of events in real-time for Tip #4, Charlie Kautz of TaylorMade-Adidas Golf had this to say: “Approach it like a kid at an amusement park.”

The global marketing and corporate communications pro went on to explain that assessing the situation around you from a beginner’s perspective has the ability to take audiences “somewhere they wouldn’t otherwise go.” Yep. He also mentioned that we shouldn’t just automatically assume what might be interesting to others. True.

It’s a pretty simple tip, but one that’s also pretty smart.

Think about it. Whether an event, new product launch or really any kind of marketing effort for that matter, it’s easy to follow our standard processes, get stuck in a “same old” pattern or do things the way they’ve always been done before.

But how cool is it when we’re able to break outside the box and look at things from a totally different angle? Or communicate them from an unexpected viewpoint? As Kautz says, “Let your five senses guide you.”

So the next time you’re tasked with a new project, try to remember this little tip and imagine how your 5-year-old self would experience it.

See something that has the potential for some major oohs and aahs? Capture it. Hear something that sums up all the excitement? Quote it.

Things can look a whole lot different when seen through a child’s eyes.

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Web Forms: Friend or Foe?


Posted by Brenda Timm, VP of Strategic Communication & Online Services

Ever opened an email that offers a free download packed with all kinds of useful information (yes, please!) and then clicked through only to be greeted by a massive list of questions you must answer first?

Talk about a deal breaker.

Web forms can be a really great lead generator if they’re designed well and used right. But they can also send people running if they ask for too much information, and as a result, immediately overwhelm.

Some visitors will see these extra questions as a burden of their time, while others will be leery of why your company would need so many details and wonder how they’ll be used.

To avoid either scenario, it’s usually best to keep your web forms as simple and user-friendly as possible. Here’s some quick advice:

•Ask for the Basics – Keep the number of questions to a minimum and only ask for the info that you find most pertinent. If these initial contacts turn to future relationships, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to gather more insight.

•Mark the Required Fields – If you feel the need to include a few more questions, note which ones must be completed with an asterisk and give users the option to dish out details as they feel comfortable.

•Include a Comment Box – Allow visitors some space to write their own notes and encourage them to do so with a “How Can We Help?” or similar label. This removes the pressure and could result in some valuable tidbits.

•Make Contact Info Available – Maybe your lead prefers a one-on-one conversation or has additional questions. Be proactive and prominently display your company’s phone number on the form.

Getting visitors to the point of clicking through to your web content and requesting a download is a big enough challenge. Don’t make the mistake of sending them away in an attempt to squeeze out every last detail through a single form.

Think your forms through from a user’s perspective and they can have some real potential to generate new leads.

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Get Clever with Testimonials


Posted by Erin Schroeder, Copywriter & Online Specialist

As marketers, we should never underestimate the power of a really good testimonial.

Yes, we can find all kinds of creative ways to promote our products and services (that’s part of our job, right?), but oftentimes, it’s the actual user perspective that a potential buyer is interested in hearing.

So once we collect those little gems of feedback from our customers, what’s the best way to use them? Here are just a few ideas to ponder:

Web – Add a full testimonial page to your website and keep updating it as you get new quotes. Incorporate these snippets into a rotation on your home page or arrange them within sidebars on high-traffic pages.

Video – Launching a new product video? Include testimonials as still frames or weave them into your demo. If you have a customer full of great things to say, record a longer Q&A clip to use as a standalone or within another piece.

Direct Mail – A strong testimonial can serve as an interesting way to start a letter or end it as a P.S. to the reader. Place shorter quotes within an order card or response form … organize a series of them on an insert or fact sheet.

Packaging – Depending on what your product is and how much space you have, a compelling testimonial could be printed right on the packaging or within an accompanying welcome card.

Social Posts – With so many people plugged in socially these days, consider posting a recent customer endorsement to Facebook or tweeting a link to your dedicated testimonial page.

Your prospects are itching to know what kind of experience others have had with your brand so go ahead and tell them by showcasing your very best testimonials.

Customer quotes are an effective means of advertising and they’re easy to incorporate into your existing marketing efforts. It’s a win-win!

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Competing for Marketing Gold in Sochi


Posted by Brenda Timm, VP of Strategic Communication & Online Services

With all the Super Bowl hoopla behind us, the next big opportunity for marketers to score some major exposure is at the 2014 Winter Olympics kicking off later this week.

What do the big brands have in store?

No stranger to Olympic advertising, Kellogg’s has rolled out a feel-good campaign that spotlights U.S. Olympic and Paralympic competitors and features “From Great Starts Come Great Things” spots. The overall effort combines a little bit of everything – from web, mobile and social media to TV, print and in-store promotions.

Proctor & Gamble Co. (P&G) introduced a new Olympic-themed ad in its “Thank You, Mom” campaign last month. The commercial shows flashbacks of infant snowboarders and skaters getting some motherly assistance as they first learned to walk. P&G is anticipating over $150 million in sales from its advertising efforts in Sochi.

But what about the companies that don’t have these giant, Olympic-sized budgets to work with? How will they get involved?

We’re expecting to see social media play an integral role in Sochi. Sure, Facebook, Twitter and many of the other channels were around for all the Vancouver action back in 2010, but they weren’t nearly as popular or as versatile as they are today.

Consider this: An article on Yahoo! News estimates that there were 400 million monthly Facebook users in February 2010. Not too shabby, huh? Fast-forward to 2014, and this number has shot to over 1.2 billion. As for Twitter, eMarketer reports consistent growth for the site since 2010, with a yearly average increase of 21 percent.

With such a large, tuned-in audience, think of how easy it will be for companies to join in on the social chatter with a post, link, photo, video or even a simple comment that somehow ties to their brand.

And on a similar note, there’s always the opportunity for those clever product placements. An Olympian caught munching on her favorite post-race snack with the pic popping up on Instagram? Now this would be gold-worthy!

It will be exciting to see what marketers have in store for us at Sochi. We’ll be watching from the sidelines to see who winds up on the marketing medal podium.

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Social Media Case Study: Honda


Posted by Jennifer Heckner, Project Specialist

Imagine being put in charge of developing the creative strategy for a new in-car vacuum. Not the most glamorous topic to be assigned, is it?

That didn’t stop the marketing pros at Honda. In fact, they rolled out one of the most clever, comical campaigns of 2013, and used some pretty original tactics in the process.

While the team definitely gets points for its humorous video spots featuring dropped cookies and dust-covered candies, it’s the social piece that really earned the win.

Honda kicked off its Odyssey vacuum launch with a series of tweets directed at the perceived crumb culprits of the minivan world. It took aim at all kinds of big brands from Oreo and DORITOS® to Skittles and Orville Redenbacher’s.

Here’s just one favorite example of how Honda incorporated some witty copy and hashtags (all with its full product name in 140 characters or less!).

“I will #HaveAbreak. To devour your crumbs on the floor @KITKAT. – The Honda Odyssey Touring Elite with Built-in HondaVAC.”

And just as soon as the tweets started flying from Honda, many of the brands targeted got in on the laughs and tweeted their own wisecracks right back.

“@Honda The popcorn-devouring HondaVAC is in for a treat when it discovers and eats up lost Orville pieces!”

The result? A campaign gone viral! Honda Odyssey and its new in-car vacuum scored a whole lot of mentions and suddenly became big news in the Twitter-verse.

This is a great example of an effort that was both fun and effective … one that successfully executed a carefully planned approach with a little spontaneous marketing mixed right in.

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SEO in 2014: What’s the Prognosis?


Posted by Erin Schroeder, Copywriter & Online Specialist

Whenever Google rolls out a new update to the masses (think Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, etc.), it seems the future of search engine optimization is suddenly in question.

“How will this affect my site ranking?” is often the first reaction, but “Is SEO still effective?” has also claimed a spot among the most frequently asked questions.

Here’s the reality: SEO is very much alive today; it’s just always changing.

Why all the updates? When the optimization concept originally took shape over 15 years ago, there was the camp that immediately adopted the experts’ recommended best practices in an effort to achieve higher organic ranks. There was another that saw SEO as a shortcut of sorts, or a way to “trick the system” and catapult their sites to the top of all search results.

Because of this latter approach, many ill-advised tactics (including keyword stuffing, content duplication and hidden text) started surfacing, so Google – and the other major search engines – had to work smarter.

Google aimed to stay one step ahead of the scheming by revising its top-secret algorithms and penalizing sites that used sneaky “black-hat” techniques. That was the driving force behind many of the updates. All along though, Google was clear. It said that when new algorithm updates were launched, top ranks were ultimately earned by sites with high-quality content considered relevant to the visitor.

As marketers, we have to keep this in mind and work smarter, too.

While many Google updates have typically focused on certain aspects to discourage spam-like content from out-ranking legitimate content, the newest ones are reaching even further with the intent of delivering the best search results and user experience possible.

That doesn’t mean we should focus all of our energy solely on the latest piece of the SEO puzzle, like the current shift toward more natural searches or encrypted keyword data. It’s quite the opposite, actually. SEO as a whole remains essential to site findability and rank positions as we move into 2014.

Continued success will come from implementing a multi-faceted, integrated approach that considers the larger picture and builds off of something both engines and humans have been after since the very beginning: really good content.

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