Instagram, the fast-growing photo-sharing network, is projected to generate about $700 million in revenue this year and $5.8 billion in revenue in 2020, according to new estimates from analysts with Cowen & Co.
That surge in sales, according to the report, is based on Cowen's surveys of user and advertiser interest as well as projections for Instagram's user numbers to more than double to 680 million by 2020 and for larger advertisers to follow. Read more...More about Facebook, Instagram, and Business
Advertising is the business of creativity. And an agency’s existence depends on its ability to produce and cultivate creative ideas.
So what happens when your creative flow is cutoff? What do you do when inspiration has evaporated?
Maya Angelou said, “Creativity or talent, like electricity, is something I don’t understand but something I’m able to harness and use.” If the absence of ideas has become overwhelming, try these exercises, and learn how to harness your creative magic.
7 Methods to Spark Creativity
1) Ignore everyone.
Some of the most brilliant writers and artists are famous for living a hermit-like existence by shunning the existence of friends, family members, and the public.
But this isn’t really feasible for most of us, especially in a time of open office plans. The changing architecture of the workplace is interesting as a study in 2011 by Matthew Davis, an organizational psychologist, found that these open environments can actually reduce creativity, productivity, and attention spans.
To be creative, we need to create spans of uninterrupted time to think, and we should do this in a space that is free of distractions. This might mean only accepting meeting invites on certain days, blocking off time on your calendar where you go analog, booking a meeting room for a few hours each week, or investing in some quality noise-canceling headphones.
2) Actually ignore your boss.
Management can either foster creativity or severely limit it in the workplace.
Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton, authors of Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths And Total Nonsense: Profiting From Evidence-Based Management, wrote:
The more that authority figures hang around, the more questions they ask, and especially the more feedback they give their people, the less creative the work will be. Why? Because doing creative work entails constant setbacks and failure, and people want to succeed when the boss is watching -- which means doing proven, less creative things that are sure to work.
A lack of attention might be what your employees need to feel comfortable and confident in testing, failing, and hopefully, succeeding.
However, managers can also be the guardians of creativity. Harvard Business School researchers found that the best way leaders can support creativity is by protecting their employees time and resources from distractions, problems, and scheduling issues.
3) Smile more.
It sounds like a simple request -- but there are some days where even a floppy-eared bunny hugging a kitten that is hugging a stuffed animal that looks like the adorable floppy-eared bunny can’t make you crack a grin.
It turns out, you can retain all the rage and hate you want -- just keep it inside. As long as you can massage your face into a smile, you can enjoy the benefits of humor, which include increased creativity and energy.
So before you dive into that creative brief, spend some time watching videos that make you laugh or grab coffee with the office comedian. A little laughter can do wonders for the creative soul.
4) Quit brainstorming meetings.
People think of brainstorming meetings as these high-energy get-togethers where people throw out one idea after the other, which collide and change and shape into the big idea. It's high-energy and fast-paced.
Anyone who has actually attended a brainstorming meeting knows this tends to be completely false. Those meetings typically look like this: One or two people come up with the ideas while most of the group is busy chatting online or catching up on email. There’s always someone who leads the group on a tangent, and there’s that one person who thinks every idea is terrible and will point out its flaw.
It's unproductive at best.
Alex Osborn, a partner at BBDO in 1940s, authored the book that introduced the brainstorming technique, which has a stronghold grasp on the creative industry to this day. But after the brainstorming method became popular, some folks at Yale University tested it out. What they found was that the results contradicted the idea that brainstorming groups come up with more ideas than an individual, and similar studies continue to support the idea that creativity occurs when a person works alone.
5) Stay in your pajamas.
Do people really get more done typing away on their laptops from the comfort of their bed? Well, it seems that working from home can actually make you more productive.
A research report on telecommuting found that while people were less productive when it came to completing mundane tasks, they were 11% to 20% more productive on creative projects and tasks.
Implement a more flexible work schedule so people can work from wherever they feel most inspired.
6) Set a deadline, a limit, or a timer.
Constraints can actually make you more creative.
Author Tina Seelig writes:
There are conditions where high pressure leads to high creativity, and people feel as though they are on a mission. In this environment, despite the pressure, there is a clear, focused, and important goal, and people are highly creative.
A tight deadline, a lack of a budget, a limited number of words, a certain color scheme, and other strict rules can actually force us to think differently because we can’t consider and reconsider every single option. We have to make quick decisions, use our imaginations, and work around challenges.
A perfect of this example is Oreo’s famous “You Can Still Dunk in the Dark” Twitter status. Who would have thought that a blackout at football’s Big Game could be so inspirational?
7) Schedule your time based on events.
Do you know how you spent each working hour of your day?
Some people have every hour of every day planned out. That's just the way they work -- they schedule tasks in terms of clock-time. When the hour strikes, they move on to the next project on their list.
The other type of person schedules his time based on events. He works on one project until the project is done or until he is at a good stopping point. The position of the minute-hand on a clock makes no difference to him.
Researchers did a study on the differences between these two types of workers and found that clock-timers tend to be less creative than their event-scheduler friends.
You can use this theory to chunk your schedule into blocks. Work on a certain project instead of allotting each hour to a different client or task. This should also be taken into consideration when scheduling meetings, as the breaking up of the day can harm the flow you need to increase creativity and productivity.
What are your methods for increasing your creativity?
The written word’s been getting written off lately. SnapChat, Instagram, Pinterest, infographics, emojis, and video have been stealing the limelight as words, copy, content, whatever you want to call it take a backseat. We’ve become enamored with the idea that showing, rather than telling, provides a better brand experience.
But the backbone of successfully using these newfangled channels starts with a brand vision well-articulated through strong copy. The continuity of a brand, despite the advent of new media, hangs on the tenor of a singular voice.
Note: Some of the examples in this piece have NSFW language.
For the B2C Marketers: Red Bull
At it’s most basic, Red Bull can’t post this picture on Instagram with a caption like: “Arthur Longo does a cool jump #snowboarding.”
Instead they opt for: “Son, rise. #HippieJump for @arthur_longo #snowboard”
Now I know a good pun when I see one, but what the heck is a #HippieJump (it’s this)? But that’s the whole point. I’m not the audience here. Red Bull knows this. They know their audience. They’re not going to spell it out for some nudnik like me. If you know the term, you’re in the know. You’re an insider. You’re the audience they’re purposely appealing to
And that’s great copywriting: Knowing your audience and making those infinitesimal edits that create loyal fans. Knowing your audience makes risk-taking easier. Companies who don’t know their audience opt for the safe (read: no one gets fired) option and over explain so everyone gets it. The great brands don’t want to appeal to everyone.
You’re a Publisher and a Brand
Smart, progressive brands are starting to see themselves as publishers. And whether it’s an Instagram caption, a tweet, a website, or a blog, great copy (i.e. copy that caters to a specific audience) separates brand winners from losers. As brands embrace publishing, they’re becoming first-movers and capitalizing on the channels that allow them to tell stories with some actual substance, like this recent collaboration between Medium and Marriott hotels.
For the B2B Marketers: Intel
If you’re a CMO of a B2B brand, you’re probably sitting back trying to wrap your head around the idea of “business as publisher.” Sure, it’s easy for a company like Net-A-Porter to think like a publisher or the aforementioned RedBull to publish engaging, visceral content. But what about those companies that don’t have sexy products.
On its face, Intel, a semiconducter chip maker, isn’t sexy. In fact, it’s kinda nerdy. Ah-yes! But sexy products use Intel’s technology. And by thinking a step beyond its core business, Intel has created their content site IQ. IQ is, by all accounts, an online technology magazine. But what makes IQ so engaging isn’t just the technology. It’s the deft way IQ melds technology and culture through content you’d read in Wired. They successfully pull it off without overtly promoting the fact that each article has an Intel tie-in.
Welcome to the New Press Release
Every article on IQ is an artfully crafted case study and press release disguised as a magazine article. Consider IQ’s piece “MICA Intelligent Luxury Fashion Bracelet Stays Alert With Style”. Note the date: right before the holiday shopping season (likely not a coincidence). Ostensibly, this is a press release. But it’s the slight tweaks that turn tired corporate speak into engaging content.
First, the article isn’t written by Intel’s media relations team. It’s “contributed” by Marley Kaplan, the founder and CEO of a consulting agency. The intent being, Kaplan’s an impartial contributor writing about a great new product that she loves. This isn’t some corporatized, sponsored article that would turn off the modern, discerning consumer.
The images aren’t shots of the product, or gasp!, the Intel chip idly sitting on a table with a bunch of product specs. It’s a stark departure from the typical B2B cliche of “We have to just show the product image!” in every ad, article, or promotional piece. The bracelets are worn on beautiful people (representing all races!) enjoying themselves (in front of a white wall!).
It’s an article that has all the hallmarks of a typical press release or sell sheet but artfully repurposed for the “business as publisher” model of marketing. The lines are purposely blurred because readers are savvier. Consumers don’t read press releases for fun. But they do read articles like this.
The brands writing the future of marketing are retooling yesterday’s press release to look like today’s magazine article. They have a corporate, business-y site here and a content-fueled, slice-of-life site there. Even the old-timey annual report read only by investors is a re-conceptualized platform for brand and as in the case of Warby Parker.
For the Guys: Chubbies
It starts with their slogan “Sky’s Out, Thighs Out” and you can only imagine where it goes from there. For bros by bros, Chubbies is a fashion retailer centered around a line of short shorts for guys who like to quote Anchorman, crush beers, steal your girlfriend, and bring their own lawn chairs to BBQs.
It’s bro kitsch written by a guy on his fifth Monster Energy drink. To wit, this email subject line for a line of swim trunks that change colors when wet (called the GOBs), “Moisture is the essence of wetness.” If you’re scoring at home, that’s two cultural touchstones in one email. Copy continues in all caps: “"SNAAAAAP, those trunks just CHANGED COLORS BEFORE MY EYES. MY BRAIN IS ATTEMPTING TO UNDERSTAND THIS INNOVATIVE SHORTSNOLOGY BUT IT SIMPLY CANNNNNN'T. HELLP MEEEE."
Cultural references and snark pop up around every corner. Their product names don’t relent and stay on brand with names like “The Trophy Husbands” and “The Pregames.”
Because Chubbies has a very specific customer in mind, they can make obtuse cultural references, use all caps in copy (without it being construed as yelling), and add little elements that reinforce their personality.
Incredibly, the “Join our Mailing List” placeholder copy is surprisingly tame, but sure enough, there’s that video game’s catchphrase replacing the typical “Submit” button. These little surprises are a welcome upgrade from the prosaic copy of traditional e-commerce sites.
All jokes aside, Chubbies is doing serious business. Co-founder, Preston Rutherford (incredibly, his real name), told BuzzFeed “that in the first seven months of 2013, the company more than doubled its 2012 revenues (an increase of 220%). Similarly, the first half of 2013 saw an 804% revenue growth over the same period in 2012.”
For the Gals: Nasty Gal
If Chubbies had a kid sister, it would be Nasty Gal. Self-proclaimed as “The online style destination for bad-ass girls,” it’s become a $100-million dollar diva in a crowded women’s fashion market.
The copy reads like lyrics from an Iggy Azalea song. Examples include this swimwear call to action: “IF YOU GOT IT, FLAUNT IT. IT'S TIME TO GET WET AND WILD IN SCORCHING ONE-PIECES AND BARELY-THERE BIKINIS.” Because I was on my work computer, I was afraid to click.
Every Product Name and Description is An Opportunity to Get Creative
Like Chubbies, the product names are a stiff cocktail of brand elements that combine to serve up a high-ball of bad-ass girliness (any fathers reading this, now would be a good time to avert your eyes): “Love or Desire Pleated Dress,” “Stuns n’ Roses Bustier Dress,” and “Cold Hearted Snake Bodycon.” I don’t know what any of these are, but again, Nasty Gal don’t care.
Little bursts of copy purposely read like a girl gushing to another about fashion (for example: the “Can’t Live Without” header as a specific callout on the site’s dropdown menu).
Nasty Gal’s founder, Sophia Amoruso, published a book entitled (and naturally all-caps’d and hashtagged) “#GIRLBOSS”. In it, she dishes on the secrets of the company’s success, notably in social media: “Social media is built on sharing, and Nasty Gal was giving girls something amazing to share each and every day.
Whether it was a crazy vintage piece, a quote, or a behind-the-scenes photo, we have always worked hard to create the best and most compelling images, words, and content for our customers.”
#ThisOutfitThough - Bringing The Thunder to Social
Nasty Gal carries its personality to social by speaking directly to a very specific audience of young girls. Note the tweet’s hashtag, #ThisOutfitThough, mirroring the lexicon of its audience.
Out of sheer curiosity, there was a live chat feature on their site. I wanted to see if their “agents” talk like their brand. So I changed my name to “Patty” (because, Nasty Gal!) and this conversation transpired with Nasty Gal’s “Heidi”.
Heidi: Hi Patty
Heidi: How can I help you?
Patty: Heidi, I'm looking for a hot number that I could wear at work (I'm in advertising) but then take out on the town on Friday night without having to go home and change
Patty: Any ideas?
Heidi: Sure thing!
Heidi: One moment please.
Patty: Nice, so that's two "going out"-fits and I should just wear a sweater over either one?
Heidi: I would do that... wear a sweater or blazer during the day.
Heidi: I am looking for dresses for you.
Patty: Thanks these are super helpful
Patty: That bag!
Patty: do you sell that?
Heidi: With what item?
Patty: the boss around tuxedo dress, she's holding a clutch
Heidi: let me check on this for you.
Patty: Loves it! Thank you for the help
Heidi: You're welcome.
Heidi: Is there anything else I can help you with?
Patty: That should do it, thanks so much, Heidi!
Heidi: You're welcome.
Sadly, Heidi was all business despite my best efforts (fair, considering she was working on a Saturday night and may or may not be working out of a customer service center in a different country). But the product descriptions for each recommendation did the heavy lifting for her.
Note the description on the “Boss Around Tuxedo Dress”:
“You're a boss b*tch, now all you need is the dress to match. The Boss Around Dress is made in a black twill and features wrap design, plunging neckline, wide satin lapel, and wide quilted belt. Unlined, front button and hook/eye closure. Kills it with chunky heels, hundred dollar bills, and that corner office.” (Again, the bold is my emphasis for peak sassiness).
Take the brand personality, the share-worthy social tidbits, the Iggy Azalea-esque product descriptions and you have one of the fastest-growing private companies in the world with over $100M in sales in 2013.
For the Home: Squatty Potty
(Author confession: I am a user of this product)
There’s content that’s crap. Then there’s crap content. For a taboo subject like proper toilet posture, Squatty Potty has made excrement their bread and butter. Their content’s sole focus and proof points are based around the notion of better health.
Squatty Potty nails copy that explains fairly complex scientific proof in an approachable, understandable way without falling into the trap of using groan-worthy, low-hanging puns (like the ones I’ll happily use here).
Keep It Simple
Consider the complexity of selling a product like Squatty Potty. If you’ve been doing nature’s call of doodie the “norm core” way, Squatty Potty has to make an old habit die hard in a way that doesn’t confuse, over-communicate, and embarrass you.
Infographics, like the one below, and videos (all consistently branded with insanely clear and simple copy) comprise to not only sell customers on the product but make them unabashed advocates.
With Squatty, Sharing is Caring!
Getting customers to gleefully share their Squatty Potty anecdotes (#TopSquats anyone?) on social media shows the affinity for the product and its ability to get people excited about a typically awkward topic. Because Squatty Potty offers a friendly, approachable, and enthusiastic tone to its copy, customers feel empowered to do the same.
Squatty Potty has over 21,000 likes on Facebook and 4.5 out 5 stars on Amazon (with 375 5-star customer reviews). Over the holiday period, when I tried to order a couple for family, Squatty Potty was on back order for 2-3 weeks.
My first brush with Squatty Potty’s existence was Howard Stern’s live reads during his radio show. The live reads are the best I’ve ever heard. Howard’s genuinely giddy about his Squatty Potty experience. It’s a bit more graphic than the corporate copy, but the enthusiasm is no different. And then a close friend of mine happily endorsed the product. In both cases, I took Howard’s and my friend’s recommendation with a grain of salt.
Typically, I ignore Howard’s reads as most of the products shilled are the kind of dreck found in “Made for TV ads”: gimmicky products, cheaply made, that promise big results. After visiting their site, their straight talk completely disarmed me and I had one in the shopping cart and have been giving them out as gifts to friends ever since.
If Your Message Isn’t Resonating, Be Ready to Change It
The proof of Squatty Potty’s success is in the chocolate pudding (sorry). Their entire approach to developing copy about its health benefits stemmed from a rejection by ABC’s “Shark Tank” in Season 5. “Shark Tank” didn’t want a bathroom product on their show. So Squatty Potty reframed their pitch. Inventor Robert Edwards explained their new direction: “In our second auction tape we really nailed down that Squatty Potty is a health tool, a solution available to help people suffering from elimination issues and not just a novelty.
We were told this helped us change their minds and allowed us to get on.” In the 100th episode of Shark Tank, they successfully secured investment from one of the Sharks ($350,000 investment for 10% of the company).
The power of answering the question “So what?” when talking about a product has reframed Squatty Potty’s positioning. And this tweak has made them #1 in talking about #2.
For the Gear Junkie: Huckberry
Can Ye Olde General Store flourish within the digital firmament of the Internet? That’s precisely what e-commerce startup Huckberry is trying to do. Huckberry describes themselves as “your favorite store, your grandpa’s favorite store, and your favorite magazine all rolled into one.”
Make It a Passion Project
Huckberry showcases products that their employees like, use, or want. Because their employees are, in effect, their own target audience, male, white-collared, modern, urbanite sophisticates hitting the trails and campgrounds on the weekends, the tone comes naturally.
Their goal is “to bring you the coolest new gear at the best prices.” But how is Huckberry differentiating themselves from the other gear and clothing sites out there? How are they answering the question “So what?” that makes them memorable?
They put their mission right there on their website.
Huckberry started without any venture capital so marketing and advertising money was scarce. By starting from a simple premise, “to be the most interesting email in your inbox each week,” Huckberry built a loyal and engaged following.
What Makes Their Newsletters So Successful?
Sticking to the fundamentals.
Short subject lines. Just check out the last 1.5 months of email subject lines in my inbox: not one is over six words.
The tone of each email is conversational. A recent email intro for a line of athletic shoes reads: “Remember when PF Flyers guaranteed bright-eyed little leaguers a shoe that would make them "run faster and jump higher?" No? Well, grandpa does.” It closes with a non-threatening call to action: “Naturally, we ordered a few pairs--y’know, for science. Shop now.”
And each featured product gets the same conversational treatment. A tone that’s understated (no exclamation points or bold, font types all over the place), as if a sensible friend were recommending the product to you.
They create a sense of urgency. Huckberry always includes a section within their newsletter entitled “Sales Ending Soon” that revisits products that are no longer being offered.
They deliver customer value and reinforce their brand through shrewd content creation and curation. Within each newsletter, Huckberry includes sections called “The Journal” and “Distractions”. The Journal is Huckberry’s blog with a comprehensive amount of content from adventure to their own Spotify playlists. The section called “Distractions” pulls interesting stories relevant to their audience from around the web giving readers a little inspiration with every newsletter.
Every piece within their newsletter conspires to reaffirm the mission and purpose of Huckberry’s brand for guys who work their day job during the week to get outside and as far away from the city on the weekend.
Consider Huckberry’s subscriber growth from June 2012 - August 2013.
And then check out their newsletter click rate vs. average retailers.
Unlike other retailers who send newsletters to simply promote a new piece of clothing or a sale, Huckberry gives you a reason to open their newsletter to find something interesting, informative, or inspiring every time.
For the Foodie: Eat24
Eat24, a company that’s making food delivery easier, is a shining example about the success that can come by taking risks, doing things they find fun, and not overthinking it. Eat24 came across my radar after reading their post about breaking up with Facebook.
The Next Post May Be That “Lightning-in-a-Bottle” Post You’ve Always Wanted
For a company blog that gets admirable, but by no means voluminous, shares and interaction, the Facebook post went Wonka-elevator-through-the-glass-ceiling viral
Consider the other blog traction before and after the Facebook post.
Facebook Breakup post:
After Facebook Breakup post:
That’s a ridiculous 29,000 shares on Facebook, over 5,000 shares on Twitter, 1,400 shares on Google+ (which is incredible considering no one is on Google+), and 1,400 shares on LinkedIn.
It’s a word that gets thrown around a lot, but what makes Eat24’s blog so compelling is its authenticity. There’s trying to be amusing and casual (which can quickly become grating) and then there’s actually being amusing and interesting (which reads authentic and stays fresh).
I wrote that previous paragraph before I had a chance to correspond directly with Eat24’s Creative Director Patty Jordan. Here she explains their approach to brand voice:
“We put 15 cats, puppies, and sloths in a room until one of them wrote something amazing. OK, not really. There was never a discussion about what our brand voice should be. Our goal is just to be ourselves. The way we talk on all of our communication channels is the same way we all talk in real life, including our founders & CEO.
Everything we do uses this voice, no matter if it’s a blog post, an email, a tweet about chimichangas; even a notification in our app. The thing that's great about being yourself is you don't need a style guide for it.”
The voice isn’t just on the blog, as Jordan notes. Consider their home page copy:
And their call to action for the Eat24 app.
“Authentic” is such a tired word (just like “organic” or “synergies”) when talking about brand, so I didn’t want to use it unless a company really, truly sounded authentic. Authentic is one of those things you can’t quite pinpoint, but you know it when you see it.
Regarding the aforementioned Facebook post, Jordan explains the impact a post like that has on their readership and engagement.
“We got a lot of attention for our post about How to Advertise on Porn (author’s note: SFW, BTW) before our Facebook post, so we already had a bunch of people visiting us. When those two posts blew up, people started poking around in our older posts and leaving comments, which was great. We like to keep the conversation going, even if it's on a 2-year old post about which foods would make the best sleeping bags.”
Can A Blog Post Drive Business?
So where’s the beef when it comes to bottom line business goals? Let’s talk METRICS! Data points. Hockey-stick traffic growth! The things that ensure job security...right? Well, Jordan took a side that many companies forget about when business goals take precedence over the blog itself.
“Honestly we just like having another communication channel with people. We have fun with our blog. And when we have fun, we don't usually subject that fun to business impact analysis. That being said, when a blog post blows up, we do see more app downloads and orders.”
And what about their blog name? Where did “Bacon Sriracha Unicorn Diaries” come from? While some companies would market test the bejeezus out of the right name making sure to hit the right tone and create “brand continuity” blah blah blah, Jordan divulged Eat24’s secret sauce: “What are your three favorite things of all time? Boom. Instant blog name.”
For the News Junkie: The Skimm
For businesses that don’t have a huge marketing budget and want to create buzz within their industry, The Skimm is a fantastic example of what a simple layout, strong and succinct copy, clever headlines, and a big personality can do for buzz.
Today it seems like every media outlet churns out a daily newsletter highlighting top stories for their subscribers, but The Skimm’s brand of newsletter has become a standout for its approach. For an example of what The Skimm’s daily newsletter looks like, go here.
The Skimm works because it’s a healthy dose of sass and information that’s written concisely and clearly. Consider this recent news item concerning the hacking of Centcom.
With allusions to Scandal’s Kerry Washington, The Skimm sprinkles in pop culture references to keep the occasional drudgery of reading daily news interesting. They ask questions in a way that doesn’t condescend to provide further information and context to a story. They’re giving you just enough information to be informed and conversational.
Be Consistent Where It Matters
The setup for every email doesn’t change. Consistency is comforting, especially when you’re rolling up your sleeves to read the news (UGH!). Each newsletter opens with a feature story (or two or three) that uses a similar approach as the Centcom story. The next section, called “Repeat After Me,” includes news stories that start with a consistent prompt: “What to say…” and then they pay it off. For example, this header for Honda’s negligence to report people getting injured and dying in their cars:
Along with the big news items of the day, The Skimm also includes occasional stories of general interest that are a fun mention.
And for each news item, they make it easy to share.
The Skimm creates community with subscriber birthdays and the “Skimm’bassadors” program: A name for those enthusiastic subscribers who promote The Skimm to their friends. These community building nuggets go a long way in creating and maintaining a loyal fan base.
And that loyalty has paid off. With over 500,000 subscribers, an endorsement from Oprah and $6.25M in Series A funding round, they’re looking to expand their media products and hire more staff.
For the Ad Men and Women: R/GA’s Twitter Feed
Great content doesn’t just have to live on a company’s website. As some of the examples above show, you can deliver great content through newsletters, live chat, and even social media.
R/GA’s Twitter feed stands out in a crowded space of agency social feeds trying to have the coolest takes, share the coolest things, and pat themselves on the back for winning a local BMA award.
“Don’t Be Boring”
Here’s what makes R/GA’s Twitter feed so unique:
- It’s managed by one man where many agency and corporate social feeds are handled by some faceless entity or entities (check out this great article about Chapin Clark, the man behind the account)
- Chapin Clark is the SVP, Managing Director at R/GA. In a world where so many companies delegate social media to an entry-level employee with little experience, Clark’s seniority packs a punch. Strangely, yes, it’s still innovative to have a corporate social media account handled by someone who actually has some influence and experience in the industry
- It’s a brand unto itself. R/GA is a hugely successful agency, but the snark and sarcasm found on their Twitter feed isn’t nearly at the same level on their corporate site.
- Clark’s messaging platform for his Twitter account? “Don’t be boring.”
It’s a potpourri of industry-related articles where you can actually learn something, along with the absurd, and Chapin Clark’s musings, like this one:
What’s the benefit of having a social account managed by a muckety muck who isn’t boring? A direct line to some of the most influential thought leaders in the advertising industry (as well as the underlings who work for them).
Sheer follower count doesn’t really matter if they’re comprised of bots and eggs. The sphere of influence is considerable when you have 105,000 followers, and it’s even sweeter when many of them are your envious competition.
You Can’t Make Everyone Happy
Some people will get the reference. Some people won’t. Trying to catering to those who don’t get it will inevitably dilute the personality of your social media and brand.
“Don’t be boring” is impossible when companies, websites, social feeds, and newsletters try to appeal to everyone. And the only way to avoid that? Know your audience. I mean, really, REALLY know your audience... and take risks!
Did we miss any companies whose copy you admire? Tell us about them in the comments!
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There are people who usually insist on doing everything on their own. Such people will fix their own plumbing, roofs and even do their own SEO. There are those who acknowledge that there is a reason why professional tradesmen exist. You may understand search engine optimization but still accept the fact that there are people who know a lot more about it than you do. They will do the work faster and the results will be exactly what you want.
SEO is always changing. If words such as Panda and Penguin simply sound like zoo animals to you, then it is time for you to look for a SEO consultant. Search engines are always trying to stay one step ahead of people who try to game the system therefore it is an ever changing industry that very few people have time to keep track of unless you are paid to do so.
Businesses which take shortcuts with SEO usually suffer. There are a lot of agencies that make superficial promises and get results using unethical and illegal tactics. They use things such as keyword stuffing, spam commenting, adding invisible texts to the page, link farming and creating doorway pages. Such methods will work temporarily but cheating is going to get your website blacklisted long after you have paid your cheap consultant and parted ways.
It is therefore essential to use the right methods to get your page on top of search engines and the only way this can be done is by using a SEO consultant.
By coordinating and aligning all of your LOCAL and ONLINE marketing efforts, we are able to GUARANTEE that you will be ‘head-over-heels’ in LOVE with our services; regardless of the failures of your past service providers and regardless of your current marketing strategy. In fact, no matter WHERE you are now, our search engine optimization consultants WILL take your business to the next level. WE BACK IT UP WITH A 100% NO WIGGLE-ROOM GUARANTEE! If we do not EXCEED your expectations in the first 30 days of service, FIRE US! And we will return everything the way that it was before we started and REFUND 100% of your first month’s fee! Schedule a free website analysis and let us put it all together so you don’t have to!
You may have heard of this little thing called Google. You know, where 1.17 billion people go to find stuff on the web?
But Google is more than just a search engine. So much more.
In fact, Google offers a ton of tools in addition to its search engine that can be hugely valuable if you're a marketer. So we decided to round up some of the most essential Google marketing tools at your disposal so you can be sure your business is taking full advantage of all Google has to offer.
15 Helpful Google Tools for Marketers
1) Google My Business
Want to get yourself some free advertising on Google? I kid you not -- it's a real thing.
All you have to do is claim your Google My Business listing (formerly known as Google Places), and your business can get featured in the search results (as well as in Google Maps) for local searches like the one pictured below. Check it out -- all the businesses within the red call-out in the screenshot below are local Google My Business results for the search "mexican restaurant, boston." Best of all, unlike Google AdWords (which we'll touch on later), none of those businesses paid for their positions in these local results.
If you haven’t already claimed your Google My Business listing, follow the simple steps in this blog post to get your listing up and running. Keep in mind that as Google walks you through the setup of your listing, you'll automatically create a Google+ Page for your business as well, which leads us to our second Google marketing tool ...
2) Google+ Business Pages
With the death of Google Authorship and the elimination of Google +1s from search results, the jury is out about the importance of maintaining an active Google+ Business Page these days if you're not a local business. That said, given Google's massive empire, we think it behooves all businesses to play it safe and create a Google+ Page, even if you only update it every so often. To create a page, get started here.
But if you're a local business, setting up and maintaining a Google+ Page goes hand in hand with your Google My Business listing (see above), making Google+ even more critical for you. And considering your Google My Business listing will include a link to your business' Google+ Page, it's important to take some extra time to make your page the best it can be. You can learn more about how to optimize your Google+ Page in this free ebook, and you can check out HubSpot's own Google+ Page here.
Last, if your audience is active on Google+, it may be smart to add the Google +1 share button to your website -- particularly to articles on your blog. Google uses social signals as a ranking factor, so making it easy for your website visitors to share your content on Google+ can help your content rank better in search. To learn how to create Google +1 buttons, check out this post.
HubSpot customers can easily add the Google +1 button to their blog within the HubSpot Marketing Platform.
3) Google Webmaster Tools
Want better insight into how healthy your website is in the eyes of Google? Just set up a Google Webmaster Tools account. Google Webmaster Tools will alert you to any red flags that could prevent your site from getting found in search results, and help you analyze your existing search traffic so you can understand how visitors are currently finding you.
Here's an overview of how Google Webmaster Tools can help you optimize your website, straight from the horse's mouth ...
4) Google AdWords
If you want to give your organic efforts to rank in search a bit of a jumpstart, it might make sense to dabble in Google AdWords, Google's pay-per-click (PPC) product. If you have yet to try it, here's how it works: You create ads that target specific keywords related to your business, and your ads appear above or to the right of organic search results on Google when people search for these keywords (see screenshot below). The cost your ads depend on the competitiveness of the keyword you're targeting, but you only pay if visitors actually click on your ad. For more resources about how to do PPC effectively, check out our PPC Marketing Hub here.
Keep in mind that AdWords can quickly become an expensive marketing tool, and unlike organic search, it offers quick wins rather than longer term, lasting (and free) results. That said, if used smartly, PPC can help you plan your organic search strategy. By testing different keyword variations using PPC, you can quickly figure out which keywords will send you quality traffic. You can then use this knowledge to target your organic search engine optimization and content creation efforts. This leads us to tool number five ...
5) Google AdWords Keyword Planner
If you're looking to boost your organic SEO, you'll want to do some keyword research first and foremost. Keyword research helps you identify keywords to target as you're creating blog and website content, focusing your SEO and content creation efforts so you can get found by the right searchers.
The Google AdWords Keyword Planner, though a tool meant to help you plan your AdWords campaigns, can also help you search for new keyword ideas and suggestions to help you with your organic keyword research as well. Keep in mind you will need to set up an AdWords account to use the Keyword Planner, but that doesn't mean you actually have to create an ad.
If you're a HubSpot customer, our Keywords App has keyword research tools built right in. The app provides keyword suggestions based on relevancy, monthly search volume, and difficulty.
6) Google Trends
In addition to the Google AdWords Keyword Planner, Google Trends can be a great tool for helping you make smarter keyword choices. It enables you to evaluate the popularity of certain terms, compare them against other keyword variations, analyze how their popularity varies over time and in different regions/languages, and shows related keywords, which can be helpful in getting new keyword suggestions.
Trying to decide between two keyword variations for your latest blog post title? Do a quick comparison in Google Trends to see which one is getting searched more often:
Google Trends can also help you identify trending topics, news, and content, which may be helpful for spotting opportunities to newsjack ... but more on that in number 10.
7) Google Docs, Sheets, Slides & Forms
Collaborating on a project with other marketers on your team? Then Google has some great collaboration tools you can use in place of typical software on your desktop:
- Google Docs for Word documents.
- Google Sheets for Excel spreadsheets
- Google Slides for PowerPoint presentations
- Google Forms for easily collecting simple survey responses
Consider using them to share and collaborate on marketing data analyses, ebook or blog post drafts, marketing or SlideShare presentations, or surveys and polls. Projects save automatically and can also be accessed across devices with a quick download of a mobile app.
8) Google Drive
Google Drive is Google's free online storage service, allowing users up to 15 GB of free storage in the cloud for files like photos, documents, designs, videos, etc. Trying to send a large image or PowerPoint file to others on your team? Google Drive allows you to share your files or folders with others, making collaboration easy and reducing the headache of too-large email attachments.
9) Google Alerts
Google Alerts enables you to monitor the web for mentions of specific keywords or phrases. Once set up, you'll receive either email alerts or results via RSS whenever these phrases have been mentioned online. For instance, you can sign up to get notified whenever someone mentions your company, products, executives, or your competition. This PR tool is a great way to stay on top of your business' online reputation and react to online mentions of your brand in a timely manner.
10) Google News
Newsjacking, or capitalizing on the popularity of a news story to amplify your sales and marketing success, is a great way to piggyback off the success of a news story that is already getting traction. If you're interested in taking advantage of newsjacking in your marketing content strategy, use Google News to search for and identify news relevant to your industry with good newsjacking potential. To learn more about newsjacking and how to integrate it into your content strategy, check out our "Complete Guide to Newsjacking."
11) Google Voice
In an era when people use their phones to surf the web, it's only natural to start using the web to manage our phones. Google Voice, albeit only available in the U.S., allows you to do just, making it easy to manage multiple phone lines, create personalized voicemail messages depending on who's calling, and easily transcribe voicemail messages, making it much easier to stay on top of a busy voicemail inbox.
To learn more about the various features available with Google Voice, check out Google's support documentation, and watch the video overview below.
12) Google Calendar
Being organized is key to being a productive marketer -- especially if you're wearing multiple hats. Enter Google Calendar, an easy way to organize your day, keep track of meetings, and share your schedule with others. Things get even more efficient if your business uses Google Apps for Work so your colleagues can automatically use Google Calendar to book conference rooms and check coworkers' meeting availability.
But when it comes to marketing, Google Calendar can also be a great tool for setting up an editorial calendar to organize your blog and other marketing content, which can be shared amongst content contributors both internally and externally. For inspiration in setting up your own editorial calendar, check out our free Blog Editorial Calendar Template as well as this post for setting up your editorial calendar in Google Calendar.
HubSpot customers can easily set up an editorial calendar that's integrated with their blog and other HubSpot Marketing Platform apps within the HubSpot software.
13) Google Analytics
How many of your website visitors are brand new versus returning? How long are people spending on your site? Does it have a high bounce rate? All of these important analytical questions can be answered by Google Analytics, Google's free website analytics product. Google Analytics can give you smarter insight into your website traffic and help you understand how people are finding and navigating your site.
That said, website analytics is definitely not a replacement for marketing analytics (here's the difference). You'll still need integrated marketing analytics software like HubSpot's to help you measure your entire marketing funnel and track your visitors all the way through to becoming leads and customers -- the metrics marketers are ultimately measured by.
14) Google FeedBurner
Want to grow your reach? Then you should be allowing your visitors to subscribe to your website content, particularly your blog, using feeds. By setting up a Google FeedBurner account, your site visitors can subscribe to your content and receive regular updates via their web browsers, RSS readers, or email. And considering subscribers are extremely critical to the growth and reach of a business blog, offering subscription options for your content isn't something you want to overlook.
HubSpot customers can get RSS feeds (as well as email subscription features) for their blogs right out of the box.
That's right! YouTube has been a Google product since 2006, and considering the fact that YouTube's more than 1 billion users watch hundreds of millions of hours on YouTube and generate billions of views every day, video marketers can't afford to ignore it as a powerful marketing tool.
To get even more out of the marketing videos you share on YouTube, check out this blog post about how to annotate your YouTube videos. By annotating your videos, you can add clickable calls-to-action to your videos that drive traffic back to your website -- so you can really amplify the value you get out of YouTube.
What other Google tools do you use for your marketing? Share your tips in the comments!
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in March 2011 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Higher education institutions are typically an established brand with an abundance of history and traditions. The spectrum of stakeholders in even just one institution can make it difficult to change course in your marketing. But with research, testing, and a whole lot of strategy, you can keep your marketing fresh and customized and start involving more inbound in your approach.
In this two part blog, we first take a look at three essential questions you must ask when evaluating risk in your inbound marketing. In the second part, we use those questions to develop an inbound content strategy that makes sense for your higher education institution.
Questions First. Strategy Second.
1) So You Want to Change Things Up a Bit. Why?
This is the first question to ask yourself when developing your strategy. Making changes in your marketing could potentially have a negative effect on your more traditional and well-established stakeholders so make sure you’re taking calculated risks and there’s good reason behind the change.
It may be a matter of evaluating what area of the university is more conducive to change and use it to test the waters before making university-wide changes. For example, would it be wiser to take risks in undergraduate admissions where you are trying to gain new prospects who are younger and might not quite have an established idea of what your brand should be. Or maybe take a chance in university advancement where you have a wide variety of supporters to segment and test. Both have their potential pitfalls. Without new students, well, you don’t really have a university. However, turning off deep-rooted donors, you could lose major gifts that help fund the university endowment.
2) How Are Your Defining Traditional?
When thinking about a new strategy, you need to also think about how you are defining your constituents. You’re talking about maintaining your relationship with your “traditional” supporters, but what does “traditional” mean to your university or college? It likely depends entirely on your role. If you’re recruiting for an accelerated MBA program, your audience definitions might be quite different from someone recruiting for an undergraduate fine arts program even within the same institution.
If when we hear the word “traditional” we immediately think of an older group of folks who don’t like change or technology, we are not going to get very far in our content strategy. For the undergraduate fine arts recruiter, traditional might mean high school seniors who were part of drama club whereas; for the accelerated MBA recruiter, it might mean a professional with five years of industry experience. Two very different definitions of “traditional” that are likely going to respond to social media messaging or PPC campaigns as a recruitment method in very different ways
3) What Marketing Channels Are Most Viable for Your Institution?
You’ve answered the why and the who, now comes the what. What inbound content channels make sense for your audiences and what don’t?
This answer will come in two phases.
First, look at what you are already using and the resources it takes to effectively run those. You may be running a university-wide website, Facebook, and email marketing campaign with a two-person content management team. If you are a large, land grant institution this might be spreading it a little thin. A crucial component to any inbound marketing is to convey information in a relevant and timely way. It would be difficult for two people to stay updated on the newest research in computer engineering, the latest swim team member to break a state record, and that the philosophy club is hosting a coffee chat with their department head. We all know resources are at a premium in higher education so it may not be feasible to hire additional staff, delegate responsibilities, or decentralize your digital media outreach. Keep this in mind when evaluating the scope of your new strategy.
Second, are you using those channels effectively or is it time to scrap a couple and try something else? Your Facebook page has been a great way to drive quality prospects to your blog and eventually to your inquiry page, keep it. Your pay per click advertising has not been generating the quality leads you thought it would. It might be time to re-evaluate your targeting methods and the keywords you are using. See if the value is really there, if not, toss it. Do some research and benchmarking against like institutions and see what’s working for them. Maybe using strategic landing pages have garnered more conversions from your lead competition. Thinking about using Pinterest for more visual story-telling to show off your historic 1,200 acre campus? Check out how competing schools might be using Pinterest, if at all. Using the right marketing mix diversifies your messaging to reach more of your potential and current audience without isolating certain groups, including your more “traditional” audience. Best of all worlds.
Don’t be afraid to ask those hard questions. A change in strategy doesn’t mean you’ve been doing it all wrong. It means what may have worked for you five years ago might not be the best option for today’s audiences. And remember, there’s no one-size fits all when it comes to inbound content marketing in higher education.
Ready to talk tactics? In part two of this blog, we use these answers to develop a content strategy that makes sense for your higher education institution.