Social Media – Then and Now

It is hard to imagine that social media is roughly 25 years old. It has become such an everyday aspect of our lives that it is hard to believe that there was a time before social media, meaning there was a time before the Internet. The Internet came to a lot of our lives in the early 1990s, but it took some time before it hit the fingertips of users in homes. This is the same with social media. From 1997 to now, social media has changed drastically. From simple reasons to everyone having smartphones with social media networks right there, to businesses utilizing the networks to make money, social media has changed the way we communicate, live our lives and do work. Let’s take a look at how social media started and look at how it has changed over time.

A Time Before Mark Zuckerberg

If you ask the average person what the first social media network was, we can bet most would say Facebook. Some would say MySpace, and a couple would say Friendster. Take it a step back even further and you’ll find a website called Six Degrees. This was the first social media network that, you guessed it, aimed to connect people from six degrees of separation. A cool concept, but it didn’t last very long. After a short four years, the website was shut down (although still accessible when we checked it out!). 

This concept proved to be something users enjoyed and wanted more of. A couple months after Six Degrees “shut down”, Friendster and LinkedIn appeared on the scene. And not long after those came MySpace – the network that really upped the social media game.

MySpace had everything a social network user desired – a way to share photos, videos, flies and connect with friends. Who remembers Tom? Everyone was friends with Tom! Timing was also perfect for MySpace since their target audience was either just entering high school or college, thus creating a niche for finding new friends, dating and networking.

However, here comes Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook in 2004 and it really blew every other social network out of the water. It started as something only for Harvard students, but quickly expanded to other colleges and universities. And then, something that was only for young adults with a college email address, opened its virtual doors to anyone 13+. And now we all know how the story of Facebook went. But why did it succeed when others didn’t?

Advertising and Monetization

Besides being desired by everyone who didn’t have a .edu email address, Facebook’s success can be linked to its ability to profit from users. They really did think out a solid business model when it came to advertising and monetization of Facebook. By giving businesses a way to directly market to their target audience, Facebook started to really rake in the money. Other networks then started to copy.

Big players in the social media game like Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube followed with similar advertising and monetization success stories. It seemed like everyone would be a winner from the business to the social network to the user. But is the market too saturated now?

Social Media - Then and Now

Being Different in Social Media

From a business perspective, it is important to look closely at your target audience, their likes, dislikes, desires, wants, needs, etc., and find out which social media networks they use on the reg. Even though new social media networks still tend to pop up, they don’t ever really seem to catch on like Facebook did because they are just duplicating the efforts and not doing anything extraordinarily new. 

This is how a business should also approach social media when using it. Social media is all about breaking the mold and doing something outside the box. Social media can be a place where something new is tested on a market, where users connect and grow with a brand and where business comes full circle with stories from A to Z of how it has helped someone. 

Social Media is Here to Stay

Love it or hate it, social media will be here to stay for the long haul. From just the United States to now the whole world, people can connect with each other and see, hear and literally do things together on the Internet, though miles apart. Of course social media will change and veer off onto different paths as all businesses do, but for the most part, the concepts will remain unchanged.

As a digital marketing agency, we highly recommend checking out all of the social media channels available to you and decide which one or two you’d like to focus on the most. We can also talk about advertising budgets and which options might work best for you and your target audience. Connect with us on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, plus find us on Google My Business, and let’s talk social! 

Why Outsourcing Creative and Design Services is a Great Idea

Creative and design services literally are the look of your business. From your website to your social media, to your flier, mailers, and even business cards, creative and design services help to bring these business and marketing pieces to life. 

Your graphics should be a reflection of your brand, and they should be as sharp as possible. Your business’s professional image is likely the first thing a customer sees when going to your website or noticing an ad in a magazine. Wherever your business is, your image should be recognizable. As such, creative and design services are available to help establish your look, your feel, the story you want to tell about your business, all while pushing whatever the end goal is.

Good creative and design services tend to go hand in hand with good business. But not everyone is a designer or artist, nor do they have the time to meticulously work on each design they want to put out. That’s where hiring a graphic designer and creative team comes in. But is it worth it or even a good idea?

Creative and design services literally are the look of your business

A Business Needs Professional Design Services

So often we hear that anyone can create a Canva or PicMonkey account and piece together a nice looking flier. But there is just something to be said for a tried and true graphic designer’s work. Professional graphic designers are artists that bring a unique personal touch to any idea that is different from the already existing templates on design sites. 

Graphic designers make sure your designs are integrated into every aspect of your business branding. Designers have a keen eye for color and imagery as they are truly artists in the business world. As professionals, graphic designers know ways to make a business aesthetically pleasing to the eye, yet memorable to the mind. And it must be memorable as customers typically only give businesses mere seconds to make a mark in their memories.

Additionally, consistency is key as it helps to build trust amongst your current and future customers. There’s something to be said for businesses that are recognized just by certain shapes or color schemes. Sometimes it is as simple as a yellow M or a black check mark. We all likely know the businesses that are associated with those graphic designs.

Graphic Designers Actually Save You Time and Money

Business owners likely don’t have the skills a graphic designer would (and if you do, you are one in a million!) That is not to say ideas can’t become a reality, but it can become a reality much faster, and cheaper, with a professional graphic designer.

Graphic designers save businesses time and money in the long run. While the DIY attitude can be great, it isn’t always true in the design world. Spending hours learning design software, designing a marketing piece, then trying to figure out how to print it on the best quality paper could result in frustration and something that doesn’t look professional at all. Design experts are masters of the trade. They can design a concept in a fraction of the time with a much better result. They also should already work with printers who can bring digital designs to life. Not a piece that needs printed? Digital design is also something that can be hard to understand. Allow for a professional to design something right the first time around so it will perfectly fit onto your website, app or social media.

Along with time, a professional graphic designer can save you money as well. While time is money in the business world, you might not even realize how much money you can save with a graphic designer. If you don’t get your idea designed right the first time around, it can be a costly mistake and potentially have a negative impact on your business. We are sure that everyone can think of a brand that once had a costly design mistake. Nowadays those mistakes may go viral or completely unnoticed. Hopefully it is the latter if it is really bad. Plus, behind our graphic design team is an editing team that will give each design a look over to make sure it is perfect. There’s nothing worse than printing a billboard only to have a word misspelled. 

Frustration equals time and money that could’ve been better spent on a part of your business that you are skilled at and enjoy. Do what you do best and delegate the rest.

Finding the Right Creative and Design Team

Like we said before, just because someone knows how to “design” something on a design website, doesn’t mean they are a graphic designer. We all can make dinner, but that doesn’t make us all chefs! 

Work with a team like ours who doesn’t just scratch the service of your business. Find a team that meets with you to learn more about you, why you started your business, and what your business is all about (and we don’t just mean your mission statement.) Look for people who want to dive deep into the workings of your business and you. So many creative ideas, like potential slogans, for example, could be missed if people outside of your business don’t take the time to learn about you and your business world.

The reason you should find a team that goes so in depth into strategy for design is because their work is your work. It should have meaning and represent your business in the right way. Don’t just work with someone who is going to throw something together, and say done. Work with a team that wants to know what we are trying to accomplish with each project. Are you looking to get more members, promoting a sale, or just trying to get your message out there?

We all can’t be the best at everything. That is why it is important to be the best at what you want to be the best at and outsource other duties to other professionals. Graphic and creative design services is a great service to allow someone outside of your business world to take on. There are truly great people who take the time to learn your business, your industry, research the competition and see what others in your field are doing in terms of creative and design. We promise that together, you should be able to create the perfect marketing materials for you and your business needs.

Decreasing Marketing Revenues is Dangerous During Current Inflation Trends

The increase of the cost of living is no secret. From the gas prices, to milk and bread, and even simple Dollar Stores now being $1.25 stores, the inflation rate is increasing everywhere. But even as prices soar, that doesn’t mean wages increase, which in turn means consumers are paying closer attention to where their money is spent and at what cost. 

When Covid started, we told our clients to keep going full steam ahead. Don’t cut back as you will come out ahead when things turn back around. Now that we are slowly but surely coming out of the other end of the Covid tunnel, our clients are still on top of their marketing and advertising. Now we are being asked about the current times. It is hard for a business to make decisions on where budgets need to be cut. But we are here to tell you that marketing should not be one of those cutbacks.

Trust In The Brand

Your customers purchase your products/services/goods, whatever it is because they have a trust in the brand. We know that it is hard to increase prices on a customer base, but as long as the brand trust is there, your clientele will find a way to pay for it. And to have brand trust means you need a strong brand presence to nurture the trust. That is why marketing should remain an essential part of your business and shouldn’t be decreased. Once a marketing budget gets decreased, it is inevitable that it will ever be increased. By marketing to your customer base the reasons why they should continue to trust you in times like these may help to ease the pain of a price increase. And along the way you will still be able to gain new customers since other brands may just fall into the pits of zero marketing, while others will just glide along by the seat of their pants, hoping their customers will stick with them for the ride. 

Decreasing Marketing Revenues is Dangerous During Current Inflation TrendsPay Attention to the Data

Paying closer attention to your marketing metrics will help when it comes to reusing your marketing dollars. When data shows increased sales from a particular location, double down your efforts and move around some marketing budget to that sales stream. If something isn’t working, now really isn’t the time to do trial and error. Take the loss and move on to where you’re seeing success. And let’s not forget that success in marketing can be a myriad of different things. Talk with your marketing team to discuss what success is and then trickle down to how you get to that success. Doing this will help weed out anything underperforming and could even save you some money in the long run.

Know What Your Customers Want

It is sad to think that some consumers are buying just the bare minimum to get by in times like these. Now is a good time to reaffirm to your customer base that you value them and that your product or service makes their life better. And it is an opportune moment to really relate to how your customers may be feeling and show them that you care either way. The relationship of a customer is a two-way street. You need them and they need you. Don’t shy away from content that sparks an emotional connection.

We know times are different now than they were when high inflation struck in the 1970s and 1980s because of the Internet and digital media, but those times were a goldmine for businesses, especially the ones that kept marketing. So many new businesses launched those years as audiences were ready for something that might be a little cheaper (since it was new) but were also open to trying new things. This is why brand trust is vital so that consumers don’t just switch in an instant to something else. Now in 2022, we have e-commerce at our fingertips, and this could be a great opportunity for new businesses to jump in and steal some thunder from other businesses. That is why we suggest staying on course and keep on going with your marketing efforts. You aren’t starting from scratch like new businesses and you already have a key customer base. Don’t decrease marketing budget now or you will be on a dangerous trend of always trying to build back up to where you once were.

SEO 101 – What Is It and Why Should I Know About It?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, which, according to Moz, is a “set of practices designed to improve the appearance and positioning of web pages in organic search results. Because organic search is the most prominent way for people to discover and access online content, a good SEO strategy is essential for improving the quality and quantity of traffic to your website.”

Part of a marketing strategy is SEO services. These services consist of a combination of things. There is not a magic button that someone can push that says optimize my keywords, make my website rank higher than my competitors, or show my images on page one. Rather, SEO is a combination of a variety of services. There is no one-sized-fits-all approach to this. It’s important to address SEO services with your marketing team or agency, but as a leader, it is also important to be aware of what SEO is, how it can help your business, and then make sure you are paying for only services that are addressing your SEO needs and not for a “bundle” of services you don’t need.

Let’s just skim the top of SEO so that you can have a basic understanding of what it is. If there’s more you’d like to learn, contact our team and we can dive deeper into it with you.

What is a Search Engine?

Search engines are sites like Google, Bing, Yahoo. DuckDuckGo, etc. There are so many different search engines that can be used, but according to Joe Barker, all search engines consist of three parts:

  1. A database of web documents
  2. A search engine operating on that database
  3. A series of programs that determine how search results are displayed

Professionals argue over which is the best search engine and why. It is a major science that goes into creating a search engine. And it is even a science of figuring out how to manage SEO for clients. We’ll get to that. 

Google is typically the dominant search engine in the world, but there are reasons why some users won’t search through Google, including the theory of information being withheld. Sites like DuckDuckGo are said to be best for users who have privacy concerns and want to keep their browsing information personal. This list could go on and on as to what search engine is best and why, but it typically boils down to personal preference and where the information wanted can be found fastest.

What is Organic Search?

There are two kinds of search results: 

  1. Paid results
  2. Organic results

It is easier to understand paid results – basically it is results that populate because money is behind that result. Organic search results happen because of strategy! These results then lead to organic traffic, which then hopefully leads to whatever the conversion goal is. 

Here’s where it can get confusing and tricky. Organic search results differ from search engine to search engine. It just depends on that search engine’s algorithm. Figuring out that algorithm is a lot of work, research and patience because it is ever changing! There’s never a guarantee that anything will rank in a particular position. The good news is that Google Analytics expert Avinash Kaushik once determined that around 86% of search engine users prefer organic search results. We have been accustomed to scrolling past the ad to get to the first section of results. 

How Do I Ensure I Am Optimizing Search Results?

The best advice when it comes to SEO is to write for what humans want to read first – SEO second. Like previously mentioned, the “rules” for SEO are constantly changing. So whether you are writing website copy, a blog, social media posts or whatever, write to your audience, post what they want to see, and then think about SEO. After you have your content written, think about keywords. Go back through your text and see if

 your keywords are there. If not, add them! Not sure about keywords? There are SEO tools to help with that!

If you are building a website, build it for the user, not the search engine. There is nothing worse than a website that is hard to navigate. User experience ranks higher in our book than SEO factors. SEO can be a second thought in this situation as well. Build your website to you and your target audience’s liking, then address headings, sub folders, mobile friendliness, links, and so on. Test the website to make sure it loads quickly. If not, take care of whatever is slowing it down because that will hurt your SEO. If users are jumping on and then off of your website because it loads too slow, that will hurt your rankings.

And as always, constantly research, improve and update your content, website, whatever it is you are working on. There really is no finish line to this work since it is always evolving. Whatever it is that your competitors are doing, search engines changes, and even your own business/personal changes are always going to happen. A strong online presence gives your business credibility, a professional image, and an improved customer experience. Our team can review your brand through your online listings, SEO scores, social media presence, website speed and more. We can also compare how your business performs online compared to your top competitors. Then we can discuss what the plan should be moving forward if you’d like! Take us up on this opportunity!

The Secret to a Successful Workplace: Communication

 

Teamwork makes the dream work! But only when communication is effective can the team collaborate better to manage the task at hand. You may be asking yourself why is an advertising agency giving advice on communication? That’s a great question and the answer is because we are communication professionals. Our team has experience partnering with people in a business to execute strategic business plans, because of communication. 

Good communication can boost teamwork and workplace productivity tenfold. Motivation and engagement is born from communication. Truthfully, communication applies to literally every industry and is used daily. From verbal communication to written communication, there are so many ways to maintain effective communication between employees, contractors, vendors, customers and so on. Let’s discuss some good workplace communication tips and skills to have and how everyone in the workplace can communicate more effectively.

Communication Starts at the Top

No matter if your business is a Fortune 500 company or a 2 person show, communication efforts that start at the top and are understood as they trickle down to others is key. Communication is not only verbally speaking to others, but it is the words in which we use to communicate. In a business environment, using words that are understood by everyone is important to get a message across. Company taglines, slogans, themes, etc., should be translated into everyday communication company-wide so everyone is on the same page about your specific business terminology. 

Additionally, leaders should take the time to effectively communicate with their employees. While meetings can be daunting and time consuming, they are necessary to make sure everyone feels comfortable with each other and knows the task(s) they are to take on. Sometimes lines of communication can be crossed, or there are “too many cooks in the kitchen” giving orders of what to do, so the outcome for everyone is very stressful and ineffective. 

Tip: When a new project is created, make a communication flow chart plan so everyone knows who is the leader on the project, who needs to approve processes, who needs to be involved at what stages, and everyone’s job to complete the project on time. When a team knows everyone’s role and responsibilities, communication is smoother and projects get done in a more timely manner.

Communication Tools

Welcome to the current year where Zoom meetings are a norm! The workplace is currently in an evolving period where a lot more people are working from home rather than the office. This doesn’t mean they should miss out on team meetings and important communications. We have more communication tools available to us than ever before, so use them!

Tip: Require anyone who is on a video conference to have their camera on. Allowing everyone to see body language, facial expressions, eye contact and anything else that happens during a usual face-to-face meeting should also be happening during a video conference. Unfortunately, if the person video conferencing doesn’t want to turn their camera on, it can lead to poor communication and issues with the team morale.
Skill: There are just so many ways to communicate with co-workers. By utilizing one main messaging tool company-wide, you can limit the number of ways people can communicate, but also set the expectation of where workplace communication can take place. An employee shouldn’t have to look through 10 different communication avenues to find what they are looking for. A communication skill to work on, or to teach to your employees, is which way is best to communicate with each other. Workplace messaging apps can be used for quick responses to questions, email can be used to communicate with someone when an instant response isn’t needed, the phone is still alive and well, but now we can text message on it too – so use that properly and ONLY if necessary, especially if it is a personal phone number. And if necessary, document all phone calls to recap what was said so there is an understanding between both people.

Don’t Leave People Out

There is a fine line between telling everyone too much or letting them in on too little. Within the workplace, leaders need to be effective communicators. They also need to know who needs to know what. If your business works with outside vendors, make sure they are communicated to, just like they are employees. Make it a habit that when you send out a company wide communication, that is not private, it gets shared with those that help you with your business as well. 

Tip: A great example of making sure everyone knows important information is when there is a change in business hours. Maybe a snow storm is approaching and you decide to close your restaurant early. Not only should the management team tell the employees and hang signage on the door, but they also need to tell whoever runs their social media, website, email systems, etc., to alert customers to the change. There is nothing more frustrating than a potential customer wanting to eat at your restaurant, only to arrive and you are closed. We don’t live in a perfect world, but cross all of those T’s and dot all of those i’s to make sure you are communicating to everyone effectively and efficiently.

Make communication a top priority in the workplace. There is an ever-heightened need for more communication, clearer communication, and continuous communication now more than ever. Good communication can go a long way in empowering employees, driving productivity, innovation, and achievement. 

Are There Definite Outcomes with Social Media Marketing?

 

It doesn’t seem like that long ago, but Facebook was created in 2004 and only college students could create an account. Now anyone can have it! LinkedIn was created prior to Facebook, in 2002, but it has changed from what it started as to what it is today.; Instagram was created in 2010 and it is ever changing and growing. The point of this is that social media and social media marketing is still very young and isn’t something we were officially taught (although now we can be!) in school. Social media platforms boomed in the early 2000’s and have grown tremendously since then. As an agency that handles social media accounts, social media marketing, management and content creation, we see it change – sometimes daily. But the question at hand here is are there definite outcomes when using social media for marketing from a business perspective? Let’s dig deeper into this.

Social Media Marketing Versus Management

There is a difference between social media marketing and management but people tend to mix them up and use them interchangeably. According to Publicize.co, social media marketing focuses on a strategic approach to use social media to grow a business. This is done by leveraging both paid and organic social media. Social media management, on the other hand, is centered around creating and distributing content on social media platforms and building relationships with the users through interactions such as likes, comments and shares.

What is a Definite for Social Media?

When a business has a social media presence, it is certain that it will help bring more brand awareness to the business when used properly. Additionally, new leads, customers and conversations have the ability to happen on social media, AGAIN, if used properly. If the goal is to drive social media users to your website, then using social media can absolutely make that happen if it is used properly. Do you see a theme here? If the goal for having a social media presence is to drum up business, then a strategic plan needs to be put in place of how it potentially can happen. But again, nothing is ever guaranteed.

It is a Definite that What Works for You Might Not Work for Someone Else

Nothing drives a marketing professional to scream more than when something with social media marketing works great with one client, but bombs with another. The way we explain this in the biz is that every client is different. Each client has different followers on their social media and each follower has different intentions. Each strategy is unique and everyday is something new.

It is important to build trust with your followers, generate content that will be of value and interest to them, and engage in meaningful conversations when appropriate. These are a definite must.

It is a Definite that it Takes Money to Make Money

If there is one thing for certain, it is that organic reach (a post being seen by someone without putting money behind it) is decreasing rapidly. Social media companies are businesses too so they also want to make money. While it is free to create a profile and to post, the chances of posts being seen by a target audience gets slimmer and slimmer by the day. Social media companies want their part of the cut just as much as a business wants to sell whatever it is that they are selling. So we like to say to our clients that they have to pay to play in the social media world. Monthly budgets are necessary to get a profile and posts noticed. Talk with us about what we would recommend if this is something you are interested in.

It is a Definite that Things Change

Don’t be alarmed if one day you did something on social media but the next day you can’t. This is a trend that we have found to be very common. It is also quite common for one person on our team to be able to see something completely different on the backend of the social media site than someone else. Patience with social media marketing is a must. The platform needs to learn who you are just as you need to learn who your target audience is. 

If you are already on your choice of social media platforms, just remember to keep your social media presence alive if you want your audience to follow you. If you aren’t on anything and you’d like to discuss a social media marketing strategy, let’s talk. 

Why is ADA Website Compliance Important Now?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was introduced in 1990 to address the desire to have equal access to business services. Not only does this mean brick and mortar storefronts, but it has morphed to include websites. As time progresses, we get better and better with technologies. Now, website building gurus have access to tools that aid businesses with the ADA and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

Why is this Important Now?

A lot of everyday life revolves around the Internet. Remote work, communication with peers, social media posts, online shopping, online live education, and banking are just a couple examples of how the Internet has changed our lives. Everyone should have the ability to access the products and services on websites. That is why ADA compliance is important now. 

Unfortunately, lawsuits are hitting record numbers when dealing with compliance and business owners have websites that just aren’t up to par with adequate access for everyone. Are people just being lazy or do they not know how to be compliant? What is the issue?

A positive note on ensuring ADA compliance is that it is known that ADA compliant brands have more reach online and a stronger reputation, which everyone dreams of having. When businesses make their websites ADA compliant, it helps with ease of use and in turn provides adds to optimal user experiences. 

And finally, it is just the right thing to do. You just never know who will come across your website so it is best to accommodate everyone.

What Is ADA Compliance on a Website?

There are three different levels of WCAG compliance:

  • Level A – most basic and minimal compliance
  • Level AA – mid-level ane most acceptable parameters for compliance
  • Level AAA -the highest level with fully optimal compliance

The levels can help web developers determine which accessibility tools are going to be needed for their site. Each level has certain criteria that must be met, but the WCAG does not outline specific actions the website has to take, rather it states what accessible websites should do. That can get confusing. Basically, there isn’t a right or a wrong way to make a website compliant, but there are steps along the way that have to be met.

Examples of ADA Website Compliance

Since more than 61 million Americans live with a disability, there are various parameters for compliance. Some examples are listed here, but they are not limited to just these:

  • Navigable with a keyboard (Level A)
  • Video captions (Level A)
  • Color contrast is, in most cases, at least 4:5:1 (Level AA)
  • Form fields have accurate labels (Level AA)
  • Sign language interpretation for audio or video content (Level AAA)
  • Timing is not an essential factor of any activity on the site (Level AAA)

It isn’t always about just the individuals with disabilities. We all know there are many times where we would love to just have a break from reading and listen to something be read to us instead. Or if we can’t specifically focus on something on a website because we keep getting distracted by something else, there are tools to help with highlighting the information to keep us engaged. So while compliance is specifically geared toward those individuals with disabilities, these tools can be used by everyone!

We Can Help with Compliance

It’s important to ensure that your website(s) are WCAG compliant. While we are not a law firm or attorney, we are an agency that knows understanding the differences between each level can be hard to comprehend. That is why we are here to help. We have ways to test and correct accessibility issues that will help to meet compliance standards. Following our advice will result in peace of mind for your business since you will be up to current ADA compliance.

The WCAG is always updating guidance so it is important to stay up-to-date with changes. We will share this information as necessary and will work with you to make sure you are meeting new guidelines. 

Branded Content is Not Selfish

Branded content, like articles, blogs, social media posts, email newsletter content, photos and video, specifically about your business (and sometimes products, services, etc.) should never be looked at as tooting your own horn or being selfish of the time readers take to review the message. Content that helps current and potential customers learn more about your business can only help grow and flourish your business and customer relationships. Plus, it is likely that branded content is going to be less costly than traditional advertising options! Let’s look at some branded content examples and how branded content is not selfish but helpful to any business.

Blog Posts

Blog posts are obviously something that we like to have on our own website. You’re already here and you are hopefully still reading. Blog posts are a wonderful tool to drive traffic to your website. Blog posts can be anything that you want them to be, but it is always important to ask yourself, is this post going to be useful to my reader? Know your keywords and your audience and wrap all of that together to publish a beautiful post! Don’t forget images too, especially so you can share it on social media.

A few blog post ideas: 

  • FAQ blogs – write a blog post about common questions you receive
  • Specific product/service blogs – Some argue that blogs about specific services/products don’t qualify as branded content, but we see a thin line to argue this. For example, a salon is seeing a big trend in a certain style of coloring. They can write a blog about it to tell the reader what the trend is, how they can do this trend for the customer, roughly how much it could cost and show pictures and videos of the before and after result. So while they are talking about a service they can offer, they are also talking about a popular trend!
  • How-to posts – Maybe your business sells a tool. You could write different blog posts about the many ways a specific tool could be used.
  • Advice/opinion pieces – Maybe your business offers services for people. Posts about how your services can help them in different ways are always useful.

Photos/Videos

Think of something you have purchased lately. Did you see a photo or video of it before you made the purchase? Were there multiple angles of the product? Even if you purchased a service, did you watch any videos or testimonials about the service, maybe from a currently satisfied customer?

Having great photos and videos can only help to build your content. We live in a digital world and people tend to gravitate toward photos and videos first, then moving on to read what goes with it. Make sure you have something for people to look at or listen to. 

Reviews/Testimonials

Speaking of reviews and testimonials, those are also great branded content to have on hand for others to read. Hearing from satisfied customers can help to sell whatever it is you have. When others are happy with your business, reviews and testimonials help to spread the word to others. You can pull these from your Google My Business account where reviews may already live, or have a space on your website where people can input their own content for you. Either way, it is still more branded content that can help with the end goal.

Case Studies/White Papers

Case studies and white papers are wonderful tools that can prove that your products/services work for others. Start with how someone had a problem or a need and write about how your product/service helped them overcome that need. You will never know how your product/services have really helped someone until you ask around. Write about these wonderful stories as often as you can.

Examples of Great Branded Content

We understand that not every business is a fortune 500 business with endless amounts of money to spend. That is why the examples we gave are great starting points for any business. The hope is that something you write goes viral and is able to reach millions of people. But if you want to know about some businesses that have gone above and beyond with branded content, here are some examples:

  • The LEGO Movies – Who even knew how much making movies about LEGO would benefit the product, but it did! Sales increased by 25% after the first LEGO movie was released!
  • TOMS Shoes – TOMS Shoes posts a lot of great photos and videos about adventures that they go on to help others and in every photo/video, it shows someone wearing their shoes! Great product placement and brand recognition.
  • Airbnb – There was an article about families vacationing together, sponsored by Airbnb on Fatherly.com. Only two sentences mentioned Airbnb – the first sentence at the very beginning of the article said they were a sponsor and that they have vacation options around the world and at the very end another sentence that just wraps up the article saying to explore their options. The rest of the article was just a story about a family on vacation. But because of the piece not being salesy, people won’t feel pushed away from Airbnb, but more likely to say hey – this family had a great time, so can we!

Wrapping It Up

After reading this, you may be thinking to yourself, wow that seems like a lot of writing and use of photo/video equipment that I don’t have. And I am certainly not a creator or writer. No fear. That is why we are here! We have team members who are content creators and writers who can help bring your ideas to life through visuals and words. Let us help you grow your branded content and impact your customers in a way that makes them want to purchase what you are selling!

Is Change on the Horizon for Marketing?

All kinds of marketing really had to make a shift in the past 18 months. People were staying closer to home, were online more than ever, and were sitting on the couch in front of the television more than anyone would care to admit. Shopping closer to home was happening more, and the mom and pop small businesses were reaping some benefits. There are some key opportunities and challenges for businesses when it comes to marketing lurking in the upcoming year. Below we will discuss some marketing trends that should be considered for 2022.

Double Down on Digital

Digital advertising is predicted to boom in 2022. This really shouldn’t surprise anyone though. According to GroupM, the amount spent on advertising to support ecommerce will increase 66% in 2022, while Zenith predicts digital channels will amount to more than 60% of global ad spend for the first time next year. 

The Internet is just going to keep growing. Digital communication is never going away. Online networks are where people spend their free time. The Internet is where people shop. It is where people communicate and it is where people research. Use the Internet and digital communications to their fullest potential in 2022.

Keep Going With Short Videos

Short videos are still going strong on social media and are predicted to continue this route in 2022. Instagram reels and TikTok are just two examples of where short videos come from. These short videos take no time to view and are widely shared. If there is a way to utilize a short video format for a product, business, promotion or spotlight, do it! Video is so powerful!

Customer Retention Matters

We talked previously about generational groupings for the purpose of marketing and how it may or may not help when it comes to getting to know your target audience. Beyond just figuring out who the target audience is and how to sell to them/acquire their business, businesses will need to rethink their ways of retaining customers. Competition in the digital market is likely going to become fiercer, only making it hard for a business to grab any attention. This is why the thinking around the customer needs to do a 180. 

Educating customers on why they need your product or service should always be top priority. Think of it in terms of someone who couldn’t possibly live their life without this product. Educate them on why this product is vital to own or use and why your product is better than the competition. Make it all about the customer’s feelings instead of the business. 

The hard sell is going by the wayside. People are just over it. They don’t want to be bothered by gimmicks or “tricks of the trade” anymore. There is not enough time in the day for that. People either know what they want, who they want to buy it from and just make the purchase. Or they research, usually online, but also through friends and family, and take the time to seek out which business should earn their loyalty. Redirect typical hard selling strategies to making sure current customers stay customers for the long run.

Own Your Customers

Ok, no, you don’t really own them, but you need to own how you can contact them. While social media has so many benefits, those networks could go down at any moment. That could mean losing a HUGE database of potential customers, current customers and past customers. Converting those people to your own database takes time and effort but it is worth it. Doing so allows you to be able to ensure the message you want to get to them can (think email marketing and newsletters). Additionally, you will be able to shine outside of where all of the competitors also live. Don’t get lost in the newsfeeds. 

Ask For Help

If there is one thing that always reigns true in this industry, it is that change is always happening. We are used to it and stay on top of it as best we can. But that is our job. And that is why it is important to ask our Triple-Nine Digital team for help with your marketing strategy for 2022. It isn’t too late to rethink what you’ve been doing and analyze what did and did not work. And it is great to make changes. Ask for help with your marketing efforts because it is important that you focus on other aspects of your business as well.

Are Generational Groupings Helpful for Marketers and Business Owners?

Generations X, Y, Z (add in whatever other letters – but don’t get confused when the Gen X’ers are older than the Gen A kids – phew!), Millennials, Boomers or Baby Boomers, and the list of names goes on and on. There are only six living generations in America (hmmm…that’s pushing it though because these people would be 95+), but it seems like so many more due to some having multiple names for the same generation. It can get confusing and messy trying to decipher who belongs in which demographic. And sometimes it even depends on who the study is by because some years get mixed in with other generations. Sometimes a Gen Y person falls into the Gen Z demographic and it gets complicated. The real question here is, does someone born into a set grouping of years really fall into the stereotypes that are aligned with them? As marketers and business owners, does all of this really have an effect on how we target them, and the way we send messages to them – specifically when it comes to advertising? 

It All Began When…

This gets tricky. We don’t really know this answer but what we can tell you is that the first generation to be grouped demographically, and agreed upon by demographers and market researchers, are The Depression Era people. These are people born in 1912s. From there, that is where the years and demographics kind of get skewed. The generations are widely agreed upon, but not universally. So that means there are always going to be people who don’t fall into the generational breakdown. 

So Now That We Have Cleared That Up… 

Let’s discuss who we are currently marketing to in terms of birth year. Remember, these six mentioned are not always agreed upon.

  1. Born 1901-1926: Again, there are absolutely businesses that are marketing to this generation, but how many 95+ year olds are on social media?
  2. Born 1927-1945: This would likely be what many refer to as our elderly population.
  3. Born 1946-1964: As a generalization, these are now the new grandparents.
  4. Born 1965-1980: They are getting younger! These are likely the parents of today’s world OR those who are choosing not to raise a family. There is a whole mix match of demographics that fall into this category.
  5. Born 1981-2000: The new parents or parents of children currently.
  6. Born after 2001: They are just starting to live in the real world.

Marketing to Each Generation

As a business or marketer, you should know your target market. It can get very deep when trying to figure out every single like or dislike of a target audience. But does them being born during a certain year really help you as a marketer at all?

The likely answer is no, but we can discuss. 

Each generation is diverse. Just like each individual person is diverse. And just because someone was born in 1981 doesn’t automatically mean they feel a certain way about something, or purchases something just because of that. Let’s be real. The spenders of today, right now at the end of 2021, are buying out of necessity because of what is currently happening with the world. Marketers need to communicate their offerings in a way that makes their audience believe it is something they can’t live without. This is where targeting can become more specific.

A Better Way to Market

Forget the generations and the ideologies behind them for a minute. Would you ever go up to someone and say, “OK Boomer (get it?). Since you were born between 1946 and 1964, that means you like rock’n’roll, you experimented with drugs, you spent all kinds of money and didn’t save a penny.” Or how about people who live in rural versus urban areas…they are exposed to marketing efforts in different ways. From the farm to the city – lifestyles are different so marketing is different. So just because someone who lives in a rural area is a Gen X person, do they fit into all of the stereotypes? 

NO! You wouldn’t because that is not true for everyone. Hence why marketing toward generational stereotypes does not work. 

Taking a look at your actual target market and knowing what they like, dislike, what their past is like and maybe their future is what is going to help make sales. Plus, knowing where your target audience is, whether they are on the Internet (is it computer or phone?), television (what stations? What subscription services?), or print media (things like magazines, billboards, newspapers – yes they still exist – mailers, etc.) will help make sure your business/product/service, whatever, is actually being delivered to them.

And Don’t Forget People Change

Just because at one time or another someone didn’t save money and spent every penny they had, doesn’t mean that they didn’t change their habits. And just because someone believed in something years ago doesn’t mean they can’t have a change of heart. A lot of factors are always being considered and that is why it is important to always be on the lookout for what your target audience is doing, saying, feeling, etc. Marketers and business owners need to consider all of their demographics to find the right target audience. And that doesn’t mean just pushing advertising to everyone in that target audience. It means getting whatever you’re selling in front of people that want or need it. 

There is no one size fits all approach to marketing and selling, but we can always do our best to ensure we are meeting the needs of our audience for today.