Currently Viewing Posts in Uncategorized

Digital Advertising with LegitScript and NABP

Have you heard about LegitScript? Chances are, unless you’ve tried advertising pharmaceuticals or medical help on Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other digital platforms, LegitScript may be foreign to you. LegitScript Certification, along with certificates through the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP), has been the solution to protect consumers against fraudulent or 3rd party sites. 

It began with rehab centers, and then the creation of ads taking advantage of those seeking legitimate help. Initially Google decided to ban all these types of ads, but realizing the need for them later developed a certification program. This program confirms companies advertising services are legally able to provide what they are selling.

So what does that mean for pharma and medical companies? As with most things, the medical industry can have more regulations than other industries. That doesn’t mean every medical ad on a digital platform needs this special approval, but for those that do the process can be lengthy. 

To put it simply, if you are a medical company and offer services like telemedicine or pharmaceuticals you would need to be LegitScript or NABP certified before your ads would be approved. If you have a “buy now” button anywhere on your site, or something equivalent, you would need this certification. It is required even if you are advertising something about your business not directly related to sales or telemedicine services.

This is where strong strategy and planning come into play within an advertising plan. Lead time is everything on these types of campaigns. While most consumer digital ads can be submitted and approved in a fairly timely manner, LegalScript Certification alone takes around two months, with added time if an NABP Certification is needed. The timing takes into account a review process of the entire company to verify legitimacy and legality of its medical offerings. This can include things like financial information, merchant accounts, board of director information and more.

In addition to the certification, approval times can also take slightly longer for the ads themselves due to digital platform approvals. Medical ads must follow any restrictions and laws pertaining to their subject matter. This can be very industry and company specific, and it is important to be in contact with a rep from the platform you advertise with to enable the smoothest approval process. Constant contact with a representative, plus adequate ad planning and lead time can ensure a successful advertising campaign to share your services and reach your customers.

Evaluating Digital Audio Ad Platforms & Options

While traditional radio ads may be declining, there’s no doubt we’re still tuning in to listen–it’s just moved online and on our phones. With millions of people listening to music platforms like Spotify and Pandora, and even more joining through podcasts. From 2019 to 2020, the amount of people who have listened to a podcast jumped 51%, which is a massive growth. And Pandora alone has over 118 million subscribers. 

Here’s a rundown of a few of platforms that have the best ROI for advertisers:

  1. Spotify

This is a music platform everyone knows, and their advertising game is set up pretty well for most companies to utilize. You can target by age and demographic, as well as music preferences or podcast themes. While it may have a lot of the pluses for targeting the audience you’re looking for, it does cost more to advertise here.

  1. Pandora

For about the same cost and targeting abilities as Spotify, Pandora is another popular platform for businesses to advertise on. One thing it does focus on is small to medium businesses, which is something to consider for your brand.

  1. National Public Media

Less music, more news might be a good way to describe this platform. Instead of one user, like Spotify or Pandora, this platform enables your ads to reach audiences that listen to multiple channels. Ads are placed, according to targets, on podcasts and radio shows.

  1. Placement Services

Not one specific site, but if the larger platforms aren’t within scope or need there are other options that partner to place your ad on specific podcasts or shows that meet the audience criteria you are looking for. Some of these options, like MidRoll, help find places to partner with. While others like AudioGo work more like a self-service platform so that you have more control of what goes on. The benefit to working with services like this has a lot to do with budget, business size and ability to control needs.

This is just a sample of the platforms available. Within each platform can come other useful advertising options or partnerships as well. For example, Spotify audio ads can be paired with graphic banners or videos that play at the same time. Other platforms may offer banner placement in separate contexts, like on a podcast website. 

The options and variables can feel numerous and overwhelming, but that is where good strategy and organization come into play. Start with a strategy of who you’re talking to, where you can find them, and what you have to communicate–this gets the ball rolling for which platforms will work best to meet your goals. 

After you narrow down potential platforms you can weigh the pros and cons of each one. Does it target exactly how you need for your business objectives? Would advertising within this platform give you the ROI you’re expecting? Which platforms best meet your needs and budget concerns?

A Strong Strategy for Digital Customer Service

Marketing may be having some ups and downs during the pandemic, but one thing we have seen stay strong is the need for robust digital and online customer support strategies. This is beyond having a “contact us” button on your website, or a chatbot on your home page. And it’s more than sending an email with Coronavirus updates from your CEO. We’re not saying these things aren’t important ways to communicate; they definitely have their place. But at a time when news can change hourly, having a team in place that quickly answers online or social media concerns is really important to your future relationship with them.

Our digital agency has worked with a number of brands to offer customer service strategy and support across a variety of industries. Through these last couple of months we’ve seen customer inquiries rise up to 30% for some companies – specially CPG brands. This large increase of work became a proving ground for how strong strategy can help navigate unexpected spikes in consumer needs. Here are the takeaways from our years working with clients, and these past months of disruption to the status quo:

Organized Action Plan

Having an action plan for ebbs and flows is key. Not only does that mean knowing what to do when an influx comes, but also managing expectations for the highs and the lows. A good action plan organizes customer response scenarios into levels of escalation. Some questions are asked often and can be easily answered by a customer service representative. Other questions may need approval from a member of the leadership team before proceeding. 

Knowing which questions should be escalated, and who can be counted on for a quick response, provides customers with answers in a timely manner. Creating hard rules for response is important to this process. An example of this would be: Questions will be answered during work days within 12 hours, weekends within 24 hours. If a question is escalated it will receive a response within 24 hours from management. 

Ready to Respond

Whether questions lend themselves to a quick answer or escalation period, a response should always be given as soon as possible. This means that even if an answer may need a 24 hour window for your company’s management to think about, a customer service person should still respond so your customer knows they’ve been heard. 

It’s important to understand the question or comment before you respond, but in some cases something as simple as, “We’ve escalated your question, and will get back to you shortly.” Other cases, like public forums or social media, requesting the customer to contact you directly gives an opportunity for a more in-depth and personal conversation. 

Identify Repeat Inquires 

Another very helpful part of ongoing strategy is to identify repeat questions or comments. Doing this can help efficiencies within customer service, and speed up response time.

Every common question should have a canned response. This doesn’t mean a response has to be written verbatim each time, but it does mean that a very similar response can be given to very similar questions. Identifying and tracking common questions and canned responses is especially helpful in times like we find ourselves now, when unique customer inquiries may spike, but the uniqueness of the inquiry has not. 

— 

In times when things are uncertain, our advice to stay nimble applies to customer service as well. This may mean shortening or expanding response times that were set forth in the original plan, adding additional canned responses, or preparing for more escalated comments than normal. Connecting with your customers in a time of crisis can help strengthen a relationship and prove real interest in your customers needs.

The Time for TikTok Advertising

TikTok now has over one billion users worldwide, with 123 million downloads in the U.S. alone. In January it was the #1 downloaded social media app, giving it a 46% growth rate from January of the previous year.

And all those stats were before entire states and countries were confined to their homes in a global effort to curve COVID-19. For all the advice brands have been given to adapt and share messaging that resonates with their customers, TikTok is leading the charge.

If you check out their Newsroom updates, they continue to have relevant topics to keep people connected with each other through the app. Starting with their standard practice, trending hashtags like the recent #HappyAtHome provide not only a place to share, but a place to watch others. 

And if you think TikTok is only known for getting Chipotle trending during the Super Bowl, or helping Lil Nas X become an overnight success, think again. On March 16th TikTok announced they had partnered with the World Health Organization to create a page to provide “trustworthy information, offers tips on staying safe and preventing the spread of the virus, and dispels myths around COVID-19.” Then again this week they started the #BuildforCOVID19 Global Hackathon, a join effort with other social platforms like Facebook and Twitter to invite developers in a united way to address needs identified by the WHO.

So, is there a place for you to advertise on TikTok? With all the data out there, the advice skews to understanding your brand and realizing the benefit (or not) for your company. For all the growth TikTok has had, it is still not a place to reach as broad of an audience, or reach certain audiences at all. If your brand cannot figure out a way to naturally connect with consumers on TikTok, your messages will fall completely flat.

One of the biggest pieces of advice for TikTok is to be authentic. That encompases not only messaging and audience alignment, but also video quality. If your content looks too produced it will not resonate well with users. Users want fun, engaging videos. They like to connect with the influencers they follow, and they don’t care about the quality of the content because their own videos don’t look like that.

Following what TikTok itself is currently doing on the platform is a great way to start. Either by joining in and supporting what is already happening, or starting your own way to communicate. For example, Branded Hashtag Challenges are one type of ad formats brands can participate in. If you have something relevant to share right now, think of how you can do it this way. Other options for advertising are more traditional to what we see on other social platforms, like In-Feed Ads. But again, if your message doesn’t resonate it’s going chances are high it will be glossed over.

As we stated in our last blog, now more than ever is the time to self-evaluate as a brand. Decide where you stand and how you want to be seen, and share that message with your audience on the platform that can connect. If you’re still unsure of which platform is best for you, we have advice about that too… But probably for another blog (or email, or phone call, if you can’t wait).

Is Your Brand Adaptable to Change?

The entire world is currently focused on a singular topic: COVID-19. This is not only an unprecedented time in terms of the epidemic we’re facing, it is also one of maybe a handful of times in history where every country is working to reverse the same global problem. Every person, every company, every government is worried about the same issues: how to keep their communities safe, and prevent their economies from crashing. 

While this feels like the perfect time for companies to panic, it is also a time where brands can learn what they are made of. It will push every brand to realize what their top priorities are, how their customer communications are working, and how well they can adapt to change. 

Many of those in marketing have turned to past outbreaks like SARS to find patterns and data that can help brands this time around. The general consensus is to think about this in terms of individual companies. We can see from what is happening now that not everyone is being affected the same. Each brand individually must think about how their relationship with customers is changing right now, and how the health of their company is being impacted.

In a recent webinar from Nielsen, predictions about consumer attitudes showed trends in everything from grocery spending to sustainability opinions. But the underlying fact of it all was that the data is available to understand your audience, and you need to utilize it.

Analytics can not only improve your understanding of the marketplace, it can help you be nimble. Tracking analytics can help companies see a change in perception from the start, and provide an opportunity to course-correct if needed. 

Two of the largest things that’s been seen with COVID-19 is the spike in people consuming media and the amount of young people playing video games. Is there a way to use either of those discoveries for your brand? Can you find a way to connect with consumers in a way that makes sense? 

Along with data about trends with your consumers, it’s also important to track data and utilize data based on your communications. Testing advertising messages can be a great way to track audience perception, eliminating some of the guesswork. Strategic tests and implementation also helps utilize budgets in the smartest way possible, allowing brands to reach the widest and most interested audience. 

These are unprecedented times for sure, but also a time where we have so much data and information at our fingertips. Use what you have to proceed down this path with care and confidence. Find where you fit in all of this as a brand, adapt quickly and communicate clearly, and create short and long term plans based on the data you have now. But remember just like everything else going on, be ready to change plans and steer down a new path if necessary. Agility and strategy will be key.

After a Week with Akwafina, This is How I Feel

Last Thursday I boarded my normal subway and heard an overly peppy train conductor spouting off the station names. After daily commutes of mostly garbled static and apologies for train delays, this was a weird but welcome switch.

I looked around the train, few other people were laughing, and one person put in their headphones with an annoyed shake of the head. Although not normal, it isn’t entirely uncommon to have a train announcer feel they need to add their own spin on announcements. I took it as that and got on with my book. Five stops later I realized a train across the track had the same voice, and started to piece together what was really happening.

The voice I was hearing was Akwafina, and that comment about watching Nora from Queens while riding through Queens was not the random thing I first thought it was.

It was an ad, in the basic sense. But at the same time it was something so much more. Comedy Central worked with the MTA to have Awkwafina announcements on the 7 train for one week, leading up to the launch of her new show. The MTA hasn’t given a lot of details over the paid announcements, but did say it might be possible to do something similar in the future.

Awkwafina being first is just one of the reasons I loved it. Yes, we’ve heard plenty of celebrity voices over GPS systems, celebrities promoting their shows in the middle of YouTube ads, celebrities talking up their projects on social media. But before this no one had ever heard a celebrity calling out subway stops and PSAs like, “Hey fellas, stop manspreading,” or facts like “…pigeons and doves are the same thing — what!?”

From a strategy standpoint, this idea was everything. They chose a subway line that runs through Queens to advertise a show about Queens, and used an actress who understands everything about the 7 train in Queens because she was born there. Awkwafina doing a voiceover for Waze, for example, would never have hit the same audience.

The best part–the idea worked! While I admit that I wouldn’t have wanted a month of it, and by the end of the 7 days I’d memorized almost every quippy bit of her subway monologue, it got people talking. I overheard conversations on almost every train I was on. People tweeted about it, posted videos on Instagram, and wrote articles–and the majority of the feedback was positive. Plus the FOMO was real. Even celebrities wanted in on the conversation, with some offering to voice other Manhattan subways in the future. And that’s what we want from advertising in the end, isn’t it? Smart ideas that hit home for the brand and for the audience.

Engaging concepts that do more than just sell a product. And storytelling that’s worthy of listening and sharing with others.

How to Benefit from LinkedIn’s New Advertising Updates

LinkedIn has become one of the most trusted social platforms used today. It is an indispensable channel for business to business communication, customer prospecting, and lead generation. Ad placement has risen significantly over the past few years, and LinkedIn is continually implementing new tools and strategies for better reach.

We recently attended a LinkedIn Marketing Lab to learn more about the newest updates LinkedIn rolled out the last quarter of 2019, and is planning to roll out through the first half of 2020.

Stronger Targeting 

In the past, LinkedIn targeting was a more direct process. For example, if a profile had Sales Manager as their title, they would be included in your Sales Manager audience. LinkedIn’s new, smarter capabilities can now crawl all areas of a profile to analyze if that user fits within the intended target audience.

LinkedIn Profile Page


This is beneficial because a job description can be just as telling as a title, especially if a user has a less direct job title listed (you know who you are, Assistant to the Regional Manager).

In addition to gleaning more from a profile, LinkedIn has better ways to track and focus geotargeting. This update works with multiple touch points. The first part is allowing people on LinkedIn to more narrowly describe where they are located. From another touchpoint, LinkedIn now searches a users location from profile information as well as IP address.

Target by location


In addition, when creating ads it’s now possible to target by continent, country, city and designated market area. This type of hyper targeting can help businesses for both B2B marketing and prospective employee searches.

Blended targeting

One of the updates we’re most excited for is the new capabilities surrounding the AND-OR targeting features. Being able to target a group by the title of “Data Scientist” OR the skill level “sales analytics” can increase the reach of the audience you are looking for.

Target by multiple attributes


In contrast, adding another qualifier to that same group, like “AND people with 10+ years experience” can narrow the focus to make sure you aren’t targeting people who wouldn’t be interested in your services.

Essentially this new range of options gives us the ability to expand your audience in a focused way to share your message to a stronger subset of people. Along with this benefit, it also allows for more flexibility to test audience types and discover the best target for your ads.

The best news is, we are already working with these new changes in current marketing efforts, and continue to track and analyze the data gained from these new tools for segmentation. Because one thing we love here is seeing results go up. Another thing that makes us happy? The next round of LinkedIn updates we’ve been teased are coming in the next few months!

Stay tuned for more…

Digital Strategy – Gleaning Insights from Information

Digital strategy is an ever-evolving process; something we’re always striving to be better and more efficient with. Deeper insight leads to stronger strategy; and both push for higher campaign ROI. The latest conference we attended at the 4A’s Learning Academy had some great takeaways on strategy. The presenter, Jurene Fremstad, shared thoughtful recommendations, especially when it comes to collaborating with clients for the best outcome.

The Path to “Aha Moments”

One of the topics focused on the most was that information doesn’t mean insight. From point A to point B there has to be work, and potentially bad ideas, to get to those amazing “aha moments.” That doesn’t mean data doesn’t help, it just means that’s not all you need. When the whole team works together, and shares info, the real ideas begin to form.

Client & agency collaboration helps bridge the knowledge gap, and allow the creative team to have good, innovative ideas.

1. Keep it Brief

Creative briefs are often anything but brief, and for no good reason in many instances. Lengthy descriptions, using business buzzwords and over-descriptive problems can lead to more confusion than information. Think “we’re looking to raise sales among women” vs. “moderately declining numbers within our targeted demographic have led us to seek business development within the female audience.” 

Yes, we’ve all been there, and we do all want to be descriptive enough to ensure everyone has a good grasp of the task at hand–but before you send that brief to the team, try asking yourself, “Could it be more brief?”

2. Limit Requirements

Within the brief itself, a simplified ask is always helpful to cultivate more creative and insightful solutions.

The more requirements given, the more people feel confined in the solutions they can offer. Instead of pushing someone to find strategic results, you may be limiting them to standard answers that easily fit into a long list of requirements.

3. Ask & Answer

Questions are a strategist’s superpower! Asking useful questions can unlock everything needed to find strategic answers, and positive results. The hard part about questions is knowing which are the best to ask. Interrogating may seem like a strong word, but the best way to understand the client ask is to ask lots of questions and get in-depth answers.

This process is definitely a team work item. Framing questions correctly is the agency task, and providing thorough answers is up to the client. And there may be multiple rounds as new ideas and new research is surfaced. Don’t feel like this should be limited only to the start.

4. Research, and More Research

To quote the conference directly, “Research [is] a tool that strengthens all of your brains.” When timelines are tight, research is something that doesn’t always get the time and effort it deserves. 

A simple way to keep research at the forefront of strategy is to do a quick assessment of what types would be useful for a project. Is this something that needs primary research, or is secondary research readily available? How can qualitative and quantitative data each help with insight and ideas?

A good process needs parameters to ensure efficiency and organization. At the same time, research, facts, and observations should have flexibility to match different project needs and limitations.

Great insight has clarity, meets the project need, and understands why the consumer would be driven to an intended outcome. We’re here to make connections, unlock opportunity, and promote action. In basic terms, strategy meets clarity and makes us all think, “Aha!”

Best Practices for High Converting Landing Pages

Let’s be clear about something. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to marketing. Your company is unique, your goals come from those unique needs, and the way you target your audience should be supportive of it all.

These rules apply to landing pages, just like they apply to any other type of advertising; from social media ads to direct mail. So is a landing page right for your needs? Let’s take a look at a few factors.

The basics

If you’ve never used them before, landing pages work to optimize conversion and lead generation for your business. They provide a clean, simple place to direct customers who have clicked on your ads in places like search engine marketing or paid media. An important part of strategy is considering what ads brought a viewer to your landing page.

Landing page vs. website

Although landing pages can be designed to match the look and feel of your website, the two serve different purposes. While a website may be more informative, a well-optimized landing page has one main goal: to convert. Landing pages are more adaptable to quick changes, provide detailed traffic analytics, and are streamlined to persuade the visitor to act.

Best practices for information

In general, landing pages are kept simple. It’s a place to lightly expand on the ad that directed a consumer there, with a call-to-action that is up-front and easy to understand. This could be anything from getting a special offer, to unlocking special content–all in exchange for an email address or other information.

Ideas to keep in mind:

  • Focus on your offering. While there can be additional brand info, remember the consumer clicked to this page to learn more about the offer.
  • Main points “above the fold.” Although some people may scroll deeper into the page, others may want to cut to the chase right away.
  • Quick CTAs. Final action/lead gen forms should be easy to find and fill out. Keep requested info as simple as possible for higher lead rates.
Does this align with your brand needs?

After learning more about how a well-optimized landing page supports company outreach, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you looking to connect with more consumers?
  • Do you have something to offer in return for their info?
  • Do you have a strategy in place for how to use the data you collect?

If you can say yes to any of these questions, a high quality landing page is a useful next step to expanding your audience and growing your business.

ADA Compliance and PDFs

blog-pdf-ada

From a business standpoint, it makes sense to ensure your website is as accessible to a wider audience as possible, including those with blindness or low vision, deafness or hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, limited movement, or combinations of these.

This matters just as well from a legal compliance standpoint, as there have been many case studies of lawsuits filed for companies failing to ensure sufficient website accessibility as codified into law by the American Disabilities Act (ADA).

However, this does not only apply to your website. It is just as important to review all electronic documents that a visitor would access on your website, particularly PDFs.

These best practices will help to ensure that your PDFs are compliant with accessibility standards:

Files & Content

  • Use proper headings within the document to clarify sections, i.e. H1, H2, H3.
  • When naming, the document file name should not contain any spaces or special characters.
  • The document file name also needs to be concise, generally limited to 20-30 characters, and should clarify the contents of the file.

Organization:

  • Tag all PDFs. Documents must be tagged to allow checking for Section 508 accessibility.
  • All Document properties/Meta Data should be filled out Title, Author, Subject, and Keywords.
  • Add Bookmarks in documents longer than nine pages to aid in navigation. Bookmarks should match the headings used in the document.

Extra Features

  • Images must have alternative text to help describe what is there. This is a common problem in webpages and in PDFs.
  • Set the column and row headers for simple & complex tables.
  • Enable Assistive Technology access.

For more information on making your PDF’s ADA compliant, including a verification tool, check out this page from Adobe Acrobat.

How To Leverage Call Tracking For Your Campaigns

With smartphones being a ubiquitous fact of life, it’s more important than ever that businesses streamline the way prospective customers can call. When a customer puts in the effort to pick up the phone and call, that call is 10x more likely to lead to a sale over any other form of communication. Not only that, but according to Salesforce, about 92% of business still takes place over the phone in the digital era. Therefore, it is useful to know where these phone calls originate, and which ones convert to the highest ROI.

Call tracking allows you to determine which marketing and advertising campaigns are motivating people to pick up the phone and call. Understanding how callers find you can result in more optimized campaigns and bigger gains in sales. Best of all, call tracking can be set up for both online and offline marketing campaigns, including pay-per-click, social, print, and broadcast, allowing you to maximize the channels that drive the best results for you.

The simplest way to track phone calls is to use multiple static phone numbers. Call tracking software can provide as many numbers as you need, as well as a centralized dashboard to manage them. The biggest names in call tracking software, such as CallRail and PhoneWagon, also allow you to use Dynamic Number Insertion (DNI) to more effectively track online advertising by source.

Specifically, DNI refers to a JavaScript code snippet installed on every page of your website, which swaps the hard-coded phone number on your site for a specific phone number according to the online source a visitor arrived from. For example, if a visitor arrives to your site from a Facebook Ad, one phone number will display on your website, and a different number will display for a visitor arriving from a Google Ad campaign.

Because DNI can only be installed on your website and are not usually an option on third-party sites such as Facebook or Yelp, it is recommended to keep the static phone numbers on these sites as consistent as possible to avoid harming your organic SEO. By using one static phone number for your website as the foundation of your DNI and a second for your online listings, you can ensure your SEO remains consistent across every third-party platform.

After you have your static numbers and DNI set up, you should make sure your Google Analytics account is optimized as well. By having your Google Analytics integrated with your call tracking, you will have a better understanding of what customer trends and behaviors lead to call conversions, and all in one place. Having a more complete way to report and analyze actionable data is the hallmark of any effective marketing strategy, and it is in your best interest to set up the Google Analytics integration right from the get-go.

 

So now you have your call tracking software installed, and you’re receiving analytics. How do you optimize your call tracking for conversions to drive sales?

Here are four steps to using call tracking to measure your campaigns:

Step 1: Do a Phone Number Audit
– Make a comprehensive list of every place your phone number is currently displayed, or could be added. This includes all digital and traditional media, such as website, social media, email signatures, PPC ads, print mailings, billboards, television ads, or vehicles graphics.

Step 2: Use Call Scoring
– Determine which marketing channels have the highest call quality by using call scoring and tracking to figure out how long and effective conversations are. Be sure to optimize for best quality calls; culling lengthy calls that don’t lead to a conversion.

Step 3: Analyze Results
– Call results will help you understand channels that were effective or ineffective. Most call tracking software applications can spot specific keywords from call transcripts to give you further insights on PPC campaigns. CallRail, for example, provides intelligent keyword suggestions based on tracking results.

Step 4: Update Campaigns
– Brainstorm ways to improve campaigns and analytics going forward. Continually analyzing results and updating campaigns is the best way to keep up on ever-changing motivations and behaviors of your target audience.

From intelligent attribution analytics to PPC keyword spotting, call tracking can be an invaluable tool to help you further optimize your digital advertising efforts in lockstep with the most ubiquitously used business channel to date: the phone call.

Five Important Steps to Assess Your Website

If you’re considering updating or redesigning your website, there are five key steps that you should consider undertaking.

1. Heuristic Analysis: Evaluation of the user interface and assessment of overall site usability. The focus of this exercise is to outline what aspects of the site can be improved to enhance overall usability and business value.  You’ll want to examine the interface and judge its compliance with recognized usability principles (the “heuristics”).  Areas of attention may include:

  • Navigation
  • Page Layout
  • Visual Design
  • Mobile Experience
  • Calls to Action/Interactivity
  • Forms

2. Content Audit: Next, you’ll want to look at your site’s content in order to identify content gaps and areas of emphasis from a content-perspective that can inform site enhancements.  Questions should include:

  • Does this support goals and/or have strategic value?
  • Is it factually accurate?
  • Do we like it?
  • Is it redundant or trivial?
  • Shareable?

3. Competitive Review: See how your site stacks up to the competition by comparing the site’s content and User Experience to up to four or five competitors identified by various stakeholders in your organization.  You can look at many of the same elements outlined above.

4. SEO Audit: Does your website conforms to best practices for high search engine visibility?  Work independently or hire an agency or consultant to

  • Ensure all on-page elements (meta data, etc.) that can affect SEO are in place
  • Identify any crawl errors
  • Identify opportunities to promote optimal site crawl

You can verify your review against Flightpath’s SEO checklist which can be found here: https://www.flightpath.com/resources/seo-audit-checklist/

5. Analytics Validation: Most site use Google Analytics or a similar platform to track website activity.  Work independently or hire an agency or consultant to identify what should be tracked at the website and validate whether or not it’s being done effectively.

Depending upon where you net out on these five important site aspects, it may or may not be time to initiate a website overhaul. Good luck!!

How to Create a Measurement Plan for a Digital Media Campaign

At Flightpath, an ever-growing percentage of our work involves deployment of business-building paid media campaigns.  While all campaigns are different, we’re typically using some combination of display, programmatic, paid social media advertising and paid search (SEM).   The one constant is the creation of a smart measurement plan that helps us understand the effectiveness of our campaign.

When we set about to create a measurement plan, we start by identifying our campaign audience – who are we trying to reach and why?  Then, we map out the following:

Objectives

  • Identify the business objectives
  • Why does your campaign (or website) exist?
  • Think of acquisition, behavior and outcomes

Goals

  • Identify goals for each objective
  • Requires critical thinking from management, marketers and analysts
  • Specific strategies we’ll leverage to accomplish the business objectives
  • Conversion goals are always of utmost importance and can range from an ecommerce transaction to a video view

KPIs

  • Identify the KPIs
  • Those metrics that help us understand how we’re doing against our objectives

Measurable Metrics

  • The specific metrics that will be monitored through the tools we utilize.

Targets

  • Targets are numerical values you’ve pre-determined as indicators of success or failure.
  • An absolutely critical step.

Segments

  • Identify valuable segments for analysis.
  • A group of people, their sources, onsite behavior, and outcomes.
Example Measurement Plan
Example Measurement Plan

Once all of these items have been identified and all the pieces are put in place, we kick things off. Every campaign requires a test and learn phase before we can ramp up spend and maximize conversions.  It’s important that expectations are clearly shared between client and agency.

Reporting is typically delivered on a monthly basis along with quarterly and annual reviews, though in many cases, such as acquisition campaigns, weekly reports are necessary – but the measurement plan remains our north star throughout.

 

Is Your Website ADA Compliant? Part 2 – Design Best Practices

In our previous post, we covered the high-level guidelines that must be followed to conform with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 AA (WCAG 2.0 AA). This post focuses on design best practices and ADA compliance.

Some design guidelines to follow for modern web accessibility include:

  • Take into account Color Blindness
  • Design page text with sufficient contrast. Ensure the contrast ratio between text and background is at least 4.5:1.
  • Do not use images of text.
  • Keep animations simple.
  • Touch targets must be large enough for the user to interact with.

Color Blindness

Color Blindness is the difficulty distinguishing between certain color combinations. The most common is red-green color blindness. The table on below shows five example color pairs of confusion.

Red-Green Color Blindness table
Red-Green Color Blindness table
Source: http://www.color-blindness.com/red-green-color-blindness/

As severity and type of color blindness can be very different, such color pairs are quite individual. When designing your website, ensure that colors are not your only method of conveying important information. For example, do not use red text to denote errors in forms.

Color Contrast

To comply with WCAG 2.0 AA level requirements, the color contrast ratio must be 4.5:1 for normal text (less than 18 point or 14 point bold) and a contrast ratio of 3:1 for large text (at least 18 point or 14 point bold). Paciello Group has a useful Colour Contrast Tool that helps you determine the legibility of text and the contrast of visual elements, such as graphical controls and visual indicators.

 

Snapshot of the Colour Contrast Analyser tool
Snapshot of the Colour Contrast Analyser tool

Images of Text

Do not use images of text. Images are more likely to distort and pixelate when resized. It is good design best practice to style text with CSS rather than using image-based text presentation.

Keep Animations Simple

Allow the user to skip/pause the animations and avoid excessive use of animations and parallax. Make sure your video, animation, or other multimedia product does not contain flashing, strobing, or flickering elements as they can cause some people to experience seizures, dizziness, and nausea. You can use the Photosensitive Epilepsy Analysis Tool (PEAT) Tool to see if your content falls in these ranges.

Touch Targets

Content touch targets must be large enough to read and have a large enough interactive target area to tap comfortably with one finger. In addition, you should also ensure there is enough space between touch targets so that the user does not interact with the wrong element.

How to Evaluate Different Aspects of a Brand’s Digital Eco-System

Evaluate digital eco-system diagram

With the proliferation of digital platforms and channels, it’s getting harder and harder for many brands to determine where to invest their digital marketing efforts and dollars. We recently blogged about guidelines for social media platform selection. Examining and evaluating the broader digital eco-system is a similar type of exercise. It begins with a clear understanding of your target audience and business goals. Then, you should ask questions like:

  • Where can you achieve the greatest strategic value?
  • What does the competitive landscape look like?
  • How are things trending?
  • How can you achieve the greatest ROI for your spend?

Insights gleaned should be validated by analysis of data sources including:

  • Website analytics
  • Search engine research
  • Social media conversations

At Flightpath, we find that a multi-channel approach delivers a multiplying effect that maximizes campaign effectiveness (1+1+1=6).

In order to ensure that tactics are working in harmony on an on-going basis, we recommend undertaking a quarterly eco-system review. This checkpoint will help to keep you on track to meet your goals. You can take a look at things like:

  • Recent Work
  • Highlights of results
  • New and pending initiatives
  • Areas of opportunity
  • Budget/burn rate

Taking this moment to review, measure and re-align on a quarterly basis can help ensure that your digital marketing efforts remain on track in an environment where things are always changing and evolving.

Guidelines for Defining Digital Marketing Strategies for the Digital Economy

Guidelines-Defining-Digital-Marketing

I recently received an email solicitation to enroll in the Digital Marketing Strategies for the Digital Economy program at the Wharton School of Business in Philadelphia. The program’s marketing materials promise “to explore the latest emerging online marketing and social media technologies.”

Along with their pitch was a link to a video featuring Professor David A. Bell expounding on a number of topics that would presumably be covered in the course. I thought the professor did an excellent job articulating key points, so I thought I’d share them here…

Key Factors When Creating a Digital Strategy

  • Understanding the customer/consumer journey and how it’s changing
  • Changing business models
  • What is the right mix and array of tools that one should deploy to reach these customers and get them to buy our products and services

“We really need to come back to the fundamental which is ‘what is the process that the customer goes through?’” If you can develop customer insights, you’re likely to find success.

Challenges of Online & Offline Distribution

  • Creating cohesive online/offline experience is one of the greatest challenges in the digital economy.
  • Customers don’t care if they’re interacting with companies online or offline. The experience must be seamless.

Three Common Digital Marketing Mistakes

  • Forgetting the fundamentals of customers and markets
  • Being overwhelmed by tools without letting the tool be the outcome
  • Having a very narrow view of what it means for attribution

Your Audience Has a Voice

  • Creating the right kind of voice is absolutely critical
  • If you’re doing something bad or inauthentic it will immediately be known
  • What’s said about you by yourself, your customers or adversaries becomes a critical part of the conversation

Content Marketing Strategies

  • Creating an effective content marketing strategy is absolutely critical in the digital economy
  • Content has 2 prongs:

    1. The first is the content you deliver. It must have functional, emotional and symbolic value while also being authentic, personalized and transparent

    2. The second is content created when you activate engaged customers to create material which then drives the next generation of content

The authentic voice coming from the firm + content extracted from the voice of the customer is the marriage you should be looking for.

You can learn more about the Wharton course and see the video with
Professor Bell here:
https://executiveeducation.wharton.upenn.edu/for-individuals/all-programs/digital-marketing-strategies-for-the-digital-economy

The Value of a Comprehensive SEO Audit

The Value of a Comprehensive SEO Audit

At Flightpath, we create, redesign, refine and maintain dozens of websites every year. A core consideration that impacts all aspects of this work is ensuring that sites adhere to best practices for high search engine visibility (also known as Search Engine Optimization or SEO).

Throughout our planning, design, production, quality assurance and launch processes, SEO stays top of mind. When we’re getting ready for a release, we run everything through a checklist that assesses sites based on approximately 100 different criteria that all enter into the algorithms that reward (or penalize) sites.

Oftentimes we’re called upon to conduct a comprehensive SEO Site Audit. This may be for a site that’s been created by another agency or other 3rd party. Or it could be a site that’s had a lot of post-launch enhancement and is ready for a check up. Or it could be for an older site that may not have kept up with algorithmic changes over time. Either way, we return to our checklist and begin assessing the site based upon our all-important 100 criteria.

At a high level, here are some of the most important SEO optimization attributes that we’re assessing:

  • UX: including mobile friendliness page speed
  • Tags: including titles, meta descriptions
  • Page Duplication and duplicate content
  • URLs: including length, keyword usage and word separators
  • Links: including click-depth, navigation and link location
  • Page Architecture: including keyword location and content structure
  • Site Architecture: including languages, 301 permanent redirects and sitemaps
  • Social Media: including Facebook, Twitter and Google+ sharing
  • Site Verification: including Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools set-up

While some of these attributes are more important than others, they should all be attended to and revisited and checked up on regularly.

New Report on US Hispanics and Digital Usage

It was with fascination that I consumed the new report from eMarketer: US Hispanics and Digital Usage: How They Differ from Non-Hispanics—and from One Another.  According to eMarketer the “report examines US Hispanics’ digital usage, comparing it with that of the general population while giving special attention to variations among different Hispanic population segments.”  As Goya Foods is a key Flightpath client, this is an important set of research for us to activate upon.

Some of our key takeaways include:

  • Smartphones: An above-average proportion of Hispanics have mobile-only internet access.
  • Coupons: Hispanics making less use of the internet as a shopping tool than non-Hispanics do. Smartphones come into play when Hispanics seek bargains. Coupon usage (including digital coupons) is strong among Hispanics.
  • Social Media: Social media penetration is slightly above average among Hispanics, though Facebook penetration is a bit below average

chart_sm

  • YouTube: The availability of content tailored to specific audiences is clearly part of YouTube’s appeal for Hispanics.

Our Latest Launches

Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, The American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science, Millennium Medical Publishing, and Goya Foods. Our talented teams of designers, developers, and account executives have collaborated to produce final products worth checking out. Read on to hear about our latest projects and the challenges we met along the way.

Brain & Behavior Research Foundation

The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation is committed to alleviating the suffering caused by mental illness by awarding grants that will lead to advances in scientific research. The organization tasked us with telling their story with greater clarity, and more compelling, artful engagement. Their goal was to think of new and better ways to display information and to improve the donor flow on their existing site. We began by conducting audience research and performing a content audit to ensure content supported goals, added value, and targeted the correct audience. We then developed 10 user flows, enabling us to group and prioritize content and site functionality according to the site’s most frequent visitors. This informed the direction we took on the site redesign, with a modern visual interface and optimized touch points including page leads, video, navigation, and donation opportunities to drive engagement. Our research led us to discover that users were primarily visiting the site to gather information on mental illness. Because of this, we worked to illuminate the compelling science and transformative research of the BBR Foundation through elevated online communications and a blog. The modernized design and site architecture along with improved content development led to a highly immersive web and user experience.

The American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science

The American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science develops funding for and educates the public on the Weizmann Institute of Science, a research institution located in Israel. We’ve worked to update their website using the Umbraco content management system in order to tell a better story, engage more people, and to facilitate donations. Because the Committee’s work is so widespread, we concepted a site architecture that would establish a hierarchy with six different achievement buckets:
  • Fighting Cancer
  • Advancing Technology
  • Enriching Education
  • Protecting Our Planet
  • Improving Health and Medicine
  • Exploring the Physical World
Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 12.33.08 PM We designed the corresponding iconography to help tell the story of the Committee’s ongoing solutions to the respective causes. An important goal for the American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science was to simplify the fundraising process and to encourage more donations. Donors prefer giving money when they know exactly where their donation will be going. Because the Committee’s causes were so differentiated, we created project-based fundraisers to bring clarity to each individual cause. Project-based fundraising allows users to set up fundraisers in Crowdrise so users can donate to their project of choice — from cancer research to energy innovations. Project Toolkits walk users through the steps needed to support a cause that matters, then to invite friends and colleagues to join the cause through peer-to-peer fundraising. The new site tells a compelling narrative that attracts donors and encourages cause-driven donations.

Millennium Medical Publishing, Inc.

MMP is a medical publishing company with more than 40 years combined experience in the publishing field, with a specific focus on hematology and oncology, and gastroenterology and hepatology. We set out to design a responsive WordPress website that leads with content and offers a clean and simple user experience. Site visitors select the issue they’d like to explore (Hematology & Oncology or Gastroenterology & Hepatology) then browse through content from the latest issue. Both sites make it easy to explore the magazine’s archives and supplements, with a simple navigation and straightforward display of articles. We designed the new sites with the user in mind, so content can be consumed and discoverable on the MMP site.

Goya

The culture of food and family is meant to be shared. When we dove deep into the Goya heritage, we found true emotional currency not just in the rich culinary traditions but also in the desire to share these traditions with the world. We built a comprehensive online recipe catalog to drive social sharing, repeat website visits and encourage product sampling. We migrated Goya to the Umbraco CMS to allow for simple monthly updates by site managers. Images of delicious food cater to digital appetites, and quick and easy recipes help household chefs find tonight’s mealtime inspiration. Additionally, we improved recipe and product backend architecture to encourage recipe/product cross referencing. The Goya experience packages useful information – recipes, product details, and interactive shopping lists for busy, on-the-go users. Vibrant social platforms, promotions, coupons, and contests offer enticing rewards and drive traffic to all digital hubs. Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 12.47.41 PM We’re pleased to have these websites completed and are excited for the projects to come. If you’d like to discuss a project with a Flightpath representative, feel free to reach out here.]]>

Take a Bite out of the New Goya Website

Increasing user retention

  • Lowering bounce rate
  • Employing a modern, responsive design
  • With these goals in mind, we set out to create a plan to leverage the brand’s existing digital presence to achieve their goals with a cross-functional platform just as diverse as the brand itself.

    The Umbraco CMS

    At Flightpath, we’re Umbraco Gold partners, meaning we have a number of developers and designers in-house who are experts on the Umbraco content management system. We selected Umbraco over other CMSs in order to provide the client with the simplest editor experience. The Goya site is a 1:1 multilingual site, so for every piece of English content on the site, there’s a Spanish translation. We were able to do this with the Vorto property editor, an Umbraco package that allows fields to store multilingual content. For SEO purposes, we decided to host this on a single domain with subdirectories for each language.

    An optimized user experience

    To improve UX and increase engagement, we incorporated faceted search with suggestions into the site, allowing users to explore information by applying filters. We implemented this by integrating Umbraco with Azure Search, a cloud search service. With the site’s extensive content and design features, we wanted to ensure it would load quickly, so we put the entire site (rather than just the media) behind a content delivery network. Moving the site to a CDN also ensured a speedy site for a primarily North American audience despite Umbraco Cloud hosting from Europe. Additionally, we used the ASP.NET Identity Umbraco package and OWIN middleware to enable Facebook and Google authentication for a simplified user experience. Users are now able to create an account to receive offers and save recipes with the click of a button.

    Creating evangelists

    One of Goya’s primary goals was to increase user retention. Many users were one-time visitors, so we wanted to create an experience that would turn one-time users into loyal customers. We added to the experience by syncing products with recipes to allow users to search by product. For example, a user could search for salad recipes that incorporated chicken and rice. The easy-to-use search capabilities encouraged users to surf the site for recipe information according to ingredients they already had.

    Encouraging engagement

    Prior to the redesign, the website had a relatively high bounce rate. Users were visiting the site for a recipe, printing it out, then exiting the site. While Goya was happy to be a trusted recipe source, we knew there was an opportunity to engage site visitors to stay longer and explore the site’s other offerings. Our product/recipe syncing encouraged users to explore other recipes with similar ingredients. The website’s featured recipes section showcases the recipe’s main ingredient to provide further product information and cross reference other recipes. We also added a ratings and reviews section that’s encouraged users to engage with the recipe and product content. Social media integrations allow users to share Goya recipes and blog posts with friends and family.

    The end result

    The new site offers parallax scrolling and bright, colorful imagery sure to make any site visitor hungry. Migrating Goya’s site to the Umbraco CMS greatly reduces the time it takes the client to update content, and we’ve already seen a steep decline in bounce rate after making these adjustments to the site. The end result is a dynamic, multi-faceted initiative that tells the Goya story in a fashion that’s rich, fun, informative, and engaging.]]>

    How a 150-Year-Old Museum Became a Marketing Leader

    webinar on digital trends, where we spoke about rising customer demands and the emergence of new marketing technologies. When looking for great case studies, companies like AirBnb and Snapchat came to mind. But we were surprised to find inspiration in a historic New York attraction: The Museum of Natural History. In its 150-year-old glory, the museum has adapted and grown to be more than just a museum. The 5-story building spanning across four city blocks has evolved into an immersive educational experience. Catherine Devine, the museum’s Chief Digital Officer, can be credited for a large amount of their success. Devine reworked the museum’s digital strategy and developed the Explorer app, which has completely reinvigorated the museum experience.

    High expectations and the move to mobile

    Consumer preference continues to evolve as mobile usage expands. It seems the more we focus on creating a positive customer experience, the more demanding customers become. This evolution of expectations due to technological advancements has brought forth an opportunity for brands to revamp the way they work. Devine has made it a priority at the Museum of Natural History to enhance user satisfaction by improving usability, accessibility, and pleasure.

    Starting with the audience

    The museum has turned into a navigable treasure trove of endless information with the Explorer app in hand. And it’s all because Devine started with defining the customer’s needs. “When creating the Explorer app, we decided to shift our thinking around how the visitors think,” Devine said. She started by identifying problems that visitors face when visiting. Among the problems that needed solving were:
    • Where can I get coffee in the museum?
    • What should I see while I’m there?
    • What if I miss out on something?
    • I want to find out more about that exhibit when I get home.
    • How do I get there?
    • How much are tickets?
    • Do I need to print my ticket?
    • And perhaps most importantly: where are the bathrooms?
    Putting the audience first allowed Devine to identify problems that visitors face on a daily basis. She was then able to establish a strategy focused on solving these problems.
    CONTENT STRATEGY WORKBOOK
    Boost your engagement with the Content Strategy Workbook.
    GET STARTED

    Creating an experience

    The most forward-thinking brands create engagement because they have an innate understanding of their audience and what it takes to get their attention. Devine accomplished this by putting herself in the customer’s shoes every step of the way. “The point is to add value to your prospects and create an experience,” Devine said. “That’s what gets them to engage with your brand in the modern digital era.” With the Explorer app, Devine’s goal was to get away from the idea of ‘content for everybody,’ and get to a granular and predictable type of experience. She did this by first, reducing friction in the experience. “Location services prompt tickets to popup on mobile devices when a visitor is closeby,” Devine said. “Explorer makes the museum easy to navigate and answers all FAQs related to tickets and recommended exhibits. There are also turn-by-turn instructions in the museum using Beacon technology.” But reducing friction is just the beginning. People expect to have a seamless experience, and it’s important that brands go above and beyond what’s expected. When a user opens the app, he’s able to select topics that interest him so suggestions are tailored to him. Explorer also features augmented reality, quizzes, and social sharing capabilities, making it a highly interactive experience. screen696x696

    Micro-moments

    The user journey has become fragmented across different devices and locations, creating many separate decision-making moments, or micro-moments. The Museum of Natural History has taken this as an opportunity to reach consumers in more locations and situations. Devine identified the idea that there are multiple moments in every visit to the museum, and emphasized the importance of considering the user’s intent and context at all times. Devine used these micro-moments as opportunities to surprise and delight museum visitors.

    I-want-to-go moments

    One type of these micro-moments is the I-want-to-go moments. A Google search like ‘best dry cleaner near me’ would qualify as one of these moments. It’s important that brands are aware of these searches and make themselves relevant when their customers are searching. Devine anticipated these moments by making mobile tickets available when visitors are nearby. While a visitor may purchase a ticket on desktop, the ticket will still appear on the user’s phone if the app is downloaded. She was not only considering the visitor’s location, but also their purchase process. These moments don’t just occur while in the museum — the app allows users to plan out their visit to the museum beforehand by viewing and selecting exhibits they’d like to see. She also took into account situational data. If it’s raining the day they plan to visit the museum, the app will notify the user to bring an umbrella. screen696x696

    I Want-to-know moments

    The Explorer app appears where people are searching and connects people with what they’re looking for in real time to provide relevant information when they need it. For example, if a visitor was especially interested in the blue whale exhibit, he would immediately be provided with additional exhibit information after opening the app. Location services allow the user to access relevant information at any given time without searching to find it. screen696x696

    The Era of Infotainment

    In the era of infotainment, consumers need to be entertained in order to pay attention and digest information. The Explorer app was developed as a complement to the museum, so that people who come and use the app find the museum more thought-provoking than those who didn’t. Devine took a historied museum and put a modern twist on it with the Explorer app. By starting with the audience’s needs and taking into account situational and location data, she was able to create a unique experience for museum visitors.]]>

    Why B2B CMOs Are Struggling With Content Marketing

    Making the Case for Content Marketing

    They don’t understand the sales process well enough Marketing’s purpose in the past was to drive branding and awareness about the company and services. Brand recognition was enough for salespeople to get their foot in the door. But branding and awareness is tactic-driven—we’re going to do an ad campaign here, go to a trade show there, send out direct mail or emails this month, and so on. The rules of engagement have changed. People won’t tolerate the perception of being “sold to.” They won’t tolerate disruption unless it adds significant value. And they won’t talk to a salesperson until they’re good and ready. Because of this, simply making a larger investment in marketing tactics won’t get you where you need to go in the digital world.

    The Fix: Sales and Marketing alignment

    A strong sales culture with an emphasis on prospecting is still appropriate, but marketing’s role must be diverted away from tactics that create branding and awareness and more toward lead generation and lead intelligence for sales. Marketing’s focus in B2B companies should be to drive one-to-one conversations digitally, helping to supplement the sales person’s ability to prospect and qualify. That requires a flywheel of good content, just like publishing a magazine or newspaper. If your content stops, so do your conversations. That’s not a set of projects, it’s a new mindset.
    Making a Case for Content Webinar
    Learn how to create content to solve your B2B sales problem.
    SIGN ME UP
     

    They don’t know how to buy content services

    Marketers know how to buy tactics, they know how to submit RFPs for website redesigns, branding campaigns, advertising spend, and trade show participation. But when they start moving away from tactics, many don’t know where to start. And to make matters worse, they’ve had bad experiences with outsourcing tactics to agencies in the past for the same reasons. Typically the agency wants to steer them in an area of their core expertise (tactic) — whether that’s SEO, advertising, or web development — as opposed to overall strategy, which is to fully understand the audience, why they are looking for solutions, and how to get content in front of them so that sales can get engaged in conversations they wouldn’t have known about previously.

    The Fix: Choose a digital marketing partner that understands the role of content in generating sales

    When choosing a digital marketing partner to help you transition to content, the following capabilities are paramount:
    1. An understanding of the role of content in the sales process.
    2. A well-rounded set of skills available in-house and fractional to the agency.
    3. Understanding of analytical measurements beyond branding and SEO.
    4. Examples and case studies of similar work.
    5. Superior research capabilities and an understanding of audience personas and how to map their buying journey.
     

    They grossly underestimate the costs and work involved to create the flywheel

    Gone are the days of publishing a few blog posts and having people find you. There’s so much content now, you’ve got to do better. That means more authenticity, more knowledge and more specificity. Remember, it’s about driving one-to-one interactions digitally and not about broadcasting a message to a broad audience and seeing what sticks. (That’s so last century.)

    The Fix: Commit

    Again, content marketing is not about assigning tactics to marketing. It requires a constant diligence of understanding the reader, what their issues are, and how you can remain relevant. The consultative sales conversation is all about finding painpoints (and prescribing solutions) and so is marketing now. To get attention at the top of the funnel, you must focus on pain, pain, pain. I’m amazed at how many marketers say they understand this concept, but in practice defer to talking about products and services. One way to fix this is to put marketers through sales training where they’re taught to listen for pain points and only prescribe solutions when you get into a qualified conversation.  

    They’re measuring the wrong things

    I get asked a lot if content marketing will really work in B2B. The short answer is yes, but it’s not a magic bullet. The long answer is that just like any other successful initiative, the organization has to be committed to the long term, willing to make smart investments, align marketing and sales with a common goal of revenue growth, and above all, be willing to admit that what they’ve been doing in the past is not working. Marketers have traditionally cared about page views, average length of stay on the page, and conversions. All important, but these stats only give you insight at the campaign level. Again, we’re ultimately not trying to measure branding and awareness impact—we want to know how it impacts the ability of sales to get in front of more prospects and close more deals.

    The Fix: Measure conversions and track through the sales process

    To know whether or not your marketing is having an impact, we need to be able to track how a lead becomes a sale (for the Schoolhouse Rock fans, that could be a good parody!) that will tell you where to invest money appropriately. Start by answering two questions:
    1. Can you accurately measure your sales process now? In other words, where are your deals coming from now, and what percentage of them do you close?

    2. Do you have the technology in place such as marketing automation and a CRM, and do your sales people actually use it?

    If you’ve answered yes to both of those questions, then it should be relatively easy to track some significant numbers that will tell you exactly where to spend money and what needs to be fixed. For example, if you’re generating plenty of leads every month, and the statistics show that you should be closing X number of deals, but you’re not, you’ve got a sales problem. If you’re closing a large majority of leads that come from various sources, but you don’t have enough “at bats” to move the revenue forward, you’ve got a marketing problem. And the measurement can even get more granular. You should be able to add up all of the money you spend on marketing and sales people, divide it by the number of customers you got that year (your customer acquisition costs), and then determine based on how many leads you generated, how much each one of those cost you (and what it’s worth to you). Content marketing done correctly should be completely measureable, giving you the ability to know where you’re going to have the best return on investment.  

    They don’t really have the buy-in

    Typically in sales-oriented cultures, marketing in any form is a tough sell. Most CEOs that have built their businesses by hiring more salespeople to sink or swim have had bad experiences. Whether outsourcing marketing tactics to agencies or assigning them to marketing, CEOs have trouble partitioning what actually produced sales and what didn’t. See John Wanamaker’s quote: “Half of the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” So how do you sell the value of content marketing?

    The Fix: It’s in the marketing team’s hands

    Marketers—here’s your chance to take a cue from the consultative sales person–put your executives in pain. A good salesperson knows that if a prospect is not in enough pain, and committed to solving the problem, they’re never going to buy. Point out expenditures that are definitely not working and how that money can be diverted into a content program. Examine the roles of salespeople and if their time is being used efficiently or not. Research why customers have bought from you in the past and develop content specifically for those individuals. But most importantly, put the measurements in place that cannot be argued. Because if you can prove, even on a small scale, that marketing led to sales conversations that they would never have known about, it’ll be much easier to shift efforts in your direction.]]>

    A Comprehensive Guide to Umbraco

    Comprehensive Umbraco Guide

    Microsoft, Carlsburg, and NFL trust Umbraco as their content management system of choice.  

    See if Umbraco is Right For You
    Need a new CMS?
    See if Umbraco is
    right for you.
    GET THE WHITEPAPER

    Why a CMS?

    The primary reason to use a web content management system is to allow non-technical editors to manage content. Without a CMS, one would need to have technical skills like HTML to create and update content on a website. Content Management Systems offer a variety of other functionalities, such as versioning of content, asset management, site search, and form building. They can also support more advanced features such as content personalization and e-commerce, and integration with customer relationship management systems like Salesforce. A good CMS is not just an application for editing content, but a development platform that allows your site to innovate and adapt to your specific needs.  

    Why Umbraco?

    There are a lot of web content management systems on the market. Different systems have strengths and weaknesses and no one system will be ideal for all situations. As a digital marketing agency, we’ve found that Umbraco provides the right balance of power and simplicity for both users and developers. We have a number of reasons to back this up, but we’ll highlight five:
    1. Umbraco is free and open source
    Anyone can access Umbraco’s source code in any way so you can’t be limited to what’s available from the product. It also means no financial overheads or lock-in, and a lot of flexibility and freedom for creativity.
    2. The editor interface
    Umbraco has a great interface for editors to manage their content. Editor Simplicity is the overriding tenet of Umbraco, and the Umbraco core team continues to enhance the editor experience as it evolves the platform. Hartvig put it perfectly when Umbraco HQ released Umbraco 7 in 2013: “This is the beginning of a new era for the Umbraco project. It’s the culmination of 18 months of dedicated work, focused on bringing the project back to the roots of Editor Simplicity & Developer Happiness.”
    3. Customizable
    Umbraco is a blank slate. Unlike many other CMSs that have rigid templates and limited design capabilities, Umbraco can be adapted in any way to fit your needs. It was built with ASP.NET MVC, which provides the ability to build custom apps with Umbraco. There are also many great free and open source plugins available. We’ll go into more detail on packages shortly, but for now, check out six of our favorite Umbraco packages.
    4. Performance and scalability
    A well-built Umbraco site performs fast. Umbraco provides built-in caching for content and can easily integrate with content delivery networks (CDNs) for improved performance. Furthermore, Umbraco makes it simple to configure a site to run on a load balanced environment including on auto-scaled cloud services such as Azure App Service.
    5. The community
    The Umbraco community is comprised of great people who are passionate about Umbraco. Umbraco wouldn’t be everything it is without its friendly and dedicated community of 220,000 people. The Umbraco community can be found at:
    • Our.Umbraco.org – Forums, Packages, Documentation
    • Conferences – Codegarden, uWestFest (and other regional festivals)
    • Meetups – Flightpath supports the local community by hosting the New York Umbraco meetups
    • Twitter, Blogs, Skrift.io and a Slack community channel
     
    Is Umbraco the Right CMS for you?
    Is Umbraco the Right CMS for you?
    FIND OUT

    Some of our favorite packages

    Umbraco has over 1,098 packages of all different sizes and prices that make the CMS much more powerful. The best way to understand the value and benefits of using Umbraco is to look at some examples of how we use Umbraco to meet specific requirements. The following packages will give you a better taste of how Umbraco works from a marketer/editor as well as a developer standpoint:
    1. Rich content
    Archetype: An Umbraco 7 property editor that wraps other installed property editors. By wrapping the other properties, Archetype allows for custom and repeatable fieldset mashups. Nested Content: A property editor that uses the power of doc types to define the list item blue prints. With Nested Content, you can reuse all the standard data types as field editors rather than being limited to a subset of “allowed” types. Grid Editor: Gives the editor the ability to insert different types of content in a flexible, responsive layout. (Note: the grid editor started off as a package and is now built into the core of Umbraco.)
    2. Blog
    Articulate: Provides basic blog functionality such as categories, tags, and RSS feeds.
    3. Site search
    Examine: Examine allows you to index and search data easily and wraps the Lucene.Net indexing/searching engine. Lucene is super fast and allows for fast searching on large amounts of data. (Examine is now built into the core Umbraco package.)
    4. CRM integration
    Forms: From basic contact forms to multi-step questionnaires, form building is easy with Umbraco Forms. The interface is intuitive and allows for workflow creation as well as validation rules and conditions.
    5. E-commerce
    Merchello: Merchello is a high performance, designer friendly, open source Umbraco e-commerce package built for store owners. uCommerce: uCommerce is an e-commerce offering fully integrated with Umbraco for building online stores. Unlike Merchello, Ucommerce isn’t open source, though a free version is available.
    6. Multilingual sites
    Vorto: Vorto wraps any existing property editor and converts it into a multilingual property, allowing for seamless site translation.  

    Umbraco Cloud

    It’s not good enough to build a great website – it also needs to be deployed and maintained. Umbraco works pretty much anywhere you can run ASP.NET and SQL Server. With Umbraco Cloud, all-in-one Microsoft Azure hosting makes manual upgrading and painful deployment a thing of the past. Umbraco Cloud provides hosting for up to three environments (development, staging and live) and a content migration process called ContentFlow. ContentFlow allows editors to work and review on a staging environment and deploy content when ready, while developers can easily pull down the latest content and build new features on a development environment and push to staging for review. The Cloud also allows users to reuse existing project components using Baselines so they can spend less hours in project setup, and more on the project itself. Umbraco Cloud automatically upgrades to the latest patch version of Umbraco CMS. For minor upgrades (such as 7.4.x to 7.5.0), when there is a chance of a change negatively impacting your site, the portal provides an upgrade button, allowing you to test first and decide when to upgrade. Umbraco Cloud includes unlimited storage and bandwidth and licenses for the commercial add ons like Umbraco Forms. Umbraco Cloud has helped those who don’t even use it. It allows Umbraco HQ to gain insights in running production Umbraco sites, and allows them to identify and fix issues with Umbraco Core faster. Umbraco Cloud also helps fund Umbraco Core.  

    Umbraco vs. other top CMSs

    Over the years, we’ve worked with a variety of web content management systems, and have found that Umbraco is the right solution for most projects. But in some cases, other content management systems prevail. Here’s a quick comparison between Umbraco and other top CMSs:
    Umbraco vs. Sitecore
    Sitecore is a commercially licensed product with fees starting at about $15,000. Sitecore is an enterprise solution and gives users the ability to track real-time visitor behavior. Like Umbraco, Sitecore has a large and active community that’s constantly evolving the service.
    Umbraco vs. DNN
    Like Umbraco, DNN is free and open source. DNN is one of the most popular open source .NET CMSs, and powers over 800,000 websites worldwide. DNN can be used as a CMS as well as an application development framework. DNN is easier to get up and running while there’s a learning curve with Umbraco. But Umbraco’s flexibility allows for a leaner and cleaner output.
    Umbraco vs. Sitefinity
    Sitefinity is a paid .NET CMS that has a task-oriented user interface. It uses .NET standards like MasterPages and Controls for template management, which simplifies the setup process for a website’s frontend. Sitefinity has community forums similar to Umbraco’s, but their tech support is typically quicker to respond that Umbraco’s.
    Umbraco vs. Kentico
    Kentico is a .NET CMS that offers free and paid options. It doubles as a Customer Experience Management System and is great for small websites. Kentico has a simple plug-and-play UI, though it’s limited in its design customizability.
    Umbraco vs. WordPress
    WordPress is the most popular CMS and is a PHP based system (whereas Umbraco is built on .NET). What started as a blogging platform grew into a full CMS with a range of plugins that allow for simple website building and design. If you just need a blog or don’t have a budget for a custom designed site, then you might want to go with WordPress and buy a prebuilt WordPress theme.
    Umbraco vs. Drupal
    Like WordPress, Drupal is a PHP based system. Drupal has an extremely active community online and in person at events and meetups. While Umbraco can be used for large and small sites, Drupal is typically used for larger sites. Microsoft developers gravitate toward Umbraco, as Drupal isn’t supported by Microsoft. If you’re a Drupal user and haven’t updated to Drupal 8, check out our article to see when you should upgrade.  

    Finding an Umbraco partner

    Now that you know a thing or two about Umbraco, talk with your team to see if it’s the right CMS for you. At Flightpath, we’re happy to be one of Umbraco’s Gold partners. This means that we have certified Umbraco experts in-house, and support the core Umbraco CMS. Our dedicated team of developers and designers is well versed in Umbraco — no project is too complex. Umbraco has 468 registered partners and 55 Gold partners. We’re proud to be the only Gold partner in NYC. If you’d like to chat with our team to see if Umbraco is right for your project, you can reach us here.
    CONTENT STRATEGY WORKBOOK
    Boost your engagement with the Content Strategy Workbook.
    GET STARTED
    ]]>

    Is Umbraco the Right CMS for You?

    Is Umbraco the right CMS for you?

    Coleman Research Group and Bway Zone. We love the open-source CMS because it gives us the ability to develop easy-to-manage sites for our clients, and it’s constantly evolving and improving. Umbraco is one of the most deployed Web Content Management Systems on the Microsoft stack. Just last week, Umbraco surpassed 400,000 active sites worldwide. Umbraco can be used for a website of any size, from a small local business to a Fortune 500 company. In addition to the CMS, Umbraco offers Umbraco Cloud, a fully managed hosting service tuned for Umbraco. Read on to learn more about what Umbraco CMS and Umbraco Cloud have to offer.

    See if Umbraco is Right For You
    Need a new CMS? See if Umbraco is right for you.
    GET THE WHITEPAPER

    Umbraco CMS

    As we mentioned, Umbraco is an open-source CMS, which is why the service is constantly improving upon itself. The huge community of Umbraco users works together to evolve the service, and Umbraco listens. We’ve outlined a few notable features of the Umbraco CMS below:
    Powerful editing capabilities
    Umbraco’s editing tools are highly intuitive. Media management, responsive views, and approval workflows make for a seamless site management experience.
    Open source
    Anyone can access Umbraco’s source code in any way without licensing or copyright requirements. This means you can’t be limited to what’s available from the product (every developer’s dream). It also means no financial overheads or lock-in, and a lot of flexibility and freedom for creativity.
    Media management
    File management, easy drag-drop media insertion, and responsive cropping make any site editor into a designer.
    Safe, responsive preview
    Avoid errors with Umbraco’s preview mode, where editors can preview pages on any device before hitting the big red button.
    Painless integration
    Umbraco can be easily integrated with any 3rd party service using the fully extensible API. Lots of packages already exist for these integrations.
    Freedom in design
    Designers have full control over markup to make your website look exactly as you like, with no Umbraco specific knowledge needed. It’s easy to incorporate 3rd party HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.
    Granular user permissions
    Get granular with your user permissions to ensure control over content and actions to avoid the risk of user errors.
    Multilingual capabilities
    Umbraco’s multilingual capabilities make it a breeze to duplicate websites in multiple languages.
    A Comprehensive Guide to Umbraco
    A Comprehensive Guide to Umbraco
    READ NOW

    Umbraco Cloud

    Everything mentioned above plus all-in-one Microsoft Azure hosting gives you access to clever and simpler workflows, frees you from manual upgrading, and makes painful deployment a thing of the past. Read on for more benefits from the Umbraco Cloud:
    All-in-one hosting
    State-of-the-art managed hosting on Microsoft Azure saves time on IT tasks like server setup, version upgrades, and painful deployments.
    BaselineFlow
    BaselineFlow allows you to reuse existing project components with one click, rather than repetitive project setup. This ensures consistency and quality across sites, and helps accurately predict project cost and time.
    Content flow
    Content editing and publishing can occur alongside feature developments in separate environments with Umbraco’s ContentFlow process.
    Scalable solution
    Flexibility and predictability in projects means Umbraco is scalable for use on 1 project or 100, for both low and high scale information and campaign sites.
    Central user management
    Permissions and preferences are centrally controlled by you — perfect for managing your team, working with external collaborators, and giving clients access to review, test, and provide feedback along the way.
    Platform independent
    Umbraco Cloud can be used by Mac and PC developers.
    Solid infrastructure
    Umbraco Cloud was built on a proven solid infrastructure with guaranteed 99.9% uptime.
    Automated upgrades
    Umbraco Cloud automatically upgrades to the latest version of Umbraco, so no work is required to stay up-to-date.
    Live support
    When the Umbraco community isn’t able to help, you can chat with an expert with Umbraco’s live support.
    Strong community
    Umbraco wouldn’t be everything it is without its friendly and dedicated community of 220,000. At Flightpath, we frequently host Umbraco Meetups to get together with other developers from across the board to talk about challenges and ideas related to Umbraco. Visit this page if you’re interested in attending an Umbraco Meetup.

    Umbraco Gold partners

    At Flightpath, we’re happy to be one of Umbraco’s Gold partners. This means that we have certified Umbraco experts in-house, and support the core Umbraco CMS. Umbraco has 468 registered partners and 55 Gold partners. We’re proud to be the only Umbraco Gold partner in NYC! If you’d like to chat with our team to see if Umbraco is right for your project, you can reach us here.
    DIGITAL TRENDS 2017
    Watch the 2017 Digital Trends Webinar
    WATCH NOW
    ]]>

    Solve Your B2B Sales Problem With Content Marketing

    Making the case for B2B content marketing

    Making a Case for Content Webinar
    Learn how to create content to solve your B2B sales problem.
    SIGN ME UP

    Rethinking your sales and marketing

    A strong sales culture with an emphasis on prospecting is still appropriate, but marketing’s role must be diverted away from tactics that create branding and awareness and toward lead generation and lead intelligence for sales. Put another way, marketing’s focus should be to drive one-to-one conversations digitally, helping to supplement the sales person’s ability to prospect and qualify. Doing this correctly is not a simple fix. And it’s not a series of projects that can be assigned to marketing either. It requires a complete rethinking in the way that we approach marketing. Marketing must be aligned with sales in B2B companies with a complex sale if they’re going to grow revenue— period. Its new role can be better defined as generating interest for sales through content that adds value, creates experience, and provides thought leadership to generate conversations at all stages of the sales funnel. In other words, marketing needs to drive one-to-one sales conversations digitally.

    The case for content

    It is now marketing’s burden to build as much of that trust online as possible by providing thought leadership and other forms of engaging content that creates a unique experience for the consumer. It starts with the creation of content that is going to identify some lead intelligence on a prospect when they interact with it, which is why the content strategy and mapping to the sales process is so important. When marketing produces great content such as a compelling white paper, it can replace some of what the traditional sales professional used to be able to do on their own by knocking on doors, making cold calls, and attending networking events and conferences.

    Getting to know your customer

    Before you start pumping out blogs and buying marketing automation systems, it’s time to get to know your audience. Involve every part of your team, from customer service, to account leads, to executives. They all know something about the customer that you don’t. The hard truth for many business owners is that no one cares about you. They care about their own problems, and if you have something that can solve it, they’ll be all ears. For a step-by-step guide on creating a content strategy Download our workbook “How to Create a Purposeful Content Strategy.”

    Sales and marketing unite

    A good sales prospector should be able to use marketing’s support in the digital world to prioritize his or her prospecting efforts. Content marketing programs done in conjunction with sales creates significant lead intelligence to warm up calls and help the salesperson to prioritize their efforts.
    B2B CONTENT MARKETING
    Learn how to create content to solve your B2B sales problem.
    LET’S GO
    ]]>

    The Digital Path to Philanthropy

    How tech has changed philanthropy

    General Assembly’s Digital Philanthropy panel. Our team at Flightpath is proud to be involved with a number of nonprofit organizations in helping increase their digital footprint and improving their communication initiatives, so we were eager to learn more about the ways technology has changed the concept of giving. The panel featured Mike Seiler, Jen Bokoff, Ariel Azoff, and Greg Levin, and was moderated by Julie Levy, philanthropist and founder of Why We Give. The emergence of social media and other technological advances has had a huge impact on philanthropy. It’s been a positive change in most cases — increasing awareness and a building a sense of community — but how far does a ‘like’ or ‘share’ really go in helping these nonprofits?

    How technology is changing philanthropy for the better

      There are many new platforms that help nonprofits reach new supporters and mobilize existing supporters, but the biggest topic of conversation in the panel is also perhaps the most impactful medium: social media. Social media has given nonprofit organizations the ability to reach targeted audiences through advertising and promoted posts. Targeting capabilities have given organizations the ability to engage a younger audience, and has connected future philanthropists with a cause they’re passionate about. The rise of social media has also given organizations the power to quickly and effectively disseminate information. When a message is sent through social media, it has the power to bring people together to then mobilize them to take action. Technology has also reduced the role of intermediaries in philanthropy so supporters can donate directly to people and projects. People are often skeptical about where their money is going when donating to an organization. Removing intermediaries often gives philanthropists the opportunity to see exactly where their money is being used within a particular organization. Social amplification means that with the right content, nonprofits can get a lot of exposure. It also puts the power in the user’s hands. These days, anyone can be a philanthropist or an activist, which is great for empowering people and getting them to care about a cause. But is this amplification always reflected in a nonprofit’s success?

    The role of ‘slacktivists’ in philanthropy

      Slacktivism consists of people who take action online by ‘liking’ a post or signing a petition, but don’t go very far beyond that digital action. Slacktivists are interested and perhaps involved on a surface level, but they aren’t known to do anything that requires more than the dragging and clicking of a mouse. As mentioned before, this social engagement guarantees exposure, which often leads to an increased volume of donations. The ALS ice bucket challenge is a perfect example of this. Close to 17 million people participated in the ice bucket challenge, and the social actions were reflected in the $220 million the ALS Foundation raised from the challenge. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. People are often overwhelmed with so many calls to action on social media that they aren’t sure where to focus their energy. This leads to a form of paralysis and the idea that ‘someone else will do it’. But many people find that social interaction is often a bridge to more action. A person is probably more likely to take real action after they’ve shared something. It makes sense — if you care enough about a cause to tell your friends and family about it, you probably care enough to make a donation. So it seems that slacktivism is the precursor to activism. As marketers, we’re all too familiar with this idea. The slacktivists are top-of-funnel customers who might engage but only in a passive way. But that ‘like’ isn’t meaningless. It’s the first step in to the sales cycle, or in this case, the path to giving. What can nonprofit organizations do to turn slacktivists into activists, and use technology to their advantage?
    • Tell stories. The demand for authentic stories is high these days, and a story that creates empathy and connection can be powerful.
    • Filter calls to action so people can make smart decisions.
    • Provide next steps. It’s easy to write a check, but what’s next? Sites like Catchafire match professionals with nonprofits that can benefit from their skill set. This allows people to help in a direct way beyond making a donation.
    We left the Digital Philanthropy panel inspired by the panelists and moderator to seek out ways to create philanthropists out of everyone using the technology we have available to us. We look forward to the challenge of turning slacktivists into activists using the emotional power of storytelling to make an impact. Thanks to General Assembly for an enlightening evening.
    DIGITAL TRENDS 2017
    Watch the 2017 Digital Trends Webinar
    WATCH NOW
    ]]>

    How to Use Micro-Moments to Your Advantage

    Showing up in micro moments

    “A good guiding principle is this: be there across all stages of the consumer journey, not just when someone is ready to buy. To accomplish this, consider four key moment types that represent the full range of user needs,” Think with Google said in its whitepaper. Learning about micro-moments opens the door to new tactics for your brand that you didn’t know existed. We’ve gone a little deeper in explaining what these moments are, and how your brand can appear in these moments in a positive way. Read on to get inspired.

    I-want-to-know moments

    People search Google over 40,000 times per second. And when they do, they want an answer fast. How can you make your brand relevant here? Answer any potential question that could arise that your brand can answer effectively. For example, let’s say you work for S’well Bottles. Think of questions your potential customers could be asking. Search Google with queries like ‘are S’well water bottles,’ and see what questions appear in autocomplete. This will give you a great starting point. Google search query Also, scroll to the bottom of the search engine results page after searching for your product to see relevant searches for more content ideas. Google search query 2 These are some of many ‘I-want-to-know’ moments related to your brand, and the perfect opportunity for you to provide the necessary information to move your customer down the funnel. Write blog posts, promote user testimonials, or create FAQ landing pages that answer these questions and more. Most importantly, talk directly to customers to see what questions they need answered that you might not have found on Google. Think about sending out surveys to customers or talk to your company’s sales or customer service teams. The employees that are in contact the most with customers are extremely valuable for this research. Lastly, think outside your brand. You should be able to answer every question a potential customer has about your brand, but what about your industry? Think about searches like ‘best birthday presents for healthy friends,’ or ‘workout accessories,’ or ‘how much water should I drink everyday?’ The goal is to become a trusted source in your area of expertise to eventually build a relationship and drive sales. Start building out a content idea list based on the questions that arise in this research to make sure your brand is showing up in the “I-want-to-know” moments.

    I-want-to-go moments

    According to Google, “near me” searches have grown 2X in the past year. This is a big opportunity if you have a storefront or consumer-facing location. How can you make your business known when people are searching? Use location signals to highlight your store location or inventory. Your store’s location should be clearly stated on your website and app, and you might even provide directions to take it a step further. Consider buying AdWords for your store’s location or popular products. When searching lululemon on my phone, I’m served an ad that provides nearby locations with hyperlinked addresses and phone numbers. lululemon search results But like we said earlier, think outside your brand. Using AdWords to take advantage of “near me” searches can be great for people who are searching with less specific intent, like ‘yoga clothes near me’ rather than ‘lululemon.’ yoga clothes near me google results Play with AdWords and make your location and inventory known to make your brand relevant in “I-want-to-go” moments.

    I-want-to-do moments

    These are the “how-to” moments. An obvious example would be a company that makes chocolate chips providing chocolate chip cookie recipes on their site. And, though obvious, it works. To provide an example from our agency, we produce content around the search phrase “when should I redo my website.” When users come to our site to view these blog posts and download whitepapers, it provides us with valuable lead intelligence in addition to giving us the ability to help out our potential customers. The number one goal should be helping out whoever’s reading your content, but the lead intel is an added benefit. When we know who’s looking into redoing a website, we can segment them and provide more relevant content to continue nurturing them down the path to purchase. Google suggests creating video content for these moments, as more than 100 million hours of “how-to” content have been watched in North America already this year. We recommend providing subtitles as many people don’t use audio when watching videos. Recently, I searched for ‘how to remove Macbook battery.’ It resulted in many helpful videos, but none of them were branded. If a local tech repair shop created their own how-to videos, I’d likely come to terms with the fact that I shouldn’t be removing my battery myself, and take it to the shop so they could handle the repair. Regardless of type, your brand should be prepared for these “I-want-to-do” moments with how-to content.
    CONTENT STRATEGY WORKBOOK
    Boost your engagement with the Content Strategy Workbook.
    GET STARTED

    I-want-to-buy moments

    The “I-want-to-buy” moments can happen anywhere, but these are your top-of-funnel users making purchase decisions. These moments can happen in store, at home, at work — anywhere. So it’s important that you consider location and time of search to provide the most relevant content for users. Last week, I searched for “best moisturizing face mask” while I was at home. This search resulted in an ad for a mask from skincare company Glossier. I then searched for user reviews and shortly after purchased the product online. It was that simple. An ad with the right keywords and some positive user reviews convinced me to purchase. Note that this ad is for a product and not a brand. In this case, the product ad was much more effective than an ad for the skincare brand would have been. best moisturizing face cream google results People are constantly looking for help deciding what to buy. If your brand can help people make that decision, you should do everything in your power to make that happen. The opportunity you can’t afford to miss: when people are comparing products before making a purchase. Take advantage of this opportunity by encouraging your users to leave product reviews on your website and making these reviews easily accessible on mobile. This is also an opportunity to reach out to influencers relevant to your industry who will review your products on their own site or YouTube. Aside from ramping up your user reviews, make sure your brand is answering the questions your users are asking before making a purchase. This goes back to the ‘I-want-to-know’ moments, but with a higher purchase intent. Your messaging should be relevant according to the time and location of a search. It should also be easy for a customer to purchase on your site. Any hiccups in the purchase process will likely deter customers. Being prepared for the “I-want-to-buy” moments will likely make or break a business transaction.

    How to win in micro-moments

    You probably noticed that all of the search examples we mentioned in this article are actionable. A user is asking a question because she wants to buy something, make something, or do something. That’s what differentiates mobile search and defines the opportunity for marketers to take advantage of these micro-moments. A user is looking to be influenced in some way, and that’s your opportunity to engage. [Tweet “A user is looking to be influenced in some way, and that’s your opportunity to engage.”] So how do we win in these moments? First, consider the user’s intent and context. Make sure you’re appearing where people are searching, and provide relevant and useful information that will direct their decision. Finally, make it seamless to complete the sale on mobile and desktop. In short, the brands that are able to answer questions in a fast and useful way are likely to get the business if the purchase process is as simple as the research process.]]>

    5 Ways Your Marketing Team is Missing Sales Opportunities

    5 reasons your marketing is missing sales opportunities

    1. Put your content strategy first, branding second. If you’re still marketing from the standpoint of building brand awareness, stop. No one cares about you, your products, your tagline, or your brand—at least, not yet. They care about the fact that they have a problem they must solve, and if they don’t, they might lose their job. If you can solve that problem, then they’ll talk to you. Today’s marketing must focus on digitally replacing some of the sales conversations that sales people used to be able to get on their own. And so the idea of mass marketing is out. People don’t want to be sold to, and they won’t tolerate disruption (which is why Netflix, HBO and Amazon are quickly replacing cable subscriptions.) Branding comes ONLY as a side benefit of a content strategy that focuses on thought leadership and creates experience. In other words, if your content is worth reading, they’ll watch out for your emails and blog posts, and may even reach out to you directly if they think you can solve their problem. And when it happens that way, it’s awesome. I’ve seen numerous situations where someone has read a blog post, picked up the phone, and became a client that day. But since they don’t all work quite that smoothly, you need to focus on lead intelligence, which brings us to:

    2. Your conversions aren’t really providing lead intelligence.

    People are coming to your website, reading your blogs, and downloading your white papers—but they’re not (and will never be) prospects. If that’s the case, the reason probably comes down to the fact that your conversion asset doesn’t provide any real lead intelligence. Your gated assets are your most powerful opportunities to convert anonymous web traffic into audience—but it can’t just be any piece of content. Obviously, the more value it provides, the better the leads—but that’s still not enough. Whatever it is, it must speak directly to the typical pain points a customer has (and that you can solve) so it triggers a sales conversation either now, or in the future. Remember, it’s not about volume, mass media marketing anymore—it’s about finding the individuals that are sitting at their desks, wondering how they are going to solve a problem. To start:
    • What are the things that keep your prospects up at night?
    • What are some of the typical business challenges they face and are trying to solve?
    • As they’re exploring solutions to those business problems, what are the things they’ll care about throughout their buying process? (For example, are they an early stage shopper, are they looking at vendors, or are they actually narrowing down their selection?)
    And here’s the other problem—if the asset that lives on the other side of that gate is crap, the reader might feel tricked and never visit your site again. One of the biggest signs that you’re producing crappy content is that:

    3. Your content isn’t fully integrated with your sales process.

    Speaking of typical pain points and buying triggers, if you’re not putting out regular content that speaks to these issues on a regular basis for readers to find, you’re missing opportunities. Usually, this happens when marketing still operates within the silo of branding and awareness rather than getting their content topics directly from sales. Sales people are at the front lines of customer and prospect interactions. They know what causes people to look for solutions like theirs, and if marketing isn’t helping to identify more at every stage of the funnel, sales is left to do it on their own, and will most likely miss quota. This won’t work if you’re just assigning blogs, articles and white papers as tactics to marketing. It requires an ongoing process of listening and developing content that meets the pains and objections of prospects on a regular basis. If marketing is producing content this way, and sales isn’t using it to open doors, then that’s another problem, which leads to:

    4. Sales and business development are not educated on how to use content to their advantage.

    Vendors have far less control over the sales process than they used to. It’s a hard truth for the salesperson who always thought they were awesome at prospecting. They used to be the gatekeepers of information about the products and services from the company. But now, the buyer has significantly more control. They buy when they’re good and ready, and prefer to do research on their own before engaging with a sales person. But when they do, it’s usually a higher level of engagement. “Today’s buyers control their journey through the buying cycle much more than today’s vendors control the selling cycle,” Lori Wizdo from Forrester said. “In a recent survey, 74% of business buyers told us that they conduct more than half of their research online before making an offline purchase.” That has also led to the expansion of marketing’s responsibility for the full life cycle of the consumer, and the complexity brought on by all of the different channels. But one of the biggest mistakes that sales people make today is to simply reject marketing’s leads because they aren’t ready at that time to take a meeting. Building an engaged audience means that we’re nurturing prospects with relevant content over time, and when they’re ready, they’ll be receptive to your call. The bottom line for sales people is that it’s not about the number of touches anymore. It’s about how you use the lead intelligence collected by marketing in various formats to prioritize your outreach that will lead to sales conversations based on known problems that you can solve.

    5. You don’t have the right collection and analysis tools in place.

    In the B2B world, if you’re just sending out emails and tracking open and click-through rates, you’re missing opportunities. For this whole thing to work, you need a marketing automation system combined with a Customer Relationship Management tool to track all digital behavior by that prospect over time. For example, as a sales person, I want to pull up a lead record in the CRM and see everything that prospect has engaged with. This information arms me with several follow up ideas based on what they’ve clicked that might lead to a sales conversation. I also know what else in my content library I have at my disposal to send them and nurture them down a path to buying. Here are some examples of what today’s B2B sales person wants to see for each lead record:
    • Web pages they’ve viewed, webinars they’ve attended, white papers they’ve downloaded, newsletter articles they’ve clicked on, etc. These things provide the sales person with an indication of what to talk about and provide insight.
    • Once a qualifying sales conversation has taken place, who is involved in the decision? What’s their buying process? What’s their timeframe?
    • How far down the sales cycle are they? Are they just starting to research or are they down to vendor selection?
    Now that you have some insight into how sales and marketing should work together, it’s time to get to work on your content strategy. Marketing should work hand-in-hand with sales to produce highly relevant content to bring in the most qualified leads.
    B2B CONTENT MARKETING
    Learn how to create content to solve your B2B sales problem.
    LET’S GO
    ]]>

    5 Essential Chrome Extensions for Designers

    5 of the best Chrome extensions

    Steven Louie, so rest assured it’ll be worth your while to try them out. Enjoy!  

     PerfectPixel

    What is is: An extension that helps develop websites with per pixel accuracy What we use it for: We use PerfectPixel to place a semi-transparent image overlay on the top of developed HTML for a per pixel comparison Download it here  

     GetThemAll Video Downloader

    What is is: Universal video and file downloader What we use it for: To find all downloadable files on a web page and download multiple files at once Download it here  

     What Font

    What is is: Font identifier What we use it for: Hover over web fonts to discover the font type, size, weight, and line height Download it here  

     Window Resizer

    What is is: Google Chrome window resizer What we use it for: Quickly view different window sizes to test user functionality Download it here  

     Full Page Screen Capture

    What is is: Makes for easy full page screenshotting What we use it for: Ever tried to scroll while taking a screenshot to capture the whole page? We use this app often to turn full web pages into images Download it here Did we miss anything? Tweet at us @Flightpathny to share your favorite Chrome extensions for designers.
    CONTENT MARKETING MASTER QUIZ
    Are you a content marketing master? Take the quiz to find out.
    QUIZ ME
    ]]>

    Digital Trends You Need to Try in 2017

    2017 Digital Trends

    1. High expectations Customer experience has been a hot topic for the past year, and it seems the more we focus on creating a positive customer experience, the more demanding customers become. Companies like Casper and SoulCycle are setting the bar high by putting their customers’ happiness first. When Casper unexpectedly ran out of mattresses during their initial launch, they ordered air mattresses on Amazon for the customers whose mattresses were backordered. They even put some people in hotel rooms while they waited for their mattress to arrive. Though costly, this was a smart move because a.) it was the first move of many that’s declared Casper’s customer service over-the-top, and b.) they kept customers that they otherwise would have lost to a competitor (and mattress purchase lifecycles are typically six years or longer-making it worth the effort to beat out mattress competitors). If a customer doesn’t enjoy her experience in a SoulCycle class, they’re given a free class credit to try it again. SoulCycle does this because a bad experience could keep a customer from returning, but a free class provides a second chance for a better experience, which raises the likelihood they’ll return. After all, retaining customers is cheaper than attracting new ones. Aside from delighting existing customers and bringing in lots of new ones, companies like SoulCycle and Casper have set a standard for companies to go out of their way to see to their customers’ needs. Focus on delighting your customers in 2017. Whether it’s developing an easy-to-navigate app or website, or hiring cheery customer service representatives, your customers will be expecting their experience to be seamless, so make it a priority for 2017.

    2. Authentically mobile experiences

    Do you have any apps on your phone that you’ve never accessed on a desktop? Think: Uber, Snapchat, Pokemon Go. These are authentically mobile experiences because they were designed with a mobile-first mindset. You can easily navigate the apps on your phone, no pinching and zooming necessary. There also aren’t too many options in these applications. A simple menu or settings screen is all that’s necessary to complement the app’s primary function. If your business or service can’t be converted to a standalone mobile experience, there are still plenty of opportunities to prepare your company for the mobile-first world. Focus on making your customer journey as simple as possible on a mobile device. Responsive website design and large form fields are good places to start. Take some time to explore chatbots and mobile payments to see if either could be a fit for your business. As Google has begun testing its mobile-first index, mobile optimization should be at the top of your list this year.

    3. Video everywhere

    Video continues to dominate as the format of choice. Adults are spending an average of 1 hour and 15 minutes consuming video each day. Video has proven to be effective in email and on websites in driving conversions and increasing customer loyalty. Just seeing the word ‘video’ in email subject lines leads to an increased open rate of 19%, according to Hyperfine Media. So what can you do to keep up with the trend? Explore new video formats like 360 video and livestreaming. Give Facebook Live or Periscope a try, and if Snapchat is a good fit for your brand, now’s the time to get on the platform. Just making videos isn’t going to drive conversions and boost sales, though. Your content should be relevant and entertaining. We live in an era of “infotainment,” a response to consumer demands for better content over ads. Think: Tasty and GoPro. Consumers need to digest information but be entertained at the same time. Finding a balance of entertainment and information engages users, grows awareness, and develops trust.
    DIGITAL TRENDS 2017
    Watch the 2017 Digital Trends Webinar
    WATCH NOW

    4. Marketing automation

    The use of marketing automation software like HubSpot, Marketo, and Salesforce is continuing to grow. For those who aren’t familiar, marketing automation is a category of software that streamlines, automates, and measures marketing tasks and workflows so companies can increase operational efficiency and grow revenue faster. Ease of building landing pages, creating emails, social media distribution, and CRM integration allow for marketing and sales alignment and lead generation and segmentation. While there are important differences between marketing automation platforms, success is often primarily determined by strategy and process, content and lead flow, and lead quality. Having enough content is often the most underestimated challenge for successful marketing automation. Original, high quality content is a must-have for consistent lead generation and nurturing. This content should be based on a solid understanding of your target personas so that messaging resonates with your audience. While content marketing can be low cost, it requires a large amount of pre-work (persona research) and maintenance. For a step-by-step guide on creating a content strategy: Download our workbook “How to Create a Purposeful Content Strategy.”

    5. Data attribution

    The consumer decision journey has been fractured into hundreds of tiny decision-making moments at every stage of the funnel. Many companies have worked to engage the customer in all category-relevant micro moments. But 2017 will emphasize the importance of measuring and attributing that data. Consumers take a multi-device path to purchase, and with advancing technology, we’re able to see those touchpoints. Enhanced attribution analysis can enable us to truly understand our customers’ experience. This year, work on understanding the interplay between multiple channels and devices. In a strong modeling methodology, values are assigned to marketing touch points, helping you quantify your marketing returns. Improving your data attribution can inform your marketing mix.

    Register for the webinar

    We hope reading through this list has helped open your eyes to what your company should focus on in the new year, and inspired you to start a project or two. Take a deep dive into these trends and others Register for the webinar 2017 Digital Trends | Thursday, January 26  ]]>

    How Often Should You Redo Your Website?

    How often should you redo your website?

    “Is my website continually producing satisfactory results?”   If your answer to the question is “yes,” and you haven’t updated your site in 5 years, or just redesigned last month, your decision should be obvious. To put it plainly: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Most likely, your answer to the question is ‘no.’ Your sales could be declining or your leads could be lowering in quality. Maybe you’ve never gotten great results from your site. In which case, it’s probably time to redo it. Regardless, if your website isn’t yielding the results you want, you should make some changes. This list of indicators can help you decide whether or not it’s time for an update, and help direct your focus to the parts of your site that need to be improved. If you’re suffering from any of the following, your site could use some improvements.  

    1. It’s not helping you drive demand

    Like we mentioned earlier, if your lead generation is low, it’s time to revamp your website. If this is the case, find the source of the problem. A ‘redesign’ just for the sake of it won’t help anyone. Is your homepage lacking clear CTAs? Does your homepage pass the 5-second test? If someone seeing your site for the first time can’t guess what your company does from glancing at the homepage for 5 seconds, prioritize clarifying your value proposition on your site’s homepage. You should also examine your user journeys. Odds are, that experience could be improved upon to help drive demand.  

    2. Your visitors are bouncing

    If you get decent traffic, but all your visitors are bouncing, it’s possible that your site’s appearing in irrelevant search results. For example, if you’re running Google AdWords for ‘dress shoes’ but only sell children’s dress shoes, you’d bring in visitors that don’t belong on your site. Make it clear what people will be getting before they get to your page by utilizing titles and meta descriptions and optimizing on AdWords. Also, make sure your website passes the 5-second test mentioned earlier. If people are brought to the website they’re intending to visit and they land on an easy-to-navigate site with clear CTAs, they’ll be more likely to stay a while.  

    3. Your users aren’t converting

    This is similar to the above issue, but in this case you know you’re targeting the right audience. Your site visitors spend time on your site on multiple pages but then never convert. This probably means that you need to focus on your customer journey when redesigning your site. Your customers should be able to navigate their way around your site in their preferred medium, at their preferred time, on their preferred device. Focus on your user’s experience to bump up that conversion rate. Your objective is to help users find what they didn’t know they were looking for, which can be accomplished by creating enticing content and improving your user experience.  

    4. Your buyers aren’t finding you in the first place

    If you aren’t appearing in searches or are having trouble bringing in your target audience, it’s time to do some search engine optimization and persona research. First, do you know your buyer personas? This is required research before redoing a website. You must learn who’s visiting your site and why, and what interests and inspires those people in order to build a site that properly serves them. If this is news to you, have no fear. We’ve created an effective and actionable workbook that goes through the whole process of researching and building your buyer personas. Complete the workbook “How to Create a Purposeful Content Strategy” to build out your buyer personas. Now you know your target audience. But you’re still having trouble getting them on your site. This is where SEO comes in. Google’s latest update favors original, high-quality content. Make sure your company has a quality blog that offers relevant thought leadership and be sure to update it often. If you think you’re behind in more ways than just a lack of fresh content, it may be that you need to redo your website with current SEO trends in mind to improve your site’s ranking. Check out the comprehensive SEO checklist to see if your site is up to speed. Search engine optimization and persona research can massively improve the quality of the leads you’re attracting on your site. But these both must be done before designing your site. Think about SEO and persona research like blueprints for your website. SEO will help determine your site’s architecture, while your personas will be who you build your website around.  

    5. Your site is not optimized for a mobile device

    With Google’s recent updates expanding mobile friendliness as a ranking signal, it’s clear that mobile is the direction we all should be headed. Even if you have a B2B site and few users are tracking from mobile devices, your SEO is still going to suffer without an update. The time has come to bite the bullet and optimize your site for mobile, no matter where your customers are coming from.
    Is Umbraco the Right CMS for you?
    Is Umbraco the Right CMS for you?
    FIND OUT
     

    6. You can’t update your site easily

    If you’re not using a Content Management System, it’s likely that your site isn’t updated with fresh content often, and there’s probably some outdated content on there too. When you redevelop your site, take a look at Umbraco or Drupal as CMS options. Because of Google’s tendency to favor sites that are updated often, switching to a CMS is necessary. Your site’s managers will be grateful for the ability to quickly and easily swap out content without needing to use code.  

    7. You aren’t using HTTPS

    HTTPS used to only be used by e-commerce sites and other websites that handled secure information. Nowadays, however, it’s becoming increasingly important that every site use HTTPS for SEO, increased page speed, user perception, and security. If you aren’t convinced your site should be using HTTPS, check out the 5 Reasons You Should be Using HTTPS. While beginning to use HTTPS won’t require redoing your website, you will have to purchase an SSL certificate and set up 301 redirects, so it will require involving your tech team. In short, it’s time to update your website if it isn’t accomplishing what you want it to accomplish. And if it isn’t, pinpoint the problems and get down to the source of those problems. Your conversion rate might be lower than you’d like, so focus on improving the customer journey to solve that problem. Your redesign should revolve around fixing the problems you’re facing. With a clear direction and thorough research, the resources that go into redoing your site will be well worth it for your business.
    See if Umbraco is Right For You
    Need a new CMS?
    See if Umbraco is
    right for you.
    GET THE WHITEPAPER
    ]]>

    Reporting from WordCamp

    WordCamp 2016

    WordCamp is a conference that focuses on anything and everything WordPress. They’re wonderfully informal, community-organized events that are put together by WordPress volunteers. Everyone from casual users to core WP developers and contributors participate, share ideas, and get to know one another. WordCamps have been held all over the world going back as far as 2006, and this year Belgium had its first Wordcamp in Antwerp!

    Recently, l attended WordCamp USA in Philadelphia along with 1,800 other WordPress users ranging from casual bloggers, marketing professionals, experienced designers, tech enthusiasts, and leading technologists. Here’s a break down of a few of my favorite talks I attended while at WordCamp:

    Design For Humans Not Robots

     

    Tammie Lister was a delightfully brilliant speaker who illustrated the importance of designing for humans and not for robots. Too often, according to Lister, design lacks humanity. Take, for example, the very popular CAPTCHA: I’m not a robot.

    “If you’re put into a position that you need to prove that you are human and not a robot … that’s probably not a very good way to have an interface,” Lister said.

    via GIPHY

    She speaks at great length to use cases and testing cases where we construct these very particular environments where we focus 100% of our attention on the thing we are doing without taking into account that the person using it likely won’t be giving your application 100% of their attention. They’ll be stirring soup, listening to music, having a conversation, and you know, doing other human things.

    My takeaway here was that the default in design should not be that I need to prove I am NOT a robot. I am a human until proven robot, not the other way around, and that what I’m creating isn’t about me and what I want and what makes sense to me. Developers need to think about the end user and what makes sense for them.

    How To Talk Content

     

    Lisa Melegari took a deep dive into how to talk ‘content’ from a developer standpoint. As a developer who knows little about content, I knew this talk would benefit me. I’ve been meaning to get into blogging myself for a while, but I’m always held back by the same self-defeating thought: I don’t know where to begin.

    “The blank slate paralyzes clients,” Melegari said. And this couldn’t be more true.

    Melegari says to not use the word ‘content’ and to break it down into actual concrete things I need. Having the client fill out an onboarding questionnaire asking for age ranges, audience targets, existing assets, or the person in charge of creating those assets is invaluable as it gets the client to think in specific terms. And when designing or developing a site for someone, specifics are vital.

    This was a wildly helpful new way to look at generating content for my own hypothetical blog I swear I’ll create someday. I can absolutely identify with the quote about content paralyzing the client. It ought to be a best practice to break down what I want from the client into bite-sized chunks of real identifiable assets instead of vague jargon like ‘content’ or ‘filler text’. While I understand what those words mean, of course, they do nothing to elicit a creative response.

    Teaching the FBI to Photoblog with WordPress

     

    When you say “WordPress” I admit I did not think “FBI,” but for Karl Kevilus that is exactly what happened. After a friend reached out to him asking if he’d like to help the FBI set up a website, Kevilus found himself teaching the FBI how to use WordPress to catch bank robbers using bank surveillance photos and footage.

    The talk was a brilliant, hilarious, and humble look at the starting of Bandit Tracker, it’s offshoots, its successes, and it’s failures. Some successes include the hundreds of robbers brought to justice thanks to Bandit Tracker and some failures include actually inspiring robberies because Bandit Tracker gave a very succinct overview of a bank’s surveillance technology and layout. Woops. Failures and embarrassments aside, Bandit Tracker has been an invaluable resource for the FBI in catching bank robbers. So much so, that various regional duplicates have cropped up across the country.

    Philadelphia is a gorgeous city I had never been to before but will certainly be back. While the talks were engaging, I did manage to find a little spare time to try some of Philly’s world famous delicacies such as the Philly Cheesesteak. I’d had generic cheesesteaks before, of course, and had never really thought them to be anything all that special but this completely changed the game and altered my view on the sandwich. For those curious, I got it with wiz and it was delicious.

    All in all, WordCamp was an amazing experience that I will absolutely be repeating in years to come.

    CONTENT STRATEGY WORKBOOK

    Boost your engagement with the Content Strategy Workbook.

    GET STARTED

    5 Reasons to Use HTTPS Everywhere

    5 Reasons to use HTTPS everywhere

    Not so long ago, only e-commerce sites and other sites that handle secure information used HTTPS, the secure (encrypted) version of the protocol for web communications. But nowadays, it is increasingly common for any site to use HTTPS. There are many reasons to use HTTPS on your site, but here are 5 big ones:

    1. SEO

    A couple years ago Google announced that HTTPS will be used as a ranking signal. This means that sites that use HTTPS will get a small boost in SEO juice. While Google states this will start as a “very lightweight signal” they have stated that they may decide to increase it over time.

    Download the tool:
    SEO Audit Checklist

    2. User Perception

    Google has announced beginning in July 2018 Chrome will mark all HTTP sites as “not secure”.

    3. Page Speed

    The speed test at www.httpvshttps.com shows there is a significant speed advantage for HTTPS. This may be a surprise to some, as historically running over an encrypted connection was considered slower. This has changed with HTTP/2.

    Is Umbraco the Right CMS for you?

    Is Umbraco the Right CMS for you?

    FIND OUT

    All major browsers support HTTP/2, the latest version of the protocol of the web. But there is a caveat – they only support it over secure connections. The speed test at www.httpvshttps.com is really comparing HTTP 1.1 with no encryption versus HTTP/2 with encryption. HTTP/2 offers significant performance improvements, so having your site load over HTTP/2 can improve the page load speed significantly, but it only works if you use HTTPS.

    4. Security

    This, of course, is the original and most important reason to use HTTPS. The other reasons are really just nudges to encourage us to make the web more secure. HTTPS connections are encrypted. This helps ensure that no one is eavesdropping on your communications. HTTPS is required for any forms that capture credit card data, and any sites that capture sensitive data including login credentials. It also prevents a proxy from injecting content such as advertising into your site.

    5. It’s Free

    Okay, it’s not really a reason to use HTTPS, but it’s a good reason not to not use it. The SSL certificates required to run a site over HTTPS used to be expensive. You can now obtain free digital certificates from the Let’s Encrypt certificate authority. Another free option is to use the Cloudflare CDN.

    HTTPS is not a panacea. Just because a site has HTTPS, does not mean everything is safe and secure. There are many threats to information security out there. But HTTPS is becoming a ‘must have’ for just about every website.

    See if Umbraco is Right For You

    Need a new CMS?
    See if Umbraco is
    right for you.

    GET THE WHITEPAPER

    When to Move to Drupal 8

    When to upgrade to Drupal 8

    Drupal is an open source content management platform that is used by 8% of the Top 10k sites. Major websites that utilize Drupal include Memorial Sloan Kettering, Whole Foods, and The White House.

    Drupal 8 launched in November 2015 with hundreds of improvements, making it easier to use for both developers and site administrators. Since its release, there are 111,000 websites running Drupal 8, while over 1 million are still on 7.
     

    So the big question is – When should I move my site to Drupal 8?

    If your website is running Drupal 6, you should upgrade to D8 ASAP. D6’s end of life was in February and sites will no longer receive security updates for the platform and modules won’t be maintained.

    For those on Drupal 7, there isn’t a rush to upgrade as the end of life for D7 will not be until at least 2019. Drupal 7 will be supported at least until 3 months after the 9.x LTS release comes out, for which a release date has not been set.

    If you are building a new website, go straight to Drupal 8. It will be time and cost effective to start with a new D8 install.
     

    A Comprehensive Guide to Umbraco

    A Comprehensive Guide to Umbraco

    READ NOW

    Upgrading to Drupal 8

    Moving to Drupal 8 is not just an upgrade. Like any other project, you must allocate the proper budget, timeline, and resources. Developers will need to rebuild and migrate the site. There may also be a learning curve as D8 uses the Twig templating system and uses object oriented programming.

    A couple items to consider:

    • Contributed Modules – Review the modules on your current install and see if there is a Drupal 8 version. Be sure to use a stable version of the module, not a release candidate (RC), alpha or beta.
      There is a free web service called D8upgrade which scans your website and generates a report on the status of your site’s contributed modules. You can also install Upgrade Status. The module checks the list of your installed modules and shows their availability for the new version of Drupal. Its dashboard will show you notes about upgrading the project, as well as a link to download the new version.
    • Migration Process – Drupal 8 core includes the Migrate module which allows you to migrate content from your D6 or D7 site.

    As we mentioned, be sure you’re equipped with the necessary resources to move to Drupal 8 before beginning the project. Best of luck with the move!

    See if Umbraco is Right For You

    Need a new CMS?
    See if Umbraco is
    right for you.

    GET THE WHITEPAPER

    Are You a Content Marketing Master?

    Content Marketing Quiz

    You’re a blogging machine, but your content don’t seem to making a big impact. Or maybe you’re hard at work at producing ebooks and other valuable content offerings, and still, not seeing a lot of success.

    It takes a complex recipe to create a successful content marketer. Your content production could be in great shape, but there’s no point in producing if you aren’t distributing properly. Are your resources low? There could be a lot of opportunities you’re missing if you aren’t recyclying old content to increase your blog traffic.

    Take the Content Marketing quiz to find out your level of expertise, and learn what you can do to be even better.

    CONTENT MARKETING MASTER QUIZ

    Are you a content marketing master? Take the quiz to
    find out.

    QUIZ ME

    The Questions to Ask Before Redesigning Your Website

    The questions you should ask before redesigning your website

    If you think it’s time for a website redesign because you’re not getting enough quality leads, you’re probably right. But before hiring a branding company to redo your logo, consider this: you probably don’t know your buyer well enough to attract them in the first place. You may even be targeting the wrong audience.

    Making your website look nicer isn’t going to bring in more leads or drive more conversions — bringing in a loyal audience will. It’s easy to get caught up in appearances, but before thinking about how your website looks, think about who you’re selling to.

    It’s necessary to figure out not only who your potential buyers are, but also what they care about. What problems do they have (that you can potentially solve?) and where do they hang out?

    Is your company’s site lacking a differentiating factor? Odds are, whatever issue you’re having, all of them lead back to personas. The most helpful thing you can do before redesigning your website is to start with persona research.

    The first question to ask yourself when redesigning a website is “who is this website for?” Your answer shouldn’t be an aspirational one – it should tell exactly who your current buyers are. It could be that you’ve researched your buyer personas before, but you don’t know enough. Period.

    It’s important to note your personas are constantly changing. If your website isn’t performing like you’d like it to, reworking your persona targeting is the place to start.

    Knowing your audience

    Let’s say you own a flower shop. Your ideal customers may consist of wedding planners and big businesses – people who put in large orders and spend lots of money. But in reality, your most common customers are one-bouquet-buyers on anniversaries and Valentine’s Day.

    If your website homepage features deals on orders over $1,000 and flower arrangements for big events, you’re going to see a high bounce rate and will lose a lot of potential buyers. There’s an opportunity to create an ecommerce site to automate the order process and launch holiday campaigns when small orders are in demand. If you miss that opportunity because your focus is on big buyers, you’re missing out on a large portion of your potential revenue.

    You need to get real about who your buyers are. Then everything you create should target that customer directly. It all boils down to knowing your audience.

    Making a Case for Content Webinar

    Learn how to create content to solve your B2B sales problem.

    SIGN ME UP

    Building a buyer persona

    Researching your customers will eventually answer the question ‘who’s my website for?’ Send out surveys, make calls, read comments, conduct interviews, and start conversations. Getting to know your customers on a deeper level will help you understand their pain points and eventually, how your website can be developed to help solve their problems.

    Get to know what kind of jobs and positions your customers hold. What are their interests and hobbies? Building buyer personas will take time, but it will be the framework for the strategy behind your website.

    For a step-by-step guide on building buyer personas

    Download our workbook
    “How to Create a Purposeful Content Strategy.”

    The multiple audience dilemma

    It’s possible your company markets to multiple audiences. Say, for example, your website handles B2B and B2C transactions. How do you make your website target both audiences at once?

    First, find your primary target. Your homepage should cater to that audience without causing any confusion for the secondary audience. Clear calls to action will make this possible.

    If your primary target is the B2B audience, your website’s homepage should be designed around their needs. The calls to action are what prevent confusion for your B2C customers. Both B2B and B2C visitors will be able to easily navigate their way around your site if your home page has a single focus with clear calls to action. A website with one focus is significantly easier to understand than a website with multiple.

    Who are you up against?

    Researching competitors can help clarify what others are doing right that your company could improve upon. Does your primary competitor’s website provide a better user experience than your company’s site? Why is that experience better? Pointing out the differences will help inform your priorities when redesigning your website.

    Beyond inspiring design strategies and functionality improvements, competitive research is necessary to find a significant area of distinction your company can promote.

    Finding the whitespace

    Does your company have an ownable space? Or are you in a crowded market with a lot of competition? When researching your competitors, determine what area each of your competitors owns. Then, you’ll be able to find the whitespace, or area of expertise your company can own.

    If your competitors dominate in size or technique, your whitespace could be attention to detail. Find that differentiating factor and own it.

    B2B CONTENT MARKETING

    Learn how to create content to solve your B2B sales problem.

    LET’S GO

    Mapping the customer journey

    You’ve done your persona research and found your whitespace. Now that you have an ownable space, it’s time to figure out how to convey your message to the audience. You have an idea of who is visiting your site, but how are they doing it?

    Using Google Analytics, map out common user flows on your website. What are the pages people are visiting most? Are those pages optimized for your sales cycle with clear calls to action?

    Use this data to compose a series of user stories to demonstrate how a given user will be able to access and interact with your site. This will help you group and prioritize content and site functionality.

    Industry differentiation and lead generation go back to persona research

    After some thorough persona research, customer journey mapping, and discovering your whitespace, you should have a good idea of what your new website should accomplish. If you’re looking to bring in more leads, improve your conversion rate, or find your company’s differentiator, all goes back to your buyer personas.

    Knowing so much about your customers allows you to design your website around their wants and needs, creating a personalized user experience for your buyer, and increasing the likelihood that they’ll convert. Now, get to designing that site!

    See if Umbraco is Right For You

    Need a new CMS?
    See if Umbraco is
    right for you.

    GET THE WHITEPAPER

    Notes from the Forward JS Web Summit

    Forward JS

    We were lucky enough to attend the fifth Forward Web Summit this past August, a 9-day event in San Francisco devoted to JavaScript. Over the course of the week, there was a series of full-day, interactive workshops, followed by a day of panels and discussions with some of the best in the industry. We attended discussions covering advanced fundamentals, a deep dive into the React Framework, ES6, and JavaScript in the mobile browser ecosystem.

    After being fully immersed in all of the latest frameworks and buzzwords, the most thought-provoking workshop was, surprisingly, not one that covered any sort of new technology. Kyle Simpson’s Advanced JavaScript Fundamentals workshop took a step back from what’s changing in the JavaScript world, and focused on the bare bones of the language. Today, it can be overwhelmingly difficult to stay up-to-date with the latest technologies. By the time developers learn one framework, it feels like it’s time to learn another one. Also, especially for new learners, frameworks and libraries can act as a crutch for those who never bother learning plain JS. This is not to discredit something like React, as it’s an incredibly useful and efficient way to build UIs, but it’s important to have a complete understanding of JavaScript fundamentals to build upon.

    Kyle Simpson made a great point of noting how important it is to understand not only why your code doesn’t work, but also why it does work. At the beginning of the workshop, he asked, “Who has ever written JavaScript that didn’t work, and couldn’t understand why?” As expected, the entire room raised their hands. He then asked, “Who has ever written JavaScript that did work, and couldn’t understand why?” yielding the same response. Every developer has experienced magically functioning JavaScript that works in a way they didn’t expect. Especially living in an age where a Stack Overflow solution is just a Google search away, developers can copy and paste a script without fully understanding it. Short-term, this may work, but it disadvantages the developer upon modifications and debugging. While it’s useful to read books and watch tutorials that only cover “the good parts” of JavaScript, developers should aim to grasp the language in its entirety.

    Overall, Forward JS was an eye-opening week of professional development. Attending workshops and courses gave us a new perspective on the JavaScript world. Aside from the courses, Forward JS was a great way to meet with other developers, exchange thoughts on the language, and gain insight on what other people are learning. We learned a lot in San Francisco this year and look forward to attending other Forward events in the future!

    THE SEO AUDIT CHECKLIST

    Tackle every element of SEO for your site.

    GET THE TOOL

    How Brands Should Use Pinterest for the Holidays

    Pinterest Marketing for the Holidays

    When I first started experimenting with Pinterest in 2010, I was inspired to plan, shop, and get organized. I also saw quite a few missed opportunities. The early days of Pinterest featured a lot of broken links, 404 Errors, and links to blog posts that took up to 10 seconds to load. Here I was, an eager shopper with my credit card balancing on my laptop keyboard, unable to locate the product I was ready to purchase.

    Fast forward six years and Pinterest has really grown up. The platform has evolved from a lookbook of sorts to a natural extension of e-commerce sites. Pinterest convinced brands who before saw social media as just a ‘brand awareness play’ that it could be much more than that. Pinterest is a platform that directly drives conversions when done right.

    With the holidays underway, now is an ideal time for brands to ramp up Pinterest marketing to meet Q4 goals. Pinterest is a platform for planners (say that five times fast), so it’s likely users are going to be flocking to the site this holiday season to search for gifts, decorations, and the perfect holiday party outfit. Before you dive in, check out our tips to get you ready to market on Pinterest. We’ll cover design best practices, search intent, audience demographics, and the Pinterest customer decision journey.

    Ask and you shall discover

    Pinterest is both an “answer engine” and a “discovery engine.” Brittany Richter from iProspect spoke about this on a recent webinar held by AdWeek. While I may search for ‘Vince Sweaters’ and get the answer I’m looking for: a display of this season’s fall sweater line by Vince, I may also stumble upon a similar-looking sweater from a different brand at a significantly lower price point. Hence the ‘discovery’ aspect.

    Pinterest screenshot

    These are the results displayed on my Pinterest account when searching ‘Vince sweater.’

    Pinterest screenshot

    While most of the results from the search “Vince sweaters” displayed Vince sweaters (typically a $250 price point), there was a Promoted Pin from Azbro with a similar looking sweater for $20.99.

    Pinterest screenshot

    The Pin drives directly to the product page on Azbro’s website. Talk about a direct path to purchase.

    A place where brands fit in

    Unlike all other social media platforms, Pinterest is a welcome place for brands. While a well-produced ad can get positive feedback on Facebook or Instagram, a lot of what brands put into those platforms is invasive and unwanted.

    Not unlike the other platforms, Pinterest ads must be done right to serve their purpose. But the majority of content on Pinterest comes from brands, and users take no issue with it. This is because users are typically searching pinterest with intent. But more on this later. First, we’re going to jump into some Promoted Pin hits and misses.

    Fit in without blending in

    Just like on Facebook, your Homepage on Pinterest is tailored to your specific taste and behavior. A typical mix of content on my Homepage these days can feature home decor, fall fashion, beauty tips, and dogs. The screenshot below features all of these in both organic and promoted posts.

    Screenshot from Pinterest
    Promoted Pins from Casper and Honest Beauty fit into the feed seamlessly.

    The two Promoted Pins in this screen grab, from Casper and Honest Beauty, fit into my Pinterest dashboard seamlessly as far as aesthetic. While Casper’s ad is a product feature, the imagery is simple and stylized to fit happily into my feed.

    Honest Beauty takes a less direct route with their ad by providing a free skincare trial instead of featuring products in their advertisement. Rather than using copy like ‘free offer’ or ‘get free skincare products,’ the Pin asks the user to choose their skin type. This content is fit for Pinterest because it’s personalized to the user.

    When it comes to advertising on Pinterest, it’s not a matter of blending in. Of course you don’t want a user to scroll past your ad. The ideal ad doesn’t look like branded content but also is relevant, eye catching, and visually pleasing. Casper and Honest Beauty do this successfully with their two ads.

    A quick note on sizing

    We wouldn’t want to give you advice on aesthetic without mentioning image sizing. The optimal image size for a Pin is 600px wide x 900px high. Since Pins are organized into columns, vertical Pins take up more space, and the 600 x 900 size is ideal so that the Pin doesn’t get cut off. Feel free to download our social media ad sizes cheat sheet to keep this and other ad image sizes on hand whenever you need them.

    Be careful to avoid over-branding

    The above two examples feature Pinterest-friendly products. Mattresses, while not exactly glamorous, are products Pinterest users may need. While a user may not search Pinterest directly for a new mattress, Casper knew people who are planning to move or redo a room on Pinterest will likely be looking for a new mattress as well.

    Beauty products and makeup tutorials are often among top searched topics on Pinterest, so Honest Beauty was able to advertise their brand without displaying a product shot and getting lost in the clutter.

    Pillsbury also is a Pinterest-friendly brand, as people constantly visit the site to search for recipes. The screenshot below shows an ad from Pillsbury that doesn’t look much like the other content in my feed. This is the invasiveness we referenced earlier. There’s no need to slap a logo on a Pin to get noticed. In fact, eyes are likely to glaze over when encountering a large logo on Pinterest.

    Pinterest screenshot
    The Pillsbury ad doesn’t quite fit in with the pictured feed’s organic content.

    In this case, the ad could have done without the logo, label, and copy. It’s important that people know content is coming from your brand, but be careful not to over-brand. We think the photograph linking to the Thanksgiving pie recipe page on the Pillsbury website would have sufficed.

    Circling back on search intent

    Earlier we mentioned search intent, which we consider Pinterest’s greatest advantage over other social media platforms when it comes to brands. We covered the topic with our earlier example of Vince sweaters. If you work for a company that makes sweaters, your ad will be relevant to people looking for fall fashion, fresh outfit inspiration, and searching specifically for sweaters. The common theme here is that people are searching with intent. In other words, at the end of their web searching sesh, they’ll likely purchase a sweater.

    This is why branded content on Pinterest has such a huge advantage over that on other platforms. It removes the hurdle of convincing people they may need your product and goes right to the easy part: showcasing why your product is the best. Search intent is simple enough to understand, but the trick is to keep it top-of-mind when creating ads.

    Search intent fail

    The example below shows a Pinterest ad fail. Tiny Tea did a great job producing unobtrusive imagery. The photograph of a woman in a slouchy sweater holding a mug fits nicely with the rest of my feed.

    Pinterest screenshot
    Pinterest Homepage search results for ‘comfy sweater’.

    The issue here lies with intent. I searched for ‘comfy sweater’ on Pinterest and scrolled through organic and branded content looking at tons of sweaters. Upon clicking through one of the Promoted Pins though, I was taken to Tiny Tea’s website. If a user is searching for sweaters, there’s no reason they’d be interested in tea. Aside from not being relevant to my search, the ad ended up being a source of frustration during my experience.

    This seems like common sense, but is a mistake made by brands quite often. It’s possible that a user would buy a pair of jeans rather than a sweater when searching for a sweater. But tea is a big jump. Tiny Tea should focus on ‘holiday beverages’ and ‘detox drinks’ to capitalize on their users’ search intent.

    Video ads

    Pinterest debuted video ads in August. The ads have sound, providing a great opportunity for tutorials. More importantly, though, Pinners have the ability to purchase directly from the Pin with six Buyable Pins beneath each video. According to Pinterest, 67% of Pinners say the new video ads have inspired them to take action.

    As is common with premature advertising opportunities, Pinterest’s video ads come at a high price point. But the great news is that Pinterest is making it easier for brands to market and for users to purchase on the platform. We predict that the cost will lower when Pinterest focuses on making video ads more mainstream.

    A little about the audience

    Most people know that Pinterest is made up of a mostly female, mostly young adult audience. We’re throwing in some demographic information here because the stats have evolved over the past couple years, and we want to emphasize the importance of focusing on your audience when creating ads.

    Last month, Pinterest announced on it’s blog that the platform has over 150 million monthly active users. Also according to Pinterest, over 40% of people who join Pinterest are men — up 70% from October of last year. More people, more men, and more users in countries outside the U.S. means a lot of new opportunity.

    Mini infographic from Pinterest.
    In October, Pinterest reported 150 million monthly active users. Image via Pinterest blog.

    Looking beyond the numbers, it’s important to know the types of people who are using Pinterest. Pinners are planners, creators, organizers, idea makers, and shoppers. Think on this when creating advertisements on Pinterest. Your ad should in some way inspire, delight, or make a Pinner’s life easier.

    The Pinterest customer journey

    Pinterest is extremely advanced in its ability to target people at different points of the buyer journey. An advertiser can target people in the awareness stage (CPM), the intent stage (CPE – cost per engagement), and the conversion stage (CPC). Check out the different targeting tactics Pinterest makes available for different stages of the buyer journey below.

    Awareness stage

    • People are attracted through two paths in the awareness phase of the funnel: keywords and interests
    • Keywords are used to reach shoppers in Search and Related Pins
    • Interests are used to reach shoppers in their Home and Category Feeds

    Intent stage

    • Advertisers have the ability to target audiences on Pinterest. You can target site visitors, CRM contacts, Actalikes, etc. to capture people in the intent phase of the purchase funnel

    Conversion stage

    • Buyable Pins (including video Pins) target users with intent to purchase

    Chart from eMarketer

    Pinterest users visit the site in different phases of the buyer journey and advertisers are able to deploy different tactics on Pinterest to capture their customers at every stage.

    Going beyond social KPIs

    One of the most important parts of an ad campaign is measurement and optimization. Your efforts on Pinterest (and all social channels) should always tie back to your business objectives, so it’s important to look beyond the typical social KPIs. Sure, getting a lot of shares is something to celebrate, but did anyone actually click through? How many conversions did your ad drive?

    Like on Facebook, Pinterest has conversion reporting. A user can create a tag then add it to their site to track website conversions from Pinterest. The platform also has cross-device reporting, which is useful to track where users are engaging and converting (i.e. a customer may interact with a Pin on mobile and purchase that item on desktop).

    With your proper tracking in place, and business objectives defined, you’re able to properly measure the effectiveness of a campaign. A helpful piece of advice is to keep your budget somewhat fluid to give you the ability to make adjustments to drive optimal performance.

    Let’s get going

    By now you know enough about Pinterest audience demographics, design best practices, and customer targeting to launch a successful campaign.

    CONTENT STRATEGY WORKBOOK

    Boost your engagement with the Content Strategy Workbook.

    GET STARTED

    April 2017 Social Media Ad Image Sizes Cheat Sheet

    Social media ad sizes cheat sheet

    The number of social networks that offer advertising grows every day, and it can get confusing formatting ads for each specific platform. The bottom line: looks are everything. In order to get the best ROI on social media ads, your ads must have stunning, well-formatted images optimized to display on mobile and desktop devices.

    Facebook does a great job of making specs available and easily accessible for Facebook and Instagram advertising. And why wouldn’t they? The better your ads look, the better they perform, and you’re likely to spend more money with their platform.

    It’s a mystery why it’s so difficult to access ad sizing information from Pinterest, Twitter, and LinkedIn, but we’ve put together this handy tool to simplify the process. We’ve done the digging to get the most up-to-date information so you can bookmark this infographic and get to designing.

    This cheat sheet was last updated April 2017.

    SOCIAL MEDIA AD SIZES CHEAT SHEET

    Get the latest ad image specs for your favorite platforms.

    GET THE CHEAT SHEET

    Need New Leads? Try Creating a Content Strategy

    The sales cycle has completely transformed over the past decade – that much we know. Customers don’t want to have a conversation with sales reps anymore, and why should they? What information can we provide about our product that they haven’t already found online?

    The new sales process is defined by the customer. And with the customer in the driver’s seat, marketing and sales teams have to work together to create content specifically for that customer in order to grab their attention.

    That’s why we can’t emphasize the importance of a content strategy enough. We need to devote time to defining buyer personas, identifying their problems, and creating content to solve those problems. Without this process, we don’t even know who we should be talking to.

    What your content strategy will mean for the sales team

    A well-researched content strategy will draw in customers at different stages of the sales funnel with content that directly answers their questions and solves their problems. This content consumption allows the sales team to gather valuable lead intelligence.

    Is a customer reading about search engine optimization? As it turns out, your company is full of SEO experts. See what we did there? This lead intelligence is what will start a sales conversation with your prospects.

    Content should build interest and add value for the customer, but also should be relevant to the products and services that your company sells. The content strategy is the new starting point for sales conversations.

    If set up correctly, your content strategy will harness the opportunity created by the buyers’ position as the director of the marketing process. It will propel a dialogue between your sales team and the buyer that allows your team to demonstrate not only that your product or service can solve the buyer’s problem, but that you are a trustworthy expert who understands the buyer’s needs and responds to them.

    [Tweet “It all starts with your content strategy. This is the conversation that drives conversion. “]

    After creating a content strategy, you’ll be armed with a full spectrum of quality content, and will be able to meet opportunities wherever they are in the sales funnel with that purposeful content.

    CONTENT STRATEGY WORKBOOK

    Boost your engagement with the Content Strategy Workbook.

    GET STARTED

    The Superior Brand Experience Doesn’t Mention a Brand at all

    Magic 8 ball in a maze reading 'revamp your brand'

    Ask any digital marketer what it means to create an experience and you’ll probably get a different answer every time. But as marketers, our job is to figure out how creating an ‘experience’ applies to our customers and prospects, or else our engagement efforts will fall short.

    The most forward thinking brands create engagement because they have an innate understanding of their audience and what it takes to get their attention. So whether you’re B2B, B2C, or a combination of both, it all comes down to how well you know your buyer.

    True that if you’re a big brand with huge dollars to pour into branding campaigns, it becomes part of the overall marketing mix. But with some evidence that advertising is continuing to have diminishing returns, many of the large brands are adopting big time content strategies.

    Behaving like a media company

    In the content marketing world, we like to use Red Bull as the premier example in that they’ve come out and said publicly that they’re a media company and not a products company. When on their website, you have to dig pretty deep to find information about the energy drink amidst videos and events focusing on extreme sports. In fact, Red Bull has their own channel on Apple TV — now that’s creating an experience.

    Yes, the athletes are wearing Red Bull logos. But that’s about the extent that it’s about them.

    Going full media company is probably too extreme for most brands, but you do need to at least marry old line marketing services with more media company tactics.

    Think about how a magazine works for example. A magazine has a narrative that’s based on what their readers want. They then map content to those wants.

    Thinking experiential in our campaigns

    If full-blown media company is too much to fathom, we simply need to adjust our thinking at the campaign level. What can we do to engage our prospective customers in such a way that we generate an experience AND communicate our brand messages?

    One great example is a campaign that GAF did to engage their channel partners. If you’ve ever worked with channel partners, you know how difficult it is to get them to pay attention to you, let alone the cost of sending reps out to give their spiel that’s destined to fall on deaf ears.

    GAF wanted their Home Depot reps to know six basic things about their roofing material when recommending it to customers. So what did they do?

    They created a digital game that incorporated the basic messages they needed to hammer home. To add to the incentive, they offered a store-wide pizza party for the winning Home Depot location after three months of play.

    The result was an unheard of 10-minute average user engagement! Talk about creating experience.

    The editorial mission statement

    So how do you go about creating a more engaging campaign for your customers? A clear and defined editorial mission statement, to start.

    Check out the following mission statements from Forbes Media and Cooking Light:

    • Forbes Media is a global media, branding, and technology company, with a focus on news and information about business, investing, technology, entrepreneurship, leadership, and affluent lifestyles.
    • Cooking Light empowers people to cook more for good health. Built with fresh, accessible ingredients and weeknight-friendly techniques, our recipes enable busy home cooks to make healthy and delicious food choices for their families. Our modern approach to cooking and eating healthfully allows everyone to enjoy all the foods they love in a balanced and mindful way.

    Notice that these statements are NOT the mission for the company. They are also not the brand missions. The biggest difference is that company mission statements are about what the brand aspires to be (about the company) and an editorial mission statement is about what the niche audience wants (about them).

    [Tweet “Editorial mission statements are about what the niche audience wants.”]

    Noticing a trend here? It’s not about us anymore. It’s about the audience.

    Why is an editorial mission statement important? Prioritization of content. It keeps you on track for what you should be publishing and what you should not.

    With established brands, sometimes the brand strategy gets in the way of what you should be developing to engage your audience. You don’t clearly understand the “who” and the “why” for your content and your brand. Not only does this provide a lackluster and inconsistent experience for your audience members, but it can make you feel like you are creating content for everyone that satisfies no one.

    The point is to add value to your prospects and create an experience—that’s what gets them to engage with your brand in the modern digital era.

    Creating a more effective customer engagement strategy is certainly not easy — it’s something that we spend all day every day thinking about for our clients and customers. But we do know the foundation of a superior brand experience: keep your brand out of it.

    [Tweet “The foundation of a superior brand experience: keep your brand out of it.”]

    B2B CONTENT MARKETING

    Learn how to create content to solve your B2B sales problem.

    LET’S GO

    Gaming the System: How Some Companies are Engaging the B2B Channel

    Image of Home Depot Gloves lying on an iPad displaying a marketing game

    One of today’s greatest marketing challenges is capturing an audience’s attention. How can we be expected to create content that engages users with an attention span shorter than that of a goldfish?

    Videos, gifs, and cinemagraphs are great, but the challenge is keeping people interested and absorbing your content instead of scrolling past it. Sure, likes are something to celebrate (whose life isn’t defined by the number their last Instagram received?), but a real success story is determined by long engagements and mindshare.

    As marketers, we know creating content based on user behavior is the place to start, and that’s exactly what Jim Wexler, president of Experiences Unlimited does everyday by creating game-based experiences.

    Gaming as a marketing tool

    We don’t often hear of games used as a marketing tool. They’re a different breed than what we’re used to, as they require the user’s full attention and spur long engagements. Where do we sign up, right? But to create a game experience and expect people to play, you must carefully balance fun, learning, and incentives.

    Games are particularly useful when it comes to B2B marketing. When roofing giant GAF approached Wexler looking for help educating its channel partners at The Home Depot, he knew exactly how to go about helping.

    The case study – how GAF educated channel partners

    The Pro Desk employees at The Home Depot must cover an overwhelming array of products, so it’s a challenge for GAF to make sure the employees know enough about them to properly sell their roofing product line.

    GAF needed to educate these The Home Depot employees so that when customers came to purchase roofing materials, the Pro Desk employees remembered to suggest GAF’s full six-product line.

    “Often a market communication chief in channel sales will think they’ve got to teach 40 things,” Wexler said. “But the real lesson is, boil it down to three or four things that truly matter, and that’s what a game can be good for.”

    So that’s exactly what they did. Wexler and his team created ‘Roofing System Challenge,’ a simple incentivized game to educate Pro Desk personnel on the six components to a roofing system.

    “We made Roofing System Challenge to hammer home the same message over and over again while delivering a fun experience,” Wexler said.

    The results – long engagements and mindshare

    The game turned out to be a success both in educating channel partners and keeping them engaged. Throughout the campaign, there was an average of 250 employees playing per week with a 30% rolling retention rate after the first month. And the people who were playing were engaging at an average of 10 minutes per session. Not too shabby.

    A 10-minute-long engagement is a huge accomplishment in today’s world of endless distractions. But it makes sense – what better way to engage a distracted worker than with something educational in the form of a distraction?

    Marketers are constantly striving to create a unique user experience, and gamification is proving to be a successful strategy for the right projects.

    “It’s about articulating a brand story,” Wexler said. “Everyone has a story. We just delivered it in an innovative way.”

    Could your digital marketing benefit from gaming?

    • Are you targeting a younger demographic?
    • Are you trying to tell a complicated brand story or teach a complex lesson?
    • Are you trying to activate a sponsorship or licensed property with customers?
    • Do you need to train channel partners?
    • Does your audience have mobile or PC access?
    B2B CONTENT MARKETING

    Learn how to create content to solve your B2B sales problem.

    LET’S GO

    6 Umbraco Packages You Need to Install

    image of hand hovering over laptop keyboard

    One of the reasons Umbraco is a great content management system is the wide range of packages and extensions that are available for building sites — many of which, like Umbraco, are free and open source.

    As Umbraco developers, we’re always watching out for the latest and greatest packages. Here are a few of our favorites. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list or even a top 6 list, but rather a glimpse into the great ecosphere of Umbraco extensions.

    Articulate

    Want a blog on your Umbraco site? Since Umbraco 7.1, Articulate has been the blogging package of choice. It supports many of the features that make up a great blog including categories & tags, themes, Live Writer support, BlogML import/export, RSS feeds and author profiles. Developed as a free, open source project by Umbraco HQ core developer Shannon Deminick, Articulate has been actively maintained and is widely used.

    ASP.Net Identity for Umbraco

    Looking to add single sign-on, so your website users can log into your site using their Facebook, Google (and other) accounts? You can use ASP.Net Identity for Umbraco. This enables Umbraco to work with ASP.NET Identity and use something called Owin Middleware to enable external logins with OAuth providers including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and more.

    Is Umbraco the Right CMS for you?

    Is Umbraco the Right CMS for you?

    FIND OUT

    Azure Blob Cache and UmbracoFileSystemProviders.Azure

    These packages offload static files in the media section to the Microsoft Azure cloud so when an editor uploads a file in Umbraco, instead of saving the file to the media folder on the local drive, the file gets saved to Azure Blob Storage which can then be served via the Azure Content Delivery Network (CDN). Another package, Azure CDN Toolkit for Umbraco, makes it easy to link to resources on the Azure CDN from Umbraco templates.

    Merchello

    Merchello is one of the e-commerce offerings for Umbraco (the others are uCommerce and teaCommerce). Since we started using it 2 years ago, it has come a long way, adding many features expected in a modern ecommerce platform including support for promo offers and improved reports. We love it because the flexible programming API makes it great for customizing. The new FastTrack starter kit makes it easier to launch a storefront with Merchello.

    Umbraco Forms

    If your editors need to have the ability to create their own forms and export data submissions, Umbraco Forms is what you’re looking for. The form editor provides an intuitive user interface for creating responsive forms. As with most things Umbraco, Forms offers flexibility and extensibility with its ability to setup advanced workflows that can integrate with other systems via web services. While it is the only commercial package listed here, we think it’s worth the 99 Euros.

    Vorto

    Building a multilingual site? Then you’ll want to use Vorto. Vorto is a property editor wrapper that wraps an existing property editor and converts it into a multilingual property. This provides a great user interface for managing content in different languages.

     

    These are a just a few of the many packages and extensions available for Umbraco. There are many, many others — most of them listed here. Interested in learning more about Umbraco? Flightpath will be hosting an Umbraco meetup on October 18 at 7 p.m.

    See if Umbraco is Right For You

    Need a new CMS?
    See if Umbraco is
    right for you.

    GET THE WHITEPAPER

    You Can Finally Zoom in on Instagram

    Hands holding iPhone taking photo of sunset

    Yesterday, Instagram released an iOS update allowing users to pinch to zoom in on photos and videos in the app. This is big news for avid Instagram users, but even bigger news for moms who have been trying and failing to zoom in on Instagram photos for years.

    We’ve pulled together some of our favorite tweets expressing the frustration experienced when moms try to zoom in on Instagram – now a sure thing of the past:

    https://twitter.com/allrik/status/746801559187623936

    This update comes shortly after the app introduced Instagram Stories, a feature similar to Snapchat Stories, causing both excitement and rage from users.

    The general mood resulting from the zoom feature is positive, with a lot of millennials reminiscing on the good ol’ days:

    https://twitter.com/lnhuck/status/771434376630456320

    And as for Android users, you’ll have to wait a few weeks for the zoom functionality to become available.

    Instagram’s update is leaving a lot of us with the phrase we say so often: ‘Wow, Mom, I guess you were right.”

    CONTENT MARKETING MASTER QUIZ

    Are you a content marketing master? Take the quiz to
    find out.

    QUIZ ME

    How to Market to New Moms Online

    Mother shopping on laptop computer with baby on lap

    In the marketing world, our impression of new mothers tends to be outdated and inaccurate. Gone are the days of technologically confused moms who don’t know how to send a text or turn their phone on vibrate. Young moms and soon-to-be mothers are online and fully digital.

    This is great news for digital marketers, specifically those who work in the baby industry. Moms are researching, reading reviews, and shopping online everyday.

    But how do you make sure your brand shows up where moms are looking? Know your audience and their behavior, to start.

    Keep these tips in mind when marketing to new moms online:

    • Moms are millennials This may be surprising because a lot of us think ‘selfies and memes’ when we hear the word ‘millennials,’ but in reality, many of them are young moms. Women are about 26 years old when they have their first born, according to CDC. This doesn’t mean they’re not taking selfies or making memes though, so adjust your content accordingly.
    • They’re online Duh. Over 90% of moms are online, so we can’t think of them as people who don’t know how to check their email anymore.
    • They’re on their phones In fact, they’re addicted to their phones according to a BabyCenter report. This means your site should be mobile optimized, or you could lose a good amount of your potential customers.
    • They’re on Pinterest Moms are on Pinterest specifically researching and shopping for baby supplies. More than a third of Pinterest’s unique visitors are American moms, according to Nielsen. If you work in the baby industry, make Pinterest your social media priority.
    • They read blogs In fact, 1 in 3 bloggers are moms. New moms look to blogs for advice and tips. This is a great opportunity for brands to practice inbound marketing. Create content that answers the questions moms are asking to become a go-to trusted source.
    eMarketer chart showing social media sites used by US mothers, 2013-2016.
    The number of moms on Pinterest has been growing rapidly since 2013, compared to a more steady growth of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

    “I think Pinterest is undervalued by marketers when it comes to mothers,” Maria Bailey, author of ‘Millennial Moms: 202 Facts Marketers Need to Know to Build Brands and Drive Sales’ told eMarketer. “Marketers put so much effort into Facebook—and mothers do follow brands on Facebook—but mothers are actually making purchases directly through links on Pinterest. There’s a lot of potential there.”

    eMarketer chart showing attitudes toward product reviews/research according to US millennial mother vs. non-mother internet users, July 2015.
    New mothers are well-read and well-researched. Brands should take advantage of blogging and influencer outreach to market to moms.

    Though the ‘mom market’ is nothing new, the way they’re behaving sure is. With this knowledge, we can target new moms with great content in the right place at the right time. Focus your efforts on the platforms that moms are using to perform research. Take advantage of Pinterest and blogging to get your brand front and center when moms are ready to purchase. 

    CONTENT STRATEGY WORKBOOK

    Boost your engagement with the Content Strategy Workbook.

    GET STARTED

    What the New Lifestage App Means for Marketers

    Teens taking selfie with iPhone

    They weren’t lying when they said video is the future of social. Facebook’s newest app, Lifestage, allows high school students to communicate and express themselves solely through video.

    Unlike Instagram stories, Lifestage isn’t a direct copy of Snapchat. The new app doesn’t allow for any form of communication outside of video. Rather than serving as a messaging platform, Lifestage will be used for self-expression through video bios.

    Lifestage was created for people 21 and under, and designed for high schoolers to “find out more about the people in their school community,” Michael Sayman, the app’s creator, posted to Facebook. “Lifestage looks back at the days of Facebook from 2004 and explores what can be done if we went back and turned the crank all the way forward to 2016 with video-first.”

    Did we mention Sayman is 19? How Gen Z is that? The teen has been at Facebook for about two years and had two successful apps under his belt prior to starting there.

    Aside from making us adults feel a little excluded, Lifestage has us wondering what potential opportunity could be in store for marketers.

    [Tweet “If Lifestage proves successful, this could be a platform full of Gen Z-ers and a lot of possibility.”]

    We could be getting a little ahead of ourselves, as the app was released just last week, but a new platform means a new marketing opportunity.

    Lifestage app screenshots on iPhones

    Here’s what we’re thinking Lifestage could have in store for marketers:

    Localized targeting: When signing up for the app, students enter the name of their high school. Talk about a hyper-targeting opportunity. While Snapchat’s advertising platform is nationally focused (and typically used for brand awareness), Lifestage could be used for local advertising. Who’s to stop a local pizza joint from posting an ad just around lunchtime? (Maybe a hefty price tag, but hey, we’re still in the hypothetical stage of thinking.)

    Demographic targeting: Brands that advertise on Snapchat are reaching an audience in the 18-34 range. Think about how much your opinions and behaviors changed in that age range. Lifestage is just for high schoolers, so brands can really get personal with their tailored content. Facebook’s ad targeting platform is pretty amazing with its targeting, but that can only go so far if this generation isn’t using the platform regularly.

    Native content: Remember the days on Snapchat before an ad would interrupt your peaceful story viewing? The subtler an ad is, the less likely you are to irritate your audience. Branded profiles could serve as a less invasive way to get eyeballs on your business or product. The platform asks its users to fill out a profile using only video. Profile fields include ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ as well as ‘my favorite song’ and ‘my locker.’  Brands could participate in a similar video profile that users could explore at their leisure.

    Screenshot of Facebook's new Lifestage app
    Lifestage users fill out a profile using only video, answering fields like ‘my favorite song’ and ‘my backyard.’

    Influencers: Gen Z relies heavily on their peers on social media to influence their purchasing decisions and shopping habits. Influencers use any form of social media to get their message across, but are particularly successful on Instagram and YouTube. Lifestage provides a new way for influencers to reach their demographic, so we’re thinking it will be flooded with influencers in no time. Aside from native content, utilizing influencers is a great way for brands to reach their audience more organically.

    Since Lifestage is still brand new, we’ll give it some time before joining the fun. But don’t let the fact that a platform is new (or the fact that you have to be under 21 to join) stop you from dreaming. Brands should be thinking on opportunities the moment a platform is released. That way you’re prepared with content that will blow users away when the platform does open up to brands.

    CONTENT MARKETING MASTER QUIZ

    Are you a content marketing master? Take the quiz to
    find out.

    QUIZ ME

    Insta Stories Have Arrived!

    On August 2nd, Instagram took a huge bite out of Snapchat by adding the new “Stories” feature. This major development is clearly a carbon copy of Snapchat’s evolutionary platform.

     

    Instagram’s Stories allows users to post short videos and photos that exist for a span of 24 hours. It is a comparable application to Snapchat, which is a famous ephemeral app that is mainly popular for its 24-hour video and chat tales, facial recognitions and image filters. The features that Instagram released are almost identical to Snapchat from its very theme and vernacular.

     

    Back in 2015, advertisers began to anticipate potential opportunity for marketing on Snapchat with image and branding. The idea of Snapchat gave way to more interactive experiences than Facebook and YouTube (which advertisers believed users commonly watched inertly). Snapchat does not contain traditional ad-targeting tools and is continuously searching for ways to attract bigger brands. While they’re still developing their bouncy infrastructure and competing against major rivals—Now This! Instagram has nearly replicated their services!

     

    What does this mean for marketers? The CEO of Instagram, Kevin Systrom, discussed the latest development with TechCrunch and said that, “this is about a format, and how you take it to a network and put your own spin on it. Facebook invented feed, LinkedIn took on feed, Twitter took on feed, Instagram took on feed, and they all feel very different now and they serve very different purposes.” Instagram’s owner, Facebook, took note of how other social networks adapted their feed and decided to flip the script by incorporating Snapchat’s strengths into one mobile first platform: Instagram.

     

    Where Snapchat advertising had astronomical cost and exclusivity, Instagram is self-servicing, leaving marketers wondering how advertising will look via Instagram stories. Instagram’s new interface allows for both stories to be displayed at the top of your screen, while in-feed photos and videos appear in your timeline below, without ever having to switch off to another platform, creating a more dynamic means for distributing content. It fulfills the concept of organic experience building between users and brands in a more interpersonal relationship and is even easier for users to follow a brand, watch their stories and like their post. In addition, there are more opportunities for exclusive behind the scenes video clips, contests, giveaways and other incentives rather than the usual photo upload.

     

    While we are in favor of this astonishing feature that Instagram impenitently “borrowed,” there’s still speculation about its forthcoming progressions. What will happen with Snapchat? Will new Instagram stories be as affective as anticipated? How will this influence other social media platforms? What will sponsored Instagram stories look like? Will Instagram add those fun filters that Snapchat is synonymous with? Instagram has yet again proven that it is a force to be reckoned with and only time will tell what’s next for this photo-sharing tycoon.

    Dark Social & Why It Matters

    For the past couple years we’ve heard a lot of buzz around the term “Dark Social.” It’s “a term coined by Alexis C. Madrigal, a senior editor at The Atlantic, to refer to the social sharing of content that occurs outside of what can be measured by Web analytics programs.” This covers everything from sending your favorite new Beyonce video through SMS, to emailing a friend a hilarious article. These transactions generally consist of one-to-one private interactions; starkly different than general social sharing which is typical one person sharing to many people.

    Social_surface&dark_finalWhy does this matter? Brands have noted an increase in direct traffic, so great that it has grabbed the attention of digital marketing professionals all over. Surely people aren’t actually typing in the direct URL to visit these specific pages all of a sudden. And sure enough they aren’t, these bumps in direct traffic are due to dark social, users sharing links through private messaging interactions. According to Hootsuite, “dark social has been reported to be responsible for up to 60% of overall referral traffic for various websites.” More and more people are sending links via WhatsApp, Snapchat and SMS and these conversions are being lost when it comes to referral traffic analytics, hence the fitting name: Dark Social.

    Piegraph_finalSo is dark social a bad thing? No, it’s awesome! It’s the new word of mouth and it’s here to stay. Where it does become problematic for brands is in regards to analytics and tracking where website visitors are actually coming from. Places, such as Buzzfeed, generate personalized links for each article/user so that when they send that article to a friend through Facebook messenger, they can still track where that click is coming from and attribute the traffic source correctly.

    Messaging Apps Are on the Rise & Brands Are Looking to Get Personal

    As organic reach on social media withers, and personalized email programs become old news, brands have begun entering the one space that you thought was reserved for your “real” social life—private messaging.

     We all have our own, individual style when it comes to what information we want to post to our whole social media following, and what we reserve for a more selective audience on our private messenger apps, like Facebook Messenger or Whatsapp. Well, it turns out that private messaging is where most of the action is happening. In fact, messaging apps are seeing 1.4 billion monthly users, with the top four messaging apps sharing 3 billion users in total. This is surprising when stacked against the number of active users on the top five social media networks, which amounts to only 2.04 billion users.

    img3,jpg

    The palpable popularity of private messaging is not new, but it has elicited some recent shifts in the market.  Apps like Kik and Slack have joined the scene, and brands are launching chat bots, or automated messaging interfaces, to engage with consumers in the private messaging world. Companies like KLM and Sephora have developed chat bot interfaces that offer a wide range of services, such as the facilitation of financial transactions, or personalized beauty tips. Taco Bell has a TacoBot operating on Slack, which will process your food orders for you, and will even make food recommendations if you ask it. There is also speculation that Facebook will announce its own launch of automated agents, to be named “bots on Messenger”, at the upcoming F8 conference.

    img1  

    The proliferation of chat bots is inevitable as they are surprisingly easy to build and scalable across several messaging platforms. So, should we be concerned about brands invading the “private” space, or is this a welcomed service offering?

    Chat bots are great for those consumers who are too impatient to wait on a customer service line, but are still looking for that personalized experience which can’t be achieved by browsing a website or performing a Google search.  The founder of Kik claims Chat apps will come to be thought of as the new browsers; bots will be the new websites…this is the beginning of a new Internet.” It is the difference between browsing a newsfeed, with content curated for you based on an algorithm, and asking for exactly what you want, when you want it.

     For the marketing world, personalization is already huge, and private messaging is a clear next step. On the basic level, brands have an opportunity here to extend their customer service reach, with a lower cost than hiring more staff. In addition, there is the opportunity to offer useful services to consumers, in a very accessible way. For example, food companies can offer recipe suggestions, and furniture stores can offer design inspiration, in the same way that Sephora has a chat bot offering personalized beauty regimens.

     But, the smartest brands will not focus only on the content and services that they can put out for consumers; they will hone in on the other added value of chat bots—data collection and brand development. With the potential to have one-to-one conversations, brands have a lot to gain in terms of client discovery and the collection of micro-level data. But beware, bot relationships will mimic real relationships. The more you speak to your consumers and interact with them on an individual level, the more attention and personalization they will expect in return.

     As the VP of Digital Marketing at Sephora attests, “We know, based on global trends and the evolving landscape, this is the next element to engage with our customers on”. So, get out there, get chatting, and chat wisely.

    Cultivating and Utilizing UGC

    In this day and age, people are constantly taking and sharing photos. Thanks to their 8-megapixel smartphone cameras and built in filters, it’s easy to take a glorious picture. But the real moneymaker moment happens when someone shares a photo involving a brand. This is what we call: User Generated Content. UGC is any form of content such as a, video, image or blog post created by a consumer or end-user and is publicly available. Social media mediums have proven to be continuously reliable sources for UGC. This is due to the simple fact that platforms such as Instagram and Twitter are hashtag based and easily searchable; vice versa, users are able to tag brands on posts, sometimes eliminating the need to search at all. Not to mention, everyone’s on social!

    UGC posts become a kind of endorsement for brands; with the proper permission brands can repurpose these posts and show them off on their own social media page. “User-generated content as a media channel comprises an increasingly significant share of time that consumers are spending with content overall- indicating that consumers are ever more receptive to it. (Crowdtap)”Here’s how top brands go about acquiring and utilizing UGC.

     

    The first step is always getting permission

    starbucks

    A big name like Starbucks has so much UGC at their fingertips (literally), but they still need to take the appropriate steps in order to share a consumer’s photo.
    Often times brands will create campaigns encouraging users to create content
    ModCloth2
    In August 2015 Modcloth launched a contest on Pinterest “Be Our Pinspiration,” asking users to create a Pinterest board filled with inspirational images and named after the Modcloth campaign. The winner received a gift card and clothing pieces named after them.

     

    For brands, hosting contests on Facebook is a simple and easy way to get UGC

    Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 11.32.58 AM

    Dove’s “Share Your Beautiful Self” promotion asked users to upload a photo of themselves and a friend. Dove turned each entry into an e-card that could be shared with Facebook friends.
    But even a simple hashtag search can reveal a plethora of UGC

    Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 11.47.28 AM

    Interlux-on-Instag

    Our client, Interlux Paint, receives a lot of UGC from Instagram

     

    You can cross promote UGC on other social platforms, like Facebook
    1

     

    The biggest content drivers are people between the ages 25 and 54 and contribute to 70% of all UGC (SparkReel). UGC continues to dominate the majority of web content, with Pinterest creations up by 75% (Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers). Everyone with a smartphone is a potential content creator and this gives marketers and companies alike a huge pool of content to choose from. Content curation is a vital part in telling the story of your brand, so it’s important to see to what your consumers are saying/posting and being receptive to them. Sharing their posts is a great way of doing just that! Not to mention it’s easy and cost-efficient!

    A Look at the New Facebook “Reactions”

    On Thursday, Facebook gave us a look at their new “Reactions.” Unfortunately, the Reactions are just being tested in Spain and Ireland for the time being, but will add to the limited “like” button, introduced back in 2009.

    Hitting “like” on Facebook is a way for users to give positive feedback, and to ensure that they are updated with regard to a topic or post, without all the commitment and effort of actually writing a comment. Although we don’t yet have an official release date, Facebook has responded to the overwhelming desire for a “dislike” button with their new spectrum of one-click responses, called Reactions.

     

    Meet the new Reactions:

    Facebook’s Reactions include the classic “Like,” along with Love, Haha, Yay, Wow, Sad and Angry. While this promises a much more articulate way of presenting input on posts for the average user, it will also serve as a diverse and emotional set of data for marketers and businesses using Facebook ads. As of now, Facebook’s newsfeed ranking algorithm will be calculating the reactions as likes, but they hope to learn more over time about the different ways marketers can use ‘loves’ versus ‘angries,’ and so on. For instance, a company might target people who’d marked “angry” on a competitor’s post, or double down on users who ‘loved’ a post, rather than ‘liked’ it.

    With the recent change from billing marketers per ‘like’ and interaction, to focusing on product sales and app downloads, Facebook’s new feature will be able to provide a broader array of diverse data to advertisers, allowing them to mold their ads even more specifically.

    These new emojis will do more than just allow you to “love” your friend’s new apartment; it will allow users to receive more ads targeted to their desires, and help advertisers to create content that makes you say “Yay!”

    Fundamentals of Responsive Website Design

    As you probably know, Responsive Web Design (RWD) delivers one website, with one code base, to a multitude of devices from laptops to tablets to mobile phones. At Flightpath, we get so many questions from clients and potential clients about responsive website design these days that we thought it would be a good idea to briefly summarize some fundamentals and best practices.

     

    Responsive Web Design Benefits

     

    • Better user experience by supporting a wide range of devices, particularly mobile
    • Better Google search engine ranking – With Google’s recent mobile-friendly algorithm update, websites that are responsive have a higher likelihood of ranking higher than desktop-only
    • Easier and cheaper site management compared to maintaining separate desktop and mobile websites

     

    Responsive Web Design Conventions

     

    • RWD utilizes flexible images and media atop fluid grids that ebb and flow with a devices’ screen size
    • Major “breakpoints” are established to allow a design to adapt and optimize better to certain screen widths. Typical breakpoints are as follows:

     Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 11.02.23 AM

     

    Responsive Web Design Creative and Production Considerations

     

    • A non-responsive site cannot be simply “converted” to a responsive site.
    • The code framework is entirely different
    • Non-responsive website design elements will likely not work well on small screens
    • To start, website content and design should be developed with smaller mobile screens in mind – where the focus is only on core content and functionality.
    • While one of the hallmarks of RWD is to provide the same content to all devices, it is not only permissible but recommended to optimize some site attributes for different device sizes. (Example: Use show/hide button to limit the amount of content that shows at one time on small mobile screen.)

     

    Responsive Web Design and Google Rankings

     

    Google has updated its algorithm to prioritize search results per a variety of criteria associated with mobile usability and responsive design. These include:

     

    • Font sizes
    • Touch/tap element size & relative proximity
    • Pop-up/interstitial usage
    • Viewport configuration
    • Flash usage

    These factors should be borne in mind to ensure optimal search engine visibility for your responsive site. You can learn more about this via this blog from Google.

    What’s Not To Like?

    By now you’ve probably heard Facebook’s co-founder and chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, announced that Facebook is “very close to shipping a test” of a dislike button. This stems from many of Facebook’s 1.5 billion users’ request for a way to articulate negative emotions. After hearing the news, many social media marketers immediately became concerned. However, rest-assured, the dislike button is more than just a thumbs down. It’s a way for users to express empathy for posts that would be awkward to like because of their emotionally sensitive content (i.e. a death or a tragedy). So what does this mean for businesses on Facebook?

     

    Uptick In Emotionally Sensitive Content

    With the new empathy button underway, marketers might start gearing their content to be diverse in emotional pull so that they can receive empathy clicks,* instead of just likes. Like clicks are a big determinant in Facebook’s algorithm used to curate and sort what users see in their newsfeed. Posts that attract more Likes are placed towards the top of the user’s feed. If there is an increase in empathy clicks versus likes, than Facebook’s algorithm could potentially shift to push the posts with the most empathy to the top of the newsfeed. Which will encourage marketers to seek a new direction in content creation, to appeal to the empathy button.

     

    Increased Engagement

    Ideally, the empathy button will give users another avenue to express themselves, rather than just limiting their emotions to the restrictive “Like” button. It will grant users the chance to interact with content on an emotional level. From a marketing standpoint, businesses will have to start creating more emotionally pulling content. It’s not that they’ll need to rebrand themselves, but companies and businesses are going to want to keep up with the new trending empathy button and produce posts that will receive comments, shares and…empathy.

     

    Less Likes?

    Will the empathy button become more important than the like button? If Facebook is successfully able to reel in more engagement as a result of the empathy button, then the like button could potentially yield less weight. Brands will no longer be seeking likes, but rather, empathy. According to Victor Luckerson from Time Magazine, ““dislike” is the way Facebook moves beyond being viewed as a distraction to a destination where people can truly find out about the most important things happening in their world. And that begets more users spending more time on the site, which begets more ads, which begets more dollars for Zuckerberg and Facebook’s shareholders.

     

    Are we going to see a new era where empathy becomes more important than the thumbs up on Facebook? Nothing is certain, but what does seem to be a hard-and-fast understanding, is that the “dislike” button will not be a negative form of expression. Rather, it will be more of a compassionate button, which will allow marketers to shape their content so it doesn’t just appeal to users, but is emotionally compelling and more meaningful. What’s not to like about that?

     

    • Since we don’t know if Facebook is really going to refer to it as the dislike button, we refer to is as an empathy button or empathy clicks.

    The Future of Phhhotos

    We’ve said it before but we’ll say it again, everything is in motion. And when it comes to photography, RIP to the standard still shot. Many have coined 2015 as “The Year of Video”, but we’re thinking it’s the year of motion and the end of the one-dimensional way we consume images.

    With GIFs still owning the Internet and 360 degree photos coming to the forefront, we explore a two apps that are visual pioneers in the realm of putting pictures in motion: Phhhoto and Fyuse.

     

    Phhhoto

    Though the name leaves something to be desired, this addicting app snaps four photos in succession and pastes them together to produce a hilarious/inspiring/creepy looped GIF. Early adopters included the celebrity likes of Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus.

    Not the photography type? No problem, Phhhoto has the most awe inspiring discover page appropriately known as the “Wow” tab. Sign up to start creating or just for a dose of daily inspiration: http://phhhoto.com/

    In the meantime here are a few of our favorite Phhhotos:

     

     

    Fyuse

    Meet the app that lives in the grey area between a video, a photo and a GIF. This “Spatial Photo” app allows you to capture images in a sharp 3D picture. Petapixel explains that on Fyuse you, “capture a dynamic photo by moving your phone around during capture, and viewers will be able to explore your 3D photo by tilting their phone in their hands.”

    From landscapes to #ootd (Outfit of the Day) images, Fyuse has the potential to capture & share life’s moments in an amazing way that transcends 2D pictures. Get started with Fyuse now: https://fyu.se/

    Here are a few of our favorite Fyuse posts:

     

     

     

     

     

    The future of photography is coming into focus and it’s sure to include movement, depth and endless creative opportunities. It’s safe to say, we’re excited!

    Who Is Flightpath?

    Who is Flightpath

    Flighpath is a Creative Digital Agency that’s been around since 1994. We’ve done it all, from designing apps and websites to providing social media, SEM and SEO services, but Flightpath is made up of more than just designers, coders and content developers. Check out the infographic below to see who we, Flightpathians, really are:

    Flightpath_Infographic_v3.1

    Like what you see? Want to know more? Click here to contact us!

    Creativity, Collaboration and Consequence

    My 10-year old daughter is a fifth grader in New York City.  I often reflect upon the fact that a lot of her school’s educational philosophy seems well-tailored toward molding/shaping people with the same kind of skills and attributes that we look for in new hires at Flightpath.

    With that in mind, it was with great interest, that I read an e-mail from her middle school principal, discussing his recent experience in Boston where he attended the National Association of Independent School’s (NAIS) annual conference. The theme of this year’s conference was “Design the Revolution: Blending Learning, Leading, and Innovation.”

    The conference website explains that “Independent education plays a leading role in the revolution changing the way the world thinks. The myriad ways we can learn and innovate knows no bounds thanks to new patterns of innovation, an emphasis on instructional systems, and increasing interaction with new people and ideas around the globe. This freedom comes with a responsibility to design a plan for success that includes thinking creatively, problem-solving differently, defining 21st century learning, and leading students into a future we’ve only glimpsed.”

    These are the same issues we ponder on a daily basis at Flightpath.  How do we alter and improve patterns of interaction? What new tools can we leverage to better communicate among teams and groups housed within and without our physical headquarters? How do we grasp new trends and opportunities? How do we infuse creativity and innovation into every thing that we do? How do we measure, assess, and improve outcomes?

    If a mantra of NAIS is that “ongoing learning keeps NAIS schools strong and innovative” that also rings true for the team at Flightpath.  – To that end, apart from other avenues, we’ve got Flightpathers attending a slew of conferences over the next few months including SXSW, ClickZ Live NY, UWestFest, and An Event Apart.  As part of my own professional development, I’m going to start keeping an eye on the NAIS website and try read their blog regularly. If early indications mean anything, it’ll be instructive to glean learnings, ideas and parallels from this forward-thinking group.

    Three Things to Consider Before You Begin Influencer Marketing

    As marketing shifts from the Age of Mass Media to the Age of Advocacy, influencers have landed at the center. But what is an influencer? Jess Estrada, a digital strategist and blogger explains that, “Influencers are people with significant networks (followers, readers, etc.) who can speak to a broad range of products and services with the ability to sway opinions in their favor.”

    At the SXSW panel, “Changing Face of Fame: Social Media Celebrities,” Cubby Graham, Community Builder at Charity Water, Paula Veale, EVP of Corporate Communications and Rob Fishman, Co-Founder of Niche, took a deep dive into the new world of celebrity that is made up of influencers and detailed how to get the most out of a partnership with influencers. Here are three things to consider before you begin influencer marketing:

     

    Distribution

    Even as brands begin experimenting with the hot new trend that is Influencer Marketing, they often still attempt to push messages out via “traditional media” (TV, print, radio, etc.). However, limiting distribution to the old school way is a big mistake. When partnering with influencers, who are more likely than not, innovators in the digital/social space, it’s important to examine which distribution channels are most successful for each individual influencer and then follow suit.

     

    Freedom

    As marketers, we’re used to drafting the specifics of any campaign, promotion or initiative months in advance, followed by umpteen rounds of revisions and by the end there is a clear vision and plan laid out. You know exactly what you’re getting (usually); however, often times this necessary process limits creativity and spontaneity. When it comes to partnering with influencers, creativity and spontaneity are two key aspects to a successful partnership. How do you achieve those? Freedom.

    Of course, there will always be guidelines (language, usage and timeline) that brands want partners to act within. Make these guidelines as broad and non-limiting as possible for the best results.

     

    The Right Audience v.s. The Biggest Audience

    Sometimes the biggest audience isn’t the best audience. As Jeremy Welt from Maker Studios put it, “Reaching 10K of the right people is more important that 100K people who don’t care.” When looking for influencers to partner with, marketers must take a deep dive to determine if both audiences (influencer and brand) align. It’s not about who has the most followers, it’s about who’s followers are the most engaged and what demographic do these followers fall into.

     

    Social media marketing has become a no brainer for businesses. That said, modern day influencers live and thrive on social media and make for a natural partnership to leverage brands’ social media presence. Influencers don’t begin as advertisers; they begin by making a human connection with people across the web. This connection resonates on a personal level and influencers are seen more as a trusted friend, making their opinions and recommendations extremely influential, hence the title influencer.

    Why does this matter? Well, according to Simply Measured, 74% of consumers rely on social media to inform their purchasing decisions, while 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations. Think about it; if someone you admired and followed on social media recommended a brand or product, wouldn’t you be more inclined to at least try it?

    Comparing Social Content Curation Platforms: A Review of RebelMouse, Tint and Chute

    Keeping up with the overwhelming demand for content was a major obstacle for brands in 2014.  How can you produce massive amounts of engaging, authentic content while under seriously limited time constraints?  One solution is to leverage existing social content from your brand and your customers.

    Many brands are turning to social media aggregation platforms to collect, organize and display social, user-generated content.  The end result is a well-curated social hub that looks similar to a digital magazine full of engaging content and conversations around a particular topic or brand.

    Now comes the tough part…deciding which social feed curation platform to use.  The number of companies that offer this type of tool or service is extensive and continues to grow.  Each platform has its own strengths and weaknesses so I always recommend evaluating tools based on an individual basis based on the brand’s specific needs.

    In this blog post, I compare three of the leading platforms for creating social hubs: RebelMouse, Tint and Chute.  Additional platforms on the market include: Postano, Twine, Offerpop, Votigo and more.

    Below is a chart I created for a client to compare the three social feed platforms based on general service needs and product offerings.  In addition, I’ve included my own reviews and takeaways of each platform.

     

    socialhubchart1-1024x683

    Platform Conclusions & Takeaways

    RebelMouse: Launched in 2012, RebelMouse has always referred to itself as a ‘social front page’.  It allows brands and publishers to create very well curated sites, similar to a Tumblr, centered on a topic or news vertical.  Recently, RebelMouse has expanded its focus from solely being a social aggregator to being a full-fledged publishing platform with custom editorial tools, detailed analytics tools and community/contributor profiles.

    Tint:  This relatively new platform is self-service and does a little bit of everything when it comes to displaying social feeds.  Its strength lies in curating content from a specific social feed or hashtag versus a general topic.  It is also a very useful tool for event marketing or retail–just think of how interactive the content becomes when shown on a huge projector, in-store screen, or jumbotron.

    Chute: Chute’s major function is gathering user-generated visual content and obtaining rights to ‘publish fan photos and videos at every customer touch point — as a mobile app, photo gallery, banner ad or even a billboard in Times Square.’  In addition to using Chute to repurpose UGC content, brands often employ this platform for specific campaigns or contests (both short-term and ongoing) because of how easy it makes it for consumers to submit photos via hashtag or just click a button directly on the microsite to upload.  

    ***It’s important to note that my review of these platforms is not comprehensive.  To get full information about each platform, it is always best to reach out to a company representative for more information about product details, new updates and pricing models.  I also highly recommend signing up for a free trial or demo of the platform to get the full experience and gain perspective into usability and performance.  

     

     

    Influencer Marketing Spotlight: Top Vine Stars Share Video Creation Tips

    Video content marketing is on the rise and marketers are increasingly seeking out platform influencers to reach their video-oriented consumers.  Vine, a six-second video sharing service with a primarily teen demographic, is just one of the major sources of video influencers and content creators.  According to a recent study, branded content on Vine accounts for 4% of the top 100 tracked Vines.

    At the December iMedia Agency Summit, Reed Berglund, CEO of Fullbottle, moderated a perspective-changing discussion about influencer marketing with three top Vine talents, Andres (@EhBeeFamily), Tony Serafini (@Bottlerocket), and Ginger Wesson Lavender (@GingerWesson). 

    All 3 panelists explained that they sort of stumbled into their Vine fame.  Andres had been working as a market researcher, Tony was and is a teacher and Ginger was a bored housewife.  Today, they’re doing content creation and distribution deals with A-list brands including Pepsi, Disney, P&G and Toyota.

    What are some general content tips from these Vine experts? Keep it simple.  Always think about a beginning, middle and end – with some some kind of interesting or unexpected twist in the middle.   According to them, the best times to post for maximum impact are around 4pm on weekdays (avoid Mondays and Tuesdays; Aim for Wednesdays) and around noontime on weekends.

    Once you find consistent success creating videos on Vine, the panelists recommended extending your brand onto other platforms.  Keep in mind you will need to make slight content modifications or variations based on the platform-specific audience and consumption behaviors.  Suggestions include sharing behind the scenes filming pictures on Instagram or vlogging on Snapchat.  And most importantly, always respond to your fans in a timely fashion across all platforms.

    Another important topic one of the panelists mentioned was brand integrity.  If you get to the point where you’re creating branded content for an advertiser, remember “money talks but it only talks so much.”  Make sure your branded Vines stay true to your own personal brand so as not to turn off your followers.  Continue to produce original, entertaining work and share new branded content from your own profile first to keep fans feeling like they are your top priority.

    What does 2015 hold for these Vine talents?  The sky is the limit.  For now, enjoy a roundup of some of our favorite panelist branded videos from 2014:

    [CASE STUDY] Digital Marketing Strategies To Drive Educational Enrollment

    I recently had the privilege of speaking at the Social Media Marketing Forum for Educational Institutions about an enrollment marketing campaign Flightpath executed for Fairleigh Dickinson University.

    At the event, presenters from Harvard Business School, Babson College, Cornell University, Elizabethtown College and Brandwatch imparted insights on how they’re using social media and digital channels to tranform educational institutions into brands, impact development and enhance student life.  Some of the more interesting educational marketing topics covered were social messaging apps like YikYak, social listening tools and crowd-funding.  

    With the help of Jon Wexler, VP of Enrollment Management for Fairleigh Dickinson University, I presented specific details on how we leveraged a multi-channel digital approach to drive overall student enrollments, build a prospect pool for future remarketing, increase enrollments of acceptees (credit walker), and enhance student life & connections. 

    Another component of our presentation outlined our gamification initiative, an iOS gamed called Mascot Rush that we developed to help engage prospective FDU students and increase applicant activation.

    Check out the full case study presentation below to learn more about the campaign!

     

    Your Ultimate Guide to Fall Email Marketing Trends

    Once the ugly stepsister of the marketing world, email marketing has made huge strides in 2014.  Don’t take our word for it; recent email statistics prove email marketing is here to stay.  As of 2013, there are nearly 3.9 billion email accounts worldwide, with that number expected to increase to 4.9 billion by the end of 2017.

    It’s important to note that while email users are increasing, they are becoming more sophisticated in regards to consumption habits.  In a recent study, 54% of people reported using automatic sorting filters for their inbox and 58% claimed they will unsubscribe if they receive an unwanted commercial email.  To keep saavy email users happy, marketers have to continually improve the strategy and creative innovation of their email campaigns.

    Here are three email marketing trends you’re likely to see in your inbox this fall–plus a list of helpful tools and analytics to implement them.

    Image-off Styling

    Email users tend to prefer emails that are primarily image-based versus text-based, but unfortunately 85% of email clients block images by default.  To reconcile this, marketers are finding ways to improve the look of images-off emails with styled ALT text, HTML mosaics and bulletproof backgrounds/buttons.  And if you’re really up for a challenge, try SONY Playstation’s technique of using smart Photoshop design and slicing to make images and logo outlines appear in the images-off version (as shown below).

    Must-try tool: Mozify is an innovative tool that allows you to convert any image to an HTML mosaic or to formatted HTML text.  The result is a coloured mosaic of table cells that render an approximation of an image even before the image is loaded in emails.

     

    playstation

    (Source: Sony Playstation)

    Advanced Personalization

    Basic email personalization, such as name and account information, no longer satisfy the consumers who expect detailed, up-to-date messages that match their unique buying needs.  To truly make enhance the customer experience, emails should take into account detailed interaction data (including how, when and with what customers are engaging) as well as factors like holidays, weather and location.  According to a recent study, about 64% of marketing executives say they want to increase the amount of money they spend on personalization in the next year.

    Software essentials:  CRM & Marketing Automation platforms allow marketers to effectively track and engage with customers based on consumer behavior.  Popular solutions include Salesforce, Marketo and HubSpot.

     

    opentable

    (Source: OpenTable)

    Videos & Animated GIFs

    Approximately half of the marketers who used video in email campaigns saw increased click-through rates, increased time spent reading the email, and increased sharing and forwarding, according to a survey by eMarketer.  Both videos and animated GIFs are smart alternatives to lengthy copy when trying to encourage click-throughs, give instructions or illustrate complex concepts.

    Pro-tip: Animated GIFs can have large file sizes which can be slow to download and play. When it comes to saving your GIFs, one of the best ways to minimize file size is to reduce the number of colors actually saved in the file.

     

    jspade

    (Source: Jack Spade)

     

     

     

    The Dos and Don’ts for Creating Hyperlapse Videos

    If you were unsure of the power of social video before, Instagram’s latest brainchild, Hyperlapse, will make you a believer.  Launched earlier this week, Hyperlapse is a stand-alone app for iOS that condenses and stabilizes phone videos into trendy timelapses.

    Unlike other video editing tools, Hyperlapse allows for users to easily adjust the video from 1x to 12x speed without any delay for scrubbing or processing.  And don’t be fooled by the brilliantly simple user experience, the technology behind this app is pretty serious.

    While Hyperlapse certainly helps gives phone videos a more professional look, there are still some guidelines and best practices users should follow before hitting the share button.

    Here are some essential do’s and don’ts for making Hyperlapse videos:

    DO make sure it’s long enough: We learned the hard way that at 12x speed, a 10 second video does not meet the 3-second minimum requirement to upload a video to Instagram.  To be safe, try to always shoot between 30-45 seconds worth of video to hit the minimum requirement.  (Note: 3 minutes of original footage=15 seconds of timelapse at 12x speed)

    DON’T speed up the video if you’re moving the camera.  Videos played back at high speeds look great if you’re keeping the camera still and staying in one place.  However, if you’re following someone or moving, they can be nauseating to watch when sped up.  Keep the speed low and let the smooth video do the storytelling.

    DO frame your subject in the center of the shot.  When the app stabilizes your video, it will steady the center portiton of the video and crop out the edges of the frame.  The cropping is minimal but to be safe, keep the important elements of the video towards the center.

    DON’T do too much.  Less is often more when it comes to timelapse videos.  You can overdo it with too much movement and action.  Instead, focus on planning out the subject, the length of the event and a clever (but stable) perspective to film from.

    DO exercise some posting restraint.  Timelapses are great, but no one wants to see their Instagram newsfeed crammed with timelapse videos.  Think quality over quantity. Your followers will take note.

    Now get out there and start filming….because life is extra fun at 12x speed!  And for more best practices and tips, download our 2014 Social Media Marketing guide.

    6 Ways Brands Can Win in the ‘Nice Age’

    It’s not clear exactly when the marketing world entered the ‘Nice Age’ but if recently your heart has been melting more and more as you’re exposed to commercials, ads and branded content then you’re experiencing this industry shift firsthand.   It’s hard to believe how far marketers and brands have detoured from a very product and sales driven belief system to a socially and emotionally connected one.

    The bottom line, as a recent NY Times article points out, is that this ‘warm and fuzzy’ content phenomena has major profit potential.

    Here’s a look at how brands can make opportunity happen in today’s competitive, often (heart)warming climate:

    1. Get sentimental on social media

    Use social media in the most personal ways by asking questions and sharing compelling human insights (beyond just a nice video/photo).  Take on the role of your consumers’ best friend by giving followers a good laugh, great advice and genuine conversation.

    2. Give your brand stories a fairytale ending

    With all the negative news in the media today, people are eager to hear heartwarming stories with happy endings.  Mix up your content/advertising plan by injecting stories about real people and real emotional currency versus being completely brand-focused.  Whether it’s a video of someone’s first kiss, newborn puppies or a random act of kindness, everyone loves to share and support good news.

    3. Stop selling and serve up a smile

    Pet brands do a great job of using smile-inducing images and stories in their marketing efforts across all platforms.  They know the value of making someone smile; we’re talking about supercharged brand loyalty and trust.  If you think your category doesn’t lend itself to puppies and other emotional content, think again.  Even classic B2B companies are finding that the pathway to richer engagement is through both the service AND the smile!

    4. Embrace the haters

    With the rise of social media, customer complaints and negative reviews are more public than ever.  Rather than ignore it, saavy brands are acknowledging the issue and addressing it directly to show the brand’s commitment to building an authentic relationship with their consumers.

    5. Create “aha” moments by over-delivering on industry expectations

    Thanks to technology and digital innovation, brands are now more than ever offering products and services (or even just great content) that extend beyond their traditional verticals.  Whether your brand independently takes on a completely new category like Google is doing with their driverless car, or you enter into an unlikely partnership like ProFlowers and Uber did, the real value lies in showcasing your innovation and passion to consumers.

    6. Get into Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in a real world way

    The intentions behind your CSR strategy should go beyond just “increasing share holder value”.  Your goal should be to show and share the sincere value you have for anyone who interacts with your brand. Winning brands (Think: Ben and Jerry’s and TOMS Shoes) create “forever smiles” by doing good year-round in thoughtful, creative ways.

    5 Tips For Creating Sequenced Ad Campaigns on Facebook [INFOGRAPHIC]

    new study by Adaptly, in partnership with Facebook and Refinery29, shows that sequential Facebook ads that incorporate brand storytelling and awareness outperform sustained campaigns with ads solely focused on getting conversions.

    The survey results were eye-opening: Sequenced ad campaigns that slowly led viewers down the sales funnel received 87 percent more view-throughs and 56 percent more email subscriptions compared to sustained call-to-action campaigns.

    While producing a successful Facebook drip campaign requires notable time, creative input and strategic planning, the payoff can be worth it.  New to the concept? Our cheat sheet covers 5 essential rules for creating a successful sequenced ad campaign!

    sequencedads_v261

     

    What the NFL Can Learn About Emotional Currency From the World Cup

    Team USA may not have won the World Cup but soccer in America sure didn’t lose either.  The 2014 World Cup made it very clear that Americans have officially joined the rest of humankind in the worldwide obsession with soccer.

    I imagine the extraordinary global outpouring of emotion (and by emotion, I mean all-out insanity, joy, passion and craziness) surrounding the games has not gone unnoticed by NFL execs. But what may be less clear is the fuel, if not the spark, of all this euphoria.

    National pride and a new generation of youngsters who have grown up with a deep, committed love for the sport may be what sparked Americans into soccer’s intergalactic orbit. But the fuel, is what the NFL could truly learn a great deal from.

    I’m sure the NFL is very busy getting ready for the upcoming season so let me cut to the chase. The fuel (yes, the element which ignites and keeps the spark ablaze) is the scoring celebration.  Goal celebrations fuel excitement and we’ve seen this in all the World Cup venues and live remotes. If these players simply high-fived or chest bumped, so would the fans. But they don’t; they celebrate by running 20 yards and then sliding another 10. All the while beaming with the most passionate human emotion!

    collage

    Scoring celebrations create an undeniable bond between player and viewer that is founded on emotional currency.  Spurred by an intense connection based on shared experience and passion, emotional currency fosters loyalty and engagement.  It is what creates not just fans, but super-fans.

    Need proof?  The 2014 World Cup statistics say it all: Tournament attendance is projected to hit 3.4 million, over 300 million World Cup-related tweets have been posted and in just the first week of the World CupFacebook received more interactions about the tournament than it did for Sochi OlympicsSuper Bowl and Academy Awards combined.   

    So I raise the question: Why not embrace goal celebrations after an NFL touchdown?  Why instead, a 15 yard penalty for the littlest of real emotion?

    As someone who has studied emotional currency for decades, I urge the NFL to see the positive effect that scoring and celebrating has on fan involvement and overall enjoyment. Not only that, but this type of emotional connection can translate to higher viewership, better ticket sales, increased media and sponsorship opportunities…the list of marketing benefits goes on and on.

    Simply put, allowing, let alone fostering, real emotional scoring celebrations could be game changing for the NFL.

    This post was written by Cliff Medney (@cliffmedney) Chief Creative Strategist at Flightpath.

    The Top Brands Using Twitter Cards

    Marketing on Twitter?  You may want to consider using Twitter cards.  Twitter cards allow users to showcase media-rich tweets that expand to reveal more information and visuals.  Technically, Twitter cards have been around since 2012 but in the last several months the feature has improved dramatically, now offering marketers 8 different cards with varying functionality.  The cards seem to be especially useful for e-commerce companies and brands that regularly produce a lot of content.

    What brands are doing the best job of using Twitter Cards?  We rounded up, in no particular order, 4 brands rocking Twitter Cards to increase clicks, RTs, leads and more.

    rands rocking Twitter Cards to increase clicks, RTs, leads and more.

    1. Bonobos: The brand does a great job using player cards to embed videos about product launches, events and thought leadership.

    bonobos

    1. ModCloth: Product cards are this online retailer’s best friend. And for good reason; they are doubling many brands’ click-through-rates.

    modcloth

    1. Monster: Earlier this month, Monster announced they would be using Twitter Cards as branded recruitment ads to boost clients’ visibility with potential employees.

    monster

    1. Burberry: In addition to using Twitter Cards for video, photos and product launches, the luxury brand recently added an innovative calendar sync feature that allows users to subscribe to their brand’s calendar and stay engaged.

    burberry

    Want even more information about social media marketing?  Download our 2014 guide to social media best practices. 

    How TV Apps Are Changing The Marketing Landscape

    Back in 2009, Flightpath designed one of the first TV Everywhere apps, by incorporating a live streaming feed into Cablevision’s MSG Varsity app.  We’ve just finished the third iteration of the app and in the ensuing years, television viewing habits have changed dramatically.

    TV Everywhere, a term for authenticated viewing of broadcast shows from channels you subscribe to on your cable or satellite network, grew in popularity by 246% over last year, according to a study by Adobe.  Today, 1 out of 5 households use TV Everywhere apps to watch television content.

    adobe2

    While the future of TV in general is still up in the air, marketers would be crazy to ignore the soaring number of TV Everywhere apps when thinking about their upcoming marketing strategies.

    Below are four TV app trends marketers should watch out for:

    Cross-platform marketing of TV apps

    On tablets, over the top (OTT) service apps such as Netflix currently have more users than those offered by both TV networks and operators.  Why is this?  Lack of marketing efforts for existing TV Everywhere apps.  Expect network marketers to increase promotion of their TV app in traditional and digital ads.

    Greater selection of advertisements

    Consumption habits have shifted and viewers are now watching multiple episodes at a time.  To avoid bombarding the viewer with repetitive ads, marketers need to provide a wider variety of advertising content for these engaged users.

    TV as an e-commerce platform

    With the recent release of Amazon Fire TV, it’s hard not to think about the synchronization of e-commerce and television.  Imagine a consumer watching content and being able to seamlessly save and purchase their favorite items from the show.  Now is the time for marketers to start thinking about TV as the next screen for commerce.

    Integrated social components

    Consumers are demanding more and more from the TV watching experience and social media is no exception.  Social media is a natural platform for discussing TV content but consumers want the interaction to be as seamless as possible without taking them away from what they’re watching.  If TV apps begin incorporating social media functionality, marketers will want to take advantage of additional real-time marketing opportunities with TV viewers.

    This post was written by Stephanie Bousquet (@sbousquet), Marketing Manager at Flightpath.

    The Future of Facebook: Is Paid Reach Declining?

    Since Facebook’s recent statements regarding their algorithm change, the topic of conversation for many marketers and business owners has been organic reach (or lack thereof). The issue of declining organic reach is something we have been aware of and dealing with for clients since August 2013. However, lately we have been noticing an even more alarming trend: the decline of paid reach.

    Starting mid-April 2014, we noticed a significant decrease in paid reach on promoted posts across all of our clients’ brand pages. Overall, we’re seeing the cost per reach nearly doubling.  

    cost-per-reach-v1.8

    There is always the possibility this decline in paid reach was caused by minor changes in content and scheduling but for the most part we have followed a consistent campaign strategy since implementing promoted posts. It seems highly unlikely that we would see this trend across multiple clients all within the same time frame.

    One thing to note is that although paid reach decreased, engagement levels appeared to remain the same.

    So what does this mean? It’s hard to say for certain but it could force companies to dish out even more money to reach the same number of fans. In other words, expect the cost of effective promoted posts to rise (especially as more and more brands start to utilize this advertising option).

    In the future, marketers may want to focus on narrowing the targeted audiences on promoted ads, increasing engagement rates and ramping up influencer marketing strategies to see continued success on Facebook.

    This post was written by John Lee (@johnlee27), Senior Director of Digital Marketing at Flightpath.

    Intro to Merchello: A New E-Commerce System from Umbraco

    Merchello is a new, open source e-commerce system for Umbraco that was recently announced at uWestFest. It was created by Rusty Swayne of Mindfly and Jason Prothero of ProWorks. Being new, it may not be as mature and feature-rich as other systems such as Magento or uCommerce, but it has promising potential and fills a niche by providing a free, open source e-commerce solution for Umbraco web sites.

    Why Merchello?

    There are a number of reasons that make Merchello a compelling choice for building e-commerce websites. For one, it is licensed under the Open Source Initiative-approved MIT license. This means that it is free to use and modify. And that means you can customize it to meet your specific needs. In fact the architecture of the system is designed to make the entire storefront experience customizable.

    Merchello embraces the philosophy and design principles of Umbraco. Many content management systems have a lot of plugins and modules that provide extra functionality but you are often stuck with their user experience design and it takes a lot of effort to customize that experience. Umbraco embraces simplicity and gives developers an API to build a custom user experience. Likewise, Merchello allows developers to build a custom online retail experience by providing an API for adding store functionality to the front end of their Umbraco website. The API follows the patterns and practices of the Umbraco core API, so it is easy for an experienced Umbraco developer to learn and use. The Merchello creators have provided a great sample site (pictured below) to show how to use the API to build store functionality such as product display, a shopping cart and the checkout process which you can use as a starting point. And, of course, since it is built on Umbraco, a Merchello storefront can leverage all the features and APIs that come with Umbraco to provide a great web experience.

    Merchello example

    Merchello’s back office embraces the new, elegant design of Umbraco 7. With Umbraco 7, the back office interface was completely redesigned and implemented using Angular.js so that it is more responsive and easy to use. The Merchello back office integrates with Umbraco in a way that is consistent with it’s user experience and extends it to provide catalog and order management. It also follows Umbraco 7’s plugin architecture for providing support for adding additional payment, shipping and taxation providers to process payment and calculate shipping and taxation.

    Features

    While the current release of Merchello (version 1.1) is missing some basic features, it is quickly evolving and new features are being added regularly with frequent releases.

    The current version has:

    • Catalog/product management with full-text search
    • Variant pricing
    • Inventory tracking
    • Shipping methods based on providers (with flat rate and UPS providers available)
    • Payment methods based on providers (with cash and Authorize.net providers available)
    • Order management with credit card payment capture and shipping tracking

    Upcoming versions will have:

    • Order notifications
    • Persisted customers integrated with the Umbraco member system
    • A Paypal payment processing provider
    • Support for multiple warehouses
    • Back office Localization

    The creators of Merchello are also looking for input on what functionality to include and prioritize and, as an open source project, are of course open to accepting contributions. You can find more information about Merchello from the links in this Bitly bundle: http://bit.ly/Merchello.

    This post was written by Alex Lindgren (@alexlindgren), Director of Technology at Flightpath.

    Build a Better Hamburger Menu; Because It’s Not Going Anywhere

    Over the past several weeks, the hamburger menu has received some seriously bad internet PR for being a poor navigation tool that destroys engagement.  One article even referred to the three-lined menu item as “the devil”.

    Whether you love or loathe the hamburger icon, it is hard to deny that is has become somewhat of a design standard over the past 5 years, thanks to growing mobile apps and users.  Also, now that responsive design is the norm, the hamburger icon is even more prevalent across all screens.

    In a recent article, one UX designer raised a very valid question: “Why kill a ubiquitous icon, which our users know and understand, and replace it with a new iteration for them to learn all over again?”

    We would have to agree with this logic. We have bigger design problems than the hamburger menu for which we could be finding solutions. Why not simply improve on this design foundation that we worked so hard to build?

    In hopes of saving the hamburger menu, we’d like to offer 5 ways to enhance it:

    • Streamline your IA no matter what.  Menu bar items should serve a necessary purpose and be prioritized based on the users needs.  Hamburger menus should not be a dumping ground for worthless content.
    • Add a ‘menu’ label to the icon if you are worried about users not identifying the navigation action.  It’s all about knowing your audience; most mobile users recognize that this icon signifies action so it may not be necessary.
    • Leave user utility items such as ‘sign-in’ or ‘donate’ on the main screen in addition to having them in the sidebar menu.  Without overloaded navigation tabs, this can actually emphasize these important conversion points.
    • On desktop, increase efficiency and changes in navigation patterns by allowing the menu to remain static once it has been opened.  At least for large desktop screens, the existing content should be able to scale accordingly without overwhelming the user with too much information.
    • Have some fun with it. A major reason the design community is so up in arms about the hamburger icon may in part be due to our own laziness and reliance on it.  If nothing else, standardizing the icon should give us more opportunities to present this menu in surprising, exploratory ways.

    That being said, there are times when designers should not utilize the hamburger menu: e-commerce and transactional sites (for the most part) and sites with very few navigation tabs.  In these cases, there are plenty of alternative navigation menu options designers can use instead of the hamburger menu.

    As designers, we need to make smart, strategic decisions when determining a design format.  It doesn’t make sense to completely write off a design element that serves an important purpose, like the hamburger icon, but it’s important we don’t throw all caution to the wind and abuse it.  There are rules and there are no rules; just guidelines.

     

     

     

     

    Flightpath’s Social Session: Facebook App Cutbacks, Instagram’s Most Liked Photo & More

    A roundup of the latest and greatest social media stories and news:

    Twitter got a font update late last week and users had plenty to say about it.  Days after pushing the font update live, Twitter confirmed they did indeed make the switch from Helvetica Neue to Gotham.

    Facebook keeps us on our toes once again by changing their News Feed algorithm to deemphasize stories automatically shared by third party apps without actions by the users.

    Yahoo takes on YouTube with plans to launch their own video platform this summer.  Reportedly, Yahoo plans to lure users from Google with higher revenue percentages.

    Twitter growth predicted to skyrocket in Asia-Pacific and reach 400 million users by 2018, according to an eMarketer report.  A long wait for Twitter execs, who previously hoped to reach that mark by 2013.

    Instagram face-off: A study using 1.1 million Instagram photos analyzed with face-detection software showed that pictures with faces are 38% more likely to get ‘likes’.

    Untitled-1

    Twitter users cash in thanks to anonymous donor @HiddenCash who recently began posting clues to the whereabouts’ of envelopes of money in LA.  His social good experiment has gained widespread attention and new pay-it-forward twitter handles have popped up across the country.

    Best brand tweet of 2014 goes to Denny’s Diner for their real-time response to Apple finalizing a $3 billion deal to buy music-streaming company Beats Electronics.

    Untitled-3

    And The Most Liked Instagram Ever goes to….Kanye West and Kim Kardashian.  The reality star posted their wedding photo to her account last week and it has since gotten 1.98 million likes (and counting).

    Untitled-2

    Responsive Web Design vs. Standalone Mobile Site: Which is Better for SEO?

    It’s no secret that mobile visitors are taking up an ever-increasing amount of visits and pageviews across the web. According to StatCounter, 23.56% of worldwide Internet traffic was on a mobile device in April 2014. Another 5.83% came from tablets. That leaves the traditional desktop with a 70.61% share.

    One of the more common questions we get at Flightpath is how best to address these two distinctive segments. Should a separate mobile site be created on its own domain, such as ‘m.website.com’ ? Or should a single website be developed responsively so that the regardless of what kind of device is used to access the page, it is delivered in a way that provides a user-friendly experience?

    The answer to that can be complicated, and that’s not really the point of this article. The point of this article is to address the question from a search engine optimization perspective. What are the advantages and disadvantages to each, and more importantly, what does Google want? If there’s one thing any seasoned SEO strategist knows, it’s that you’ve got to keep Google happy.

    Well, first things first. Google absolutely gives preference to mobile-friendly sites for mobile searches, regardless of the technique used to achieve a positive mobile experience. This goes back to one of Google’s most basic tenants used to guide ranking factors: provide a good user experience. Sending mobile visitors to a completely un-optimized desktop oriented site is definitely NOT providing a good user experience.

    Now, on to the question at hand.  As it turns out, Google has more or less directly answered this question: they prefer responsive websites.

     Google supports smartphone-optimized sites in three configurations:

    1. Sites that use responsive web design, i.e. sites that serve all devices on the same set of URLs, with each URL serving the same HTML to all devices and using just CSS to change how the page is rendered on the device. This is Google’s recommended configuration.
    2. Sites that dynamically serve all devices on the same set of URLs, but each URL serves different HTML (and CSS) depending on whether the user agent is a desktop or a mobile device.
    3. Sites that have separate mobile and desktop URLs. 

    For once, we have a seemingly candid response from Google. Hurrah! And oh, hey, the folks at Bing agree.

    Why is this Google’s preference, though? Think about it this way, responsive sites serve the same set of URLs with the same HTML to all devices. A straightforward crawl as far as Google is concerned. Now when you introduce multiple domains, URLs, directives and redirects – the elements necessary to run a proper mobile site, it makes Google’s job a lot harder. Google is certainly up to the task, but it’s going to take more time and computational power to perform the same task of indexing the site accurately.

    Keeping Google happy isn’t the only SEO-advantage of responsive web design. Responsive sites are actually much easier to optimize around.  You’ll notice that I said “easy” and not “better”. The fact is, you can circumvent most of these issues with proper planning, implementation and maintenance. However, it would be a folly to ignore the element of human error. Furthermore, if you can achieve the same result without adding layers of complication, always go with the more straightforward route. Finally, something SEO’s and Google can agree on.

    One of the complications avoided by going to responsive route is duplicate content. Serving the same content on separate URLs is always a bit of a dangerous game. Proper use of canonical tags can alleviate this, but again, this introduces complexity and the opportunity for human error (and let me tell you, I have audited a lot of websites, there is an abundance of human error when it comes to things like canonicalization and proper redirects).

    Link-building is also a much more manageable process when there is only a single domain or URL to worry about. All of your link authority is concentrated on a single set of URLs. This applies to social sharing as well – there’s no need to worry that someone will share a mobile URL and send a bunch of desktop users to a mobile site.

    One last point that I’ll mention is that setting up a new mobile site usually involves the creation of a new sub-domain, most typically ‘m.website.com’. This means starting from scratch as far as domain authority is concerned.

    Are there reasons to consider a separate mobile site over the responsive route? Yes, absolutely. When mobile users follow significantly different usage patterns (restaurant searches, for example), it’s probably a good idea to serve them unique content based on device. There are also sites that have enormous amounts of content that simply can’t be made easily navigable with reasonable load times on today’s mobile technology (imagine trying to make nytimes.com responsive – it would take ages to load and likely be even more difficult to navigate).

    While there are situations in which a separate mobile site is the correct answer, responsive sites are still more SEO-friendly. It really comes down to the fact that operating off on one URL is much easier for Google to crawl, simpler for Google’s algorithms to process and easier for visitors to interact with.

    Umbraco Roundtable Highlights from Internet Week NY 2014

    Thanks to everyone who joined us for the Umbraco Roundtable & Intro to Merchello event on May 20 as part of Internet Week NY.  A good time was had by all and we were thrilled to meet fellow Umbraco developers and enthusiasts.  The event was the first official gathering for the NY Umbraco Meetup group, a community we are excited to continue growing and hosting events on behalf of.  

    Here are some highlights and takeaways from the event:

    What To Consider Before Changing Your Brand’s Facebook Page Name

    Change and evolution are inevitable in the marketing world. Luckily, if your brand outgrows its Facebook fan page name and the name no longer reflects your brand’s intent, Facebook offers the option for a “Significant Page Name Change” once per calendar year.  Flightpath recently helped a client with the rebranding of their Facebook page and after experiencing the intricate process firsthand, we compiled the essential information you need to know before moving forward with a page name change.

    What Classifies As A “Significant Name Change”?

    A “Significant Page Name Change” is any change that falls outside of the general Facebook page name guidelines, which Facebook cites as, “name changes and migrations that do not result in a misleading or unintended connection.  For example, we will allow local to global migrations, such as “Facebook France” to “Facebook”, but will not allow global to local migrations, or location to location migrations, such as “Facebook France” to “Facebook Russia”. Additionally, you may not request a name change or migration that would result in re-categorizing a product Page to a brand Page, a generic or opinion Page to a brand Page, or a Group to a Page. All migrations are at our discretion and are final.”

    What Is Different About This Process?

    The major difference that occurs when making a “Significant Page Name Change” versus a standard page name change is that your brand’s Facebook audience will be notified of the change via email 14 days prior to the name change taking effect. Users then have the option to visit your brand’s Facebook and unlike the page.  For those worried about a large amount of their fans dropping off, Facebook says they have “seen a very low percentage of users choosing to unlike a Page based on a Significant Page Name Change. There may be an initial spike in unlikes when the email is delivered, but that spike in the unlike rate typically settles within 2-3 days.”

    Screen Shot 2014-05-16 at 1.54.33 PM

    What Should You Consider Before Making the Change?

    Before making the leap to significantly change your brand’s name on Facebook be sure to take into consideration how your Facebook community will feel about the “new you”.   When launching your new brand to existing customers, you do not want to risk losing followers or alienating your audience.  Make sure you have a content marketing strategy in place that allows you to clearly communicate the changes to your audience. Knowing why a company is changing its name, and more specifics about what is and is not changing, may make the transition easier for customers.

    Learn More

    For more information on Significant Page Name Changes, refer to Facebook’s official documentation.

     

    The Finishing Touch: Minwax Launches New DIY Inspired Site

    For over 100 years, Minwax has provided professional contractors and craftsmen with high-quality wood finishing products.  However, the wood care brand also services another loyal group of users: DIY-ers.  With the rise of Pinterest and novice home improvement, this group of enthusiasts, many of whom are new to wood finishing, turn to Minwax to help beautify the wood throughout their home and beyond.

    As part of an integrated digital marketing campaign, Minwax has teamed up with Flightpath to launch an innovative website that better delivers their products to their diverse customer base.  Serving as a vehicle to inspire and educate their consumers, the new site seamlessly showcases DIY photos, tutorial videos and project plans while also providing detailed product information for all wood finishing needs.

    “Our goal for the site was to convey that the completed wood finishing project is the true hero, and the [Minwax] product is the best means to achieve that result,” said Everett Hutton, Senior Account Executive at Flightpath.

    Starting from the elegant homepage, Minwax encourages visitors to “Get Inspired”—showcasing beautiful user-generated images of DIY projects they’ve created.  There is even a section proudly dedicated to the ‘Minwax Fan of the Month’–a Facebook contest where Minwax fans upload their own wood finishing projects and vote on a winner.  By displaying real projects made by real people, the site captures an undeniable sense of personal achievement and individuality that goes hand-in-hand with the DIY experience.

    “We are all very excited with the result of our intensive collaboration. The site is clean, contemporary, easier to navigate, and is sure to meet the needs of our diverse end users,” said Jacquelyn Ferrara, Director of Marketing for Minwax.

    Visit the new Minwax site to explore and get inspired for yourself.

    Update: In July 2014, Minwax Australia also partnered with Flightpath to launch a new version of their site based on this same design.

    Why Emotion-Driven Marketing Can Increase B2B Sales

    Traditionally, B2B marketing focused on product attributes and business value.  While great product features are key for selling, we cannot ignore the influence emotions play on buying decisions even in the B2B marketplace.

    A recent study showed that personal value has 2x the impact business value does when it comes to making a B2B buying decision, with 71% of buyers claiming they will make a purchase if it has personal value.

    howemotioninfluencesb2bbuying_businessservices (Source: Kapost)

    Here at Flightpath, we firmly believe in the power of emotions and storytelling.  We have a rich history of helping organizations create, connect or use emotional currency via digital channels to maximize potential and opportunities.  Whether it’s on your website, in a marketing video or even throughout your social media strategy, highlighting the personal value of a product can increase your chances of making a sale and strengthen brand loyalty.

    Download our case study to learn more about how emotional currency is the key to staying relevant with your consumers in a highly competitive digital landscape.

    Flightpath Teams Up With Umbraco Developers For Internet Week New York 2014

    New York’s annual technology festival– Internet Week New York–is slated to have it’s biggest year yet and Flightpath is excited to announce we will be hosting our own IWNY event for the growing Umbraco developer community.

    What’s Umbraco? Built by a Denmark developer, Umbraco is an open source CMS platform known for it’s user-friendly interface and hassle-free customization.

    In collaboration with the NY Umbraco Meetup group, Flightpath will open our offices on Tuesday, May 20 for a casual meet-and-greet for fellow Umbraco developers to get to know one another and chat about general Umbraco discussion topics. There will also be a special presentation on Merchello, the newest ecommerce package for Umbraco 7 led by Flightpath’s very own Director of Technology, Alex Lindgren.

    Register for the event here and add it to your schedule on the IWNY website.  Space is limited so make sure to RSVP before it fills up!  Spread the word about the event using the hashtag #UmbracoIWNY.

     

    Calling All Superstar Interns! Apply For A Social Media Internship At Flightpath

    Flightpath is searching for a intern extraordinaire to join the social media team for summer 2014. We’re looking for someone with an unrequited love for all things social whose communication skills are sharp (if your wit is too, that’s even better!).

    Our ideal candidate:
    • Hates going a day without checking Buzzfeed, Upworthy and all the other pop-culture sites he/she loves

    • Can name a favorite internet meme (or five!) in a heartbeat

    • Makes his/her friends jealous with the number of likes they get on Instagram pics

    • Sees an awesome Facebook picture with a lame caption and immediately gets sad.

    Think you might be a good fit? We would love to hear from you. To learn more about this internship and apply, please visit our careers page!!

    Producing A Creative Stop Motion Video When You’re Short on Time

    Working on a project that has creative breathing room but lack of time and resources may initially put you in a tough position, as your concepts have to be grounded in the reality of execution.  However, it’s not an artistic death sentence.

    For a recent Easter video campaign for our client, Fonseca Bin 27, I was tasked with producing a 10-second stop motion video, from concept to creation, in less than 3 hours.

    Here’s are some tips I learned along the way—helpful for anyone creating stop motion video in a time crunch:

    1. Create A Compelling Narrative 

    A narrative doesn’t always require a tremendous amount of time to develop but to be effective it should be flexible enough to carry a headline and elevate the brand.

    Tip: I always like to extend the story a little further and if the client doesn’t want it, it’s easy to chop off the ending.  For Bin 27, the narrative was originally supposed to end once the foil was wrapped back up but I made the bunny slip back behind the bottle while leaving a trail of chocolate crumbs (and the scene made it into the final video).

    2. If Nothing Else, Get A Tripod

    Before you shoot any stop motion videos, the one item (besides a camera) that you absolutely need is a tripod. There’s no way humanly possible to hold a camera in an even relatively similar position while moving the subject an 1/8 of an inch after every frame. The result wouldn’t just be a jumpy video; it would look like a random collection of photos.  So grab a tripod and make sure its in a locked off position before filming.

    3. Leverage Natural Lighting As Much As Possible

    When you don’t have the resources of a professional studio or lighting equipment, the best thing to do is find a space with exceptional natural light that you can shape with reflectors. It’s typically better to go with available light and use longer exposures with a smaller aperture for sharper images rather than using other tungsten continuous light sources like a desk lamp. This ensures that the images are between 2900-3200˚K, which is a warmer color known as tungsten. Normal daylight is around 5600˚K and is whiter or cooler.

    Tip: You can always set the cameras color balance. For the Bin 27 video, I set the color balance at 5800˚K. If you leave the color balance on auto the camera will adjust each picture individually and you will most likely end up with a range of cooler and warmer pictures. Not good.

    4. Use After Effects For Automatic Sequencing

    To save time in post-production, I render out the selected images (after color correcting) into JPEGS and import them into After Effects as a JPEG sequence. This can save you considerable time when making a stop motion piece because After Effects automatically places the images in a sequence so you don’t have to individually place each image in a timeline in the correct order.

    5. Invest In a Remote Camera Shutter Release

    Every time you physically press the button to fire the camera, you move the camera ever so slightly. The end result is a very jumpy sequence of images. Remote shutter releases are an inexpensive solution to not having to press the shutter button and risk camera shake. An average remote release usually costs under $20 and gives you around 16 feet of leeway from your camera.

    Tip: Because I did not have a remote camera release for this stop motion video, there were numerous frames that weren’t properly aligned.  To fix this, you can apply an effect called image stabilizer that analyzes the background and lines up all the images, effectively smoothing out the bumpy frames. 

    6. Think Outside the Box 

    The biggest take-away from this project was that even when working on the fly, you can do more for your clients than you may think with just a little bit of creativity. The more and more you surprise your clients with something new and creative, the more they appreciate your willingness to take the initiative to push and elevate their brand. And the more they trust your creative authority in guiding their brand. It’s just one more way to build a better atmosphere for client engagement and their trust in the agency.

    The Shocking Amount of Data The Internet Creates Every Minute

    A minute might feel like an insignificant amount of time in our lives but when it comes to big data 60 seconds is enough time to leave a massive digital trail.  The people at DOMO created this infographic that breaks down the mammoth amount of data all 2.4 billion Internet users produce every minute.

    (Source: DOMO)

    Hard to believe that in just one minute we email over 204 million messages, share 2.4 million pieces of Facebook content and upload over 72 hours of video to YouTube.  How are you or your business contributing to this endless stream of data?  Don’t take too long to ponder that question…a lot can happen in just a minute!

    Happiness is in the Marketing Air!

    Spring is finally in the process of springing, Baseball and Budweiser are trying to get the national past time’s Opening Day to be a national holiday Budweiser Opening Day and even Pharrell William’s “Happy ” shows no pull back or wear out. Oscars or not, it just fills your head with happy.

    It’s an amazing time to be alive and happy.  Marketers, can’t you just smell it?  I think people are more likely to part with their hard earned money when they’re happy. There’s tons of data regarding “sadness spending”, but volumes of emerging research in the role of happiness and positivity’s role in work and play.Gallop recently asked 350,000 people about happiness. December is the happiest month (and 12/25 is the happiest day!) The food, giving, gifting, spending spirit is hard to compete with.

    Holidays aside,  April is a great opening act to all the warm weather, longer days and six months of airy lightness for much of the country. Why is this important?  Glad you asked! The exceptional work within the positive psychology movement validates for marketers that leading with emotionally compelling and meaningful “happy” messaging causes people to act and be more positively disposed.  Which translates to things like greater engagement, richer connection/stickyness and transactional conversion.  In other words, marketers acting happy may very well lead to more action.

    Positive psychologist, author and TED extraordinaire Shawn Achor lays out a framework regarding flipping the “work to be happy” (i.e. finding the job of our dreams will lead to a happier life) to the idea of front loading happiness in inspiring productivity and many other positive outcomes in the job we’re already in.

    So, the message to my fellow marketers on this sunny day as we start the beginning of April, is raise your happiness game. Could be in simplifying the message, more intuitive navigation or maybe just adding a wink or whimsy to a brand/category not known for it.  Just remember what the Joker said ”Why so serious?”