Shout Out Studio - Marketing That Motivates

Brand Marketing Strategy and Execution
Understand How You Work Best

Understanding How You Work Best

Understanding How You Work Best 1920 703 Nathaniel Seevers

Leadership doesn’t always mean leading others or directing or delegating. Leadership starts with leading yourself; things like time management, being honest about your responsibilities, putting in the extra time to refine your skills. Part of that is understanding how you work best. What is the optimal situation for you to create your best work most efficiently on a regular basis?

The book, Strength Finders, is built around the premise that your days are better spent amplifying your strengths and gifts versus toiling over your weaknesses. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule at a much more detailed level. If a tennis player’s backhand is a weakness it’s still going to need some work for that player to see success. That can’t be ignored. But if tennis is the athlete’s weakness and she’s naturally gifted at soccer, maybe her time is better spent there honing that craft.

As it goes with WHAT you work on, so it goes with HOW you work on it. Being in tune with the ideal situation required for you to produce your best work most efficiently will not only help you at that moment but could also help you to:

  • Improve energy and focus over a period of time (days/week)
  • Better communicate with your team and show empathy to how they best work
  • Make decisions on project timelines and assign personnel to tackle the right tasks at the right time

Outlining your best moments: create a Productivity Inventory.

Identifying certain high-level productivity traits comes naturally. It’s easy for most of us to say confidently, “I do my best writing in the mornings” or “my best creative work happens in the evenings when no one is around.” But how do we dig a little deeper? Like an elite athlete, how do we track and improve on specific areas impacting the quality of work we produce?

Self-Awareness is key. First, create a checklist of your typical tasks and responsibilities. Now think back on two specific types of moments; one where you “felt in the zone,” felt productive, creative, firing on all cylinders, and one where despite knowing exactly what needed to be done you struggled to stay focused and complete the necessary tasks.

Ask the following for each scenario:

  • What time of day was it?
  • Was there music playing, was it quiet or was there simply a mixture of background noises?
  • Were there people around or were you alone?
  • Were you at a desk or in an easy chair? At the office, at home, or offsite someplace like a coffee shop?
  • Were you working under a tight deadline or working ahead of schedule?
  • How much sleep did you get the night before?
  • Is there a connection to your diet / are you eating foods the promote brain energy?

Being honest (not feeling guilty) about how we work best can lead to improved individual and overall company efficiency. Understanding when you and your team need to walk away and take a break or which distractions can be scheduled or avoided altogether can get you to better project management which in the end provides for better work and a happier work environment.

How User Experience Can Affect Pagerank

How User Experience Affects Page Rank

How User Experience Affects Page Rank 1920 703 Shout Out Studio

This year marks a shift for what factors in on-page optimization are most affective for search engine rank. Some of the items have been closing in from a distance for a few years now, but 2015 has allowed them to take shape. Google (and Bing and Yahoo) are taking a more holistic approach to how your pages and sites are ranked. Investing in their user experience has become increasingly important, if not the most important factor, for making sure your potential clients, customers, and audiences can find you.

What factors indicate a user’s experience?

  • Site speed – Users want a snappy site. The top ranked sites load in 2 seconds or less, and most users will leave after 3 seconds. Tools like GTMetrix can help you analyze how quick your site is loading, and what factors may be slowing it down. Upgrading server technology, using a CDN, and optimizing images are just a few of the ways to increase response time.
  • Security –  If you have an e-commerce site, or are exchanging sensitive information, installing an SSL certificate is a necessity. Adding encryption will help gain your clients and customers trust and confidence.
  • Responsive – No surprise, but mobile usage is on the rise. Search engines not only rank pages optimized for mobile higher, but decreases the rank for any page that is not responsive.
  • Topics – Users are no longer just searching for keywords. Were they ever? They want answers and solutions. Providing that information to your audience is a great way to see your rank increased. Things like proof and relevant terms have becoming increasingly evident on top ranked sites.
  • Images and Videos – Content that includes original images and video is more dynamic and more likely to be shared via social media. Don’t miss this opportunity to make an impact.
  • Readability – Font size matters. Sites that used consistent font size across their pages were ranked higher. Information structured using bullet and number lists also help users digest information.
  • Interactive elements – Top ranked sites also use buttons, graphics, and streamlined navigation to help guide their audience and structure their content.
  • Contact – Including a Contact and About page signals to search engines that you are authentic and interested in engaging your audience, clients, and customers.
  • Time – Bounce rates and time spent on a site are indicative to search engines to the relevance and usefulness of your content. Longer visits mean higher ranking. High Bounce rates can lower rank.
  • Social signals – Social signals continue to be important. Facebook being the biggest indicator followed by Google+. Backlinks from social media are considered trusted links and highly prioritized by search engines.
  • Ads – Including too many ads, or having ads above the fold of your site can now hurt your rank.

Thoughts on these new trends? It seems a departure from SEO strategies of the past. Keywords and URLS continue to lose their punch while qualified content and social media continue to gain steam. I appreciate the twist. I like it because it allows sites who take care of their audience and users to rank higher than companies who have just learned how to play the page rank game.

 

Page rank data from search metrics

Facebook

Facebook Ads: What’s Your Relevance?

Facebook Ads: What’s Your Relevance? 1920 700 Shout Out Studio

A while back, Facebook ads added a little thing called a Relevance Score to their reporting dashboard. Facebook ads are typically a game between what you’re trying to communicate to your audience, and what your audience wants to see. How do you know if you’re playing that game right? Your relevance score is a tool to help balance the game of what works and what doesn’t.

How it works:

Your relevance score is in a scale of 1-10, one being the least relevant to your audience, and ten being the most. The score is updated in real time, meaning that as your ad is live and people are interacting with it, Facebook is updating that relevance score with how people are reacting to it, positively or negatively.

Why you should focus on it:

It can save you time and money. Time because the game of guess and check is reduced to looking at one section of your reporting tool. You can easily assess why one ad within an ad set is performing better or worse than another. You’re therefore spending less money because you are spending less time. You can pause or cancel the ad that isn’t performing as well, or begin a new one, continuing to compare until you get a relevance score that you (and your audience) is happy with. Pretty simple, right?

User experience:

What do I think of the relevance score? I think it’s pretty damn amazing. It tells me what I want to know – whether or not my audience is reacting positively or negatively to my ad. We could run as many ads as we want, but unless our ad is relevant to what our audience wants to see, it’s a moot point.

Another reason I dig the relevance score is because we can run two ads back to back, test the same image and different copy, or different images and the same copy, whichever holds the best relevance score indicated then holds a higher relevance with our audience.

DMarketing

Marketing vs. Digital Marketing

Marketing vs. Digital Marketing 1920 700 Marsh Williams

A few weeks ago one of our clients asked us to comment on why they had not been able to cross the marketing/digital marketing divide on their own. Certainly a provocative question and one that really required some thought on our part.

This particular client has a very productive marketing department delivering traditional marketing activity: conferences, press releases, pr placement; however, they just felt they had never been able to capitalize on the power and promise of digital marketing.

Here’s how we responded to our client’s question…

It’s easy to look at marketing and digital marketing and assume they are the same. Most companies with a marketing department treat social media and other digital communications efforts as just another distribution outlet for the content they are already producing.

This is the genesis of the problem.

Traditional marketing is about creating a presence in the marketplace, establishing knowledge of an organization within the market, building awareness of products and services as well as the company’s value proposition. All great efforts that are absolutely required as part of an overall marketing equation.

Digital marketing is about creating an engaged audience and there are significant differences between the two.

First, mindset. Engaging an audience means thinking about information that has value for them. What questions do they have that you can address? What are they already talking about and how can you make a contribution to the conversation? In simple terms it means putting aside what you want to tell them and giving priority to what they want to know or how you can help.

When you go to a party or event, who is the person everyone wants to speak with? It’s the person who engages in conversation, who listens before sharing information, and who is as interested in your point of view as you are in his. That approach to digital marketing works. Every single time you add content to your website, post on social media or send out an email marketing piece ask: does anyone care about this? Will people see this as valuable and be more informed as a result of taking their time to read it?

The second difference of digital marketing is the ability to target an audience with precision heretofore unavailable. For example when posting an article on LinkedIn, you can target individuals by industry, job title, seniority level, and geography. On Facebook, you can target people down to the level of who they follow, their demographic information and even a zip code.

A third differentiating factor is the ability to measure your success with a high level of precision. Once you’ve established systems and set up the right tools you will know — down to an individual respondent — how many people are following you, how many people actually read or respond to your message and the types of success your efforts lead to over time. We developed a standard digital marketing dashboard that allows us to track all digital marketing efforts on a month-over-month basis to see our results.

Certainly we do not advocate abandoning traditional marketing, but we do recommend that digital marketing, with its additional capabilities and benefits, be treated as a separate discipline requiring dedicated staff, tools, and processes to generate the maximum benefit for your organization.

WooCommerce

WordPress + WooCommerce: What does it mean?!

WordPress + WooCommerce: What does it mean?! 1920 700 Shout Out Studio

If you run a WordPress site, and you use it to sell stuff, there is a pretty good chance you’ve opted for WooCommerce as your e-commerce solution. With over 7.5 million downloads, 600,000 using the paid version, you aren’t the only one who made the same match. According to WooThemes (the parent company of WooCommerce), WooCommerce powers over 24% of all online retail sites. A top 10 WordPress plugin, it only made sense for Automattic (the owners of WordPress) to scoop it, and the whole WooThemes team, up. Automattic paid more for WooCommerce than any other acquisition they’ve previously been a part of, for a reported $30 Million. They feel e-commerce is a profitable market, and have proved they are willing to put their money where their mouth is. While this won’t mean much for WordPress.com users, the rest of us who use WordPress.org will likely see plenty of changes in the near future. With the acquisition due to be complete in the next month, there has been a lot of speculation about what’s to come.

For those unfamiliar with WooCommerce, here is a brief explanation: it turns your WP site into an online store. You can add, adjust prices, organize, and edit products as needed without much hassle. It’s also great from a payment standpoint, coming fresh out of the box PayPal ready and offering extensions to increase it’s payment method capabilities. WooThemes has also stuffed it with other goodies including inventory management, coupon codes, shipping management, analytics, and other facets necessary for a user to easily run a store. Woo has also included a variety of extensions and themes to make customizing your shop easy.

So what does the Automattic acquisition mean for users in the future? The WordPress + WooCommerce combination should lead for more open source development, flexibility, and integration. A major hope is that this union will bring stability to the connection between WordPress and e-commerce, carrying over into the rest of the plugin offerings as well. The more the two can be integrated, the better they will be as a platform for online sales and growth. As a small online company grows, the hope is they can just expand their sites capabilities rather then look to custom coding to cater to their growing demand. There has also been a lot of user speculation (read: hope) that this means lowered prices for extensions, bundles, and plans. That or a beefed up free version offering things like the shipping extension and styling elements, both of which are currently reserved for pricier plugins.

Aside from the anticipated improvements, WooThemes has promised to continue business as usual for their themes and plugins (including WooCommerce.) The biggest difference  is they will now have the support and access to Automattic’s resources, including their manpower and technology. Feel free to watch Matt’s announcement video below.

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FindingYourCRowd

A First Step to Find Your Advertising Audience in Social Media

A First Step to Find Your Advertising Audience in Social Media 1920 700 Shout Out Studio

Finding the right audience in social media advertising can be a challenge – especially when you’re trying to get to find the ideal mix that gets you the most clicks, impressions, ROI and any other goals you and your digital marketing team are working toward. However, one of the easiest places to find your audience is already provided for you.

Your social media channels.

When was the last time you checked out your Pinterest or Twitter audience insights? In the depths of those often-overlooked tabs you just might find your answer. Anything from what their interests are, to who else they are following. Then what should you do? Create audiences within Facebook advertising for each platform and test it. They all might be a little similar, but each provides different insights into your audience’s interest.

Twitter has a “followers” tab you can check out that contains information from most unique interests, top interests to even who your followers are following. Use this information to fill out a custom audience. Are they interested in fashion, technology, music? Use their interest!

Pinterest audience interests are a little harder to find. You have to go to the analytics tab, then hit ‘interest’ (close to the top). Here you will see what boards/interests your Pinterest audience is interested in. Design, healthy eating? You can create a new audience in Facebook to send ads out to. Compare and contrast Twitter and Pinterest by running the same campaign back-to-back and seeing which works best.

Don’t forget Google Analytics.

Google Analytics is a fantastic tool to use to see where your audience is coming from to your site. The best part is you can use that information to your advantage when targeting audiences to advertising using Facebook (or other platforms).

When all of the Facebook audiences have been tested you can take that same strategy to other platforms. Try doing the same test on Pinterest or Twitter! It’s all about working with what you already have in front of you, and then testing other audiences as you go!

Mobile Site

Google Makes Mobile Site Mandatory

Google Makes Mobile Site Mandatory 1920 700 Marsh Williams

Well it’s now official. If you don’t have a website that is mobile friendly you’ll be harder to find on Google.

After months of proclaiming the importance of having a mobile website, Google has finally implemented their changes that make a mobile site mandatory as part of a company’s SEO strategy. Up until last week, Google operated on the honor system allowing companies to just say their site was mobile friendly, but no more. Now Google is the sole arbiter of this issue and no longer will just take a company’s word for it.

So what’s the impact?

Effective last week searches from a smartphone will include the term—mobile friendly—in the results. By including this tag Google is betting that companies will work to make sure their site is verified as mobile friendly: that’s the carrot. There is also a stick, as the new algorithm rolls out over the next several weeks, sites that are not defined as mobile friendly will be dropped down in the search engine results list. While this is not stated specifically it is pretty much guaranteed it will happen.

However there is a silver lining here. The days of having to have a separate website done in mobile format are behind us. Many content management systems, like WordPress offer a 2-for-1 capability. Any site constructed with these tools should be set up to be “responsive.” This means that you can have one website which automatically reformats for the device being used to view it, meaning there is no longer a need to have separate desktop and mobile websites.

If you’d like to know how your site ranks use this link and enter your domain name.

https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/

If you need other reasons to value a mobile website consider the following:

  • Mobile traffic leads the Internet
  • Companies with responsive design websites reduce their bounce rate by 11% on average
  • 66% of all email is opened on a mobile device, think what it means for a client to open an email on their smartphone and not be able to read your website when they click there.
  • In a 2013 survey Google reported that 90% of executives used their mobile devices for research and 34% said they abandoned sites that were not responsive
White Paper

Beyond the Blog: Benefits of a White Paper

Beyond the Blog: Benefits of a White Paper 1920 700 Gretchen Ardizzone

There’s no denying the power of a blog, in fact it’s one of our most valuable communication tools and one that we recommend for our clients for a multitude of reasons. But the reality is that just about everyone has a blog these days, and the criteria for content creation and who’s creating is sometimes loose. Beyond the blog though there are other content formats that can provide additional value and have higher levels of expectation like the white paper.

A white paper is intended to be an authoritative, in-depth piece that educates the reader on your unique point of view. Some might tell you it’s an old-school technique that has lost its luster. Don’t be quick to judge. If crafted properly the return on investment can be valuable in terms of generating new leads, creating brand awareness, and establishing an expert reputation.

Where Do You Start?

Start by creating a creative brief. This will help outline all the necessary details you need to establish from the beginning, as well as provide a great resource to share with internal stakeholders to get everyone on the same page, and make sure it fits within the company’s overall positioning. Here’s a quick look at what the creative brief should include:

  • Describe the initiative
  • Outline what is the focus or big idea of the piece
  • Highlight what are the supporting themes
  • Identify the primary audience
  • Establish what is the benefit for the reader
  • Identify what you want to gain
  • Determine what action you want the reader to take
  • And lastly establish a timeline

Content Quick Tips

Capture attention. Much like a blog post you’ve got to create a captivating title that’ll attract readers. Make it powerful and intrigue them to give a little whether it’s their contact information or just the time it takes them to read. Consider an active verb suggesting the need to take action.

Tell them something they don’t already know. Share some secret sauce or exclusive insight that they might not have otherwise known unless they read your white paper. Make it thought provoking.

Build credibility. Consider co-writing with other industry experts or simply including a relevant quote from an influential individual that supports your content.

Do your research. White papers shouldn’t just be an opinion piece. Do your homework to compile supporting information and stats or interview subject matter experts.

Make it visual. Yes, the primary focus here is the content, but a bunch of words on a blank white page is going to be a total snooze to the reader. Use compelling photography and embrace colors and fonts as a way to highlight or call out key points within the piece.

Don’t focus on length. White papers vary in length from several to double-digit page numbers. What’s important to remember in the ideal length of the piece is that it should be long enough to convey your point effectively—period. Don’t make it too short that the reader feels disappointed that they didn’t get much out of it, but don’t add fluff to reach an arbitrary page length.

To gate or not to gate, that is the question. There are benefits on both ends of the spectrum. By gating the white paper you gain valuable contact information and can help you build email lists and provide an opportunity for follow up. On the flip side there’s also hesitancy amongst most individuals to want to provide that information. Consider not gating the information with the belief that the content will be powerful enough to ignite the reader to need to contact you. You can also try gating the white paper for a period of time, and then opening up after it’s been out in the public for a bit.

Plan for Promotion

There’s no sense in creating a great piece of content if you only intend to put it up on the website in hopes that someone will come find it. That’s like publishing a book and putting it in the library with the hope that it gets discovered one day. Establish a promotion plan the beginning.

  • Consider creating a few blog posts on the subject in advance to further position credibility around the point of view.
  • Develop a tiered approach to distribution. Establish a segment of customers that you can provide exclusive access to before you officially make public to everyone else.
  • After that, utilize social media channels for additional distribution, and consider both organic and paid promotion.
  • Add calls-to-action in other logical places of the website where visitors might see it, or add a link in the bottom of your email to help spread the word in day-to-day communications.
  • Share with online resources and publications that might be interested to feature the piece.

While it may take days or weeks to produce a long-form piece of content like a white paper the benefits can outweigh only focusing on short-form content pieces like a blog post as a part of your overall content marketing strategy.

Photo Credit: Dan Taylr

knowing versus believing

Knowing versus Believing

Knowing versus Believing 1920 703 Nathaniel Seevers

Our job as marketers, communicators, brand builders isn’t so much helping people to understand as it is helping people to believe.

Facts are good. They can be tough to digest at times, but all in all, facts help us to make informed decisions. Facts are the basis for logic and reasoning. They are things we can be definitive about – data that helps to remove internal debate. And yet still, facts won’t always win out over gut reaction.

Need doesn’t always supersede want.

If you put the facts sheets together for the latest iPhone and latest Samsung smartphone it’s quite possible that the Samsung phone has longer battery life, runs apps faster, more storage, better price, better this and that. And yet still, people will buy the phone they want more often than they will buy the one that’s the most logical to purchase.

Why is this?

Logic doesn’t always win in the battle with intuition. Even when all the facts are on the table our minds work to justify our gut reaction; to make it feel okay to want what we want. Psychologists call this Confirmation Bias.

According to a recent BBC report:

“…your logical, slow mind is a master at inventing a cover story. Most of the beliefs or opinions you have come from an automatic response. But then your logical mind invents a reason why you think or believe something.”

Our beliefs put our logical mind to work confirming our want.

How does this impact consumer communication?

Facts are important. We as consumers use facts to validate. But we don’t instinctively use facts as a path to desire. We use facts to justify desire.

If you’re marketing a product that is factually backed as being superior and you’ve spent time educating your audience with those facts but still few people are buying, you could be missing the mark when it comes to creating belief.

How to foster belief

Be genuine and speak authentically – this is where being in touch with your brand is crucial. Speak from a voice that is confident and reflective of your brand values. Understand the persona that represents your company and how you need to carry those traits through website copy, packaging and social media in a way that allows your audience to connect and relate.

Put your benefit foot forward –how does your product or service work to better aspects of the consumer’s lifestyle? Someone buys a drill to create a hole, sure, but the decision to purchase is not always that cut and dry. A need to feel prepared could be the driver or a need to complete a collection or an emotional thread of tradition (my granddad used that same drill) could be the underlying reasons that ultimately complete the purchase. What’s the emotional connection behind the stats?

Create Brand Ambassadors – get the community involved. 77% of people say they are more likely buy a product that comes recommended by a friend or colleague. Brand ambassadors help spread belief.

 

photo credit: Ben Rea

PodcastsStorytelling ShoutBlog1

Podcasts and the Art of Storytelling

Podcasts and the Art of Storytelling 842 452 Shout Out Studio

Storytelling is the oldest and most effective method humans have to pass along knowledge. It’s how we’ve developed cultural values and passed history from generation to generation. We are wired to remember it.

This is why learning how to tell your story is just as important as what it is you have to say. If your delivery is boring, cluttered, or disorganized people start to lose interest. Think of it as a dinner party. The people who take control of the conversation and demand the most attention are those who are the best at telling stories. They may not have the best stories at the table, but their ability to make what they’re saying interesting and entertaining is what wins over the crowd.

While there are endless outlets for your brand to tell it’s story, only one format has brought back the classic type of storytelling. Oral storytelling is an intimate and traditional relationship between the storyteller and audience. It’s been around for as long as we’ve used language to communicate. Although it is unlikely you will be speaking to your audience in close quarters, huddled tightly, it still offers an important lesson. The best way to experience the oral tradition of storytelling without interrupting your daily life is by listening to podcasts.

Podcasts have been around for a good while now, but as of recently there have emerged clear victors when it comes to storytelling. They offer lessons in effectively finding your voice, style, and feel to best reach your audience. They’re also great ways to spend long roadtrips or long days at the good ol’ 9-5. Here are some great podcasts to get you started:

Serial: If you managed to make it the past 6 months without hearing about Serial, then I’m genuinely impressed. After its release last October, Serial set a new presidence of what radio-journalism could be. It follows a reporter’s investigation of a murder from 1999. Without giving too much away, it’s a gripping series that reached the top of the charts.

Longform: A Q&A format podcast that focuses on the creative process of writers and journalists. It’s an in-depth and intimate look at a professional storyteller’s processes–both grounding and relieving (hint: everyone struggles sometimes). That being said, it’s always inspiring to hear people in love with their craft and career.

Radiolab: Taking a complex and philosophical subject matter and creating an interesting and understandable radio show is no easy task, but Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich do just that. Their series of podcasts use storytelling to explain or examine broad and sweeping subjects, such as time. Another great part of the show is the production value, which adds to their stories without being distracting.

The Truth: You can’t handle the truth! The Truth is an entertaining Fiction podcast utilizing the tagline “Movie for your ears.” Between improvised dialogue, interesting production, and captivating story lines, The Truth is definitely worth a listen. Also, I don’t apologize for the A Few Good Men reference. Worth it.

99% Invisible: One of my favorites, 99% Invisible hosted by Roman Mars focuses on art, design and architecture. Each episode examines a specific example of design, dicussing it in depth with professionals, experts, or those directly influenced by the matter at hand.

While this is just a short list, there are tons of great podcasts. Each has it’s own story, and they all tell it in an incredibly unique way. It might come in handy when telling your own story someday.

TedTalks

Ted talks to keep you creative

Ted talks to keep you creative 1920 700 Shout Out Studio

Welcome to March! New Years resolutions have  faded, it’s STILL winter, and there’s a lot of work to be done. So here are a few TED talks to keep you inspired, creative, and motivated.

Elizabeth Gilbert – Your elusive creative genius

One of my favorite TED talks, author of Eat, Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert talks about following up your greatest success and attempting to chase down the creativity that made it possible.

“I think that allowing somebody, one mere person to believe that he or she is like, the vessel, you know, like the font and the essence and the source of all divine, creative, unknowable, eternal mystery is just a smidge too much responsibility to put on one fragile, human psyche. It’s like asking somebody to swallow the sun.”

 Kare Anderson: Be an opportunity maker

Kare talks about how making people who are unlike ourselves our allies… creates opportunities, for everybody.

“What I’m asking you to consider is what kind of opportunity- makers we might become, because more than wealth or fancy titles or a lot of contacts, it’s our capacity to connect around each others better side and bring it out.”


 Margaret Gould Stewart: How giant websites design for you (and a billion others, too)

Margaret guides us through how complicated it can be to create designs that scale, but how important it is, to get it right.

“Audacity to believe that the thing that you’re making is something that the entire world wants and needs, and humility to understand that as a designer, it’s not about you or your portfolio, it’s about the people that you’re designing for, and how your work just might help them live better lives.”


 Richard St. John: Success is a continuous journey

Richard demonstrates how believing that you’re successful is a great way to fail.

“So I went back to doing the projects I loved. I had fun again, I worked harder and, to cut a long story short, did all the things that took me back up to success.”


 Edith Wilder: How we found the giant squid

Edith shows us how changing the method used to view underwater species helped catch a shot of the very elusive giant squid. Her very creative alternative approach generated amazing results.

“We’ve only explored about five percent of our ocean. There are great discoveries yet to be made down there, fantastic creatures representing millions of years of evolution and possibly bioactive compounds that could benefit us in ways that we can’t even yet imagine.”

What are some ways you stay creative and motivated to do your best work? How do you inspire others to do their best work?

Website

5 Solid Reasons To Get A Website in 2015

5 Solid Reasons To Get A Website in 2015 1920 700 Shout Out Studio

In our field of digital marketing we see a ton of websites. The good, the bad and the ugly. While there isn’t a whole lot worse than a really bad website, there is one thing – having no website at all. I’ve seen impressive websites for companies as big as they get, and great websites for as small as they come, such as landscaping and photography. Big or small – here are 5 solid reasons why you should get a website in 2015:

Connection

One of the most important aspects your company can provide to its consumers is being available at all times – websites do that since the Internet is 24 hours a day. Not all people are active, or interested in your business from 9am-5pm. Your competitors are online. Your audience is online. You need to be there too. Simple ways to connect, such as a contact form for people to fill out can be the difference between you and your competitors.

Impression

Your appearance can say a million words. Personally, I value a company that has a visually appealing website. When I see they have put effort into making their website look great, my attention is captured. Actually, more often than not, I remember them and value them over their competitors.

Knowledge

A website can be an excellent tool for your company to prove you have knowledge of your product or service. According to BlogHer, 81% of U.S. online consumers trust information and advice from blogs. Also, InsideView states B2B marketers who use blogs generate 67% more leads than those that do not. These statistics clearly show that having a blog can be beneficial to you and your company, and a great place to share your expertise.

Selling

Although I hate to bring sales into this, it’s true – having a website can be the key to more sales, especially if you have a great product or service. Even if you don’t want or have the need for eCommerce on your site, simple things such as an email list or newsletter sign up can lead to a potential sale.

Credibility

Having a website can validate what you do and help to prove who you are to potential clients and partners (B2B or B2C). If you haven’t had the opportunity to meet with a potential client, partner or customer this can be your chance to create a visual representation of who your company is and helps boost your brand within a matter of seconds.

For all these reasons and more, it’s time to look into creating a website for your company. Your audience is out there, use this simple tool to connect with them, impress them, show them your expertise, help increase sales, and build your credibility.

Blog

5 Simple Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Blogging

5 Simple Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Blogging 1920 700 Gretchen Ardizzone

Blogs are the most valuable type of content, according to more than one-third of today’s marketers (Source: ContentPlus). I could go on and on about the benefits of blogging from establishing authority to building trust to educating your audience, but the key though is effectively blogging. And let’s be honest though, while it may be the most valuable type of content, we know it takes a good amount of work to do it well. Here are 5 simple tips to get the most out of your blogging efforts.

Write for Your Audience Not For You

Creating great content always starts with focus, and that comes from understanding the audience you’re writing to attract. It’s easy to get excited about a topic and see something new and be tempted to write a post about it. I’ll be honest I’ve done it on occasion too. But the content that will provide the greatest value is a piece that is written for the intended reader and not you. Remember, you are not the target.

Having a content strategy in place will help you benchmark the audience you’re writing for and be a guide. For example, this post is geared to helping businesses improve their blog writing skills with a few simple tips and tools.

It’s never too late to implement a content strategy supported by an editorial calendar. Having an editorial calendar will keep you organized of course, but also help to monitor your keyword use and topic balance to ensure that you’re reaching your defined target with a variety of post topics. There’s a ton of free tools out there for editorial calendars from HubSpot and Content Marketing Institute, it just depends on your personal preference. Find one that works for you and get your content ideas documented. If all else fails you can even create one yourself with a simple excel sheet making sure to track authors and due dates, titles and content details, keywords and target personas, and lastly, your call-to-action.

Be Creative With Titles

Creating a great blog post may not matter if you don’t put as much consideration into creating a great title. By creating a title that will grab the attention of your audience you can help improve your click through-rate.  When thinking about using common vs. unique adjectives in your title, go for unique. Adjectives that aren’t used as frequently in other posts will help make your title stand out more. By adding more emotional words to your post title you can also increase interest. Positive emotional words promote a better chance of being shared as well. Use social promotion as a way of testing your headlines. Tweet the content using different headlines to test which preforms better.

You can even try using a tool like CoSchedule’s Blog Post Headline Analyzer. Once you plug in your post title the tool will analyze the overall quality and rate its ability to result in social shares and SEO value. I even used it creating this post title (feel free to check out how I score).

Make it Easily Shareble

If your reader is challenged to find a way to easily share your article you can bet they won’t spend long trying to figure out how. Make it easy for them. Hopefully you’ve already incorporated social sharing buttons on your blog, but beyond that you can utilize “Click to Tweet” to highlight key points or powerful stats in your post.

Create a custom post graphic. You’ve heard it probably a million times a picture is worth a thousand words. Well it may not be worth a thousand words but, it may just make the difference between a post getting read or shared. Posts with images get 94% more total views than those without (source: Jeff Bulas).

Custom graphics resonate even more with readers than stock photography. If you’re like me and you read a lot of blogs, you’ve maybe even started to notice the same stock photo trending over other posts. Be unique and utilize imagery, fonts, and colors that relate to your brand.

Spelling, Grammar or Language Misstakes

We’re all human, and occasionally make typos or you might find yourself using the wrong tense of a verb. Heck you might even find one in this post (hopefully not). But a post that is poorly written or laden with grammatical errors is going to lose your reader real fast. There are a few things you can do to prevent this from happening though.

Start by having someone else read your post. Chances are you’ve read your post over and over and aren’t likely to catch simple errors because you know what you’re trying to convey. If you’re using a CMS system like WordPress, you can also consider starting your blog post in a word document. Typical spelling errors and awkward sentence structures are bound to be identified.

If you really want to get technical though, try a web app like Hemingway. Paste your text into Hemmingway and it’ll identify hard to read sentences, complex phrases, adverbs and passive voice. Each one is highlighted with a different color to help you identify what you might need to change. Beyond just sentence structure and analyzing the types of words used in the post, Hemmingway evaluates the readability of the post and identifies what grade level is needed to understand the text. The best content is written at a middle school level, so take that into your readability consideration.

Track Your Post Performance

If you write it, they will come. Not exactly. There are a lot of variables that go into getting your content discovered— content promotion for example—but if you’re not monitoring your blog traffic at all, you can’t begin to understand what’s working and what’s not. And of course you want to understand the results of your efforts.

This takes me back to the beginning of the importance of having a content strategy plan. In order to track the performance of your content, you need to understand the goals. Is it to increase sales, generate leads, create brand awareness, or establish expertise in a specific category? Depending on what you’ve identified as your goal, you can then start to look at some areas for measurement of success. If your goal is brand awareness, you might look at an increase in social media following and engagement, page views, website traffic and specifically the amount of time spent reading your posts. If your goal is to generate leads, you’ll want to measure email subscription or sign-ups and content form submissions. Evaluating your blog performance will only help make certain that the content you create is getting the recognition it deserves.

Now get out there and go write something!

CES

CES 2015: Best new gear for business

CES 2015: Best new gear for business 1920 700 Shout Out Studio

The 2015 CES has wrapped up, giving us a slew of new and innovative products and technology. I went through the roundup, and picked some of the best new gear for business. Unintentionally, my picks were focused on getting work done while out and about.

pye6493i Airtame: work better wirelessly

A nifty little gadget that will plug in to any HDMI connection and wirelessly stream your screen from any device. Makes presentations easy, effortless, and awesome. Available now.

 


Zuta Pocket Printer: The first mini robotic printerphoto zuta labs

The Zuta pocket printer allows you to print full size documents on the go. Super handy if you need to print a contract to be signed, or update an invoice. Will print from any device via wifi. Taking pre-orders now.

 

 

 

 


CES 2015: Best new gear for busines - Soluto  Soluto: Your mobile, at your service

Soluto is an app available on Google play and the App store. It features tools that go above and beyond the standard mobile apps. Provides backup, finding and securing a lost phone, and a set of diagnostic and maintenance tools. Soluto is also part of  Asurion, a company that provides excellent service and insurance for a variety of devices.

 

 

 


 

Zagg: Your best fitZagg

Zagg has been creating mobile solutions since 2005. They had an excellent round up this year at CES, but my favorite was the pocket, a foldable wireless phablet keyboard and stand. A condensed but comfortable keyboard, allowing you to conduct business and get work done, well anywhere.

 

 

 

 

What were some of your favorite products from the CES this year?

Goodbye To Google

Goodbye to Google

Goodbye to Google 776 415 Marsh Williams

Over the holidays I had a chance to catch up with an old friend whom I’ve not seen in months. He is fairly highly placed in the technology sector and of course we wound up talking “geek” ad nauseum. One of the things we discussed was his take on Google. Here is what I got.

There is absolutely no privacy when it comes to Google; there may be some last vestige of anonymity, but there is no privacy. Google knows when you’re in your car, who you communicate with, and now, with the acquisition of Nest, what you do in your home, thus rendering the phrase “in the privacy of your own home” meaningless. The amount of data they collect, examine, and use is staggering and is an absolute assault on the right to privacy.

That being said, yes, I opted in. But now I’m opting out. It will take a while, I’m guessing at least a year, to get away but I’m going to do it. And yes, I’m going to miss the effectiveness of Google as a search engine. Plus I’ll be giving up an email address I’ve had since 2004, but I have to draw the line somewhere and this is it.

While all of what my friend shared is already public, hearing it put together with his perspective, which I greatly respect, has led me to one conclusion: my 2015 resolution is to separate from Google. That means dropping Chrome, Gmail, Google+, YouTube, the whole shebang. Can I actually do it? I don’t know, but I’m going to try.

To get a real sense of what Google does and does not do/know/plan/collect/sell, check out these articles:

“4 Ways Google is Destroying Privacy and Collecting Data”

“Privacy concerns? What Google now says it can do with your data”

“Google concedes that drive-by prying violated privacy

I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks

marketinggoals

Goal Setting for Digital Marketing

Goal Setting for Digital Marketing 880 461 Nathaniel Seevers

As with personal goals, it’s never too late to start setting digital marketing goals. No need to wait until the New Year or fret if you don’t get them set by the end of January.

Yes, it’s never too late for setting digital marketing goals, though it can be too early. Let me explain; goal setting for digital marketing can benefit from some level of baseline knowledge. How would you know what to aim for if you have no idea what is realistic for your business?

Build a Baseline to Reference

If you’re new to measuring certain aspects of your digital marketing, consider taking 1-3 months to measure and record, developing a baseline from which to create your goals.

If you have been measuring for a period of time these numbers should be part of your goal setting decisions.

What Else to Consider

Well, that baseline number up there of course but also:

  • The platform averages for your industry. For example, comparing Average Reach on Twitter for a Logistics company and a Clothing Retailer may be like comparing apples to alligators.
  • Direct competitor performance.
  • Age and level of awareness of the business
  • Age of the business’ presence on a certain platform

Know what to measure

Each platform/channel/area of effort (whatever you want to call it) will have relative metrics to track but all of this should be feeding into a big picture marketing plan with big picture marketing goals. These are the details, these are the brush strokes that make up your masterpiece for the month/quarter/year/etc.

Let’s use two major social platforms as an example of what to measure:

On Facebook

  1. Engagement – How people are interacting with your content on Facebook
  2. Reach (but be aware that organic reach is tough to come by. Any significant Reach is likely to come from paid promotion, at least to get rolling and build awareness).
  3. Page Likes – Despite some reports, page Likes aren’t just a shallow metric to measure your popularity. Quality Page Likes help to amplify your Reach and increase the effectiveness of your Facebook Advertising.
  4. Negative Impact – Diving into the Page Likes section within your Facebook Insights shows you a Net Likes section. Here you can quickly see a count for Unlikes of your Page. Unlike aren’t uncommon, even for the most popular brands, but if you can correlate any large sections of Unlikes to recent posts, ads and/or frequencies listen to your audience and make adjustments. On the ads in particular, check out this article on reducing ads fatigue.

On Twitter

  1. Impressions – numbers of times users saw your tweet
  2. Engagement Rate – the number of engagements (clicks, retweets, favorites, follows, replies) divided by the total number of impressions. This data is more valuable month over month than say day-to-day.

Depending on your marketing and business development goals you’ll likely be looking to convert that social activity to leads and ultimately projects/sales. That’s where your website goals and data comes in.

Website Metrics to Track (Google Analytics):

  1. Sessions/Users – this is the number of visits to your site and the number of Users (or visitors) making up those visits.
  2. Referrals – where those Users are coming from and what they’re clicking on to get to your site. Tracking URLS for your social media sites can help better clarify those actions.
  3. Exit Pages – unlike Bounce rate which can vary based on page content and the desired outcome from your landing pages, Exit Pages allow you to take a closer look at when your visitors are leaving on their journey through your site. From here you can take educated actions that help carry the visitor closer to conversion.
  4. Conversion Rate – Just like it sounds, how your website is performing based on the number of visitors who reach the desired goal (conversion)
  5. Top 5 or 10 Pages – Look at these monthly to help connect the dots between new content and social media efforts with onsite traffic and behaviors.

Set “Stretch But Don’t Snap” Goals

In the end goals should be aggressive but obtainable – realistic but take some of your best effort to achieve. Seeing your team start to close in on goals can be great motivation. On the flip-side, seeing a gigantic gap between where you are and where you want to get, can lead to a serious case of throwing in the towel.

Tell us about your digital marketing goals or if you have a question fire away in the comments or on twitter. Grab more digital marketing insights here.

Photo credit: Jeff Turner

Marketing Extensiuons

Keep Organized With These Small Business Marketing Extensions

Keep Organized With These Small Business Marketing Extensions 1920 700 Shout Out Studio

Marketing for a small business can get hectic, time-consuming, and unorganized. Between the hundreds of accounts, sites, and content resources used everyday, it is easy to get overwhelmed. Luckily there are plenty of browser extensions that can be added to your web browser to help keep your efforts clutter-free. Here are some great extensions that the Shout Out team uses to stay sane:

Awesome ScreenshotAwesome Screenshot:

Screen capturing is nothing new, but Awesome Screenshot is the most versatile and capable screenshot tool I have come across. It allows you to capture either a selected area, the directly visible area, or the entire web page. After you have selected your screenshot, you can annotate it in a variety of ways, and even censor sensitive information. The final benefit of Awesome Screenshot is it gives you the option to email, share the url, or save the image. Showing edits needed on site pages, individual posts or photos has never been easier.

 

HootletHootlet:

If you’re in charge of social media for your small business, there is a good chance you are no stranger to HootSuite. Hootlet is their browser extension which helps you save time and effort. You can post to multiple social media profiles at once, schedule your posts, and find targeted content all without leaving your browser window.

bitly fish logobitly:

bitly is a link shortening/ branding extension that does so much more. After you create custom bitlinks, you can then manage and review their performance from the analytics and reporting from bitly. It keeps your social sharing looking clean, and helps you track click-throughs.

 

crowdriff 2561riffle:

Riffle is the Twitter dashboard you’ve been looking for, assuming you were looking for a Twitter dashboard. Get a Twitter profile’s vitals, influence assessments, top shares, usage and it’s activity rate all in a single dashboard. It’s a great way to learn about your followers or potential influencers.

PocketPocket:

Save the content you find for later with Pocket. This nifty extension will save, categorize and sync content so you can access it later, from any device. Pocket is a great way to curate articles, videos, or photos to share from your brand’s social media accounts.

MozBar1MozBar:

The MozBar browser extension provides free SEO metrics and data. You can search keywords, locations and individual search engines. MozBar also lets you analyze on-page elements with their Analyze Page overlay. It provides you with a break down of social shares and metrics. Save time on SEO research by adding MozBar to your extension arsenal.

Other useful extensions that will save you time and effort:

Check My Links:

As the name suggests, this extension is a link checker that scours through your page or post and will make sure all your links are working. Once it’s done it will highlight working links in green, and it highlights the broken links with red. This is a great time-saver, especially when you’ve been editing content for an entire day.

RiteTag:

It can be hard to know which hashtags to use on your social media posts. RiteTag takes the guessing out of it by grading your hashtags on a three point scale. Updates shared through RiteTag are also monitored for click-throughs, replies, retweets, favorites, and follows.

Check out the extensions above and let us know what you think! We’d love to hear of any extensions you use that have simplified your daily workload.

eComm

E-Commerce Tips: Be super at selling stuff online

E-Commerce Tips: Be super at selling stuff online 1920 700 Shout Out Studio
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’s also one of the busiest, most expensive, and stressful times. As customers continue to clamor online for deals, steals, and gifts, here’s a few ways to make sure your store and products stand out in this digital shop frenzy.

read more

JetBlue

JetBlue Uses Social Media for a Social Movement

JetBlue Uses Social Media for a Social Movement 1920 700 Gretchen Ardizzone

Social media is a powerful business tool, but it can also be an amazing vehicle for doing good. JetBlue recently caught my eye when I heard about what they were doing to embrace social media and create a social movement by giving back to their travelers in the form of social sharing. With their Fly It Forward Campaign, they’ve asked individuals to tell them “If you were given one flight to spread good where would you go?” The goal is to provide fliers with a ticket to make the world a little better with the one request that they pay it forward.

It takes the simple action of traveling and makes it something much, much more. It’s about what you will do when you get there. The brand is investing and empowering travelers to give them access to making their dreams real and doing something that truly matters. JetBlue Senior Vice President of Commercial, Marty St George said it best, “It’s easy to get caught up in the mechanics of travel and overlook the reasons why people travel. Everyone travels for their own reasons. It’s those stories, those connections with individuals that inspire us all.”

Fly It Forward started first with crewmembers nominating members of their communities they thought were worthy of a flight. Tameka was selected a first. As a director of I Grow Chicago, she provides a safe-haven for at-risk community members by connecting them through yoga, urban farming, art, and culture. Her purpose is to teach community ownership and help individuals realize that they matter. With JetBlue, she had the chance to visit the United Nations as a delegate and learn from other communities who fight against similar obstacles in order to bring it back and share what she knows.

The next evolution of the experience is the process of passing it on. The beauty of it is that these individuals have never met. It’s not a good friend or a co-worker that they know who wants to go somewhere amazing. It’s about giving these travelers a chance to hear the stories of other like-minded individuals who want to make a difference or want to experience something that would be life-changing and passing on that same opportunity. You can follow the stories as they take flight and unfold on jetblueflyitforward.com and help continue the mission by nominating yourself or submitting a worthy traveler’s story through Twitter using #FlyItForward.

 

If your brand can take consumers to a place they never thought they could go, give them the vessel to do that. Whether it’s through communicating encouragement, empowerment, or physically providing them with the tools they need…that’s a powerful position to be able to do something good.

REDDIT

A Simple Guide To Marketing On Reddit

A Simple Guide To Marketing On Reddit 1920 700 Shout Out Studio

Everyone knows that social media marketing can be an incredibly powerful, and these days necessary, marketing tool. Most marketers gravitate to Facebook because it is easy to understand. The slightly more tech savvy will be engaged in twitter or maybe Pintrest. But very few marketers will dive into marketing on Reddit, and they are missing a world of opportunity.

Reddit can be a scary place for a marketer:

  • It doesn’t have a beautiful and slick UI like most of its social media brethren. In fact, it’s more like the craigslist of social media.
  • It’s divided into thousands upon thousands of subreddits. More are added every day.
  • Its users are made up of some of the most tech-savvy and skeptical people on the internet.

Although it’s ugly, incredibly divided, and its users are unforgiving, in my opinion, Reddit is one of the best places a marketer can be today. If you identify where your market is and speak to them in a genuine and honest voice, they can be some of the greatest influencers out there. If you’re interested in capitalizing on one of the best social media outlets in existence, here is my quick and dirty guide to help you do so:

  1. Identify your relevant subreddits

If you are thinking that you are just going to post a link to your blog or website and be on the front page of Reddit, you are sorely mistaken. Trying to land something on the front page is a waste of time. Instead, spend a good amount of time and find out where your incredibly active subreddits are. There is practically one for everything. The people that frequent these subreddits will be incredibly passionate about whatever it is that the subreddit is about.

  1. Become a part of the community

You’ve heard us say this a hundred times before but I am going to say it again. It is called SOCIAL media for a reason. You need to actively participate in the community to have success there. You may have thought you identified your perfect subreddit, but once you get active in it you may find out that is has an entirely different tone than what you thought it would have. Start out by commenting on threads and answering questions. Gradually work your way into posting links.

  1. Have something to say

Once you feel like you have become part of the community, don’t just start throwing up links to your website every day. People will sniff that self-serving type of stuff out super quick. You need to have something to say, and it needs to be good. After spending some time on the subreddit you should have a pretty good idea of what kinds of things people are really interested in. Take those interesting ideas and write something about it on your blog, or post something about it on the subreddit giving advice or asking questions. Don’t just start submitting links to your shop page or company website every other day to generate traffic.

Being successful on reddit, really just boils down to a few things; find the right people, be genuine, and don’t abuse it. As I said before, these are some of the most savvy people on the internet, if they sense one thing off about who you are and what you are doing you won’t get anywhere. However, if you’re smart about it and become a genuine person in their community, it will be one of your best audiences out there.

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