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Advance Your Digital Marketing Career

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As digital marketers, we are always learning.

Whether navigating a new app or staying up-to-date on industry news, it is important to stay curious.

Taking a short course or earning a certificate can help professionals expand their talents.

It can also help give your resume an added boost. When potential employers see you’re investing in new skills, it shows you are someone willing to try different tools and responsive to fresh ideas.

When we’re in the classroom, we’re also connecting with others in the industry.

Marketing and communications is all about building a dialogue with others. By enrolling in a specialty course, we have the chance to not only learn from the instructor but also our peers. Social media especially is often learned through doing. What better way to learn than by exchanging experiences and real world examples?

A specialty course can help us go deeper into subjects.

Investing your time in a webinar or workshop means students can maximize their time and choose topics relevant to their individual interests within the digital marketing.

Perhaps you are curious to learn more about search engine optimization or pay-per-click advertising? If you have questions about a certain subject, find a way to learn about just that and dig in!

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Add Video to Your Events

Graphic image of mobile phone with white text on screen reading: "RSVP. Will attend... Will attend digitally...X"

Bring your event to guests with video.

Thanks to social and online options, no one is ever excluded from the guest list. Using video across your social media platforms, you can extend your marketing powers while playing with new tools.

Whether engaging with a polished professional video or spur-of-the-moment livestreams, you can use video at each stage of your event.

Step One: Generate Interest

Generate interest in your event with a video promo, and make it to fit your budget.

Upload a polished promo to your YouTube page and drop links to it in your email newsletters. Or check out Ripl for marketing videos you can share on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and which can be created using stock images and text.

Step Two: Invite People In

If you have a Facebook event page, populate it with behind-the-scenes livestreams during the event. Are you expecting to make a big announcement? Generate buzz with backstage videos. This can give attendees an inside look and make people who couldn’t attend still feel like they are part of it.

Your guests will be sharing their own social pics and stories, so think about going live in this fun, casual way on Snapchat and Instagram too.

Step Three: Celebrate Success Together

Your event is over, but the good feelings remain. No one wants a fun night to end, so think of ways to keep celebrating with your audience.

Collect your footage from the night and assemble a recap video to post on your YouTube channel. You can share it with attendees as a followup and keep it on hand to help market annual events as they come back around.

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Craft Your Out-of-Office Email

Yellow sticky note with to-do list reading "To do: Relax, take it easy, have fun"

Rejuvenation is especially important in marketing.

Fast-paced environments, exciting challenges, and frequent deadlines can be both thrilling and stressful. Even if marketers are happy in their industry, they can still feel overloaded and in need of a break.

Yes, you can and should take a vacation. Time off can help you reduce stress and feel refreshed. Vacations are vital for our mental health and wellbeing.

But what does a break look like for today’s digital marketers? With communications seamlessly integrated into our personal and professional lives, unplugging can take on different meanings.

Do you still check email on vacation? Do you log off Twitter but stay on Instagram? Do you try a digital detox and vow to take a break from it all?

Whatever level you choose, there are apps to help you unwind—and ways to put your apps to work while you take time to play.

Mark Your Calendar

Of course, before you go anywhere, you have to prepare for your trip.

Be clear with coworkers about when you will be gone and how much digital access you will have. Mark your shared calendar so you have a visual reminder of when you will be gone. Adjust timelines to accommodate your schedule. Set an automatic reply message for your work email so any incoming messages don’t go unrecognized.

A simple out-of-office message should cover the basics. Share the dates you will be unavailable and if there’s someone else a person should contact in your absence.

Direct Folks to Your Work

If you feel fancy, your out-of-office message is also an opportunity to generate interest in your skills or company.

While folks wait for your return, you can direct them to a colleague for help or even direct them to check out examples of your recent work. Also, remember to include necessary contact information. You can even direct folks trying to get in touch to your social channels.

Just because you’re away from your email doesn’t mean you stop communicating. An away message is an unexpected opportunity to surprise and delight. Invite potential clients to catch up with your work and get a feel of who you are and how you might help them upon return.

Avoid Digital Overload

When it comes to breaking from our devices, we may stand in our own way. But if you decide to check out of the office without checking out of all your apps, there are ways to monitor your usage.

Before you leave for vacation, set rules for yourself that will help you stay away from the office virtually. Uninstall your work email account from your phone. Turn off push notifications.

You can still upload your favorite vacation pics to Facebook, just steer clear of LinkedIn. Use apps like Swarm to discover new places, but turn WhatsApp on silent.

Avoid the digital overload and you’ll have a more refreshing time away from the office.

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Add Emojis for Fun, Creative Connections

Yellow emoji "thumbs up" character with yellow starburst around it

Does your business speak emoji?

There are more than 3,000 emojis at our fingertips⁠—and we are making use of them!

Facebook statistics show an average of 5 billion emojis are sent each day on Facebook Messenger. And as of mid-2015—a few years after emoji keyboards became standard for most Apple and Android users—half of all Instagram comments included an emoji.

It’s true: Millions of social-savvy communicators use emojis in creative ways on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. These small digital icons of faces, symbols, objects, and more make up a unique language.

For most businesses, adding emojis to your social media messages can help your business stand out. They can also encourage people to engage with you. Emojis can make a business feel more personable.

However, it can be difficult to incorporate emojis in a natural way when you’re representing your business. While your thumbs might be emoji-happy in your personal life, you might not know how to use them for your business profile.

For example, organizations and businesses with a more serious mission may want to stay away from emojis. At the very least, you should use them sparingly. You don’t want to upset clients or the public by accidentally creating a lighthearted message when the tone should be somber.

We enjoy using emojis and gifs on our social media channels. Why? Because it is engaging and fun.

Here are a few tips on adding emojis to your social media messaging:

  • If you aren’t sure what’s best, or if you generally want a cohesive look for your social feeds, make a guide of all your brand-approved emojis.
  • Think of emojis as an elevator pitch. Your audience should get the message—fast. One or two symbols should let people know exactly what value you’re bringing to them.
  • Use emojis to catch attention. Drop in a few to spice up your posts, but don’t leave readers guessing your message by leaving out relevant information and links. You can still use hashtags and images, too.
  • An emoji can help when you don’t have an image, or play off a photo to create a clever theme. Add an emoji arrow directing folks to “click here” or “look up.”

Think of adding in emojis as using all the tools in your toolbox, but not overdoing it with any one option. They create visually interesting messages that convey emotions sometimes better than words and add a human element.

Emojis remind your audience there are people behind your accounts, and that encourages engagement. As always, the more engagement you can encourage, the better you will do overall.

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Make Your Social Media Move

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In online marketing, words alone don’t cut it.

According to molecular biologist and Brain Rules creator John Medina, “Vision trumps all other senses.”

For example, Medina says that three days after hearing a piece of information people will remember 10 percent of the message. But what if that information came with an image? Then they’ll remember 65 percent.

This is just another example why we need to give our audiences something to see. But what if you don’t have extensive experience as a videographer? Video can work for you.

No matter your skill level or price point, these options will help users make memorable marketing materials.

Make Whiteboard Animations with Video Scribe

More than half of Video Scribe subscribers use the software for marketing. With Video Scribe, you can create whiteboard animations automatically for use on social media and websites, and in emails and presentations.

Seeing these whiteboard animations come alive, it’s easy to understand why this is such an engaging medium. The videos are fun, visual, and memorable. In using Video Scribe, you can break complex topics down so they are more easily understood. You can also make data-heavy stories more engaging and persuasive.

The software is quick to learn, making Video Scribe a simple process. As you work, you will be presented with different options. You will see familiar fonts, and be able to choose from stock images or upload your own.

The software requires a yearly subscription, but there are free trial options and different plans available.

Turn Text into Social Videos with Ripl

Photos, music, logos, and movement. With social video app maker Ripl, you can create marketing videos to share on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn even when you have limited resources.

Thanks to its library of options and templates—and especially the way Ripl allows you to add easy animation to text and photos—you can have videos without a video team.

The Ripl app allows you to customize, share, and track engagement on social videos. These three capabilities mean you can maximize your time while investing in content for all your social channels. To top it off, the engagement tracking allows you to get feedback and insights, even if you are on a team of one.

Additional features, like daily inspiration that changes based on what themes you follow, and a calendar to track previous creations, make Ripl a good option for quick social ads.

A free basic version and paid pro version are both available.

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Let’s Get Visual

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Images can help you tell a story.

Strong visuals grab our attention. They make us laugh, cry, and feel every emotion in between.

But, if you have limited resources, upping your visual game may feel like turning straw into gold. Luckily, there are a host of tools available to help.

Create Images with Canva

Make memes, inspirational posts, social media ads, and more with Canva. From online ads to posters and wedding invites, Canva’s various options allow you to meet your print and digital needs.

Canva offers a variety of preset designs and social media platform templates. This means you can easily craft an original design or build something based on an existing look. New designs are added regularly, so there are always fresh looks for seasons and holidays. Looking for something in particular? Simply do a keyword search. There are both free and premium images, icons, and illustrations to add.

Canva is great if you don’t know where you want to start. However, you’ll want to watch that you don’t lose your own look in the process.

Think about uploading a color palette, using a certain filter, sticking with special fonts, and adding in your own photos. With a few tweaks, you can make your Canva creations still look distinctive and original.

Other online photo editing and design services to consider are PicMonkey and BeFunky.

Explore the Power of Infographics with Piktochart

Turn otherwise boring data into something shareable and understandable with Piktochart.

When you use data visualization, you turn numbers into a narrative. Piktochart is a infographic app that will help you create visuals for your data-based presentations and digital and print needs.

On Piktochart you can search layouts to find a look that will work for you. Adjust text and add or upload photos, logos, and images to tell your story. You can further customize your data by experimenting with various charts. Working with a team? You can share and collaborate within Piktochart.

Capture Attention with Skitch

Are you a visual thinker? Skitch from note-taking app Evernote is one of those tools that makes learning and tracking information easy.

This free screenshot editing app allows users to add shapes and text to an image. You can export or share online, or simply save Skitch projects to keep track of information for yourself.

What’s great about Skitch is that it can be so helpful for your offline life.

Gardeners, for example, might want to take a photo of their backyards and then annotate the pic to remember what is planted and where. Similarly, home designers could mark up a photo of a room with notes on furniture and pricing. And editors can share screenshots of articles with arrows pointing to the relevant paragraphs.

This is the kind of information that’s easy to relay if all parties are standing in the same room together, but can get lost in virtual translation.

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Don’t Forget These Personalization Tips

Data, data, data. People crave a personal connection online and in the real world. Thanks to the wealth of social media and marketing insights we’re now able to collect, we can easily innovate to customize the user experience in ways previously unimaginable.

Among the social media and marketing trends that stand out this year, personalization is a big one. It’s connected to email marketing, online advertising and influencer partnerships, and, when used effectively, it can increase customer loyalty.

But this is no robotic trend. We can’t just press a button and see personalization in play. Well, we can, but that doesn’t mean we should. In fact, blindly personalizing messages without thought of how, when or why can hurt a relationship.

A customized user experience happens when we employ technology with a human touch. Working with both our intuition and our insights, we can focus on bringing the best to our clients and audiences.

Although some of the toys for customization may be new, the thought process behind it relies on old standbys. Asking the right questions about your clients can make a world of difference. We know this from our beloved audience personas, who—by the way—can really help sort out which customization options are key. Who is in your audience? Where are they on social media? How do they like to connect?

Research shows that consumers crave relevant customized experiences. Why wouldn’t they, if it makes their daily lives easier and their choices more meaningful? When we talk about customization, we’re talking about putting the focus on the client and creating a connection through thoughtful choices and options.

It may be tempting to act fast and surge forward to maximize the returns customization can bring. But don’t be afraid to slow down. In fact, you may have to. Remember that data, data, data? It takes time to go through it.

You have to consider what your customers want, including:

  • How they want to connect
  • What a meaningful interaction looks like to them
  • How they would like to be addressed (are you on a first-name basis?)
  • Where they like to consume their news (are they likely to follow a link or would they prefer to stay within a platform or email?)

Truly thinking about these answers can improve the experience for both you and your followers. Think about customization from all sides. Sometimes it can be as simple as choosing the right time to send your email.

That’s right. Perhaps the most important factor when it comes to customization is choosing the right time to hit send. Scheduling an email for a Friday afternoon won’t reach office workers who have already checked out, but planning an Instagram post that will catch their eye during their evening scroll might be a better fit.

Don’t get distracted by bells and whistles. Dial it back to your core questions and think about what would make for a meaningful interaction. That’s the best form of personalization.

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Google Knowledge Panel: What You Need to Know

Google Knowledge Panel

Have you done any searches online lately? We’re sure you’ve noticed that just below the top few results, there’s a big square with three suggestions of local businesses that are relevant to your search.  The first few results are always paid ads from pay-per-click campaigns. The three results are organic search results that Google feels are most relevant.  The recommended results from the “Knowledge Panel” drive a lot of traffic and sales for these companies.  

Unlike paid search, you can’t do anything, in particular, to make sure your company is featured in here. The results come from the Google Knowledge Graph, and that’s based on your local search engine optimization.

 

So what you can you do to improve your online presence?

A key part of local search optimization is making sure your free Google My Business account is verified, has accurate information, and has recently updated information about your business, including pictures. The Google My Business information seems to act like an API (Application Programming Interface). An API is a little piece of software that feeds information directly into the knowledge graph, and into the knowledge panel.

 

How critical is it, anyway?

We know you’re thinking – maybe that’s one more thing I just don’t want to worry about right now. How critical is it, anyway? What are people searching for on their phones and tablets? In early 2017, Hitwise did a comprehensive report of consumer insights. For the financial services industry they stated:

“Given the sensitive nature and importance of online banking, this industry is one of the few where the majority of searches still originate on desktop devices. In fact, according to our analysis, only 39% of online searches driving a visit to a banking or finance site originate on a smartphone or tablet. However, there are still plenty of financial topics where mobile is now the go-to device when seeking specific information. For instance, financial searches mentioning “ATM” or “near me” originate on a mobile device 84% and 83% of the time, respectively. And while it’s intuitive that such location-based searches would skew mobile, it may come as a surprise that searches for “15-year” and “30-year mortgage” are also overwhelmingly mobile (73% of such searches are initiated on a mobile device). So are “interest rate” (65% mobile) and “mortgage calculator” (55% mobile) searches, indicating that today’s would-be new home buyers begin their journey to home ownership on a smartphone. “

 

How does this relate to your credit union?

This tells us that for many of the products credit unions (or any business) offer, having a good, local mobile search optimization may be critical to becoming part of a potential customer/new member’s decision set.

Additionally, the Google Knowledge Panel is the eye-catching result in the middle of the page. The panels takes up almost the whole screen on a mobile device, before you scroll down to other organic search results. Most consumers click on the first most relevant thing they see. And most don’t scroll through a couple of pages of Google search results before picking one, they pick the first one that looks good.  If they don’t like that one, or the site takes too long to load, they may choose the second or third result. Rarely do people go past the first page. 

 

Having good search optimization, including a speedy website load time and having up to date, accurate information in Google My Business is simply the starting point to giving your credit union every chance of winning new customers through online search. Feeding the Google Knowledge Panel as much information as possible through Google My Business – and keeping it up to date – is the best way to make sure your credit union shows up when someone is looking for a new loan, an ATM or another service you offer. It’s the best way to get new customers outside of paid advertising, and it helps Google work for you.

 

If you need help setting up your Google My Business account or need more information about local search optimization, contact us at connect@epicmc2.com.  We want to make sure you are found online and earn the local business you deserve.

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What You Need to Know About Google Chrome’s Ad Blocking Update

Google Chrome is used by nearly half of all Internet users, and big changes in regards to how we use the browser are on the horizon. Come tomorrow, February 15th, Google will enforce ad blocking on all websites – desktop & mobile. The goal of this is to make the Internet viewing experience more navigable for all users by preventing ads from loading that are particularly intrusive.

On desktop, Google is planning to block pop-up ads, large sticky ads, auto-play video ads with sounds, and ads that appear on a site with a countdown blocking you before the content loads. On mobile, Google is planning to filter pop-up ads, ads that are displayed before content loads (with or without a countdown), auto-play video ads with sound, large sticky ads, flashing animated ads, fullscreen scroll over ads, and ads that are particularly dense. Here’s what that looks like:

Google is not planning to wipe out all ads from Chrome, just ones that are considered bad using the standards created by the Coalition for Better Ads. The more annoying the ad, the more likely it is to be blocked by this update.

Passing, Warning, or Failing

Google is evaluating sample pages on sites based on the Better Ads standards and then giving websites 3 different ratings: passing, warning, or failing. The evaluation status of sites can be accessed via the Ad Experience Report API. Website owners can see more detailed results, such as specific violations, via the Ad Experience Report in Google’s Search Console. From the Report site owners can request their site be re-reviewed after they have addressed the non-compliant ad experiences.

So, what happens if your ad continues to fail and not meet Google & Better Ads’ standards? Site owners will be given 30 days to rectify any bad ads; if the ads are not to standard within the 30-day time period, Chrome will automatically begin blocking those ads. Chrome will show the user a message indicating that ad blocking has occurred as well as an option to disable this setting by selecting “allow ads on this site.” Here’s what that looks like on mobile:

What Early Results Show

 Google and by proxy Chrome’s goal is not to filter any ads at all but to improve the experience of all Internet users. As of February 12th, 42% of sites which were failing the Better Ads Standards had resolved their issues and are now passing. This is exactly the goal Google had hoped for: removing intrusive ad experiences from a user’s desktop or mobile experience.

The Takeaway

While Chrome will likely face criticism from the advertising world, if it achieves its goal of improving web ad standards, that’s a good thing for everybody: Internet users and advertisers alike. Google’s engineering manager Chris Bentzel is quoted, “We’re encouraged by early results showing industry shifts away from intrusive ad experiences, and look forward to continued collaboration with the industry toward a future where Chrome’s ad filtering technology will not be needed.”  

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8 Marketing Trends for 2018

marketing trends

 

How people interact with brands continues to evolve. User experience and personalization will remain a constant and will be a driving force in this year’s marketing trends. We’ve outlined the top marketing trends we predict will be at the helm of marketing strategy for 2018.

 

1. Leveraging Data and In-depth Understanding of Targeting Audiences

It will become increasingly harder to stand out and reach your target audience if you aren’t utilizing your consumer data. Technology and the growth of marketing tools make it easier to connect with your target audience in ways that were impossible or very expensive before. Today, there are many marketing automation and CRM solutions that allow for marketers to use their customer data and connect with audiences in large-scale, strategic, and affordable ways. Leveraging and implementing the use of data should be the foundation of any good marketing strategy. Your consumer data will allow you to engage with consumers where and when they want on a personal level.

 

2. Native Advertising

Digital ads have been the norm for a while now. In 2018, however, there will be more of a shift in paid media where the ad experience follows the form and function of the user experience in which it is placed. This makes sense as there has been increased emphasis on the overall user experience. A better, seamless experience will increase the response rate of your ads and will improve your ROI.

 

3. Content Marketing

By now organizations have realized that personalized and individual communications are the constant theme that is driving a lot of the trends for this year (and, really, for the past few years).  Consumers continue to favor individual, personalized experiences that are tailored to them, their interests and their immediate need. Your content should be well thought out and provide relevant information. Your content marketing should be focused on creating and distributing well thought out, relevant information that is valuable to your audience. Focus more on the quality of your content versus the quantity – make sure you are providing a value. This will help drive interaction with your brand and lead to conversions or desired action along with retention of your target audience. Incorporating a blog is a good platform for content marketing, read more about incorporating a blog in your website

 

4. Consumer Journey or Lifecycle

Emphasis on the consumer journey and how consumers interact with your brand throughout the decision, action and other various stages of their lifecycle. Implementing a strategy that prioritizes and integrates the full range of marketing communications channels and experiences should be on your to-do list for this year if it isn’t already. Personalized messages, retargeting and other techniques can be employed to support your consumers (and potential consumers) along their path to convert.

 

5. Incorporating Video

Ads on YouTube, short videos on social media, and other video components continue to increase in popularity. Standing out and capturing your audience attention is becoming increasingly challenging for marketers and brands. How can you stand out on social and digital channels? Create compelling visual aspects – especially in video form. The visual aspect of your message, and using video will help you engage your audience and capture their attention.

 

6. Transparency and Trust

Give consumers a behind-the-scenes look at your business and your practices. Humanize your brand – you’re more than a logo, product, or service. Credit Unions and Community Banks are in a unique position. When we speak with Credit Unions and develop campaigns or strategies, we ask “what sets you apart from everyone else?” Often products and services aren’t much different from the competition, with only slight variances in price or features. So what will make a consumer choose your brand over another? Trust. Credit Unions’ brand is trust – members trust your organization, the branch manager, the financial representative that has helped them navigating buying a home or car. Trust and transparency will become more important to consumers’ decisions.

 

7. Location-based technology

You should be taking advantage of location-based technology providing experiences, messaging, and information. Geo-targeting can help you take advantage of your brick and mortar locations or other key service areas. Exploring the possibilities of targeting your audience based on location, both in real-time and historical, will allow for you to provide content that is more relevant to their lives.   

 

8. Convenience

All in all, consumers are flooded with information every day. They look for and will stay loyal to brands that provide them with personalize and relevant information that is convenient for them. The more effortless an interaction the better. Who doesn’t love it when things are easy and convenient?

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