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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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Your Inbox Knows Your Birthday

How can you make your digital well wishes feel authentic?

People love to feel special. Keeping track of birthdays and milestones can be a special way to stay in touch with customers and clients.

Coupons, discounts, and freebies are great birthday perks. But as it becomes easier to send automated greetings—and more sites and shops opt to fill inboxes with digital hellos—it can start to feel impersonal.

Under the headline “Happy Birthday! Just Don’t Open Your Inbox” the New York Times reported on the growing “feeling of malaise surrounding one’s birthday in the digital age.” Experts and email receivers alike commented that too many messages can lead to a disconnect between business and audience.

“When we’re receiving birthday messages, that’s a personal thing. We feel like we’re seen and we mean something to that person,” Dr. Nicole Beurkens, a clinical psychologist at Horizons Developmental Resource Center in Caledonia, Mich., says in the article. “The tone of that really changes if we start to feel like the other person is just using that for themselves. That doesn’t feel good.”

So, what can we do as marketers to celebrate with our people without overstepping?

Keep it on the small scale

Small businesses have a chance to shine when it comes to personalized greetings. After all, you know your clients and customers. You see them in person and interact regularly.

By being small, you likely already have a closer relationship with your audience. When you send that happy birthday email, you can visualize the person on the receiving end. Your regulars will enjoy a little recognition from their favorite local stop.

Focus on being authentic and unforgettable

While there’s still room to wish clients and customers a happy birthday, it’s understandable marketers may be worried about overstuffing inboxes. Don’t forget your email best practices. Know your audience. Create a strong subject line.

But, if you are concerned your email will get lost in the shuffle, think of an alternative. Include an automatic birthday perk in a members program clients can claim by speaking up at the register. Invite customers to opt into a birthday rewards program. Switch from digital greetings to a more personalized print greeting.

Save the birthday greetings for one day a year

Instead of sending out messages for everyone, invite everyone to celebrate at once. Turn “happy birthday to you” into “happy birthday to us.” Invite clients to join you in marking your business anniversary.

During the month, week, or day of your anniversary, introduce specials, discounts, and more. Include members and regulars on an anniversary party, so they feel like part of the family. Let your customers and clients know that inviting them in on your special day is what growing another year older is all about.

Whatever you decide, do it with your own personal style. When you stay true to your brand, you stand out from the crowd.

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Your Social Media Career

Man in suit holding business card with social media icons on it

Let’s talk about careers in social media.

Social media manager. SEO specialist. Online marketer. How many different roles are open to someone with social media skills?

If you are looking for a career in social media, there are multiple avenues.

When considering your future in social media, don’t simply search for “social media” jobs. That is to say positions that call for social media skills vary. For example, your role may differ at a small or big company, nonprofit or for-profit, in a major city or with remote work.

A community manager, copywriter, graphic designer, and videographer may all find themselves needing social skills. Think about mentioning different skills in your resume—like blogging, online analytics, or multimedia—to signify to recruiters you’ve got what it takes.

By looking through the duties in a job description, you may see more and more social media skills popping up. Even if it’s not clear from the title, employers are looking for people with strong communication skills.

Keep an eye open for different titles.

Are you a brand ambassador or head of social interactions? We’ve even heard of social media evangelists!

A title like social media specialist likely has more to do with crafting, scheduling and posting on social media. On the other hand, a social media manager will likely be working on building a strategy and organizing a social media marketing and communications team.

Tactical and strategic experience make for a well-rounded social media professionals.

Top social media skills highly valued by companies include:

  • Conversion rate optimization: converting an online audience into downloads, purchases, and subscribes
  • Content marketing: creating and consistently publishing valuable information to a certain audience
  • SEO (search engine optimization): drawing organic traffic and raising content to the top of search results

At the same time, customer service, public relations, creativity, curiosity, and management skills all come into play.

Above all, remember social media has to do with people.

Likewise, social media also has to do with technology. It has to do with business. Maybe you like one area and maybe you’d like to specialize in a bit of everything.

Working in social media is exciting and often changing. However, it can also be what you make it. Skills change from job to job and company to company.

So, use your network and get a jump on connecting with others and finding the social media work that’s right for you!

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Write a Killer Social Bio

Nice to e-meet you!

There’s no second chance at a first impression, but on the Internet we do seem to meet each other again and again. We’re on multiple platforms and in various channels. We develop deep connections to others without every seeing them in person.

Your social bios represent a moment of truth: What do you do?

It’s time to pitch yourself clearly and quickly. If you’re at a loss, you’re not alone. Our messages don’t always get across. We use jargon. We fill our sentences with extra words. And then we’ve lost our audience.

Instead of writing a traditional bio, think about storytelling.

People are storytelling creatures. Crafting a story to explain who you are—or leading with an example—can help people remember us. You want to stand out. Be clear and constant. This is your story, and you’re sticking to it. If your story is not interesting or new, you will disappear in the noise of others.

Rely on others for introductions.

Do you have a best friend who knows you better than you know yourself? If you’re searching for the right words, it’s time to phone a friend. Ask others, “What do you think I do?” It’s a learning opportunity. You can find out what about your job isn’t getting across and gain a better idea of what to say next time.

Know and embrace your specialities.

Maybe you’ve worked hard to become known for a certain speciality. Maybe you have an array of interests. Find the theme that runs throughout what you do. What is the thing that makes you special? Build your message around that.

Include the little details.

The more specific you can be about who you are and what you do, the easier it will be for the right people to find you. Think about everything. Where are you located? How big is your company? What clients do you already support? What are your accomplishments and awards? It’s OK to brag a little. It will help others place you.

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Tweet Your Way Happy

Series of positive emojis: thumbs up, smiling face, sparkling heart, clapping hands, heart eyes

Positivity can lead to more positivity.

For anyone who has ever felt a smile spread across their face after seeing a good friend, it should be no surprise to hear.

We’ve heard before that feelings are contagious. Pass a grumpy colleague in the hallway and you may find yourself frowning too. Exchange a pleasant “good morning” with someone and you may find the day suddenly brighter. We’re guessing you’d rather see yourself surrounded with happy people if you had the choice—we would too!

So here’s another layer to this phenomenon: social media interactions can shape our feelings too. Surprised? Probably not. From personal experience, you know that your mood can change when you see a negative tweet or post.

Think about the kind of message you’d like to be spreading. How can you make your clients and connections live in a more positive community? A few ideas of how you can encourage happiness online:

Take action.

If you see a post the moves you or a pic you admire, like and comment. The person behind it will appreciate hearing from you. You may find they return the favor by becoming more vocal and supportive of your work as well.

Connect with others.

It’s not uncommon for bloggers to build communities of fellow bloggers. They can turn to each other for support and advice, while also lifting up one another’s work. Create or join a private group with others pursuing similar goals or working in a similar field.

Be honest.

When we don’t tell the whole story, gloss over the facts, or concentrate on the negative, we miss out on opportunities to be ourselves. You will have good days and bad days, but if you share them honestly, you may find your friends and followers understand you better.

If choosing to smile can trick your brain into thinking all sorts of positive things and improve your mood, why not fake it till you make it to a happier mood?

Let’s take that same positive energy online. Like, comment, share, and retweet your way happy.

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5 Ways Small Businesses Can Add Video

"Open" sign hanging on business window

You own a small business and want to try video. Where to begin?

As business owners look to incorporate more and more videos into their marketing strategies—and report positive results—you may be wondering how video can fit into the marketing plan for your own small business.

But, with social platforms making video even easier to use, there’s no need to worry about downloading complicated software of buying expensive equipment to try your hand.

You still, however, need to decide what stories to tell. We’re here to help with a few ideas for your small business video marketing plan.

Announce who you are.

You may have a written mission or vision statement somewhere on your website or perhaps even hung on the walls of your office. If you met someone at a cocktail party, how would you quickly and effectively describe the value and purpose of your business?

Having that human voice and casual contact can drive home the importance of who you are and what you do. How could you express this through a video? Take a minute to say hello to your followers and give them a tour of your office.

Introduce staff and leaders.

It’s time to get personal. Great people make great businesses, and clients and customers want to know the people behind their favorite products. Who are your employees? What are their thoughts and specialities?

Using video to connect the public to your employees strengthens your relationships—and could maybe even convince people to bring their needs to you.

Launch a new product or service.

If you’ve got it, flaunt it. With video, you can give folks a mouthwatering view of a new dish at your local restaurant, show off how your latest invention works, or demonstrate the quality of your service. Just as you can introduce people through video, you can introduce what you do and sell as well.

Go behind the scenes.

Everybody loves to be an insider. Use video to offer a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes work that goes into their favorite product. Be there with your smartphone or camera to record key moments not everyone normally sees.

Get to know fellow customers.

You aren’t just creating a business when you work at the local level. You are creating a community. Chances are, you may already see some of your biggest fans chatting and tagging you on social. If they love you, they want to show it. Invite them to your platforms to share with others who they are.

What’s great about each theme is that they build on what you already know. Talk to your clients, customers, teams and loyal staffers. What do they have to say? What do they want to know about you?

Keep these video content themes in your marketing rotation, and we know you’ll all find a deeper connection.

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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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Content Marketing: A Great Tool for Your Credit Union

Concept Image

Credit Unions have a wide variety of financial services to offer their members, but current and potential members alike both need education about the products and services and general financial literacy knowledge to make the best decision for their financial goals.  They need to learn how they can benefit from offers and products, and how they can solve real, everyday problems and frustrations in their lives.

Content marketing is a great way to speak to these commonplace pain points and help educate consumers about how to find solutions. It sounds simple, but good content marketing involves a lot of planning so that your credit union can provide targeted audiences with the information they need to make a great choice and increase conversions along the way, whether it’s for a specific loan product or a new membership. 

What is content marketing? Content marketing is a type of marketing that involves the creation and sharing of online material (such as videos, blogs, and social media posts) that does not explicitly promote a brand products or services but is intended to invoke interest in the brand.  Instead of pitching your products or services, you are providing truly relevant and useful content to your prospects and customers to help them solve their issues.

 

Content Marketing is Especially Important for Credit Unions

The financial services and products you offer can be complex. Members need to know more about them, and need that information in an easy-to-digest format. If you produce content aimed at educating specific user groups about your products and services, over time you will build a library of material that will help you educate members and potential members while meeting current marketing goals and plans. However, to be successful at content marketing, a lot of up-front planning will yield the best results and prevent frustration.

Content Marketing is really good about creating great information through blogs, video, infographics, e-books, and more- that is highly targeted to help customers (members) learn more and make great decisions. By taking complex subjects and breaking them down into bite-sized pieces, you can create helpful information for members and potential members to better understand what you can do to help them, without overwhelming them or making them feel bad in the process. In fact, creating content that helps you become their financial personal trainer, so to speak, will build trust and loyalty, helping your Credit Union to really stand out in a sea of financial services companies that can seem very much the same and interchangeable from the outside.

Define Your Goals and Metrics for Success Up Front

Much of content marketing starts with defining your problem and goal. You want to make sure you have a clearly defined set of goals by answering these questions:

  • What services or product lines do you want to expand or increase?
  • Who is most in need of these services- current members? New members? Both?
  • What do these people have in common?  
  • When are they most likely to need this product? Is there any seasonality involved?
  • What are some common questions that your consumers have on certain products or services?
  • Why is your product or service the best solution for their problem?  What are its advantages, and disadvantages?

 

Developing SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) Goals up-front will help you outline your content marketing and provide a plan that works best for your credit union and your strategic goals.

If you put in the work to carefully craft content that your target audience wants, it will help you gain loyalty and brand recognition. Content marketing can bring clarity to products and services and help consumers along their decision path (consumer journey). Think about the ways you can incorporate content marketing for your credit union.

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Marketing Mistakes to be Avoided on Instagram

“Follow this method,”  “do this,”  “do that”  are all you hear when it comes to online marketing. Instagram has grown into one of the largest social networking sites. Just like you, many companies are struggling to make their presence felt. They are stuffed with “what to do” and fail to concentrate on “what NOT to do.”

 

Instagram for Business

 

The most common mistakes that people make while marketing on Instagram and how to avoid them…

These factors make a difference:

 

1. Improper usage of hashtags

Over usage of keywords in hashtags is a big– #turn-off. Hashtags must be short and sweet. Get to the point quickly; do not bore the pants off your followers by posting irrelevant descriptions.

Avoid using hashtags for posts which do not require them. Also, many fail to take advantage of the geo-location tag. Make sure you don’t overuse them and also don’t use the wrong ones.

 

2. Your posts are not good enough

Check this list before you go ahead and post:

  • Not posting quality pictures and videos
  • Posting at the wrong time
  • No variety in your posts
  • Over-posting
  • Posts that are unrelated
  • Posting things that have already gone viral
  • Re-posting old pictures or videos
  • Posting someone else’s photos as your own
  • Posting pictures you shared on other social networking sites

 

Make sure your posts don’t fall under these categories. You’ve been warned.

 

3. Lack of followers

Without followers, your Instagram account will be buried among the millions of other profiles that are active for name sake. So you have to work on increasing the followers to promote your page.

Don’t expect followers to come to you, you have to attract them. Followers are the main part of Instagram, without them there is no value or purpose for your account. Just for the sake of increasing followers don’t follow every profile, you won’t look credible.

 

4. No response to comments

Let’s say all your posts get a lot of comments, it doesn’t hurt to reply to at least a few of them. Not responding to the comments is rude. This is one of the main reasons for losing followers.

Make excuses or make changes, the choice is yours. If you want to increase followers and promote your page, you have to engage. This will also make you look committed.

 

5. Don’t juggle frogs

Many will advise you to be active on all social networking sites, but take this with a pinch of salt. It sometimes does more harm than good. If you are receiving good responses on Instagram, concentrate on promoting your brand on it.

You might run out of post ideas if you spread yourself too thin with post ideas on different social media avenues. And as a result, you will lose the reputation you have created if you juggle more than you can handle.

 

6. Trying too hard

As a rule of thumb in marketing (and in general) – too much of anything is bad. Don’t stuff your feed with unwanted and inappropriate posts just to get the attention of your followers. Get hints from your competitors’ feeds, and find out why their posts are doing better.

 

Another important thing to note is that you cannot set your account to private and have any hope of attracting people to your feed. It just won’t work. I hope you found these tips useful to some extent for your Instagram. A lot of people have followed these basic guidelines to effectively market and promote their products on social media.

 

Guest post from Sara George

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