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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 Time to Relax

Illustration of yellow snail crawling on the top of a green leaf

Slowing down is just as important as speeding up.

With so much on our to-do lists, taking a quiet moment to yourself can feel counterintuitive. Sitting still—away from your devices and the endless scroll—may at first encourage your mind to wander and count down the minutes until you can get back to work.

But think about this: According to the nonprofit group Mindful, meditation can help us lower stress, improve focus, and connect with others.

When we decide to hit pause, we give our brains a needed vacation. As marketers and social people, the opportunity to reconnect with ourselves is very much needed. Being so busy communicating can wear down some of our most valuable skills.

In an industry where it’s important to build relationships, shouldn’t you watch out for your own relationships and health? When we’re healthy, we’re part of a healthy community—both online and in the real world.

If you need further convincing, check out these three TED Talks for thoughts on the benefits of taking a breath, and what you can do to live a more mindful life.

All it Takes is 10 Mindful Minutes with Andy Puddicombe

“We live in an incredibly busy world. The pace of life is often frantic, our minds are always busy, and we’re always doing something,” says mindfulness expert Andy Puddicombe in this TED Talk on refreshing your mind. “So with that in mind, I’d like you just to take a moment to think, when did you last take any time to do nothing?”

The Art of Stillness with Pico Iyer

“Some people I know, just before they go to sleep, instead of scrolling through their messages or checking out YouTube, just turn out the lights and listen to some music, and notice that they sleep much better and wake up much refreshed,” says travel writer Pico Iyer in this TED Talk that encourages people to take is slow.

How to Make Stress Your Friend with Kelly McGonigal

“Now I wouldn’t necessarily ask for more stressful experiences in my life, but this science has given me a whole new appreciation for stress,” says psychologist Kelly McGonigal in this TED Talk that turns the concept of stress on its head. “Stress gives us access to our hearts. The compassionate heart that finds joy and meaning in connecting with others, and yes, your pounding physical heart, working so hard to give you strength and energy.”

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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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Relax Your Way to Creativity

Image of glass of water being poured with Maya Angelou quote overtop: "You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have."

Taking time for yourself can have myriad benefits.

When we rest, we open up our minds to opportunities to be creative and productive.

Although it might look like we are doing one thing, our minds remain hard at work⁠. We are puzzling over problems, thinking creatively, and free-associating.

“The critical thing to recognize is that when we are mind-wandering, when our minds don’t have any particular thing they have to focus on, our brains are pretty darn active,” Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, author of Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, tells Scientific American. “When you do things like go for a long walk, your subconscious mind keeps working on problems.”

Pang, who is also founder of the Restful Company, a consulting company in SIlicon Valley, differentiates between resting and engaging in restorative activity.

Mindlessly binge-watching television may help us wind down, but that’s passive. Active hobbies that help your mind wander are important. That’s why walking can be such great exercise, for both the mind and the body.

Another way to think of this is in terms of helpful distractions.

As Harvard University researcher and psychologist Shelley H. Carson explains in The Boston Globe, “a distraction may provide the break you need to disengage from a fixation on the ineffective solution.’’

When we focus on a problem, we can have trouble finding the solution. This is because we aren’t opening ourselves up to different solutions.

Carson, also the author of Your Creative Brain, argues everyone can benefit from flexing their creativity muscles. It can make us feel more relaxed, fulfilled, and effective. Creativity inspires us.

But taking time for active rest or creating opportunities for helpful distraction can be tough.

This is especially true when, as Geoffrey James points out on Inc.com, we live in a society where people where their stress as a badge of honor.

His advice?

“Be brave enough to give your brain the leisure it needs to carry your ideas, your career or your company to the next level.”

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Make Your Social Media Move

Closeup of video camera recording a person with text overtop reading "ACTION!"

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

Three smartphones with a screen of data running behind them

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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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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Put Your Heart In It

Photo of small glowing hearts with bigger heart illustration over top

It makes sense why we become attached to our offices, coworkers and clients.

Studies suggest a third of our adult lives are spent at work. We may spend more time with our work colleagues than with our own friends and families.

You may feel you put your heart into your work. But do you put your heart into interactions with coworkers and clients? There is so much being said. Are you sharing and listening effectively?

We’re talking about empathy in the workplace.

This isn’t about being agreeable or creating a pleasant culture. It’s about interacting with others in a thoughtful way. Why? Because it can benefit everyone.

Empathy can be the secret sauce that unleashes productivity and performance.

In Heartificial Empathy, Putting Heart into Business and Artificial Intelligence, author Minter Dial considers how we can encode empathy into our business practices. Dial suggests empathy can improve our own relationships, as well as help businesses perform better.

When you do what you say and say what you mean, you build trust and followers inside and outside your company.

“Though empathy can be perceived as weakness, especially in a command and control culture, it can also be the secret sauce that unleashes productivity and performance,” Dial writes. “Empathy doesn’t mean being weak. It doesn’t even necessarily mean being nice. It is about understanding the other and, when having to pass along tough orders, can help their reception, even when there’s no choice in the matter.”

So, how can you encourage empathy in the office?

Explore empathy in your company’s culture.

Ask clients, “Are you being listened to?” Ask coworkers, “Do you feel valued in the company?” Listen thoughtfully, put yourself in their shoes, and consider what changes might be beneficial for everyone.

Create an environment where exercising empathy is accepted.

Make it OK to have conversations, explore professional development, and access learning opportunities. This doesn’t have to be formal. It can be as simple as chatting with others while waiting in line.

Do what you can to make this an easy, natural process.

Don’t force change. Share an article. Invite others on a coffee break. Ask for other opinions. Little steps and practices can go a long way to encourage thoughtful actions.

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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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