Content Marketing: It’s Not Just Blogging Anymore

Content Marketing Comes in Many Forms | Learn more via @HighleyDesigned

I recently started hosting a podcast with Lancaster Podcast Studio called Open Chat and my guests this week were local marketing professionals. We had a great talk about digital marketing and social media but the topic we kept coming back to was content marketing – what it is and how to provide value to your online audience. (To listen to the full show click here.)

I think one of the biggest challenges we face as marketers is defining our audience and creating a variety of media for them to consume. With the numerous social media platforms we have to post on, content marketing isn’t just blogging anymore. And Google is getting smarter – you cannot just blog to add keywords to your website – they want to see that you are providing valuable content that’s user friendly.

So regardless of what industry you’re in, if content marketing isn’t just blogging anymore, what is it? Well, content marketing can be a free eBook, a standout visual, a video or tutorial, an infographic or a free download. There are various tools to create this kind of media and most of them are FREE so it’s easy to incorporate video, GIFs and tutorials into your marketing mix. To learn more about free tools for creating video and standout graphics see my previous blog.

Now that you know what content marketing is, let’s talk about adding value. Something is not valuable if it’s been written about and talked about a million times already. If you are going to write or create a video about something that’s yesterday’s news, you better have a fresh perspective to keep your audience interested. Another tip – if you can’t explain a process in a few simple steps then leave it to someone else. Adding value means providing your audience with something that’s fresh, easy to follow, entertaining to watch and useful to learn about.

With all of that in mind, think about the various social platforms your brand is using. After you write a great blog you can repurpose that content over time to each of your social platforms as a different form of media. For example, I recently blogged about working from home. I then created a graphic for Instagram and shared a link to the article on Facebook and Twitter. Before writing this blog I decided I’d take that content a step further and create a video to share my 3 favorite tips for work from home success.

The key to content marketing success is simple:

A. Define Your Audience
B. Keep Your Content Fresh
C. Use a Variety of Media – Blogging, Video, Graphics, Downloads, GIFs, etc.
D. Focus on Quality, Not Quantity

If you’re a work from home entrepreneur, blogger or freelancer, enjoy my video! And be sure to checkout the Open Chat podcast – It’s available each Wednesday on iTunes and Stitcher.

 

 

How to Use Hashtags (for Beginners!)

How to Use Hashtags for Beginners - Blog by HighleyDesigned

Lots of my clients admit that they don’t understand hashtags. These are small business owners who know the value of social media but aren’t sure how to use platforms like Instagram or Twitter. Many of them are just getting used to Facebook! If this is you, or if you’ve just never understood this whole hashtag thing, here it is in layman’s terms. #hashtagsfordummies #kiddingbutnotkidding

What is the point of hashtags?
When someone uses a hashtag in front of a word or a phrase, that phrase is categorized. You’ll notice on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram you can click on a word or phrase that has a hashtag in front of it and you’ll see a list of all the posts, people and photos that use the same hashtag. This is an awesome way to get your social media posts noticed. Why? Let’s pretend you’re a salon owner. Most people around the world aren’t on Instagram searching for “Sally’s Salon, Lancaster PA” (totally made that up), but people are on Instagram searching for “Modern Salon” or “Highlights” or “Blowout” etc. When you upload a photo of a great hair cut and style and you add those hashtags after your caption, your photo will now show up when people search those words or phrases! The same is true for Facebook and Twitter but hashtags are used in different amounts on each platform (I’ll get to that).

So let’s recap… Hashtags have a point because they help to categorize your posts, videos and photos by relevant topics, events and phrases. When your posts get categorized they get noticed!

When should I use hashtags?
You can use hashtags within a sentence if the wording is appropriate, or in a cluster at the end of a caption.

Example 1. Tune in tonight for #ViralChat at 9pm.
Example 2. Wow! Things are finally organized around the office. #organization #beforeandafter #springcleaning

The major social platforms for hashtags are Instagram and Twitter. You can also use hashtags on Facebook, but because Facebook uses a different algorithm altogether so hashtags are less relevant. If you’re posting about a big event or a trending topic on Facebook, use a hashtag, but don’t worry about using hashtags each time you post like you should for IG and Twitter.

If you are watching a popular show on TV or a live event like the GOP Debate, using a hashtag is a great way to have your opinion heard by others. It may even lead to a conversation or a networking opportunity. Twitter chats are another awesome way to make connections and most chats will have their own hashtag, for example Post Planner’s “Viral Chat” uses #viralchat. If someone searches for “ViralChat” they’ll be able to see all of the questions and answers that have been posted with the chat’s hashtag.

How many hashtags should I use?
I’ve done a lot of reading about this and with trial and error I’ve found that for Instagram 11 is the magic number. Photos with 11 or more hashtags receive the most engagement. It’s also important to pay attention to what time of day you’re posting and how long your captions are. You will find that your audience is more active sometimes vs others.

For Twitter I recommend sticking to 1-4 hashtags. You only have 140 characters to work with so it’s important to keep tweets short and sweet. If you can keep your tweets to 100-120 characters others can quote your tweet and still have space to add a comment!

Hashtags aren’t as important on Facebook so I recommend only using them when you’re talking about a major brand, event or have perfect use for a hashtag phrase. For example, “Is anyone else excited for the women’s all around competition? #Rio2016.”

Now that you know why, when and how to use hashtags, go tweet, post and plan away! And remember, social media is a lot of trial and error – you’ll find what works best for your brand or business!

~Rachel

 

 

 

What We Can All Learn From Hess Toy Truck’s Holiday Marketing Campaign

We can all learn from Hess Toy Truck's holiday marketing campaign!

Every year my nephews beg for the new Hess Toy Truck for Christmas. They see the commercials on TV and can tell me exactly what the newest truck is capable of; what kind of gadgets it has and how many lights or sirens it comes with.

This year, I was unable to purchase the trucks at a local Hess gas station because here in the Northeast, all of the Hess stations have turned to Speedway stations. That said, I had to go online to order the trucks.

Hess has done a remarkable job of making the transition from in-store to online purchasing easy and I was impressed with their marketing strategy this year for a handful of reasons. What they did isn’t rocket science, but they executed a highly successful campaign we can all learn a thing or two from.

  1. They started marketing early. 
    By Thanksgiving I began seeing commercials on all kid and friendly – family TV stations. I also heard the jingle on the radio. My nephews were already getting psyched for this year’s toy and could tell me it was a red fire truck that came with a little fire rescue vehicle.
  2. They knew their audience.
    Hess carefully selected their audience – kids and parents. I didn’t see the commercials on MTV when I was watching Teen Mom or The Challenge, (my guilty pleasure is trashy reality TV…) but I did see the commercials on Fox News Channel, ABC Family etc. The commercial had a catchy jingle both kids and parents would end up humming all day long (the get this out of my head kind of jingle), and it featured happy kids playing with the trucks, making all 4-10 year old boys jealous.
  3. They made it easy.
    I do almost all of my holiday shopping online, but a lot of people still prefer to do things the good old fashioned way. The Hess Toy Truck commercial clearly outlined the only way to purchase this year was to go to HessToyTruck.com. (Notice they kept the URL simple too.) By keeping it simple and giving clear instructions they made even the “I’m nervous to shop online” customer the confidence to go online and order. The website was easy to use when you got there and you didn’t have to click around or search to find your product, you simply added the truck to your cart and went through the checkout process.
  4. They had great follow up.
    As soon as I ordered my trucks I got an email confirmation and various follow up emails about the shipping status. The trucks came in just a few days time and the shipping was free which was great. One of the biggest things marketers forget about is follow up. When’s the last time you sent someone an email just to see how they liked your eBook or if they had given any thought to your proposal? Or sent an email to remind people to follow you on Twitter, FB or Instagram?
  5. They went social.
    The thing that impressed me most with Hess Toy Truck was the email I got (timed perfectly) on Christmas Eve. It simply said:
    Hess Toy Truck can teach us all a lesson or two about holiday marketing!
    Not only did they send a friendly follow up email, they asked customers to use hashtag #2015HessToyTruck. This is a brilliant idea! A trending hashtag is an awesome marketing strategy and Hess will have photos to share for days if only a fraction of customers actually upload photos and use the hashtag. The point is, they went out of their way to ask. They sent a simple email, gave clear instructions and made it easy for customers to join in on the holiday action.

Next time you want to promote a new product, an eBook or idea think about Hess Toy Truck and keep things simple. Start early, know your audience, make downloading or purchasing easy and remember to follow up in a social way!

 

 

Using Facebook to Generate Leads for Your Business

Facebook Lead Gen

Facebook ads can be highly effective for more than just page likes – did you know you can generate high quality leads using a new feature in Power Editor? That’s right – whether you’re a salon owner, a graphic designer or a plumber, Facebook ads can work for you and help to drive your sales!

My hubby’s family owns a septic business so we run Facebook ads on a regular basis to reach new people. When we reached over 400 page likes I started experimenting with different types of Facebook ads to see what is most effective. We had established an active, engaged audience so I wanted to see what would drive sales.

Using Facebook Ads Manager you can run basic campaigns to increase page likes, increase website clicks or promote an offer or event. Keep in mind – for any campaign, less is more. For a small business spending $100 or less on ads each month, stick to a budget of $5-$10 per day. This will allow you to run ads for a number of days before hitting your budget so you achieve maximum visibility.

Running a basic ad for website clicks I did see a spike when I reviewed our Google Analytics, but I found that using Local Awareness and Lead Generation Campaigns was more effective for creating customers. Both options are available when you use Power Editor to create your campaign. Simply login to Facebook, click on Ads Manager, then at the top menu click on Power Editor. This will open in a new window and allow you to create highly customized ads.

In Power Editor, click on Create Campaign to get started and follow the steps provided. Power Editor makes it simple to schedule your ads ahead of time and now you can save your audience so if your ad is successful you can target those people again! To generate quality leads, choose the Lead Generator option from the “campaign type” drop down. You can then customize your campaign – choose a photo that showcases what you do, add a description that clear and tells people why they should click on your ad, and most importantly, select your lead gen form or create one. This is the form that potential customers will fill out when they click on the call to action button. For the service industry, I suggest using “Get a Quote” as your call to action.  My ad description usually says something like, “Request a quote today and save $5 on your septic pumping! One of our technicians will be in contact within 24 hours.) Notice I was to the point, I offered incentive and I gave instructions.

When a potential customer clicks the “Get a Quote” button, instead of being directed to the business website, the lead gen form pops up. They are prompted to enter their name, email and phone number and answer up to 3 questions. You can customize this any way you like! We use the questions – “How can we help you?” and “What services are you interested in?” Facebook allows you to create multiple choice answers and when a potential customer fills out the form you can download their responses as an Excel file. You can also customize the info you need – we stick to name, phone number and email but you can ask for other demographics like address, age or gender. Not only does this work – it’s effective! Instead of seeing that you got a bunch of clicks to your website or new page likes, the lead gen form collects specific information for you so that you can contact potential customers directly and set up service! Last week we spent about $40 and scheduled over $400 in pumping jobs.

Local Awareness campaigns don’t have the contact form feature, but they allow you to target people who live within your service area. This is another effective type of campaign for small businesses. Using Power Editor, simply select the Local Awareness option and then follow the steps provided. I suggest using this type of ad if you have an event, a sale or you simply want to increase your reach. You can spend as little as $5 per day and see results.

If you have questions about running Facebook ads or you’re not sure where to start – contact me today for a free consultation! Hope this was helpful.

~ Rachel

 

 

Holiday Pinterest Board Ideas for Your Ecommerce Business

Holiday Pinterest Ideas

As the holidays draw near it’s more important than ever to begin promoting your products! Pinterest is an awesome social media site for eCommerce sellers that lets you do just that. By creating Pinterest boards that others want to follow, your products can be viewed by countless potential customers – the key is to get creative with your boards! The most popular categories on Pinterest are as follows:

1. Home (17.2%)
2. Arts and Crafts (12.4%)
3. Style/Fashion (11.7%)
4. Food (10.5%)
5. Inspiration/Education (9.0%)
6. Holidays/Seasonal (3.9%)
7. Humor (2.1%)
8. Products (2.1%)
9. Travel (1.9%)
10. Kids (1.8%)

These are the kinds of things people are pinning, so think of ways to get your products in the mix. Holidays are the perfect time to create new boards with seasonal themes. You can do it with food, home decor, fashion, quotes, you name it – the list goes on! Successful pins have well-written descriptions and with the introduction of Pinterest ads – you no longer need hashtags. If you’re selling on Etsy you don’t need to change your product links because when you renew a listing the URL stays the same, but if you’re selling on eBay consider linking your pins to the appropriate category within your store instead of the exact item. This can be tedious but it’s worth it – you don’t want to send people to a link that says the product is no longer listed or the item has been sold.

Now, the fun part – creating holiday boards! I have clients in a variety of industries so I thought I’d make a list of some ideas that have proven successful. I love getting ready for the holidays, don’t you?!

Clothing and Jewelry

  • Fancy Holiday Party Outfits
  • What to wear: New Year’s Eve
  • Holiday Hair and Makeup Tips
  • Ugly Christmas Sweaters and Themed Party Ideas
  • Gifts for Her

Homegoods and Housewares

  • Holiday Tabletops
  • How do you hang your Christmas stockings?
  • Curb Appeal Tips – Wreaths, Lights, DIY
  • Christmas Tree Ideas
  • Holiday Drink Recipes
  • Christmas Cookies, Pies, Novelty Desserts (Be specific – “Christmas Cookie Decorating Ideas” is better than “Holiday Desserts”)

Accessories, Handbags, Novelty Products

  • Stocking Stuffer Ideas (for men, kids, women – you can make multiple boards)
  • Packing Tips for Holiday Travel
  • Secret Santa Gift Ideas
  • Teacher Gift Ideas
  • Fun Ways to Say Merry Christmas
  • Gag Gifts or White Elephant Gifts

Vintage and Antique Items

  • Holiday Collectibles
  • Christmas Through the Decades

Books and Games

  • Holiday Family Traditions
  • The Best Books to Read this Christmas
  • A Book is a Gift You Can Open Again & Again

Kids and Baby Products or Clothing

  • Baby’s First Christmas
  • Family Christmas Photo Ideas
  • Baby Shower Gift Ideas

Happy Pinning!

7 Skills Awesome Social Media Manager’s Have Mastered

Tulip Garden

Lots of small businesses use someone in-house for their social media needs and it turns into a “blind leading the blind” scenario.  Just because the girl at the front desk has the newest iPhone, does not mean she can take great pictures or post engaging content. There’s nothing wrong with using someone in-house to manage your company’s social media pages, but before you ask someone to do it, there are some things you should consider. An awesome social media manager will possess each of these skills and know how to truly engage your target audience which is the goal of social media. So before assigning the task to someone in-house, ask yourself these questions or make this checklist a part of your hiring plan:

  1. Does your potential social media manager understand your business and know how to use a consist “voice” when it comes to posting content? Is their “voice” appropriate for your company and your target audience?
  2. Does this person have excellent writing skills? You want to make sure anything you’re posting on social media is an example of your best work. Typos and grammatical errors are simply unacceptable from someone that is acting as the “voice” of your company.
  3. Is this person knowledgeable of industry trends, pop culture, local events and holidays? You want your social media manager to relate to your target audience – they might be an expert in your business but if they can’t make a connection between what your business does and what consumers want to hear about you’re in trouble. Your social media manager doesn’t have to be young, but someone who’s well connected and knows how to use trending topics is a must.
  4. Does your potential social media manager have a new smart phone that’s capable of taking great photos? If not, consider supplying this. Photos are essential for social media and you need to make sure the person you’re entrusting your social media with knows how to take good pictures. Again, anything you’re posting online is a reflection of your company. Make sure the person who’s posting is capable of posting top-notch photos.
  5. Does this person know how to use apps like PicMonkey or Canva for creating social media graphics? If the answer is no, you’re dealing with an amateur. Sit down and review the apps together and get a better idea of your potential smm’s capabilities. Do they have an eye for detail? Are they able to create visually appealing graphics, headers etc?
  6. Is this person good at managing their time? Do they know how to schedule posts ahead of time? Social media can become a distraction if it’s not managed wisely. You want to make sure your smm is capable of scheduling posts ahead of time and staying productive. You also want to be sure this person will be attentive and quick to respond to comments and messages when necessary.
  7. Does this person have any experience with social media ads? Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest all offer affordable ways to advertise and promote events. If you want to take advantage of ads make sure your smm knows how to run a successful campaign – or is willing to learn. There’s nothing wrong with learning as you go, but makes sure whoever you’ve trusted with your social media is honest enough to admit when they need help or additional training. There are countless tutorials and webinars that can help you learn about ads, graphics and other features. Another way to learn is to follow social media blogs that share tips, best practices and more!

If you don’t feel confident using someone in-house for your social media you’re not alone. Many businesses these days are hiring marketing firms to manage their social media for them, but some come at a steep price. If price is an issue, look for a freelancer or someone that’s just starting out in the marketing business. If you’d like more information or pricing info for HighleyDesigned Marketing & Creative, I’m happy to set up a FREE 20 minute consultation. Use the contact form on my “About” page.

Thanks!

5 Facebook Post Ideas for When You Don’t Know What to Post

FB post ideas

Lots of people ask me – what should I be posting about? If they’re an ecommerce seller they struggle to post anything that’s not promotional – if they’re a small business they struggle to post anything “personal.” There’s no magical answer but regardless of your business type, social media is about telling a story. Through social media you have the ability to tell people about your brand, what your business is all about, your employees and your values. The goal is to use this information to spark engagement and ultimately create customers who will keep coming back. So when you’re not sure where to begin or what to post – here are some ideas to get you started!

  1. Post a photo! Photos perform a million times better than plain text posts so every post should include a photo. If you’re a small business, take a picture of your staff at work or snap a photo during your holiday party – let people see “what goes on behind the scenes.” Ecommerce sellers can post photos too. Take a picture of some new products you’re ready to list on Etsy or a stack of boxes that are ready to be shipped. At the end of the day, people love seeing the personal side of your business. Maybe your wife stops by with your baby and kids or it’s take your daughter to work day – these are the photos that make people “feel good” and show that your company values family, fun, creativity etc. Give it a try!
  2. Post a quote! People love quotes and they get more shares, RTs and repins than just about anything. You can create a graphic with a photo and simple text overlay using sites like Pic Monkey or Canva. Both are free!
  3. Post a link to an article! Take note of holidays, trends etc and post relevant links your fans will find interesting. That might be a link to an article with fun ways to carve pumpkins because Halloween is just around the corner, or maybe something important is happening locally – share a link with info about the town’s Halloween parade and festival (especially if your business is a part of it).
  4.  Post a link back to your website! Your goal is to get people to use your product or services so post a link to your website once in a while when you update your blog, add new photos or offer coupons. You don’t have to be “salesy” if people have a reason to visit your site. For example, “Check out the new photos on the blog from Nate and Emily’s wedding” v “Check out our website! Our wedding packages start at $1299.” Both will get people to click through to your website, but people are more likely to do it when you tell them you’ve added more photos. It’s not salesy but while they’re on your site there’s a good chance they’ll click around and check out prices if they’re interested.
  5. Post a question! If you want to boost engagement, what better way to get people to comment than to ask them a question. It might be a simple “It’s Friday! How are you spending your holiday weekend?” or you could post a photo and ask “Which hat do you like better? We’re working on new styles and we want your input.” Questions are a way to get personal with your audience and the more engagement the better!

I hope these are helpful – Now get posting!