Life Lessons From The StrataBlue Intern

Being a StrataBlue intern is way more than going on coffee runs (though there is no shame in keeping the office caffeinated). This summer I was right in the mix with the social media account managers, the sales team and the overall operations of the company. My time at StrataBlue has left me with some invaluable lessons that I’ll be able to take with me going forward in my career, so I’d like to share them with all of you as well.

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Communicate.

  • In the constant growing/changing environment of a start-up business, communication is key. With StrataBlue employees located in Indianapolis, New York, New Jersey and London, we fully utilize all available technologies to stay in contact with one another in order to keep everyone up to date on both internal affairs and news regarding our clients.

Read Everything.

  • In order to generate content for the various clients that I’ve been fortunate enough to provide assistance to, I’ve never read so much in my life! Because of this internship, I feel more connected to the world due to the sheer amount of news articles that I read every day. The ability to provide new content day in and day out within the scope of your clients’ business interests is a job function that many fail to recognize as being very difficult. Social media account managers truly become a jack of all trades with the amount of knowledge that they pick up on a daily basis, and then figuring out how to implement said knowledge into a well-versed marketing strategy makes them doubly talented.

Under Promise, Over Deliver.

  • It’s probably the oldest saying the client-relationship book, but for good reason. In order to ensure a long lasting work relationship with a client, it’s important to never get too comfortable with your goals. Always aim to impress and reach beyond the finish line. As infamous street philosopher Young Jeezy once said, “My hustle is nonstop. I never stop hustling.” I believe the same is true in business; a tireless work ethic will set you apart from your competitors and will shape and mold your reputation that creates more business later on down the road.

Keep Things Light.

  • We all have lives outside of work, and these lives quite often produce extra stress. I believe that the work environment should be a place where you can check whatever is bothering you at the door. It should be a place where you are comfortable, happy and productive.  Here are some suggestions from my personal experience this summer in how to implement a more vibrant work environment:

i.       Do: Make puns when appropriate. (HA! Who doesn’t love some clever word play?)

ii.     Don’t: Print off pictures of polar bears on your boss’s color printer while he’s on an important call. (Sorry again, Slava.)

Adopt a Team Mentality.

  • Collaboration inspires cohesiveness. Although there is a hierarchy in place at most organizations, as there is on any team, that shouldn’t invalidate the opinions of those who are lower on the totem pole. I think that my favorite aspect of working at StrataBlue is the mutual respect that everyone receives. Even I, the lowly intern, felt that my voice was not only heard by all of my coworkers, but my opinions and suggestions were considered and valued rather than being cast aside despite my lack of experience.

These are just a few of the many lessons that I have picked up this summer. Being an intern, it really does put you in a unique perspective where you get to see all 360 degrees of the company you are working for. I really am quite fortunate that StrataBlue is where I wound up, because the well rounded experience that I’ve gained from working with such highly motivated peers has undoubtedly set me up for success in wherever my life and career take me into the future.

FROM JOSH’S SUMMER CO-WORKERS

Hey Josh – Having your blog post the first Monday after you’ve left us to head back to school is doubly depressing. Not only are we thirsty for coffee this morning (like any of us have time to run to Starbucks!), but we have loads of client Twitter lists we need help building.

In honor of you, and how much we will miss you, we are posting this photo from last Friday’s “Goodbye ‘Intern Josh'” lunch at Dick’s Last Resort.

Josh Swiss - StrataBlue Intern

We shall return to this post often for a laugh. 🙂 Good luck at school, buddy! And thanks again for all your help this summer.

– The Social Media & Sales Teams at StrataBlue

Three Steps to Make Your Social Media Content Strategy Amazing!

In a previous blog I talked about Jay Baer’s unique content strategy approach in his book YOUtility. Jay’s main theme in YOUtility is that content can be amazing or it can be useful. Having amazing content is difficult, while having useful content is more obtainable and engaging. I won’t argue that part of your social media strategy should be having useful tips and tricks for your audience. I will say that having amazing content is not only possible, but also quite valuable. I believe that graphics, promotions and special events can be amazing if a content producer is willing to try.

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Is your content strategy strong or a little soupy?

Graphics can be the bane of your existence when you’re coming up with an amazing content strategy. After all, graphics are time consuming and expensive. If you’re getting them out-sourced, that money is coming out of someone’s pocket. If you’re trying to do them in-house or on your own, a lot of time and energy will be spent on trying to find or create the right visual—perhaps without the skills needed for the task in the first place.

  • TIP: Make graphics amazing by hiring someone with the right skills and experience. If this is in-house, invest the time and money to hire a stellar graphic designer. If you’re outsourcing, go with the best agency or freelancer you can find and afford. You will save yourself so much time and agony by just spending the money on a professional. It’s also important to make sure you have a clear vision between your graphics person and yourself or your client. Amazing content will not come from miscommunication.

Promotions can be quiet troubling for content strategy. Jaded content producers will roll their eyes and try to repeat the same tired tweet or email newsletter about a new product. Uninspired social media strategies will involve repetitive contests because they tend to work, despite creating diminishing returns as followers get sick of the same old Facebook app.

  • TIP: Make promotions amazing by focusing on your intended outcome or asking more questions of yourself or your client. What do you/they want to gain from this particular promotion? Are you/they trying to sell a particular product, or just get people in the door? Those two desires require an entirely different content strategy. For example, if you’re trying to sell a particular brand of bourbon, you don’t want to do a Facebook contest where people name their favorite cocktail. People can post about any kind of alcohol they like. Focus is important for promotions.

Special events can be incredibly fun in social media strategy. They’re easy to talk about, fun to plan for and most followers are going to be interested by default. This built-in interest can be a curse for content producers, though. Easiness breeds stagnation, and even the best special events can lose attendance without diligence.

  • TIP: Make special events amazing by trying new things. I hate the phrase think outside the box. Forget the box. Throw the box away. If you have never tried to reach out to local news organizations for your special events, try it now. Perhaps you haven’t bothered with Facebook ads before. Now is the time to try. If you execute social media on behalf of a client, you also want to make sure you have all available information from them, because they can often help you find new and interesting ways to approach the subject.

In case you didn’t notice, communication is the central theme here. Know your brand inside and out, and if you work with clients, then mine as much data as possible from them or your content strategy won’t be amazing.

Do you have any special tips for creating amazing content? Let us know in the comments below!

Social Media Jobs: In-house or Outsourced?

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Social media jobs are in demand right now. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, jobs involving social media and PR will grow by 23 percent between now and 2020. The value of investing in social media services to market a brand is undeniable. According to a recent study by Chadwick Martin Bailey and iModerate Research Technologies, 51 percent of Facebook fans and 67 percent of Twitter followers are more likely to purchase from a brand that they are a fan of or follow. Every business needs that sort of exposure, no matter how successful.

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Social media jobs are growing!

When it comes to social media jobs, the real question should be whether these organizations will add someone directly to their staff, or hire an agency to cover social media news for them. Below we will weigh the pros and cons of having social media jobs in-house or outsourced.

In-House

Pros: Hiring people directly for social media jobs means businesses have a bit more control over their selection process. Supervisors can really get to know these employees, and perhaps they can learn something about social media strategy along the way. Having social media in-house also means those responsible for it are at the business site when any news, media or sudden changes happen. All creative ideas and graphics can easily be approved by the business, because the person responsible for making those decisions is always nearby.

Cons: Having a social media employee in-house might seem like a dream come true, but it can also have some serious disadvantages. Unlike many other positions, social media jobs are typically needed by businesses without a lot of knowledge on the topic. An employer is bringing someone into the fold they might have problems coaching on a subject they know little about. While managers can certainly hire extremely experienced and knowledgeable people for their social media jobs, there’s no guarantee staff can stay informed in an extremely mutable field. Resources for those in social media jobs will be limited if they work for a business that doesn’t value marketing too highly.

Outsourced

Pros: Agencies live and breathe social media strategy. By virtue of being so plugged into the field, outsourced social media organizations will have more knowledge when it comes to social media news. Agencies can also get the best talent for their social media jobs, because those applying know they will be appreciated and given the resources they need to do their work correctly. Businesses that outsource their social media sites to agencies don’t have to do it themselves, or find someone they hope can keep up in a competitive field.

Cons: Outsourcing does mean businesses will have less control of their own social media strategy. They will need to find a trusted agency like StrataBlue to control all of their social media sites and identities. Getting information from businesses to agencies can sometimes be troublesome, and often requires a site like Basecamp to exchange information and media.

Is your business currently looking to outsource your social media jobs? Please get in contact with us below in the comments section!

Don’t Put All Your Social Media Eggs in One Basket

You’ve heard of the phrase “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. Today I am taking that quote and applying it to social media. Any succesful social media strategy includes more than one platform. The purpose is to know where your customers are and how to get to them, because I can guarantee you they are not all on the same platform.

I know you are asking, “So do I have to do them all?” The answer is no! It would take up all your time and energy to do every platform and to do it successfully. It would be a terrible waste of your time. You can try, but don’t say I didn’t warn you!

In developing your social media strategy, the first step is to find out where your customers are. Are they 20-somethings who tweet all day long? Business professionals who are looking to network? Stay-at-home moms who are on Facebook and Pinterest all day? Once you figure that out your target demgraphic, the next step is to develop a strategy that works for you.

icons-in-a-basketRarely will a small to medium sized business truly need to be on every platform. Take moms for example. Many of them work from home and have lots of other stay-at-home mom friends. They spend most of their time on platforms like Facebook and Pinterest. If you mention Twitter to them, they might look at you like you’ve started speaking a foreign language. If they are your target market, then you need to look at how to better reach them on those two platforms.

Those of us in the social media industry are on all platforms since it is the nature of our job, however we can guarantee you each of us has a favorite platform that gives us the best response. I personally get the best results from Twitter.

When you try to do them all, you will not achieve the maximum results you would if you were focusing on where the majority of your customers are spending their time.

Here are some great social media strategy tips:

  1. After you figure out which  platforms your target market is using, see what your competitors are doing. That will give you a key on how to start your campaign.
  2. Work with a social media consultant or social media manager to put together a successful plan that will engage your followers. You want to build relationships to turn them into paying and long-lasting customers.
  3. Once your plan is in action, make sure you are responding to every post, comment, message and question – both positive and negative. 85% of posts go unanswered by businesses. You wouldn’t want to be ignored in person, so don’t ignore your community online.

 

If you find that a certain platform isn’t working out so well after you’ve been on it for a few months, there is no harm in trying something new. You might find a new group of followers in a totally unexpected location.  Similarly, if you are working on two platforms and want to branch out and try a third or even a fourth platform, go for it! If it doesn’t work out, you still have your two strong platforms in action. Remember, each platform has it’s advantages and disadvantages and not all of them work the same way. So before you toss it out of your basket, make sure you tried your best.

Are you putting all your social media eggs in one basket or are you using a multi-platform strategy? If you are still trying to figure out if you should even add social media to your marketing plan, please give us a call so we can tell you all about the benefits of social media marketing.

How Ben and Jerry’s Increased Brand Awareness by 17%

Love them or hate them (and by the look of it, people hate them) Instagram ads are here to stay. As of now, the ads are only available to a select group of advertisers and Instagram has yet to reveal any pricing structure. That being said, these few ads have been looking very favorable from the companies.

Levi’s had a nine-day campaign which it was specifically targeting to 18-34 year olds. In that time frame, they were able to reach 7.4 million users. As of today, the ad has over 93,000 likes and almost 2,000 comments. The photo Levi posted before the ad had a total of 2,748 likes and 14 comments, and the photo posted after had only 3148 likes and 15 comments.

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“Not only were we able to reach a larger audience with our ads on Instagram, but the metrics clearly show we engaged with them in a memorable and authentic way. We’re pleased with these results.”  –Julie Channing, Director of Digital, Levis

In another instance, the popular ice cream company Ben and Jerry’s promoted four different ads. The first one was an ice cream cone right under a cloud, making it look like ice cream. This ad received 386,546 likes and over 5,700 comments. The next three ads they posted had an average of just over 290,000 likes before dropping back down to the 25-30,000 range. The photo they posted right before the ads had only 20,000 and 324 comments.

One of the ads had the benefit of being associated with the extremely popular viral campaign for the movie “Anchorman 2.” For the movie tie-in, they introduced their new flavor “Scotchy, Scotch, Scotch.” Their ad received over 250,000 likes and over 6,000 comments while reaching 9.8 million people. Because of the sponsored ad, 17% more people became aware of the new flavor.

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“Since its launch, Instagram has provided us with an amazing platform to connect with our fans and tell our story visually. Ads on Instagram let us reach and engage with more fans about our flavors, fun and values.”  –Mike Hayes, Digital Marketing Manager, Ben and Jerry’s

One of the reasons these companies achieved success is because ads on Instagram are a novelty as of now. But it’s not all roses and sunshine when it comes to these ads appearing on a person’s timeline. There is a lot of hatred and with most cases regarding social media, people are not afraid to express how they really feel.

With the success of the ads from these companies you can be sure Instagram ads are here to stay. What are your opinions on these ads? Do they bother you or do you even notice them right away?

 

Marketing Automation: A Tool Your Company Can’t Afford to Ignore

Marketing automation can help your business by streamlining, automating and measuring marketing tasks and processes across multiple marketing channels. Think it’s not for you? Without it, your content marketing strategy isn’t living up to its full potential. Don’t let your competitors beat you, learn why you need this powerful tool in this Slideshare:

 

Guest Blogging is Dead, But Your Blog is Still Alive

According to Matt Cutts, the head of the webspam team at Google, guest blogging is dead.

The reason? The practice has become too spammy. That can be debated, but let’s focus on why a brand should blog in the first place. 77% of internet users report reading blogs. Of that sizable herd, 81% of U.S. online consumers find blogs trustworthy and informative. Without making this about statistics, blogs equate to consumer attention and authority for brands.

But let’s be fair. Most brands (especially small businesses) only want to blog about one thing—their products. According to Ignite Spot, 61% of U.S. Consumers have bought something based on blog content. If blogs can generate sales, why talk about anything but products and features? The simple answer is that overly commercial blogs are spammy and boring. The average Internet user is spending 23 hours online per week, allowing them to see much more content than they did even a few years ago. If your blogs look like nothing more than a wordy commercial, they will be just as dead as guest posting.

A New Hope. So just writing about products and promotions is bad. What should you be writing about? Glad you asked. Below are a few suggestion to get you started down the right path:

  • Local events: Blogging about a traditional festival or new fundraiser in your community is great content for a few reasons. First, it establishes you as an information source to your readers, instead of a salesman. Second, it shows potential customers that you care about their local community, and want to share in those experiences. Finally, it helps out other businesses, who will likely return the favor when you have news to share. Local events are a bit of a misnomer if you’re writing for a national brand, but you can always scale up to events like the Big Ten or the Grammys.
  • Employee profiles: Does every customer rave about your hostess? Why not do a profile on her for your blog? This will establish more of a relationship between your customers and employees, and content like this shows your readers that that you care about your staff. Only interview willing employees though. Don’t force anyone to participate if they don’t want to.
  • (Slightly) Controversial Opinions: Perhaps the local neighborhood is getting a chain restaurant in the spot where everyone’s favorite diner used to reside. Feel free to put just a bit of vitriol behind your blog suggesting everyone shop local. You will want to be very careful with this option. As my grandfather always said, avoid talking about religion and politics in public. You want your customers interested and engaged, not pissed off at your personal views.

Hopefully this will add a few options for your new editorial calendar, but keep in mind that the best way to keep your blogs fresh is to keep learning. Experiment with new topics, and keep reading.

What blog topics have you found the most useful for your brand? What failed horribly? Feel free to share below, or find on Twitter.

Growth Hacking: The Other Side of Marketing

“A growth hacker is a person whose true north is growth.” -Sean Ellis

The term “growth hacking” was coined in 2010 by startup advisor and marketer Sean Ellis. To a growth hacker, everything is done for its potential impact on scalable growth. Entrepreneur Andrew Chen later wrote a blog stating that the growth hacker is the new VP Marketing. But don’t get the two roles confused, growth hackers and marketers are not the same.

According to Aaron Ginn in TechCrunch, growth hackers have three common traits: a passion for metrics and data, creativity and curiosity. You could even say that growth hackers step out of the box, ignore the rules and create new ones. One part marketer and one part developer, growth hackers use a plethora of tools to help them reach their goals, including SEO, social media, web analytics, content marketing, case studies, press releases, blogs, white papers and more, typically sticking with low-cost alternatives to traditional marketing.

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Growth hackers are essential to startups. In order for a startup to succeed, it needs to break through all of the market noise, reach its target customers and flourish. While marketers are an important piece of the puzzle, it’s the growth hackers that will get you to your end goal. In a growth hacker’s mind, the sole focus is put on growing. This drives every decision, strategy and campaign.

One popular case study of growth hacking is Dropbox offering more storage to users who referred their friends. Instead of buying into traditional marketing, growth hackers look for a way to acquire new customers that doesn’t cost very much, if anything at all. Dropbox is worth over $4 billion, but doesn’t spend much on advertising due to its growth hacking techniques. Within four years, Dropbox has gained 200 million users, has one billion files saved to it every 24 hours and has over 500 employees. That’s huge for a company to accomplish in four short years.

Do you think you have what it takes to be a growth hacker? I’d suggest you check out GrowthHackers.com, a community to connect and get inspired. Now let’s take a look at the three steps of the growth hacker funnel.

Growth Hacker Funnel

  • Get Visitors: Find new ways for people to land on your product. Just because someone lands on your webpage or finds your product doesn’t mean you’re done; you need your visitors to form a relationship with you. Getting a visitor to connect with you by joining your email list or creating an account on your site turns them from a visitor to a member, which takes us to the next step.
  • Activate Members: Help people take an action that you have decided was necessary for the success of your product. It’s time to turn your members into dedicated users, keeping them coming back regularly. Figure out ways to keep your members engaged, gradually becoming your brand ambassadors.
  • Retain Users: Help people become habitual users of your product. If you get through this third step, you’ve accomplished your goal as a growth hacker. For growth hackers, retaining customers can sometimes be the most important part of the funnel, because if retention is low then all of your previous work has been meaningless.

Not every marketer or developer has what it takes to be a growth hacker, but if you have the potential, it could take you farther than you might have imagined. Check back for more blogs about growth hacking techniques and tips.

 

Super Commercials Guaranteed This Upcoming Sunday

Spoiler alert: John Stamos is back and puppies are guaranteed during commercial breaks of Super Bowl XLVIII. Averaged at $4 million for 30 seconds worth of play time, big brand names and even a first time contender all cut hefty checks to commercialize their products during this upcoming Sunday’s game featuring the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks. While die hard NFL fans have been busy planning viewing parties, I’ve been scoping out different brands’ Super Bowl commercial teaser ads and viewing released spots.

Battle of the greek yogurts: In one corner, we have the Greek yogurt big game commercial veteran, Dannon. Getting a jump start ahead of the rest, Dannon released their ad today featuring spokesman John Stamos and two of his Full House comrades, Bob Saget and Dave Coulier. The comedic spot highlighting Dannon’s Oikos yogurt will face off against greek yogurt competitor Chobani. The brand’s first ever minute long Super Bowl ad will have a bear navigating through a supermarket to find “delicious foods with natural ingredients.” The sport will launch Chobani’s new brand platform, “How Matters.”

Doritos is doing it again: Doritos opened up commercial ideas to the public, including all 46 countries the product is sold, for the eighth year in a row with their “Crash the Superbowl Contest.” Consumers will vote for one of the top finalists to be played during a commercial break and Doritos’ marketing team will decide the other. This year, the two winners will get to work on the set of “Marvel’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron.” You still can vote for your favorite by tomorrow at midnight. My pick? Doritos Finger Cleaner.

Bud Light trumps all: Searching for Butterfinger’s advertisement or Car Max’s spot online? While you’ll likely find what you are looking for, you are also guaranteed to see searches pop up for Bud Light. The brand’s extensive budget purchased all the Google searches for “Super Bowl ad.” Click on the ad and you’ll be directed to Bud Light’s YouTube channel asking “Are You #UpForWhatever?” The teaser spots revolves around big celebrity names such as Arnold Schwarzenegger playing ping pong and Don Cheadle holding a llama on a leash. Bud Light got my attention and I won’t miss how those scenarios pan out.

Have a favorite Super Bowl teaser I didn’t highlight above or want to live chat with me about the commercials during the game Sunday? Follow me at @whatupTUT and let’s chat! What are some of your favorite Super Bowl commercials of all time?

Invisible Marketing is Smart Marketing

What makes an effective marketing strategy? In my opinion, one of the most effective marketing strategies being implemented right now is being done by a company called GoPro. If you’re not familiar with the brand, GoPro makes “video cameras that turn ordinary people into stars of their own self-shot action movies.”

If you’ve seen a GoPro advertisement, you probably didn’t even realize you were watching a commercial. Their marketing strategy as a company is not considered traditional marketing. They are great at building brand loyalty by utilizing user-generated content for their marketing. Head over to their Facebook page and you will notice how they showcase their customers by hosting a video and photo of the day. They have conquered crowdsourcing for content! With at least one GoPro video being tagged, titled and uploaded to YouTube every minute, GoPro will remain the king for quite some time.

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Take a little break from your day and watch this 14 minute video about “The Lion Whisperer.” Around the 40 second mark, you will realize just how great of a marketing piece this is for GoPro! No other camera would be able to get a shot like that.

On Instagram, GoPro has uploaded a mere 747 videos but has amassed a following of over 1.5 million followers. When you search the hashtag #GoPro, there are almost 2 million hits. Their YouTube channel has 1.5 million subscribers with over 14 million views.

How can you learn from GoPro’s success to market your company?

Stand behind your product and customers – Regardless of what your business does, you can highlight success stories by showing people using your product/service to their benefit. Highlight that content on your social media channels.

Grow your customer base – GoPro was created to capture surfers in action but now parents are using their camera to film their children in everyday situations. This video shows off a child’s first experience with snow. Even GoPro’s Super Bowl commercial last year was geared towards parents in the clever yet simple ad:

GoPro: Dubstep Baby – Super Bowl Commercial 2013 from GoPro on Vimeo.

Content is KING – The way they highlight a video and photo each day guarantees fresh content all the time, and their fans are constantly coming back to GoPro’s social media platforms to share their statuses. Think of ways people can use your product without thinking they are using your product. Have you seen Inception?

What are other companies do you know that have an almost invisible marketing strategy? Are you already a GoPro fan, and if so, what is your favorite video? Tweet at me or leave a comment below!