dimanche 30 novembre 2014

What Makes a Killer Showreel? Video Pros Weigh In.

What Makes a Killer Showreel? Video Pros Weigh In. image killer showreel main.jpg

Showreels can often be your one and only shot to wow a potential client. Wipster wanted to hear from the pros on how to best do that. We chatted with some of the most well-respected people in video to chime in on what makes a killer showreel. We’ve also included a few that caught our attention. Read on to find plenty to consider for your next reel.

An average showreel is just a collection of work. A truly outstanding showreel is buoyed by a concept of some sort. It either tells me something about its creator or it shows an ability for the creator to play with the showreel form itself. At the end of an awesome showreel, I think, “I want to meet this person,” not necessarily “I want to work with this person.” (That comes later.)

Justin Cone – @justincone

Founder of motionographer.com and director of special ops at psyop.tv

A fantastic showreel is well edited to music and hangs together as a whole piece rather than just a compilation of pieces. And it takes into account the perspective of the people watching, not just the perspective of the person whose work is being featured. A DP reel is just okay if it’s just a string of all the shots that the DP worked the hardest to light. It’s fantastic if it’s a well-cut arc of all the shots that are objectively most beautiful. And if the progression can be seen as having an arc or a trajectory, if one shot leads to another rather than feeling more arbitrarily ordered, then you’re on to a winner.

Adam Lisagor – @lonelysandwich

Owner and video director at sandwichvideo.com

The Mill Showreel 2013 from The Mill on Vimeo

As an editor, I don’t often do showreels of my own as I point people to my website so they can see cuts in their entirety. That’s the best way to get an idea of what an editor can do. The idea of a showreel for an editor is that it often comes down to just creating a really good montage. Depending on what types of projects an editor cuts, some of the best jobs might be a good montage!

Scott Simmons – @editblog

Writer at provideocoalition.com and editor at scottsimmons.tv

A fantastic showreel takes you on a story beyond stunning visuals and showing off a breadth of work. My favorite ones always end up feeling more like a narrative of that person’s recent production history.

Chris Savage – @csavage

CEO of Wistia

It comes down to personality; how are you different from the million other people that do what you do?

Ned Wenlock @oneedostudio

Director at Oneedo

Samm Hodges Reel from Animal on Vimeo

Keep it short: Really, the shorter the better – 90 seconds or less.

Be brutal: Your reel is only as strong as the worst piece in there, so be ruthless when deciding what to include.

Tease me: Don’t show everything; make me want to go and look at the full piece on your site.

Design it: Make it its own piece. Put some love into a brief opening and closing and carefully select music that has the pacing and mood you’re after.

Gareth O’Brien – @buck_tv

Art director at buck.tv

The main issue I see is quantity over quality. In an attempt to show more work or experience, people will leave in average or even poor shots, which is the worst thing you can do. Trim it back to only the best of the best that you have. Whether your reel is two minutes or 30 seconds, great work speaks for itself.

Ryan Connolly – @ryanconnolly

Lead at Filmriot

It’s all about the edit. A great showreel has a life of its own. The edit needs to grab people’s attention and take them for a ride. (Read my full thoughts on showreels here.)

Michael Jones – @MichaelJones7

Owner of Mo-Graph Mentor and video maker at michael-jones.com.

Shit Showreels Say from Peter Quinn on Vimeo

An average showreel takes its time, welcomes you in, and ultimately runs for what feels like seven hours. A truly great one grabs you on frame one, wastes zero time, and makes you want to watch it repeatedly for seven hours.

Seth Worley – @Awakeland3D

Film director at sethworley.com

Do you really need that shot? Could it be two seconds instead of five? Have I got too many shots of that one project? Keep it or kill it? I guess to move from average to excellent, you need a perfect execution on all fronts. Awesome work, presented concisely and with a bit of attitude or personality.

Peter Quin – @_PeterQuinn_

Art director and mograph artist at peterqu.in and goblink.com and maker of ‘shit showreels say’

Make it an exceptionally compelling edit of the best frigging shots you’ve ever shot in your life, a montage of client work you’ve done and, in the very best cases, some kind of emotional thru-line just like in any other project you’d tell. It’s a sizzle reel for you as a person, so make it memorable. When people watch it, they should see some great storytelling (and yeah, some dazzling shots and sequences) but the story of the sizzle should make a person say “I want to watch a full piece” and “I want to learn a little more about this person”.

Kylee Wall – @kyl33t

Editor at kyleesportfolio.com.

Onesize anno 2012 from Onesize on Vimeo

Select music that resonates with your style, find the best images or clips, and cut to the beat to tell a story. A showreel serves as your calling card to potential clients and agencies. To really stand out, it should be able to pull its viewers in with a good story versus just having images (b-roll) slapped in with music.

Michael Hanson – @imichaelhanson

Executive Producer and Creative Director at michaelhanson.tv

A fantastic reel will not only show finished work, but the process that goes into creating it. You can learn how good a motion designer is by seeing how they approach a task rather than simply showing the final result. Great reels show how skills are applied to real jobs and have real-world context. If work is abstract, there should be a shot that shows the viewer the context of the project. Finally, reels can be misleading when multiple people contribute to the same shot so explain your specific role in each clip.

Paul Clements – @paulclementstv

Motion Designer at paulclements.tv and Director at RocknRoller Studios.

Keep the reel short and make those first 30 seconds really count. Critique, critique, critique, get as many people as you can to view your reel and have them tear it apart before you submit it anywhere. Watch as many demo reels as you can stand. See what others did and what you liked or didn’t like about their reels. Trust your instincts. Don’t incorporate everything people suggest. If you hesitate, revisit. Finally, don’t let it stand idle for too long after you complete it.

Bryan Tosh – @MrTosh1980

Filmmaker at bryantosh.com

To sum up; show your personality, include only your very best work, know what you’re selling and to which audience, and view it as a piece of work in its own right.

Thanks so much to everyone above for giving us their time!

What Makes a Killer Showreel? Video Pros Weigh In.

Social Media Profiling: A Marketing Must

Your business or brand has been an early adopter or late adopter on social media… good for you! It goes without saying that today social media is and should be part of any marketing and sales strategy mix and rightly so. Along with its popularity, from a marketing perspective, social media has opened the depth and breathe of niche market strategies. No longer is defining target groups as gender and age group sufficient or effective…marketing teams must now get into social media profiling.

Amidst the race to build healthy and hearty communities and following on Facebook and Twitter, there’s a false perception among many in marketing that social media is about mass. But it is quite the contrary. While it is true that with many brand communities the strength of communities is an objective, it is not the only achievable result of indicator of success nor is it the only tell tale sign of social media initiatives’ success.

Consider this, marketing started with demographic targets and then started withe very psychographics profiling to get a clearer handle on what motivated their demographics. With the popularity of the social media channel, social media profiling is quickly emerging as a much needed tool in determining the success of any social media initiative by not only defining the demographics of a target but also by defining their motivations.

With social media profiling… niche is where it is at.

Many businesses have recognized that establishing a target market, demographically speaking (age, gender, location) is not enough and will no longer result in successful performances of initiatives. Let’s take the demographic target of Women 25-54 as an example, which in traditional advertising and communications was all that was required to plan out the media strategy , on TV, radio, magazine selections, and early on, online properties. We can all agree that there’s a significant diversity within the target segment of Women 25-54.

To illustrate that the use of traditional demographics is diminishing; meaning, the importance of age and gender as the significant attribute of a target, is not as relevant when conceptualizing campaigns and establishing strategic initiatives, here are some questions you should ask:

Where are they in their life journey: Are they single, having babies, raising kids, divorced, empty-nesters? This is key in establishing mindset and their motivation triggers.

How do they inform themselves: Online, friends, family, magazines? This will establish the mix of channels to reach them as well as the language to use.

What are their hobbies? This will provide depth to any profile, allowing brand to start developing a relationship that will resonate with their target.

Which, if any, communities are they involved in? Both online and traditional should be evaluated as there currently exists a need for both.

Social media profiling starts with these basic questions and answering them will assist in avoiding the use of stereotypes, which is key and developing an enriched plan of reaching your audiences. Determining niche segments within a target through social media profiling will allow marketing to establish the various customer personas that are relevant for their brands and businesses.

Does your marketing take into account social media profiling? I’d like to hear your thoughts here.

Social Media Profiling: A Marketing Must

Web Site Designers Are Expensive! A Simple Savings Strategy for Small Business Owners

Web site designers “can” be expensive, yes… but you have more control over costs than you think. Seriously. Are YOU paying your web site designers too much?

Web Site Designers Are Expensive! A Simple Savings Strategy for Small Business Owners image web site designers savings strategies 300x248.png

The #1 reason the vast majority of small business owners are paying more than necessary for web site design is…

Lack of proper planning for the future growth of your business.

You don’t expect that your web site or business will stay the same across the years, do you? (Well, if you do, that’s a bigger issue than this article can address. ;) But provided you don’t…

Failing to make sure your web site is scalable guarantees you’ll outlay way too much cash for your web site designers…

…and who can afford to do that in this economy?

Let’s put this costly mistake into perspective.

The Sordid Tale of Silly Sally

There once was a small business owner named Silly Sally who hired web site designers to create her business’ web presence. She checked their portfolio, their online reputation, and exhaustively interrogated them to be sure they met her needs. And they did — with great features, and for a great price.

So then… how did her long-term costs become so outlandish?

Well, despite the wonderful deal she initially received from her web site designers, dear Silly Sally, silly slacker that she is, ended up having to contract them yet again… JUST THREE MONTHS LATER… to help her devise an more scalable content strategy. Yeeouch.

“To devise a WHAT?!”

Oh. Umm, long story short:

Silly Sally didn’t consider the notion that she’d actually want to add more stuff to her web site at some point.

She also didn’t consider the fact that she’d want to do it so often that rehiring web site designers each time would prove way crazy.

Now, do you see…?

Therefore, a mere 90 days after her initial web site’s inception, Silly Sally had to outlay yet more cash to get her web site designers to redo her site to allow for easy/frequent do-it-yourself updates.

But by that time, she’d already ended up wasting many hours (and hours!) fighting through her old, unexpandable web site, trying to fit lots of square pegs into round holes. Not to mention the fact that she also ultimately threw her repeat visitors off (albeit temporarily) by switching things around and changing the look and structure of the site that they were used to for no apparent reason.

Triple whammy… or “whoopsie,” as it were.

How Can You Avoid Such a Series of Silly and Unfortunate Events?

Web Site Designers Are Expensive! A Simple Savings Strategy for Small Business Owners image web site designers partnering 300x270.jpgAs we can learn from Silly Sally, if you make the costly mistake of choosing a design structure that’s rigid and inflexible, updating or changing your web site can end up being not only lecherous on the wallet, but a frustrating, anger-inducing time leech as well.

Truly partnering with your web site designers to map out a plan which allows for easy, seamless growth is imperative for keeping costs as low as possible.

If you’re like many business owners, your web site will grow as your business grows. And managing that growth can be pain-free if you have a web site design that can be easily molded to change.

“So Umm, How Do You Propose that I Do That?”

So glad that you asked, kind Reader.

Next week, we’ll cover how best to consider the types of content you plan to publish, and will reveal exactly what information you should be prepared to pass along to YOUR web site designers to ensure the fastest, most user friendly, most economical web site design possible.

Web Site Designers Are Expensive! A Simple Savings Strategy for Small Business Owners

Is There a Such Thing as Having Too Many WordPress Plugins?

One of the reasons that WordPress has become so popular is that it’s extremely powerful. The basic WordPress framework can be extended to perform numerous additional tasks.

Each one of these new features or functions is usually contained in a “plug-in.” Plugins are small packages of computer code that you download and install into your WordPress website. It can be easy for a relatively small and simple website to use at least a handful of plug-ins, and perhaps even dozens or more.

So is there such a thing as having too many WordPress plugins?

The short answer is that depends in large part on the plugins themselves. WordPress is a dynamic content management system that creates the various pages of your website only when someone requests them by visiting your website. WordPress does this by storing all of the content you’ve uploaded and created in a database, then using the various settings you’ve specified the pages are created and displayed to the visitor.

The more plug-ins you have installed on your website, the more requests made to your Web server. The more requests made the more your site slows down. There are several types of plug-ins and plug-in issues that can genuinely add a noticeable delay before your site is displayed to a user.

Extremely Large Plugins

The first is extremely large plug-ins. When a larger block of code must be loaded and processed, this has the potential to slow down the site rendering time.

Third Party Resources

The next potential problem is for plug-ins that in turn make requests to third party resources. Widgets from services such as Facebook, Twitter, and Paper.li would fall into this category. Each time a plug-in looks to load something from yet another server, there’s a chance for a delay or failure if there are problems with that other server. Multiply this by a dozen such plug-ins, and there is a real chance you could have some problems.

Out Dated Or Poorly Coded

The final type of problem, and the one that is most likely to lead people to believe that having too many plug-ins as a bad thing, is when the plug-ins are either poorly coded or out of date. When searching for new plug-ins, try to stick to those that are confirmed to work for the most recent version of WordPress, and which have the greatest amount of positive feedback from other users.

If your site is running a large number of WordPress plug-ins, it can often be difficult to pinpoint exactly which one is causing the problem. Any time your site takes more than a few seconds to load, and you’re confident that it’s not an issue with your hosting company, disable your plug-ins one by one to determine which one is causing the problem.

Is There a Such Thing as Having Too Many WordPress Plugins?

When Silence is Golden in Building Your Personal Brand

When Silence is Golden in Building Your Personal Brand image shutterstock 143580925 300x207.jpg“The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.” 
― Mark Twain

Many times it’s difficult not to respond to someone, especially when we feel we’ve been attacked or provoked. Our natural impulse is to react defensively and all too often our impulsive response makes things much worse. It can make you look defensive, close-minded, hostile, and insecure and allow the other person to think less of you. Restraint requires emotional maturity and it’s especially challenging when someone consistently pushes your buttons. Sometimes the best response to a difficult person is not to respond at all, or at least not to respond immediately.

Remaining silent in certain situations prevents us from saying something we’ll regret and allows time to sort out the appropriate response. We might even conclude that it’s not worth our energy to offer any response or we could decide to schedule a time to air our views when we’re in a less emotional state.

Not talking is not necessarily a passive approach in relationships. In fact, it can be the precursor to developing strong relationships with healthy communication. When you’re quiet you could be more introspective, tune into the other person’s needs and become more sensitive to what matters to the other person. Whether you’re seeking to build a business or personal relationship, active listening while being silent can allow you the space to tailor a more thoughtful response. You can garner more respect and come off as wiser when you’re silent. So how can you know when to share your thoughts and when it’s better to remain silent?

When Should You Refrain from Speaking Up?

Whether you’re trying to win an argument, make a great impression in an interview, endear a friend or build respect with a prospective prospect, knowing both when to speak and when to listen can help you avoid coming off as a self-absorbed know it all. People tend to listen more to someone who has a reputation for speaking up when he really has something valuable to contribute versus the person who is always talking. Think to yourself; is this a good time to refrain from any speech, to ask for advice, to inquire about the other person, to offer my perspective or to just listen? Taking a pause to reflect on your response could help you discern whether you should refrain from speaking or speak up.

When You’re Angry

A wise woman (my maternal grandmother used to say), “Your words are yours until you speak them. Once they’re out you allow others to own them”. She also said, “Imagine those were the last words you ever said in your life. If those words aren’t ones you’d be absolutely proud of, think twice and perhaps this will help you refrain from erring in judgment of what to say when you’ve been provoked”.

Handling Complaints

When someone is sharing a complaint about you or your business it’s usually best to remain quiet and listen to them: You can learn more about yourself from customers, prospects, co-workers and a boss that gives you feedback than from someone who is aloof towards you. Try to see the kernel of truth in what they’re saying even if it seems irrational or overly harsh. Withhold judgment till the next day; Try to “sleep on it” to gain perspective. You can even say, I’d like some time to think about this before I respond. Having self-control in tense situations is difficult. It’s like lifting weights. The more you exercise the muscle, the easier it gets. It’s always best to make decisions about what we say when we’re in a non-emotional state.

When it comes to fielding customer complaints, being silent and listening to their issues is critical for developing trust. Being a good listener shows empathy and it could be the beginning of a positive relationship with a customer. For every customer who bothers to complain, it is said that twenty-six other customers remain silent. Listening to customers makes it easy for customers to give feedback about problems they’re having. Customer feedback is like gold in a business relationship; it allows you to identify and fix problems before they escalate and can strengthen the bond between you and your customers. The same holds true with a boss or co-worker. If they have a criticism of you, the natural impulse is to be defensive. Knowing what the other expects of you could help you attune your behavior and skills to meet their needs. In many cases this can lead to better collaboration and a more satisfying relationship.

When Customers Offer Feedback

When customers share their story, they’re not just sharing pain points. They could actually teach you how to improve your product, service and business. Listening and remaining silent allows space for them to share their insights that could help you innovate more effectively to meet consumers’ needs.

In a New Relationship

It’s also smart to refrain from being too chatty when entering in a new relationship. Ask open-ended questions and then wait to hear the other person’s response. You could learn important things about the other person’s background and interests that could help you determine in which areas you’re similar and where your differences lie. Withhold sharing information about yourself until you know more about the other person — her biases and her perspective. This way you’ll be more likely to find common ground and will be less likely to say something that’s inadvertently offensive or antagonizing.

Once Someone Has Already Agreed

Ironically, some people feel awkward when they actually get what they ask for and then they persist to explain, defend or sell an idea to the other person. If a person has agreed with you, it’s best to stop talking about that subject and move on. There’s no need to rehash your point. Silence is better. It allows the other person to digest what’s been agreed upon.

When Someone Disagrees

Sometimes saying less or nothing at all is better than defending your position. There are times where it’s more productive to “agree to disagree” than to try to persuade someone to buy into your reasoning. Being selective regarding what you fight for shows discretion and emotional maturity. Needing to win every fight or prove your right on every issue gives the impression of a know it all and pushes people away. Better to be known as reserved than to develop a reputation as being dogmatic.

When You’re Being Attacked

Our emotions can get the better of us and this typically only leads to one thing – more dissent. The wise person doesn’t offer a knee jerk response to every criticism. She remains quiet when attacked to gain perspective and responds once she has clarity on that issue.

When Others’ are Gossiping

It’s always better to avoid gossipers and to refrain from participating in office gossip. Idle chatter only leads to discord and pulls down the moral in a group. The gossiper may think he’s interesting but in truth he’s sending a loud signal to other people that he’s less trustworthy. People figure that if he’s talking about this person today he could be talking about me tomorrow. Having a strong network comes from building allies. Gossiping can diminish your reputation for creating good will and diminishes leadership potential; a true leader identifies strengths in others and empowers them to be powerful. Gossipers do the opposite. They weaken the person whom they gossip about as well as weaken themselves.

When Someone Else is Talking

Of course, silence isn’t always the right approach in business. There are times when speaking up can make a business deal or could prevent a catastrophe from happening. If you know something is wrong and you are the one who can improve a situation, then it may be worth risking speaking up. The challenge for when to speak up and when to hold back is a matter of discretion. A wise person is able to discern when to alert others of an impending problem and knows how to deliver that message so it enhances his reputation and his personal brand.

If you are one who is typically silent and restrained, then this advice might not be necessary for you. You could be the introvert in the room with great insights who is more comfortable refraining from sharing. If this is true for you, you may need to push yourself to speak out more frequently. But if you’re typically the first person to speak up and often regret that you spoke out too soon, you might want to consider trying to be less reactive and reflect on the situation by consciously pausing before you speak. Think to yourself, “will my talking bring me closer to this person or to this group”? If your answer isn’t a definitive “yes” then it may be better not to talk. If nothing else, you may learn something about the other person that could be useful in a later context. Perhaps then you’ll have something meaningful to say that will bode well for your reputation and for building that relationship.

When Silence is Golden in Building Your Personal Brand

5 Dashboards to Monitor Your Brand Mentions: Be Everywhere

This question I hear all the time: “How do you manage to be everywhere”.

Ok, I am not everywhere but I have some tools that help me participate in any discussions involving myself or my projects. Here are my tips..

Types of mentions I am monitoring:

  • My full name [Ann Smarty]

  • My moniker [seosmarty]

  • My domains (too many to list here)

  • My hashtags: I run two branded Twitter chats [#myblogu and #vcbuzz]

Is there ONE tool to accomplish this?

There might be but I’ve never tested one. I am monitoring my personal reputation and my personal projects, so I could never afford an expensive reputation management dashboard (so I can’t really tell if there’s a single solution to replace the tools I am listing here).

Each of the below tools is especially powerful for one platform (and may miss out on the rest), so I am using a few (Note: this is a budget-friendly solution!).

So here you are: Tools to never miss a single mention.

Tweetdeck: Twitter

I did a long article with lots of screenshots of how I am using Tweetdeck to monitor Twitter search results and mentions.

5 Dashboards to Monitor Your Brand Mentions: Be Everywhere image reputation management tweetdeck

Most importantly, you should know your Twitter search tricks!

[“ann smarty” OR seosmarty OR seosmarty.com -from:@seosmarty -@seosmarty]

  • “ann smarty” -> mentions of my full name

  • seosmarty -> mentions of my moniker whenever it happens to be untagged

  • seosmarty.com -> mentions of my personal blog (whether it was shortened in a tweet or not)

  • OR -> ANY of the above should be included in the search results

  • -from:@seosmarty -> excluding my own tweets

  • -@seosmarty -> excluding tweets tagging me because I have a separate column for them

Cyfe: Google Plus

Cyfe (Freemium) has lots of merits (It can be used for Twitter monitoring, analytics tracking, Google alerts import) but where it really got me is its ability to monitor Google Plus search results.

Moreover, it archives them and lets you export results!

I have a separate dashboard there monitoring all sorts of Google Plus search results:

5 Dashboards to Monitor Your Brand Mentions: Be Everywhere image reputation management cyfe

Mention: Facebook

Mention.com (Freemium) positions itself as an all-in-one reputation management dashboard. Surprisingly, the only mentions I found it really thorough at was Facebook.

The best thing is, this tool will alert you of Facebook mentions no other tool was able to find (seriously). Therefore I’ve bad time doing without it: It works great for discovering Facebook conversations mentioning you!

5 Dashboards to Monitor Your Brand Mentions: Be Everywhere image reputation management mention

Google Alerts: Web

Google Alerts is the most obvious choice when it comes to tracking web mentions of any word or phrase. Google has the largest on the web database of domains to crawl. Besides, it is the fastest to discover the new content that gets published on the web.

On the plus side:

  • Fastest results and largest database;

  • The ability to preview results before subscribing to the alerts;

  • The ability to deliver results to email inbox or via RSS feed;

  • Support of Google’s advanced operators

  • Varied options.

Speaking of options:

  • You can set filter results by media type (News, Blogs, Books, Video)

  • You can limit results to a specified country;

  • You can set the updates to come daily, weekly or instantly;

  • You can set to receive only “best” results or all results;


  • Surprisingly (for a search giant like Google), alerts tend to miss some important mentions, sometimes the alert will include a scraper instead of the original, etc.

For what it’s worth, despite some weirdness, Google Alerts is a great free tool to track web mentions of any phrase.

BuzzSumo: Track hot content

BuzzSumo (Freemium) is a great search engine that can help in reputation research as well. With the free account, you can create two email alerts (too few for the search operator maniac like myself but pretty good for free!)

You can set up an email alert for:

  • A keyword (your name)

  • An author (for tracking what goes live under your name)

You can create instant “realtime” alerts or daily email digest.

5 Dashboards to Monitor Your Brand Mentions: Be Everywhere image reputation management buzzsumo

Honorable mention: SocialMention Alerts used to work well to supplement the above tools. However their alerts tool has been discontinued for some time.

Putting it All Together

Tweetdeck Cyfe Mention Google Alerts BuzzSumo
Best to track…TwitterGoogle PlusFacebookWebTrending content
PriceFreeFreemium (pro starts at $29 monthly)Freemium (pro starts at $19 monthly)FreeFreemium (pro starts at $99 monthly)

Expanding the Possibilities

  • The tools deliver email alerts including the search snippets for your main keyword (which is the context around it) – which makes it possible to find and monitor the natural neighbors of your tracked keyword. One free tool to do that is Gmail. See my post on using Gmail search for that purposes.

  • With Gmail labels (or email filters in some email clients like Outlook), email alerts containing your brand mentions can be turned into tasks, archived or organized in multiple ways. Refer to this post of mine on de-cluttering your email inbox for some idea how labels and filters can be used.

Any other tips? Please share them in the comments!

5 Dashboards to Monitor Your Brand Mentions: Be Everywhere

Blogger Outreach: 4 Questions Marketers Need To Ask Their PR Firm

Stories about bad PR pitches—especially pitches to bloggers—are ubiquitous.

A PR agency approaches a leading marketing blogger with a story about Klout—without realizing the blogger has serious ethical concerns about the service.

Ketchum, a multinational public relations firm, invites bloggers to enjoy a four-course meal prepared by a celebrity chef at a New York City restaurant. The event turns out to be a bait-and-switch as the meal is actually supplied by ConAgra’s Marie Callender division.

Ragu creates a video featuring 3 mom bloggers talking about what happens when dad makes dinner. They tweet the link to dad bloggers. One of them, C.C. Chapman, responds, “Hey @ragusauce your campaign SUCKS making fun of dads. Never buying your crap sauce again.”

I’m not a high-profile blogger by any stretch of the imagination. Yet even I’m bombarded with irrelevant pitches addressed to “Undisclosed Recipients.”

The PR industry needs to do a better job of approaching independent bloggers.

But clients should also take some responsibility. After all, if your agency sends a poorly planned pitch, your brand looks bad, too.

Here are 4 questions every marketer needs to ask their public relations firm to avoid a blogger outreach snafu:

1: Do You Have A Blogger Outreach Policy?

The best way to ensure you hire a PR agency that understands bloggers is to ask to see their blogger outreach policy.

A written policy helps ensure every consultant at the agency understands best practices. The policy should include the suggested steps for researching, evaluating and reaching out to independent bloggers:

  • The least number of blog posts every consultant must read before reaching out to a blogger

  • The importance of personalizing every pitch (and avoiding “Dear Blogger” as a salutation)

  • The questions that should be asked about bloggers before they’re included in a client program

Above all, PR consultants need to fully understand the topics a blogger blogs about. I know it sounds obvious, but PR consultants fail in this area far too often – and it’s a huge error to make.

They also need to know whether a blogger is already talking about a client’s (or a competitor’s) product. Only bloggers who follow best practices and are open to working with brands should be included in a client program. If a blog doesn’t disclose relationships with the brands they review, your firm should avoid it.

2: How Do You Find the Bloggers That Matter?

PR agencies already have existing relationships with bloggers in certain niches. Yet there is a steady stream of new blogs, and this means PR pros must continuously build new relationships.

There are many ways to identify appropriate online influencers for any given client.

Paid tools include InkyBee, GroupHigh and BuzzStream. For a detailed overview of what they offer, read Ian Cleary’s useful post on blogger outreach. If your PR agency’s core competencies include blogger outreach, then they should seriously consider subscribing to one of these tools.

Most agencies supplement a paid tool with free resources, such as blog rolls (for those bloggers who have them), Twitter search, Twitter lists, Technorati, Alltop, Blog Catalog, and Chime.in.

3: What Quantitative Criteria Do You Use to Evaluate Each Blogger?

To assess independent bloggers, PR agencies use a variety of quantitative criteria, including:

• Estimated audience

• Engagement (comments and social shares on their blog)

• Engagement in social media channels, not just the number of “likes” or “followers”

• Posting frequency

• Inbound links

• Moz Rank or PageRank

• Page Authority

• Domain Authority

Every PR firm will have a different approach to evaluating independent bloggers. It’s important they have a process that includes a combination of engagement and SEO metrics. The former gives a sense of how much their audience likes them. The latter shows how much Google likes them.

4: How Are Blogger Outreach Programs Evaluated?

A sound approach to program measurement won’t necessarily prevent a blogger outreach disaster. But it does show a PR firm understands its clients’ goals—and how positive blogger coverage can help achieve those goals.

At Polaris, we use the “kick-butt index” or KBI, which employs metrics representing the ideal communications program.

We start by working with our clients to determine the attributes of an ideal communications program for their specific needs. Once we agree on the attributes, a value is assigned to each with a total possible value of 10 for the perfect program.

Instead of guessing at a program’s success, we’re able to measure it based on the criteria our clients deem meaningful. In other words, we use criteria that reflect how our clients create value and drive business.

Take time to avoid a viral disaster

As a busy marketer, you don’t need to understand the minutiae of effective blogger outreach.

But if you want your brand to avoid a viral disaster, take a minute to ask your PR firm a few pointed questions. Does it have a written blogger outreach policy? How does it identify relevant bloggers? Once it finds appropriate bloggers, how does it rank them? And, finally, how will your outreach program be scored?

It’s a small investment of your time to ensure your brand gets the exposure it deserves.

Blogger Outreach: 4 Questions Marketers Need To Ask Their PR Firm

Pre-New Year Business Planning Prep

Pre New Year Business Planning Prep image shutterstock 230092135 300x198.jpgThe New Year is right around the corner . Hopefully you’re finishing the year off strong in your business. But while you’re dealing with increased holiday busyness, it’s also a good time to begin preparing for the next year. Before you can make plans for your business next year, you need to have a sense of what’s going on in your business now. Here are tips to gather the information you need to start planning for next year.

Who Loves Ya?

The first rule of marketing is to know your market. Knowing your market is so important it helps you develop your products or service to better meet their needs and create marketing strategies that speak to them. As a new business owner, you defined who you thought this market would be; however, if you’ve been in business for awhile, you should gather data that tells you exactly who your market is, because you could be wrong. For many years, I ran my site targeting 30-somethings, but recently discovered that over 50 percent of my traffic are people over the age 40.

There are several ways to you can learn about your market in the real world. One is through analytics, such as Google Analytics, which not only gives demographics, such as gender and age, but also information about their interests. Other ways to learn about your market include social media, blog comments and email, which help you understand who is sharing information and asking questions.

What Do they Love?

This information is crucial and something you should stay on top of all year long. Why? Because this information tells you what your market wants and needs. By fulfilling its desires or fixing its problems, you’re going to increase traffic and sales. And with a fast changing world, these wants and desires can change, so by staying abreast to market needs, you can better meet them.

Once again, analytics is a good source for information about what your market wants. Analytics will tell you what pages of your website are most visited. It reveals the words and phrases your market is using, giving a clue to its wants and needs.

Other methods for identifying your markets desires include tracking your best selling products and services, or in the case of affiliate marketing, your top affiliate sales. Research your blog and social media posts that garnered the most engagement. And finally, find out which email blasts led to the most clicks and sales.

How Are They Finding You?

Marketing doesn’t have to be expensive anymore, but it’s still time consuming. You’ll get more bang for your marketing buck and time if you track your marketing efforts to focus on what’s working and tweak or eliminate what’s not working. For example, I was surprised to learn that Pinterest steadily held the number two spot for sending traffic over the course of this year. My business has nothing to do with food or crafts, and yet, Pinterest still beat out Twitter and LinkedIn to send readers to my home-based career site. This tells me I need to be sure to include sharable graphics in my blog posts and spend more time at Pinterest.

Analytics is a great way to find out how and where people are discovering your site. Not only can you learn where they are finding you, such as through social media, advertising, guest appearances, etc, but also the specific words and terms they’re using to discover you.

Once you have a picture of who your market is, what it wants and the best ways for reaching it, you can use the information to plan your products, services and marketing for maximum results in 2015.

Pre-New Year Business Planning Prep

Should Lead Generation Campaigns Still Run When A Battle’s Going On?

It seems quite a shame that this year’s Thanksgiving has clearly been marred by the recent court decisions around the Ferguson scandal. But as these things come to pass, it’s really important for any business to have a lead generation action plan in case they find themselves caught in the midst of a highly politicized struggle.

Now why lead generation in particular? Shouldn’t your entire organization be concerned when things like huge protests and scandal disrupt the tranquility of business-as-usual?

As much as that’s true, most of the measures you’ll be taking have a direct correlation with what anything else you’ll need to do to avoid getting caught in the conflict.

  • Should Lead Generation Campaigns Still Run When A Battle’s Going On? image 459545506 10.jpgMedia announcements – And by media, that not only includes traditional TV advertising or even the niche spots you’ve got on some local business publications. This obviously includes online and social media. Be mindful of what content you put up and see how it can be interpreted by those who take a side or remain neutral in any given uproar.

  • Find your customers in the mess – A data visualization of online conversations regarding the Ferguson decision really paints a stark divide. Probably the most difficult task is getting in touch with all your customers when some of them could be in one cluster or in the other. However, you need to spot them regardless before taking any further action.

  • Create guidelines – It’s usually only in very rare occasions that you end up finding most of your customers favoring as singular stance on an issue. And even in such cases, it’s usually better to separate the conversations between themselves from the ones between your business. It should not be too easy to take a subject about things like finance and accounting but then find ways to make it about racism and Michael Brown.

  • Unless you can, avoid too much peacemaking – While this sounds a bit unethical, some issues can be just far too big for your own company to quell. The next best thing you can do is to keep the conflict from disrupting as much of your business as possible. In all fairness, this could be easy as the Thanksgiving Day parade proceeded despite the Ferguson protests.

Not all wars involve tanks and gunfire. Sometimes social upheaval can happen with just smartphones and Twitter. And all the same, daily business is at the risk of being disrupted. Make sure your lead generation strategy keeps you under the rather but still in touch with customers.

Should Lead Generation Campaigns Still Run When A Battle’s Going On?

Dr. Alveda King Slams Ferguson Riots As An Unnecessary Evil

Dr. Alveda King Slams Ferguson Riots As An Unnecessary Evil image medium 15700660840

Dr. Alveda King condemned the Ferguson riots as an act of “unnecessary evil.” The niece of the famed civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. appeared on Fox and Friends and called for peace, citing that violence is never an outlet to get your voice heard.

King was especially critical of a Ferguson article published on Times magazine where the author defended the rioting, stating that peaceful protests aren’t an option for those who are constantly oppressed in an institutionally racist society.

King stated that during her countless marches with her father and uncle that they have always used a nonviolent approach. They have never resorted to violence even after many of the protesters were unjustly arrested and her home was firebombed. She maintains that words and prayers are the key for effectively sending a message to the world.

Alveda King and her thoughts on the Ferguson unrest is also shared by her cousin, son of Martin Luther King Jr., Martin Luther King III. The man appeared on CNN and said that his father would be greatly dismayed by the violence that has overtaken Ferguson. According to him:

“I don’t know that any of us can really speak for my father, but I will try the best that I can based on some of his writings and the views that he took. He would be greatly disappointed.”

Luther King III maintains that his father and those that marched alongside him would never approve of the tactics being used by the rioters. His father once said to him that “violence is the language of the unheard.”

Even though Martin Luther King Jr. is not here today, his niece and son couldn’t have said it in better words. The fire-setting and looting really has done nothing other than set back race relations. Dr. Alveda King was right about the Ferguson riots being counterproductive to the peace the community so earnestly seeks.

[photo credit: Stephen Melkisethian]

Dr. Alveda King Slams Ferguson Riots As An Unnecessary Evil

DO NOT PUB? Kirk Douglas Obituary Has Been On People Website For 2 Months

DO NOT PUB? Kirk Douglas Obituary Has Been On People Website For 2 Months image Kirk Douglas

A Kirk Douglas obituary has been live at People ‘s website for two months – despite the actor being very much alive.

The magazine published a pre-written obituary of film star Kirk Douglas in late September, but the Internet just discovered the mistake on Sunday night, quickly leading to “DO NOT PUB” quickly becoming a Twitter meme.

And Huffington Post editor Ethan Klapper even handily googled the phrase, just in case you wanted to find all the “do not pub” stories on the Internet.

The article has apparently been reporting the news of the actor’s death for two months despite the fact that Douglas is, at least at press time of this article, still alive.

The lede also included an obvious placeholder: “Kirk Douglas, one of the few genuine box-office names to emerge just as TV was overtaking American culture in the years right after World War II, died TK TK TK.” Not to mention the typo “death of youngest Kirk’s son.”

So, no, this definitely wasn’t supposed to be published (as if the DO NOT PUB in the headline wasn’t already an – ahem – dead giveaway).

Uproxx first noted the error, but also pointed out that like many publications, People pre-writes obituaries of notable figures to ensure a timely report when the person does, in fact, die.

“In a further bit of unintentional perfection, the first movie listed in writer Stephen M. Silverman’s tribute to Douglas is Ace in the Hole, a scathing critique of a callous media that prioritizes publicity above human life,” Uproxx’s Vince Mancini pointed out.

Douglas will turn 98 on December 9. His film career included star turns in Ace in the Hole, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, and Spartacus. He is also the father of actor Michael Douglas and three other sons. Douglas has also taken to blogging in recent years, with his last piece at Huffington Post a July remembrance of the late actress Elaine Stritch.

What do you think about the “do not pub” Kirk Douglas obituary debacle? Honest mistake or media malfeasance?

DO NOT PUB? Kirk Douglas Obituary Has Been On People Website For 2 Months

Nintendo Awarded Patent Of Emulator Software For SmartPhone Gaming, But Don’t Get Too Excited

Nintendo Awarded Patent Of Emulator Software For SmartPhone Gaming, But Dont Get Too Excited image nintendo emulator patent 859x600

The U.S. Patent Office has granted Nintendo a patent for emulator software that would make it possible to play Nintendo classics on smartphones. For a brief moment, every Nintendo fan’s thumbs probably twitched, but here’s the bad news: it probably doesn’t mean they’re going to actually make the software available.

According to PC Mag, Nintendo originally filed a similar patent in 2000, and has since filed updates to it in 2003 and 2012. This is likely just the latest iteration of a patent being kept in place, not due to a plan to make the product, but in order to prevent others from doing so.

In fact, in May, GameSpot reported that Nintendo’s president had doubled down on the promise not to bring Nintendo games to app stores.

He said that to release the games on smart phones would decrease their quality, and that would damage the customer base. However, he went on to say that if Nintendo ever did do so, the downloadable apps could never be a pillar of the company.

In light of Nintendo’s patent of emulator software, and hopeful customers, the most exciting word in that brief speech might be the ‘if.’

The patent specifically identifies software:

[for use] on a low-capability target platform (e.g., a seat-back display for airline or train use, a personal digital assistant, a cell phone) uses a number of features and optimizations to provide high quality graphics and sound that nearly duplicates the game playing experience on the native platform.

As far as classic gaming, even if it came to our mobile devices, it might be only aimed at those of us who remember it from the first time around — it looks like teens might not be too appreciative of their parents’ era of gaming. Those of us who’ve enjoyed all 25 years of Gameboy may be out of luck.

Still, with Nintendo holding that emulator patent, we can at least hope.

[photo credit: Joachim S. Müller]

Nintendo Awarded Patent Of Emulator Software For SmartPhone Gaming, But Don’t Get Too Excited

Paul Walker Died One Year Ago Today: Fans Pay Their Tribute

Paul Walker Died One Year Ago Today: Fans Pay Their Tribute image medium 6235441220

It was one year ago today that Paul Walker died in a horrific and fiery car crash. Hundreds of fans gathered at the Santa Clarita road where the actor and friend Roger Rodas met their untimely end. So many people showed up to pay their tribute that police had to set up orange cones and barricade a section of the street.

The late actor’s father recently spoke in an interview with E! News and said that he thought about his son every day since his death.

“I feel his presence every day. I miss talking to him a great deal. He had a good heart.”

Walker’s friend and Fast and Furious co-star Tyrese Gibson also paid tribute to his friend by posting a pic on his Instagram page and releasing the following statement:

“A celebration of Paul William Walker will be echoed around the world….1 year ago today God called an angel home early…,”

Friends and family who now control Walker’s Facebook page have asked fans to pay their respects by naming their favorite quotes from the actor in the countless movies he appeared in.

Paul Walker died on Nov 30, 2013, while on his way to a charity event. He and Rodas rode in the latter’s Porsche Carrera GT. Not long after driving off, Rodas lost control and collided head on with a light pole, setting the vehicle ablaze. By the time police arrived, the car and its two occupants were burned beyond recognition. Autopsy revealed that both men died from the impact and were killed instantly.

Paul walker died at the age of 40 and left behind a 15-year-old daughter. Since his death, his younger brothers Caleb and Cody have filled in for the actor to complete the remaining scenes as Walker’s double stand-in for the seventh installment of the Fast and Furious series.

[photo credit: Tittyboo]

Paul Walker Died One Year Ago Today: Fans Pay Their Tribute

Lil Wayne’s Daughter Turns 16, Receives A BMW And A Ferrari

Flood Christian Church In Ferguson Undaunted By Arson; Holds Service In Parking Lot

Flood Christian Church In Ferguson Undaunted By Arson; Holds Service In Parking Lot image flood christian church arson

The Flood Christian Church in Ferguson, Missouri, was burned to the ground during the looting and rioting that joined protests in the aftermath of Darren Wilson’s Grand Jury return. After the decision returned not to indict, massive amounts of damage were done in the St. Louis suburb, and along with businesses, the Flood Christian Church was burned to the ground.

The Flood Church was Michael Brown’s church, and Pastor Carlton Lee says he doesn’t believe the fire was set by protesters. According to Raw Story, the pastor feels KKK is a more likely suspect. The KKK has burned black churches before, he says, and the white supremacist group has warred with protesting factions throughout the past weeks.

In fact, the KKK was under attack by Anonymous at that time, for threats to protesters.

Anonymous also reported having evidence that Darren Wilson was tied to the KKK, but didn’t release that information, saying that it would endanger the person who supplied it.

Whoever the arsonist(s) may be, the Flood Christian Church is asking for donations to rebuild.

In the meantime, they’re going forward with services. On the Church’s Facebook page, there stands an explanation.

On behalf of the Flood Christian Church and Pastor Carlton Lee we would like to thank everyone for all the prayers and encouraging words given to us during this hard time. We would also like to take this time out to invite you to worship with us this Sunday on the parking lot of the Flood located at [address redacted]. With everything going on in the world around us it’s not time for us to leave the community it’s time for us to stand strong.

Sunday night, they’re holding a musical benefit at another area church, Rhema Church. Proceeds will help to rebuild the church.

The Flood Christian Church’s arson attack may have taken the building and its contents, but a church is far more than a building, and it still stands.

[Image: Flood Christian Church]

Flood Christian Church In Ferguson Undaunted By Arson; Holds Service In Parking Lot

7 Must-Know Writing Tips [+Examples]

7 Must Know Writing Tips [+Examples] image upload 1416630950 writingtips.jpg

Wondering which writing tips will actually boost your productivity and success? Whether you write for a living or maintain a blog on the side, it can sometimes be difficult to stand out in an ocean of writers and content. Fortunately, there are ways to make your writing more engaging while streamlining your writing process. Following is a list of effective writing tips that can help you create standout content more efficiently.

1. Plan Your Content

If you really want to make an impact, spend some time brainstorming before you begin writing. This tops the list of writing tips for a reason. Think about your intro and points you would like to include, and sort them out into a rough draft or outline.

Planning your content, both in advance via an editorial calendar and in the minutes before you start writing, also serves to help you stay focused and avoid a writer’s worst enemy— procrastination. Unbounce does a great job of explaining how to set up a successful editorial calendar.

2. Use Shorter Sentences

Long sentences do not make great content. In fact, you can also ditch those big, fancy words. Since most internet users scan articles rather than actually reading them, long sentences full of big words can hurt your article’s popularity.

Naturally, if you are writing an in-depth technical article, your readers will have a different set of expectations. In general, though, writers will benefit by using short sentences and simple wording. Honestly, this is one of the best writing tips around.

When in doubt, check your article’s readability on Readability-Score.com and try to keep it close to an 8th grade reading level.

3. Use Headings And Subheadings

You can make it a lot easier for readers to scan your content if you break it down into headings and subheadings. While you’re at it, make sure your headings are clear and catchy, which will help grab your readers’ attention as they scroll through your pow5. CoSchedule elaborates on how to make your content more readable.

4. Write About What You Know

Yes, yes, I know what you’re thinking. “But a good writer should be able to write about a variety of topics!” Exactly. Do you know how they are able to do that? By constantly learning through reading and research. The trick to writing efficiently is to write what you know, and the secret to writing what you know is to learn as much as possible.

I’m going to give you one of the most general yet effective writing tips I know: The best writers are avid readers, and they tend to take in information from many sources throughout their everyday lives. By doing so, they increase the number of topics they can write about knowledgeably. Ingest as much information as you can on a daily basis and you’ll see it reflected in the quality and efficiency of your writing.

5. Limit Distractions

Any modern list of writing tips would be incomplete if it didn’t tell you to steer clear of the rabbit hole which is the internet. It’s already challenging enough to get inspired or brainstorm when you are sitting in front of a computer. Why make it worse by letting yourself get distracted every few minutes by email and social media? Don’t do it. Spend plenty of time working offline and you’ll find your productivity skyrocketing.

6. Take A Break

Even when you’re writing about something that excites you, writing can be draining. Taking breaks helps refresh you both physically and mentally, making it a lot easier for you to focus when you sit back down. Try breaking for 10 minutes every hour, but don’t spend that time on your computer! Get up and stretch. Walk around. Maybe make a cup of tea and watch the birds fight over the sunflower seeds. Do anything, just get away from your computer.

7. Write In The Second Person

Writing in the second person not only helps engage your readers by addressing them directly, it also helps your writing flow more naturally because it closely mimics an actual conversation. This is my personal favorite of the writing tips I’ve mentioned. Just like writing a letter or email to a specific person, writing directly to your audience opens up a discussion on both sides. Check out this ProBlogger guide to conversational writing.

Speaking of opening up a discussion, are there any tried and true writing tips you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments!

7 Must-Know Writing Tips [+Examples]

As Mobile Conversions Climb, Ensure You’re On Track To Optimize The Right Channels And Devices

As Mobile Conversions Climb, Ensure You’re On Track To Optimize The Right Channels And Devices image Woman on stairs 300x199.jpgLooks like it’s time to get some new hiking boots because mobile is climbing yet again! 2014 marked the first time that mobile surpassed desktop Internet usage, and we’re now witnessing a new way it continues to grow: in conversions.

People are spending more time with the Internet on their smartphones than ever before: 34 hours per month vs. only 27 hours on their desktop computers (Nielsen). A recent report by Marin highlighted that as traffic continues to grow, so too will the way people engage with their mobile devices: not only in impressions, but also clicks, conversions, and (we’d like to add) phone calls. The report studied Q3 2014 metrics and year-over-year changes in key performance indicators (KPIs) by channel and device, offering marketers insight into how we can optimize marketing ROI by platform.

While desktop remains the most popular source of online conversions for now, mobile has experienced double-digit growth in conversions where desktop has seen the opposite. The key is to understand which channels and devices are best suited for mobile and how to optimize to drive valuable conversions.

Online Channel Investments Are Shifting

It’s not surprising that people engage with search, display, and social advertising in distinctly different ways – each serves a different function for us in our daily lives. Yet the Marin study found that all three channels have seen growth from mobile for nearly all metrics measured (impressions, clicks, spend, and conversions) at the expense of desktop engagement. As a result, consumer behavior has impacted advertiser investment for:

  • Search: Smartphone spend outpaces clicks, indicating marketers still need to work on optimizing for mobile.

  • Display: More focus on mobile display from advertisers has led to half of display investment being spent on mobile devices.

  • Social: As the channel with the fastest mobile user growth, advertisers hurried to spend ad dollars in social, yet consumer intent on this channel is less tied to conversions.

The changes advertisers have made to their digital strategy make us reevaluate the metrics we need to analyze to measure success. The study found that:

  • Click-Through Rate (CTR): Search drives the highest CTR of all channels, and smartphones are the leader within search.

  • Conversion Rate: Search again leads in conversion rates, but desktop has much higher conversion rates than on mobile.

  • Cost-Per-Click (CPC): Similar to conversions, desktop leads the pack in CPC, and CPCs in general are much higher for search.

We said we’re adding it as a measure to consider: don’t forget about phone calls. While the study did not measure inbound calls, BIA/Kelsey estimates that inbound calls to U.S. businesses from mobile search alone will reach 75 billion by 2018. Being able to track calls back to your business is yet another tool to help you attribute your mobile marketing and optimize for what is working.

Mobile Conversions See Largest Growth

For many, the ultimate goal is conversions – a.k.a money for your business. Here’s where we get back on the mobile trail Marin put forth: the study found that, of any device, mobile experienced the highest year-over-year growth in conversions. Sure, desktop still dominates the actual share of total conversions, but this growth is significant. It offers further evidence that we need to optimize for mobile conversions. And because phone calls have been found to convert to revenue 10 to 15 times more frequently than web leads, it’s imperative to measure these conversions from phone calls to get the full picture of your marketing efforts.

Channel And Device: It Requires A Holistic View

By looking at the differences in both channel and platform engagement, we can be smarter when investing our marketing dollars – optimizing for precisely what is driving conversions. Including phone calls will close the loop on your reporting and help you recognize all the ways your marketing is driving conversions.

As Mobile Conversions Climb, Ensure You’re On Track To Optimize The Right Channels And Devices image Screen Shot 2014 11 19 at 10.30.43 AM.png

We as marketers know that as mobile device usage continues to grow, the above statement from Marin’s study will no longer even be a thought. Thanks to the growing sophistication of lead management tools, we are able to follow them through the sales cycle all the way to conversion.

And with more inbound calls to businesses from marketing than ever before, if we’re not tracking calls to our business, how are we attributing the conversions that happen over the phone? The answer is that we’re not able to. Not unless we’re using call tracking technology to understand which ad, web page, search keyword, or marketing campaign is driving calls. Only then will we have the full picture of our marketing and be able to optimize for what is driving conversions; from any mobile channel that is driving conversions, be it search, display, or social.

As Mobile Conversions Climb, Ensure You’re On Track To Optimize The Right Channels And Devices

Darren Wilson Will Receive No Severance Package, Mayor Says

Darren Wilson Will Receive No Severance Package, Mayor Says image darren wilson severance package 900x600

Ferguson’s Mayor is reassuring anyone who worried about Darren Wilson’s severance package that there will be none. The announcement comes shortly after the officer’s resignation, which Wilson says was submitted for the protection of his fellow officers.

KRNV reports that Mayor James Knowles said in a statement Sunday afternoon that the officer and the city have completely severed all ties and that Wilson will not receive additional pay or other benefits.

Many have been disturbed by the officer’s apparent financial situation: despite spending the last several months on paid leave, he received donations from people across the country, and t-shirts expressing support were sold for him, with the totals rising above $1 million, by some accounts.

The Atlanta Black Star, for one, says that Wilson made a tidy profit off of killing Michael Brown, ending with over a million dollars in the bank.

That being the case, it seems Darren Wilson’s severance, or lack thereof, should be a non-issue. However, Wilson’s costs related to the case are not over.

Michael Brown’s parents have spoken of a lawsuit against Wilson, and against the city. According to Newsweek, a wrongful death lawsuit is perhaps the easiest chance for Brown’s family to take any action against the officer. It’s possible that a suit could result in a quick settlement.

The Root also notes that the Justice Department could pursue a separate case against Wilson, charging him with a civil rights violation.

It’s true that the Grand Jury failed to indict Wilson, but he is likely not yet through with the events that sprang from his shooting of Michael Brown in August.

Yes, he had large amounts of money donated to and raised for him, but there’s a fair chance those funds will still end up being applied to legal defense costs. It’s unlikely he’s going to have the opportunity to jump into the millionaire life.

So, Darren Wilson’s severance package being withheld might mean that the ex-officer finds himself looking for work sooner rather than later.

[photo credit: sweet1eafs ]

Darren Wilson Will Receive No Severance Package, Mayor Says

How-To For Retailers: Maximizing Facebook Engagement With Images

Retailers investing in social media marketing are finding success in terms of brand awareness, engagement and sales. As many as 93% of marketers are using social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram as part of their marketing efforts. New data is giving retail marketers more insights into what social practices produce the best results.

The effectiveness of using images on social networks, particularly Facebook, is no longer in doubt. Using images has been directly tied to increased engagement, with 44% of Facebook users being likely to interact with brand posts that use images. The higher quality the image, the more engagement the post generally receives. Research shows that professional quality photos get a 120% boost in engagement in metrics such as likes and shares compared to amateur images. Other social networks are also putting more emphasis on images lately, with LinkedIn and Twitter releasing updates that allow users to upload larger images.

New data from ZOG Digital shows that marketers need to take the use of images even further to truly maximize engagement and therefore the organic reach of each social media post. The research shows that on top of the quality of the image, the style of image also has an impact on key metrics which define social media success.

Increase Engagement With Creative Images

For this case study, lifestyle images are defined as action photos, such as someone wearing or using a product. Creative images, such as the example below, are altered using Photoshop or another program to artificially change the image to add creative elements. This case study followed and specifically looked at how the two image styles affected the four major engagement metrics on Facebook: Likes, shares, comments, and total post reach.

How To For Retailers: Maximizing Facebook Engagement With Images image Creative Image.png 300x300

1- Example of Creative Image

Likes, Shares, And Comments

Since 2012, the organic reach of Facebook posts by brands has been reduced from 16.0% to 6.5%, which for retailers can mean thousands of fewer fans seeing each and every post. While Facebook’s recent algorithm changes did reduce the organic reach of posts by brands, it didn’t change the fact that every like, share and comment assisted in an increase of the reach of a post. Facebook uses these actions as indicators that a specific post is interesting to users, causing the post to be more likely to appear in more newsfeeds.

In an effort to find ways to maximize the organic reach of Facebook posts, ZOG Digital looked at how posts with creative images performed in comparison to posts with lifestyle images.

The results show dramatic increases in engagement for creative images compared to lifestyle images. Looking at unpaid posts, creative images had 54% more likes, 50% more shares and 1,700% more comments than lifestyle images. For paid posts, creative images outperformed lifestyle images as well with 395% more likes, 650% more shares and 1,233% more comments.

How To For Retailers: Maximizing Facebook Engagement With Images image AverageShare.png

How To For Retailers: Maximizing Facebook Engagement With Images image AverageLikes.png

How To For Retailers: Maximizing Facebook Engagement With Images image AverageComments.png

The Result: Higher Total Reach

The research confirmed that more likes, shares and comments increases the total reach of posts. Total reach is one of the most important metrics for retailer marketers because it is the number of people who were shown the post, and therefore could be impacted by it. The case study found that organic posts with creative images beat out lifestyle images in total reach by 18%. Paid posts with creative images had a 274% increase in total reach compared to lifestyle images.

How To For Retailers: Maximizing Facebook Engagement With Images image AveragePostReach.png


Retail marketers looking to create the most social media influence possible must look at the image strategy being used. The data presented above strongly indicates that retailers should focus on using creative images in Facebook posts to maximize the amount of users who will see each individual post. While using creative images can help, ZOG Digital believes that every business is unique and should find the strategy that works best for them. This means continually testing to see what creates the most interest and engagement from that specific brand’s fans.

How-To For Retailers: Maximizing Facebook Engagement With Images

Are Your Blog Posts Readable?

Are Your Blog Posts Readable? image f65f8460fb81e6ea049a04543ace1cc6 words2 695.jpg

Last week, the Grammar Chic, Inc. team offered a few tips for businesses just getting into the blogging routine. Today, we’re going to hone in on an important concept for new and seasoned business bloggers alike—the concept of readability.

Obviously, you want your blog to offer value, you want it to be interesting to read, and you want it to cast your business in the best light possible. All of that is predicated on your blog being approachable, accessible even to lay people. After all, if reading your blog is nightmarishly difficult, headache-inducing, or just flat-out impossible, then it’s ultimately just a waste of your time and effort.

In other words, your blog should be for readers, not for you—but how can you ensure that your blog can, in fact, be read and enjoyed by lay people?

Missing The Forest For The Trees

You know your business better than your customers do—at least, we hope you do! If you’re the company’s owner, you know it better than anyone in the world. You’re likely brimming over with insights into your industry and vertical, as well—but that can be sort of a mixed blessing when it comes to blogging. You can become so bogged down in the minutiae of your business, with insider perspectives and little technicalities, that you miss the big picture and bypass the things your readers really care about. You can miss the forest for the trees.

The first step toward readability, then, is stepping outside of Business Owner mode, and putting yourself in the mindset of your customers and clients. What questions do they have? What aspects of your company are truly relevant to them? What do they need to know to get more out of your products, or to feel confident buying from you in the first place? What problems do they need solved? Buyer personas may be helpful here, but even if you don’t have time for that, do make sure you think in terms of consumer value, not the nuts-and-bolts stuff that only you really care about.

Formatting Matters, Too

Good, readable blogs are value-focused, consumer-oriented, and devoid of technical talk and jargon—but they’re also well formatted. You can have a really accessible bit of content, and totally ruin it by presenting it as one epically long, unbroken paragraph—something that’s just a pain to read.

To ensure that your content is actually easy to digest, keep in mind the following:

  • When applicable, numbers and bullet points help to break up paragraph-after-paragraph monotony.

  • Section subheadings and images can also be great ways to separate your content into digestible chunks; your subheadings will also be useful for skimmers.

  • Online attention spans are usually less than stellar, so make a substantive point without rambling too much.

  • Keeping each blog post to a single point is the best way to make it digestible and memorable.

Again: Put yourself in the shoes of an average reader. Think about the kinds of blog posts that you would actually read, and perhaps even enjoy—and use that to guide you.

Are Your Blog Posts Readable?