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How to Achieve Social Media Stardom

Posted on Jan 23, 2013 by James Trumbly

Certain businesses have become overnight starlets in the world of social media. Somehow, things just clicked right from the start, and they “get it.” As it turns out, these social media divas all have some essential practices in common. With just a little effort, you too can enter the social media stratosphere.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for fans.
    Let your email subscribers know about your social media efforts by including “Follow Us” buttons in each message you send, including customer service messages. You can also create a special campaign to request followers. Templates are free and easy to integrate into your newsletter format.
  • Incentivize subscriptions.
    One-time incentives such as a coupon or discount for liking a Facebook page can be excellent tools to acquire likes. You can also tempt would-be followers with promises of regular Twitter-only specials, sale previews, or VIP access to sales events.
  • Integrate your promotion efforts.
    Email marketing is a great way to spread the word about your social media efforts, but don’t ignore other promotion opportunities. Include a link on your website, solicit followers in your print advertisements, and pin your emails to your Pinterest board with keyword-enriched descriptions so your business shows up in a search.
  • Encourage your fans to interact.
    Engagement is one of the keys to succeeding with Facebook’s Edgerank algorithm. In order to show up in a fan’s newsfeed, you need to establish a pattern of interaction. Think outside the box and make it fun with ideas like:

    • Post photos of recent community events you’ve worked with.
    • Run a video contest.
    • Ask questions.
    • Invite fans to post their pictures to your page.
    • Link your blog posts to your Facebook page.
  • Tailor content to the strengths of each venue.
    Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Youtube—each social media venue you choose interact with will exhibit various strengths and weaknesses. Don’t try to shove all of your content into one mold. Create conversations on Facebook, provide how-to ideas and inspirations for Pinterest, and tweet about your online sales. While it’s important to integrate your marketing efforts, it is also important to recognize that your fans have different expectations from each venue.

Proactively building your fan list, providing great content and incentives, encouraging interaction, and capitalizing on the strengths of your various social media endeavors will give you all the know-how, popularity, and success you need to catapult you to rock star status.


On the Tenth Day of Christmas, HMG gave to Me: Ten Blogs a-Buzzing

Posted on Dec 22, 2012 by Johnny Jeffers

The voice of a consumer has proved to be the most powerful tool for the success of any business. The evolution of the internet has made several marketing solutions as simple as clicking a mouse; so let’s deck the halls with ten ways to integrate age old word of mouth marketing with modern social outlets!
1. On average, one of five customers will say something about your business just by asking them to. “Would you tell your friends and family about our service?” The trick? Just ask, every time!
2. Optimizing the search engine effect; a product cannot be shared virtually if it cannot be found online. Optimize your website and online content with multi-word tag lines to avoid vast competitions with companies shelling out the dollars for one key word.
3. If you choose to advertise on multiple social media sites, allocate time to update and engage with readers and followers daily. Consistency with posting ads and follower engagement is crucial for brand recognition.
4. Everyone wants to be heard; whether positive or constructive feedback is flowing in, always respond. Take time to address concerns and thank all customers for all feedback. Reviewers will talk about the brand just by feeling heard by the company.
5. Give back to followers, use social media to offer small gifts for kids and prizes. These gifts and prizes can be awarded for various online contests that will increase engagement with existing and even more importantly new interest.
6. Encourage bloggers and review sites to rate the product and brand. Share the positive blogs and feedback on the company website and social media outlets. There is a vast market out there that will buy in once a third-party endorses a brand.
7. Write regularly. Post PR and blog content on the company website. Publish it through social media links, and distribute it directly to relevant media outlets. The likelihood of new and additional conversations about a brand and its products will increase with the amount of online content that is published.
8. Use the free tools available to keep up with specific markets and interests in the business. Take Google, for example, they offer an application called Google Analytics. This free service has statistics on website visits and can be linked to any website despite the volume. Google Trends also provides details on popularity with specific search terms over time. Stay competitive by being alert and up to date on the trends in your companies’ vertical.
9. As soon as a consumer decides to purchase from a company a second time, odds are good that they have spoken highly about the business or even indirectly referred potential clients. Encourage feedback, and make it easy to respond with simple short questions. For example ask new clients; “How was your experience?” and “What can we do to expect your business in the future?” An example for returning clients could be “Thank you for coming back to our business! What made you interested in our product/service again?”
10. Never expect the end user to manage the relationship. Regularly interact with contacts and subscribers via newsletters, promotional offerings, and by keeping up to date on all active social media outlets.
Marketing is a team effort and we cannot do it without the influence of our customers. Leverage all resources with blogging, integration of helpful tools, and social media to spread the news and keep folks talking!

Glance Back at 2011 As You Gear Up for Holiday 2012

Posted on Oct 30, 2012 by James Trumbly

A quick trip to the mall this morning revealed that stores are already gearing up for Thanksgiving and—yikes!—Christmas shopping. 10 percent of retailers have already sent a Christmas email to their subscriber list, but don’t feel bad if you haven’t yet. There’s still plenty of time to get your jingle on. Check out what worked and what didn’t during the 2011 holiday season:

What Worked: Sending Emails During the Week of Black Friday

While email opens were average on Black Friday itself, the week leading up to it was a good week for email marketers. Nearly 16 percent of email subscribers made a purchase in response to an email that was sent during the week of Black Friday.

What Didn’t: Relying on Gimmicks to Earn Better Open Rates (like certain words in the subject line)

Popular subject line word choices for 2011 included “free,” “sale,” and “shipping.” Surprisingly, these words did not result in higher open rates. However, the word “coupon” did entice more people to open an email, although it wasn’t used as often.

Take away: Tried and true subject line methods of stating clearly what your email contains, piquing interest, and promising value earn more opens than gimmicks.

What Worked: Sending Emails to Subscribers on Christmas Day

Surprisingly, 6 percent of the emails sent on Christmas Day were opened, despite the many festivities of Christmas morning and dinner with the in-laws. That’s just 3 percent less than average. Also, people spent over 170 percent more on their mobile devices this year than they did on Christmas Day 2010.

What Didn’t: Expecting Better Response Leading Up to Christmas But Ignoring Christmas Day

Actual customer behavior showed that click-throughs increased on Christmas Day, meaning that the savvy marketers who sent a Christmas Day email were rewarded for their efforts with a spike in sales.

Takeaway: People are already looking for sales and after-Christmas deals even before the wrapping paper has made it into the trash can, so give them plenty of shopping options.

What Worked: Using Social Media to Promote Specials and Sales

Promoting sales and specials on Facebook and Twitter creates buzz as your fans share with their friends, giving you a much broader reach than just your subscriber list.

What Didn’t: Failing to Link Social Media Campaigns With Other Marketing Efforts

Of course, Facebook and Twitter can be limiting in their own way, so don’t expect them to do all your marketing for you. People need commonality across marketing venues to keep them oriented.

Takeaway: Coordinate your social media marketing plans with other marketing campaigns to create a unified strategy that reaches as many people as possible.

The 2012 holiday season is upon us. By reflecting on what did and did not drive sales last year, you can create an effective marketing strategy that will keep shoppers merrily clicking away, even when the weather outside is frightful.

Statistics Source: Epsilon 2012 Holiday Trend Report


How to Overcome Tunnel Vision in Email Design

Posted on Oct 17, 2012 by James Trumbly

How long do you have to snag your reader’s attention before you lose them? Say it with me: ten seconds or less. We’ve had this drilled into our heads, and great designers know what keeps people reading and what doesn’t. But what hasn’t been learned nearly so well is that your customer’s online attention is not only short, but also very narrow.

Usability guru, Jack Nielson, explains in a recent Alertbox Column that most users focus only on what interests them or what they expect will give them the answers that they need while ignoring the other content. Known as “Tunnel Vision,” this phenomenon can make the difference between click-throughs and deleted messages.

Let’s consider an example. You design a newsletter advertising your website’s 20 percent off sale. You include a headline, an image, a block of text that includes a coupon code, and a call to action that says “Shop Now.” Nielson’s usability research suggests that if you haven’t stated the coupon code in the headline or included it as part of the call to action, many subscribers won’t see it. It’s a phenomenon similar to banner blindness, where readers ignore portions of the screen that they think aren’t essential to the overall message. If the coupon code is necessary in order to receive the savings, you’ll need to follow a few design tips in order to keep it within your subscribers’ field of vision.

  • Put important elements near each other.
    If your image shows sale items and information, try putting the coupon code within the image or as the image caption. If subscribers must read through a block of text in order to find the coupon code, they may miss it altogether.
  • Include essential info in the link.
    People tend to focus on click-able elements within an email design. Your call to action button and any nearby links should contain the essential information you’re trying to communicate. So instead of using a call to action that says “Shop Now,” try “Save 20% with coupon code FALL2012.”
  • Test with actual users.
    Designers have difficulty recognizing usability problems with their designs because they already know where the important information is and their eyes gravitate toward it. They might not recognize where tunnel vision might occur for the average subscriber. Creating simple A/B split tests can point out problems that keep your readers from noticing the important stuff amongst everything else.

Tunnel vision means that users often don’t see things that are right in front of them. By grouping important elements together and putting essential information where readers tend to look anyway, you can boost your click-through rates and ultimately, your conversions.


Workin’ on WordPress

Posted on Oct 04, 2012 by Stacey Donelan

For those of you who don’t know, WordPress is an open source blogging tool and a dynamic content management system (CMS).  Actually, WordPress is currently the most popular blogging platform in use on the Internet.  And what do you know, WordPress is what we currently operate on here at HMG Creative.  For those of you not so familiar with the application, I will provide you with a quick tutorial that will explore and teach you about the ins and outs of WordPress.

Getting Started
The first step, just like any other online management system, is to login.  To do so, add the extension /wp-admin to the end of your website URL.

For example:

Now that you are entered as an administrator, your options are endless.  Well—maybe not endless, but there are a lot of functions to choose from.  So let’s start with a blog.

Creating a New Blog Post
You will see the Dashboard on the left side of the page.  To create a new entry, click “Posts” and choose “Add New.”

Once you have your new workspace you are free to do the following:

  • Title It:  What’s a story without a title anyhow?
  • Add Content:  This is just like working with Word or any other similar software.  Just type away!
  • Pictures & Media:  If you would like to add something to spice up your post, click on the “Upload/Insert” media icon.
  • Insert a Hyperlink:  Always helpful when you are making references.  If you’d like this link to open in a new window, be sure to check that box!
  • Categories:  Choose or add a custom category based on the topic of the post.
  • Add Tags:  This will allow readers to track the key words found in your post.

You also have the ability to:

  • View it in HTML by choosing that tab which is located at the upper-right corner of the text box.  If you don’t understand HTML coding stay away from this feature.
  • Add a title and description in the All-in-One SEO Pack.

Publishing Your Post
The time has come and your masterpiece is now ready for other eyes to see.  So now you must choose, should I publish now and be done with it, should I save it as a draft and have a co-worker proof my work OR should I schedule a time to publish it in the future?  Although this is completely your decision, there are many online studies of the prime times to publish articles, post blogs, tweet, send emails, etc. so be sure to check those out!

Approving Comments
The whole point of a blog is for people around the Web space to learn and interact with one another.  In order to interact, most users will post their comments on other blogs.  However, WordPress does not allow a comment to be seen unless it is approved by you.  In order to decide if this comment is worthy for your blog, go back to the Dashboard panel and click on “Comments.”

Here you will be able to see who and what has been posted.  You are then able to approve or ignore the comment.  You will see these options when you hover over the text.

Editing a Web Page
To do this, head back over to the Dashboard panel.  Choose “Pages,” and then click “All Pages.”

You will see the option to edit the page when you hover over a row.  Once you choose to edit, you are presented with the same options as you were earlier with a blog post.  However, it is different in the fact that it will stay in the same place and will show up in your site navigation (in most cases).

From here, you’ll do the same as you did when you created your new blog post:

  • Add a page title
  • Edit the body content
  • Add images and other media
  • View in HTML format
  • Edit title and the description of the All-in-One SEO Pack
  • Publish, save as a draft or schedule your publishing date

Adding Pages to the Navigation
To begin, select “Appearance” on the Dashboard menu, then choose “Menus.”

You will then select the page that you would like to add in the “Pages” section and press the “Add to Menu” button.  You are able to rearrange the order of the navigation by dragging and dropping the buttons in the general navigation area.  Once you are finished, save your changes by pressing the “Save Menu” option.

Adding a New User
On the Dashboard bar, under “Users,” select “Add New.”

  • Fill out the new user form fields.
  • You will then be given the following options to assign a role to the new user:
    1.  Subscriber:  Can read comments/comment/receive newsletters, etc. BUT cannot create regular site content
    2.  Administrator:  Has access to all the administration features.
    3.  Editor:  Can publish posts, manage posts, as well as manage other people’s posts, etc.
    4.  Author:  Can publish and manage their own posts and are able to upload files.
    5.  Contributor:  Can write and manage their posts but cannot publish posts or upload media files.
  • Once you have done the above, save your changes by pressing the “Add New User” option.

Before no time, you will be an expert at using WordPress.  All it takes is a little practice and all of the functions will become second nature.  Feel free to leave a comment or send us a tweet @hmgcreative with any questions, concerns or maybe even a few of your own tips to share!


Five Copywriting Party-Crashers

Posted on Jun 20, 2012 by James Trumbly

When was the last time you went to a website and thought to yourself, “Wow, this copywriting is really fantastic! Look at all the bullet points!” Yeah, me neither. That’s because good copywriting is like the lighting guy at a concert: invisible, but essential for showcasing the main attraction (your information). Bad copywriting crashes the party by jumping in front of the information and hollering “Look at me! I’m making it harder for you to find what you want!” Writing effective online copy is all about identifying the party-crashers and escorting them from the premises so you can showcase the main attraction.

Party Crasher #1: Complicating the Message

In any given industry, you have jargon, technical terms, and insider idioms that you use when communicating with others in the business. If you bombard you website audience with these things, however, you’re making it harder for them to understand what you mean. So don’t make them get a realtor’s license in order to understand your real estate website. Simplify, simplify, simplify.

Party Crasher #2:  Grammar By the Book

I’m a firm believer in good grammar and spelling. However, with online writing you get to break a few rules—discreetly. It’s okay, and even desirable, to use sentence fragments, begin sentences with “And” or “But,” use slang, and write in first person. The goal is to be conversational, talking with your readers rather than at them.

Party Crasher #3: Disguising Your Main Points

You’ve got fabulous information that your target audience needs to know. But if you disguise it as a long, boring paragraph, they’ll never get around to reading it. Show off your main points with bullets, numbered lists, and bolding.

Party Crasher #4: Becoming a Slave to Keywords

Keywords are an essential SEO tool, and every website needs them. But when your copywriting becomes a slave to your keywords, it can sound stilted and disjointed. Effective keyword density generally hovers between 1% and 5%. Keywords should appear in titles and headings and should sound natural when used in your copy.

Party Crasher #5: Robotic Style

Remember the computer from the original Star Trek series? For any non-trekkie people out there, it spoke in monotone, sounded robotic, and communicated only the essentials. In Star Trek: The Next Generation, however, the computer had acquired a personality. Now she was feminine, warm, and personable. That’s the difference you want to achieve in your writing style: the difference between “it” and “she.” Let your personality shine through in your writing.

When you simplify your message, write conversationally, highlight your main points, use keywords effectively, and develop personality in your writing, you effectively escort the party-crashers off-stage and allow your fabulous information to enjoy the limelight. It is, after all, what the audience came to see.