Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Word of the Year: Complicit


And the winner is . . . “Complicit”. Every year Dictionary.com identifies the one word that has impacted us the most. At Dictionary.com, the Word of the Year serves as a symbol of the year’s most meaningful events and lookup trends. Just as Time magazine names its person of the year–that individual who has most influenced the world’s news–the Word of the Year is that word that has popped up in the most conversations. Dictionary.com’s decision is data-based; they can track and review the number of searches over the course of the year.
Complicit means “choosing to be involved in an illegal or questionable act, especially with others; having partnership or involvement in wrongdoing.” Being, at some level, responsible for something . . . even if indirectly. Those who stay silent and do not speak out are also complicit; by not being against something, we are condoning it.

A year filled with political chaos

In a year that has been filled with an unprecedented level of political chaos, “complicit” is a word that has filled the headlines for a year. It began with the inauguration, and it steadily gained momentum. From Russian mafia to officials at the highest levels of government, the Trump administration seemed to be complicit with all of them.

Complicit experienced a huge spike on April 5

The largest increase in lookups for complicit–up more than 11,000%–was on April 5, when Ivanka Trump tried to redefine complicit. CBS’ Gayle King asked her about the accusations that she and her husband, Jared Kushner, were complicit in the actions of her father. Her response: “If being complicit is wanting to be a force for good and to make a positive impact, then I’m complicit.”
It’s important to note that complicit is not one of those words that can have both positive and negative connotations, depending on your orientation. There’s nothing positive about this word. Being complicit is negative. It means that a person is involved with someone or something that’s wrong. Politics aside, whether you’re a conservative or a liberal, the meaning of complicit cannot be construed subjectively. Ivanka Trump went on to cap off her own personal definition of complicit with “I don’t know what it means to be complicit.”

 Climate change and the Trump administration’s complicity

For years we’ve been learning about climate change and how we’ve damaged our environment. We all have worked to decrease our footprints, determined to become better stewards of the environment. Companies began rethinking their business models, communities incenting their citizens for embracing clean energy. Solar power and windmills became more affordable and the technology improved. Yet Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement, and his EPA chief has been complicit in his refusal to acknowledge that humans play a primary role in climate change. Information on climate change was removed from the government’s website this year. If only it were that easy. Removing it from a website won’t make it go away.
During the past year we have seen the extreme weather conditions that have brought widespread destruction that climate change can wreak. Terms like climate changeglobal warming, and carbon dioxide all showed up trending searches this year.

Power and sexual assault

In 2017, allegations of sexual assault were made against a growing number of powerful men, resulting in the resignation and firing of people across multiple industries. Film executive Harvey Weinstein emerged as a longtime predator after numerous women stepped up to tell their stories of sexual assault that lasted for decades. Even worse—his complicit staff covered up for him, often arranging his sexual shenanigans. Weinstein’s downfall inspired other assault survivors to come forward with their own stories.
Dictionary.com has used its platform to make a data-driven political statement. But the bigger message may be something we’ve always known, that words have the power to shape dialog and the way we interpret events.
Having trouble harnessing the power of words for your business? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and internet marketing experts.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Emoji on Social: Up a Whopping 776%!


Looking back on 2017, I remember a year filled with gut-wrenching political turmoil and anguish, devastating natural disasters, protest marches and the rise of an aggressive right wing. It’s been a year filled with anxiety and dread. We have learned how important democracy, freedom of speech and the rule of law are as they are threatened and undermined on a daily basis.

Completely oblivious to the year’s upheaval, emoji are happily flourishing

Consider for a minute the outrage sparked across social when Google made a cheeseburger emoji with the cheese misplaced. Even the CEO got involved to make sure the cheese would be moved to its proper spot, above the patty where everyone knows it belongs.

Content that evokes an emotional response is more likely to be shared

With clickbait thankfully going extinct, there seems to be an emerging trend in the top content on social media: Content that provokes an emotional response is more likely to get shared.
Examining the top Facebook posts in September, the stats show that the posts with the most shares also had a higher percentage of reactions. And more publishers are using emoji in captions, perhaps to elicit that emotional response. It all goes back to the premise that good marketing tells a story. It reaches people on an emotional level. Clearly, emoji are helping to make that emotional connection.

Charting the growth of emoji 

The use of emoji in the top 100 headlines jumped from a mere six in fall 2015 to 28 in fall 2016. At 52 emoji-sprinkled headlines in 2017, it’s clear that this trend isn’t slowing down. The big jump in emoji usage is happening among news publishers. In fall 2015, there wasn’t a single emoji in the top 100 news posts. One year later, in 2016, this number jumped to 10; by the fall of 2017, the number had more than doubled to 24. This stat helps explain their popularity: Four out of every ten millennials would rather engage with pictures than read.

News publishers are catching up to the trends that have been working for viral publishers

What types of stories use emoji from news publishers? Breaking news, hard news and tragedies are less likely to have emojis associated with them. So how do publishers strategically use emoji? Not really surprising—emoji are lighthearted and whimsical; they’re meant to delight and for the most part, they deliver. Emoji developers keep adding to the inventory, and they’re great fun! I like to think of emoji as the print version of adding a sticker to a letter or other document. A bit frivolous and totally unnecessary. Just as there are words and phrases that elicit the best response in your headlines—You need toThe greatest everThat will rock your, etc.–are inappropriate for serious topics, so emoji are often a bad fit for hard news and serious topics.

Who uses emoji the most?

  • Soft news and human interest stories are most likely to have emoji in their headlines.
  • Brits may like emoji more than Americans. Daily MailThe Independent, and BBC News all used emoji in headlines that appeared in the top 100 Facebook posts this November.
    As to be expected, happier emoji were generally the most used.
  • If we take a look at the Facebook graph of most-used emoji on Facebook, Fall 2017, clearly LOL has pulled into the lead, followed by the ubiquitous heart, clapping hands, etc. Hearts in some form made it on the list a total of five times. Yet clearly, if you’re writing an article that’s intended for a professional audience, there’s no place for a heart, a rainbow or any of the other emojis in Facebook’s top performers.

Emoji from brands

Brands have stepped up and are adopting emoji into their social posts.
  • Starbucks and Macy’s are using holiday-themed emoji in their messaging.
  • On the Fourth of the July, Bud Light tweeted an emoji American flag composed of fireworks in place of Old Glory’s stars and American flags and beers for the red and white stripes
  • Baskin-Robbins is using an emoji ice cream cone in their messaging.
  • On World Emoji Day, July 17, NASCAR Tweeted a photographic mosaic of some of the sport’s most famous drivers.
  • The Smithsonian, in a tweet about Louis Armstrong, used an emoji trumpet.

Using emoji comes down to a few considerations and knowing your audience. Ask yourself some questions: 

  • What channels are you creating content for and do emoji make sense in that context?
  • What is your brand’s voice?
  • What’s your topic? If you’re writing something fun and light, this is the perfect landscape for emoji. If, on the other hand, you’re explaining a complex concept to a bunch of accountants, save the emoji for an audience who will appreciate them. This probably isn’t it.
  • What are you looking to achieve with emoji — is it to provide a more succinct message, encourage an emotional response in your audience, or cleverly punctuate your caption?
Do you need help managing your social media program? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and internet marketing specialists.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

What Santa Can Teach Us About Running a Business


No one ever thinks about Santa as an experienced business owner, but he’s been running a wildly successful enterprise for well, forever. So before the holiday crunch, I invited Santa to sit down over cookies and cocoa. I wanted to pick his brain for the secrets to his long-running success. I’m a pig. I couldn’t pass up this opportunity, so I also asked for a red Tesla. I’ll let you know about the Tesla at a later date, but here are some thoughts from that great entrepreneur now.

Find a niche. Define your audience

“When we started out,” Santa explained, “I wanted to deliver a gift to every person on the planet. Mrs. Claus wisely advised that I was thinking too big. ‘Don’t try to be all things to all people,’ she said. ‘Focus on a smaller group.’ We settled on children who celebrate Christmas and were well-behaved.” Great advice. You have a much better chance of succeeding of you identify a specific market segment. Everybody is not the right answer.

Start lean. Identify your core product or service

“I had dreams of developing all kinds of toys, I was seriously undercapitalized,” said Santa. “Being cash-strapped actually worked in our favor. It forced me to focus on launching one core product first–just basic wooden blocks. But that established my reputation. Over time, we expanded, based on feedback from real customers. When you start out, get your product or service out the door and later make improvements. Those blocks are still a hit, especially with our youngest demographic.”

Develop a business plan. Make this a working document

Part of Santa’s wild success stems from his careful planning, ability to execute and remain nimble. “When kids started playing on digital devices,” said Santa, “I lost weight, I was so worried. How was my workshop going to survive?” Santa and Mrs. Claus sat down and came up with a plan. They hired a team of tech elves to develop electronic devices and apps. He’s been so successful that both Mattel and Hasbro gave Santa buyout offers. “I don’t want to sell out, and I’m already a spokesman for Coca-Cola.”

Watch your cash flow. Make realistic projections

“We do 100% of our business on one day, December 24th. But we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and months preparing for that day. We have a very detailed and aggressive production schedule. We purchase our materials in August, the elves start crafting toys in September, and despite my best efforts, I always end up getting killed with overtime in December. I also have fair amount of overhead. I have to board the reindeer year-round, Rudolph’s nose keeps shorting out, and vet bills are crazy.”

Santa’s tips for managing your cash-flow

  • Make cash projections of money coming in and going out.
  • Be careful with inventory; this can become a sinkhole.
  • Get a line of credit ASAP; it can be your lifeline and pay for expenses when income lags
  • Save during high-income periods and invest money back into your business.

Think green. Embrace renewable energy sources

“Up here in the North Pole, we’re already living with the dramatic effects of climate change,” lamented Santa. “It’s breaking our hearts to watch our magnificent polar bears dying because their food sources are no longer available, but my beloved reindeer  are affected as well. Learn from me. In your startup, seek renewable energy sources, low-waste or no-waste production methodologies, ways to reduce shipping use and expenses. You always need to be thinking about saving money and the environment—it’s not only my future—it’s everyone’s.

Get help. Develop and cultivate a team who can grow with you

Most people don’t realize that Mrs. Claus is not only Santa’s wife but also his CTO (chief toy officer), a hardworking member of the organization. He relies heavily on her, his team of well-trained elves, and of course, his reindeer. In your startup’s early stages, you try to do everything yourself, but you need to scale if you are to grow. Hire the best people you can find and let them to do their jobs. You don’t have to completely let go of the reins—only Santa gets to fly the sleigh, after all, but at some point, you must learn to delegate if you are to grow and be successful.
Do you need help developing and managing a marketing plan that will help you prepare for growth? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and marketing experts.  

Saturday, December 2, 2017

What Big Brands Can Teach us About Marketing


Savvy content marketers look to the latest trends and watch big brands for inspiration. I’ve spent my whole career in marketing, so I love this stuff. I’m always observing advertising, whether it’s TV, billboards, signage, online or print. It can be as simple as an email blast that hits my inbox. A lot of what we see is pretty awful, but there also are campaigns that just knock my socks off. And a special big round of applause for big brands that are using their platforms to make political statements. This has never been more important, and I’m delighted to see big corporations supporting causes, including women’s rights. A prediction: Look for the 2018 Super Bowl ads to raise the bar on ads with big heart and a bigger conscience.

Southwest is doing some really fun ads right now

I love the one where the coach is getting his team fired up to win. He’s told them that they’re going all the way, they’re not going home tonight. The next scene: he’s sitting sheepishly in coach, surrounded by his team. But who doesn’t like Southwest, the blue-collar airline?

Luxury brands that come with a suggestion that you really can’t afford them

Wealth and exclusivity have their appeal. Remember that gorgeous ad with Placido Domingo promoting Rolex watches? What about those beautiful Louis Vuitton luggage ads? They’re always subtle, full-page ads in high-end publications. Pictures of beautiful, well-dressed people going somewhere interesting that you can’t afford. These are aspire ads.

Craft beer is stealing our hearts and palettes

We may love our craft beer, but Budweiser wants us to believe that they’re still America’s beer. They hit all the buttons with their advertising—they’re still working it with those magnificent Clydesdales and the puppy ads during the SuperBowl. They’re selling pride in being American. Kudos to Bud—they’ve stepped up in the last year and gotten political. Through their advertising, they’ve supported immigration and gay rights.

Procter and Gamble may have the world’s biggest advertising budget

But they’re not just promoting toilet paper. They’re doing some good things with that big budget. I love the video ad of black parents talking about racism to their kids. “You’re not a pretty black girl, you’re beautiful. Period.” For International Women’s Day on March 8, P&G released its latest gender equality initiative along with the #WeSeeEqual ad. This ad is a series of scenes showing men, women and children in everyday situations, interspersed with text, such as “Hugs don’t care who give them,” and “Equations don’t care who solve them.” It finishes with a woman telling a younger co-worker “Do it,” with the line “Equal pay doesn’t care who demands it.”

The Giants wrapped up the 2017 season as the worst team in baseball

Yet our local team consistently hit a homerun with its advertising. Year after year, they make us love going to the ballpark because it’s such great fun. It’s the Bay Area’s team and it transcends every demographic; most importantly, the Giants make us want to be part of this. Crappy year or not, this is a terrific organization, and I’m betting that we’re going to see another stellar year of advertising and the Giants are going to put together a competitive team in 2018.

The most interesting man in the world got a lot less interesting. Stay thirsty, my friend . . .

For years, Dos Equis ads featured an incredibly sexy, silver-haired man who accomplishes extraordinary feats. “His passport requires no photograph; when he drives a car off the lot, its price increases in value.” Dos Equis apparently decided that the most interesting man was too old and replaced him with one who is boring and uninteresting. Bad idea.

Insurance ads are a total disconnect

These sly insurance ads start out with a clever premise, but there’s no relationship between that clever idea and the insurance. A total disconnect. Think about Aaron Rodgers and that adorable dog that catches the football. What’s the relationship between Aaron, the dog and State Farm? Even the Clay Matthews cameo at the end makes no sense. There’s another big consideration. If you’re insuring with State Farm, you’re paying for these expensive campaigns. Maybe it’s time to switch to a company that’s not dropping your hard-earned dollars on advertising.

Good advertising reaches us on an emotional level

As small business owners, we don’t have big advertising budgets, but we can become more aware of what big brands and other small businesses are doing and learn from their efforts.
When we see advertising that’s really effective, it’s because it’s reaching us on an emotional level. If that ad’s doing its job, it’s appealing to our senses—making us laugh, feel nostalgic or proud; it engages us. It can capitalize on our thirsts, hungers, wants and needs. Good advertising tells a story that stays with us. Ultimately it makes us want what’s being promoted–and that’s why big brands pour millions of dollars into their campaigns. We remember those ads and we’re inclined to try those brands when we get ready to buy.
Do you need help developing and managing your marketing budget? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and marketing experts.  

Monday, November 27, 2017

Many of us have become weary of Twitter for one big and very obvious reason. Of course. It’s about Donald. We’re sick to death of our president’s indulging in inappropriate tweetstorms at all hours of the day and night when he should be working. I have to admit that I’ve become a bit prejudiced when it comes to Twitter. But let’s remain open-minded. I’m a big sports fan, and I listen to KNBR, a local sportstalk station, and I know that the sports guys are all over Twitter. I have to wonder if it has something to do with their only having to come up with 140 characters. Another conversation.

Promote Mode: A new service that’s $99/month

Twitter has rolled out a subscription ad service that charges $99 a month to automatically promote tweets to generate larger followings. If you don’t know about promoting tweets or posts, it’s a method deployed by all of the social media sites to do a one-time boost of a post. The benefit is that you’re not buying into a long-term commitment to a campaign that requires metrics and management. The results are immediate and impressive. This doesn’t replace a long-term, thoughtful marketing strategy, but there are situations where this is a great way to spend your marketing dollar.
Promote Mode gives subscribers up to 10 promoted tweets/day. If you don’t know about social media and promoted posts, this is A LOT. It’s designed for small businesses and brands that don’t want the hassle of managing sophisticated ad campaigns. Their wordsAnd they exactly reflect mine. Sometimes you just want to do this and see the results without analyzing it to death. 

Why are they doing this?

Twitter’s ad sales have been slipping, most recently in the third quarter, when its $503 million in ad revenue represented an 8% decline from the period a year earlier. Twitter does not disclose how many advertisers it has, but it is undoubtedly a fraction of the 6M that advertise on Facebook. Promote Mode could be Twitter’s ticket to attracting the businesses that don’t spend as much as the big brands. This could also completely change the online ad landscape.
According to Wook Chung, Twitter’s director of product management. “”Promote Mode is always-on; it automatically promotes your Tweets and profile, steadily attracting more followers and additional reach for a flat fee.”


But it remains to be seen whether Promote Mode is worth the fee

Boosting 10 tweets a day at that price can prove valuable, as one promoted tweet can easily cost small businesses $30, according to Darius Mohammadi, director of Elite Lucky Gamers Limited, an online shopping business that also helps ad clients with digital and social marketing. It has subscribed to the automated Twitter ad service.

Now for the downside . . .

  • The biggest downside may be that Twitter’s automated system decides which tweets to promote. What? How does Twitter know how I’m marketing my business? Even for the very best of us, there are posts that are brilliant and those that are just okay. Let’s not assume that Twitter scrutinizes our posts and conscientiously picks out the brilliant ones for promotion; instead, it is randomized.
  • Twitter’s subscription ad product also has limited targeting options. It mostly extends the reach of tweets, showing them to a wider audience and promotes accounts.
  • The new program includes analytics so subscribers can track the impact of their promoted tweets.
  • Through a mobile-optimized dashboard, Twitter Promote Mode will display how many people saw a subscriber’s tweets or account during the current period, including both the organic reach and the Promoted reach. Subscribers can also track the number of followers they’ve gained, profile visits, and the performance of individual tweets.

Important to note: Promote Mode works best if you have up to 2K followers

According to Twitter’s FAQs about Promote Mode, only those accounts with up to 2,000 followers will see the most value from this subscription at launch. The company plans to offer additional, higher-priced subscription tiers for accounts with larger followings in the future.

No guarantees, but this may represent a good investment

Twitter doesn’t make any guarantees about the gains subscribers will see with the program, saying those will depend on targeting selections, account type and frequency of tweets. However, the company does say in its FAQs that accounts on average will reach 30,000 additional people and add 30 followers each month. That is a significant traction for $100 and may be worth a three-month trial.
Do you need help managing your social media program? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and internet marketing specialists.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

A Quick Guide to Going Viral on Linkedin


It’s been more than a year since the mighty Microsoft purchased Linkedin, and there have been many changes, including the interface which now resembles that of Facebook for a reason—it’s this interface that more than 2 billion active monthly users are familiar.
Earlier this year, Digiday reported on how business publishers were seeing growth in referrals from Linkedin.
  • August seems to have been a banner month on Linkedin, with more than 50 million shares of new articles during that 31-day period.
  • LinkedIn engagement is beginning to rival, or even surpass, their shares on Facebook.
  • According to Executive Editor Dan Roth, Linkedin had 3M writers and around 160,000 posts per week at the end of 2016.
  • LinkedIn claims that 87% of users trust the platform as a source of information, making it an important destination for attracting attention.

But what sort of messaging works on LinkedIn, and how does it get distributed? 

Unlike Facebook, there isn’t a whole lot of discussion about the influence of LinkedIn’s algorithm on what their users see when they log on. As with most algorithm-based newsfeeds, the reasons stories go viral is divided into two sections.
  • Analyze the actual substance, tone and presentation of the stories themselves.
  • Consider the distribution particulars of LinkedIn, the role of its algorithm, and the influence that a writer or publisher can have on that process.

An emphasis on the jobs marketplace

LinkedIn is fairly explicit about the types of stories that are likely to go viral. They like articles that share professional expertise, suggesting titles such as these:
  • What will your industry look like in 5, 10, or 15 years and how will it get there?’
  • What advice do you have for career advancement?

Career advice ranks well on LinkedIn

Career advice and professional development insights are extremely popular—because LinkedIn is a huge marketplace for both recruiters and those looking for jobs. The problem is that for those of us who are in the trenches actually doing our jobs, offering advice for career advancement is simply not a likely topic.

LinkedIn attempts to distinguish itself for its higher quality content

LinkedIn discourages the use of listicles (an article format that is written in the form of a list—popular because it’s easy to scan and digest), and obvious clickbait. Linkedin recommends that writers keep articles appropriate for the LinkedIn audience—avoiding that which is obscene, shocking, hateful, intimidating or otherwise unprofessional. Notice that LinkedIn is rarely mentioned in discussions about the spread of fake news, and It’s not known as a place where viral publishers expect to thrive.

LinkedIn articles avoid being overly promotional

It’s fine to mention your work or the project on which you’re working, but endless self-promotion may result in spam status and a visibility downgrade. To its credit, LinkedIn has carved out a niche; it isn’t trying to compete with Twitter for breaking news or Facebook for mass appeal. Rather, it’s become a powerful platform for thought leadership, where users share content relevant to their careers. Becoming recognized for a particular expertise on LinkedIn is an excellent way to build an audience on this platform. LinkedIn recommends that articles be at least three paragraphs long, and to rank well in search engines, an article really needs to be at least 300 words—besides, you need some substance to make your point.

Distribution: The algorithm at work

Distribution of content on LinkedIn is an algorithmic process, and that algorithm is designed for engaging, interesting stories to go viral. In this sense, the algorithm isn’t all that different from the type of stories that the bigger platforms employ, but aimed at a more niche audience. LinkedIn deploys a man+machine approach to classifying content in real time based on signifiers such as early engagement, previous reaction to content from the page, etc.

LinkedIn has a three-stage process for identifying and dealing with low quality content

  • As the post is being created, a classifier bucket posts as “spam,” “low-quality,” or “clear” in real time.
  • Next, the system looks at statistical models based on how fast the post is spreading and people are engaging with the post which helps determine low-quality posts.
  • Human evaluators review posts flagged by users as suspicious.

Each of us has a LinkedIn community

Stories are shared with a subset of our connections and followers. The bigger our community, the better chance that a large number of people will see our articles. This is determined by connection strength, your connection’s notification settings, and notification state (i.e. number of unread notifications). Members who aren’t in your network can choose to follow you, and by doing so, they will receive your articles and posts in their feed. Followers may receive notifications when you publish an article. Your articles may be available in their LinkedIn homepage feeds and can be included in news digest email.
It is LinkedIn’s editorial mission to provide timely, professional content to its users. Want your articles to reach a wider audience? Provide well-written, quality content that addresses the needs of your community.
Do you need help managing your social media program or maybe just some help generating quality content for LinkedIn? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and internet marketing experts.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Big Changes at Twitter: Character Limit Increases to 280



Twitter is making some changes, which may be in response to its drop in ad revenue. The company tested an expanded, 280-character Tweet limit for users over the last month (I was not one of these users). Apparently they liked the response, because 280-character tweets are now available to all users, unless you happen to be living in Japan, China or Korea.

Longer tweets getting a mixed reception

The longer form of tweets has received a mixed reception, but Twitter has provided data that helps justify the reason for the company’s doubling the Tweet character limit. Twitter says that users are engaging more with the longer tweets. More importantly, longer tweets are generating more likes than shorter ones.

More rationale from Twitter on the character limit change

Historically, 9% of Tweets hit the character limit. This translates to our laboriously trying to edit our posts to make them fit within the limits of the 140-character Tweet. With the expanded character count, the number dropped to only 1% of Tweets running up against the limit.
Interestingly, timelines haven’t filled up with 280-character Tweets—users aren’t necessarily using the limit. Only 5% of Tweets sent were longer than 140 characters and only 2% were more than 190 characters.

Too early to know the results

It’s still a little early to get any definitive data on the results of this change, but I believe that the 140-character Tweet has taught all of us to communicate efficiently on all of our social channels—not just Twitter. While it’s challenging to stay within 140 characters, statistics show that it’s short posts that get read. Those 500-character posts are overwhelming—and no one reads them. Distilling your thoughts down to the heart of your message requires skill. One thing I’m dreading: What will this expanded limit mean to our Tweeter-in-Chief?
Do you need help with your social media program? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and internet marketing specialists.