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.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Russian Facebook Ads: The Result? Increased Transparency


If you’ve tuned out all things political, you’ve missed a growing problem of political advertising on social media. Shouldn’t be a problem, right? Except that Facebook reported on Sept. 6 that it had found an operation likely based in Russia that spent $100,000 on thousands of US ads promoting divisive social and political messages over a two-year-period through May 2016. Zuckerberg has apologized, but probes are in the works by several congressional committees, along with the Department of Justice.

The Russian ads spread divisive views on immigration, race and gay rights

“For the ways my work was used to divide people rather than bring us together, I ask forgiveness and I will work to do better,” Zuckerberg said in the post. Facebook, still the dominant social media network, said 3,000 ads and 470 “inauthentic” accounts and pages spread polarizing views on topics that included immigration, race and gay rights.
This brouhaha is a very big deal because of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election, the appointment of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, the ensuing investigation into the matter and the potential charges of obstruction of justice against Trump and members of his team.
As a result of the Russian takeover of the Facebook platform, Facebook now is testing a lengthier review process for ad campaigns that are using highly controversial topics to target an audience. Facebook now will request ad buyers for election-related topics to verify their identity, and they will include disclosures for each ad.

Implementing new changes will slow down the buying process

According to one political advertiser, Facebook is alerting ad buyers, letting them know that their campaigns might take longer than usual to run if its target audience is based on political, religious or social issues. Facebook has become a popular advertising platform because it provides the opportunity to drill down to rich demographic detail, including user interests.
“Ad sets that use targeting terms related to social, religious or political issues may require additional review before your ads start running . . . or you can adjust your detailed targeting elections.”

Tech companies testifying before Congress about Russian operatives’ use of their platforms

The notification comes right before attorneys from Facebook and other tech companies are scheduled to testify before Congress to talk about how Russian operatives might have used their platforms to sway U.S. voters during the 2016 presidential election. It also comes just days after a top lawmaker introduced a bill to require large tech companies to hold a database of political ad spending.

Facebook not alone in its efforts to become more transparent 

As Facebook rolls out new oversight procedures and policies, Twitter is also stepping up its efforts to become more transparent. It will soon begin explaining to users who see political ads why they’re seeing them and who paid for them. An industry that was self-regulating will now fall under government regulation to avoid the kind of takeover of the platform that occurred during the runup to the 2016 election.
Do you need help managing your social media program or maybe just some help generating quality content? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and internet marketing experts.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

4 Tips for Better Social Media Posts


Despite Twitter’s imposed 140-character limit that has us all thinking in shotgun bursts, I still see some really long posts on Facebook and Linkedin—many of these without an image. The result? Forget it. No one’s going to take the time to stop and read this. Like it or not, we want our messaging condensed into quick, easily digestible sound bites.

Ask any writer: it’s much harder to write a little than a lot

If you’re writing headlines, social media posts, ad copy or taglines, think efficiency. Pare down your copy to the fewest number of words that will make your point.

Here are some tips that have helped me be a better, more efficient writer

1. Identify the single message you want to communicate

Time to prioritize. What is the single most important thought? Not the reasons it’s going to enhance your clients’ lives. Save that for other parts of your content-marketing program–an e-book, presentation, blogpost or a white paper, where you have the space to build a compelling case. Identify the one primary message and whittle away the excess.

2. Rely on images to help tell your story

With limited space and character limits, images and graphics take on an enhanced role. Incorporating a great image will help convey your message without contributing to the word count. Be selective; not all images are created equal. Spend time finding not just a good image, but a really great one that will get people’s attention and contribute to the overall impact. A note: avoid clickbait. Way too cheesy and it will hurt you in the long run. Select images that are relevant—but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be funny, fun, clever, whimsical, etc.

3. Get rid of everything that doesn’t contribute to the core thought

Even great writers have blocks and struggle. The cure? Start writing. Forget about word or character limits or making it sound good; rather, focus on your main point without regard to how many words it takes to convey your story. Once you’ve finished, sit back and review what you’ve written, and begin to edit. Apply liberal does of your delete key. It will take a few passes, but you will be able to trim this down to its core.
Another tip: A longtime writer, it’s always my goal to write efficiently, making my point with the fewest possible words. My favorite strategy is to write something one day, then come back the next day to review it. The passage of time provides startling clarity. I’ll look at something I’ve written and wonder what in the hell I was thinking!

4. Keep your perspective. It’s just one piece

Concerned that someone will see a single tweet and form an opinion? Let it go—that may be the source of your problem of trying to cram too much information into one thought.
A single piece of content isn’t likely to be the decision-maker for a potential client. A social media post is only one piece of a greater whole, which is an integrated content marketing program.
Do you need help managing social media? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and internet marketing experts.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

5 Easy Ways to Incorporate Instagram into Your Marketing Program


Those who are dragged kicking and screaming to social media groan with every new application that hits the market. Each has its own little niche in the online space, and we eagerly or reluctantly join the frenzy, competing with millions of other users to create a following, connect and share information. We’ve ramped up to Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest. We’re members of online communities such as Nextdoor and Patch.

But many people—especially older users–are struggling with Instagram

If you think Instagram is going away, you may have to wait a while. There are currently more than 700 million users. The demographic? Of course. It’s those millennials and youngsters again—that group who cannot bear ever to be separated from their phones. In response to those who find Instagram annoying and awkward because the messaging has to be executed on a phone, well, you may not be their demographic.
  • More women than men
  • 18-29: 55%
  • 30-49: 28%
  • 64+: 11%
Love it or hate it, if you want to reach your market, you need to be using Instagram. Here are five tips for maximizing your Instagram posts.

1. Every word counts

Twitter users get this one. Think efficiency. Conveying your message as succinctly as possible is critical to Instagram communications. While you can include up to 2,200 characters, including emoji, and up to 30 hashtags, only 125 characters will appear before users have to click “More” to see the rest of the caption. In a recent analysis, the average number of words per caption was 33 words. The bottom line: Keep it short.

2. Use emoji where it makes sense

Those emoji showing up most frequently in top-appearing posts? Hearts, clapping hands, the camera emoji. Be selective.

3. Add hashtags for visibility

Hashtags help users discover your content. Instagram limits hashtags to 33—but that’s ridiculous. One study that looked at top publishers such as National Geographic, Bleacher Report and Dodo found that the average number of hashtags per post was only one, due to many of the top 25 publishers’ not using hashtags at all. As with content and emoji, be selective.

4. Provide context with mentions

Publishers and big brands add more power to their Instagram posts by tagging the subjects of the photos—so mention others in your posts. Big brands like Vogue, National Geographic and Time average two-four tags/mentions in their posts. Vogue, for example, mentions fashion brands, celebrities and the stylist teams with whom they collaborate.

5. Add a call to action

As with all of your marketing efforts, include a call to action. Ask a question, ask your audience to tag a friend or direct users to a link in their bio for more information.

A final note: Instagram on your computer

While there are apps that you can download that enable your using Instagram on your computer, this is not recommended because it’s getting away from the essence of Instagram—a spontaneous, immediate way to share great images and impressions.
Do you need help managing your social media program? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and internet marketing experts.