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There are times in our professional lives when we choose to hold our cards close: a client keeping the hard numbers of their budget to themselves, an agency vetting a lead by aiming high in a quote for services. These situations are common and have strategic reasoning. Then there are other situations, such as an individual keeping an aspect of themselves private to the point it becomes harmful. This can easily become an unhealthy habit that holds them back from connecting with others. It becomes a crutch, an excuse for silence. Although I’ve been raising my voice at Pride events since my teen years, I still often hold my own story very close out of habit. I’m a confessed people-pleaser which can come at the expense of my own comfort or happiness. As a bisexual person, I have shied from sharing this fact about myself in past circumstances where it would have been appropriate; I worried it would risk changing the tone of the conversation or causing discomfort. Looking back, I realize the discomfort I was avoiding was my own and I’ve walked away from too many opportunities to share and learn. Many people make the decision to keep quiet about themselves simply out of survival. I recognize that there is much heteronormative privilege in my life. It’s easy for me to use this as a safety blanket and let others presume what they may. But what I’ve been reflecting on this Pride month is another privilege I live with: my incredible colleagues and the business I’ve been working with since 2014. Our founder is an excellent leader and teacher and has been supportive of me from the beginning — as a member of our team and as an individual. Our experiences flow through us and influence our reactions to what life presents. I am grateful to work in an environment where alongside my coworkers with their diverse skills and backgrounds, every voice is heard. I am inspired by their talents and heartened by the support we offer one another. Listening to the people with whom we spend so much of our time holds us together and makes us a stronger team. Looking within the community where I live, I see opportunities for progress as well as cause for celebration. When I attend professional events or discussions on diversity, I see the West Michigan digital community reaching out and using its reservoir of innovative thinking to create an increasingly inclusive space. We make the choice to listen. And when we chose to make a habit of listening, it becomes behavior. The same applies to speaking up. As I reflect on all of this, what I aim to do better is speak up about who I am and share my ideas. To not shy away. To be an example. You can encourage a person to speak by listening when they do — you may never know how difficult it was for them to do so. Each of us has something to share, something to bring to the table. Let’s be sure we’re making room. Happy Pride Month. My wife and I have two cats that we love a little bit more than we maybe should. I always blame it on the fact that we don’t have kids. Don’t worry – we’re not dressing them up in cute little costumes or anything that crazy, but we for sure love these two little animals. When I’m at work, I usually forget about cats. Do you do the same? I was in a meeting the other day with a client who had to reschedule a significant part of a project our team was working on due to an unexpected trip to the vet with their cat. I have to admit that my first instinct was to think about how this negatively impacted me and the rest of the team. It would put us behind schedule, and it would require a bunch of rescheduling. “Ugh,” right? This may be your instinct as well. Should we really be letting our pets impact our professional life? My answer is yes! Yes, we absolutely should. If it is truly our mission to care about our clients, then it is critical that we care about those big-little moments that impact their daily life. The graduations and weddings, their kids, a loss of a loved one. And yes, even their cats. If we don’t care about these things, we don’t have empathy. Without empathy, the task becomes the only focus. Without empathy, we forget why we do what we do and sometimes resent anything that gets in the way. Is there anything more backwards than resenting something that impacts the life of someone we’re trying to help? Life will happen regardless of professional calendars. As we seek to be adaptable in life, we believe we should do the same in our work. And always with empathy. You’re a tool. And we are not talking about the proverbial cog-in-the-wheel. You are a unique blend of skills, values, abilities and traits. In the world of leadership, the most important and valuable resource is the self. You alone have access to your inherent potential and power. Who you are is how you lead. Yet, leadership development initiatives have historically been singularly focused on an outside perspective – the “how” and “what” rather than the “who” of leadership. This approach simply layers on proficiencies and focuses on skill-building while the authentic strengths you embody are buried. When focusing solely on skills, the focus is shifted from you, the leader, to the tasks at hand. This approach is a futile attempt at change without long term results. This approach treats symptoms of poor leadership rather than inspiring the cause of great leadership. Who you are determines how you lead. Here is where I need to stop and say emphatically: What you do as a leader is essential to being a good leader. Finely tuned and intentional leadership skills are vital to effective leadership. Vital. I am not suggesting that who you are is more important than how you lead – I am calling attention to the direct relationship between the two. Who you are as a leader drives how you perform as a leader. The two are inextricably linked. Both are vital. However, the “who” of leadership has historically been ignored when both elements are necessary for transformative development. Redefining leadership through specific and intentional focus on the inner landscape of the individual (strengths, weaknesses, biases, meaning-making systems, values, etc.) is crucial for innovation of organizations, companies and cultures. It can be difficult to recognize your own strengths and abilities because they seem “normal” and unremarkable. Creating transformation in the inner-landscape of leaders happens most effectively through relationship with key people who are witnessing your potential, offering vital feedback, and helping you unpack these internal elements of your identity. Diving into the complexity of who you are allows these various elements to be used in service of and not against your leadership effectiveness. We can’t use or change something we don’t realize is there. This growing awareness of your unique capacity unleashes a new realm of operating, full of choice and opportunity. Developing the potential of leaders with specific attention on social influence – who you are and how you show up in the world ­– sends rippling effects of change and transformation to all individuals, teams and organizations to which the leader is connected. This way of redefining leadership is the most effective, and possibly the only, way to create lasting transformation within any corporate culture. You are not just “a” tool. You are the tool. — Abbey Johnston is co-founder of AG Collaborative, unlocking inherent potential and unleashing leaders to transform teams, maximize results & create vibrant cultures. Every week, we speak with marketing and social media managers who struggle to convince their leadership that spending money on social media marketing is not only worthwhile, but vital to the growth and success of their brand. They share their discouragement in not reaching as many people as they should and could be. The real truth of the matter is that not everyone should be applying paid social. That being said, if your due diligence makes it clear that creating and implementing a budget for social media is the right path for your organization, we have a couple of handy tips on how to get your boss on the same page.

1. Show a Real-Life Version of the Benefits

If your leadership thrives on real-life examples and data, this could be a great solution for you: Skip your morning latte for the next few days and put that $10 you saved to good use! Take a look at your recent Facebook posts and determine which one has performed the best. Enter your personal credit card information into Facebook’s ad platform to promote that awesome post. Set up your targeting the best you can; you’re not an expert – yet. It doesn’t have to be perfect to see the kind of results that will create impact and help you convince your boss. Run the ad for the amount of your skipped lattes. (A big sacrifice, we know, but it will be worth it.) After the ad has run its course, take a screenshot of the promoted post [see below] and show your leadership. Make sure to note the “organic” (unpaid) reach and how it compares to the “paid” reach you gained from a simple ad. Note how many more users in your target audience were reached with just a little boost.

2. Get Real About the Cost

This is where we take a straightforward look at cost. Have a heart to heart with your leadership about the value of your efforts. Take your entire fan base across all your social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.) and multiply that number by the percentage of organic (unpaid) reach you’re likely to have. Let’s be generous and say that’s 10%. This tells you how many people you’re “reaching for free” with each social media post. Now take it a step further. How much are you paid hourly and how long does it take you to create the perfect post? You should be able to determine just how “free” that organic reach really is. Each headline, each graphic, each blog post – creating great content requires time and money. We suddenly see that “free” reach isn’t so free after all and, perhaps more importantly, we see that the cost of “paid social media” is less than we thought. What does it mean to better reach your target audience? Look at it this way: You could design the perfect billboard for your brand and place it on a highway. But if your target audience isn’t driving on that highway, your efforts have been essentially wasted, costing you time and money. In Conclusion The world is filled with varying degrees of experience and understanding of Digital Marketing as an industry. This is one of the reasons why education is a core value of Symposia Labs. Support empowers. When a social media manager is trusted and provided the right tools for paid social, an organization can learn quickly the power and growth that’s possible. Welcome to Symposia Labs’ Whiteboard Fridays! In episode 1, we explore website contact forms and some tips to maximize their use on your website. Have questions? Drop us a line.  

The Basics

How does the form look?
  • Does it match the look and feel of your website? Make sure the form is legible!
  • Make sure there aren’t too many fields – don’t overwhelm the user by asking for unnecessary information.
  • Make sure the user knows what will happen when they click submit! Will they receive an email? A phone call? A free download?
When the form data is submitted, who receives it?
  • Make sure you know who is getting the forms! This is a common place for a disconnect, so make sure you have a good internal process.
What’s the expected turn around for response?
  • Will users receive automated responses or an automated “drip feed?” What if they receive a personal response- does that supersede automation? (Make sure you phone or in-person communication doesn’t add confusion with an automated series.)
What if someone leaves their job?
  • If form responses are going into a single person’s email, make sure there is redundancy so that employee turnover or even just vacation are covered.
Use a CRM
  • It’s very helpful to have a CRM that sorts leads if you get over a certain amount. We use Insightly.
Spam
  • Dealing with spam: have a captcha requirement on the form to minimize spam, but make sure it’s not too confusing for actual users to understand.

The Forms Themselves

Make the Call to Action is always “above the fold” on your website – you want your users to know what they’re being asked to do with minimal scrolling. Should I have two forms on one page? No!

In Conclusion

We hope that this overview is a helpful overview of the best ways to use forms on your website, and keep your sales funnel working properly. Make sure to contact us with any questions!
Your business is a functioning machine. Think of your strategy as its blueprint. Creating a digital marketing strategy requires understanding the pieces that hold it all together. Knowing your sales funnel, mapping your customer’s journey, using your budget wisely – these will enable you to create a well-oiled machine. Developed from real experience, this in an outline for those trying to build and execute their own strategy – all while not having control over the budget.

1. Sales Funnel

Whether you call it a funnel, cycle, pipeline, or process, you have one. It’s the route a prospect takes in becoming a customer, and is critical in building a successful strategy. Optimize your sales funnel, and you optimize your customer’s journey. Developing your best sales funnel begins with understanding your current one. Sales funnels are often broken up into three stages: cold, warm, and hot. For each of these stages, consider how your site or social media channels work together to push a prospect toward the next action. Step by step, they are ideally walking the path you’ve paved toward becoming your customer. Let’s look at these stages of the funnel and what they mean: COLD You see this person around and you think they’re cute. Why not introduce yourself? “Cold” prospects are people who may not even know who you are or what you do. Efforts to grab their attention are usually driven by Facebook ads, Google Adwords, organic search traffic, word of mouth, and other channels. WARM You’ve gone on your first date, which went well. What next? A “warm” prospect has heard of you – and you have piqued their interest. So, what next? Answer a few questions about them. What actions do they take when they visit your website? Do those actions signal interest in taking further steps? If you’re a retailer, this might mean that prospect signs up for your monthly coupon via text. If you’re a B2B, it could mean they’re downloading a white paper or toolkit. Your prospect has heard the question and raised their hand to say, “Yes, I’m interested!” HOT Things are getting serious. You’re ready to pop the question. At this stage, we know we’re close. This prospect is informed, engaged, and hungry for more. How do we convert them into a customer or client? Common methods include email marketing drips, retargeting with Facebook ads, and even snail mail. This is the final stage of the funnel.

2. Personas and Content Buckets

Most digital marketing strategies are driven by content in one way, shape or form. Personas are your different “types” of potential customers. By putting your content into a series of categories (or “buckets”), you’ll be able to develop a strategy based on which content type works best for which persona. Step One: Personas Some of your prospects are cat people while others are dog lovers. Some think with the left side of their brain, and others are right brain thinkers. Come up with a minimum of two groups that we can divide our prospects into. Example: Are you looking for a customer who wants one bouquet of flowers AND someone who’s supplying for a wedding florist? Those are two different customer types, two different personas. Many organizations will have three, four, or even five groups, but two is a great start. Step Two: Content Buckets The cat lovers are going to be naturally drawn to different content than the dog lovers. Start by making a list of all the content you currently have – photos, videos, and other assets. From there, research your audience on- and offline to develop a list of content opportunities. Start broad (e.g. videos) then get specific (e.g. 10-second funny cat videos that work well on Instagram).

3. Constraints

Time Consider how much staff time you can commit to digital marketing. Is someone doing this part time or full time? Do you have on person or many people that will be contributing to execution? Simply put, take a hard look at your real numbers. Don’t bother with hypotheticals: plot out the actual amount of time on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis to dedicate to digital marketing. Cost No-brainer, right? In addition to time, it’s critical to take budget into consideration. Do you have $5 to spend or $5,000? Find the right tools for your budget and use them wisely. By focusing on what you can afford, you’ll do the most you possibly can with your current budget. (This will also enable you to ask for more marketing funds when next year’s budget is being planned.) Your strategy will no doubt further develop and grow as you move forward. Your vision will sharpen and you’ll adjust your digital marketing strategy with more specific campaigns and exciting plans. Just remember to track your progress – and bring it to the budget meeting. In 2017, digital ad spending surpassed traditional television ad spending for the first time ever. Marketers, business owners and consumers should absolutely be ready for that gap in ad spends to continue to widen. This significant shift has been a long time coming. Digital marketing has grown up and is a legitimate response to traditional advertising channels like television and print—and for good reason: Marketers can use digital campaigns to target potential customers with more precision and heightened relevance than ever before. Read the full article on GroupsToday.com… The power couple of the year award goes to public relations and digital marketing. In today’s technology and internet-driven age, these two disciplines drive each other. Digital activity largely relies on Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Basically, if you want your website to be visible to your intended audience, you have to have an understanding of what search engines like Google are looking for when they give users search results. Sure, keywords and working links help with SEO, but recently Google has implemented algorithms that look for much more than that. This means that brands can no longer throw in keywords to show up in search results. Ultimately, Google is looking for quality content to offer users. It’s no surprise that quality content is king. Creating that content is not only time-consuming but it can be a challenge to stay on top of “quality” and produce relevant information. That’s where PR comes in. Through press releases, sponsorship, events, and more, PR can create the kind of content that provides credible links and keywords on top of real stories, all of which contribute to the digital activity on a company’s website. Also, PR content can even be about digital activity. Stories trend about digital ad spend surpassing TV ad spend, for example. Google values a third party source sharing information and content about your brand over you sharing information about your own brand. PR can help with those third party connections and help develop relevant story lines that are interesting to an audience outside of your own team. The value of links and sources developed through PR is amplified through smart digital strategy. That’s why PR + Digital = Love. Amanda Rogalski is the Principal at Rogo Marketing & Communications. She has been building brands and driving sales through marketing and communications planning for over 10 years. This past January, brands and users on Facebook were dealt a shock – or at least a lot of confusion – when Mark Zuckerberg announced a change to the News Feed algorithm affecting what content will be favored and how. Zuckerberg’s statement opened a Pandora’s Box of questions rather than provide a concise map of exciting changes everyone can understand. When we don’t have the answers, our imaginations run wild. This is usually for the worse. Some brands are scrambling to re-strategize, some users are worried they’ll have two News Feeds to scroll through, many businesses didn’t blink an eye, while others are having full-on Peter-Finch-in-Network meltdowns. Take a deep breath. This is not a complete revamp of the most popular social media platform on Earth. But could it have a big effect for some. (Time will tell.) Needless to say, we’ve been getting questions from clients and colleagues alike. So let’s not lose our shirts over what we don’t know and instead look at what we do know.

Why?

Let’s look at this line from Mark Zuckerberg’s statement: “Since there’s more public content than posts from your friends and family, the balance of what’s in News Feed has shifted away from the most important thing Facebook can do — help us connect with each other.” Zuckerberg is saying that Facebook will aim to present the best content to its users, which is not a new plan. However, it should be no surprise that recent actions may have been prompted in part by the response Facebook has received, especially in the last couple years, regarding fake news. Surely not all engaging content is valuable or promotes balanced discussion or healthy consumption of information. Look at past statements from the Facebook team, and you’ll see that connecting users with their friends has always been one of their stated core values. But defining what that means and how it’s done is convoluted, to say the least. Let’s start with what we know we can translate.

Don’t Panic, It’s Organic

If this new rollout sounds familiar, it’s because Facebook essentially already said this back in June 2016 with their “friends and family come first” value. Then, they stated: “Facebook was built on the idea of connecting people with their friends and family. That is still the driving principle of News Feed today. Our top priority is keeping you connected to the people, places and things you want to be connected to — starting with the people you are friends with on Facebook.” And as VP of News Feed Adam Mosseri reconfirmed in January 2018: “We will also prioritize posts from friends and family over public content, consistent with our News Feed values.” Let’s look at an example of what this means and how it relates to the 2018 changes: Alright, so you like the page of a favorite brand and you see their posts in your News Feed. Makes sense. Wanna see them ahead of other content? There’s an option for that. You still like the page but you don’t want to see the posts at all? Simply unfollow. These easy options give you the power to do your own bit of curation in your feed, deciding for yourself where you find value (while Facebook watches this data, of course). But now you’ve clicked on a website elsewhere. Say it’s a retail site but you didn’t purchase anything. Will you still see ads from that site (if they’re doing their remarketing correctly)? Yes. Here’s the ticket: As of now there is no indication that this change in algorithm will affect paid social much if at all. What I’m reading is that they’re trying to “organically empower meaningful content.” (More on that below.)

Ambiguous Contradictions

When space is limited, in order to make room for more of something, there’s less room for other things. Facebook is saying that public content (brands and businesses) will make way for more content from private sources (friends and family). States Zuckerberg: “The first changes you’ll see will be in News Feed, where you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups. As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media.The public content you see more of will be held to the same standard — it should encourage meaningful interactions between people. For example, there are many tight-knit communities around TV shows and sports teams.” There’s arguably a contradiction in this statement. Or at least a stark lack of clarity. Certain content potentially will see some favorable improvements. This content includes live video, posts within Facebook Groups, content particularly relevant to local fans (good news for many small businesses), and articles that are timely. User-to-user and meaningful content (click here to read how they indistinctly explain “meaningful”) will be favored over public content. However, much of users’ meaningful content in fact comes from public sources. For example, your friends may share articles about favorite sports teams and TV shows and celebrities – all of which are vaguely defined as meaningful by Facebook’s standards and all of which have public pages. Pages that are managed by marketers. Marketers who run ads… And that’s the key point here for our digital marketing world. Nowhere in Zuck’s statement is the word “ad” mentioned. What does the new algorithm mean for digital marketers in paid advertising? The answer could be: nothing. But one goal is clear: To share valuable, quality content if you want to be included in this organic conversation your friends and family are having in the News Feed. When will this happen? You may not even see a noticeable change until… well, whenever they decide you will: “We started making changes in this direction last year, but it will take months for this new focus to make its way through all our products.”

Beating a Dead Horse

Organic reach was already dead but it has crept back into conversation. What’s key is that this has not joined the conversation in context of business. As mentioned earlier, Facebook has not given us any reason to doubt the power of paid social. In 2017, digital ad spending surpassed traditional ad spending for the first time ever. Brands on Facebook still need to focus on designating ad spend to present quality content to their target audiences – just make sure that content really is awesome. An example: If a small business paid a few bucks to run an ad for a day or two behind a post and that post performs well (in part because of the ad spend and targeting, and partly because the content is excellent and very engaging), then the post itself should continue to do well beyond the life of the ad spend behind it. The purpose: Facebook is aiming to present the most engaging, meaningful, shared organic content of your friends in your feed above other content. By leveraging its organic momentum, Facebook empowers meaningful content. This makes sense, but one question came to my mind: “What about content not defined as meaningful (i.e. clickbait) that I don’t want to see but has been shared by my friends I follow and with whom I share interests?” An answer to that is yet to be seen. I guess we’ll find out – or at least be affected by it without an answer.

Symposia’s Conclusions – So Far

Until this change rolls out, we will not know exactly how this will or will not impact us as marketers, users, and brands. We can’t pretend that we do. That said, we believe firmly in these two things:
  1. A content strategy that emphasizes providing eye-catching, valuable content that users love will continue to be a win.
  2. Paid Facebook advertising (not the boost button) will be more critical than ever and Facebook ads are a win when implemented with expertise.

Here’s one last contradiction for you: If users are happier during their time spent on Facebook, won’t they want to spend more time on it?