10 Unique Ways to Celebrate IWD 2024

- by

Save the date for March 8. 

International Women's Day is a global call to action, recognizing and amplifying the contributions of women across the social, economic, cultural, and political landscape. Last year, we wrote a list of ways your business can celebrate IWD, but as time goes on, best practices evolve (yay, progress!), so we thought we would create a list of more ways to #InspireInclusion. 

What Is International Women’s Day? 

IWD stretches back to 1911, evolving over the years. Now, diversity, equity and inclusion are non-negotiable. With the help of social media, feminism has a global voice, organizations face scrutiny for their bad actions, and we are able to challenge stereotypes and biases. (See: Kyte Baby scandal)

Recognized by the United Nations in 1977, IWD has since become a global phenomenon, with each year focusing on themes related to women's rights, equality, and empowerment. This year’s theme is Inspire Inclusion. When women are included, there's a sense of belonging, relevance and empowerment.

Why Is International Women’s Day Important? 

If you’re reading this blog and thinking, “it seems pretty fair to me,” then let’s look at some stats: 

Women represent roughly 1 in 4 C-suite leaders, and women of colour just 1 in 16. - Women in the Workplace report 2023

Canada has registered a 0.2 percentage-point decline in the overall parity score since the last edition, the United States has seen a reduction of 2.1 percentage points. At the current rate of progress, 95 years will be needed to close the gender gap for the region. - Global Gender Gap Report

There are stats on the “glass ceiling,” micro-aggressions in the workplace, ambition levels, remote and flexible work — you name it. The data clearly shows that women (particularly women of colour) are underrepresented, under-compensated, and passed over in the workplace. 

This day serves as a powerful reminder of women's ongoing challenges in various spheres of life. It sparks discussions on women's rights, creates awareness about gender inequality, and mobilizes efforts to accelerate gender parity. 

Peek into reports like the Women in the Workplace Report and the Global Gender Gap Report for a snapshot of progress and a reminder of the urgency for continued action.

By amplifying women's voices, sharing diverse stories, and promoting inclusivity, IWD contributes to the larger movement for building a more equitable and just society for everyone. With that said, here are ways to celebrate IWD in 2024. 

Highlight Women-Owned (Especially BIPOC Women) Small Businesses 

This is something we try to do all the time, but we also suffer from burnout and high expenses… and Amazon is just there when it’s -40 outside. 

However, we are lucky to have several resources* that help us find women-owned and BIPOC-owned businesses. 

Women’s Business Directory 

Black-Owned Manitoba 

BIPOC-Owned Downtown Winnipeg 

*Black-Owned Manitoba and BIPOC-Owned Downtown Winnipeg lists don’t list whether it’s a women-owned business, so you may need to do some of your own research. Here are a few BIPOC+women-owned businesses we personally recommend: 

Bare Body Sugaring 

Happy Healthy Eaters 

Up In Knots Macrame

Gâto Bakery 

Faith Robert Design 

If you aren’t financially able to support women-owned businesses in this season of your life, we understand. Here are some free ways to support them: 

  • Attend events they host 
  • Leave a Google Review 
  • Like/Comment + Share a post on your social media 
  • Collaborate with them on your blog/podcast/website 
  • Tell your friends and family how great the business is 
  • Volunteer your skills (graphic design, copywriting, etc.) 
  • Listen to what they have to say and read their content (like this blog!) 

Support Charities for Women 

When we think of International Women’s Day, our first response is a celebration. However, it should also be a reminder that we need to accelerate gender parity. Charities focused on women's issues often work tirelessly to amplify the voices of those who might otherwise go unheard. By supporting these organizations, you contribute to creating a platform where women's stories, challenges, and triumphs can be shared, acknowledged and tackled.

There are a ton of charities to back, from local to global, and education to fighting gender-based violence. Bolstering these charities makes a lasting difference. 

Support Charities Run by Women 

When you support charities run by women, you actively contribute to breaking down gender stereotypes, promoting representation in leadership roles, and inspiring future generations. 

These initiatives often emphasize intersectionality, recognizing and addressing the interconnected nature of various forms of discrimination, ensuring a more inclusive and comprehensive approach. Backing women-led charities is a tangible investment in creating a world where women have equal opportunities, rights, and access to resources, making a collective and lasting impact on the advancement of women's rights and overall societal well-being.

How You Can Support

Donate:

Every dollar counts. Whether it's a one-time or recurring contribution. Choose a charity aligned with your values and causes you're passionate about.

Volunteer:

Offer your time and skills to women-focused charities. Your expertise could make a significant difference in their initiatives.

Spread Awareness:

Share their stories and achievements on your social platforms.

Invest in DEI Training for Your Business 

Diversity Equity and Inclusion training aligns with the core values of IWD and serves as a proactive step toward creating workplaces that are fair, inclusive, and supportive of women. These programs provide opportunities to address unconscious biases, challenge stereotypes, and foster a culture where diverse voices are heard and valued.

Sign Up For Leadership Training 

Leadership training empowers women to overcome barriers, break through gender stereotypes, and navigate challenges in professional settings. It also aligns with the spirit of IWD by creating a supportive network and promoting the idea that women deserve equal opportunities to lead and excel in diverse fields. 

Read a Book Written by a Woman

Here’s the thing: it really can be this easy. Everyone has a different capacity on how they are able to contribute to things like International Women’s Day. Some people have the time, resources and energy to organize an event, others can make a donation, and some people truly don’t have the time, energy or resources to do those things. 

If you want to commit to buying books only written by women about women this year from a woman-owned bookstore — that’s fabulous. 

But, if you are limited to library books and are looking for a great story and only have the energy to read one book per year, then pick a book written by a woman. Do what you can. 

Listen to Podcasts with Womens’ Perspectives 

When you tune in to women-led podcasts, you amplify diverse perspectives, celebrate women's achievements, and empower female content creators. It serves as a conscious choice to challenge stereotypes, promote gender equality, and build a sense of community around the shared experience of appreciating and learning from women's narratives. It's a deliberate act of support, recognition, and celebration of women's valuable contributions and stories across various fields and experiences.

Offer Discounts to Women-Owned/Led Businesses on Services 

Addressing financial challenges and creating cost-saving opportunities builds lasting partnerships and increases women-owned enterprises' visibility. It contributes to corporate social responsibility, inspires confidence among women entrepreneurs, and aligns with the broader mission of IWD to create a more inclusive and equal world. 

Plus, it feels good to do something nice for another woman-led company. 

Don’t Laugh at Misogynistic Jokes 

Sorry, Matt Rife, it’s just not funny.

By dismissing or trivializing misogynistic humour, we inadvertently endorse attitudes that demean and devalue women. When you choose not to laugh at misogynistic jokes, it’s a small but impactful step in fostering a more inclusive and respectful society. 

Our go-to responses for inappropriate jokes: 

  • Ask them to repeat it 
  • Ask them to explain it 
  • Say, “I’m surprised you felt comfortable to say that out loud.” 
  • Express that it made you uncomfortable 
  • Just don’t laugh 

#InspireInclusion

This year’s theme of International Women’s Day is Inspire Inclusion. 

  • When women aren't present, ask: "If not, why not?"
  • When women are discriminated against, call out poor practice.
  • When the treatment of women is not equitable, take action.
  • Do this each time, every time.

All IWD activity is valid, that's what makes it so inclusive. Do what you can, when you can. Every action counts. Learn more on the International Women’s Day website. 

Tags: IWD 2024 IWD

 

Celebrating 10 Years of Starling Social

- by Alyson Shane, President


Written by Alyson Shane, President.

In July of this year I’ll have been working for myself for 10 years.

Saying this out loud, or even writing it, feels surreal. Not just because of how quickly the time has passed, but also because I’m in this position at all.

Which is why today I want to share the backstory behind how I got into my industry, the inspiration behind Starling Social, and a little bit of what drives me to be the kind of business owner and leader that I am today.

My Story 

I never expected to run a business. In fact, I never expected to achieve much beyond scraping by at a 9-5 for most of my life.

I had a complicated home life as a kid - I was emotionally and verbally abused, and even moved out to live with friends for a while in Grade 12. I struggled with anxiety that was so intense that I couldn’t focus in school, and as a result my grades were so bad that I didn’t graduate high school on time.

I went to summer school to complete my diploma and worked a string of low-paying retail and fast food jobs for a few years after graduating. I was miserable and directionless.

I moved to Ontario and lived in Hamilton and Toronto for a while, but wound up coming back to Winnipeg as depressed as when I’d left, even though I’d managed to score a job working for the Provincial Government when I came home.

A “safe” union job should have felt like a blessing, but it compounded the negative feelings I had about my life. I felt trapped in a role I didn’t like, in an industry that didn’t excite me, and I started having panic attacks every day and sliding further into depression.

Then, one day, I was sitting on the bus* and the song “Gifts” by Propagandhi came on and a lyric I'd heard hundreds of times before started playing:

“All the slightly insane on the 18 North Main…”

For some reason, this time, the lyric hit me like a ton of bricks.

I thought: this is me. I'm slightly insane on the 18 North Main.

I realized that I needed to pull myself out of my rut and figure out what I wanted to do with my life... but my high school grades weren’t good enough to get into university, so I signed up for night classes at the Adult Education Centre.

I spent the next six months working full time and going to night classes from 6 - 9 PM, Monday - Thursday. It was brutal and I was exhausted all the time, but the support and encouragement I got from my teachers and the Principal at the school (who fast-tracked me so I didn’t have to do the full 12 month curriculum) was incredible. 

I’d never had “adults” in my life encourage me or say I was smart or capable enough to achieve my goals. It was life-changing.

I finished night school, enrolled at the University of Winnipeg, and began working towards my degree in Rhetoric, Writing & Communications. 

While I was a student, an instructor from Red River College’s Creative Communications (CreComm) program reached out and asked if I’d start coming in to speak to first-year CreComm students about personal branding, blogging, and the importance of social media.

(If you know me, you know I’ve been publishing content online since 2002, aka the “pre social media era” and grew up immersed in how content has changed online.)

I was 21, a brand new university student, and suddenly I’d gone from feeling like a stupid nobody, to someone my peers and influencers in my community were looking to for inspiration and guidance.

I graduated with almost straight A’s (turns out I suck at Economics and at writing papers in AP style compared to the MLA style I was used to) and got a job working at a large, established marketing firm right out of university.

I should have been happy… but I wasn’t. 

I still struggled with anxiety and, now, a heaping dose of Impostor Syndrome, and I had a hard time fitting into my role. 

I spent the next few years jumping from job to job, never finding a fit and butting up against rules that didn't make sense, processes that felt outdated, and a lack of agency and creative control over my deliverables and workday.

Around this time I picked up a small freelance copywriting contract. It wasn’t much, just a few blogs a month for a small amount of money, but the idea that I could make money on the side of my 9-5 was like a wake up call. 

I said as much to my boyfriend (now husband) and he said: “You know, you could do this for a living if you wanted.”

At the time I shrugged him off; I couldn’t imagine myself leaving the safety and comfort of a reliable paycheck.

“Give it a year and see how it goes” he said “pick up a few more contracts and see how it feels.”

So that’s what I did… and within a year I was making more money freelancing than I was at my 9-5. 

I started working for myself that summer and I’ve never looked back since.

(I got a tattoo of the Propagandhi lyric on my arm to celebrate my 1st full year as a business owner, and to remind myself of how far I've come.)

Starting Starling

I managed things by myself for the first few months, but after landing what felt (at the time) like a huge contract with a sales consulting firm based out of New York, I realized that I needed to bring on supports; I couldn’t scale this on my own anymore.

I started bringing on team members to support the workload I’d built and realized that freelancing as “Alyson Shane” wasn’t going to cut it if the people my clients were talking to day-to-day weren’t me.

Why “Starling” Social?

It wasn’t that hard to figure out what I wanted to call my agency.

I’ve always been attracted to starlings. They’re a beautiful, interesting bird, and “murmurations of starlings” - the name for when large groups of the birds fly in mesmerizing patterns through the sky - is one of my favourite expressions. 

Starlings are songbirds, and mimics. In addition to their stunning performances in the sky, starling’s are known for being able to mimic sounds, other animals… even humans!

As a marketing agency, our goal is to “mimic” our client’s brands and sound like them, so the link between the bird, and the agency, fell naturally into place.

Building Out Processes

I never went to business school. Heck, I’m a digital marketer who never even studied marketing!

Everything I know has been self-taught, either through hands-on experience or by consuming as much material about a subject as I can.

I taught myself to build out processes to keep my fully remote team connected and productive 

(this was in the pre-COVID era when being a fully remote business was less common)

and I’ve invested heavily in training sessions like one I did with Hatch London where I spent three intense days learning the ins and outs of building successful Facebook (Meta) Ads campaigns.

I’ve gone through startup accelerators like YCombinator’s Startup School to learn business strategies and how to think strategically about managing a small, agile, and nimble team without investing in too much overhead and developing systems 

I’m also a voracious reader and have an intimidatingly long RSS Feed of websites, blogs, and resources that I check every day so I can stay at the top of my game. 

I also curate and write Starling Social’s weekly digital marketing newsletter every week as a way of keeping myself accountable and keeping my skills as sharp as possible. 

(If you want to subscribe to that, you can do so here.)

Identifying Differentiators

Let’s be real: in a city where the CreComm program, alone, graduates hundreds of students a year, it sometimes feels like you can’t turn a corner without bumping into another digital marketer or agency owner.

In a city like Winnipeg, you really have to lean into what makes you different - luckily I’ve got heaps of that in spades!

It took me longer than I’d like to start leaning into these differentiators (hello, Impostor Syndrome) but some of the things we bring to the table include:

  • My 22 years’ experience publishing content online. I started publishing in the pre-MySpace era (hello, Geocities!) and have hands-on experience crafting content, telling stories, and using every social network as it’s evolved to understand how they work together, and what makes them different.
  • My degree in Rhetoric, Writing & Communications. Unlike a lot of my peers, I studied persuasive language, so I have an academic-level understanding of how humans communicate, how we do it differently across different mediums, and how it’s changed over thousands of years.
  • I’m a writer. In my view, this is the biggest competitive advantage I have as a marketer. I love writing and do it for fun, and because of my experience I’m a fast, adept, and efficient writer. This also means I hold my team to an extremely high standard when it comes to the content we create for our clients. 

Making It Work

Building a successful agency is more than a clever name and a great tech stack - you have to constantly work at it and find new ways to learn, grow, and build connections.

I say this all the time, but the main reason that I was able to scale Starling Social as quickly as I did was because I was a “big fish in a small pond” - I practically lived on Winnipeg Twitter, building connections and making sure people knew who I was, and I blogged regularly and used my writing skills to publish useful how-to articles, guides, and strategies that reinforced me as a subject matter expert.

To date, over 90% of Starling Social’s local business has been referral business, and most of our national and international clients have also come from connections I made at conferences, online, or through friends-of-friends who’ve referred us.

Sure, I have a sales partner who helps generate leads for me, but that business is a drop in the bucket compared to the work we’ve done thanks to good old-fashioned personal branding and networking. 

I also do a ton of public speaking (I average about one talk, webinar, or podcast interview per month) which not only keeps me fresh, but also allows me to empower others and share the knowledge I’ve built over my decades publishing online, and my almost-decade working in this industry.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work*

All this being said, my efforts wouldn’t mean much if I didn’t have a team of incredible humans behind me. 

The talented, driven, and creative people at Starling Social handle the day-to-day interactions with our clients so I can do all the fun stuff I just outlined above. 

I’ve learned to lean on my team and to make sure that they always feel like they can lean on me, too.

I take what I do seriously for myself and my clients, of course, but mostly I put in effort for them. I want them to feel confident and secure in my leadership, and to know I’ve always got their backs.

(I often say “my job is to make sales, close leads, and eat sh*t so you guys don’t have to.”)

One of my tenets is “if it’s not written down, it doesn’t exist” and as a writer this is one of the things that sets me apart from other agencies: I have extremely well-documented, repeatable processes for almost everything we do.

When we need to solve a new problem, I get down in the trenches with my team and spend time developing how-to guides that they can use and come back to - this eliminates guesswork, helps them be more efficient, and ensures consistently high-quality output whether we’re in the same room or not.

I don’t just do this because I’m an A-Type person; I want to empower my team to do their best work, and they’re less likely to succeed if they’re muddling through a problem, or constantly asking me for advice on how to do something.

This approach also shows my team how committed I am to their success, which (as I said above) is the most important thing to me.

* Sorry/not sorry to Alicia who hears me say this like every other day, haha.

What’s Next?

Looking ahead, I’m excited about what’s to come. 

I feel like I’m hitting a stride with my business, and that Starling Social is poised for even more growth and to partner on some impactful and important projects.

Starling Social has won multiple awards, I've personally won awards for my community impact through pro bono work we do, and we regularly receive glowing testimonials and feedback from our happy clients.

I get to work with friends (and clients who feel like they’re friends), do creative work that I enjoy, and build a life for myself and the people who work for me that allows us to (mostly) have a healthy work/life balance, take trips, and soak up the best of what our city and community has to offer.

I don’t know what the future holds, but from here it’s looking brighter than ever.

Cheers to 10 years, and to many, many more!


 

Show Your E-commerce Store Some Love: Optimizing for Valentine's Day Conversions

- by

Love is in the air, and what better way to celebrate capitalism… wait, we mean love… than buying a gift for your sweetheart this Valentine's Day. 

But seriously, if you have an e-commerce store, the sales potential is high this month, so it’s crucial to understand the importance of optimizing your website for shoppers. Love is a potent drug, and if your customers’ love language is gifts, these tips will help maximize your conversion rates and boost those holiday sales.

To make sure they choose your store over competitors, website optimization is key. This involves optimizing everything from product descriptions and images to checkout processes and load times. In this blog, we’ve put together our best tips for optimizing your conversions this Valentine’s Day. 

Valentine’s Day Shoppers: Who Are They?

No, it’s not “everyone.” Understanding the diverse demographics of Valentine’s Day shoppers is the first step toward effective targeting. Dive into the data to identify age groups, preferences, and buying behaviours. Are your customers predominantly young couples, long-time partners, or individuals celebrating self-love?

Deliver personalized experiences by segmenting your audience. Create customer personas based on data insights, ensuring your marketing efforts resonate with each segment. Tailor your messaging and product offerings to cater to the specific needs and preferences of different audience groups.

Let’s say, for example, you are selling candles. Pitching a romantic candle-lit evening isn’t going to “light the fire” of a single person celebrating self-love, but embracing the importance of self-care and filling the room with a scent you love might tickle their fancy. 

That’s why knowing the intent behind your customers' purchases is a powerful tool. Leverage past data to identify popular products and create targeted promotions. Anticipate the needs and desires of your audience, offering solutions that go beyond the conventional Valentine's Day gifts.

Did we lose you in the data section? Don’t worry, creative entrepreneurs, it gets more fun. 

Showcase Valentine's Day-Themed Products and Promotions on Your Website

Create a Valentine’s Day Gift Guide

These are great because they can be used everywhere: website, social media ads, organic social, email campaigns — we love content we can repurpose. If you’re really tech-savvy, you can make a quiz on your site to “find the perfect gift for your sweetheart.” Organize your products into categories that align with different relationship stages or preferences. Make the shopping experience effortless by guiding customers through thoughtful selections for their loved ones.

Curate a Valentine’s Day Product Display

Optimize your website's layout for Valentine's Day. Feature themed product displays on the homepage to grab visitors’ attention the second they land on your site. Remember, we are visual creatures, so use eye-catching images and strategically placed banners to showcase your selection of Valentine’s Day goods.

Promotional Offers and Limited-Time Discounts

Urgency sells. It personally sells us all the time —even when we’re the ones writing the copy for it! Consider limited-time discounts, buy-one-get-one-free deals, or exclusive bundles. Create a sense of urgency to drive immediate action, tapping into the time-sensitive nature of Valentine’s Day shopping.

Craft Compelling Copy and Visuals to Engage Shoppers

Tell a Story

Your product descriptions aren't just about features – they're an invitation to connect with your audience. Emphasize the personal touch of your offerings and craft your descriptions like you're sharing a story. Show how your product goes beyond being an item. Explain how your product will contribute to a meaningful moment. Remind them that buying from you isn't just a transaction: it's a deliberate choice for a thoughtful, personal connection.

Add The Theme to Your Site 

When people land on your site, we want them to have a clear understanding that it’s Valentine’s Day and they are in the right place for shopping. 

Think about filming snappy video snippets, giving a glimpse of your products in authentic, real-life settings. Set the scene on your site with a design that resonates with the vibes of Valentine's Day (or Galentine’s, Palentine’s etc. — segmentation, remember!).  

Streamline the Checkout Process 

Keep it simple. A seamless checkout process is crucial for converting potential buyers into customers. Any inconvenience can cause a shopper to click away. 

  • Simplify your checkout forms and reduce unnecessary steps
  • Offer multiple payment options to cater to diverse preferences
  • Prioritize mobile optimization to accommodate shoppers on various devices

Leverage Email Marketing and Social Media Campaigns to Drive Traffic and Conversions

Email Marketing Strategies for Valentine’s Day Promotions

Lucky for you, our team sends a lot of emails for our clients. Because of that, we have a plethora of information on the best practices for email marketing

You’ll want engaging and personalized email campaigns that highlight your Valentine’s Day offers. We also have a blog on 50+ Valentine’s Day Subject Lines for E-Commerce Sales to help you out! The Coles notes are: 

  • Interesting visuals
  • Targeted messaging
  • Clear calls-to-action

Paid Social Media Advertising Tactics for Ecommerce Success

Paid ads work — if you do them correctly. If this seems way out of the realm of possibility for you, we can definitely help, but if you are handling this yourself, here are a few tips: 

  • You have about one-second to catch peoples’ attention with ads, so make sure you are using compelling images/video and copy to make your viewers stop their scroll. 
  • Take advantage of targeted ad campaigns based on demographic data and user interests.
  • Utilize A/B testing to get the highest return on investment
  • Choose the right platforms to reach your target audience 
  • You can run multiple ads to reach different audience segments 
  • Monitor and adjust your ads based on their performance 

Organic Social Media Tactics 

Unfortunately, the best practices for each platform are constantly changing (subscribe to our newsletter here for the latest updates), but using organic social media is a great way to reach people who are already interested in your product. 

The same principles apply to organic social media as paid ads, but you have a little more freedom. There’s more time, opportunity and a chance to give more information.

Use the features each platform offers to please the algorithm gods. On Instagram, you can use the countdown feature for your new launch, post carousels of your Valentine’s Day gift guide, make a Reel with a trending sound, or tell a story about how this product or service will add to your special day. People want to buy from YOU, not a faceless business. 

TikTok is all about authenticity and trends. You will be able to find a trend you can make work for your business and hop on it. No, it doesn’t need to be dancing. Skip the videos of different images of your products or service and opt into sharing a story or a behind-the-scenes look at your biz. 

On Facebook, you want to use attractive images, videos and a clear call to action. While you can include a link, Facebook will de-prioritize posts that lead away from the platform. A little workaround for that is pinning a post with a link (or several) to your promoted products and leave the link off other posts. 

Threads focuses on community building and test-based content, so start meaningful conversations with influencers of your target audience to see the best return. 

General posting ideas for these and other platforms: promote products/services, share expertise or helpful content related to Valentine’s Day, repost user-generated content, work with influencers, and engage with the audience through contests and interactive content. 

Remember, the key is to create a seamless experience between your email marketing campaigns and social media presence. By integrating both channels effectively, you can drive traffic to your website or landing pages while increasing conversions.

Analyze Data and Making Adjustments to Improve Conversion Rates Post-Valentine’s Day

E-commerce Analytics Post-Valentine’s Day Optimizations

Prepare for next year! After the love-filled rush, dive into analytics to assess the performance of your Valentine's Day campaigns. Identify top-performing products, successful marketing channels, and areas for improvement. Analyze the results to understand what resonates best with your audience and apply these insights for ongoing optimization.

P.S. We do this for you at the end of each ad campaign! 

Valentine’s Day promotions isn’t just about selling, it's about connecting with your customers. Keep it real. Your customers aren't just transactions, they're individuals with specific needs. Be authentic in your marketing.

If you don’t feel ready for the Valentine’s Day rush, we can be your support. Contact us here to get started on your next campaign. 


 

15 Must-Know Email Marketing Stats for 2024 - And How To Use Them To Your Advantage

- by Alicia Kurz, Sr. Account Manager

Written by Alicia Kurz, Sr. Account Manager

With new apps, endless updates, and a never-ending stream of information on marketing your business, one tool continues to stand out: email marketing.

Even in 2024, email marketing continues to be an essential part of any strategy for businesses looking to connect with their audience.

Need convincing? Let's explore the pivotal stats shaping the email marketing landscape this coming year. 

General Stats 

Worldwide Email Users Are Expected to Increase to 4.6 Billion by 2025

As it stands, there will be over 4.3 billion people who use email in 2023

This stat is only expected to increase in the coming years, with email connectivity increasing to 4.6 billion by 2025.

347.3 Billion Emails are Sent and Received Every Day  

This number is projected to increase to 361.6 billion in 2024

Experts used to think that email would fall by the wayside as apps like WhatsApp and Slack emerged onto the scene, but with worldwide internet accessibility increasing overall, we are seeing quite the opposite. 

Open Rate Stats 

Personalized Emails Have An 82% Higher Open Rate Than Generic Emails 

Personalization used to be a tactic that seemed more optional than essential, but the stats show that in order to stay competitive, businesses need to lean into personalizing their emails.

Welcome Emails Have An Open Rate of 91.43%

If you don’t have welcome emails set up yet, then stop what you’re doing and get started. These emails grab attention with the highest open rate and deliver a high payoff with an average click-through rate 4 times higher than your regular marketing email at 26.9%.

The Average Open Rate For Email Campaigns is 21.33%

This varies depending on your industry and target audience, but a “good” email open rate should fall between 17-28%

The industries with the highest open rates are government, religious, hobbies and marketing. 

Engagement Stats 

60% of Consumers Have Completed a Purchase Through Marketing Emails 

A great email marketing campaign captures attention and drives action. The latest stats show consumers spend 138% more when influenced by effective email marketing strategies.

77% of Marketers Have Seen An Increase In Email Engagement Over The Last 12 Months

Remember, this isn’t a guarantee with email marketing campaigns. You still need to use best practices like segmentation, strong subject lines, eye-catching images, clear and concise copy and a strong call to action. You aren’t the only one hitting your target’s inbox, so make sure you stand out. 

64% of People Decide Whether To Open Or Delete Emails Based On Subject Lines

Grab your recipient's attention with a catchy subject line, or it will end up in the trash — or worse, they’ll report it as spam.

Mondays And Tuesdays Are The Best Days To Send Marketing Emails 

The highest open rate of emails is on Mondays, but the highest click-through rate happens on Tuesdays. 

The Best Time To Send An Email Is Between 9 am and 11 am

If you’re not a morning person, the best alternative is between 1 pm and 2 pm.

Marketing Emails Have A ROI of $36 For Every $1 Spent

The return on investment for email marketing is higher than any other channel. 

Stats like these are great, but if you don’t understand how to use them, how will you improve your next marketing campaign? That’s why tracking your success is so important. 

If you’ve ever been a client of Starling’s, you know that each month we’ll send you a hand-written report with stats like these and actionable insights we implement moving forward. 

Our newsletter reports share details like open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates, so you know just how well your emails are (or aren’t) performing. Paying attention to this data helps you tweak your content, timing, and targeting to get the most out of your campaigns.

6 Ways To Optimize Your Campaigns

Set up Automated Email Campaigns 

These perform the best because they are timely, relevant and personalized to your subscribers. 

Email Triggers: 

Welcome 

Welcome emails are set up so people will receive an email right after they hit subscribe. It’s common to offer new subscribers small coupon codes because they have a higher chance of converting — you already know they want to know more about your product! 

New Customer

Send a thank you message to people who made a purchase. It's a nice gesture, and you can offer things like customer service to encourage a positive buying experience. 

Abandoned Cart

Your product has already tempted these potential customers, which is why open rates for abandoned cart emails are over 48%! Why not send them a reminder? 

Browse History 

Like abandoned carts, these emails are sent to people who viewed products on your site but weren’t ready to check out. It’s a bit of an aggressive approach IMO — like a digital pushy salesperson — but they can lead to a purchase! 

Customer Winbacks

These emails are sent to people who have shopped with you but haven’t engaged in a while. Typically, selling to someone who has already purchased from you is easier. Companies often offer discount codes to return or let them know about a sale on a product they’ve already purchased. 

Segment And Personalize Your Email Lists 

It’s the same rule for social media followers and email subscribers. Quality over quantity. Not everyone on your list will be interested in the same generic content. Segmented and targeted emails generate 58% of all revenue

Make sure you add people’s names and segment based on things like location - ex “windchill special for my Winnipeg followers!” 

Pro-Tip: Consumers are tuned in and hold lofty expectations regarding personalization. Make the extra effort to ensure your personalization techniques meet the mark—and then double-check to be absolutely certain. 

It’s important to use the segmenting tools along with your personalization efforts to avoid annoying your customer with things like:  

  • Expired offers 
  • Wrong location offers 
  • Already purchase promotions 
  • Recommendations that don’t match their interests 

Optimize For Mobile And Desktop 

You want to make sure your potential customers are having an easy experience. Optimized emails don’t give any reason for people to click out of your content. 

Avoid Sending Too Many Emails 

Engagement drops with each additional newsletter sent per week.

Create Dark Mode Compatible Emails 

35% of email opens were tracked using dark mode in 2022. Making emails dark mode-friendly is allows a more comfortable reading experience, cutting down on blue light and screen glare. 

Optimize for dark mode by using transparent PNGs, adding translucent outlines to dark text PNGs, and always test emails before hitting send. 

Make sure your emails look good in both light and dark modes, keeping things accessible and aligned with what your subscribers prefer for a smooth experience.

Add Interactive Elements 

Interactive emails boost engagement and conversions by creating a more personalized experience. 

Using elements like countdown timers, GIFs, ratings, quizzes, surveys, videos, and polls encourages active participation, leading to higher open rates and engagement. With increased attention and engagement, interactive emails drive higher click-through rates, leading to increased conversions.

We love an email marketing campaign because it offers a direct and personalized way to engage with your audience, build relationships, and drive conversions. 

With the power of well-crafted email campaigns, businesses like yours can effectively reach their target market and achieve their marketing goals.

As time and technology evolve, there will be advancements in email marketing automation tools that streamline processes and improve efficiency. 

But it’s important not to overlook the human touch in crafting compelling email copy that resonates with your recipients. That’s where we can help. 

Get in touch with us here to talk about your next email marketing campaign, and subscribe to our weekly newsletter with all the news and strategies you need to stay up-to-date with your digital marketing strategy.


 

10 Ways to Celebrate "Get to Know Your Customers Day" 2024

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Get to Know Your Customers Day falls on the third Thursday of each quarter (January, April, July, and October) and is a great opportunity for small businesses to connect with their customers and show their appreciation for their support.

This day recognizes the importance of understanding who your customers are, and what their needs, interests, and preferences are so you can serve them better.

This is a lesser-known special day for small and medium enterprises (SME)s, so today I'll be diving into the history behind the day and sharing tips on how to celebrate the day on social media.

Let’s dive right in:

When is Get to Know Your Customers Day in 2024?

Since it’s a quarterly observation, here are the dates for 2024:

  • January 18
  • April 18
  • July 18
  • October 17

(So close to having them all on the 18th!)

The History of Get to Know Your Customers Day

Get to Know Your Customers Day started in 2011 when marketing consultant Lynn B. Johnson created her “Customer Appreciation Month” campaign as a way for businesses to build better relationships with their customers.

How to Celebrate Get to Know Your Customers Day

There are lots of ways to celebrate Get to Know Your Customers Day, including on social media, by sending out surveys, doing customer interviews, and more. Here are a few ideas to get your creative gears turning:

  • Create a social media campaign to recognize and thank some of your biggest supporters.
  • Share a personalized thank-you message to your social channels or via email.
  • Send out a survey to get your customers’ feedback on your products or services.
  • Offer discounts, promotional items, free samples, or special offers to celebrate the day and your customers.
  • Host a customer appreciation event with free workshops on how to use your products or services.

What to Post on Social Media for Get to Know Your Customers Day

Social media is the easiest way to communicate with your audience and thank your loyal customers, but knowing what to say can feel overwhelming so try using these prompts:

  • Share customer stories and how they’ve had a positive impact on your business.
  • Publish polls to gather customer feedback (LinkedIn, Instagram Stories, and Threads are all great for this!)
  • Create user-generated content (UGC) by asking customers to share their positive experiences with your brand on social media and tagging you.
  • Record a video of yourself delivering a heartfelt “thank you” message.
  • Host a Q&A session with team members about the business or topics related to your industry.
  • Host a giveaway for customers who share their experiences on social media.

Which Hashtags to Use for Get to Know Your Customers Day

Hashtags are a great way to help your content get discovered on platforms like Instagram and TikTok, so I recommend including these in your posts celebrating the day:

Instagram

  • #GettoKnowYourCustomersDay — 39,291 media
  • #CustomerAppreciationDay — 65,791 media
  • #CustomerAppreciation — 1.6M media
  • #CustomerLove — 446,339 media

TikTok

  • #GettoKnowYourCustomersDay — 197.6k views
  • #CustomerAppreciationDay — 1.1M views
  • #CustomerAppreciation — 52.7M views

Benefits of Getting to Know Your Customers

Understanding your customers’ needs is the fastest way to increase customer loyalty and create more products or services that they love.

Getting to know them better also creates more opportunities for you to create personalized experiences that make them feel seen, valued, and appreciated. These kinds of experiences build trust and help turn one-time customers into loyal brand advocates.

On a related note, repeat customers spend an average of 67% more than new customers, so bringing them back helps dramatically increase your revenue!

It also costs 5x more to acquire a new customer than to bring an old one back, so investing in getting to know your customers can have a big financial benefit for your business, too!

How to Get to Know Your Customers (Year-Round!)

We’ve already talked about social media, surveys, and email marketing as ways to get to know your customers better, so let’s take a look at a few other ways you can learn more about them:

Read and Respond to Reviews

Reading and replying to reviews - whether on Google, Yelp, Amazon, Etsy, or anywhere else - is important. 

Replying to customer views shows that you’re paying attention to their feedback and experiences with your brand, but it can also shed light on issues your customers are having so you can fix them as soon as possible.

Replying to reviews also humanizes your brand, builds trust, and shows that you’re committed to offering the best possible experience. 

Important Tip for Replying to Reviews

Never reply to a negative review with a rude or dismissive comment! Always follow these four rules:

  1.  Acknowledge the person who left the review. Say “Thanks [person’s name] for taking the time to share your experience.”
  2. Apologize for their experience. Say “we’re sorry to hear you had issues with [insert issue here]”
  3. State what you’re doing to make it right. Say “we’re working to resolve it by [insert what you’re doing]”
  4. Move the conversation offline. Say “If you’d like to chat about this further, you can reach us [add the email or url for your contact form]”

Personalize Deals and Discounts

Customers are people, and people want to feel appreciated. 

That’s why offering discounts for their birthday, anniversary, and based on prior purchases is an excellent way to keep customers coming back and learning about their buying patterns and preferences. 

Personalization also helps a customer feel like they’re valued instead of being just a number to your brand. Make sure to include their name in the subject line and at the top of the email, and to emphasize how much you appreciate their business in the body text of the offer.

Look at Website Data

This is such an overlooked way to learn more about your customers! Take a peek under the hood of your Google Analytics (G4) and take note of the following:

  • Behavioral data: what keywords did people use to find your site, What paths they took while they were there. Which pages they’re exiting from, and the content they’re most interested in.
  • Demographic data: the age, gender, location, and devices customers are using can all provide valuable insights about who’s coming to your website and buying from you.  
  • Campaign data: which pages are driving leads and sales, how are customers getting from your landing pages to the purchase pages, and more.

Get to Know More About Your Customers in 2024

Understanding your customers matters more than ever, and Get to Know Your Customers Day is the perfect reason to show them how much you appreciate their support and learn about what they like so you can tailor your products and services to their needs.

If you’re looking for more ways to make meaningful connections with your customers through your digital marketing, then drop us a line.


 

Starling Social is Leaving Twitter

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By Alyson Shane, President

I’ll keep this short: Starling Social will no longer be posting to Twitter.

This announcement breaks my heart. I’ve been an active Twitter user since 2008, and got so much out of the platform (both personally and professionally) to the point where I often tell people that the reason I was able to scale Starling so quickly was because I was active on the platform when I launched my business.

Twitter - and “Winnipeg Twitter” in particular - used to be something I loved, but since Elon Musk bought it in April of this year it’s increasingly become a toxic, negative, and hostile place.

I tried to hold my nose for as long as I could, but Musk’s decision to reinstate Alex Jones’ profile (based on a poll, I might add) and celebrate it with a X Spaces live discussion with Jones, disgraced former Trump appointee Michael Flynn, and Andrew Tate - who has been accused of rape, child trafficking, and organized crime - among others, is too much for me to stomach anymore.

Every social media platform has its problems, but it’s clear that Twitter is quickly becoming a place that is unsafe for the vast majority of people, and I can’t in good conscience continue to maintain a presence on the platform.

If you visit our Twitter profile you’ll see a pinned post directing you to other places you can find us online, including Threads (which I’m loving, by the way. The vibes are so good!)

For our clients who still use Twitter, I’m playing my recommendations by ear - those who use it as a place to disseminate news still get a decent return on investment out of it - but I’m keeping my eye on the news and anticipating having discussions about whether it reflects well on their brand to be on a platform where the owner literally told advertisers to go fuck themselves.

I hope that you’ll choose to continue to follow us on Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, and Threads, and that if you’re still on Twitter, that you continue to find value in it even when we couldn’t.

Cheers,
Alyson & The Starling Social Team

Tags: Twitter

 

Our 26 Social Media Predictions for 2024

- by Alyson Shane, President

Written by Alyson Shane, President.

It’s that time of year again! Somehow 2023 flew right by and we’re starting to look ahead at what the social media landscape looks like for 2024.

For me, staying on top of the latest trends is about more than just being proactive for our clients — staying tuned-into what’s happening also helps me think strategically and anticipate shifts in the industry before they happen.

One of the ways I share the latest news is in Starling’s weekly newsletter (which you can sign up for here) but this post digs deeper into the trends and opportunities I’m keeping my eye on in the coming year.

Facebook

More Reels + AI-Generated Content

(Just a heads up that you’re going to see this as a theme a lot in this article!)

Facebook is leading the way in integrating AI into its suite of apps, including Facebook where it’s using AI-based recommendations to show Reels to more people.

This tactic has actually led to an increase in engagement on the platform, with time in the app increasing and time spent watching Reels went up by 20% compared to last year.

Facebook is also encouraging users to play with AI by creating generative AI backgrounds for their posts and generative AI stickers, too.

Messaging for Business

People have been switching over to using private chats over posting publicly this year, and Meta has been taking notice, rolling out “Click to Message Ads” earlier this year.

If you run an eCommerce store then you’ve probably noticed this shift, too: 71% of consumers have reported using text messaging to communicate with a business.

While I wouldn’t anticipate WeChat taking over in North America anytime soon (our messaging apps come built into our phones, unlike in other parts of the world) I’d still expect to see Meta introducing more chatbot-centric features, probably using the AI we talked about earlier.

A Bigger Push for VR

Meta (Facebook’s parent company) owns Oculus, which is  the leading company creating virtual reality (VR) hardware, and I’m expecting to see a bigger push to integrate Facebook’s users into Meta’s “metaverse” called Meta Horizon Worlds.

You can see this in their push for users to start interacting more as their digital avatars, including uploading them to games that can be played on iOS and Android. 

Users with Oculus headsets can create their own avatars in VR and use them in different, non-VR contexts like games, which is a pretty smart play on Meta’s part if you ask me.

AR + Passthrough Tech

Okay, I fully cop to this being a bit niche, but one of Starling’s clients is a VR company so I spend more time than the average person thinking about the future of content, and Meta is leading the way in both augmented reality (AR) and in passthrough technology.

(Passthrough uses the sensors on your headset to approximate what you would see if you were able to look directly through the front of your headset and into the real world around you.)

I recently tried out Meta’s Ray Ban Stories glasses (which have been seeing positive reviews) and Oculus’ latest Quest 3 headset with passthrough is pretty impressive, too. 

Meta’s fully integrated AR glasses likely won’t be available until 2027, but as a leader in the space you can pretty much guarantee that the company is going to be pushing this hard in the coming year.

Instagram

More Video

Even though Instagram stated that they’re going to be pulling back on the amount of video users see in their feeds, I doubt we’re going to see video take a backseat any time soon.

The average person watches 17 hours of online video per week, and 92% of marketers believe that video gives them the biggest return on investment, so I think we’ll see more of this in 2024.

Instagram + AR Shopping

83% of shoppers state that they go to Instagram to find new products, so I expect the platform to keep working on honing users’ shopping experience within the mobile app.

I’m also keeping my eye on Meta's AR play and expecting that we’re eventually going to see a feature similar to Pinterest’s “Pinterest Lens” (see below) being introduced as a way of keeping users shopping within Instagram.

All AI, All The Time

Like Facebook, Instagram has seen big jumps in engagement this year by incorporating AI-fuelled recommendations into what users see on their Timelines.

As we reported in our newsletter a few weeks ago, Instagram’s already testing AI stickers and editing tools, AI-fuelled suggestions for DM replies, and more. 

You can also see Meta pushing the trend of Meta avatar stickers in the app, too, which links back to the “Metaverse push” I was talking about earlier.

TikTok

TikTok AI

TikTok has been leading the way with AI integration, rolling out text-to-video translation tools, AI profile images, shockingly high-quality AI filters, and more.

The platform is also testing a new AI-chatbot on its Chinese user base, so I'd expect that to roll out to a broader market sometime next year.

While chatbots haven’t really taken off on social media, they do keep users in-stream and if TikTok can link a chatbot to trending content and product discovery it could be a big boon for the platform.

In-Stream Shopping Push

Despite the fact that  40% of Gen Z have stated that TikTok is their go-to search engine, actual shopping on the platform has failed to take off so far, at least in North America.

Last year TikTok rolled out the “Nearby” content feed, and I expect this push for hyper-local discovery to continue in 2024, with TikTok looking to integrate food delivery and local business listings like it’s already done in China.

I could also see TikTok leaning into its AI-generated filters to replicate Pinterest’s AR “Try On” feature (see below) to encourage more users to shop directly from within the app, too.

A Ban in The U.S.?

The idea that the U.S. will ban TikTok pops up in my newsfeed every so often, but I don’t know if I think it’ll actually happen unless political relations between America and China really start to deteriorate. 

(For a great summary of current U.S./China relations, check out this episode of NYT’s The Daily podcast.) 

Snapchat

Snapchat+ Growth

A lot of North American users have fallen away from Snapchat, but the company’s recent Snapchat+ subscription service now has over 5 million paying subscribers, making it the most successful social media offering to date.

Since any new features coming to Snapchat will be offered to Snapchat+ users first, we can expect to see this number continue to increase in the coming year.

Pushing AR “Spectacles”

Snap was the first social app to release camera-equipped sunglasses, but Spectacles just hasn’t taken off and now that Meta is pushing their Ray Ban Stories glasses there’s more competition in the marketplace.

That being said, Snap has been testing their AR glasses for over a year and it seems like they’re planning to roll out a fully AR-enabled version of Spectacles sometime soon.

Threads

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write a separate section for Threads, but X/Twitter seems to be tanking (see below) so I figured it was worth digging into separately.

Gaining Momentum

Like Twitter, Threads seems to be gaining momentum as a result of the Israel-Hamas conflict — though this boost seems to be related more to X’s new approach to moderation. 

A lot of this comes down to Elon Musk and his airing of personal grievances on X/Twitter which is playing a big role in the company’s potential future (see below) and is encouraging a lot of users to re-consider Threads as a nicer, less offensive alternative.

Be warned though: as a brand on the platform it’s important not to get overly sales-y and to stick to topics like company culture, values, and (of course) spicy memes, since that’s what users are coming there to enjoy.

Evolving Features

I won’t pretend to know what Threads has coming, but considering that they’ve been listening to user feedback (something Twitter wasn’t known for) which seems to be earning them some goodwill online.

Recently Threads rolled out a desktop version, easier account switching, “drag and drop” attachments to posts, and are apparently working on a way for users to opt out of having their Threads content shown on Instagram and Facebook, since some users have shared that they don’t want their connections on those platforms to know about their Threads activity.

As someone who comes from the Twitter ecosystem, it’s been refreshing watching Meta be so receptive to user feedback and I imagine more user-led features will roll out on Threads in 2024.

A Kinder, Gentler Space

To put it bluntly: the vibes on Threads are very different from Twitter.

When the app launched there was a lot of chatter about the kind of space users wanted Threads to be, and we’ve seen this push for a welcoming, positive social network continue even as more people have started making a permanent jump over from X/Twitter.

The intentionality that users are bringing to Threads is something that I think will stick around for a while, especially considering how the platform is being contrasted against X/Twitter’s promotion of hate speech and misinformation.

X “or, The App Formerly Known as Twitter”

Elon Musk’s Big Push

I’ll admit: I’m not happy with the direction Twitter is taking, but it doesn’t seem like most people are happy about it, either, so I feel justified.

Anyway, it looks like Musk’s play with Twitter was essentially to gobble up everyone’s data by purchasing the platform so he can turn it into a WeChat-style One App to Rule Them All.


I don’t think this is going to work for a few reasons:

  1. North Americans don’t use WeChat-style apps as much. See my explanation above. We just don’t need an “everything app” the way other parts of the world do, and they’re already embedded into the WeChat ecosystems.

  2. The platform is changing too fast. Specifically in the area of charging a subscription — there isn’t enough perceived value for people to start paying at this stage.

  3. X now has 80% fewer staff than Twitter did, and a lot of the changes Elon wants to make (introducing payments, banking, shopping, etc.) require serious levels of privacy and data protection, and the infrastructure just isn’t there to build that out, even if there was a demand for it.

Focusing on News

Despite these issues, X is still the go-to news source for journalists and people who want to stay in-the-know.

As a result, I could see X putting a focus on timely news content… but I don’t know how that would work long-term.because X limits the total number of posts a user can see in a day.

This could change, of course, but right now X seems to be cutting off its nose to spite its face if you ask me.

Bankruptcy?

This could change, but right now it’s looking like Twitter has a 100% probability of bankruptcy.

This makes sense: ad revenue is still down, advertisers are leaving the platform over Elon Musk’s promotion of antisemitic tweets, subscriptions and projects are failing… it’s just a mess over there.

With this in mind, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Twitter announcing bankruptcy or issuing a warning about it sometime next year.

I believe this is what the kids refer to as the “find out stage” of “Fuck Around and Find Out”.

Pinterest

AR Try On Push

Pinterest has been leading the way in AR-fuelled shopping, with “Try On” released back in 2022 but not really picking up steam. 

To date you can try on makeup and see how furniture might look in your home (a feature the IKEA app has had for a while), but with Meta getting into the AR game and bringing passthrough technology to the North American mainstream I could see Pinterest starting to move to AR-powered clothing Try Ons sometime in the near future. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Pinterest-branded AR displays coming to malls across North America sometime over the next year or two.

AR/VR Wardrobe

One of Pinterest’s features that doesn’t get at much love as it should is Pinterest Lens, a feature similar to a virtual wardrobe that allows you to scan items of clothing (or recipes) and upload them to Pinterest to help the algorithm make better recommendations.

This might be a bit of a stretch, but I could see this feature combined with an AR Try On feature becoming an area the app leans into more heavily in the future.

LinkedIn

More Focus on AI

Are you sick of me saying this yet? Well, buckle up because LinkedIn has dedicated more time and resources to integrating AI than any other platform.

You can see it in their generative AI profile summaries, feed post prompts, collaborative articles,  job descriptions, but I expect that the biggest use of AI in 2024 will be improving discovery and helping users see more content they like.

Livestreams + Virtual Events

Despite a bigger push for users to create video content within the app this year, video content and “Lives” on LinkedIn can be hard to find if you aren’t already following the right people.

This is one area where I could see AI solving this problem, and could see LinkedIn introducing dedicated event and video tabs that can be accessed through the Timeline. 

General Predictions for 2024

Here are a few things I’m keeping my eye on that aren’t platform-specific:

User-Generated Content Will Increase

I believe that user-generated content (UGC) is the future of content marketing. 

Today’s consumers are savvy and don’t want their relationships with the brands they follow to be a one-way street, and creating UGC puts them in the driver’s seat and allows them to actively engage with the brands and products they care about.

This is a boon for brands, too — UGC builds community, empowers users to get creative with a brand’s content, and (best of all) it’s free.

A Focus on Authenticity

Users don’t want to hear canned marketing messages and want to support brands that are candid and authentic in how they communicate online. In fact, 88% of consumers report prioritizing authenticity when deciding which brands to support.

Owning up to mistakes, speaking loudly about your values, and putting a focus on transparency with your audience is how brands will succeed in 2024. 

More Hybrid Content

“Hybrid” content refers to content created using AI, and though I touched on this individually in each section, I wanted to mention it here because I think we’re going to see this increase dramatically across all social platforms in the coming year.

Using AI to create text, images (like Canva’s Magic Design tool), video, and more is going to become a lot more commonplace.

ChatGPT Backlash

I’m already seeing this in my circles: brands and consumers alike are starting to sour on the idea of using ChatGPT to create marketing material like social media and blog posts.

This ties into the idea of authenticity I talked about above: using ChatGPT to churn out low-quality content (that looks and feels low-quality) leaves a sour taste in people’s mouths. 

It feels like dialled-in content because it is dialled-in content, and in a world where authenticity and relationships matter above all else, I expect that we’ll see savvy brands leaning away from posting ChatGPT-generated content.

The State of Social Media in 2024

Things change quickly in this industry so it’s hard to predict what’s actually going to happen, but these are my best guesses based on the trends I’m seeing, the news I’m reading, and what I’m seeing when we do our monthly social media reports for our clients.

If you want to stay up-to-date with the latest news, click here to get in on our weekly digital marketing newsletter.

And if you’re ready to work with an agency that takes a proactive approach to the work they do, drop us a line and let’s chat about how we can grow your brand in 2024.


 

8 of The Best Holiday Marketing Campaigns to Inspire You

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The holiday season is a great time for businesses to connect with their customers and prospects through creative and effective marketing campaigns. In this blog, we'll explore some of the best holiday marketing campaigns from recent years and discuss why they were so successful. 

Why is holiday marketing important?

Effective holiday marketing campaigns can help build brand awareness and loyalty, which can pay dividends long after the holiday season is over. 

It’s a great opportunity to connect with customers and prospects during a time when they are more likely to be receptive to marketing messages. 

It can also help your business stand out from the competition and drive sales during a busy time of year. 

Our Favourite Campaigns, and Why They’re Effective

When you're putting together your holiday marketing campaign, it's a good idea to check out what other successful brands have done in the past. 

While you may not have the same budget that Apple does, you can still get some great ideas and inspiration from their campaigns. 

This way, you'll be all set to create a holiday marketing strategy that really gets your customers excited and boosts your sales during the holiday season.

Amazon: Joy is Shared


Why It's Effective

Hot off the press, this new Amazon holiday ad tells the story of three lifelong friends who gather during the holiday season and rediscover joy in their friendship. One of the women easily purchases sledding equipment through, you guessed it: Amazon, and it allows the three to relive their youth. The ad also features a great rendition of The Beatles' "In My Life," which fits the theme perfectly and adds to the sentimental feel of the ad. 

We love the ad because it tells a great story, leverages emotional appeal, is relatable, and reinforces Amazon's branding as a go-to destination for holiday shopping.

Apple: Make Someone’s Holiday


Why It's Effective

Apple shared a really touching holiday campaign in 2019 where a family used Apple products to cook up a sweet holiday surprise for their grandpa. 

What made it work was how it played on those holiday emotions. It also drove home the point that Apple products can be a catalyst for bringing people closer, which people crave during the holiday season. 

TBH, there are a TON of incredible campaigns out there. Enough to send you down a rabbit hole on YouTube where you can draw inspiration, but if you want just a few more to feel satisfied, we wrote another blog last year: 7 Holiday Marketing Campaigns For the 2022 Season, you can check out. 

REI: Will You Go Out With Me?


Why It's Effective

REI's 2015 holiday campaign was a bold move that paid off. 

Instead of promoting holiday shopping, REI encouraged people to spend time outdoors with their loved ones on Black Friday. 

The campaign was effective because it tapped into a growing trend of people seeking experiences over material possessions, and positioned REI as a brand that values the outdoors and sustainability.

Macy’s: In Dad’s Shoes


Why It's Effective

Macy’s 2021 ad is a cute story about a little girl walking in her dad’s shoes for the day. As the day goes on, she realizes how much her dad does, and her tiny sore toes make her realize he could use a new pair of socks. 

We love that Macy’s isn’t promoting TVs, expensive appliances, or the worst: a new car for Christmas. 

(If you haven’t seen this hilarious SNL skit about that, you should.) 

Ultimately, the Macy’s ad is effective because it acts as a reminder that gifts really don’t have to be expensive or complicated to be perfect. 

Kool-Aid: All I Really Want For Christmas featuring Lil John


Why It's Effective

This ad is so refreshing (and no, we don’t regret that word choice.) 

Not going to lie, we kind of get addicted to watching commercials that make us cry, but we love a funny, lighthearted commercial with a good beat. 

It gives a millennial nod with the Kool-Aid man smashing down a wall, and Lil John at the piano. Plus it’s a reminder that Kool-Aid definitely fits into the theme of your holiday party. It’s red, tasty, and a great option for kids and people who don’t want to drink. 

Campbells Soup: Melting Snowman


Why It's Effective

This one is an oldie but a goodie. It’s from 1993, but it made us feel warm inside then, and it makes us feel warm inside now. First, who doesn’t love a hot bowl of soup on a cold winter’s day? The tagline “nothing melts away the cold like a hot bowl of Campbell’s soup” is truly timeless. 

The ad's simplicity with a little injection of humour conveys their message and leverages nostalgia. We love it!  

Norway Postal Service: Father Christmas and Mother Earth 


Why It's Effective

Woah, this one really hits home. It touches on the division of labour in the household, strains inside relationships, and of course, Mother Earth. 

It’s definitely depressing but almost forces you to think about the things that really matter, like our planet. Plus, it romanticizes letter-writing which we love.

That ad gets an important message across and subtly sells their service. We give it two thumbs up!

 Walmart: Mean Girls


Why It's Effective

This ad is so fetch. The teens of 2004 are now elder millennials, and with an economy like this, Walmart might be their best option for holiday shopping. 

The Mean Girls tap into nostalgia, and the ad reinforces Walmart's branding as a go-to destination for Black Friday shopping. While it’s not technically a holiday ad, it still counts as an ad for the holiday shopping season and taps into the running theme in these ads: nostalgia.  

Tips for creating your own holiday marketing campaign

Consumers spent $211.7 billion online over the 2022 holiday season, an increase of 3.5% year over year. With digital shopping becoming the new norm, it’s important to ensure your brand stands out. Here are some tips for creating a successful holiday marketing campaign:

  • Be creative
  • Start planning early
  • Optimize your website
  • Leverage social media
  • Use emotional appeals
  • Focus on your target audience
  • Track and measure your results
  • Offer exclusive promotions or discounts

When it comes to your business, keeping the conversation going is super important. You should make sure those frequently asked questions are easy to find on your website and social media pages. 

And here's the thing: don't just focus on selling to your audience. 

Take the time to engage with them. Show them the people behind your business and why you're passionate about what you do.

And if you're gearing up for your marketing campaigns in 2023 and could use a hand, don't hesitate to reach out to our team of pros. We're here to help you kick things off – just drop us a line!


 

TikTok SEO in 2023: What It Is and How To Do It

- by Alyson Shane, President

Where do you go when you’re looking for recommendations?

Until recently, most of us went to Google. 

In fact, so many people use Google to find recommendations or look something up that the term “Google” has become synonymous with looking something up, putting it in the same camp as “Kleenex”,”Frisbee” and even “Dumpster” — but all that’s starting to change.

Mobile apps have taken over the market, and TikTok recently overtook Google as the most popular search engine for the first time in 15 years, with 40% of Gen Z stating that TikTok is their go-to search engine.

This shift in how people are searching for new products and businesses represents a new way for businesses and marketers to think about search engine optimization (SEO).

In this article, I’ll cover what TikTok SEO is, why it’s important and share insights on how you can get your content to the top of the Search results page to connect with more of your ideal customers.

What is TikTok SEO? 

TikTok SEO is the practice of optimizing your TikTok videos to rank higher on the “Search” results page so more users can find your content and follow you.

The platform uses a sophisticated algorithm to show users what they want based on their interests, interactions with other posts, accounts they follow, and more.

With an SEO strategy optimized for TikTok, you can create content that the algorithm loves and is likely to be searched and discovered by your target audience.

Why is TikTok SEO Important?

The short answer is: TikTok has a massive user base! If we take a look at TikTok’s user growth you can see that it’s showing no signs of slowing down:


Source: Data.ai, CNBC + Business of Apps

TikTok may call itself an entertainment hub rather than a search engine, but that doesn't mean it doesn't serve that purpose too.

These days, TikTok has adapted to this explosion in usage and has adapted several search engine-like features like suggested keywords in its search bar and comment sections, putting it in the same league as Google.

So as more users turn to TikTok to look for content, we need to adapt to those changing behaviours.

How Does TikTok’s Algorithm Work?

TikTok doesn’t make their algorithm publicly available, but there are a few high-level details that we’ve been able to figure out. 

The first step is demographics. 

When someone signs up for TikTok, the app will show them content based on their demographics and location, along with any categories that they’ve indicated that they’re interested in.

For me, I’m a 35-year old woman in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. TikTok might start showing my videos of The Winnipeg Jets (our local hockey team), home renovation ideas, how to make cocktails, ice fishing, and other videos based on my age, pronouns, and location.

Some of those things might appeal to my interests, but some might not. So how does TikTok get me to stay in the app?

The algorithm “learns” what I like by analyzing what I scroll past, and what I engage with through likes, comments, and saves. 

TikTok’s algorithm also ties into your cookie history, meaning that it taps into your internet browsing history and curates what it shows you based on what you look at online. 

4 Ways to Optimize Your TikTok Content

Here are four things you need to to to optimize your TikTok strategy: 

  1. Include keywords into your captions and videos
  2. Research and use relevant hashtags
  3. Use trending TikTok Audio
  4. Post longer videos
  5. Be consistent with your niche

Step 1. Include Keywords In Your Captions and Videos

With search, everything is about intent, and that’s expressed in what users type into the search field in order to find what they’re looking for on the platform.

The first step is to weave relevant and detailed keywords that your audience actively looks for. Here's where you should add them:

If you’re not sure where to start, open up the TikTok app and use the search bar’s predictive text. Just type in your starting keyword and see what the app suggests from there:


So if you’re a company selling footwear, you might want to use keywords and phrases like “"athletic footwear”, "sneaker trends", or "sports shoes fashion"

Protip: State your keyword out loud within the first few seconds of your video to make sure the algorithm picks up on it.

Step 2. Include Relevant Hashtags

Using the right of TikTok hashtags can catapult you right into the spotlight of your ideal audience and potential followers.

At Starling, we recommend using a “blended hashtag strategy” which is the process of using both wide-reaching and niche-specific hashtags.

High-level or trending hashtags allow you to reach a wide audience, while niche hashtags allow you to show your posts to people who are already looking for related content in your niche.

How Many Hashtags to Use?

TikTok doesn't set a limit for the number of hashtags you can use, but we recommend sticking to 3 - 5 “blended” hashtags.

This allows you to post captions to stay at the forefront of the post and can keep your TikToks from looking spammy.

Bonus: Use TikTok’s geo-specific tags in your videos to help increase visibility in your area. This is ideal for restaurants and brick-and-mortar stores!

Step 3: Use Trending TikTok Audio

TikTok’s algorithm prefers content that taps into trending audio, so it’s important to check the app often to find out what sounds are blowing up on the platform.

If you’re looking for a trend that’s more niche-specific, just open up TikTok and type in “trending sounds” in the search bar. 

Protip: Choosing the “this week” filter will show you the hottest rising content, and give you some inspiration for how you can recreate it to suit your brand’s needs and message.

Step 4: Post Longer Videos

A lot of what we’ve seen on TikTok to date has been short, snappy videos, but the platform recently announced that users will be able to upload videos of up to 15 minutes, showing that they're encouraging longer-form content.

Not only do longer (5-ish minute videos) appear to be trending with the algorithm right now, longer posts also give you more time to repeat your keywords and increase the likelihood that your video will get picked up and shown to more of your target audience.

Step 5: Be Consistent With Your Niche

Like every social media platform: consistency is key.

Learning how to “work” TikTok’s algorithm and tap into SEO best practices on the platform will teach the algorithm who you/your brand are, what you offer to other users, and which users should see your content.

Start Growing on TikTok Today!

TikTok is one of the fastest--growing social networks out there, and if your brand is trying to reach a younger audience then it’s a “must” for your digital marketing strategy.

If you’re not sure where to start, drop us a line


 

How to Scale Up Your Content Marketing Efforts

- by

Whether you're a small business looking to expand your online presence or a seasoned marketer looking for a new level of success, the answer lies in a well-crafted content strategy. 

As businesses grow and expand, scaling up content marketing efforts can be challenging.

Scaling up your content marketing efforts requires careful planning, strategic thinking, and the right tools and resources. It involves increasing the quantity and quality of your content while maintaining consistency and relevance to your audience. Let's break down the essential components of content marketing and content strategy.

The Importance of a Well-Defined Content Strategy

When you have a clear strategy in place, companies can effectively reach their target audience and drive engagement.

It helps businesses understand their needs, interests, and pain points. With this understanding, companies can create content that resonates with their audience, establishing a connection and building trust.

A solid content strategy allows businesses to plan their messaging across various channels and platforms consistently. This consistency enhances brand recognition and strengthens brand identity.

A well-defined content strategy enables organizations to measure their efforts' success accurately. Businesses can track engagement metrics like website traffic, social media interactions, and conversions by setting clear goals and key performance indicators. This data provides valuable insights into what works best for their target audience, allowing for continuous improvement and optimization.

Step 1: Developing Systems and Workflows for Efficient Content Creation and Management

If you know anything about the Starling team, you know that our owner loves good, trackable, and efficient systems.

These systems optimize content creation efforts, enhance collaboration among team members, and guarantee a seamless workflow from ideation to publication. 

One tool that the Starling team leverages for content creation and collaboration is Google Docs. With its real-time editing capabilities and cloud-based storage, teams can work together on documents simultaneously, eliminating the need for time-consuming back-and-forth exchanges. This allows for efficient feedback loops and ensures everyone is on the same page throughout content creation.

Another valuable resource for developing clear workflows (that our team also loves) is Trello. This project management platform enables teams to organize tasks, track progress, and set deadlines in an easy — and visually appealing — interface. By creating boards with lists and cards representing different stages of the content creation process, teams can easily manage assignments, prioritize tasks, and monitor overall productivity.

Embracing these tools saves time and fosters a more productive work environment where creativity thrives alongside effective project management practices.

Step 2: Understanding the Role of SEO in Your Content Strategy

Search Engine Optimization makes your content irresistible to search engines. It's all about finding the right keywords and optimizing your content to rank higher in search results.

a) Who to Target with Your SEO Efforts?

Before you start, get to know your audience inside out. Create buyer personas first. Buyer personas are fictional representations of your ideal customers, complete with demographics, interests, pain points, and behaviours. This helps you think about what your audience is searching for, and tailor your content to their needs.

Next, dig deep into user intent keywords. People type these key phrases into search engines when seeking answers or solutions. Rather than just focusing on generic keywords, consider your audience's specific questions and problems. What are they searching for, and why?

Imagine your audience's journey and thought process. 

  • What challenges do they face?
  • How can your content address those pain points?

By aligning your content with their needs, you attract more visitors and build trust and credibility.

b) What to Focus on When It Comes to SEO?

Pay attention to technical SEO factors like site speed and mobile-friendliness. Google loves websites that load quickly and look great on smartphones. Also, focus on creating high-quality content that's relevant and valuable to your readers.

c) Why Is SEO Essential for Successful Content Strategy?

SEO isn't just a buzzword; it's the key to building organic growth. When you rank higher on search engines, you attract more visitors. And guess what? Those visitors are more likely to convert into customers. 

d) Where to Incorporate Keywords Within Your Content?

Sprinkle your keywords strategically throughout your content. Use them in your title tags, meta descriptions, headings, subheadings, body text, image alt tags, URLs, and even within your internal linking structure. Just remember, don't overdo it; keep it natural.

Step 3: Effective Distribution Channels for Amplifying Your Content Reach

Creating engaging content is only half the battle. You also need to make sure it reaches the right audience. Enter distribution channels.

Social media platforms like Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, X.com, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, etc. are your megaphones. Share your content there, engage with your audience, and watch your reach grow. Don't forget the power of email marketing campaigns. We could go on about that, but for time’s sake, here’s another blog about writing a killer newsletter. 

Consider guest blogging or podcast opportunities and influencer partnerships. Collaborating with others can introduce your brand to a whole new audience.

Step 4: Crafting Your Content 

Now that you've laid the groundwork for your content strategy, it's time to craft your content. Don’t put out a social media post for the sake of putting out a social media post! Make sure your content is helping you reach one of your goals. 

If your post doesn’t fit into these boxes, should you really be posting it?  

Relevance: Always keep your target audience in mind. Craft content that directly addresses their needs, interests, and pain points. Your content should be a solution to their problems.

Quality: Research thoroughly, fact-check rigorously, and provide valuable insights. High-quality content establishes your authority and builds trust with your audience.

Consistency: Maintain consistency in your posting schedule, brand voice, style, and messaging. This consistency creates a reliable and recognizable content identity your audience can trust.

Timeliness: Keep your content up-to-date and relevant to current trends and industry developments. Being on top of the latest news and updates positions you as an industry thought leader.

Education: Offer valuable insights, tips, and actionable advice. Providing educational content positions your brand as a valuable resource in your niche.

Entertainment: Incorporate storytelling, humour, and engaging visuals to make your content enjoyable. Entertaining content is more likely to be shared and can increase your content's reach and impact.

As you craft your content, consider how these pillars can be integrated into your pieces. 

The Power of a Well-Thought-Out Content Strategy 

We’re lucky to have an incredible team at Starling who truly cares about the success of each client. These tools are the gears that keep the engine running, but the true power lies in the well-thought-out content strategy. It ensures that every piece we create serves a purpose, resonates with our audience, and contributes to our overall success.

We don't just advocate for these tools; we rely on them to help execute our content strategy.

Google Docs: Google Docs is where we create drafts and collaborate seamlessly. This makes crafting a strategy that aligns with your overall content goals easier.

Trello: Trello helps us break down our content strategy into actionable steps, ensuring that each piece aligns with our overarching goals. 

Buffer: Buffer helps execute a carefully designed distribution plan. It ensures our content reaches the right audience at the right time. Other tools like Later and Hootsuite accomplish the same goals and may be the right choice for your biz.

Remember, tools are only as effective as the strategy behind them. Craft your strategy with care, and adapt it as needed. 

Or, if you are ready to focus on big-picture items and leave your marketing to the professionals, contact us here to book a consultation.


 

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