- by Alicia Kurz
This post was written by our Account Manager Alicia Kurz.
Are you wondering how to write a great technical blog post for your clients?
Chances are, when you think about writing a technical blog post, your first feelings are a sense of dread, followed by being bored before you even start. If you aren’t an expert in whatever complex subject you are about to embark on, starting can be discouraging.
Luckily, these steps will help you develop a process to create useful, interesting technical content and take the guesswork out of publishing great technical posts. Let’s dive right in:
Where do you even begin?
The good news is, the thought of writing a technical blog post is more challenging than actually doing the work. The key is finding the points in the topic that interest you and focus on highlighting those points. When you’re more interested in a topic, you’ll be more enthusiastic about writing the post and finding the correct information. The better the post, the easier it is for the audience to connect with the topic.
Technical blogs are a great way to reach a lot of people and give people information that’s easy to consume. After writing many technical blogs, here’s the workflow that makes things easy to focus on content instead of logistics. Let’s start spreading some good ideas!
1. Define your audience and key messages
Who are you writing for? If your target is moms between 25-40, your writing is going to sound much different than writing for 30-50-year-old engineers in the forestry industry — am I right, ladies?
Audience personas can be quite helpful when you’re thinking about the tone and structure of your piece. A wine blog for beginners can likely be more light-hearted than a post about the environmental impacts of dust on a local community, for example.
It’s always important to think about what’s in it for your audience. People have limited time, so reading your blog better be a good use of theirs. Are the key messages of your blog in line with what your target audience is looking for? If not, you will need to make adjustments so people aren’t asking “who cares?”
2. Research your topic
Thank God for Google. Likely, you aren’t the first to write about whatever topic you are about to delve into. That’s a good thing. You have information from multiple sources — just please fact check — so it allows you to piece together the best information in the easiest to read way. Just because others have done it first, doesn’t mean they have done it best.
Often the research provided to you is written in nerd language and it’s your job to figure it out. If you’re a writer, that can be fun. It’s like fitting puzzle pieces together to make information more accessible to a larger audience.
If you have questions, other people probably do too. Your blog is where people will go to find those answers.
If you are writing this blog for a client, schedule a call where you can ask questions and make sure your key messages are clear. While you can independently find out a ton of information by yourself, it makes it a lot easier when you and your client are starting on the same page. Plus, they probably have specific information they want to be included that may not have been clear to you initially.
Make sure to record the call so you can go back and reference it. This will save you a lot of stress. It’s much easier than taking notes and trying to remember everything.
3. Create an outline
Now that you have your key messages down, you’ve researched your topic, and your client has given you an idea of what they are looking for, it’s time to create an outline.
Luckily, you have other blogs to reference and see first-hand which ones you were drawn to and which ones you pressed the back button immediately.
I said it once and I’ll say it again: always start with “what’s in it for them.” If your introduction doesn’t have a hook, your audience is gone.
Use headings and lists to make your content easy to read, and use a call to action at the end of your blog that aligns with your goals. Book a meeting, follow us on Facebook, or buy now are all great examples of how to further engage your audience after they have read your blog.
Outlines are also great to organize your thoughts and weed out excess information that will cloud your key messages.
4. Start Writing
Use your own voice to relay your messages. Whether that’s the professional version of your voice or your Saturday night version after a glass of wine version, just make sure the tone matches your content.
Use the K.I.S.S. method. In case you weren't born 60-years ago, or you just prefer to not reference rude acronyms, that means Keep It Simple, Stupid. Take out industry jargon and complicated language. You can sound smart without using words people have to Google. Your blog should be accessible to a large audience and easily consumable, not feel like more work.
5. Take a Break
Give your eyes a break once you’ve written your piece. After you stare at your computer for hours trying to write the perfect blog, you might become blind to minor errors. Maybe you typed “and” twice or used the same word in a paragraph three times. Try going on a walk, or just not looking at a screen for a couple of hours before you come back to it.
Although I prefer to save the trees, a great tip is to print your piece and edit it on paper — after you have run it through Grammarly, of course. For some reason, it’s easier to make changes that way.
Plus, it’s kind of satisfying to edit your own with a red pen… maybe that’s just me.
If you have a chance, ask someone else to read it for you. Try not to get annoyed when they give you irrelevant suggestions. They also might catch something you said twice, or ask a question about something you thought you answered, but you weren’t clear enough.
6. Add the Finishing Touches
Now it’s time to make your blog look nice. Add headings, photos, article links, and an SEO-friendly title.
The most satisfying part of writing your blog is clicking the publish button. Ensure the blog is going to the right part of your website, add tags, set a featured image, and utilize any widgets you have installed on your site to make your blog SEO-friendly.
After it’s published, check that the image that pulls works on your social platforms and that it loads correctly on both desktop and mobile feeds.
You want people to see what you’ve posted. Share your blog post in places your target audience hangs out. Ask people to share it. This gives you a chance for your network to spread your post to their network.
Use Canva to create free images that look great on social, and you don’t need to be a designer to use. You can also resize these so it fits correctly on all platforms.
If your piece is really awesome, consider doing some digital advertising for it to get the most eyes on it.
Just remember, practice makes perfect. Eventually, writing technical blogs will become more of a habit, and creating these posts will flow much easier.
If you need help writing blog posts or getting your content in front of the right people, drop us a line and let us know how we can help!
- by Alyson Shane
Do you have questions about outsourcing your business’ digital marketing?
If you’re struggling to figure out if your business is ready, you may be wondering:
- Why should I outsource my digital marketing?
- Should I keep my digital marketing in-house?
- What parts of my digital marketing should I outsource?
- What are red flags to look for when selecting an agency?
If you’ve wondered any of these things, then this post is for you. Let’s dive right in:
Why Do Businesses Outsource Their Digital Marketing?
There are lots of reasons a business would outsource its digital marketing, but here are some of the most common:
You’re not seeing the results you want from your in-house team/person
Many businesses outsource because their in-house team isn’t meeting their goals.
This could be due to inexperience, disorganization, or a cultural mismatch. Whatever the reason, your marketing is always behind. If it’s been a few months (or even years) since your business has launched a new campaign or tried a new strategy, then it may be time to outsource your marketing.
You don’t have the resources to scale in-house
One person often isn’t enough to manage all of a business’s digital marketing needs. After all, graphic designers aren’t copywriters or social media managers, and vice-versa, so you may still have skill gaps you need to fill to meet your marketing goals.
If hiring 2-3 more people is out of your budget, hiring an agency is a cheaper alternative that can give you the variety of skill sets you need to see success.
You’re task-driven, not strategy-driven
Posting for the sake of being active on social media isn’t a strategy.
As a business, you have revenue goals that need to be supported by your digital marketing strategy. While it may feel good to know you’re posting 3-4 Instagram posts a week… that posting doesn’t do you any good if there’s no strategy behind it.
If you’re not happy with your existing digital marketing strategy, then it may be time to outsource to an agency.
You have no reporting structure in place
If you aren’t able to measure the results of your efforts then you’ll never have a clear sense of where new business is coming from.
A qualified agency will work with you to set up a reporting system (we submit ours monthly and on a per-campaign basis) which will include a breakdown of what worked, what didn’t, and suggestions for building on successes.
If you don’t have a reporting system in place, then outsourcing to an agency can give you the clarity you need to make data-driven decisions about your digital marketing.
Why Outsource Digital Marketing? Your Questions Answered
Before we talk about the benefits of outsourcing your digital marketing, let’s answer a few of the questions we hear most often:
Is outsourcing digital marketing cheaper?
Outsourcing your digital marketing to an agency is almost always cheaper than hiring in-house staff - usually by significant amounts, too.
Consider this: you could pay a single person to handle your marketing strategy, copywriting, social media, blogging, email marketing, SEO, landing pages, paid ads, and reporting.
Or, you could spend the same amount and have an entire outsourced team handling the same workload.
Consider the costs, scope, and quality of the work of a single person vs. a team of people, and it’s easy to see how outsourcing becomes the most affordable option.
Is outsourcing digital marketing easier to manage?
Yes, outsourcing is easier to manage than in-house marketing because you don’t have to manage an external team the same way you would with an employee.
Qualified agencies will have processes in place that will keep projects and campaigns running smoothly behind-the-scenes, allowing you to focus on your business without feeling the need to constantly check-in.
Does outsourcing guarantee a higher level of expertise?
Yes, outsourcing almost always guarantees a higher level of expertise than hiring in-house.
This is especially true if your business relies on new grads and less experienced marketers due to salary limitations. Most newbie marketers lack the hands-on experience needed to develop, manage, and execute a comprehensive marketing strategy.
Agencies, on the other hand, are typically founded by and employ digital marketers with years of experience, often in a variety of areas.
The Benefits of Outsourcing Digital Marketing
Let’s talk about the best parts of outsourcing your company’s digital marketing!
Outsourcing gives you outside insight into your business
Hiring an outside agency can give you a fresh perspective on how to approach your digital marketing.
Any qualified agency has a rigorous onboarding process that allows them to develop a deep understanding of your business, your customers, and how your products or services solve those problems.
This work, and the work of measuring and reporting consistently on your digital marketing, offers insight into your business, making them a valuable partner.
Outsourcing gives you access to experts
As we discussed earlier, the level of seniority and expertise that a business can access through an outside vendor is often much higher than they could hire for in-house.
Not only will you work with more experienced marketers, but qualified agencies will always be on the lookout for innovative new tools and techniques to amplify their efforts on behalf of your business.
Outsourcing guarantees a return-on-investment (ROI)
Put simply, agencies have a vested interest in generating continued ROI for your business, or else they risk losing your retainer. This means they’ll continually work to find new ways to make campaigns more successful, increase open rates, and generate more interest about your business online.
(If you don’t feel like you’re getting that level of service right now, let’s chat.)
Red Flags When Outsourcing Digital Marketing
We’ve spent a ton of time talking about all the benefits of outsourcing, but what about the red flags? What are some signs that the agency you’re considering might not be all it’s cracked up to be? Let’s take a look:
They don’t walk the talk
Let’s face it: a lot of marketing agencies (older ones, especially) tend to offer digital marketing services to stay competitive, not because it’s their passion.
As a result, you can tell pretty quickly which agencies are experts in areas like digital marketing and content strategy, and which are faking it for clients.
When considering who you want in charge of your digital marketing strategy, ask:
- Do they post to their social media profiles regularly?
- Is their content friendly, helpful, and interesting?
- Do they show creativity and innovation in the content they share?
- Do they have a newsletter, and is it any good?
- Do they blog regularly to demonstrate industry expertise?
If the agency you’re considering doesn’t do any (or even some) of these, then they may not actually have the depth of knowledge and experience needed to deliver high-quality results.
They won’t show past or current work samples
Whether that’s sharing links to past or present client work or providing case studies, a qualified agency should be able to point to at least a few success stories.
If you’re considering working with an agency but they’re giving you the runaround on actual work samples, consider this a huge red flag and take your business elsewhere.
They force long-term contracts
No matter how great or experienced an agency might be, you’ll both need some time to get to know one another and decide if your partnership is something you want to continue long-term.
If an agency is pushing for a multi-year contract before work has even begun, consider this a red flag.
Outsourcing Digital Marketing - Final Thoughts
Figuring out what to do with your digital marketing can be stressful, but outsourcing your needs to a qualified agency can bring strategy, clarity, and quality to your business’ online presence.
As we’ve covered here, outsourcing is a cost-effective way to work with digital marketing experts who work hard to consistently deliver ROI for your business.
If you’re ready to take the next step and work with an agency to grow your business, drop us a line and let’s chat.
Still not ready to take the plunge? No worries! Our weekly newsletter will keep you informed with all the latest hand-picked digital marketing news and strategies. Subscribe now.
- by Alyson Shane
Do you want to learn how to price your services so customers click on your preferred pricing plan? Have you struggled to drive customers towards the option you want them to select?
Then you've come to the right place! This article explores the psychology behind consumer marketing, and uses research and examples to show you how to price your products and services to drive consumer behaviour.
Why is understanding consumer psychology important?
Knowing why consumers choose one option over another helps us make more informed decisions about our pricing.
Being strategic in our pricing doesn't only improve conversions! Understanding the psychology behind pricing allows us to create positive experiences for our customers, which helps them feel happy about their decision to buy.
How can we help our customers feel this way while buying from us? Keep reading to find out:
The Decoy Effect, aka Asymmetric Dominance
"The Decoy Effect" describes our tendency to change our preference between two options when presented with a third, less enticing option.
The third option, known as the “decoy”, uses asymmetric dominance to push customers to choose between one of the two better options.
What is Asymmetric Dominance?
Asymmetric dominance means that the decoy is priced to make one of the other three options more attractive.
The decoy is “dominated” in terms of perceived value (price, quality, quantity, features, etc.) and isn’t actually intended to sell.
The decoy exists only to nudge customers away from the “competitor” and towards the “target” (usually the most profitable option.)
Real-life examples of The Decoy Effect
One of the most popular examples of The Decoy Effect comes from the researcher Dan Ariely. In 2009 he ran a study that analyzed the pricing options for The Economist with 100 MIT students.
In one scenario, he gave students the option between a web-only subscription or a print-only option for twice the price.
Not surprisingly, 68% chose the cheaper, web-only option.
When given a third option - a web-and-print subscription for the same price as the print-only option, just 16% chose the cheaper option.
Instead, 84% opted for the combined version because they perceived it as a better value.
In the second scenario, the print-only option became the decoy and the combined option became the target.
Here's a video of him explaining how the study worked:
Another example of The Decoy Effect is an experiment by National Geographic to see if they could encourage customers to buy a large popcorn over other sizes.
They started with a small bucket of popcorn for $3, and a large bucket for $7.
The initial choice showed that most people bought the bucket of small popcorn.
When they added third, “decoy” option - a medium popcorn for $6.50 - most people chose the large bucket because they viewed it as being a better value.
In their test the medium bucket was asymmetrically dominated by the large one, so customers chose the more expensive option.
The Decoy Effect takeaway
Using decoys takes the guesswork out of selecting the option that has the most value.
Adding a decoy that you don't expect to sell may seem counter-intuitive, but an option that makes the others look better empowers your customers.
Decoys make customers feel like they're getting a "good deal" by choosing the asymmetrically dominant option.
Protip: don’t be afraid to experiment with different decoys to test which comparisons yield the results you’re looking for!
Anchoring Bias describes people’s tendency to use the first piece of information they get as a reference point when comparing related items.
Again, researcher Dan Ariely is one of the leading voices on this subject. In his TEDTalk, he describes research for his book Predictably Irrational, which confirmed that we assess and compare items based on the first piece of information we're exposed to, known as the “anchor.”
Real-life examples of Anchoring Bias
Anchoring Bias in retail pricing
This is one of the oldest tricks in the book: cross out the retail price and show your price beside it. If you make handcrafted items, like jewelry or pottery, provide a range for retail price instead ($150 - $200).
Anchoring Bias in Pricing Services
If your business provides a service, use the same strategy listed above on your pricing page, but list the typical cost of the service instead.
Anchoring Bias in competitor price comparisons
Some businesses may want to consider showing their competitor’s prices for comparison. This tactic only works when
1) your price is actually lower, and
2) the comparison highlights extra benefits so your customer isn’t focused only on the price
But, beware: we don’t advocate pitting yourself against another competing company. Not only could they respond in kind, but aggressive tactics might turn off some customers.
Anchoring Bias in price comparisons
Create strategic price comparisons for your products and services to “anchor” the package you want to be the most popular in the middle.
You probably know what you want your ideal price for your product or service to be, so create a package that includes its features and benefits. Then, set this package in the middle of two other features.
On the left: create a slightly cheaper “base bones” package with very limited features.
On the right: create a much more expensive package with few extra features.
Placing your ideal option in the middle "anchors" it in the center, so anyone looking at it will subconsciously compare the other two options against it.
When done properly, most customers will naturally opt for the middle option because it appears cheap and offers the most value.
Anchoring Bias takeaway
The first thing we see sets the tone for how we assess related items, so set the stage for your ideal price by “anchoring” it against less valuable options.
Use visual tricks like crossing out retail pricing and strategically arranging packages to guide your customers to click on the option you want.
Protip: right-align your prices. Studies have shown that customers perceive a bigger discount when the sale price is positioned to the right of the original price.
The Paradox of Choice
The Paradox of Choice describes the psychological phenomenon that makes us feel overwhelmed by too many choices.
This is why many of us feel "analysis paralysis" when trying to choose between a lot of options.
When we have only a handful of options in front of us, we feel confident and less anxious about our choices.
Real-life examples of The Paradox of Choice
The most famous example of this paradox is the “Famous Jam Study” set up by researchers at Stanford and Columbia University.
Researchers set up two sampling stations at real-life supermarkets, one with 24 jam flavours, and one with six options.
They found that while more people stopped to sample at the station with 24 flavours, only 3% of shoppers made a purchase.
The table with six jams had fewer shoppers stopping to sample, but a whopping 30% of those who did purchase at least one jar of jam - a 900% increase!
The table with fewer options obviously outperformed the table with more options - but why?
The researchers found that the larger selection overwhelmed shoppers to the point where they weren’t able to make a decision they felt confident in… and so they made no decision at all.
The Paradox of Choice takeaway
Fewer choices reduce purchase anxiety and make the buying decision easier, so don’t overwhelm your customers with a bunch of overwhelming options.
Protip: use call-to-action statements like “Best value!” and “Customer Favourite” to help customers feel even more confident in their purchasing decision.
“Three Charms, Four Alarms”
Research shows that repeating a phrase three times makes it seem more true, but repeating it four times or more starts to make people feel skeptical.
To determine this, researchers Shu & Carlson asked participants to read about five items, each with a range of 1-6 positive claims about it. Their results found overwhelmingly that repeating a phrase three times makes it sound more trustworthy and true.
Specifically, the study also found that repeating the same claim four or more times reduced how trustworthy the participants rated the statement, while fewer repetitions “charmed” participants every time.
Real-life examples of “Three Charms, Four Alarms”
Finding examples of this principle in real life is actually pretty easy: most SaaS companies use this tactic to make their customers feel more comfortable and confident in their purchasing decision.
For reference, let’s compare a few different pricing pages:
Buffer’s pricing page has a lot going on, including calls-to-action, highlights text, and extra details to help customers feel more confident in their purchase - but you’ll note that there are only three options, not four.
We can see the same strategy applied to Sprout Social’s pricing options:
Like Buffer, there’s a lot going on here - but it doesn’t feel as overwhelming because we’re only comparing three options.
Now, let’s compare Salesforce’s pricing page:
There are a lot of the same psychological factors at play in these three examples, but according to research the additional option on this Salesforce pricing page actually damages conversions overall by reducing customer confidence.
So why would Salesforce offer four options instead of three? We can’t know exactly why, but a guess would be that they’re testing various pricing decoys in order to promote the $150/month plan.
“Three Charms, Four Alarms” takeaway
Limit the number of choices to three whenever possible. Avoid two, or even one option, as binary choices can feel limiting to potential customers and a single “take it or leave it” option also doesn’t leave them feeling empowered and excited to buy.
Protip: use the “three charms, four alarms” trick in your marketing copy as well. Never miss out on a chance to create a sense of trust with your customers!
How to build your pricing plan
Now that we’ve covered the consumer psychology behind it, putting together a pricing plan that (gently) encourages customers towards our preferred option is easy. Just follow these steps:
- Include a “decoy” option. Use asymmetric dominance to price your decoy option so it makes one of your other options more attractive.
- “Anchor” your customer’s expectations. Use visual tricks like crossing out text and strategically arranging packages on your pricing page.
- Remember the “Paradox of Choice.” Don’t overwhelm customers by offering so many options that they feel too overwhelmed to make a choice.
- Use the “Three Charms, Four Alarms” rule. Research shows that three options build trust, while four or more options decrease trust - so include three pricing options!
Start building your pricing plan today
Using strategy and data to build a pricing plan that drives the sales you want and makes customers feel great about their choice is exactly the kind of thinking that helps businesses grow and thrive.
If you’re ready to start bringing strategy and clarity to your digital marketing, drop us a line and let’s chat.
If you’d like useful articles like this one hand-picked and sent right to your inbox once a week, subscribe to our newsletter.
- by Alyson Shane
Wondering how to build a content marketing strategy that gets results?
Different pieces of content (blog posts, whitepapers, infographics, etc.) are all intended to serve different purposes as a potential customer moves through the sales funnel.
Since these pieces are tied so tightly to a customer’s intent to buy, it’s important for us to understand what each piece is designed to do, how we’ll measure its success, and how it fits into our larger marketing strategy.
Below are seven (simple) steps to get you started:
1. Set clear goals
Be as ambitious or as cautious as you’d like — just be clear about what your goals are.
Make sure your goals are achievable and measurable. This not only helps set expectations for your team (or your clients), but also tells you if your strategy is working, or if you need to adapt.
Once you’ve set your goals, decide how often you’ll review them and adjust - more on that below!
2. Do your research
Do keyword research to find out which topics are trending in your industry and the language your customers are using to talk about them. Tools like SEMRush, AnswerThePublic and (of course) Google’s Keyword Planner are great places to start.
Understanding keywords helps you identify popular content topics that you can develop content for in order to attract eyes to your brand.
3. Develop a strategy
Once your goals are defined, create a plan for how you intend to achieve them. Use your buyer personas to target the right audiences, and outline your plans for reaching them with your content.
Pay attention to what your competitors are doing, and do research into the latest techniques for engagement and community growth before executing on your plan. Create a Content Marketing Master Document that acts as a “living document” and details your process, goals, and strategies for every aspect of your content marketing plan.
4. Create your content
The content you publish should be useful, timely, and clear.
Use the research completed in the previous steps to decide on topics, keywords, and content type before creating anything.
Planning these elements out in advance helps you stay on topic and work your keywords into your text in a more natural way.
For blog content, start with a bulleted list of all the headers you want to write, and add the details in as you go, “fleshing” out the sections until you have a complete post. An example could look like this:
- 1. Set clear goals
- Be clear, achievable and measurable
- 2. Do your research
- Talk about keywords
- SEMRush, AnswetthePublic, Google
- 3. Develop a strategy
- Content Marketing Master Plan
- Mention/link to buyer personas
You get the idea. This is especially helpful if you’re planning a post that references a lot of resources since you can add the URLs of your sources in the list for quick reference.
5. Publish and share your content
The best place to publish your content is your blog.
Here’s why: your blog exists on your website, which means that by the time someone is reading your blog post they’re already within your brand’s ecosystem — you don’t need to get them to click through to your website because they’re already there.
Other places you can publish your content include sites like Medium.com and as articles on social networks like LinkedIn. Don’t forget to share it on social media and in your newsletter, too!
6. Use eye-catching visuals
Once your post is ready to go, spend some time in the photo editing tool of your choice (we like Canva) creating additional marketing materials to use on social media.
Create images featuring quotes and wisdom from your posts and share them with URLs to your blog. This gives your audience a hint at what they can expect from the post, and increases the likelihood that they’ll click through to read.
7. Measure your success
Once your content has been online for at least 30 days, conduct a detailed analysis of whether or not it achieved your goals.
If it didn’t achieve what you’d hoped, don’t get discouraged. Take this as an opportunity to learn from your experiment, and apply your knowledge to your strategy for the next piece of content you produce.
Improve your content marketing starting today
Content marketing is a big, complicated beast, and it can be hard to keep track of all the latest developments and what they mean for your business. That’s why we created our weekly newsletter, which features hand-picked articles to help you step up your content marketing game.
Looking for help developing a strategy that helps your customers connect with your brand and that grows your business? Drop us a line.
- by Alyson Shane
Facebook and Instagram are more popular with advertisers than ever before, which means the marketplace is becoming more crowded and acquisition costs are going up.
Most of our clients run Facebook and Instagram ad campaigns, and even within the past few years we’ve witnessed a steep increase in the cost-per-click: in 2020, the median CPC for Facebook ads is $0.72, up from $0.53 from the same time in 2018.
To stay competitive businesses need to stay up-to-date with the latest strategies, which is what this post is for. Let’s dive right in:
What is Facebook CPC?
CPC stands for Cost-per-Click.
CPC is how much you pay for each click on your Facebook or Instagram ad. Choosing to optimize for CPC with your ads will prioritize getting as much traffic to your website as possible.
Understanding Audience Sizes
As a rule, the smaller and narrower your audience is, the more competitive your bid will need to be. If you’re noticing that your CPCs are really high, check your audience size and see if there are any additional elements you can add to broaden your targeting.
Casting a wider net with your ads help reduce competition for your ads, which means your CPCs will be lower. This is a great tactic for more mature ad accounts who may be struggling to see a continued return on investment (ROI) on their ads.
Understanding Account Structure and Segmentation
Ads run across a variety of locations within Facebook, from the News Feed to Messenger, to Instagram feeds and Stories.
When we add segmentations like geographies or specific placements, the audience pool becomes more restricted and businesses may lose out on the chance to display their ads somewhere that would generate a lot of clicks.
Understanding Campaign Budget Optimization
Facebook recently announced that ad set budgets will be going away in favour of campaign budget optimization, which uses machine learning to automatically serve ads to your target audience based on predictive analysis.
Facebook’s algorithm prioritizes volume (the maximum number of eyeballs it can get on your ad) over conversion, so having larger audiences is ideal.
Combining multiple, smaller audiences with similar size or reach potential helps the campaign budget optimization tool identify more opportunities for conversion.
Increasing CPC Using Smart Creative
How we set up our ads behind-the-scenes can make a big difference in our CPCs, but the key to truly standout advertising is to, well… stand out.
Here are a few strategies to help:
Apply the K.I.S.S. methodology
KISS stands for “Keep It Simple and Strong” and is a great rule of thumb to follow when it comes to marketing in general, but especially with your ad creative.
Use clear and direct language, and keep the text in the images to a minimum. Include keywords that are relevant to your target audience so they clearly understand the benefit of clicking on the ad.
47% of consumers watch video ads most often on Facebook, and 71% of consumers find Facebook video ads relevant or highly relevant.
Not only is video people’s preferred way to watch an ad, but those stats tell us that Facebook’s targeting for video ads is spot-on.
Write Your Copy For the Viewer
Don’t talk about your business in your ad.
Remember: ads are your chance to convey value, and help your audience understand the benefit of clicking on the ad. Focus on them, and what they get out of it.
Keeping your ad copy tied directly tied to the value of what you’re selling builds trust with your brand.
How to Avoid High Facebook CPCs: Conclusion
Businesses need to be adaptive in order to stay competitive with their ads as Facebook and Instagram become increasingly crowded, which means staying on top of the latest strategies and developments.
- by Alyson Shane
By now most businesses realize the importance of having and maintaining social media accounts. With close to 3.5 billion people using social media each month, it’s a way to connect with your customers, boost sales, and increase brand awareness.
If you own or manage a business, posting tweets and engaging with followers on multiple platforms likely isn’t at the top of your to-do list. It’s also not something you can pass off to just anyone.
The person crafting your messages sets the tone of your brand, curates content that will resonate with your followers, and works on a strategy to yield a positive ROI.
It’s not just playing on social media all day. Crafting your content takes time.
Here are some of the factors you need to consider for each platform and how much time they take.
Post image size: 1200 x 630 (ads, cover images, profile pictures, link images, event images are all different sizes).
Character count: The max character count is 63,206, but generally, you shouldn’t be maxing that out. Keep your CTAs strong and put your important information first. The ideal length is 40-80 characters.
Hashtags: Use rarely on Facebook.
Strategic scheduling: Posts published between 1-4 pm have the best click-through and share rates on Facebook. This can vary, so make sure you measure the performance of your posts from Facebook Insights and schedule accordingly.
Tagging: With 1.69 billion Facebook users, it’s important to tag the correct people and companies.
Copywriting: Who are you speaking to? Do you have a strong CTA? Is there a link you can share in this post? Is your target market interested in this post? Is this shareable content? What’s in it for the reader to share this? Is this content timely?
Hashtags research: N/A
Image sourcing: Make sure the image you select reflects the content you are sharing. It’s important to have permission to share the images you select, especially if you plan on branding them. Pexels, Unsplash, Canva, Pixabay, and others offer a selection of free images, but make sure they are free for commercial use before you share them.
Graphic creation: Use a tool like Canva or InDesign to add your logo, copy, and other graphic elements that draw attention to your viewer.
Pin the post: You want your most relevant marketing campaigns to stay at the top of your feed. Your pinned post will likely be one of the first things people see while visiting your Facebook page, so make sure it’s timely!
Other factors: Facebook generally suppresses business posts, so the best way to get your content seen is to have your followers share it on their pages.
Total time: ~ 45 minutes
Post image size: Landscape 1080x608 px, square 1080x1080px or portrait 1080x1350 px. (Instagram stories, Instagram Live, and IGTV are different sizes)
Character count: Max 2,2 00 characters. 138-150 characters is ideal for maximum engagement.
Hashtags: Max 30. The ideal number is 5-10. Too many hashtags can get your account shadow banned.
Strategic scheduling: The general best time to post is between 9 am-11 am, but the best time to post is based on your unique audience. An app like Buffer automatically calculates your best times to post.
Tagging: People and businesses are always looking for content to share. Do you have a pen from a local art store in your photo? What about flowers from your favourite florist? Tag whoever you mention in your post to maximize your chances of being shared on their pages.
Copywriting: It’s a good idea to write both short and long posts. If you are writing a long caption, write a short, engaging summary of what you are posting about first, so your audience doesn’t miss your key message. Make sure your post has value. Is your audience learning something? Will it make them emotional? What’s in it for them when they read this post?
Hashtags research: Did you know that posts with at least one hashtag average 12.6% more engagement than posts without a hashtag? Hashtags work to organize your content and make it easier for people to find. There are community hashtags, branded hashtags, and campaign hashtags. Use these to find your niche audience, collect UGC, or promote your campaign. Look for tags that your audience, industry leaders and competitors are already using.
Image sourcing: Since Instagram is a visual platform, the photos you post are very important. Not only do you need to worry about each image, but you should also consider how your profile looks as a whole.
Do you have a colour scheme? What filters are you using?
Free image sourcing is a great option, but if you want to make sure your brand isn’t being confused for other brands or you want specific quality, try buying images from Stocksy, Twenty20, or Social Squares. They provide quality content, and it still saves your business from costly photoshoots and time spent taking and editing photos.
Graphic creation: Since people are mainly using Instagram on their mobile devices, it’s important to use an image that will quickly draw attention and get your point across. Instagram is not the place for complicated infographics and small text.
Add to highlights: It’s a great idea to share your new posts to your Instagram story and increase the chances of your content being seen. If your post is important enough to keep at the top of your page, add it to your highlights so your viewers can easily find it!
Other factors: Instagram is one of the only platforms that doesn’t allow you to link to a webpage in your caption. Asking people to go to your link in bio and leave the app gives them more steps than people are generally willing to do. Make sure you have all of your important information on Instagram, and if needed, direct them to your link in bio for more information, but you better make sure it’s updated!
Total time: ~ 50 minutes
Image size: Min. 440 x 220 px
Character count: Max 280 characters.
Hashtags: Twitter recommends using no more than two hashtags per tweet for best practice.
Strategic scheduling: The best times to post for B2B are 7 am-8 am, 11 am, 6 pm, and 9 pm. Schedule around peak times, but make sure they are the best for your business. Find an app like Later that will analyze optimal times to post content.
Tagging: Giving an @ mention informs people or businesses you posted about them. Everyone loves to share positive content about themselves or their business. One RT can lead to many more!
Copywriting: Be concise! The ideal Twitter caption is 71-100 characters. Since Twitter moves fast, you only have a few seconds to grab your audience’s attention.
Hashtags research: Give people a reason to use your hashtag. Are you running a contest? Can they participate in a larger conversation this way? Or use your hashtags to get your content discovered. Just use them sparingly!
Image sourcing: Twitter data says people are three times more likely to engage with Tweets that include visual content. Include video, images, and GIFs to your tweets.
Graphic creation: Make your visuals eye-catching, appealing, and informative while using your brand tone and voice. Use your logo to build brand recognition. Try using GIFs to add some humour to your posts.
Pin the post: If your pinned tweet is out of date it looks like you aren’t active on Twitter, or you don’t pay attention to detail. Update your pinned tweet as necessary.
Other factors: Twitter is big for sharing content. Look for opportunities to share content from your audience, affiliates, and industry leaders.
Total time: ~30 minutes
Image size: 1104 x 736 px
Character count: 700 characters (business accounts) 1300 (individual accounts)
Hashtags: LinkedIn recommends 3-5 hashtags per post.
Strategic scheduling: Working professionals and college grads make up the majority of LinkedIn users. The most successful posts on LinkedIn are posted between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. from Tuesday to Thursday.
Tagging: LinkedIn is all about making connections and showcasing your abilities. If you can tag people in your posts, do it! Often they will want to share their involvement with your company on their own pages to show off to their network.
Copywriting: You have 140 characters before LinkedIn will cut off your copy with the “See more” button. Make sure your first sentence in compelling. An interesting first sentence can get more eyes on your profile, and the rest of your content.
Hashtags research: Following hashtags on LinkedIn is a great way to find new content ideas and stay informed on what’s going on in your industry. Go to ‘Hashtags trending in your network’ to find relevant hashtags – choose ‘My Network’ and then ‘See all’ under the ‘Hashtag’ section.
Image sourcing: Many LinkedIn statuses will revolve around less visual topics like leadership, motivation, success, so you have more freedom and creativity with choosing images. Pair your image with a strong caption and you’ll be on your way to getting clicks and shares!
Graphic creation: Always stick to your brand guidelines with the same font, colours, and logo to create a cohesive, curated look.
Other factors: LinkedIn is the place to keep things professional. Make sure your profile is always up to date and offer plenty of opportunities for people to learn about your brand.
Total time: ~ 45 minutes
As you can see, hiring a social media manager is the best way to get your key messages across on each platform and maximize your ROI.
Social media platforms are constantly evolving their algorithms and interfaces. Marketers should be staying updated with the latest information. Starling Social’s high-level approach to digital marketing allows you to focus on your customers with the reassurance of knowing your social media channels are running seamlessly.
Your business needs a marketing plan that aligns with your growth goals. We develop strategies that help you create memorable, lasting connections with your customers and grow your business.
Get in touch if you’re looking for help with growing your business.
- by Rose Regier
Now that the initial shock of the magnitude of COVID-19 has worn off and it is decidedly not business as usual, it's time to revisit your social content.
You've communicated how your business offerings have changed—whether it's temporary closure, moving your store online, or curbside pick-up—so what now? What kind of content do your people want to see?
The uncertainty of not knowing when things will return to normal, or even what the new normal will look like, is making people crave familiarity, comfort, and connection. Tapping into those feelings in a way that’s appropriate for your brand is key when creating online content during this time. Here are five content ideas to help you get started.
1. User-generated content
Show your followers some love when they tag you by sharing their content with your audience.
Share other local businesses‘ content to show your support, while taking a bit of pressure off you to come up with fresh content if you're feeling overwhelmed at the moment.
Contribute to the greater good and help combat the spread of misinformation by sharing content from credible sources about navigating the pandemic.
2. Interact with your followers in new ways
People are engaging on social platforms more than ever. Two out of every three consumers who responded to an IZEA survey felt like their usage of social media was definitely going to end up increasing over the course of the next few weeks and months.
If your team hasn't gotten personal on social before, now might be the time to introduce yourselves via video. Take people on a tour of your website, your home office, or show them your curbside pick-up station.
If you're not sure what your followers want to see, ask them! Use questions and polls on Instagram stories to get insights into what your customers want from you, and then give it to them.
3. Start sprinkling in regular content
We're a month into this era of staying at home, and at this point, people don't want all COVID all the time. Take a look at some of the posts you were planning before this all happened and start sharing them intermittently.
Be mindful of your photo choices - if they show someone doing something that is currently not possible, make sure your copy recognizes this by using language like “dreaming of..” or “can’t wait to...”
If you’re feeling awkward about asking people to buy from you, acknowledge it, and let people know you’re doing what you do to keep your team employed.
4. How-tos and tutorials
Since people aren’t able to try on or touch your product, have someone on your team do a product demo. Unboxing videos are hugely popular on YouTube, so show people what they can expect when their package arrives.
If you’re service-based, think of ways to show your service through video, whether it’s sample sessions or tutorials. Don’t be afraid they’ll get too good at doing it for themselves, just take a look at all the unfortunate haircuts happening right now.
Consider sharing a video of you doing something unrelated to what your business offers - making your favourite recipe (just let’s not pretend people will have all the ingredients in their pantry), or showcasing your hidden talent. It’s ok if some of your content is just for entertainment, especially if your business is closed at the moment.
5. Feel-good content
What does your business offer that could be useful to people right now? Think about donating to local charities or supporting frontline workers in some way. Is someone in your community or on your team really stepping it up right now? Recognize them with a small act of kindness, and share it with your followers.
You could also share some of the funny moments that have happened while you're working from home. Have a dress-up challenge with your team for your next video conference and share a photo.
3 BONUS TIPS:
1. Since things are changing so quickly, it's crucial to revisit your planned posts almost daily, or if you are swamped and don't have someone managing your social media, pause your queue for now. A big news day can change people's mindsets and render your posts irrelevant or tone-deaf.
2. Keep in mind that although this pandemic is affecting everyone, not everyone is having the same experience. Framing this as an opportunity to watch Netflix and eat chips is insensitive to the real struggles people are having.
3. Humanity and connection are what people want right now - as long as it makes sense for your brand. Nobody wants to hear Burger King say "We’re all in this together."
Still stuck on what to say? Don’t worry, we’re here to help. Drop us a line and let us know how we can help you grow your business and keep connecting with your customers.
- by Alyson Shane
If you want to recession-proof your business and minimize the impact of COVID-19, you’re not alone. Companies across industries are scrambling to keep a recession that could be as bad as the Great Depression from seriously impacting their business.
As a result, we see a lot of short-term, reactionary behaviours in response to the pandemic. We’ve seen businesses furloughing or laying off their marketing teams. Other brands are cancelling advertising campaigns and taking a “wait and see” approach as things unfold.
Just like during the 2008 financial crisis, many businesses are putting their marketing plans on the chopping block to try and stay lean.
But is this the best strategy?
Studies show that companies who protect their marketing budgets during recessions tend to do much better during the recovery period.
In fact, companies that increased their marketing spending during a recession earned an average increase of 4.3% in profit.
The companies that cut back spending during an economic downturn? They saw an average fall in profits of 0.8%.
To put it more simply: companies that cut back on their marketing earned 3.5% less than the companies that increased it.
Now, ask yourself: which business would I rather be?
If your answer is “the profitable business” then it’s time to leave the short-term thinking behind and focus on the big picture.
Here’s why investing in your marketing right now helps recession-proof your brand:
Recessions don’t guarantee lower return-on-investment
We naturally assume that a recession will hurt every business, but brands that are adaptive can emerge stronger than ever, and with a higher return-on-investment (ROI) than before the downturn.
A 2018 report from ROI Genome found that in over 100 cases, more than half the brands studied saw improvements in ROI during the last recession.
Marketing during a downturn creates short and long-term ROI
On average, companies that increased their marketing investment earned an average of 17% growth in incremental sales, and more than half sad year-over-year improvements over the next two years.
Why? Because marketing increases brand equity.
“Brand equity” is a fancy way of saying: the more people who are familiar with your brand, the more they trust in the value of your products and services.
The more your customers see, hear, and interact with your brand - especially during times when they feel anxious, like during a recession - the more they’ll develop positive feelings towards your company, increasing the likelihood that they’ll buy from you in the future.
Cutting marketing guarantees losses during a recession
When you remove yourself from the conversation, people stop talking about you, thinking about you, and ultimately buying from you.
Leaving yourself out of the discussion also makes spaces for the competition to creep in and start converting your customers.
In fact, companies that cut their marketing investment suffer an 18% loss in incremental sales compared to those that didn’t.
Cutting marketing makes losses worse for struggling businesses
If you’re already operating on razor-thin margins, cutting your marketing may seem like a natural choice. But before you do, consider this:
Low consumer demand accounted for one-third of all losses in incremental sales during the last recession, while two-thirds of all losses in incremental sales were due to lower investments and the lack of market share.
It might seem prudent to cut back on marketing right now, but your business will have to make up for the lost time and try to compete in a marketplace that was more crowded than before.
How to recession-proof your brand: final thoughts
When companies allow short-term thinking to guide their decisions, they sacrifice not just brand equity, but also the long-term ROI of consistent marketing.
Agile businesses, on the other hand, take a data-driven approach to their business and develop strategies that balance short and long-term goals.
During times of uncertainty, it’s more important than ever to focus on making data-driven decisions. If you’re looking for a partner to help you make sense of the noise and keep your business top-of-mind for your customers, drop us a line.
- by Alyson Shane
Social distancing is our only option to flatten the curve of the Coronavirus spread. But the impact could be devastating for many businesses, especially those that rely on foot traffic and offer on-site services.
As a result, businesses are looking for easy and efficient ways to promote themselves during the outbreak. Luckily, there are lots of tools at your disposal to stay connected and build awareness about your brand.
Below are 10 ways to keep your customers engaged from a distance:
1. Be active on social media
People are turning to social media to stay connected so make sure your brand is active online.
This is the best time to focus on community engagement. Leaving comments and having conversations with your audience and followers shows your business is tuned-in and humanizes your brand.
If your business can afford to contribute to local food banks or other community services, now is the time to lead by example. Share the news on social media and encourage others to do the same.
2. Connect with your customers through email
More businesses are online than ever before, so cut through the noise and to talk to your customers where they live online: in their inbox.
Use your email newsletter to promote discounts, events like live streams, webinars and online training, and anything your customers might care about.
Depending on your business, this might also be a good time to do something different with your newsletter.
For example, for the next few weeks the Starling Social weekly newsletter is switching to a “Good News” edition where we’re highlighting positive stories from our community and across the globe as a way to spread a little more joy in these uncertain times. If you’re interested, sign up here.
3. Revisit your pay-per-click strategy
With more people performing searches than ever before, now is a great time to invest in pay-per-click (PPC) marketing to help your business get found.
But if your customers need to leave the house to engage with your business, it may be worth hitting “pause” on any PPC campaigns promoting those services.
If you can, focus your ads on services and promotions that customers can access and enjoy from home. Revisit your keyword strategy and consider what new and different searches they might be making from home, and focus your ad dollars on those searches instead.
PPC marketing is also a great way to use any marketing budget that needs to be reallocated due to social distancing, as Google Ads offers an impressive return on investment (ROI) of $8 for every $1 spent.
4. Revisit your SEO strategy
With more people sitting at home browsing the internet than ever before, it’s vital that your business ranks as high as possible on a search engine results page (SERP).
For reference, before the pandemic started Google SERP rankings have a return-on-investment (ROI) of roughly the following:
- 1st Position: 31% click-through rate (CTR)
- 2nd Position 15% CTR
- 3rd Position: 9% CTR
- 4th Position: 7% CTR
- 5th Position: 5% CTR
Organic CTR for positions 7-10 is virtually the same.
As we can see, the CTR drops off dramatically after the first few results, so it’s critical to make sure your website ranks as high as possible.
Looking for more insight on improving your SEO rank? We’ve got some resources that may help:
- SEO Research Tips for Building Your B2B Content
- Here Are the Answers to Your Hottest Local SEO Questions
- How to Use The KonMari Method for SEO
5. Publish content on your blog
People are hungry for content to consume with all this extra time. If your business has a blog, use this opportunity to share posts that inform, amuse, or excite your readers.
Use any SEO and PPC research you've done to inform the topics you discuss on your blog, since searches give you insight into what people are looking for. If you provide answers to the search in your post, your blog has a higher chance of ranking higher on the results page.
Bonus: publishing blog posts regularly gives you extra social media content to share, making this task a little bit easier, and gives your website a natural SEO boost.
6. Highlight gift cards and take-out options
Gift cards give your business an infusion of cash right away and guarantee that the customer will return to your business in the future. In Seattle, customers are going out of their way to buy gift cards from local businesses to keep cash flowing.
To promote social distancing, set up an e-card program and promote take-out as an option if you run a restaurant, cafe or bakery.
7. Host contests and giveaways on social media
Contests are a great way to engage your audience and gain more visibility for your brand, just make sure they’re tasteful. Book publishers can give away audiobooks and e-books to their followers as a way to pass the time indoors, for example.
A great way to support other local businesses is to collaborate on a contest giveaway - just make sure all the prizes are either digital or can be sent through the mail.
8. Promote discounts
Now is a great time to entice long-term purchases by offering discounts. If your business offers memberships, encourage customers to lock into a one-year membership now at a discounted rate. If you run a retail store, consider offering free shipping for online orders.
Depending on your business model, you can also use traditional promotions like “buy one get one” (BOGO) and free incentives.
9. Keep customers engaged with live video
If you have a store opening, product launch, or celebration planned, use Facebook and Instagram Live to stream it to your social media channels.
If you don’t have any announcements planned, use video as a way to go behind the scenes with your business. Share how your team is connecting remotely. Walk viewers through how a product gets made. Offer a live Q&A. The possibilities are endless, just be creative!
Video is a great way to keep customers engaged and put a face to your brand in addition to selling your products and services. Promote your live events and increase attendance by offering a special discount code to the first 50 or 100 people who join.
10. Host webinars and online events
Social isolation is leaving people more time to invest in training and personal development, so now is the ideal time to hone any online offerings your business may have, like webinars or online certifications.
Many businesses rely on in-person events to generate income and leads, so if you have a conference or training event that has recently been cancelled, consider reformatting it into a webcast that attendees can join from home.
How to promote your business during the coronavirus outbreak: conclusion
Nobody knows when things will go back to “normal” or even what that “new normal” will look like, so it’s more important than ever for businesses to connect with their customers online.
Invest in your social media and in content that keeps your customers engaged and excited about supporting you during this crisis. If you need help, drop us a line.
If you want more tips like this (plus good news from our community and elsewhere) sign up for our weekly, hand-picked newsletter.
Above all, stay safe out there.
The Starling Social Team
- by Alyson Shane
Wondering how to successfully work from home while social distancing?
If you said ‘yes’, you’re not alone. It’s only Tuesday, and many people across Canada and in my community here in Winnipeg are struggling with working from home for the first time as businesses close down to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
It’s a weird time, so I wanted to take a break from our typical marketing-focused content to share a few personal tips on staying focused while working from home.
I’ve been working from home for six years and manage the Starling Social team remotely. I love working from home, but I’ll be the first to admit that it isn’t always easy. This is especially true during these strange, trying times.
So if you're new to remote work and want some tips on how to successfully work from home, check out these suggestions to say sane and productive:
1. Establish how you’ll communicate
Before I get into the personal stuff, let’s start by focusing on how you’ll get work done.
In my experience, the biggest time-waster and source of anxiety when working remotely is not having a process to discuss, assign, and manage tasks and projects to completion.
At Starling Social, we use a combination of four tools, listed below:
- Gmail. All formal communication is done by email.
- Zoom. To discuss projects that are too complex for email.
- Trello. Trello is how we keep track of multiple projects, due dates, and deliverables on an ongoing basis.
- Each client has a Board, and each project has a Card that gets assigned, tracked, and completed for all collaborators to see.
- Google Drive. Everything we do - blog post drafts, spreadsheets, strategy documents, all of it - is stored in the cloud.
- We use Google Drive to track edits, changes, and updates to all our documentation. This reduces confusion and keeps email to a minimum.
2. Get into a morning routine ASAP
The act of going to and coming home from the office plays a big part in being able to separate our work and personal lives in healthy ways.
Find something in your morning routine that you can use to transition from waking up to focusing on being productive mentally.
Whether that’s a long shower or slowing down to enjoy making your coffee, find something that you can use to transition from “waking up” to “working” at home.
My morning routine is pretty simple: every morning I brush my teeth, shower, get dressed, and wash my face. I listen to a couple of podcasts (Up First and What a Day) to catch up on the news while I get ready. Each podcast is about 15 minutes, so I work a 30-minute “commute” into my morning. By the time the podcasts are over, I’m sitting at my desk about to start my day.
My office is right next to my bedroom, so I could slob over to my desk in my PJs every day if I wanted to. But the days when I’m most productive are the days when I follow my morning routine.
Trust me on this one!
2. Keep “regular” work hours
Treat your workday as a workday and keep regular work hours. If you usually work 9 - 5, stick to those hours as much as you can.
Being clear on when you’re available sets the expectation you aren’t on-call 24/7. It also has the added benefit of keeping your brain in a familiar pattern, which helps with staying focused.
The team and I keep 9 - 5 hours for our clients, but I like to be at my desk for 8:30 AM so I can get a jump-start on the day - and it usually means I can wrap up early if I get through my to-dos for the day.
3. Create a separate workspace
Working from places where you typically relax and unwind makes it harder to focus and be productive in those same spaces.
I have an office with a door that I close when I’m not working. It helps me separate my professional and personal lives and helps m focus because mentally, I know that if I’m sitting at my desk, I’m working.
Having a "workspace" can also be helpful for communicating with kids about why you're not able to spend time with them even though you're home all day.
If you don’t have the space for a separate office, at least avoid working from your bed. Most people who work in bed tend to do it before falling asleep, which can reduce melatonin and decrease the quality of your sleep.
3. Drink water
Studies have found that staying hydrated can increase your productivity, so don’t slip on staying hydrated while working from home.
When we work in an office, getting up to refill a water bottle is a chance to take a break. We can be social, stretch our legs, and allow our brain to focus on something else for a few minutes as we walk to and from the water cooler or kitchen.
At home, we don’t have the same natural distractions or reasons to wander, so we’re less likely to stay hydrated.
One trick I’ve been using is to add a few slices of cucumber to a water bottle and keep it on my desk. Having it in arm’s reach means I sip more often, and when all that’s left in the bottle is cucumber slices, I refill the bottle.
The idea of cucumber slices languishing in the bottle makes me feel icky, so I naturally refill the container to keep them hydrated right away. This self-hack has helped me drink an average of 4 - 6 glasses of water a day - way more than I used to!
4. Take breaks and stretch
Working from home can easily lead to sitting at your desk for eight hours straight, hunched over your keyboard like Gollum from The Hobbit if you aren’t careful.
I take multiple 5 - 10-minute breaks throughout my day. Sometimes it’s just to go to the bathroom or refill my water, or just to wander through the house to pet the cats and check the mail.
Whatever it is, I’m moving around and away from my desk.
If I have time, I try to work a little yoga into my afternoon. Yoga with Adriene is a great YouTube channel with easy, 10 - 20-minute yoga videos designed to do at home, and in some cases, even at your desk.
Here’s one of my favs for you to try:
5. Manage your time with the ‘Pomodoro Technique’
I use this tactic to stay focused when working on something that isn’t grabbing my attention or when I have to finish something, and I don’t want to get distracted.
The technique uses a timer to break work into intervals of 25 minutes each, separated by short breaks. Each interval is known as a pomodoro, from the Italian word for ‘tomato’.
I like this technique because it encourages breaks, which, as we just talked about, are essential for productivity and your mental well-being. The 25-minute breaks also feel attainable and tend to go by pretty quickly in my experience.
6. Make your workspace somewhere you like to be
Here’s the truth: as long as we’re practicing social distancing, this is where you’re going to be spending a lot of your time. Why not make it an enjoyable place to be?
Here’s an example of what my desk setup looks like at home.
My office is in the basement so unfortunately I can’t grow any plants near my desk, but I make up for it with big pieces of art and extra lighting.
I burn incense, I have photos of my friends on the wall, and I choose desktop wallpapers featuring bright colours that inspire me (my wallpaper is a cenote in Belize - sigh!) All of these things make my desk a positive, inspiring place for me to get work done.
If you have a desktop setup to share, tweet it at me! I'd love to see it.
7. Work when you’re most productive
The key to working from home is to figure out when you’re most productive and do your best to focus on the most important tasks during that time.
If you have kids at home due to school closures, consider when you can get the most done in-between taking care of them.
For example, you know you’re at your best first thing in the morning, try to get up and get as much done as you can. Then, if you have to manage the house, focus on the kids, or if you just need to take a damn break (don’t we all?), then you’ve got the essential things out of the way.
If you can, talk to your employer about working “flex time” so you can be there for your family while also scheduling in the time you need to get work done.
8. Review and plan ahead
If having a morning routine is how I ease into the workday, planning out my next day and reviewing anything I have coming up is how I put work down.
If you don’t already use one, I suggest getting a day planner to use while you work from home. I use a Day Designer and swear by them, but if you’re looking for a cheaper alternative, any daily planner will do.
At the end of my workday, I allot 5 - 10 minutes to reviewing the next day’s meetings and tasks and adding anything I didn’t finish to the next day’s to-do list. I typically have 3 - 8 “high” level tasks that I break down into smaller deliverables.
Here’s an example of what I mean:
- Finalize spring ad campaign development
- Resolve comments in GDoc
- Approve ads / send back edits
- If approved, send to client for final review
Breaking down my high-level to-dos into smaller tasks feels more manageable. I’ve also found that breaking down my thought process this way helps me understand my workflow, which helps me be more productive in the long-term.
This technique helps me "put down" my work mentally so I can focus on other things. It also feels great to sit down at my desk every morning and know what I can expect from my day.
Be gentle with yourself
It’s OK if you don’t feel like you can work at breakneck speed right now.
We’re all going through a strange experience together, and beating ourselves up for “not working hard enough” is the fastest way to tank our productivity and burn ourselves out.
One of the things working from home teaches us is to listen to our bodies. If you feel emotionally overwhelmed and have the time, take a catnap and come back to what you were doing later. (Odds are nobody noticed you were unavailable for that 20 minutes, anyway.)
Learning to be productive while working from home can be challenging at the best of times. If you’re struggling, don’t judge yourself. Be honest with your employer or team and figure out a system that works - we’re all here to support each other right now.
How to Successfully Work From Home While Social Distancing: Final Thoughts
With any luck, the social distancing we’re doing to stop the spread of COVID-19 will be short-lived, and our lives will go back to normal sooner than later.
In the meantime, be kind to yourselves and others. Working from home sounds glamorous until you realize it usually means not leaving your house for days at a time. That lack of social interaction can wear on people.
Please: regularly send messages to friends and loved ones. Schedule FaceTime with people you know who are self-isolating, or at home doing social distancing. Be honest with yourself and others about your mental health.
If you feel overwhelmed, want more advice on working from home, or just need to chat about how you’re feeling, DM me on Twitter. I’m always here if you need someone to talk to.
Stay safe, and don’t forget to wash your hands.
Alyson & the Starling Social team