Posts by Alyson Shane

6 Reasons Content Marketing Works for Every Industry

- by Alyson Shane

This post was written by our Copywriter & Content Strategist Hannah Clark.

Do you sell stuff, or the doing of stuff? No matter what products or services you offer, marketing your stuff is just a part of staying in business. Most businesses are, understandably, interested in the advertising efforts with the best return for their dollar. Logically, it’s an easy choice. In practice, it’s not so simple. Everyone seems to be allergic to advertising these days. So what are brands to do?

They need to be making content. A lot of them just don’t know it yet.

A while back my Mom (who is a business owner) asked me what my job title is and I told her I’m a Content Marketer. She said, “No one is going to know what that means. I don’t know what that means. You should just tell them you work in marketing.”

Well, if you don’t know what that means, this one goes out to you. This is why you (and my Mom) should be creating content, and why it works.

1. The Options Are Limitless

First of all, let’s just outline what I mean by ‘content’. When I say content, I’m really talking about multimedia. Back when the internet was taking its baby steps, we might have said ‘blogs’, ‘articles’, or ‘photos’ instead of content. 

These days, we have so many more choices. We still have blogs, articles, and photos—we also have videos, e-newsletters, memes, podcasts, infographics, ebooks, quizzes, and other interesting nuggets that keep us logging in every couple of minutes. ‘Content’ is the umbrella term for, essentially, internet stuff.

The diversity of the world of content is exactly why it’s so exciting. It doesn’t matter if you sell sweaters for cockatiels, or you’re a plumber, or you’re a non-profit trying to save the rainforests. The right kind of content can help you communicate, clearly and effectively, with who you’re trying to reach. 

It can help you break down big, complex concepts into easy-to-digest chunks. Or, you can use it to tell the story behind your organization and show people why they should care.

2. Three Words: Return On Investment

Maybe you’re familiar with this old chestnut:

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half.”

Listen. The guy who said that, John Wanamaker, died in 1922. Shit has changed. We have the internet now, and just about anything can be measured. 

We can put an article on a website or a video on YouTube and tell you exactly how many people have seen it, over any time period, and how long they stuck around. Cross-reference that data with your sales and it’s pretty obvious if something is or isn’t working.

Here’s the crazy part though; making content is possible at any price point. You can make it yourself, for free, by pointing your phone camera at yourself and talking at it. You can pay a marketing agency, like Starling, to create blog posts and email newsletters for a very reasonable rate. Or, if you want to take it all the way, you can spend a little more and get a video production company to create a knockout brand video for you. A content marketing strategy can be completely customized to your budget.

Better yet, the content you make isn’t like a typical advertising campaign that disappears (along with all your money) after the campaign ends. Unlike billboards and banner ads, content is something you own forever. You can keep content on your website indefinitely, and it only gets more valuable as it accrues traffic from Google. The more people have seen your content, the higher up it rises in Google’s search results.

3. It Sells Without Selling

Speaking of search results, here’s a question for you; what do you do when you have a passing curiosity? Do you beeline to Google? Maybe you ask Siri or Alexa?

Web search is the driving force of content marketing. Before people look for products, they’re looking for answers. Whatever you use the internet for—to learn something new, compare prices, pass the time, whatever—there’s someone on the other side of that search benefitting from your curiosity.

You don’t have to use your content to ask people to buy stuff. You just have to assume there are people out there interested in what your company is about, then make stuff for those people. Trust me, they’re out there—and if you aren’t, they’ll find your competition.

4. It Starts a Relationship...

Last year, my partner and I had just made an offer on our first home. As a first-time homeowner, I was freaking out. I was worried about stuff that probably wouldn’t happen and excited about all the possibilities of being a mortgagee.

Meanwhile, I was searching frantically for everything from home inspection, to renovation before & afters, to furniture that will be forever out of my price range. I hadn’t even closed on the place yet, but I was already forming an opinion about products, services, and brands.

During that time, I consumed thousands of pieces of content. DIY reno videos, home decor blog posts, and an embarrassing number of Pinterest pins. And that’s just the “sexy” stuff. I was also making searches like ‘how to apply foam sealant’, ‘when to replace hot water heater’, and ‘how to install wall shelving’.

Before long, I actually needed to know a lot of this stuff. When that time came, the brands that took the time to make this information available were the ones that got my business.

5. ...and Builds Loyalty

At the point that someone like me makes a decision like that, the decision is based on something more profound than price comparison. If you’ve ever checked out Simon Sinek’s massively popular TEDTalk, Start with Why, you know that an emotional connection is far more powerful in marketing than logic and reason. When you give people a reason to love you, it’s harder to leave you.

This is the point when your content marketing efforts really start paying off. Your loyal customers will start to share it.

“This workout video whipped my booty!”

“This was that article I told you about that breaks down how the stock market works.”

“This photo really inspired me to re-decorate my office.”

This, right here, is word-of-mouth in action. Content marketing helps you generate word-of-mouth by giving people something to talk about.

6. Nobody Likes Ads

This is a safe space, so let’s all admit it. We hate ads. We skip them, block them, and tune them out. We would rather have an unsightly ‘Save the Trees, No Flyers Please’ sticker on our doors than deal with the endless ads.

So let’s stop advertising to people. Let’s start talking to people. Helping people. Entertaining people.

Let’s create some friggin’ content.

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9 Tips for Writing Instagram Captions for Business

- by Alyson Shane

This post was written by our Account Manager Alicia Kurz. 

So you’ve figured out the perfect photo and got someone to stop scrolling, now what?

You have a few seconds for your caption to inform, entertain, tell a story, reflect your brand’s personality, be easy to follow, get the user to spend as much time as possible on your post, and get the coveted double tap. If you’ve done a really good job, they might even leave a comment!

No pressure.

While the caption might not be quite as crucial as the photo, if your picture isn’t telling the 1000 words it needs to be, then this is your opportunity to fill in the gaps.

Think about these eight tips before you click the share button.


1. Know your audience

Create audience personas. You probably don’t talk to your friends the same way you speak to your dad, right? Create two or three fictional people who are most likely to be engaging with your brand. Start with the basics like age, gender, occupation, behaviours and interests, and pain points — which means figuring out how you can solve their needs.

Think about the language you would use when talking to these personas when you write your captions.

2. Have a brand voice

People should be able to read your caption and have an idea of who wrote it without looking at the photo. Build a brand persona. Think of your persona like a best friend for your audience personas.

If you’re writing for a company and you are speaking for more than one person then always use “we” or “our.”

Keep it consistent and always use the appropriate language. Is your company run by sassy millennials who let you bring your pets to work or a middle-aged, straightedge man who won’t be using abbreviations like “LOL”? Sometimes it’s okay to use modern slang or abbreviations that your audience will be familiar with.

Check out the comment section on @wendys page for a healthy dose of sass.

3. Build a brand story

Your captions should be easy to follow and understand for new followers, but a great way to get viewers invested in your account is by building a brand story.

Create an emotional connection with your followers by sharing your ups and downs. Let them know the behind the scenes of upcoming events in your company. Give followers something to talk about if your brand comes up in conversation!

One of the most amazing accounts for this is @mrolrandosoria. He’s amazing at grabbing your attention with his humour, but also keeping it real with truths about hard break-ups and struggles with his career. Orlando built a social following around a gold pair of scissors, Martha Stewart and Nate Berkus, and he makes you feel like you’re in on an inside joke when these topics come up in his captions.

4. Keep length in mind

Generally, people don’t like to read, so put the important stuff first.

Only the first three lines of your captions will show up in a feed before you have to click “more” to read the entire thing. Instagram gives you about 125 characters before you’re cut off.

Don’t hide important sale information or other big news after a paragraph of text. Chances are most people will only stick around for those precious 125 characters before the next colourful image grabs their attention.

BUT, if you have something of value to say that your followers will appreciate, use the generous 2,200 character count. A great example of a company consistently using long-form Instagram captions in a significant way is @natgeo.

If your content matters to people, then they will stick it out until the end.

5. Split up text with emojis

Emojis are a great way to draw in a reader’s eye and add a little personality to your caption. You can even use emojis to replace words, but make sure your meaning is clear, and don’t go overboard!

Check out @starbucks and @localwanderer for examples of frequent, but fitting uses of emojis in captions.

6. Chill on the hashtags

Excessive hashtag use looks spammy and desperate, and you’re better than that. Limit your use to three or four relevant, targeted hashtags to get the effect that you’re looking for.  

The algorithm is always changing, so play around with your content. The “view insights” button underneath your posts on your Instagram business profile shows how many people saw your post due to hashtags.

See what works for your brand and adjust accordingly.

7. Ask “what’s in it for them?”

If you have something to offer, then offer it. It takes more than an eye-catching photo for people to stop and comment on your post.

Why should someone spend 15 seconds commenting on your photo? Will you answer each question left on your page? Can you do a monthly giveaway for people who comment on your post? Give them a reason to stop on your photo.

8. End with a call to action

Prompt your followers to do something like “comment,” “start,” “follow,” or “discover” in a way that will add value to their lives. Maybe that looks like entering a giveaway, sharing a coupon code to people who DM you, or offering valuable information. It’s all up to you!

Asking a question that your readers care about is an excellent way to get comments on your posts.

Don’t make people leave Instagram unless it’s SUPER IMPORTANT. Yes, link in bio is great, but if you are giving an option of tagging a friend or leaving the feed to click the link in bio, (will I ever find my place again?!) filling out a subscriber form, and then getting junk emails forever, they’re likely not going to do it.

9. Edit for trolls

If you use the wrong there/their/they’re, you better believe that at least three people are going to comment about it because they need to feel good about knowing the correct use of the word and EVERYONE ELSE NEEDS TO KNOW YOU DID IT WRONG.

Pro tip: use a program like Grammarly or Hemingway Editor and walk away from your writing for at least 10 minutes before you hit that share button. A fresh pair of eyes usually catches those minor mistakes.

Are you looking for someone to take over your social pages? Contact us here.

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This post was written by our Account Manager Alicia Kurz. Get to know the rest of the Starling Social team and let us know how we can help grow your business.


 

10+ Insurance Marketing Tips

- by Alyson Shane

Do you have questions about how to market yourself as an insurance broker? 

If so, then this is the post for you!

Recently Alyson was a guest on The Insurance Podcast, a podcast focusing on issues within the P&C insurance sector hosted by Pete Tessier.

This is Alyson's second time on the podcast (find the first episode here) and this time she and Pete discussed how insurance brokers can think about leveraging their passion for what they do into a personal brand that connects with future customers and showcases their expertise.

After the episode aired Pete shared 11 takeaways he'd learned from their chat, and we wanted to break them down into more detail so you can really get the most out of the discussion. Dive right in: 


1. Don't be boring

Your passion for what you do says a lot about you as a profession, so never describe what you do as boring. 

People who are passionate about what they do and eager to share that passion with the world are often the best at what they do, so use your personal brand to showcase the things about insurance that you love. Bring your audience along for the ride as you get excited about what you do and you'll help them feel excited about what you can do for them.

2. Find the social networks you love

Ideally, the social networks where you'll be promoting yourself will be an intersection between the social networks you prefer and where you know your audience are spending their time, but that won't always be the case.

As a result, it's important to recognize and assess which social networks you prefer to spend time on, and do your best to channel your energy into spending time on that social network. 

3. Explore + love your niche

Everyone has something about what they do that they love more than anything, and it's that passion for that thing that makes a personal brand stand out.

With that in mind, take the time to sit down and reflect on the things you love the most about insurance and brainstorm how you can help people have a better understanding of why you love it. 

Personal branding relies a lot on sharing your knowledge and passion with others, so lean into the things you love and amplify them as part of your social presence. 

4. Start with your personal brand

Don't rely on your brokerage to promote your personal success. 

It may seem tempting to rely on the familiarity of their branding and use it as an excuse to not have to promote yourself, but remember: your client's relationships are ultimately with you.

While you work in conjunction with a brokerage, ask about any cross-promotional opportunities between your personal brand and the company's corporate brand, and how you may be able to re-share their content, and vice-versa. 

5. Learn about Buyer Personas

Buyer Personas help you have a deeper understanding of different kinds of clients you work with, including important areas like their budgets, pain points, how they make decisions, and more.

If you've never made a Buyer Persona before, we've got a handy blog post and free resource to get you started. Click here to check them out.

6. Create a summary of where + when to share

Decide which social networks are going to be your main focus when promoting your personal brand, and decide how often you're going to share content on each social network. 

The key here is consistency. Like any relationship, the relationships you're building with your online audience take time, consideration, and planning to make sure you don't leave them hanging or ghost on an opportunity to have a conversation. 

7. Schedule your content in advance

One of the biggest barriers to being successful at social media is not planning your content in advance, and part of successful planning is using a social media scheduling tool.

This is especially true if you're planning to develop any kind of content strategy around using your blog posts, downloadable content, and other marketing tactics in order to promote your personal brand. 

Here at Starling Social we prefer Buffer, but you can also try Hootsuite, HubSpot, and Social Pilot.

8. Use a newsletter to stay in touch

Social media is more competitive than ever, which means you have to work harder, have more conversations, and invest in a more organized marketing strategy than ever before.

Luckily, you can get in touch your past, present, and future clients by asking them to subscribe to your newsletter. Once they've subscribed make sure to segment them into lists so you can send them updates that are specific to questions, interests, and information they may need to know.

9. Use your "evergreen content"

Evergreen content is content that is always relevant.

These types of blog don't focus on timely topics (like specific events) and instead focus on general topics that are usually tied to answering a search query.

For example, a post titled "5 Things You Need to Know Before You Insure Your Boat" is evergreen, while a post called "6 Things to Know This 2019 Tax Season" is not. 

Because evergreen content is typically focused on answering search queries, they're one of the best ways to increase your website's search engine page ranking without paying for pay-per-click (PPC) ads.

With this in mind, focus on creating a blog with a blend of timely news and interesting and relevant content that won't become dated. 

10. Ask "why?" 

If the business you work for doesn't want you to promote your personal brand, ask why.

We live in a hyper-competitive online environment, and though there may not be a lot of competition within the insurance industry right now, that's going to change soon. 

Podcasts like The Insurance Podcast are evidence of a changing market, and it's important that insurance agents and brokerages alike are adaptive. 

11. Update your social media bios

Make sure your social media bios are up to date!

Before you get started down the journey of defining and building your brand as an insurance agent, make sure your social media bios are consistent, clearly state who are and what you do, and are (relatively) consistent cross every social network.

Listen to the full episode here. Do you have a a question for Pete and Alyson? Submit it here.

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Improve Your Email Marketing Results in 3 Easy Steps

- by Alyson Shane

Just like Dungarees, round glasses, and Doc Martens, email marketing is making a comeback in a big way right now.

Why? Because businesses are realizing that email marketing is the fastest and easiest way to connect with customers where they live online: in their inbox.

Research published recently by MarketingSherpa found that 78% of 35 to 44-year-olds were the most likely to prefer email, and 70% of people between 18 and 34 prefer that businesses communicate with them via email. 

Unfortunately, just because people prefer it doesn't mean that the tactic is as effective as it could be. ReturnPath's State of Email Marketing found that less that the average open rate for emails is 15%, and 60% of marketers reported average click-through rates or just 8%! 

What's going on here? If email marketing is so effective, why are so many businesses struggling to see the results they're looking for? 

The answer is simple: customers have become more sophisticated in how they consume content, which means businesses need to step up their email game if they're going to stay competitive, creative, and successful. 

Here are three ways you can amplify your email marketing efforts, increase engagement, and foster better connections with your customers:


1. Segment Your Lists

Most businesses have one 'Master List' they send all of their emails to regardless of how, when, or why that person subscribed, but this is the old way of doing things.

Take some time to organize your email list based on one (or more) of these metrics:

  • Purchase history
  • Past email clicks or opens
  • Website activity
  • Demographics
  • Job title
  • Connections (e.g. conference leads)

Think about it this way: if +70% of people want to receive emails, then you're competing with a lot of clutter in any given inbox. By sending emails targeted at specific segments of your list you can speak directly to their pain points, needs, and pique their curiosity.

Segmenting your list gives you a high-level view of the different kinds of people who want to hear from you, and gives you a chance to customize what you say to them.

By creating content that is tailor-made for a specific segment of your audience not only tells your reader that your business is actively working to help solve their unique challenges, but also increases your metrics.

Check out a couple of jaw-dropping stats about email segmentation from MailChimp:

  • Segmented emails earn 14.31% more opens than non-segmented campaigns.
  • Segmenting by open date earns 29.56% higher than non-segmented campaigns.
  • Segmenting by merge field earns 54.79% more clicks than non-segmented campaigns.

2. Use a Triggered Messaging Program

One of the sneaky tricks to getting people to engage with your emails is to engage strategically with them. One way to do this is to launch a triggered messaging program.

Triggered messages are emails that get sent automatically when a user does (or doesn't) take a specific action. For example, if someone abandoned their cart on your e-commerce website, you can send them a "triggered message" at a strategic time offering them a discount if they complete their purchase.

By taking the time to make your interactions meaningful and related to the person's experience you can build trust with your customers and encourage them to buy from you more often.

3. Pay Attention to Your Data

Data is what separates the wheat from the chaff when it comes to your marketing. 

This is especially true when it comes to email marketing because data plays such an important role in understanding your audience so you can personalize your communication with them.

Some things to start tracking and measuring include:

  • Mobile vs. desktop viewers (use this to optimize how your emails are laid out)
  • Conversion rate (how many people clicked on a link and completed an action like filling out a form or buying a product)
  • Which Calls-to-Action (CTRs) are earning the most email signups (use them more)
  • How many contacts share your email (which types of articles and offers tend to get shared the most)

Create Real Connections

The key to running a successful business is to take the time to understand your customers and connect with them through your content. Implementing these three tactics will allow you to:

  • Build trust with your audience
  • Prove you're listening to their wants + needs
  • Provide them with content that has value - not just salesy BS

These are the things that the modern customer cares about, and by implementing these three steps you can make sure your emails are creating connections and conversations needed to keep them engaged and interested in your brand.

If you want help segmenting your list and building a better email marketing strategy, just let us know.

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What is Google for Nonprofits? Everything You Need to Know

- by Alyson Shane

Want access to free advertising for your nonprofit? Then you've come to the right place! Today we're going to be digging deep into a little-non program that Google runs for nonprofit organizations. 

Officially known as Google for Nonprofits, this program is excellent for NPOs with limited budgets who are looking to raise awareness, increase donations, and find volunteers. However, this program isn't very well-promoted, and figuring out how to apply can be tricky.

This post will tell you exactly what Google for Nonprofits is, what the eligibility restrictions are, and will help you decide if it's right for you. 

Let's dive right in:


What is Google for Nonprofits?

Google for Nonprofits is a free program for eligible nonprofits where Google gives away premium services (like $10,000 USD a month in Ad credits, custom G Suite accounts, and more) for free.

Yes, you read that right: $10,000 USD a month in free Google Ads. 

Google Ad Grants are, unsurprisingly, the most popular program from the Google for Nonprofits suite. This program gives NPOs $10,000 USD a month to spend on pay-per-click (PPC) advertising through Google. 

Even if you don't spend a ton of time using the tools, it's definitely worth applying since a lot of the products offered can amplify the work your NPO is doing even if you never touch it again after you've been set up.

Which Features Does Google for Nonprofits Have?

Below is a list of each of the products included in the Google for Nonprofits program, listed (broadly) in order from "most useful" to "useful in a few cases." However, since every NPO is different, it's worth assessing them individually and deciding which are the most relevant to your NPO. 

One thing to note: not all products are available in all countries. Check the list here.

G Suite for Nonprofits (Google Apps)

Cost savings: $5 USD person per month, vs. paid Google Apps accounts.

G Suite (formerly known as Google Apps) may already be familiar to you if you use Gmail, since it's basically the enterprise version of Gmail. 

Most NPOs use tools like email, documents, and spreadsheets, so this app is likely to be the tool you'll make the most use of in your day-to-day operations. 

What You Get

  • Unlimited Gmail accounts that end in @yourdomain.com instead of @gmail.com
  • Admin access over all your organization's accounts
  • Access to Google drive, docs, sheets, slides, etc.
  • 30GB of space for Drive documents and email hosting
  • 24/7 support (with a real human) via email, chat, and phone

How It Helps Your NPO

We're already huge fans of using Google docs for managing content and editing, but by getting Google to host all your data is undeniably the best feature this product offers.

Not only does this free up space on your NPO's server, but it also gives you total control over your organization's data. I many cases NPO staff may be forwarding or answering emails from their personal Gmail, which can cause confidentiality issues and can cause problems with the flow and archiving of important information. 

By using Google for Nonprofits, you can make sure that all staff are using the same email address, keeping your organization's data safe and secure.

Other things you can do include:

  • Using Google Sites to create new intranet pages for storing organizational information for projects, campaigns, and new hires.
  • Use Google Hangouts to send messages and video chat with multiple users within Gmail, or just use it as your office phone line. 


Google Grants (Google Ads)

Cost savings: Up to $10,000 USD/month (and it generates donations!)

As far as we're concerned, Google Grants the most powerful feature in the Google for Nonprofits offering, since Google is literally giving your NPO $10,000 USD per month to spend on fundraising via pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.

If you're not familiar with PPC, it refers to the text ads you see when you perform a Google search, like this:

While this is a great program, Google Ads has a pretty steep learning curve that unfortunately scares many people away from utilizing it. If you need help managing your PPC campaigns, just drop us a line.

What You Get

  • $10,000 USD per month of free PPC advertising 
  • Unlimited cost-per-click if you install Google's tracking code
  • Ads are text-only and run only on Google.com (not other networks/search partners)
  • Access to the full Google Ads platform to manage and measure your campaigns.
  • Access to Google Ads express, for people who don't want to actively manage their PPC campaigns.*

How It Helps Your NPO

First off, it's free advertising money. Free!

Secondly, you can use these PPC ad dollars to promote a variety of things, including your next event, attracting donors, growing your email subscriber list, or just raise awareness about your NPO and the work you do. Need more incentive to sign up? $10,000 USD translates into roughly 5,000 website visitors per month! 

But this is about more than just boosting your web stats; Google Ads allows you to target super-specific niches so get the most out of your ad dollars. 

Other things you can do include:

  • Create content relating to topics you want your NPO to be an authority about (e.g. "saving the bees") and use Google Ads to position yourself as a thought leader.

* We don't recommend using this option, since Google's algorithms won't bring you as much useful, targeted traffic as using the full tool.

YouTube Nonprofit Program

Cost savings: Save the 2.9% - 3% fee other processors charge, plus access to YouTube Spaces is worth thousands of dollars if there's one near you.

Does your NPO use videos as part of your marketing strategy? If so, then don't miss out on your chance to start using the YouTube Nonprofit Program!

This program amplifies your YouTube channel by promoting it more often, and allows you to connect to YouTube's network of content creators so you can develop meaningful partnerships with people who can help promote your NPO and the great work you do.

What You Get

  • The ability to add "Donation" and "Link Anywhere" cards on your videos, which amplify your videos and make them into a more interactive experience
  • ZERO transaction fees on any donations processed through YouTube
  • Access to YouTube Spaces, Google's professional production studios located in various cities around the world, for channels with +1000 subscribers

How It Helps Your NPO

Telling your NPO's story is one of the most important ways to help donors and volunteers feel aligned with your cause, and creating a series of engaging videos for different projects your organization manages can be a great way to "humanize" the work you do.

For example, if your NPO works to end homelessness in your city, create a short video showcasing success stories from people who have transitioned out of homelessness and include a donation card at the end. This way donors can see the tangible positive outcomes of donating, can donate right through the donation card, and saves your NPO the 3% processing fee!

Google One Today

Cost savings: Processing fees, but setup can be labor-intensive.

Google One Today is an app Google developed specifically to increase visibility for NPOs. This daily donation app presents users with a new NPO to consider donating to each day. Users can also "pay it forward" to friends, which essentially funds their donation and prompts them to download the app. 

What You Get

  • The ability to list your NPO on Google's One Today app

How It Helps Your NPO

The biggest way this service benefits your NPO is to reach new audiences. Google One Today is especially useful for small NPOs and other community organizations because it's a smaller, and therefore less competitive platform than other social networks. 

Once someone has donated, you can push those new contacts to your website (and add them to your mailing list), or collect small donations through the app.

Google Earth Outreach

Cost savings: The Maps API is a paid service; the cost becomes eligible since you can now access 25,000 maps a day for free. The real value of this product is that it allows you to integrate Google's data sets with your apps and campaigns.

It's important for us to note that this product isn't for everyone. However, for the right nonprofit, it could really make an impact. Google Earth Outreach allows you to access to their satellite and map data - perfect for NPOs who do a lot of international development work. 

What You Get

  • Access to the premium Google Maps API, which lets you plot sensitive data on a map while keeping the data internal to your organization.
  • Access to Google's Open Data Kit, which allows you to link Maps to proprietary software and apps. 
  • The ability to display customized visualizations and layers over Google Maps.
  • The ability to publish Google Maps on your website(s).

How It Helps Your NPO

Like we said: this tool isn't for every organization, so we suggest checking out Google's case study with Charity: Water. It shows how this NPO leverages the Google Maps API to send donors GPS coordinates of where new wells were being built, which connected donors with a specific project to increase the perceived impact of their donation.

Like we said earlier: telling your organization's story is critical to success, and this is another powerful tool in your NPO's arsenal to connect donors projects in a meaningful sense.

Are You Eligible for Google for Nonprofits?

Most 501c3's are eligible for Google for Nonprofits, but there are definitely a few exceptions you need to be aware of, including:

  • Government entities and organizations, public libraries, and 501c4's.
  • Schools, academic institutions, universities, and childcare centers. If you're one of these, take a look at the Google for Education program to see what Google offers you.
  • Hospitals and healthcare organizations. 
  • Separate departments within an organization or fiscally sponsored organizations. 

Not sure if you qualify? We can help you figure that out

Growing Your Nonprofit with Google for Nonprofits

Whether or not you make use of the whole range of products available to your NPO through Google for Nonprofits, it's worth applying anyway - after all, it's hard to argue with "free"!

Even better, Google Grants is literally free money - and $10,000 USD a month in free money at that! Even if the stipulations force you to be creative with how you spend it, working with people who can help you make the most of your free ad dollars is worth increase in website traffic, awareness, and donations you'll receive as a result of enrolling in the program.

Are you ready to get started with Google for Nonprofits? Drop us a line and let us know more about your organization, and how we can help develop a PPC strategy that makes the most of that free $10,000 USD per month spend. 

Do you know an NPO who would benefit from this program? Tweet us!

Have a question Google Ads or PPC? Leave us a comment on our Facebook page.

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How to Use The KonMari Method for SEO

- by Alyson Shane

One of this season's most binge-worthy Netflix shows is, undeniably, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. This charming and quirky reality tv show follows Marie Kondo, a Japanese organizing consultant and creator of the KonMari method, as she visits families to help them organize and tidy their homes.

As you can see, Marie Kondo has quickly become a household name since then:

Since KonMari has been such a success at helping improving their personal lives, we started thinking: what if we applied the principles behind KonMari to improve SEO? 

What can we "tidy up" to improve our organic page rank?

What about our pages (or website!) doesn't spark joy?

Today we're going to explore these themes (and more!) as commit ourselves to developing an SEO strategy that keeps our websites clean, tidy, and building towards our ideal lifestyle. Let's dive right in:


Applying KonMari to SEO

How can we apply the KonMari method to the basics of SEO? Let's start by considering The 6 Basic Rules of Tidying Up:

  1. Commit yourself to tidying up
  2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle
  3. Finish discarding first
  4. Tidy by category, not by location
  5. Follow the right order
  6. Ask yourself if it sparks joy

Okay - maybe at first glance SEO and KonMari don't seem 1-1, but stick with us: we've massaged these principles into a roadmap so you can declutter your website and create an SEO strategy that sparks joy.

1. Commit Yourself to Tidying Up (Your Website)

SEO success doesn't happen overnight. It takes time, effort, and an investment in areas like content creation (hello, blog posts!), a social media strategy, and an ongoing commitment to creating a website that is responsive, easy to read, and includes keywords and phrases that boost your organic Search Engine Page Rank (SERP).

Commit yourself to doing a proper SEO audit at least once per fiscal quarter, and to implementing any steps needed to correct the errors you find. Commit resources to tools that make sure you're receiving actionable data - and if you don't have the knowledge (or time) to do it yourself, partner with someone who can.

2. Imagine Your Ideal Lifestyle (Once Your Website Reaches Its Full Potential)

Ask yourself: what does success look like to me, and what kind of lifestyle would that mean for my life? Spend time thinking about the type of life you want to live, and how your website contributes to that success. 

For example, figure out which keywords will help your website be seen by as much of your target audience as possible, and then rank those keywords based on which of them would drive your "ideal lifestyle" (aka: growing your business, closing leads, generating revenue, etc.)

3. Finish Discarding (Low-Quality Content) First

Before we can dive into the process of tidying up and sparking joy, we need to start by discarding the things that are no longer bringing us joy. 

For your website, this can include:

Clear Up Search Indexes. Find any old PDFs, subdomains, or subfolders that may be hanging around and get rid of them.

Discarding Old Content. Reevaluate your website, tighten up your content blocks, and remove any stale or irrelevant content.

Discard Irrelevant Items. Review your robots.txt to make sure you're not blocking any items that search engine crawlers may need to access to index your site.

Disregard Irrelevant Pages. When was the last time you cleaned up your web pages? If you've never removed old or irrelevant pages, use sitemap tool to get started.

4. Tidy by Category, Not By Location (in the SERP)

Now that we've taken care of discarding the useless stuff, we can focus on tidying up our websites based on category, not where we want to end up on a SERP.

Some things you can tidy (aka optimize based on keyword research) include:

  • Meta titles
  • Meta descriptions
  • Headers (H1, H2s, etc.)
  • Image alt texts
  • Meta descriptions 

5. Follow the Right Order (As You Go Through Your SEO Efforts)

This is where things can get a bit tricky: not only do you need to use your understanding of what will make the biggest impact re: your ranking factor, but you also need to figure out how to implement those changes efficiently. 

6. Ask Yourself If It "Sparks Joy" (Hint: a Boost to Organic SEO Should 'Spark Joy'!)

This should be obvious: are the steps you're taking leading you to the results you want? Are the changes you're implementing helping, or harming your SERP ranking?

If not, stop spending time on those tactics and start focusing on changes that contribute to your ideal lifestyle (see #2 in this list). For example, if you're spending a ton of time creating content that isn't yielding the results you're looking for (aka: sparking joy) then pause that and re-evaluate ways you could be spending your time that would lead to more joy.

Getting Organized, The SEO Way

Even if you don't follow the KonMari method word-for-word, it's important to have an organizational plan to help you stay on top of your SEO efforts. As this industry continues to grow and impact how businesses find their customers (and vice-versa) it's not enough to assume that we can fix SEO problems as they happen - we need to be active in identifying and resolving them. 

How do you find joy in your content and SEO? Tweet us!

Have a question about SEO? Leave us a comment on our Facebook page.

Want help developing a strategy that earns you the SERP ranking you want? Drop us a line

Want to follow our Company Page? Follow us on LinkedIn.

Want some nice stuff to look at every day? Let's connect on Instagram.

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10 Easy Hacks for Better Instagram Stories

- by Alyson Shane

As of 2018, Instagram users now spend more than half their time in the app watching Stories.

This means that businesses need to be more active on Instagram Stories than ever before, and that creating interesting, engaging Stories is critical to a successful Instagram presence.

If you have the time, tools like Photoshop and Canva are great for turning so-so Stories into eye-catching pieces of art... but what about when you're on-the-go, or when you're pressed for time?

To help, today we're sharing 10 of our top Instagram Story hacks to make your content stand out without needing to open up a design tool!

If you're looking for fast, easy ways to add some eye-catching variety to your Instagram Stories, you've come to the right place. Tweet at us and let us know which of these hacks you found the most helpful!

Let's dive right in...


1.  Match Hues Using the Color Picker

Matching the color of your pen or text to other hues in a photo helps make your Stories look professional and coordinated.

How to Hack It:

  1. Open the text or pen tool.
  2. Select the eyedropper tool (to the left of the colors)
  3. Move the color picker around the image until you find the right shade.
  4. Write or draw using the hue you've just selected.


2. Create a Cohesive Look Using Guides

Misaligned text can look great sometimes, but if you're going for a cohesive look with your stories you need to be using the design guides to square up your text blocks and make sure your text doesn't detract from your message.

How to Hack It:

  1. Write your text.
  2. Tap and hold your text.
  3. Move it around until the guidelines appear.
  4. Align as desired to create a cohesive look.


3. Get Funky With Rainbow Text

Prismatic (rainbow) text is an easy way to add some pizzaz to your stories (or show support for our LGBTQI pals).

How to Hack It:

  1. Write your text.
  2. Highlight all the text.
  3. Press and hold a color until the extended palette appears.
  4. At he same time, unselect one letter of your text and move your finger to a new color.
  5. Repeat these steps until every letter is a different color.


4. Add Subtlety With Ombré Text

Ombre is the technique of blending one color hue into another in order to create a light to dark effect. 

How to Hack It:

  1. Write your text.
  2. Highlight all the text.
  3. Press and hold a color until the extended color palette appears.
  4. At the same time, unselect one letter of your text, and move your finger either up or down to create a lighter or darker hue.
  5. Repeat this step until all letters have a unique shade.


5. Add Some Flair Using Geometric Shapes

Here's a secret to adding some graphical elements to your Story without having to use Photoshop: use resized punctuation marks to create geometric shapes.

How to Hack It:

  1. Open the text frame.
  2. Type a punctuation mark(s) 
  3. Resize the text frame.
  4. Use it in a Story as a border, or around text elements.
  5. Protip: Different fonts have different looks for their punctuation marks, so make sure to play around with them to find your favorite!

6. Use the Eraser Tool to Reveal Patterns

Erasers aren't just for undoing mistakes! This tool can also be used to reveal interesting patterns, or even parts of the image background. 

How to Hack It:

  1. Upload your image or create the pattern you want to reveal.
  2. Select the pen tool.
  3. Press and hold to fill up the screen (like we did in #1)
  4. Select the eraser tool.
  5. Draw with the eraser tool to reveal the photo or pattern underneath. 

7. Use The Drop Shadow to Create Depth

Drop shadows are used to make an object, or text, look like it's floating about the background. An easy way to create this effect is to layer your Story text.

How to Hack It:

  1. Write text in one color.
  2. Copy and paste the text in another color.
  3. Layer the two text frames on top of each other to create the desired effect.

8. Simulate Kerning for Emphasis

Kerning is the process of adjusting the space between letters in a proportional font to help the text look balanced and pleasing. 

Designers use kerning to make sure text looks "right" in an ad, and you can use it in your Stories to add extra emphasis to words or phrases.

How to Hack It:

  1. Write your text.
  2. Insert a space between each letter (or more, depending on the effect you're going for).


9. Pin Text and Stickers in Videos

Pinning text or stickers to a video can add some humor or surprise to your Story. 

How to Hack It:

  1. Write the text.
  2. Press and hold it until the "Pin" slider appears.
  3. Pin the text in the desired location to add some oomph to your video Story.

10. Hide the Location Sticker for a Cleaner Look

Location stickers add your story to a particular city's Story, which makes it easier for local users to discover your content. 

However, location stickers in ever single Story can look ugly and obtrusive. Instead, hide it within other elements of your Story!

How to Hack It:

  1. Add a location sticker.
  2. Pinch it to make it smaller.
  3. Hide it underneath text or another sticker.

These hacks may take some practice, but by mastering them you can create eye-catching and engaging Instagram Story content for your business... without needing to use a design program!

What's your favorite IG Story hack? Tweet us your favorite.

Have a question about hacking your Stories? Leave us a comment on our Facebook page.

Want help creating an Instagram strategy that grows your audience? Drop us a line

Want to follow our Company Page? Follow us on LinkedIn.

Want some nice stuff to look at every day? Let's connect on Instagram.

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What to Say on Social Media for International Women’s Day 2019

- by Alyson Shane

It's easy to turn to social media on a day like International Women's Day (happening on Friday, March 8th, 2019) and "Like" someone else's post, reshare it, or add a comment. 

However, the most forward-thinking brands will know to lead with their own original content.

We live in a time when it's more important than ever for businesses to find ways to tell stories about their brand, and leading the discussion with your own content articulates a strong point of view while also showcasing a brand's core values, purpose, as well as their voice and tone across their social networks. 

(Want to develop your brand's voice + tone? Get started with this post.)

Whether you use text, images, video, gifs, or a combination of all four, events like International Women's Day offer valuable opportunities to communicate with your customers and participate in discussions about topics and themes that guide your business values.

Luckily, it's easier than ever to tell thoughtful stories on social media. Here's how you can capitalize on storytelling for International Women's Day 2019:

1. Get Input From Women in The Company

Any marketing campaign worth its salt will involve building Buyer Personas, which are built by talking to customers, client service staff from within the company, and research into customer problems and possible solutions. 

Similarly, if you're planning to publish content celebrating International Women's Day 2019, talk to the women in your organization about what they see as some of the key challenges that need to be overcome in order to achieve balance in the workplace.

Whether that's trying to enter male-dominated industries, not being talked-over by male colleagues, or deciding how to carve out a career path, the women you work with probably have lots of thoughts you can draw from in order to create truly authentic content for the day.

Remember: "diversity" doesn't just apply to gender. Make sure to talk to women from diverse ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, and across age groups to paint as clear a picture with your content as you can.

2. Boost Value by Being Specific

Anyone who has managed a Twitter account knows how easy it is to craft a tweet (or other social media post) that says "Happy International Women's Day! We support diversity in the workplace" and consider it a job well done.

Sure, a post like that may get you a few likes, but a generic post doesn't add anything to the larger conversation about equality, women's rights, or addressing diversity in the workplace. A more generic post also suggests that you haven't taken the time to understand the event besides looking into which hashtag is being used this year.

For example, International Women's Day has a history that dates back to the early 1900s, and has been highlighting the rights and achievements women have accomplished since before diversity and inclusion became a board-level priority in many companies. 

Considering how long it's been celebrated, it probably comes as no surprise that how we celebrate International Women's Day changes from year to year. In 2019, for example, the theme is "Balance for Better." Here's what their website says:

From grassroots activism to worldwide action, we are entering an exciting period of history where the world expects balance. We notice its absence and celebrate its presence. Balance drives a better working world. 

This means that your social media strategy should speak directly to how your business is seeking to strike a better balance. That could mean hiring more women, creating a mentorship or peer-networking program, or participating in conferences that focus on women in business, like SHEday here in Manitoba. 

You should also consider using the 2019 hashtag #BalanceForBetter to show that you're speaking specifically to this year's event, as well as ongoing, more general hashtags like #IWD and #IWD2019 to make sure your posts are included in searches for similar kinds of content.

3. Get Creative With Your Creative

The vast majority of the best interactions on social media happen spontaneously, but that doesn't mean that a little pre-planning won't help save time (and sanity) while keeping up with all the conversations happening on March 8th.  

For example, instead of posting a single image or post, why not develop a series of posts that can be added to your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram profiles (bonus points if you use Instagram Stories to share your International Women's Day stories!)

It's also important to keep in mind that different social networks favour different kinds of content. For example, while a post featuring short text with an image and a URL leading back to your website is perfect for Twitter, Instagram requires you to have a stronger visual strategy and doesn't let you link to URLs in the body of your posts. 

Once you've decided which social platforms to post to, take time to tailor your messages to each platform's requirements so they stand out and shine.

Walk the Walk

This year's theme for International Women's Day 2019 is "Balance For Better," and that doesn't just mean posting about diversity and balance for 24 hours and then ignoring these ideals until the same time next year.

Use International Women's Day as an opportunity to showcase how your brand is addressing diversity issues in the workplace, and keep the conversation going - not just on social media, but at your board room table. 

Take the time to listen to what your female colleagues and team members are saying, and use this day as an opportunity to show that you're committed to a more balanced, equal future for everyone.

Want help developing a digital marketing strategy that tells your company's story on social media? Drop us a line

You can also tweet at us, follow us on LinkedIn, and connect on Instagram.

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The Starling Social team is growing again!

- by Alyson Shane


It's been a busy few months over here at Starling Social HQ, and we're thrilled to announce that we've added yet another dynamo to the team:

Meet Hannah Clark!

Hannah is a graduate of the Creative Communications program at Red River College, majoring in Advertising. Since then, she's held roles as social media coordinator, content producer, and content manager at several well-respected local agencies, and is joining the Starling Social team as our copywriter and content developer.

Hannah is passionate about storytelling and employing diverse mediums to bridge the gaps between people, and spends her free time reading up on emerging industry trends, exploring the world with her partner, and decorating her home to offset the calamities caused by her dog and two cats.

Please join us in welcoming Hannah to the team!


 

How to Use Targeted Landing Pages To Sell Your Products & Services

- by Alyson Shane

One of the best ways to market your products or services is by using targeted landing pages.

Targeted landing pages are pages on your website that are customized to speak to specific buyer personas, which you drive traffic to through organic or paid advertising.

These pages offer specific information about how your products or services can solve reader's problems, creating a convincing argument to get them to convert. 

Not sure how to use a targeted landing page to sell your products or services? Keep reading to find out!

How to Use Targeted Landing Pages to Sell Your Products or Services 

Improve Your Conversion Rates

According to Insightera, account-based marketing converts 4x more traffic than generic marketing towards less targeted audiences. 

Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is the process of personalizing your marketing strategy to connect with specific people, or with a particular type of consumer (identified by creating buyer personas).

Let that sink in: you can earn four times as many conversions just by changing your marketing strategy. 

If that's not a reason to rethink your current marketing strategy, we're not sure what is!

Reach Audiences on a Personal Level

Personalizing your landing pages allows you to create marketing copy that speaks to them and identifies their specific pain points.  

Maybe you sell a service that can offer benefits to entrepreneurs as well as managers in middle-market companies, for example.

These two buyer personas: "Entrepreneur" and "Manager," have different pain points that need solving, which will cause them to be interested in different aspects of your product.

Creating separate landing pages for both buyer persona types will allow you to focus on converting each of them individually by speaking directly to how your product solves their problems. 

Improve Your SEO

Creating targeted landing pages on your website is also offers a boost for your organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) traffic.

By creating more opportunities to add in keywords and use them strategically on your website you can draw in potential customers and engage them for a significant amount of time. 

The more engaged your visitors are, the more valuable your website looks to search engines like Google, which increases the likelihood that other potential customers will find you when they're looking for information.

How to Implement Targeted Landing Pages on Your Website


You didn't think we'd bring you all this way and leave you hanging, did you? Keep reading to learn how to build targeted landing pages that convince and convert:

1. Create a Well-Designed Page

Never underestimate the power of a well-designed webpage when it comes to increasing conversions. 

A well-designed, targeted landing page should have the following qualities:

  • Lots of white space
  • Images
  • Only one call to action

Taking the time to build landing pages that are easy to navigate and clearly convey what your product does, and why customers should buy it, makes the process of converting them that much easier.

2. Write Engaging Headline and Page Titles

Don't forget to use your headline and page titles to show your potential customers how your product or service will solve their problems. 

The goal of your page should be apparent immediately in your page title, and repeated in your headline and any additional sub-headings.

After all: you want your page visitors to know exactly why they're on your website, and what they should do next (hint: it's buying your product!)

3. Focus on the Benefits

Make the benefit of your product immediately apparent in your landing page copy. Keep sentences short and snappy, and don't include unnecessary information if possible. 

Make sure to customize your targeted landing page copy by using keywords relevant to different buyer persona types. 

4. Highlight Your Call-to-Action

It's critical that there is only one call-to-action (CTA) per landing page.

Your CTA should relate to the pain points felt by that buyer persona, and tie into the information you've already outlined in your landing page copy.

Using a single CTA allows you to give your potential customer a single, ultra-customized recommendation, and the more seen, heard, and understood they feel, the likelier they are to convert. 

5. Keep Important Information 'Above the Fold'

"Above the fold" refers to the portion of a website that's visible in a browser window when the page first loads. 

The portion you have to scroll down to see is "below the fold," and it's essential to keep all information, including your CTA, "above the fold" on your targeted landing page.

Even better: include any need-to-know information in the first 50-100 words, so your potential customer understand the product, the benefits, and why they should buy right away.

Bonus: Use Targeted Testimonials

Include testimonials from customers or clients who match the buyer persona types you're targeting with each landing page.

For example, for a landing page targeted at entrepreneurs, include a testimonial from a startup or customer in a similar field stating specifically how your product solved their problem.

Including testimonials can result in a 58% increase in conversions, so if you haven't been asking your customers for testimonials to use on your targeted landing pages, now is the time to start. 

Ready to Start Converting?

By creating targeted landing pages for each of your buyer persona types, you can create a personalized experience for your potential customers which feels natural and clearly speaks to their pain points. 

By creating a seamless experience with your targeted landing page, you can make the process of deciding to take action that much easier for any potential customers.

Are you struggling with web copy that doesn't convert? Drop us a line

Have some feedback on this post? Leave us a comment on our Facebook page.

Have some landing page tips to share? Tweet us your favorite.

Want to follow our Company Page? Follow us on LinkedIn.

Want some nice stuff to look at every day? Let's connect on Instagram.

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