Traveling Teddy Bears, Reckless Cats, and Lots of Butter: 10 of the Best Ads from November

The days are getting shorter, the air is getting colder, and the airwaves are awash with holiday spirit (and sales!). 

This month’s ad roundup includes some top picks from the first wave of holiday ads, but there were also plenty of non-holiday gems for those of us that would prefer to keep the pine trees and snowflakes at bay for another few weeks. Subscribe to HubSpot's Agency newsletter today.

Read on to get the scoop on the most sentimental, adorable, and unexpectedly funny ad campaigns from the past month.

1) Temptations

In this clever ad for a brand of cat treats, agency adam&eveDDB created the perfect holiday wonderland — complete with sparkling trees, a Christmas roast, and even an electric train set. Then they invited 22 cats to rip it all to shreds in spectacular fashion.

“The internet is full of cats being cute and fluffy, but in reality cats are incredibly mischievous,” client marketing director Denise Truelove said to AdWeek. “That tension led to something quite fun in this Temptations holiday video and campaign.”

Unsurprisingly, the cat actors weren’t super easy to work with. It took three weeks for handlers to train the feline hoard for their dramatic entrance and exit, and three days to collect shots of them gleefully destroying the set. 

2) Georgetown Optician

In this bizarre but undeniably charming spot for eyewear retailer Georgetown Optician, a family of oddball opticians (inspired by the company’s real founding family) visit their formidable matriarch, Grandma Ida, at her lavish Gothic residence.

When the family’s heirloom pair of glasses suddenly goes missing, a fantastic whodunnit ensues, complete with a pack of evidence-sniffing hounds and plenty of surreptitious sideways glances from the quirky cast.

The meticulously designed ad was produced by DC-based agency Design Army, whose nearly obsessive attention to detail pays off. The Wes Anderson-style characters, wacky, well-paced plot, and wonderfully exaggerated narration combine to create one of the most delightfully unique ads we’ve seen in a while.

3) Organic Valley

This ad from the folks at Tennessee-based agency Humanaut combines two great things: deadpan humor and butter.

When a June 2014 cover of TIME Magazine declared “Eat Butter,” the farmers at Organic Valley rejoiced — their time to shine had finally come. This cheeky spot chronicles the end of the “war on butter,” interviewing farmers about how they’ve cultivated better organic butter over the years when consumers shunned the “rich, creamy semi-solid gold.”

Organic Valley and Humanaut are no strangers to producing quick-witted campaigns. Back in May 2016, the pair parodied artisanal coffee shops by selling $2 shots of half-and-half coffee creamer. The stunt was number eight on our list of creative branded pop-up shops.

4) Les Sauveteurs en Mer (National Maritime Rescue Organization)

Have you ever heard the folktales about beautiful mermaids luring unsuspecting sailors to their death? This animated ad for France’s National Maritime Rescue Organization offers an imaginative spin on the classic legend, inviting us into the mind of a lovesick mermaid. When she spots a drowning sailor, her mind runs wild. 

As the mermaid imagines the perfect life she’ll share with the sailor, she leaves out one crucial detail: He can’t breathe underwater. Luckily for the sailor, he’s wearing a life jacket.

French agency Publicis Conseil worked with a team of graphic designers and 3D animators to create the mermaid’s whimsical underwater world.

5) Ketel One

Agency Barton F. Graf is known for their endearingly unusual campaigns, and their latest spot for Ketel One Vodka is no exception.

In their quest for absolute perfection, the Vodka connoisseurs at Ketel One have a complicated, multi-step approval process in place. It starts with a signature from a member of the distillery’s founding family, and ends with an identity theft expert interrogating the company’s real-life chairman, Carl Nolet Sr.

6) Heathrow Airport

If you’re in need of some warm and fuzzy feelings this holiday season, look no further than this pair of traveling teddy bears. Havas London produced this Heathrow Airport ad, which follows a couple of elderly teddies as they traverse the terminals of the massive British airport, from landing to baggage claim.

When the bears finally meet their family at the arrivals area, they’re magically transformed into real human grandparents. The biggest miracle though is making a journey through the airport look like a whimsical adventure.

7) John Lewis

A roundup of November’s best ads wouldn’t be complete without a much-deserved shoutout to John Lewis. The UK department store just dropped their much-anticipated follow-up to the Cannes Lion-winning “Monty’s Christmas,” and it’s already gained over 17 million views on YouTube since its release on November 9th.

Produced by adam&eveDDB, the ad begins with a dad setting up a trampoline on Christmas Eve for his daughter. After he retires for the evening, a curious parade of suburban critters discover the trampoline, and proceed to have the time of their lives. The only one left out of the fun is the family dog, but — as you’ll see in the spot — he eventually gets his chance join in on the fun. 

8) Poo-Pourri

If you don’t appreciate a good poop joke, stop reading now. Toilet deodorizing company Poo-Pourri released an extended ad that chronicles the evolution of bathroom decorum, lamenting the pungent unpleasantries our ancestors must have endured without Poo-Pourri to mask the smell of, ehem, “Zeus’ thunder.”

Poo-Pourri’s in-house marketing team created the ad as part of their ongoing campaign featuring Scottish actress Bethany Woodruff. If nothing else, the ad gets major points for coming up with some creative euphemisms for going number two. Our middle school selves are very impressed.

9) Alibaba

To remind consumers that they sell thousands of popular brands online, retail giant Alibaba worked with FRED & FARID Shanghai to cram 21 famous slogans into a single ad.

It would be a stretch to say the end result has any narrative, but their use of so many taglines to construct a form of super-ad is inventive and fun to watch. AgencySpy wrote up a transcript of each slogan if you have trouble catching them all in the ad.

10) Lexus

Kids get to ask Santa Claus for presents every year — but where does that leave parents? This ad promoting Lexus’ December sales event finds two mischievous parents cheating the system by forging a note to Santa in their young son’s handwriting. Anxiously scrawling the note out in crayon, they ask Mr. Claus for — what else? — a brand new Lexus.

Produced by agency Team One, the piece is part of a light-hearted series depicting parents asking Santa for Lexus.

Want to see more great ads? Check out 10 of the best ads from October here. If you’ve seen any great ads lately, let us know in the comments or tweet us at @HubSpotAgencies.

market-your-agency

7 Marketing Automation Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make

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I have money in my savings account because my bank has a built-in auto-deposit process. I’m not logging into my account every day and moving money around, but when I do log in, I can see the progress I’ve made toward my goals by setting my account to automate deductions.

Think of marketing automation like auto-deducting money from your checking account and putting it into savings: The automatic process lets you invest in your future goals in an easier way than if you did it manually.

Marketing automation can play a significant role in the success of your inbound marketing strategy, but there is a right way and a wrong way to use it. Learn more about HubSpot's latest tools to power your growth here.

We want to help you understand marketing automation, and how and when to use it to your organization’s benefit. In this post, we’ll discuss traps marketers can fall into when incorporating marketing automation and alternatives that solve for these challenges.

What Is Marketing Automation?

Quite simply, marketing automation refers to the software that exists to automate marketing actions — actions like email, social media, and more. All of these automated actions are designed with the concept of lead nurturing in mind. In other words, marketers are creating and automating various types of content with the goal of actively attracting, qualifying, and moving prospects through the sales funnel towards a purchase.

And the marketing automation industry is huge — Emailmonday estimates that 49% of companies use marketing automation software, and Marketing Automation Insider estimates that the industry is worth $1.62 billion per year.

The trouble is, because marketing automation software has grown so significantly as a part of the inbound marketing movement, some marketers aren’t adopting it correctly. Let’s dig into some of the most common marketing automation mistakes below.

7 Common Marketing Automation Mistakes (And How to Fix Them)

1) You’ve invested in marketing automation without an inbound lead generation strategy.

The Problem:

You’ve purchased and started using marketing automation software, but you don’t have a strong content strategy in place yet. As a result, you aren’t attracting enough qualified leads to your website, so the ROI of your marketing automation software is low.

To solve this problem, you might be considering buying an email contact list to build the size of your database.

The Solution:

Before you buy an email list, don’t.

You see, it’s not a sound lead generation strategy to purchase email contact lists for a few reasons. For one, people don’t generally like being contacted unsolicited, and you don’t want to irritate potential customers. Additionally, purchased email lists have generally high churn rates — because the leads are often unqualified — meaning your database won’t have the long-term growth that you’re looking for.

Instead of going that route, focus on developing an inbound marketing strategy aimed at attracting folks that actually want to hear from you. Write blog posts, create content offers, calls-to-action, and landing pages, and optimize your website so it will rank well in organic search. These efforts will ensure that your content is being discovered by your audience. Then, once you start generating more leads, you’ll be able to nurture them effectively with automated emails and social media posts.

2) You don’t have a goal for your marketing automation.

The Problem:

You’re sending out multiple automated email and social media messages without an end goal in mind. 

The Solution:

Take advantage of the ease of use marketing automation software provides and invest time and efforts into determining your goals first. Once you have them, you’ll want to assign these goals to each automated effort — social media, email workflows, and so on — to ensure it’s easy to track progress.

After all, marketers need a way to measure success when it comes to marketing automation, and one means of doing so is by evaluating goal attainment. For example, here at HubSpot, the Visual Workflows App (currently in beta) lets you set a specific goal for each automated workflow. A goal might be a new lead transitioning into a marketing-qualified lead based on certain behaviors, such as downloading a specific number of content offers.

HubSpot Visual Workflows also allows you to track the percentage of contacts in each workflow that achieve the goal, which is another great way to measure the success and ROI of your marketing automation.

3) You don’t segment your email list.

The Problem:

You have a database full of qualified leads, but you’re using marketing automation software to blast out tons of emails that aren’t customized at all. As a result, your leads are churning because your emails aren’t useful to them.

The Solution:

Develop a lead nurturing strategy that includes email list segmentation so you’re sending specific emails to specific people that they’re more likely to open.

According to the Direct Marketing Association, 77% of email marketing ROI came from targeted, segmented campaigns in 2015, and segmented emails generate 58% of all revenue. Seems like a must-have strategy, right? Unfortunately, only 42% of email marketers are sending targeted messages.

With the right marketing automation software, it’s easy to execute an email list segmentation strategy that delivers strong results. For example, HubSpot customers can use the Visual Workflows App to target their emails based on dozens of criteria, both demographic and behavioral.

Need inspiration? We recently published a blog post with 30 ideas for email list segmentation from real brands.

4) You send too many emails.

The Problem:

Perhaps your email list isn’t segmented, or maybe you’re a little overzealous with your marketing automation software. Whatever the reason, you’re annoying potential prospects by sending way too many emails.

The Solution:

Strategically send fewer emails.

When it comes to your email database, focus on quality over quantity. It’s better to have a lower volume of leads with higher engagement rates than a massive database of people who don’t open your emails.

Why? Because higher quality leads are more likely to become customers.

A staggering 78% of customers recently surveyed by HubSpot Research have unsubscribed because the brand was sending too many emails. To avoid sending one of many such emails, make sure that every single email you send provides value to leads in a way that they won’t be able to help but click.

5) You’re only automating your email marketing strategy.

The Problem:

You use your marketing automation software to send out emails, and not much else.

The Solution:

Take advantage of all of the features your software offers to maximize efficiency.

There are probably a lot of little tasks over the course of your work day that don’t seem time consuming individually. However, if you add up all of the time you spend posting on social media, updating contact information, and other tasks, you end up with a large chunk of your day spent on things that can probably be automated.

Poke around your marketing automation to see which processes you can make more efficient. For example, in the HubSpot software, users can bulk update lead contact information instead of clicking into each record and changing details there.

The more processes you automate, the more time you’ll have each day to strategize with your team about content, lead generation, and lead nurturing tactics to keep attracting quality leads to your site.

6) You’re only sharing your marketing automation efforts within your marketing department.

The Problem:

You have marketing automation set up only for email marketing, social media, and other lead activities that are only impacting your marketing team’s bottom line.

The Solution:

Use a “smarketing” approach, and make your marketing automation work for sales reps as well.

Think bigger than just the marketing team: What processes would help your sales team if they were automated?

For example, if there were a process in place that alerted reps to when their leads were checking out parts of your website, that would help inform their next call or email. When a lead fills out a form, it could trigger a specific email send from marketing and a follow-up call from their sales rep. Marketing automation software also helps users set follow-up tasks and to-do lists, which reps could use to keep track of the many leads they’re working at a given time.

Take your sales and marketing alignment to the next level by making processes easier for team members across the board to achieve their goals with the help of marketing automation.

7) You use too many different tools.

The Problem:

Roughly half of marketers use marketing automation software, and those who do often combine different strategies into a “Frankensystem” of tools to achieve their bottom line.

For example, they might start on a whiteboard, move to a spreadsheet, then shift onto an online flowchart maker, and only then will they use marketing automation software. This system is problematic in a few ways — it’s time consuming, numbers can be incorrectly analyzed, and communication is complicated.

The Solution:

Invest in all-in-one marketing automation software.

The point of marketing automation is to make things easier and more efficient, and your team won’t achieve that if you’re spending too much time updating different documents or manually targeting your leads database.

All-in-one marketing automation software offers a variety of criteria options to target your audience, as well as visualization tools so you can see how your marketing automation efforts are working together. That means you’ll be spending less time writing out numbers and emailing spreadsheets to your team members, and more time implementing strategies designed to qualify leads.

What’s the biggest challenge you encountered when you purchased marketing automation software? Share with us in the comments below.

Product Launches INBOUND 2016

5 Ways to Explain Inbound Marketing to Your Family This Thanksgiving

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When Thanksgiving rolls around, there are a few questions that we don’t exactly look forward to hearing. “When are you getting married?” “When am I getting grandchildren?” “Have you been moisturizing?”

And yet, none of those oh-so-polite questions even come close to the complexity of explaining what, as an inbound marketer, you actually do for a living.

It’s not that inbound marketing requires a long, drawn-out answer — after all, it can be described in 140 characters. But explaining it requires some fundamental knowledge of how technology, marketing, and the internet work. You know, the things that your grandparents might not fully grasp in one fell swoop. Download more holiday resources to help your business succeed this season from HubSpot's #HolidayHub

Good news — all you really need are a few storytelling strategies. We found five ways you can explain inbound marketing to your family. And sure, some of these are useful, and some are just sarcastic. But hey, family is family, right? They’ll still love you.

5 Ways to Explain Inbound Marketing to Your Family This Thanksgiving

1) The Food Analogy

Pumpkin Pie

Source: Giphy

In the U.S., Thanksgiving typically consists a few staples — turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie, to name a few. And while it might sound strange, you can use that knowledge to your advantage by using food preparation as an analogy for different aspects of inbound marketing.

To explain lead nurturing, you can use the pumpkin pie. Sending unnurtured leads to sales is like giving an unbaked pumpkin pie to your guests. I suppose the pumpkin pie could be eaten raw, but … gross. Instead, you should bake the pumpkin pie — that ultimately makes it richer and more palatable.

Nurturing leads before sales contacts them works in the same way. It warms them up to your brand, and starts to qualify them with better information on what they might need. “Warm” leads, like the cooked pie, are already familiar with your business, and will close at a much higher rate than those that are “cold.”

Use whatever analogy you like to describe inbound marketing — it clarifies confusing issues by comparing them to something that, quite literally, is right in front of everyone.

2) The Real-Life Scenario

Telemarketers

Source: Giphy

When I’m asked about inbound marketing, I like to use real-like examples of interruptions that they’ll likely recognize, and explain how the inbound methodology pertains to it. It usually sounds something like this:

Amanda: Hey, Dad. You know how much you hate telemarketers calling you in the middle of dinner?

Dad: Yes. Hate it. Why? Is that what you do for work?

Amanda: No, actually. Inbound marketing is the exact opposite. That’s interruptive marketing. They literally interrupt you. So annoying, right?

Dad: Yes. I’m surprised they’re not interrupting us right now.

Amanda: Well, in my job, I create marketing that doesn’t interrupt what people are doing. In fact, I create content that people are actively looking for, because it’s helpful, entertaining, or informative. Instead of a telemarketer was calling to sell you spoons, I create stuff that someone looking for information about spoons might be searching for on the internet.

Dad: So I would find you, instead of you calling to bother me?

Amanda: Yes! I provide you with actual value from my company, which makes you more interested in what my company sells.

The keys here: 1) Identify which interruptive media your dinner guests are familiar with, and 2) play into their pain points when dealing with that media. Inbound marketing is much more logical when you explain it that way — even if your family doesn’t work marketing or communications.

3) The Theatrics

Thanksgiving theatrics

Source: Giphy

If you’re feeling especially creative — and you have at least one Thanksgiving guest who is willing to participate — you could set up a roleplay. There are lots of scenarios you can act out, but a classic one would be the telemarketer/dinner guest scenario.

Let’s use the telemarketing example above — and be warned, it might require a few minutes of planning before everyone sits down to dinner. You play the role of the telemarketer, and your dinner guest can be, well, the dinner guest. First, put his or her phone’s ringer on the highest volume possible. Then, as soon as someone asks you about your job, excuse yourself and duck out to a quiet area with your own phone. Then, call the dinner guest, have him or her answer the call on speaker, while you pretend to be a telemarketer selling something completely unnecessary at that point — Halloween costumes.

Be sure your dinner guest uses key phrases like “You’re interrupting me in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner with this irrelevant call,” or, “Don’t you think it’s a little late to be calling me about Halloween?” or, if you really want to go nuts, “I wish you had sent me a targeted, personalized email in October about those costumes — I would have bought them.”

Then, have them slam down the phone on the table. You can return from your “bathroom break” and say, “See? Telemarketing, or any type of interruptive marketing like that, is profoundly annoying. In my job, I create marketing that helps people — not annoy them.”

End scene.

Depending on the talent of your guest, you might be able to improv the entire thing. Otherwise, you might want to type a script out and email it to the guest beforehand. And if you really want to go overboard, stay in character the entire dinner. The sight of you dressed up as a skeezy telemarketer with a headset will be just too intense to forget — that is, at least, until your mother requests, “Please remove your headset from the table.”

4) The Puzzle Pieces

Puzzles

Source: Webnode

This technique boils down to an age-old philosophical question — is the whole greater than the sum of its parts? Aristotle thought so, but when you’re describing inbound marketing to an unfamiliar audience, it’s probably okay to explain each tool that goes into it.

Try isolating inbound marketing into the different pieces that pull it off — things like blogging, email marketing, social media, closed-loop analytics, and call-to-action buttons. The folks who haven’t worked in marketing might not know what these are, either. In that case, try using the analogy technique we opened with to explain them. In fact, you can even act out something like social media, by taking a picture of a decadent cranberry relish and showing how you would share it on Instagram in real time.

5) The “I Write Articles on the Internet”

Writing on internet

Source: imoviequotes

If the previous four have all failed, you can always say, “I write articles on the internet for a living.” I mean, it’s somewhat accurate — you drive real business results with inbound marketing, and you don’t just spew out nonsense blogs about your feelings to get paid — but it can get your family off your back, especially if you’re not sure they’d be interested in hearing the whole shebang. If you choose this path, be prepared to hear how easy it is to blog, and how many of your family members wish they could get paid to do it.

Then, try to switch the subject quickly to something everyone can relate to. “Hey, Uncle Eddie, I’d love to get your amazing stuffing recipe.” Trust us — it works every time.

We’re Grateful for You

Good luck out there. And remember: There are so many people who want to know what you do — which, admittedly is why we love writing about it every day.

We always give thanks for you, our amazing readers. And to express our gratitude, we put together what we hope is a hilarious video of what our families think we do. Happy Thanksgiving!

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2013 and has been updated and for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

What other strategies do you use to explain inbound marketing to folks who’ve never heard of it? Let us know in the comments.

Visit the holiday resource hub for all your holiday marketing needs.

Google AdWords Expanded Text Ads: Best Practices For The New Format

Expanded Text Ads (ETAs), announced in July of 2016, are considered by most industry observers to be the biggest change to Google Adwords in 16 years.

Google’s new ETAs provide for an increase of 50 percent more ad space. Plus, ETAs pack in a few other exciting features as well.

Numerous strategies and best practices have been developed over the years for the standard text ad format, but unfortunately, most of these don’t translate to expanded text ads. And, businesses are now having to scramble to update their ads before Google stops supporting the old format in January.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of how to best handle expanded text ads, let’s get to know them a bit better.

Dissecting the Expanded Text Ad

Below is a comparison between the expanded text ad format and the standard text ad format.

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Source

The components of the expanded text ad are as follows:

Two Headlines (Shown in lavender in the left side of the image above)

As opposed to standard text ads, ETAs have two headlines — a main headline and a secondary headline. Each headline can use up to 30 characters, as compared to the prior format of one headline with 25 characters.

Display URL and Path Fields (Shown in Green)

When creating ETAs, the final URL has to be entered first (above the headlines) and the display URL is created automatically based on that. There are two optional path fields available to extend the display URL by up to 15 characters each.

Description (Shown in Gray)

ETAs have one long description field with a maximum length of 80 characters. This compares to two fields of 35 characters each with standard text ads.

Now that we’ve gone over the guts of what makes ETAs, let’s get started on some best practices in order to take full advantage of them.

1) Use Keywords and Convincing Copy in Your Headlines

The main headline is the section that most people will see first and pay attention to. Put your most vital information here and make sure to include the main keyword you are targeting in the associated ad group. If you have a long keyword term, then just put your entire keyword in the main headline.

The secondary headline is best for supporting information. This is where you’ll reference the main benefit or USP of your product or service, or stress the urgency of your offer.

Keep in mind that your secondary headline may not always be shown in full. This is because, while you’re allowed up to 30 characters, Google determines ad display based on pixel-count. For example, wider characters such as “W” take up more space. So, if your two headlines go over the allowed number of pixels, Google may trim down your secondary headline. In most cases, your ad preview will show how your ad will look but it is a good idea to allow some breathing room. 

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Unlike standard text ads, you can now do so much more after adding your keywords. You have some creative freedom to craft a headline that demands attention. Use language that will appeal to your target audience to convince them to interact with your ad. This combination is sure to increase your click-through rates considerably.

Below is an example of an expanded text ad that has been very successful. It blends in keywords (DDoS Protection and Stop DDoS) very well with urgency and value-add.

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Here is another example of a compelling ETA. It combines keywords (User Behavior Analytics) effectively with an attractive offer (Free Guide) and the target audience (CISO).

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2) Utilize the Description to Differentiate Your Product or Service

After grabbing attention with your headline, use the description to provide supplementary information to convince searchers to click through to your page. The best way to utilize this section is to include an additional benefit, a feature, and a call-to-action (CTA) or offer. A CTA such as “Start Free Trial,” “Shop Now” or “Download Free Guide” will let users know exactly what to expect on your landing page and will boost conversions.

Remember, the description is the final attempt to get a searcher to click-through to your site instead of others—so use your extra description space wisely. Be sure to differentiate your product or service from the competition and make sure that users know why your brand is their best option.

3) Make the Best of the New Display URL

The two new display URL path fields are optional, but you will almost always want to use these. They are excellent places for adding your keywords. If you have a long keyword, you can break it up and use both path fields for your keyword. Otherwise use one field for the keyword and use the other for a call-to-action, especially if you were not able to do this in the description field.

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If you are creating an ad for a keyword containing a competitor name or a trademarked term, you are not allowed to use this keyword in the headlines or the description. But Google does allow you to use such a keyword in the URL path fields. This is the only way that you can get a competitor or trademarked term in your ad copy.

4) Mobile Ad Guidelines

Given that a large chunk of your audience will be using mobile devices to view your ads, you need to make sure that your ad works well on mobile.

With standard text ads, Adwords allowed you to create separate mobile ads. However, ETAs don’t differentiate between devices, which means that the same ad and the same copy will be displayed to searchers across all devices. ETAs viewed from a mobile device may have headlines broken up into two lines if they’re too long. Because of this, it is important to format your ads in a way that will work effectively both on desktop and mobile devices.

The mobile preview feature in the ad editor will show you how your mobile ad will likely look and you can adjust your copy based on that.

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5) A/B Test Your New and Old Format Ads

While ETAs may show up for all the keywords in your ad group, they won’t necessarily attract more clicks than your standard text ads. In fact, it’s possible that you may even see a decline in your click through rate (CTR).

Instead of dropping your old ads right away, try adding ETAs to the same ad groups with old ads that have served you well in the past. Compare the performance of the two, and alter and evolve your ETAs until they match or surpass your standard text ads.

In most of our tests though, the expanded text ads have performed significantly better than standard ads. Below are some A/B tests that we have run.

A/B Test 1: The 2 ETAs below had a combined CTR of 10.9% – an improvement of 26% over the already excellent 8.62% CTR of the old standard text ad during the same timeframe.

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A/B Test 2: The ETA below had a CTR of 5.49% – an improvement of 54% over the standard text ad.

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A/B Test 3: The ETA below had a CTR of 3.36% – an improvement of 167% over the standard text ad.

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6) Increasing Quality Score with ETAs

Having a good quality score for your keywords and ads is an absolute must for success with AdWords. In order to achieve high quality scores, you have to ensure that your ads are as relevant as possible to user search queries. It is also important to achieve a high click through rate for your ads, as this provides a direct signal to Google that users are finding your ad useful. There are a few key things to take into account when creating ETAs which will help your quality score.

You should always include keywords in your headline as well as the display URL path fields. If you are bidding on a competitor name or trademarked term, and do not use it anywhere in your ad copy, you will get a very low quality score. So it is crucial to add these in the path fields of the display URL as we noted in the last section.

You should also use as many ad extensions as possible with your ads. When combined with ETAs, this greatly increases the amount of screen space that you can claim with your ad, leading to high CTRs and high quality scores.

Use ad extensions to further elaborate on the features, benefits, attributes and offers related to your products and services. Since you likely had to shorten these in your main ad, you can use extensions to fill in the gaps. Also add reviews, ratings, location and call information if you have these available, and they are relevant for your business.

For example, consider the ad below that combines an ETA with call, callout, review, and sitelinks (with 2 line descriptions) ad extensions. That’s a significant chunk of Google’s search results page!

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7) Changing Old Ads to the New Format

If you have a lot of standard text ads in your account, changing them all over to expanded text ads may seem a bit daunting. You can make your job a little easier by adding new ads in bulk.

You can download your current ads to a CSV file, make all your changes, and then upload them back to your Adwords account. Using this approach will add new expanded text ads in the same ad groups and campaigns as your current ads. It will not remove any of your current ads. Here’s how you do it.

Export Your Current Ads

Step 1: In your AdWords account, click the Campaigns menu, then click on the Ads tab

Step 2: Make sure the “All Enabled Ads” option is selected

Step 3: Click Edit > Download Spreadsheet

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Step 4: Choose Excel .CSV format

Step 5: Click “Advanced editing” and uncheck all boxes except “All Editable Columns”. Then click Download and save the file on your machine. 

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Make Changes

Step 1: Open the CSV file in Excel

Step 2: For each ad that you want to create an expanded text ad for, add values in the Headline 1, Headline 2, Description, Path 1 and Path 2 columns. You can use values in the Ad, Description line 1 and Description line 2 columns (in the same row) as a guide since these represent your current ad.

ETA-Edit.png

Step 3: Delete the Ad, Description line 1, Description line 2 and Display URL values from the same row.

Step 4: Go to the Ad Type column and change “Text ad” to “Expanded text ad”

change-ad-type.png

Step 5: Repeat steps 2, 3 and 4 for each expanded text ad you want to create. NOTE: If you are new to this process, it will be best if you try and add only one expanded text ad the first time. In this case, you should just delete all rows other than the row you just edited.

Step 6: Save the file as a CSV

Import Your New Ads

Step 1: In your AdWords account, click the Campaigns menu, then click on the Ads tab

Step 2: Click Edit > Upload Spreadsheet

Step 3: Choose the file you saved and click Upload and Preview

Screen_Shot_2016-09-30_at_5.11.52_PM.png

Step 4: Google will now show you the number of ads that will be added. This should be the no. of new expanded text ads that you added in step 2 of the Make Changes section above. If there are any problems with the data you added, it will be shown in this box.

Screen_Shot_2016-09-30_at_5.16.24_PM.png

Step 5: Click on Preview changes. Even if you had any errors in step 4 above, you should do this to determine exactly where the problems are.

Step 6: Verify that each expanded text ad is shown correctly in the preview

preview-ad.png

Step 7: If everything looks good, click Approve changes to add your new ads. If you see any problems here, click Reject changes. Go back to your CSV file in Excel, fix the problems and then try again. 

Conclusion

Now that you’ve got a better grasp on expanded text ads and how to use them, you can get started on your own ads. Remember, you don’t want to pause your standard ads just yet—these new processes are going to take a bit of practice before you become an expert.

The clock is quickly running out; Google’s last day of standard text ad support is January 31, at which time we’ll all be forced to adopt the new expanded text ad format. Rather than scrambling at the last minute, it’s best to get started now. Work out the kinks and find out the best ad copy that works for you. 

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37 Free Marketing and Social Media Classes to Elevate Your Skills Today

When I first started out with digital marketing, I was blown away by the sheer amount of online marketing resources and social media classes.

I read hundreds of articles and enrolled in as many marketing courses that I could possibly get my hands on. Even today, millions of resources continue to be published online every month.

It’s enough to wonder …

Where can you go for the best, most useful marketing information?

I’ve had the chance to test out and research a huge amount of resources, and I’m excited to share with you 37 free marketing and social media classes that you can enroll in to upgrade your skills across the board. 

Let’s dive in!

37 Free Online Marketing and Social Media Classes

The list here includes free online courses in a number of social media-related topics and disciplines. If you’d like to dig into one area in particular, here’s a quick table of contents so you can jump to the section that’s most important to you:

Free Online Courses to Learn and Improve Your Social Media Marketing Skills

1. What Is Social?

coursera-what-is-social

Offered by: Coursera

Created by: Northwestern University

Topics include:

  • Social trends
  • Defining target audiences
  • Data analysis

Skill level: Beginner

About this course:

“What Is Social?” is a massive open online course (MOOC) for business owners, executives, and marketing professionals who want to significantly improve their abilities to grow their social media strategy using effective, proven methodologies. In short, it’s a really awesome, action-based intro to social media.

The exciting part with this hands-on class is that you not only get to hear about ways to grow your professional persona using social media, but you will actually do it! “What Is Social” is the first in a six-course specialization offered by Northwestern University (a top university in the United States). Once you finish this first course, you can continue on with the next steps of the track: Social Media Marketing: How to Profit in a Digital World. (The first course is free; the full track costs $426.)

2. Diploma in Social Media Marketing

alison-social-media-marketing-free-course

Offered by: Alison

Created by: Advance Learning Academy

Topics include:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook pages
  • Blogging and podcasting
  • Social media images
  • Email list growth
  • Affiliate marketing

Skill level: Beginner

About this course: 

Alison is a similar to Coursera as a site that offers a huge range of classes and certifications, including several in the marketing space. Their free social media class covers the use of email marketing, affiliate marketing, using social media tools such as Twitter, blogging and podcasting, and how to use Facebook to create a business page and get it noticed by current and potential customers. So you’re likely to get a social media foundation plus a handful of other digital marketing skills to boot.

3. Social Media Monitoring

Social Media Monitoring with Coursera

Offered by: Coursera

Created by: Eric Schwartzman

Topics include:

  • Keyword filtering
  • Google related searches
  • Using Google Alerts and its benefits
  • Identifying influencers and content curation possibilities
  • Monitoring strategies for Facebook, Twitter, and more

Skill level: All Levels

About this course: 

This free social media class on how to monitor what your audience and customers are saying online is for marketers looking to keep a finger on the pulse of their community. Whether you’re just starting out in social media or are a seasoned veteran, this course has actionable social monitoring takeaways for people of all skills levels.

The course provides detailed examples of monitoring in action, allows you to get an overview of the different social media monitoring tools available for use, and strategies for how you can use what you’ve learned and apply it to your own social media program.

4. The Business of Social

The Business of Social Course

Offered by: Coursera

Created by: Northwestern University

Topics include:

  • Discovering where social media “fits in”
  • How to tie social media to real business results
  • Managing and measuring a successful social media program

Skill level: Beginner – Intermediate

About this course:

“The Business of Social” is for businesses owners, marketers, and social media managers looking for ways to tie social media directly into real business growth objectives. In other words, those looking to drive real, measurable value from a social media strategy and program.

Instead of focusing on how marketers can create great content for social media, this class more focuses on how exactly to measure your social investments in terms of time, cost, and opportunities.

5. Social Media Ethics

Social Media Ethics

Offered by: Coursera

Created by: Eric Schwartzman

Topics include:

  • How to use good judgement when using social media for work
  • What constitutes ethical behavior on social media
  • Demonstrating consideration for others on social media

Skill level: Beginner

About this course:

Have you ever wondered what it means to use social media effectively and ethically? This free course on “Social Media Ethics” provides the framework for social networking and engaging in ethical conversations online for all professionals and employees. Touching on local, State, and Federal laws, it takes the guessing game out of what is and is not legal on social media for employees of businesses.

6. Advanced Social Media Marketing for Picking up Clients

Advanced Social Media Marketing for Picking Up Clients

Offered by: Udemy

Created by: Brian Yang

Topics include:

  • Common social media myths and mistakes
  • The art of using Facebook Groups
  • Attracting YouTube subscribers and creating engaging videos
  • Creating quality (not spammy) content for social media

Skill level: Intermediate

About this course: 

The tagline for this social media class is “picking up clients with social media in 48 hours or less.” Which points to the fact that this instructor dives into intermediate social media strategies. Moving beyond more beginner tactics like setting up social media accounts and basic posting strategies, this class assumes that you already know those things and provides details on how to best use the channels that you’re already familiar with.

All you need for this course is an active Facebook, YouTube, and Reddit account and you’ll be on your way to learning the secrets behind picking up clients on social media.

7. Facebook Blueprint

Facebook Blueprint Social Media Course

Offered by: Facebook

Created by: Blueprint eLearning

Topics include:

  • Facebook Terminology and Know-How
  • Best Practices for Facebook & Instagram Posting
  • Optimizing Facebook & Instagram Advertising
  • Creating a quality Facebook Page and experience

Skill level: Beginner – Advanced

About this course: 

Perfect for small businesses, marketers, agencies, and advertisers, Facebook Blueprint is your one stop shop for everything there is to know about running successful advertising campaigns using your Facebook Business Page. This huge resource of free, self-paced social media classes will cover best-practices and top strategies used by the world’s largest brands.

With Facebook becoming very much a “pay-to-play” platform, this is the perfect opportunity for businesses and marketers to fully grasp everything there is to know about ensuring that your advertising dollar stretches as far as possible.

8. Social Media Quickstarter

Social Media Kickstarter with Constant Contact

Offered by: Constant Contact

Created by: Constant Contact

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • Instagram
  • Snapchat
  • And more!

Skill level: Beginner

About this course: 

All social media managers and marketers start somewhere. This free social media class from Constant Contact is a great resource for those who are looking to dive into the world of social media without all of the complications. It offers a step-by-step guide to building a presence on almost every social media platform you can think of.

For those unsure if social media is right for you or for your business, this class is a great way to dip your toes in and start small with social media marketing. Who knows, you may find that social media is just right for you!


Free Online Courses to Boost Your Digital Marketing Know-How

9. Email Marketing for E-Commerce

Email Marketing for Ecommerce

Offered by: Skillshare

Created by: Mailchimp

  • Email marketing automation
  • Email marketing optimization
  • Email marketing personalization

Skill level: Intermediate to Advanced

About this course: 

Marketers and social media professionals with a basic understanding of how email marketing works will love this free online course from Mailchimp. Perfect for those of you on the go, it’s a 25-minute, highly tactical class on developing the basic email marketing principles that you may already be familiar with.

By the end of this email course, you’ll have a great understanding of how to create engaging email marketing campaigns and how to optimize your strategy in order to increase business revenue.

10. Marketing in a Digital World

Marketing in a Digital World

Offered by: Coursera

Created by: University of Illinois

  • How tools such as smartphones and 3D devices are changing the marketing sphere
  • How power is shifting from companies and brands to consumers
  • Offering product ideas that stick in a digital world

Skill level: Beginner

About this course:

“Marketing in a Digital World” is one of the most popular free marketing courses on Coursera – with more then 100,000 students enrolled to this date. Taught by a professor at the University of Illinois, this class focuses on the transformation of marketing strategies an tactics into a digital-first world. Specifically, how technology is putting the power of marketing into the hands of the consumer.

This course is perfect for marketers looking to understand where the marketing field is today and how you can leverage new-age strategies to attract customers. And for those who are keen to continue their learning, this course is part of a larger Digital Marketing Specialization for the University of Illinois.

11. QuickSprout University

QuickSprout University

Offered by: QuickSprout

Created by: Neil Patel

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Link Building
  • Content Marketing
  • Social Media
  • Paid Advertising
  • And more!

Skill level: Beginner – Advanced

About this course:

This awesome (or should we say huge?) set of classes from the one and only Neil Patel is a great place for marketers looking to learn about a huge variety of online and digital marketing tactics. Class topics range from beginner SEO and content creation strategies to advanced social media, email marketing and paid advertising.

What makes this course is that Neil Patel presents the information in very easy-to-learn and snackable ways. The lessons are presented in video format and range anywhere from 3:00 – 12:00 minutes. Each video also comes with a full transcript allowing more visual learners to follow along.

12. Inbound Marketing Certification

HubSpot Inbound Marketing Academy

Offered by: HubSpot

Created by: HubSpot

  • Inbound marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Inbound sales techniques
  • Content marketing
  • Growth-driven design

Skill level: Beginner – Advanced

About this course:

HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing Certification is full of super actionable, hands-on learning material that allows marketers to take their general inbound marketing know-how to the next level. The certification consists of 12 different classes and more than 4.5 hours of learning material in both video and text format.

You’ll learn all about SEO, blogging, landing pages, lead nurturing, conversion analysis and reporting come together to form a modern-day inbound marketing strategy. This free online marketing course is presented in different modules, where after successful completion of all the lessons and tests, you’ll be HubSpot certified!

13. Viral Marketing and How to Create Contagious Content

Viral Marketing and How to Craft Contagious Content

Offered by: Coursera

Created by: University of Pennsylvania

  • What makes ideas sticky
  • How social influence shapes behavior
  • The power of word of mouth

Skill level: Beginner – Intermediate

About this course:

Taught by University of Pennsylvania Professor and best-selling author, Jonah Berger, this free online marketing course helps to answer the mystery of why some ideas and products become popular and why others do not. It’s perfect for social media managers and marketers looking to put a “science” behind their content marketing method.

You’ll start with an understanding of why things catch on in the first place and how you can use those lessons to create viral content online. Then, you’ll move on to spreading your new and creative ideas through social media and other digital marketing channels.

14. Pay Per Click (PPC) University

WordStream PPC University, Social Media Marketing Class

Offered by: WordStream

Created by: WordStream

  • All about PPC (What it is, basic terminology, structuring)
  • Keyword research
  • Landing page optimization
  • A/B testing
  • PPC for lead generation and B2B

Skill level: Beginner – Advanced

About this course: 

PPC University is a fully free online learning resource created by WordStream, to help build your PPC and digital marketing skills. The format is presented in three streams of learning plans which offer lessons for beginning to advanced users, with additional modules for social advertising.

You can also access a number of webinars and white papers to enhance your digital marketing expertise, and best of all, everything’s mobile-friendly so you can learn on the go, whenever you have time!

15. Diploma in E-Business

Diploma in Ebusiness

Offered by: Alison

Created by: Google

  • Introduction to Google Webmaster
  • Using Google AdWords
  • Understanding and using Google Analytics Data
  • Conversion Reports and collecting actionable insights

Skill level: Intermediate

About this course: 

This “Diploma in E-Business” course is a comprehensive resource for marketers, business owners, and advertisers who would like to get the most out of their digital marketing efforts. You’ll learn things like the fundamentals of promoting your business online, using various Google-powered tools, and how to track and make sense of the vast amounts of data available to you.

Whether you have a deep knowledge of how to market your business online or are just getting started, this course is an awesome way to strengthen your digital marketing skills.

16. Google Digital Marketing Course

Google Online Marketing Challenge, Google Digital Marketing Course

Offered by: WordStream

Created by: WordStream

  • All about PPC (What it is, basic terminology, structuring)
  • Keyword research
  • Landing page optimization
  • A/B testing
  • PPC for lead generation and B2B

Skill level: Beginner – Advanced

About this course: 

Learning the ins-and-outs of all of the marketing tools that Google offers is quite the task. But marketers and business owners have seen the direct benefits of mastering the various Google advertising platforms in terms of business ROI. This course offers a direct line to always-updated resources for everything Google.

This course is also a part of a Online Marketing Challenge from Google. Students that plan to take the Online Marketing Challenge are encouraged to complete the Digital Marketing Course first. Marketers looking to learn everything there is to know about Google (and advertising), this is a great place to start!

17. Buffer’s Week of Webinars on Digital Marketing

Buffer Week of Webinars, Buffer Social Media Class

Offered by: Buffer

Created by: Buffer

Topics include:

  • Content curation and sharing on social media
  • Getting your content seen on Facebook
  • Instagram Marketing to boost your business
  • Branding and PR outreach
  • Getting started with social media data

Skill level: Beginner – Intermediate

About this course:

While not a social media “class” in a traditional sense, Buffer’s Week-of-Webinars covers everything from content curation to social media analytics to getting your content seen in the Facebook News Feed.

The great thing about this series of online marketing webinars is that no registration is required to sign up and you can view all five of the videos at your own convenience. And we’d love to hear what you think of these webinars in the comments below!


Free Online Courses to Level Up With Marketing Analytics & Data

18. Introduction to Analytics and the Language of SAS

Introduction to Analytics and the Language of SAS

Offered by: Udemy

Created by: Jigsaw Academy

Topics include:

  • What “analytics” means
  • Why the field of analytics is and why it’s booming
  • Popular analytics tools and applications
  • Introduction to the language of SAS

Skill level: Beginner

About this course:

This “Introduction to Analytics” course is a great starting point for marketers looking to understand what the field of analytics is all about and how to apply it to a variety of businesses and situations. If you’re looking to go beyond the very popular marketing spreadsheets, this course is perfect for you.

This class is broken up into 12 videos of varying length – anywhere from 5-30 minutes and will take you about 2 hours to complete from start to finish.

19. Google Analytics Academy

Google Analytics Academy, Social Media Classes

Offered by: Google

Created by: Google

Topics include:

  • Digital analytics fundamentals
  • Google Analytics platform principles
  • Ecommerce analytics
  • Mobile app analytics
  • Google Tag Manager

Skill level: Intermediate – Advanced

About this course:

Google Analytics Academy is an incredible online resource for marketers looking to up their game in everything Google-related. With the importance of tracking and incorporating data into your marketing strategy, there has never been a better time to learn all you can about one of the most data-rich resources in the world.

Some of the most popular modules from the Google Analytics Academy include Digital Analytics Fundamentals and Google Analytics Platform Principles. Both of those courses will give you a solid foundation of how to implement data into your strategy and how you can use the platform to best inform your decisions moving forward.

20. An Introduction to Consumer Neuroscience and Neuromarketing

An Introduction to Consumer Neuroscience & Neuromarketing, social media and marketing courses

Offered by: Coursera

Created by: Copenhagen Business School

Topics include:

  • What Neuromarketing is all about
  • Attention and consciousness
  • Sensory neuromarketing
  • Emotions, feelings, wanting and liking

Skill level: Beginner – Intermediate

About this course:

I put this fantastic course on Neuromarketing under the Analytics and Data section because it really gets into the nuts and bolts of why people make the decisions that they do online and in real life. Understanding that can help marketers and business make decisions based on data and research.

You’ll be taken on a journey through the basic brain mechanisms in consumer choice, and how to stay updated on these topics. The course will give an overview of the current and future uses of neuroscience in business and how you can apply it to your own social media and marketing strategy.

21. Data Analytics with Excel PivotTables

Data Analytics with Excel PivotTables 2016

Offered by: Udemy

Created by: UpSkill Ladder

Topics include:

  • Intro to business analytics
  • Understanding Excel and PivotTables
  • Getting started with PivotTables
  • Terms such as Grouping and Custom Calculations

Skill level: Advanced

About this course:

I have the tendency to cringe when I hear the words “Excel PivotTables.” But I also understand how important the use of PivotTables can be in diving into your analytics and making informed decisions about marketing.

This course will teach you how to do Data analytics with Excel PivotTables effectively and efficiently. At the end of the lessons, you will understand the concept, various scenarios and types of Business analytics. Along with that you will learn, how to use one of the strongest features of Microsoft Excel, which is the PivotTables.

22. Digital Analytics for Marketing Professionals

Digital Analytics for Marketing Professionals: Marketing Analytics in Practice

Offered by: Coursera

Created by: University of Illinois

Topics include:

  • Data Collection, Analysis and Visualization
  • How data fits into a company’s marketing strategy
  • Making informed marketing decisions based on data

Skill level: Advanced

About this course:

Taught by Kevin Hartman, Head of Industry at Google, this free marketing course on “Digital Analytics” focuses on the specific data collection, analysis, and visualization techniques used by the world’s top brands. Unlike some of the other analytics classes offered online, this one focuses specifically on marketing.

This course will set you up with a full understanding of how to properly approach data analytics in marketing and how to make informed decisions based on your finding. In short, you’ll be a data wizard!

23. Marketing Measurement Strategy

Marketing Analytics: Marketing Measurement Strategy

Offered by: edX

Created by: University of California at Berkeley

Topics include:

  • How to identify marketing trends
  • How to predict future market conditions
  •  An understanding of metrics used to measure marketing success

Skill level: Intermediate

About this course:

In this marketing class, you’ll learn the best approaches and practices for marketing measurement, including how to use metrics to measure success. The professor, Stephan Sorger, presents hands-on examples of how to identify market trends, how to predict future conditions, and how to put those into action.

24. Social Media Analytics

Free Social Media Analytics Course

Offered by: Quintly

Created by: Quintly

Topics include:

  • Introduction to social media analytics
  • The social media landscape
  • Differentiation between social networks for data collection
  • Finding KPIs that fit your goals

Skill level: Beginner

About this course:

As social media continues to drive traffic and revenue for businesses, the need for marketers to fully understand the “why” behind social success (or downturns) will increase.

This free social media class from Quintly covers the basic principles of social media analytics both for beginners and for marketers who want to refresh their knowledge. It aims to help anybody involved in social media analytics, no matter whether you are working for a brand, an agency or in the media.


Free Online Courses to Get Up to Speed on Content, Blogging, & SEO

25. SEO Training

SEO Training, free marketing courses

Offered by: Udemy

Created by: Eric Schwartzman

Topics include:

  • Integrating SEO in offline and online marketing activities
  • The vocabulary of search engine optimization
  • Most effective SEO strategies
  • White hat vs. black hat SEO

Skill level: Beginner – Intermediate

About this course:

This SEO Training class is perfect for social media managers, executives and entry-level employees. This SEO course will help you increase the search rank of your corporate website, you blog or LinkedIn profile.

Learn how to figure out which terms your customers actually search and how to create online content that is most likely to rank high in Google search engine page results.  For most organizations, search engine optimization presents a greater conversion opportunity that social media outreach.

26. Writing for the Web

Writing for the Web social media course

Offered by: Open2Study

Created by: Frankie Madden

Topics include:

  • How to structure a web page
  • Considerations for search engines and accessibility
  • Making your content scannable
  • Using keywords, headings, lists and links

Skill level: Beginner

About this course:

Knowing how to write well is an important skill for just about anything, but knowing how to write for the web is a whole different ball game. It takes clear and concise copy to gain the attention of your readers in just a few seconds.

This course will help just about anyone – from journalists to technical writers to developers to aspiring bloggers – create content that really engages and converts online. It also will teach you the skills needed to accommodate the requirements of online readers through web design, writing style, structure and SEO.

27. Writing for Brands: Freelancing in the Age of Content Marketing

Writing for Brands: Freelancing in the Age of Content Marketing

Offered by: Skillshare

Created by: Contently

Topics include:

  • What content marketing entails
  • The basics of writing for, and working with brands
  • Marketing yourself as a writer
  • How to craft the perfect pitch to a brand

Skill level: Beginner

About this course:

Have you ever wondered how all of those great bloggers get writing gigs for brands online? This course provides the framework for starting a successful freelance career if that’s something you’d be interested in. Taught by Brian Maehl of Contently, “Writing for Brands” is an actionable, 30-minutes writing course that breaks down the process into simple steps.

Whether writing turns into a full-time career for you or just a fun project to tackle on the side, the folks at Contently are happy to help prepare you to pitch your content ideas to brands both big and small.

28. SEO Training Course

SEO Training Course from MOZ

Offered by: Udemy

Created by: Moz

Topics include:

  • Building a monthly SEO plan
  • 5 ways to use social media profiles for SEO
  • Link building with Twitter
  • Mapping keywords to content

Skill level: Beginner

About this course:

Optimizing a web site for search engines requires looking at a ton of unique elements both on and off your website. This course on SEO from the folks at Moz will help you to start making sense of it all. Most importantly, it will help you form consistent SEO habits that you can implement long after this course is over.

If you’re interested in getting started with optimizing your website for search engines and how social media has the power to fit within that strategy, this is a great place to start for beginners.

29. Content Marketing for B2B Enterprises

Content Marketing for B2B Enterprises

Offered by: Udemy

Created by: William Flanagan

Topics include:

  • End-to-end B2B marketing tactics and strategies
  • Content creation that converts
  • Identifying industry influencers
  • Building a data system to foster improvement

Skill level: Intermediate – Advanced

About this course:

B2B companies, products, and services often require a slightly different approach to content marketing. Customer sales cycles are more drawn out and require various, targeted content types to help assist decision-makers to the next stage.

The entire set of classes in this content marketing course lasts roughy 35 minutes. You’ll learn how to get inside the mind of your market and build content that interests them in a short period of time. Allowing you to get back to running your business!

30. High-Impact Business Writing

High-Impact Business Writing Online Course

Offered by: Coursera

Created by: University of California at Irvine

Topics include:

  • Introduction and basics to business writing
  • Various business document types
  • Informal and social media communication

Skill level: Beginner

About this course:

Writing great copy that is meant to drive people to take a specific business action is a unique and valuable skill to have for marketers and business owners alike. This “High-Impact Business Writing” course is aimed at helping you get your thoughts on paper in a clear and concise manner.

Structured as a 4-week class, you’ll start with the basics of businesses writing, including why it’s important, and move to more advanced topics such as preparing business documents and translating ideas to more informal channels such as social media. In short, helping to to become a business copy whiz!

31. Internet Marketing for Smart People

Internet Marketing for smart people

Offered by: Copyblogger

Created by: Copyblogger

Topics include:

  • Introduction and basics to business writing
  • Various business document types
  • Informal and social media communication

Skill level: Beginner

About this course:

With the tagline, “you don’t have to be a genius to master internet marketing,” this 20-part email course from the folks at Copyblogger offers a great starting place for those new to the marketing field. What’s unique about this course is that it digs deeply into the areas of direct response copywriting and relationship building.

It’s set up in “4 Pillars” takes you through various topics such as customer relationships, writing, content marketing and delivering something that’s worth selling.


Free Online Courses to Learn Marketing Design and Imagery

32. Graphic Design Basics: Core Principles for Graphic Design

Graphic Design Basics: Core Principles for Visual Design

Offered by: Skillshare

Created by: Smithsonian Design Museum

Topics include:

  • Identifying and defining basic design principles
  • Effectively critiquing your own work for balance
  • Applying what you’ve learned to your own projects

Skill level: Beginner

About this course:

Have you ever wanted to get started with design so that you can create your own images for social media and marketing? This “Graphic Design Basics” from will set you up with a solid foundation to branch out as a beginner designer.

In this 35-minute class designers Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips walk students through what it takes to create great designs. Including, the 5 important and fundamental aspects of design and how you can apply those to every one of your projects moving forward.

33. How to Create Better Graphic Design

How to create better graphic design

Offered by: Udemy

Created by: Inoshiro Design

Topics include:

  • Identifying and defining basic design principles
  • Effectively critiquing your own work for balance
  • Applying what you’ve learned to your own projects

Skill level: Beginner

About this course: 

Did you know that in 2016, visual content is more than 40X more likely to get shared on social media than other types of content? Today, it’s becoming important, even crucial for marketers to have at least some basic knowledge of key design terms.

This course does a deep dive into the five steps for better visual communication. These components include creating ideas and applying them to your design, communicating ideas effectively within the design, and having a consistent design look and feel.

34. The Landing Page Conversion Course

THE LANDING PAGE CONVERSION COURSE

Offered by: Unbounce

Created by: Unbounce

Topics include:

  • Landing page 101
  • 5 core landing page elements
  • The psychology of conversion

Skill level: Beginner – Intermediate

About this course: 

Curious about the power of landing pages in marketing campaigns? Unbounce has the art of a perfect landing page down to a science. And in this comprehensive online marketing class, they share all of that knowledge with you, no questions asked.

The Landing Page Conversion Course takes you from “Landing Page 101” right on down to “Copywriting” and even “Testing and Optimization.” If you’ve ever been curious about the power of landing pages and how they can help you grow your business, this course is the perfect one for you.

35. Visual and Graphic Design

Graphic Design - Visual and Graphic Design

Offered by: ALISON

Created by: XSIQ

Topics include:

  • Using various design elements
  • Drawing and production systems in design
  • The production process for designers

Skill level: Beginner

About this course: 

Great design starts with the fundamentals. The free course from ALISON examines various design elements including line, shape, form and texture and design principles, covering composition, balance, contrast and hierarchy. If you’re interested in exploring graphic design, industrial design or the design process in general, this free graphic design class is perfect for you.

36. Graphic Design 101

Graphic Design 101

Offered by: Udemy

Created by: Design and Art Direction Mason Gentry

Topics include:

  • Concept-driven design and implementation
  • Why some design mediums need to communicate more quickly than others
  • Thinking behind great graphic design
  • A birds eye view of the entire field of graphic deisgn

Skill level: Intermediate

About this class: 

Are you interested in deepening your knowledge of graphic design or how graphic design can be applied in the real world? The class “Graphic Design 101” is specifically for developers who may know a little about graphic design, but would like to learn more.

Many students who take this class have the ability to recognize a good design when they see one, but may not know WHY it’s a good design. This free online design class looks to help answer the “why.”

37. DIY Viral Video: A Class on Making iPhone How-To Videos

DIY Viral Video: A Mini Class on Making iPhone How-To Videos

Offered by: Skillshare

Created by: Nicole Farb

Topics include:

  • Setting up for a great video
  • Tools and techniques for shooting a video
  • Finalizing and sharing a videos online

Skill level: Beginner – Intermediate

About this course: Video marketing is making a huge splash online and on social media. But one thing what we consistently hear is that marketers aren’t quite sure where to start. Yet, videos have the potential to engage an audience in new and exciting ways – Just look at BuzzFeed Tasty for an example of the power of video!

In this short class, Nicole Farb shows how you can create your own video in a scrappy, easy, and high-quality way and how she has seen huge success with it in the past. Perfect for marketers and social media managers just getting started with video.

Over to you!

As Malcolm Gladwell said in his book Outliers, “It takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field.”

Malcolm’s quote just goes to show that with enough effort, patience, and practice, you can learn anything you put your mind to. We hope that this lists helps you to find some great online social media classes and marketing resources.

Have you taken any online social media classes or marketing classes recently that you truly loved? We’d love to hear them!

Please feel free to leave us a comment below and we may add it to our list!

10 Examples of Facebook Ads That Actually Work (And Why)

facebook-ads-that-work.jpg

One average, Facebook is home to 1.18 billion daily active users — from CEOs, to students, to companies. And while the community is clearly there, connecting with them from a marketing standpoint isn’t always easy. 

For brands, posting on Facebook alone isn’t enough anymore — especially for ones just starting out. Sure, you can throw money at your efforts to drive people to your Facebook Page and send them to your website, but that only works if you’re smart about it.

One way to do just that is to create optimized Facebook Ads targeted at the right audience. Optimized ads can help you spend your PPC budget wisely and see a positive return on your investment. Download this free guide for data-backed tips on creating the optimal Facebook Ad.

So, what does optimized Facebook advertising actually look like? If you’re looking for some great examples, you’ve come to the right place. In this post, we’ll quickly go over the three overarching formats for Facebook Ads: right column, desktop News Feed, and mobile News Feed. Then, we’ll show you eight different types of Facebook Ads, each with real-life examples — along with some insights into why that ad is so successful.

But before we get to these examples, let’s discuss the four components of a good Facebook Ad (or any ad, really) regardless of its type …

4 Components of Successful Facebook Ads

1) It’s visual.

Visual content is not only treated more favorably in the Facebook algorithm, but it’s also more likely to be shared and remembered than written content. The lesson for Facebook marketers? No matter what type of ad you create, your image needs to be visually appealing.

Check out this blog post for a detailed guide to image sizes for various ad units on Facebook along with some tips on posting visual content.

2) It’s relevant.

Relevance is critical for success when using Facebook advertising. Remember, you are spending money when someone views or clicks on your ad (depending on the settings you use). If you’re showing ads that aren’t relevant to your target audience, you’re wasting your time and money and will likely not see success with any kind of advertising.

Back in February 2015, Facebook launched a feature in the Facebook advertising platform that rates your ads and gives you a relevance score, similar to Ad Rank in Google AdWords. The more relevant your ad image, ad copy, and destination page is to your audience, the higher your score is — and the more favorably Facebook will treat your ads.

3) It includes an enticing value proposition.

A value proposition tells the reader why they should click on your ad to learn more about your product. How is your product or service different from any other? Why should the viewer click on your ad to see your website?

Your value proposition should be believable. For example, saying you have the greatest sandwiches in the world will not make people come to your business’s Page, but maybe offering 20% off will. Or, perhaps adding social proof will help — something like, “Sandwiches loved by over one million people every year! Come try yours today and get 20% off your order with this coupon.”

4) It has a clear call-to-action.

A beautiful and relevant ad is great, but without a call-to-action (CTA), your viewer might not know what to do next. Add a CTA like “Buy now and save X%,” or “Offer ends soon” and add a sense of urgency to your viewer. Your CTA should encourage people to click on your ad now.

The 3 Primary Formats for Facebook Ads (With Examples)

Format 1: The Right Column Ad

Right Column Facebook Placement.png

Source: Facebook

This type of ad is the most traditional on Facebook, it appears on the right side of a user’s Facebook News Feed. This is the first type of advertising Facebook had, and it still exists today.

Although ads in the News Feed are likely to get higher engagement metrics due to its native advertising features, right column ads shouldn’t be forgotten. We often see less expensive clicks and conversions when using these ads. In order for a right column ad to be successful, it needs to be relevant, have a value proposition, a good visual, and have a call-to-action. Let’s look at an example below from Winc (formermly known as Club W): 


Club W FB Ad.png

Here’s what makes this ad great:

  • It’s visual. The visual is clear, simple, and appealing to all types of wine-lovers.
  • It’s relevant. This came up in my wine-obssesed colleague’s News Feed. Need I say more? Two thumbs up on relevance.
  • It includes an enticing value prop. Three bottles for $19? What a steal. They also pull the viewer in with an additional value: a discount on their first order of wine.
  • It has a strong call-to-action. The word “get” is strong call-to-action language, and it’s used twice here. A time limit on this offer would have made it even stronger.

Format 2: The Desktop News Feed Ad

Screen Shot 2016-11-29 at 1.16.38 PM.png

Source: Facebook

This type of ad appears directly in a user’s News Feed when they access Facebook on a desktop computer, and it looks more like native advertising. In our experience, these ads have a higher engagement rate than right column ads, but they can also be more expensive. These ads must follow organic Facebook posts best practices and be both engaging and visual.

This is how an ad from Amazon looks in the News Feed on a desktop:

amazon newsfeed litter box.png

Here’s what makes this ad great:

  • It’s visual. Not only is this image larger than the right column ad display, but it also uses warm colors, white space, and directional lines which drew my eye towards the featured product.
  • It’s relevant. As a cat mom, this offer is clearly tailored to my consumer needs. 
  • It includes an enticing value prop. Amazon has advertised a self-cleaning litter box here, which is of tremendous value for any cat owner. Additionally, it shared the strong customer ratings below an image of the product. (Social proof, anyone?)
  • It has a clear call-to-action. Amazon instructs me to click on its ad today, after which point the deal for the litter box will presumably disappear. “Now” is strong CTA language that compels clicks.

Format 3: The Mobile News Feed Ad

Mobile Facebook Ad Placement.png

Source: Facebook

Like the desktop News Feed ad, this type of ad appears in the user’s mobile News Feed and displays like an organic posts from people and Pages that they follow. 

This is what a mobile News Feed ad for The New York Times looks like:

NYT mobile ad.jpg

Here’s what makes this ad great:

  • It’s visual. The quirky cartoon drew my eye as I scrolled on my mobile News Feed through lots of text and photography. The nontraditional illustration pulled me in for a closer look at the content.
  • It’s relevant. I’m a person in my 20s, and I used to write about health care. This is an article I would definitely be interested in reading, and it helps that the ad appears like a native post promoting an article in my New Feed.
  • It includes an enticing value prop. The ad shows me which of my Facebook friends also like, and presumably read, The New York Times. This social proof makes me more likely to click and read the article.
  • It has a clear call-to-action. This ad is dedicated to increasing the page’s Likes, and by asking a question in the ad, the call-to-action makes me want to click the article to learn more.

Now that we’ve covered the three main ad formats, let’s dig into a sampling of the wide variety of post types you can use.

8 Types of Facebook Advertising & Some of the Best Facebook Ad Examples

1) The Facebook Video Ad

Video ads appear fairly large in the user’s New Feed and offer more engaging content than static posts. And with 8 billion videos being watched on Facebook every day, it serves as an interesting — and potentially profitable — ad type for marketers to try out. 

Need some inspiration? Check out this example from Key Jewlers below:

kayjewelersfinalgif.gif

Why this works:

  • It’s visual. Even though this is a video, I have a general idea of what I will be watching, thanks to the screen capture it started with. Additionally, I can understand the gist of this ad without playing with the sound on, which is important given that 85% of videos on Facebook are now viewed without sound.
  • It’s relevant. It’s relevant to me because I was recently scouring jewelry websites, specifically for necklaces like the one in the ad.
  • It’s valuable. Kay shows potential customers the value of purchasing with the help of the happy reaction from the woman receiving the gift in the ad. Plus, who doesn’t love dogs?
  • It has a solid call-to-action. This ad is set up to drive Page Likes, which is an easy, one-click way for me to get more relevant content served up to me.

How can you create your own video ad? First, understand Facebook video ad requirements including length and video size. We suggest keeping your video as short as possible, even though Facebook allows you to upload a much larger video. Create a video that displays your product or service, and upload directly to the Facebook ads manager by following these instructions

2) The Photo Ad

Another type of rich media advertising on Facebook is a post of an image. This is one of the most popular types of ads ever since Facebook began favoring visual content. The optimal size for News Feed photo ads is 1200×628 pixels, otherwise your image will get cropped. Adjust your image based on the target audience’s needs and by what will appeal to them the most.

Here’s an example of a photo ad from NatureBox:

naturebox-1

Why this works:

  • It’s visual. The image shows you exactly what you’re getting, and it calls out the “free sample” CTA well.
  • It’s relevant. Everyone likes to snack. In all seriousness, the person who saw this is a fan of several lifestyle subscription companies, which is what NatureBox is. 
  • It’s valuable. This ad is full of value. First, the “free trial” callout is the first thing your eyes go to when looking at the image. Second, it clearly mentions the healthy aspects of the goodies in its product.
  • It has a clear call-to-action. Nature Box is asking you to try its free sample. It couldn’t be easier to know your next step.

3) The Multi-Product Ad

Multi-product ads allow advertisers to showcase multiple products within one ad. Viewers can scroll through the images and click on individual links to each product. You can promote multiple of anything, not just products — like different blog posts, ebooks, or webinars. These ads can be created in the Facebook Power Editor.

Here’s an example of a multi-product ad from Shutterfly, along with the additional images that are used in the ad. Each image has a different offer, to appeal to many different demographics in one ad.

shutterfly

Why this works:

  • It’s visual. This series of images leands on a consistent color pallette, making it feel both cohesive and on brand. (Having a cute cat doesn’t hurt either.)
  • It’s relevant. The person who saw this loves taking photos and creating sentimental gifts. Spot on, right?
  • It’s valuable. There is a very clear value for the user, 40% off each of the products being advertised. The code and sale end date are also clear in the ad description. This ad also has an added level of value, it is showing the many different ways people can use Shutterfly, in ways many may not be aware of.
  • It has a clear call-to-action. I know I need to use this before February 17th when this deal expires, so I would be encouraged to take action right away.  

4) The Local Ad

Local ads on Facebook only work if your business has a physical location that you are trying to drive real foot traffic to. If you fall into this category, then locally targeted Facebook ads may be a great fit for you, as you can hyper-target on Facebook down to the mile.

If your business has an offer or event going on at your store, set up a few Facebook ads that appear only to people within a short distance of your store. Have these ads appear a few days prior to the event and on mobile devices while the event is happening. You may want to reach some people the day of the event who happen to be in the area and checking their Facebook account on their smartphones.

Take this ad for example from Mizzou Campus Dining:

ScreenShot2015-03-29at2.12.59PM

Why this works:

  • It’s visual. This image has college pride, a variety of salty and sweet treats, and a well-known logo to attract hungry college students. 
  • It’s relevant. This ad is likely only being shown to students on campus who are in its target audience. It also mentions the sports game that was going on at the time, and plays to the student’s current needs: snacks and Subway sandwiches.
  • It’s valuable. Mizzou Market is telling hungry college students that it has everything students need for the big game. 
  • It has a clear call-to-action. This ad has the option to show directions, making it extremely easy for a college student on the go to follow the walking directions to this market.

5) The Offer Ad

An offer ad is a newer form of Facebook advertising where a business can promote a discount on a product or service that can be redeemed on Facebook. The benefit of this? It eliminates one step in the buyer’s journey, which ultimately increases sales.

The offer ad has many benefits. First, it drives the user directly to the offer. The user claims it directly on Facebook, removing any added friction of needing to to go to your website for the offer. You also can reach any type of audience that you want, as all the Facebook targeting options are possible.

Finally, you can include all the information needed for the user to decide if they want it or not, including the time period it is usable, the number of people who has already claimed it, and the exact amount the offer is. This will eliminate any unqualified clicks, which cost you money.

Here’s an example of an offer ad Boston Sports Club:

BSCad.jpg

Why this works:

  • It’s visual. The featured photo uses bold colors and clear typography to draw my attention to the details of the offer, and the woman exercising gives me an idea of what I could gain from purchasing the offer.
  • It’s relevant. I recently moved to Boston and have been searching for gyms in my area online, so this ad is highly relevant to my recent Facebook and search activity.
  • It’s valuable. Paying $5 for a monthly gym membership is a great deal. Even though the price may increase in the future, the low price definitely makes me want to click.
  • It has a clear call-to-action. The CTA emphasizes that the discount offer is limited and should be claimed quickly using the word “hurry” and telling me when the offer expires.

6) The Event Ad

Event ads promote a specific event. The CTA on these ads usually send users directly to the ticket purchase page, wherever that happens to be hosted.

Using this type of ad will help drive a targeted group of people to attend your event. These will show up in the News Feed of the specific audience you’ve chosen. Events are a big part of most businesses, but getting people to attend even a small event, can be tricky. Promoting your event to a targeted specific audience on Facebook can help drive the right kind of attendees.

A good ad in this format will clearly show the benefit of attending the event: The price, dates, and a clear CTA to purchase a ticket. The events ad below for the Tortuga Music Festival displays the date and time and the bands playing:

event facebook ad

Why this works:

  • It’s visual. The picture alone is worth a thousand words about how much fun this concert would be. Not only is it on the beach, it was also taken on a gorgeous day and the stage looks amazing. Also, it clearly represents what to expect during the event, and it catches the eye as someone scrolls through their News Feed. (The beautiful ocean water definitely helps.)
  • It’s relevant. The person who saw this ad is a fan of Kenny Chesney and has been to his concerts before. They’re also originally from Florida, which is where this event takes place. 
  • It’s valuable. Since the image was taken on a beautiful day, it looks like an ideal place to be — especially to those of us viewing it from our office desks. It also clearly tells you the cost of the ticket so you know before you click. (This is also good for the advertiser: By including the price, the ad allows users to self-select based on whether they can afford the ticket. If they can’t afford it, they won’t click through, thus saving the advertiser money on unqualified clicks.)
  • It has a clear call-to-action. The CTA is clear: “Buy.” The advertisers also add urgent wording with the title “Time is running out!”, encouraging you to purchase your ticket now before it’s too late.

7) The Retargeting Ad

A retargeting ad promotes an ad to a specific list of previously identified people. Have you ever seen ads follow you across the internet after visiting a certain website? Then you’ve seen a retargeting ad. 

Facebook has the same capability. An advertiser can advertise to a list of leads or customers by uploading a list of email addresses it already has into the Power Editor to make a custom audience. A good retargeting ad acknowledges that the brand knows you’re already interested in its product. (Because, let’s face it … retargeting can be a little creepy.)

Last week, I started shopping around for a bridesmaid dress for an upcoming wedding. Today, this ad appeared in my News Feed:

Adrianna Papell wedding dress ad.png

Why this works:

  • It’s visual. The image gives me a good idea of what to expect from the designer’s website, and it definitely helps that the gowns are both unique and stunning. Talk about a showstopper. 
  • It’s relevant. The ad called out that I was already shopping for bridesmaid dresses, and what’s more, I had previously looked at dresses on this exact website, so this ad is highly relevant to my search.
  • It’s valuable. The variety of dresses in the ad’s image and in the description make this website worth a visit for someone trying to find the perfect gown out of thousands of options.
  • It has a clear call-to-action. The CTA is “Shop Now,” which encourages me to click to purchase the beautiful dresses in the ad’s image.

8) The Boosted Post

A boosted post is an organic Facebook post that was originally on the homepage of a company’s Facebook, and that later was boosted with advertising money.

This is different from the above ads because it’s not created in the Facebook Ads Manager. You can include more in the description, as there is no limit to word count on boosted posts like there is in ads. You can also have a link in the copy.

The cons? Boosted posts leave you fewer options for bidding, targeting, and pricing. You also cannot run any types of A/B tests because you’re promoting a post that’s already been creating, not creating one from scratch.

Here’s an example of a boosted post from Bustle, who promoted one of its articles on Facebook:

bustle learn more ad.png

Why this works:

  • It’s visual. Lots of people are familiar with the Amazon Prime logo, but not in neon lights in a window display. It made me do a double-take while scrolling through Facebook.
  • It’s relevant. As we’ve already learned from earlier examples, I like shopping on Amazon and also read Bustle, so this article is a combination of those two behaviors.
  • It’s valuable. “Brilliant” is a strong adjective to describe products, which makes me curious to learn more about purchasing them.
  • It has a clear call-to-action. The ad entices me with information about useful and “brilliant” gadgets I can get delivered to my door within two days, which I’m happy to click to learn more about.

Getting Started

There you have it: A list of all the different types of Facebook posts and a few examples of awesome ones from all different brands. The Facebook Ads Manager platform will walk you through how to set these up with simple, step-by-step instructions — so don’t feel overwhelmed.

Note for HubSpot customers: You can now integrate Facebook Ads reporting into the HubSpot Ads App to make reporting and analyzing your advertising ROI easier. You’ll be able to easily see which Facebook Ads generate leads and increase your ROI without having to analyze the data yourself. You can also use this integration to edit Facebook Ads from directly within your HubSpot portal. Customers can sign up to test this integration here.

Now, stop reading and start creating.

Want to see how HubSpot uses Facebook? Like our Facebook Page here.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in June 2012 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

free guide to facebook advertising

The Top Questions to Ask & Avoid During a Phone Interview [Infographic]

phone-interview-questions.jpg

Did you know that the average job seeker spends only 76 seconds reviewing a job posting online before they decide to apply?

While this may be enough time for the candidate to determine if the role is in their area of expertise and meets their salary requirements, it probably isn’t enough for them to evaluate if they’re the best fit for the role.

If you’re an interviewer, this is where the phone interview can come in handy. Instead of taking time to coordinate an in-person interview, a phone interview requires only a few minutes of your time and can quickly and easily determine if the candidate is qualified for the role.

Hireology produced the following infographic to review questions you should — and shouldn’t — ask in a phone interview to decide if a candidate should move forward in the recruiting process. Check it out below to sharpen your phone interview skills.

PHONE-INTERVIEW-1.png

What questions do you always make sure to ask during a phone interview? Share with us in the comments below.

learn how to hire an all-star marketing team

Virtual Reality vs Traditional Video: 7 Differences You Need to Know

ThinkstockPhotos-545792146-517239-edited.jpgVirtual reality is the hot new video marketing tool disrupting business plans and budgets across the planet. Audiences are loving it and want more: a 2015 study found that 81% of consumers would tell their friends about their VR experience, and that 79% would seek out additional experiences. The demand is so huge Deloitte predicts that by 2020 the global market may be worth around $30 billion.

Because of this growing demand everyone is jumping on the bandwagon and offering VR production as part of their services. I get it – as an integrated marketing agency with an in-house video production department, becoming a virtual reality agency was a natural next step for us, so we sent the team on training, hired in specialists and acquired the kit we needed.  

We’ve learned loads on our long VR journey; it truly is a different beast to 2D and takes some serious skills to tame. We’ve outlined 7 important differences to help you prepare for your own VR adventure – consider them carefully, they could save you buckets in tears and pennies.

1) You need specialist equipment

VR production requires some specialist equipment that can seem incredibly intimidating, not to mention expensive. At the very least you will need a 360 camera rig and editing station (with an i5 processor or above), as well as a PC and headset to review the footage. 

In terms of camera gear, there is a range of options to suit different levels of budget and ambition. The Samsung Gear 360 is one great option at entry level that consists of two cameras with a 180-degree view. It’s priced at around US $460.

If only the best will do, consider the 8K, waterproof, six-camera GoPro Omni. It captures everything – and its resolution is almost faultless with minimal stretching. The price for this fancy rig is around US $4600.

If you want movement in your video, you need to budget for extra gear like drones and dollies. 

Now that you’ve got your camera gear sorted you need to think about your editing equipment. At TopLine Comms, we recently bought a beast of an editing machine to deal with the sheer amount of high-res footage that each camera rig produces. This machine can process footage with resolutions ranging from 720p to 8K and is completely customized for VR production.

2) Avoid the danger zone

VR film sets have their very own ‘danger zone’ – usually a radius of 1.5 meters from the camera rig. Anything filmed in this zone will come out weird and blurry so your production team will need to keep it clear of any people or objects that could distort the shot.

Stitch lines can have a monstrous effect on your VR content so make sure you’re working with a crew who pays attention to where they are and keeps focal points as far away from them as possible.

But remember, even if the danger zone is kept clear, the different angles of footage will still have to be stitched together using specific software like Kolor Autopano Video Pro and Kolor Giga.

While some VR equipment – like the Samsung Gear 360 on the Galaxy s7 smartphone – have an automatic onboard stitching function, there are some drawbacks you have to bear in mind: the footage you get will have a lower resolution and the processing time will take longer.

If you want higher quality footage – Samsung Gear 360 can still do it, but then you have to use a computer and specialist stitching software. Ultimately, you need to decide what will work best for you and your budget.

3) Think about people on set

We know that when you commission your first VR project, you will probably want to be on-location. With normal video production, this is fine. With VR video production, it’s not fine. Remember, these cameras are filming 360-degree content which means everything will be in the shot. Even if you stand behind a tree and don’t breathe, you’ll get picked up.

This means that if you insist on being on set, the director will likely ask you to get in character, put on a costume and blend in. No joke. Crew on the latest Star Wars film, Rogue One, had to do it.

So if dressing up is your thing, by all means attend the shoot. If not, you can’t be on set. Sorry.

4) Give the voice over direction

Scripting voiceover for content that can literally go in any direction is tricky. Unlike 2D, your audience can look anywhere at any moment. So, if the VO is talking about something happening on the right, best the script directs them to look right. Rather than record the VO before filming, work with your production agency to do it afterwards.

You also have to keep in mind that most cameras focus on visuals at the expense of audio quality. To fix this you can hire special recorders for 360-degree sound, like Core Sound’s TetraMic and Brahma Tetrahedron, for example. This will, of course, be an additional expense.

5) Be patient with the edit

Post-production is where the true magic happens but be prepared for it to take time – much more time than editing 2D footage. Merging stitch lines will take at least a week, more if your production has used multiple cameras.

The edit begins by uploading the footage into specialist software, like Kolor Autopano Video Pro and Kolor Giga. The content is sync’d and then the angles are stitched together.

Once the videos have been stitched together, your editing team will often have to fix the horizon. During the stitching process the software will automatically merge the different angles to reduce the appearance of seams. However, sometimes this results in an image that is off centre or off axis. This can only be corrected by manipulating the video.

What’s more, all objects directly above or below the camera (like tripods) will have to be ‘disappeared’ using skilful editing techniques such as superimposing a reference photo over it. Or, the editor can opt for the cruder method and stick a relevant graphic over it.

We once attached one of our 360 camera rigs to the front of a skateboard, but the clamp holding the camera up was visible in the footage. To edit this out we had to manually lay another image of a skateboard over the actual skateboard in the shot.

All of this makes VR editing a much lengthier process than traditional video editing.

6) Prepare to pay more

VR is relatively expensive to produce. It costs more than 2D but not as much as a Spielberg blockbuster (unless you’re referencing one of his epic films from the last century). Truth is, it doesn’t pay to cut corners – ultra-low-cost equipment and crews often result in ultra-low quality.

To put the costs in perspective it helps to look at the requirements in terms of time, people involved and post-production process. For a 2D filmed video you will usually need a producer or director, a camera operator and a sound recordist. Then the post-production process will involve and offline edit, motion graphics and colour grading. All of this will take about 5 weeks could cost between US$6 500 and US$10 000.

With a 360-degree video, however, you’ll need more crew members, including a producer or director, a camera operator, a digital imaging technician a sound recordist and a runner. As mentioned above the post-production process is also more extensive with VR. It will typically include stitching, offline editing, plating, motion graphics and colour grade. This pushes the project timescale to around 7 weeks with costs ranging from US$ 9 000 to US$13 000. 

But remember, VR projects don’t all cost the same – productions with bigger kit, multiple days of filming and some basic graphics could be around US$13 000 to US$20 000. A high end VR experience with lots of animation could be upward of US$130 000.

With VR it’s worth investing in an agency that won’t mess up the postproduction process, and that will be able to advise you on the best shots for your video. You might think that it’s a good idea to have a camera on the floor while people zip past on bikes. While this sounds dynamic in theory, the shot’s perspective will place your viewer on the floor too – which might not be the most comfortable experience. A good VR video agency will point these things out to you, so you can make better, more informed decisions.

That said, your VR project also should not eat your entire marketing budget – what good is cool new content if you can’t afford to take it to market?

7) Make it audience friendly

Almost everyone wants to watch VR content but not everyone has the required headsets. If you’re producing an experience to showcase at an event or in the office then no problem, you’ll have the relevant equipment on-hand.

If you’re assuming that your viewer has an Oculus Rift at home, your amazing VR experience will fall flat. The best you can do is make sure that your audiences can immerse themselves in your VR content through as many platforms as possible: from Google Cardboard to YouTube to Sulon Q.

When producing content that has to be viewed with a headset, give some thought to motion sickness and make sure your viewers won’t feel too nauseous (remember Nintendo’s first attempt at VR that had people literally throwing up?). Relatively static shots are best as they allow viewers to move their heads freely and enjoy their immersive experience without unpleasant side-effects.

If you’re still not sure if VR is right for you, consider what you want to use the video for. Will an engaging, immersive video experience get the job done better than a traditional video? If the answer is yes, then you should consider VR. However, you also have to keep your budget and project timeline into account. While VR videos create a great experience they do take longer and are more expensive to make.

If you analyze your prospective project according to the 7 characteristics of VR videos listed above, you should get a good idea of whether what you want to achieve can be done through VR and whether you have the budget to make it work. The great thing is, should you decide to attempt VR you don’t have to go at it alone. You don’t have to be a VR expert if you work with an agency that is able to advise you on everything from shooting location to sound effects.

If virtual insanity is getting you down and you need some expert guidance, download our Marketer’s Guide to Virtual Reality.

DOWNLOAD THE FREE MARKETER'S GUIDE TO VR

Top Strategies for Taking Your Online Community Offline with Marketing Events – Stefanie Grieser [SSM019]

How do you go from having no conference — from almost having no marketing team, just you being the 9th employee and one of the very first marketers — to a marketing conference of 1,000 attendees, acclaimed in your industry, a must-attend destination on the annual events calendar?

How do you do all of that in just four years?

We had the pleasure of speaking with Stefanie Grieser, International Marketing Manager at Unbounce, about the multifaceted strategies that go into marketing and growing one of the most successful marketing conferences in the industry. And how marketing events help to engage your audience and create delighted customers for life.

A huge thank you to Stefanie for jam-packing this episode with actionable wisdom and takeaways for social media managers and marketers looking for the best ways to start, grow, and nurture successful marketing and social media events.

How to listen: iTunes | Google Play | SoundCloud | Stitcher | RSS

This episode is available on:

In this episode, here’s what you’ll learn:

Stefanie Grieser shares the fascinating story and strategy of how Unbounce went from small meetups to hosting one of the largest marketing events in the industry. You’ll also learn other great things like:

  • How social media can help you market and grow your offline community
  • Why measuring the ROI of events is challenging, but important
  • Key factors and strategies in promoting marketing events and conferences
  • Where sales and acquiring new customers fits into the event marketing cycle

2 Key Takeaways for Successful Event Marketing from Stefanie

In Stefanie’s words…

1.Keep in mind the backbone of any great event is great content

“Keep in mind the backbone of any great event is great content: deliver great value for your audience and an audience. If you keep those two things top of the priority list I think you’ll succeed in event marketing. Again, I said this throughout the interview, you can have all the bells and whistles and you could be worried and stressed about catering, but at the end of the day that’s lower on the priority list to make a great event.”

2. Keep it simple at the start

“I would also advise people that are thinking about doing event marketing, whether it’s a conference or a smaller meetup, to keep it simple at the start. You don’t need to over-complicate things. Again, keep those two things top of mind, an audience and great content. Really keep it simple. I think the first year you can get sidelined. We’re going to have all these different tracks and all these people and it can get complicated really quickly.”

I think if you simplify things, especially if you’re a one person team. I was by myself. I was doing this. I was spearheading things from the ground up and there’s a lot of people around me would be like, “Oh, what about this? What about this?” I had to … It’s so great to think about all these extras and think about all these different tracks or what we could do here, but at the end of the day I think keeping it simple and keeping those two things top of mind will really serve you well.”

 Mentionable Quotes and Shareable Snippets

Event Marketing Tips with Stefanie Grieser

In Stefanie’s words…

“Really, event marketing is an extension of your content marketing. That’s the backbone to a really successful event. You can have all the bells and whistles, and events oftentimes get overshadowed by all these bells and whistles and great AV and balloons and swag. But really the backbone of a great event is an audience, the people there. That makes an event: a community and great content, valuable content that people can learn from.”

Show Notes and Other Memorable Moments

Thanks a million for checking out this episode! Below are the websites and other tidbits that were mentioned in today’s podcast about creating incredible Facebook communities using groups. If you have any questions for us, feel free to drop us a line in the comments and we’ll respond right away!

Companies and Events Mentioned by Stefanie

Great Quotes

  • “It’s a very big word, but really like any project or startup or even marketing channel, you should think of it as an MVP. Start small. We didn’t start by saying, ‘We’re going to do a conference. We’re going to pull off a conference.’ Yes, we kind of had the endgame in mind: It would be nice to do a conference. But why don’t we take little steps to get there?”
  • “These communities could really be strengthened through in-person encounters. Unbounce is a software company. We provide marketing and conversion software to marketers, and all of our interactions are done online. Building an in-person marketing strategy really actually strengthens some of the ties that we have to our community, to our customers, to people that could be customers — future customers I call them.”
  • “It showed us that people want in-person experiences and events. They want in-person connections. That was one little thing on the road to a bigger event. We did five or six meetups in different cities, and we found that it was really valuable. People were learning a lot. They were a high touch opportunity.”
  • “If you think of an event as a marketing campaign you are driving and you’re using different levers to promote your event to get people to come. Social is one of those, social is something that we integrate into a marketing campaign. It’s always an aspect. Okay, we have this campaign, you have this event. How are we going to tell people about it? We have an audience on social. We have a community on social so we’ll tell them through social media.”

How to Say Hello to Stefanie (and us)

Stefanie “Stef” Grieser is a must-follow marketer on Twitter and she would love to say “Hello” at smgrieser.

Thanks for listening! We’d love to connect with you at @buffer on Twitter or with the hashtag #bufferpodcast.

Enjoy the show? It’d mean the world to us if you’d be up for giving us a rating and review on iTunes!

About the Show

The Science of Social Media is a podcast for marketers and social media managers looking for inspiration, ideas, and results for their social media strategies. Each week, we interview one of the very best in social media marketing from brands in every industry. You will learn the latest tactics on social media, the best tools to use, the smartest workflows, and the best goal-setting advice. It is our hope that each episode you’ll find one or two gems to use with your social media marketing!

The Science of Social Media is proudly made by the Buffer team. Feel free to get in touch with us for any thoughts, ideas, or feedback.

How to Validate Your Blog Post Topics: A 3-Step Process

validate-blog-post-ideas.jpg

Imagine you own a business that films and produces yoga routines for at-home practice. As search engine results pages become more crowded, your chances of ranking for a popular industry keyword — such as “yoga” — begin to diminish.

But as it turns out, that’s not the end of the world. These days people are actually conducting more specific, conversational queries — think: “how do I teach myself yoga?” — to get the information they’re looking for, faster.

Unsurprisingly, Google responded to this change in behavior by introducing RankBrain — a machine-learning artificial intelligence system — as well as Hummingbird — a search algorithm designed to focus on the meaning behind the search terms being used.

The result? An increased number of long-tail keyword variations that are regularly searched within a topic. Jackpot. Learn more about HubSpot's latest tools to power your growth here.

But with more topic opportunities on the table, how can you be sure that you’re going after the right ones? To help you avoid wasting time on topics and keyword plays that won’t generate a meaningful return for your business, we’ve put together a simple process for validating your ideas before you start writing. Check it out below. 

How to Validate Your Blog Post Topics: A 3-Step Process

1) Get to know your audience really well.

Ideally, you’re already conducting market research and thinking about your audience before you start writing a piece of content. But in case you’re not, or you need to refresh your memory, here are a few questions you should be asking when you’re brainstorming blog content ideas:

  • Who searches for information on this topic? What are their ages, job roles, and demographic traits?
  • What emotions do you want to evoke? What are their goals?
  • What do you want viewers to do with your blog posts once they read it?

When you have a clearer idea of the demographic and psychographic traits of your ideal audience, you can then use this information to substantiate your list of ideas. Chuck the ideas that don’t fit their mold, and keep the ones that do — it’s that simple.

2) Create a topic cluster based on your persona research.

Once you know who you’re writing for, figure out what questions they need answers to. To start, think about providing solutions to challenges your audience is facing.

For example, in the yoga example above, your audience’s problems might include: not having enough time to go to the gym, a lack of nearby gyms, an inability to afford a gym membership, or high levels of stress.

From there, marketers should ask questions to determine the specific angle of their content. What’s the best way to deliver this information — a blog post, an infographic, or a video? What content has already been published about the topic, and what angle can I pursue to differentiate mine?

One of the best ways to organize your thoughts and finding here is through a topic cluster a new way to strategize blog content geared toward how search has evolved.

Continuing with the yoga example, you’d want to create a topic cluster centered around “yoga” as the main topic. Then, you’d come up with subtopics that are related to yoga but based on long-tail keywords that are easier to rank for in search. These could include “at-home workouts,” “exercises for stress relief,” “yoga for beginners,” and “online yoga classes.”

Here’s an example cluster that HubSpot’s Head of Growth & SEO Matt Barby created. Notice that while the core content topic is “workout routines,” the cluster content — referred to as pillar content — spans a wider variety of related topics.

workout routines topic cluster-1.png

By clustering ideas around one core topic that is relevant to your audience, it become easier to generate content that you know will resonate.

“This is a very simplistic overview but can work as a light framework for prioritizing content ideation and production,” explains Barby in an article detailing the full process. “The role of the pillar content is to cover the core topic broadly and also perform well at converting visitors into leads (or whatever your conversion goal is). The cluster content that is built for each of the subtopics will focus on gaining greater topic visibility and funneling traffic through to the pillar content in order for them to convert.”

3) Use tools to gut check your topics.

Once you have topics in mind for blog posts, do some testing: Just because you think the topic is interesting and good for search engine optimization doesn’t always mean it will resonate with your audience.

Here on the HubSpot Blogging team, we propose blog topics and titles alongside a reason why we think they will perform well. Here are some of the tools we use to determine if an angle is worth writing up:

  • TitleTester: As the name of the tool suggests, TitleTester allows you to plug different title options into its tool to analyze which has the highest clickthrough rate. Use this tool to test different angles on a topic to see which generates the most interest.
  • Twitter Polls: Ask your followers to vote for topics they’re most interested in reading more about using Twitter Polls. Use that data to guide your topic choosing before starting to write.
  • Twitter Chats: Figure out which Twitter Chat most closely aligns with the topics you’re writing about, click on the hashtag, and see what types of questions people are asking about. That will give you an idea of a content gap that your blog post could fill with resources for your audience.
  • BuzzSumo: BuzzSumo analyzes how many times a URL has been shared via social media or linked to by another domain. Do some quick competitor analysis by dropping in links to content on the topic you’re writing about to see how different angles have performed in the past.
  • Blog Comments: Does your blog have commenting enabled? If not, it should, because feedback from your subscribers is the exact answer to the questions you’re asking — what content is my audience interested in? Take positive and constructive feedback from readers to inform your strategy.

Once you’ve aggregated responses to different tests and questions you’ve asked your audience, choose a topic and title with the greatest level of engagement and response, and start writing your blog post.

Quality > Quantity

The biggest takeaway for marketers is to emphasize blog post quality and relevance over quantity. Instead of writing multiple blog posts without a review of the strategy behind them, it will be difficult to rank in search and achieve lead generation goals.

For HubSpot customers, HubSpot Content Strategy will help guide you through the process of creating a topic cluster. Based on data from the HubSpot Keywords App, Content Strategy and the Blog Topic Generator will recommend topics that you should create content around, and advise against topics that will be hard to rank for or are unrelated to your central topic. It’s coming soon to the HubSpot software, and users can sign up for early access now.

How do you decide which topics to write blog posts about? Share with us in the comments below.

Product Launches INBOUND 2016