Monthly Archives: February 2017

How to Make Instagram Albums Work for Your School

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If there’s one thing that is constant with social media, it’s that social channels will constantly change. From new features to updated layouts, you’ll find that as soon as you get used to a channel being a certain way- it’ll change. Yesterday, Instagram released a huge update to its platform with the introduction of Instagram Albums- a feature that allows an Instagram account to post up to 10 photos and videos in one post. Followers can then swipe through the post, viewing the grouping of photos and/or videos.

What Does This Mean for Schools?

If you’re an independent school and Instagram is a channel that is part of your social strategy- then Instagram Albums can be a powerful way to continue to tell your school’s story. However, make sure that whatever photos or videos you’re sharing stays on brand and has an intention. Take a moment to revisit your Instagram strategy and update accordingly.

Where Do I Start?

While the rollout of this feature won’t happen all at once, check your App Store to see if the update is there. From there, you’ll see a little icon of stacked photos when you go to post as you normally would. That’s where you get to select the photos you’d like to be featured and you can select which order the photos will be in. You can then batch edit the photos so they remain consistent and on brand. After you type in your caption and select your appropriate hashtags, hit post and voila! You now have an Instagram Album.

Ideas for Integrating Albums Into Your Online Presence

Since this feature is a game changer for the platform, this is a great time to sit down with your marketing team and brainstorm ideas for albums. Think through how you can tell your school’s story to potential and current students, as well as parents and alumni. A few ideas may look something like this:

  1. A tour of your campus featuring buildings and landmarks
  2. Introduce faculty and staff
  3. Showcase a day in the life of students
  4. Announce campus news/promote events
  5. Share photos/videos of sporting events

So there you have it, a quick look at Instagram Albums and several ideas for getting started with this exciting new feature. As long as you create albums with intention and have a strategy behind it, you’re sure to see the engagement on this channel increase.

If you have any questions about albums or Instagram strategy for schools, we’d love to chat!

The ROI Equation for Building Products Marketers

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In recent years, our ability to analyze user behavior and determine how Facebook, SEO, email and other tactics affect the purchase decision has improved. However, the challenges of two-step distribution make determining ROI especially difficult for most building products manufacturers. It can seem impossible to account for all the variables that result in purchase when you have little insight at the dealer or contractor level.

With the exception of reduced visibility, the funnel isn’t much different than it is for other marketers. The challenge is connecting marketing metrics to sales metrics. At True, we use three tactics to bridge the gap.

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Determine a non-sales marketing metric that indicates purchase

You can start to bridge the marketing ROI gap by focusing on what can be quantified, rather than what can’t. When a direct connection can’t be made between marketing efforts and offline sales, an intermediate, online conversion can help connect the dots. Examples of these include:

  • Requests for more information
  • Free product samples
  • Visiting a dealer
  • Downloading an online resource

Web experience planning is crucial at this point to figure out how users engage with your site and what they want to learn. Focus on finding one relevant, measurable action for each objective.

Determine the cost for your non-sales marketing conversion

The calculation is simple:

Cost of the program / Non-sales marketing conversion = Cost per conversion

The first question at this point is always, “What’s a good cost per conversion?” The better question is, “What’s a profitable cost per conversion?” The building products industry has a wide range of price points for a unit or an entire job. The drywall for a new construction build may be roughly $500. New siding is likely to cost upwards of $10,000. The siding company can afford a much higher cost per conversion and still be profitable.

Simple calculations for online conversions are the next step toward demystifying ROI. Determining front-end marketing costs and outcomes based on online conversion points is easier.

Determine the value of your non-sales marketing conversion

In a two-step distribution model, it’s nearly impossible to track every sale at the end-user level. What’s important is identifying trends to learn how different audiences buy. Rather than track every sale, use trends and averages to start to unmask ROI. There are three pieces to uncovering these trends:

  • Organized data – Whether you have a spreadsheet or a CRM, knowing where your customers come from, what audience segments they belong to and which sales rep closed the deal is important. The more information you have about your customers, the more reliable your assumptions about revenue per sale.
  • Open communications with sales reps – It’s important to get the right feedback from your reps. They know how many architects, builders and contractors they call on in a month. They can also tell you how many they feel ended in a sale. Depending on the rep and relationship, they may be able to shed insight on one-time customers vs. customers likely to repeat purchase.
  • Patience – Because two-step distribution is so fragmented, it’s important to remember this is an ongoing process. The more you learn about your audience and test your model, the smarter you become. Once you have a clear model you can test your inputs. Shift marketing dollars regionally, refocus audiences and change marketing messages. As long as you have a wealth of customer data, you will learn how these variable affect sales.

When you lose visibility at the point of sales, ROI is always going to be elusive, but we have the tools to audit our marketing efforts and track trends with sales.

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Meet True’s Newest Intern

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Meet Bailey, True’s new content intern. In this blog post, she tells us more about her PR experience so far, what she likes to do in her free time and where she sees herself in the future!

Name: Bailey Purpura

School: Kent State University

Major: Public Relations

Year: Senior

Other internship experience: Social media manager for NEO Allstars.

Do you have any hobbies?: I love to travel and I am usually somewhere different every weekend. I love taking and editing pictures and I also enjoy playing board games with my cousins.

What are 3 fun facts about you: 1. I am a competitive cheerleading coach 2. I LOVE Harry Potter and I had the chance to visit where they filmed the movies in London 3. I play the ukulele!

What’s your favorite snack: GRILLED CHEESE (I know that’s a big snack but I would eat it every day)

What do you hope to gain from your internship at True?: I hope to walk away with a better understanding of all aspects of a PR agency setting. I hope to take what I have learned beyond just PR and apply it to every job in my future.

What made you interested in an internship at True? I love how everyone is so passionate about their role at True. I think it’s awesome and beneficial that everyone here has a different specialty, and I feel like I learn something new every day! I love the atmosphere in the office and the variety of clients and projects True works on.

Where do you want to be in ten years? I would love to be working at an international PR agency in Cleveland or Chicago that allows me to travel and work with partners all over the world.

Welcome, Bailey! We’re so happy to have you on the team!

 

4 Steps to Improved Manager Communications

Every manager encounters a thousand communication opportunities every day.  It’s a metaphorical statement, but you catch the drift. A thousand chances to add value; a thousand chances to screw something up. The best of them, the leaders, know what to do with those opportunities, and fortunately, it’s not a secret.

Oh, sure, there are “naturals” out there — those gifted souls whose kind and gentle nature makes them magnets for great teams and whose command of language makes them a joy to work for. But most managers aren’t naturals when it comes to communication. They need to be carefully taught.

In my work with literally thousands of managers over the years (quite shocking to have totaled them up last year…), they seem to have two big problems in communicating with their teams.

1. They think more about what they need to say than what they need to listen to, and
2. They fail to consider the audience before deciding on messages, or methods to communicate.

Some of the issue is simple education — many people become managers because of technical expertise. They’re great engineers, accountants or public relations people who get promoted. They don’t have formal training that helps them be effective managers, let alone effective communicators. They often think communication is someone else’s job, except for operational and policy matters.

Yet, they’re often harsh critics of their own bosses — middle managers seldom feel like they know what they need to know. That takes its toll, as resentment builds. Managers feel like they’re going into battle with an unloaded weapon. Pass these four methods along to fill that gap, and use them yourself!

  1. Think critically about audiences. In this case, the more specifically, the better. It’s not just “employees” — there are groups of employees with differing needs, experiences and objectives that must be considered. Apply the same discipline to the leaders above your level.  An exhaustive listing of these potential groupings will help give a firm foundation to your communication plans.
  2. Consider communication objectives in the context of business objectives. Managers should be specific about what they want employees to think, feel or do as a result of communicating with them.  Again, go through the same exercise with your own management in mind. Keep your objectives organized by audience so you can make all communications work toward those goals.
  3. Evaluate messages. Messaging isn’t limited only to information flowing from you to subordinates. Boil down and simplify to be sure your language fits precisely the objectives for your audiences. As Strunk and White wrote, “Make every word tell.” Your employees, and your boss, will thank you for taking the extra time to do so.
  4. Finally, you’re ready to consider HOW to communicate. Methods can vary from hot (face to face discussion) to cool (email, telephone) to cold (memo, letter, statement).  As you think about the first three items on this list, fit the method to the context. Think of this less from your own preferences, and more from those of your audience, given the objectives you have for them. It’s the essence of receiver-focused communication.

If there were a #5, it would read: “Start now.”

Google Shopping Certification: What You Need To Know

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In the past, I’ve given you the run down for how to pass the Google Adwords and Analytics certification exams, but today I wanted to you give an in-depth look into one of the Google shopping exams for the Google Adwords certification. The Google Shopping exam was the easier of the two exams I chose (the other being search), however it did present its own set of unique challenges.

As stated in my previous blog posts, before you can take the exams, you are required to sign up for Google Partners. Google Partners is Google’s free program for agencies and other digital professionals designed to give you access to special events, Adwords and Analytics updates and free certification exams. Once you have registered, you will have access to all of the study materials for the Google Shopping exam under the Google Adwords certification.

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In order to become certified in Google Adwords you must pass two of the six possible exams with the Shopping exam as one of your options. The Google Shopping exam is 63 questions in 90 minutes and places heavy emphasis on the various feed specifications required to participate in Product Listing Ads (PLAs). There are plenty of supplemental materials on the web to help prepare yourself for the exam, but I found Google’s study guides to be the most helpful. Pay close attention to the specific requirements that each product must include to be approved for shopping and note that some requirements are specific to the product category. For instance, apparel and accessories may have different requirements than home goods and tools. Luckily, many of the requirements seem to be common sense, such as you can’t advertise a product through PLAs without an accurate photo and size and color information must be provided for apparel products. The majority of the exam’s questions focus on setting up the product feed and the fundamentals of the program.

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Since taking my Google Shopping exam last year, I’ve had the opportunity to work on accounts with Shopping campaigns and have developed a list of key takeaways from the exam that have helped me manage my accounts:

  • Products must include two of the three possible unique product identifiers in the feed: Global Trade Identification Number (GTIN), Manufacturer Parts Number (MPN) or the brand name.
  • GTINs are unique to every SKU of every product. Each variation should have a unique number.
  • Apparel and accessories must include the GTIN and the brand.
  • For apparel products, images must be at least 250 x 250 pixels and all other products must be at least 100 x 100 pixels.

Let’s review the facts before you take the exam:

  • You have 90 minutes to answer 63 questions.
  • You will not be able to return to any previous question once submitted.
  • Multiple choice answers, with the occasional multiple answer.
  • The passing score is 80%.
  • If you do not pass, you may retake the test in 7 days.
  • Your passing score is good for 12 months.

Remember to study the Google-provided materials before the exam because you will run out of time if you have to look up every answer to every question. Good luck!