Blog 6 – Who Is My Super-fan?

My super-fan is a client who values the creativity, strategy, and design execution that I bring to the table. They put their trust in me, and allow me to do what I do best, in order to achieve their marketing goals. They are the first to pass my name onto other colleagues or businesses, and boast about the services that I provide. These are the clients I build  long-lasting, and mutually-beneficial relationships with. 

My super-fan

What do they want? They want great creative that is on-time, on-brand, and on-budget. They want a marketing partner who gets excited when sharing ideas about their project or company. They also want someone who is willing to go the extra mile for them, in order for their busines to achieve the best possible outcome. It’s not enough to just get the job done – you need to be passionate about what you’re doing, and do it really well.

I’ve been fortunate to have worked with several super-fans over the years. They’ve been my bread-and-butter, and I attribute much of my success to them, along with the groundwork I laid when I started my small business.

Blog 7 – The Art of Storytelling

Storytelling is important in that it reaches people on a more emotional level. It’s not just about the story itself, but how you’re telling it. Your personality can shine through, even on a corporate blog, and make you feel like you’re talking to a friend or colleague. It can make you/your brand seem more relatable, trustworthy, and real. It’s a great strategy to help you reach new followers and ultimately grow your business.

With that said, I have to admit I struggle with the idea of sharing my personal story from a business point of view. I do understand the value of a story (your story), and writing about your particular experiences so that people can connect on a deeper level, but I find it difficult to merge my personal experiences with business – I’ve always been a private person when it comes to my career, and don’t necessarily want people to know my story… and frankly, I don’t think they need to know. Glimpses, perhaps, but not my story. 

However, what I will continue to work on is developing my unique voice – my own personal writing style – by weaving my personality into the tone of my professional writing, and being as organic and authentic as I can!

Blog Post #5 – Personal Brand

What is a brand? A brand goes beyond a simple logo. It’s the perception of your company, and how it makes people feel. My brand – Insignia Creative – is not only my visual identity, but my voice, personality, values, and of course the services I provide.

Insignia Creative Group is a small but mighty full-service design studio located in Kitchener, Ontario. We support other small businesses by offering exceptional design and marketing services at affordable rates. We have a streamlined process, and a lower overhead, allowing us to pass additional savings to our clients, who would typically spend 2x the amount on the same or lesser advertising efforts. We establish goals for everything we create, and align our design and marketing to ensure our clients get the results they seek.

Clients tend to comment on the creative flare and insight that Insignia provides them with. Colleagues would likely agree that creativity and reliability are two traits at the top of the list when thinking about Insignia as a brand. I will always go the extra mile to get things done, and done well.

One strategy I’ve recently tried (to make my small business stand out and reach audiences I wouldn’t normally reach) is advertising via good old-fashioned mailers. I downloaded a list of local companies from the Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce website, and was able to obtain contact information of other business owners. Typically advertising agencies do not go this route, but I wanted to experiment. In total, I sent out 30 professionally printed mailers, directed to local busines owners. While I did not receive a response as of yet, I did notice an uptick in visitors to my website as well as my google page. The next mail-out I send, I will be calling these companies to introduce myself as a local business owner. (Support local!)

http://www.insigniacreative.ca

Blog #4 – B2C Case Study

ST. JACOBS FARMERS’ MARKET. | SOCIAL MEDIA ASSESSMENT

This case study will assess whether or not the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market (SJFM) is successful in engaging with its customer online, using social media. 

SJFM has a Facebook account (33,033 followers) and Instagram account (12,000 follwers), as well as a website in which they use to communicate with their audience directly (B2C). Interestingly enough they also have a LinkedIn page, where they have accumulated 12 followers, some of which are employees. Based on this information alone, I do not believe LinkedIn should be an important channel to invest their time/energy in.

On average, they get ~15-40 likes/reactions on each Facebook post compared to ~50+ likes per post on Instagram. They’re posting identical content across both social media channels, but have a few extra posts sprinkled throughout Instagram. Despite the fact that Facebook has 3x the followers, Instagram wins as far as number of reactions and even comments.

Unfortunately, SJFM does not monitor their social media once they post, and does not interact directly with their customer’s comments, regardless if it’s a positive or negative remark. One customer said they didn’t feel safe shopping at the Market, because vendors were not wearing masks properly, and went onto say she will not return to the Market even after the pandemic because of it. There was no response from the Market whatsoever. They’re missing an opportunity to gain trust from their audience!

On the plus side, SJFM is doing a decent job at trying to redirect their audience to their website for more content, by way of links from social media channels. It’s not apparent as to whether or not it’s actually working – they’d need to be using analytics in order to measure their efforts – but this is a good start.

As far as the actual content they’re posting, I think they’re doing a reasonable job, but could improve on the quality of photos they’re posting, and incorporate video weekly. They should be using more consistent hashtags, and a minimum of 5 per post. Branding as a whole should be more consistent, and a seasonal campaign strategy should be in place.

Overall, I think SJFM is doing an okay job with advertising on social media. There is definitely room for improvement, which is great – imagine what their follower base would look like if they had brand strategy in place!

Blog #3: Who Are You Targeting?

Discovering your target market

I own and operate a micro deign studio in Kitchener-Waterloo: Insignia Creative. Over the last decade I have worked in several areas: healthcare, industrial, non-profit organizations, education institutions, tech sector, etc. Most of my clients operate as b2b, with the exception of a University (b2c). Variety is the spice of life as they say, and working in various sectors means that I learn a lot about different subject matter!

Many of the individuals I connect with, work for mid-large organizations, are between the ages of 30-55, and have typically been female business professionals. With that said, a lot of the technology start-ups I have helped over the years, through the Accelerator Centre, are founded by men, ages 35-60.

According to Pew, 62% of internet users ages 65 and older use Facebook, and 72% of 50- to 64-year-olds use it. Facebook has the highest number of users in these age ranges.

https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/10146-target-older-demographics-social-media.html

My target is well-educated, usually with a University background. Most have older children, who no longer live with them (18+). With that said, they are generally family oriented and like to spend time with loved ones, and plan cottage getaways and other travel.

Based on the age range, education backgrounds, and conservative nature of my audience, I believe LinkedIn and Facebook are the ideal channels to reach them. I believe well-written, informative content on social media is the way to go VS highly visual with little supporting content.

LinkedIn is more popular with 30- to 49-year-olds than with the 50-and-older demographic, according to Pew; 33% of internet users ages 30 to 49 use LinkedIn, compared with 24% of 50- to 64-year-olds and 20% of those 65 and older.

https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/10146-target-older-demographics-social-media.html

I believe it’s more important to be considered a thought leader, than a company that is blatantly trying to advertise for themselves. This is where a blog as well as a monthly e-newsletter come in handy, to curate rich content.

COM0014 Blog#2 – How to Connect in a Digital World

Illustration of people digitally communicating. Source: http://www.bigstock.com

People yearn for connection and a sense of belonging, in both the physical and digital realms. 

While this is not a new discovery for me, reading about communication and connection in week’s module did further drive home that message, especially as I contemplate how to reach my online audience. More and more people want to feel connected. Connected to a brand, or the people behind the brand, to form online relationships. How do we do this? One way is by being ‘human’ – speaking genuinely and authentically in our storytelling approach.

Achieving connection can be difficult, especially if critical information is buried within your blog or article – your audience might miss the main ideas, and leave before they even get started! Being short, sweet and concise is definitely the way to go – especially since many people have short attention spans (guilty as charged). This is where the inverted pyramid comes into play – the most important information should be stated at the beginning of the article, then supporting (and detailed) information below.

Your audience also has a variety of reading styles, which need to be taken into account. Myself, for instance – I tend to speed-read the first few paragraphs of an article to see if I can find any valuable information (I am an inspectional reader, as this article suggests: https://copyblogger.com/how-to-read). If nothing grabs me, I leave. If I stay, I will keep reading and gather important information, which may or may not help me form deeper insights.

Once you’ve grabbed your audience’s attention, enough for them to read through your entire article, it’s great to include them in on the conversation by asking them questions. This will help to deepen the connection. Many successful bloggers end their blog with a question to their audience. To which I ask, what type of reader are you? Do you read to be entertained? Do you skim? Are you an information gatherer? Do you read, then form your own insights? Comment below!

COM0014 – Blog #1: A Family Vacation that Came to a Screech in Newfoundland

As a 40+ year old adult, let me tell you, vacationing with family isn’t what it used to be.

In the Winter of 2019, I made plans for my daughter and I to travel to Newfoundland for a week long, relaxing vacation with my parents, whom I hadn’t been on holiday with since I was around 20 years old. I was geared up for this because most of my vacations over the past few years have consisted of day trips with my daughter, going to the Toronto Zoo, Storybook Gardens, the Museum, Bingemans, Stratford for shopping and duck feeding, etc. Nowadays this is called a staycation. Anyway, this year’s trip was going to be BIG, especially since it would probably be one of the last opportunities to travel with my parents now that they’re getting older, and I loved the fact that my daughter and I would have cherished memories with them.

We started planning for the upcoming Summer holiday. I ordered a tourist package which arrived in the mail, and scoured the web for things to do and see. I had heard so many great things from friends having been there. I was already a fan of the East coast, having travelled to Nova Scotia several times, but was told Newfoundland would be even more scenic. 

As time wore on, and without my knowledge, my parents decided to extend our plans to include my siblings. They told me that my brother and wife were now going to come on the trip with us. This was fine, because we hadn’t officially booked an Airbnb at that point, although, in the back of my head I knew we might have some personality differences on the trip. I mean, not everyone gets along with their siblings enough to travel with them, right?

As kids we got along for the most part, and into our twenties we partied a lot together… but once I had my daughter a lot of things changed, and there seemed to be a growing tension between the three of us. Like an elephant in the room every time we got together for the big 3: Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving.

Trying to stay positive about the vacation, I pressed on, and ended up finding a beautiful house, close to downtown St. John’s, that we could Airbnb for the week. I booked it, along with our flights. This was really happening!

Shortly after, my older sister told my parents that she was coming too. Again, this all sounds like a great family vacay, but along with my sister, comes a bunch of drama. It’s one of her gifts. If she can pit people against one another, she’ll do it. Maybe that’s too harsh to say?

Luckily (or unluckily) there was room – the Airbnb had advertised a bedroom in the attic, which appeared to have a bunkbed. I hadn’t anticipated anyone having to sleep up there, as there were three other bedrooms, all with queen-sized beds. However, I quickly became anxious…was I going to be shafted to the attic? I was the only one bringing their child. But, I didn’t want to sleep on a small, uncomfortable bunkbed. After much worry and contemplation, I decided to tell my sister that I would be sharing the queen bed with my daughter, and being the newcomer to the trip, she’d have to take the attic. To my surprise, she didn’t put up much of a fuss. Maybe this was going to go OK after all!

It wasn’t. The second night we spent there, somehow the attic turned into a sauna. It was as though someone turned on a heater upstairs. My sister wasn’t happy, but ended up plugging in some fans, and survived.

From day one everyone wanted to do different things. We’d drive to a destination, and my siblings and sometimes my parents would walk off and do their own site seeing, often times leaving me and my daughter. After several times of this happening, I gave up on the notion that this was a ‘family’ trip, and just made sure that my daughter and I made the best of it.

Since we had rented two vehicles, I planned nice a day with my daughter and mom, getting our nails done, visiting a friend in the town of Dildo, and sightseeing. We also found an amazing Spanish tapas restaurant that my daughter still raves about to this day. This was one of my favourite days – one that I will indeed cherish for years to come. 

Once we got back from our daytrip, my sister and brother (and wife) were all angry and in bad moods. My dad seemed fine, however. I guess the day that they had planned was a bust, and my sister informed me that neither my brother or her wanted to have to deal with our dad like that for the rest of the trip. She complained about how annoying he was, and he was making it impossible for them to do what they wanted to do, since his knees were in rough shape, and often lagged behind. I reminded her that this was likely the last vacation we’d all be together, and that we need to make the most of it.

A couple days later, my brother and sister-in-law decided to go for a walk at night. Ironically, my dad wanted to join them, but my sister stepped in and said to give them some space. Dad went for a walk by himself, but was gone far too long for someone with bad knees. My mom worried that something had happened, and so after he was gone for over an hour and a half, we hopped into both vehicles and drove around in search for the man we thought might either be lost, or hurt. The walk to the main downtown strip was about 20 minutes away… and knowing how my dad likes the water, it would have made for a very pretty walk, so we headed that way.

We drove around, and eventually found him staggering out of a bar across the street. He never drinks, and boy did he look rough. So rough I almost started to cry. We pulled the car over immediately, and my sister began yelling “DAD…DAD…DAD!” as loud as she could. . people were starting to stare. As he was getting closer, we suddenly realized, OMG, that’s not dad, and quickly drove away laughing. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so relieved.

On our drive bck to the house, we saw our ACTUAL dad, and picked him up. He was mad that we went to that degree to find him. After all, he was having a great time by himself. We explained that it wasn’t that he took off, it was that he was gone for so long, and didn’t have a cell phone with him to let us know that his walk for fresh air turned into something more.

The next day we drove to Petty harbour, looked around, and stopped for a bite to eat at one of the local restaurants. My brother, who is allergic to shrimp and crab, decided to take a chance and try some of his wife’s lobster dish. Overall, the food was decent, but nothing to write home about. 

After we finished with lunch, we noticed a popular ice cream hut (tons of people were flocked around the building). Seeing as my daughter LOVES her treats, I wanted to buy her one. We waited in line for about 20 minutes when my brother informed us that he was having a reaction to the lobster. His wife, and my dad left in one of the rentals. My mom and sister stayed behind with my daughter and I. We waited for in line for well OVER an hour – I wish I were joking. They were quick(er) to take orders, but backlogged because everyone wanted these really fancy ice cream concotions that took a long time to make. My mom and sister complained the entire time… and were asking my daughter if it was actually worth the wait, or if we could leave. I wasn’t sure what the rush was; it was either waiting in line for ice cream or going back to the airbnb to listen to wrenching noises. (I’m happy to report my brother was fine, after he through up all night and took some allergy medication.)

After a week of our family trip, consisting of everyone doing their own thing, and being unhappy and annoyed, I was looking forward to coming home. Family vacations aren’t what they’re cracked up to be, and I vow to never go on holidays with my siblings again – ever!

Would you, or do you, travel with your extended family? Would you do it again?

A viral-worthy challenge

I’m usually up for a challenge, but when I say that, I’m referring to the typical challenge of learning something new (hence taking a social media course), or tackling some home renovation project – I’ve built fences, laid down floor, tile, and have painted many walls in my day. However, when you refer to a challenge via social media, it takes on a whole other meaning.

A conceptual photo of the detergent pod challenge. (Sourced at Bigstock.com)

I’m sure all of us have heard of the tide pod challenge, either from the news, from a horrified friend, or through some sort of social media platform. One of the first questions that pops into mind for a lot of people is, why? Why would anyone DO something so absurd (as to eat them)? How do these challenges get started, let alone go viral?

From a teen’s perspective, starting or joining a viral challenge might be out of boredom, wanting something fun and silly to do with a friend, or to see how many likes they can get on YouTube. Or perhaps it fulfills the need to be a part of something bigger. But still, why risk your health or safety? Unfortunately for teens, the part of the brain that handles rational thought is still developing (prefontal cortex) and is not fully developed until their mid-20s. This makes them more susceptible to impulsive and irrational behaviours before thinking them through.

Bill Gates participating in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. (Sourced from Facebook)

From the standpoint of an organization, a viral challenge can raise awareness and help increase funding for a good cause; much like the Bucket Challenge did for ALS. The ice bucket challenge enabled ALS to increase research funding by a whopping 187%. I’m not sure how many of my friends actually donated to ALS, but I do know this – many of them took to Facebook; dousing themselves with a big bucket of frigid water and then giving shout-outs for others to join the challenge (in which they had 24 hours to comply or forfeit by way of donation). It was a brilliant and cost-effective way to raise needed awareness and funds.

While I would much rather go about my day, challenging myself to tackle the next project or try a new recipe, I do see the value in social media challenges – so long as they are for the greater good of course.

Facebook: Would you do something risky in order to be part of an online challenge? http://bit.ly/3dvq01Jchallenge

Twitter: To challenge or not to challenge? http://bit.ly/3dvq01Jchallenge

Author: Sara McCarter

References:

https://www.als.org/stories-news/ice-bucket-challenge-dramatically-accelerated-fight-against-als

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/teen/Pages/Whats-Going-On-in-the-Teenage-Brain.aspx

The Covid Curveball

Looking into the future.
(Image purchased from Bigstock.com.)

2020 was supposed to be a year of clear vision into the future. My best friend was planning to get married to her longtime partner; I was coming out of a relationship, but was optimistic about life and my career, and had the feeling as though something big was just around the corner. Little did I know how BIG that something would be. No one could anticipate the covid curveball.

This past year has been incredibly challenging for everyone. Our lives were flipped upside down, and a sense of unease swept over the entire world. People behaving very erratically;  buying enough toilet paper and paper towels to last for months, and for an entire neighbourhood. Flour being so obsolete… why is everyone baking bread? Early on, a friend told me that he was walking into Sail, an outdoor adventure store, only to see people walking out with boxes of bullets. Talk about unnerving. Then there is the economy – local businesses having to close their doors permanently or downsize because they’re unable to keep afloat.

Thankfully, new businesses have cropped up, to accommodate the new world we live in. Other businesses have been able to pivot. I think that’s the key thing that I’ve learned from all of this – the realization that the way we do business needs to be different. New strategies; new ways of thinking; new outcomes.

From a social perspective, even music is pivoting. Back in the Spring, my heart melted when I found out one of of my favourite musicians was performing a live stream on Instagram, in order to reach out to those who were isolated. Other bands have been doing this also. Every week I could rely on a free Friday night concert by the lead singer of The Trews, inches away from my face; talk about great seats! Since then, this band has performed outdoors, at drive-ins, so that people can socially distance from the safety of their vehicles. No one would have thought to do something like this before, and I find it inspiring.

A Curveball Grip. (Image purchased from Bigstock.com)

Now that we’re heading into wave two of things, I’m hopeful that we’ve learned what we needed to from wave one, so that we can not only live, but thrive during these times. Covid has thrown us a curveball, but it’s also taught us resilience, our ability to adapt and come up with new ideas and solutions.

Facebook: What steps are you taking to adapt and thrive during wave two? I’d love to read your thoughts on my blog: https://bit.ly/3cVuCO9

Twitter: Is it a hit or a miss? #CovidCurveball. Head over to my blog and find out: https://bit.ly/3cVuCO9

Sara McCarter

References
Frank, A. (Apr 8, 2020). How “quarantine concerts” are keeping live music alive as venues remain closed.
https://www.vox.com/culture/2020/4/8/21188670/coronavirus-quarantine-virtual-concerts-livestream-instagram

The old adage: customer is king (and so are their reviews)

There are risks to everything in life: the risk of success or failure; the risk of understanding or being misunderstanding; the risk of growth. Even staying stagnate creates risk. However, it seems the more you try to achieve, and put yourself out into the (digital) world, the more risk involved (both personally and professionally).

Everyone has an opinion, and social media makes it incredibly easy to deliver those thoughts around the world for everyone to see. Those thoughts and opinions don’t stop at juicy gossip; they could be about an experience, or about a product you recently purchased. Let’s face it, if you aren’t happy with your new phone or gadget, you’ll likely write about it.

Customer is king. (purchased from Bigstock.com)

Before making any big purchase or hiring a company’s services, a lot of people turn to the web for reviews. I know I do! It helps me to mitigate the risk of purchasing or hiring someone, only to have less than satisfactory results.

Keep in mind that there is dishonesty around online reviews. Some companies hire others to write gleaming reviews about their products or services. Other businesses offer incentives to customers to write a good review by offering them a discount on their purchased service – so what might have been a mediocre review now turns into a great review because, hey, a 10% discount is a 10% discount.

If you want to get to the real meat and potatoes, look at the bad reviews (that’s where the real honesty is). Is there repetition in what reviewers negatively discuss? How does the company react to those bad reviews? With anger? With an apology? With a redirect to their customer support team? It’s not only about the review itself, but the response.

A bad review is bound to happen, plain and simple. Poor reviews have a huge impact on future sales, and how others see a business, so it’s important that companies reduce the risk of customer boycotts, by addressing negative online reviews promptly, in a positive way, and use feedback to improve their product or service. A response should be met with professionalism, kindness, and reassurance that the customer made a good choice in trusting them with their business. There’s nothing worse than a company (or social media expert) that takes a poor review personally and retaliates back with hostility (you definitely need to separate how you would handle yourself professionally vs. personally). After all, the customer is king, and so are their reviews!

Would you give a business a great review in order to get a discount?

5 star review. (Purchased from Bigstock.com)

Facebook:  Would you give a business a great review in order to get a discount? https://bit.ly/3nblqtV

Twitter:  The good, bad, and the ugly in online #reviews: https://bit.ly/3nblqtV

Sara McCarter