In a digital-first world the way we communicate has fundamentally changed. We seek community, we seek content, we seek connection. Building community is more important than ever. A driven community fosters relationships and meaningful conversation. Beyond educating consumers on a brand’s products or services, an online community can drive demand.
Building an online community will allow your brand to:
It’s human nature to connect with likeminded people. We’re hardwired to form communities around similar interests. In order for communities to get off the ground, they need content for people to form a community around. Remember, communities form around content that brings value to the consumer. The content can’t just talk about you, your product, and service.
Types of content your brand could create to build a community include:
As you’re creating community-driven content, encourage your users to communicate with each other on a social media or branded platform.
The average customer journey takes at least 20 touchpoints before a purchasing decision is made. In post-COVID world customers also expect a level of personalization. It’s a tall order for your brand to create 20+ unique content items for individual users and will be difficult for even the largest brands. Instead, consider building tentpole content that can be discussed, shared, remixed, and encourage user participation.
Your brand can greatly benefit from an online community, as audience engagement generates touchpoints for your brand, including:
Like the infographic above? View and share it as a reel or story.
Engagement is an important metric for any brand. Over the last two years, companies that invested in digital engagement grew top-line revenue by an average of 70%.
As customer concerns over privacy shift us into a ‘cookieless’ world, engagement driven through content and community is more important than ever. Digital engagement leads to:
Building a community delivers real customer engagement benefits. The community is a dedicated place for a customer to learn, grow, problem-solve, and interact.
Victoria’s Secret is rebranding to include a wider range of model sizes in its new campaign! Yay! Yay?
One of the most successful players in the lingerie arena has axed its winged angels and is set to replace them with successful women who will be highlighted for their achievements, and not their looks. As the company puts it, the VS Collection will “bring together an unparalleled group of trailblazing partners who share a common goal to drive positive change”. Some of these women include LGBTQIA+ activist and professional soccer player, Megan Rapinoe, and actress and producer Priyanka Chopra Jonas. As a founding partner of the collection, Chopra Jonas took to Instagram to explain the general idea behind it: 1. Representation matters (that definitely includes size) 2. Victoria’s Secret is working on creating pieces specifically for women and not for the male gaze.
Before you ask…no, you have not stumbled upon an article from five years ago. It is indeed 2021, but I wouldn’t blame you if you thought otherwise. Fortunately, averaged-sized models (which, by the way, is a size 14 in America), are becoming more mainstream. Why? Because people like it. Take the brand Aerie, for example. In 2016, the intimate apparel brand launched its “Aerie Real” campaign, with “regular looking” models, and no airbrushing. According to CNBC, this mass representation was so well received by consumers that “the company’s same-store sales growth in the first quarter rose 38 percent, on top of a 25 percent increase in 2017.” In recent years, inclusivity has become the not-so-secret formula to a successful marketing campaign. Glossy.co notes that promoting diversity has really paid off for even newer brands, “including Glossier, MeUndies, and both Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty and Savage x Fenty brands. The drive is the idea that younger customers want to buy from brands that are inclusive and stand for something.”
Meanwhile, Victoria’s Secret went “down from a high of more than 22 percent in the last year — and lost market share quickly. Despite this noticeable downfall, VS just couldn’t let go of its ways; the company continued to air the controversial Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show until 2019, refused to show a variety of body types,and kept sending paper catalogues up until 2017. And with that, in 2020, to absolutely no one’s surprise, the company closed 241 stores. Equally as telling, just 3.3% of fashion brand Topshop’s clothing are plus-size friendly, and in 2019, every single one of its US stores closed. It’s as if the advertising execs sat around at a table and said, “So our consumers have made it abundantly, crystal clear what they want to see from us…so how about we do the complete opposite just for fun?”. So, I think the intentions behind this new collection are pretty transparent. The concept of DARING to feature models above a size 0 in ad campaigns is no longer revolutionary. Rather, it’s gradually becoming a standard by which we expect our brands to meet.
When I first read the news, my first thought was “Finally!” Then my second thought was: “This feels way too late.” The amount of time that it has taken Victoria’s Secret to embrace body diversity automatically strips them of a lot of authenticity points. According to a recent study, “86 percent of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding what brands they like and support”. Some consumers will think it’s better late than never. They will forgive and forget. Others will have already moved on to other brands and find no reason to shop there again. Only time will tell how effective this strategy still is. My prediction: The Victoria’s Secret Collection could give the brand the boost it needs, so long as it commits to this form of branding, and stops trailing five years behind obvious cultural norms and common sense marketing trends.
As big fans of the Bachelorette, we have been anxiously awaiting the season 17 premiere.
In case you missed it, a tumultuous last season of The Bachelor has led to many changes in the franchise.
In addition to making some structural changes within the show, we’ve also noticed a big change in ABC’s marketing of the upcoming season. Yep. When you’re a marketing nerd, these are the things to which you pay attention. So, let’s get down to the business of what has changed and what we think about each change.
The marketing team for The Bachelorette has ramped up Instagram Story use, something that makes sense given that more than 500 million people interact with Instagram Stories daily. In addition to utilizing Stories for video promos, The Bachelorette account is also using Stories to introduce the men. On their page, you’ll find a “Meet the Men” highlight, where you can quickly tap through and learn snippets of information about this season’s suitors. SMART. Other categories include highlights from past seasons and a game of M.A.S.H., which is seriously a blast from the past—and one of many nostalgic elements of The Bachelorette’s new marketing strategy. Our thoughts? 10/10.
It’s been almost 20 years. We know the franchise tries to mix things up with promos each season, but WOW. The shift to pink is a biggie. Normally, The Bachelor/Bachelorette sticks to its iconic, rose-colored red for branding. Not this time—Katie’s promos feature an ombre pink and purple background, which is also now the backdrop for The Bachelorette’s profile image. Interesting choice. Is it to represent femininity? Katie is often painted as “one of the guys” by fans online, and perhaps show execs wanted to change perception through colors and styling. Is it to distract us from the PR crisis that happened last season? Maybe there is no deeper meaning, but it is a notable stray from their typical branding. We’re all for a rebrand, (and we do love pink), but why make such a drastic change for Katie’s season? 5/10.
Another social media marketing strategy we noticed is that Katie is commenting on nearly every single post pushed out by the official @thebachelorette account. This is a strategy used by many marketers to humanize a celebrity or brand’s image. These comments portray that Katie is excited for the season and by commenting on the posts, we as fans feel as though we’re in this journey with her. Is it actually Katie, though? We’d bet that a marketing agency is behind the social media of the show’s stars. Either way, it’s smart. And a prediction: The franchise continues to involve fans as much as possible. Do we sense a future “fan’s choice” for Bachelor next season? We give this an 8/10.
This season, The Bachelorette announced contestants through cutesy social media graphics. The graphics included fun facts about each suitor. For example: “Dreams of going to Italy and eating pasta.” “Biggest fear: Rats.” “Never ridden a horse.” “Hates mayo and mustard.”
First of all, Connor B., who DOESN’T dream of going to Italy and eating pasta? As for the mayo and mustard, what ARE you putting on your sandwiches, Kyle??
While the graphics and facts are fun to read and a cute spin on getting to know the men, they feel a little….. Young. Between the facts themselves and the “handwritten” style of the graphic, it feels like something you’d read on a note in 8th grade. Nostalgic, yes. Showing that they’re ready for marriage? Ehhh. Aaron might be afraid of rats, but we want to know if he’s afraid of commitment. What demographic is The Bachelorette targeting with this content? Could be a move to appeal to Gen Z, though many of the show’s viewers are loyal millennials and Gen Xers who’ve been watching since it’s debut in 2002. We’re baffled by this one. It feels like a reach and unorganized in its purpose. 4/10.
It’s clear that the show wanted the men of this season to appear as “real.” This is a striking dichotomy with how they’ve chosen to portray Katie in promos. With heavy, obvious airbrushing, the imagery used in Katie’s promotional social posts looks like something we’d see in a 1998 People Magazine. In the era of #unfiltered and #keepingitreal, why have the show’s decision-makers chosen to go in the opposite direction? In fact, top comments on Katie’s initial promo post feature users expressing their disappointment in the use of such intense PhotoShop. Katie is already beautiful—why airbrush her so much? On top of that, the reason so many viewers resonated with Katie last season is because she seemed SO real, like someone who could be your best friend. So, why not run with this authenticity, and show the REAL, untouched Katie in promos? Instead, by promoting an image of Katie that we’re unfamiliar with, some fans might feel betrayed. After nearly 20 years of having young, size 0 or 2, model-like women on the show, this could’ve been an opportunity for the franchise to start being more authentic. But nope. 3/10.
This season, execs of The Bachelorette are taking risks. Not only are they adjusting the show’s structure, but they’re also adjusting their marketing strategy. And in a time of low viewership (which could be further threatened by Harrison’s absence this season) it makes sense to try something new. We applaud The Bachelorette’s social team for stepping outside of the box, but we just wanna talk with whoever decided to edit Katie’s promo photos.
The great Barbara Walters once quoted, “Taylor Swift is the music industry”. This is true. But is she low-key the marketing industry too?
Whether you’re marketing yourself, a product, or service, understanding your audience is always an absolute must. After all, how can you expect to sell anything if you don’t know who you’re selling it to? One website notes, “Understanding an audience is at the core of any brand’s growth. It’s what drives effective marketing strategies, increases brand equity, and ultimately improves a company’s bottom line.” The same philosophy applies to artists as big as TayTay.
Since the release of her breakout album Fearless, I’ve heard the same old, unoriginal criticisms about Taylor Swift: “all she sings about are relationships” and “she’s too dramatic for me.” (When you’re done reading this, HMU for a list of her songs that have nothing to do with boys, how I got our operations manager to like her music, AND my explanation about how she is constantly held to a double standard).
Sure, a lot of her songs are about love, but THAT’S THE POINT, PEOPLE! Even at the tender of age of 16, Taylor had a talent for articulating what teenagers were going through in a way nobody else in the industry could. And over the last 15 years, she’s grown up with us millennials- maturing, making mistakes, and learning lessons along the way. She takes these feelings, then transforms them into pure poetry (can you tell I’m a fan yet?). Taylor is hyper-aware that relatability is her thing, and she goes out of her way to make sure she maintains that strong connection with her core audience. According to Insider, “The singer is still communicating with fans on Tumblr daily.” In a 2014 interview with ABC she said, “When I go online and on Instagram and I see a post from Emma who lives in Philadelphia and she’s talking about how her day was at school that day, that helps me.” The icon doesn’t just stare at her 11 Grammys all day- she takes the time to research, to see what her fans are up to, to know what they like and dislike. The more experience she gains, the better she becomes at marketing herself to appeal to us.
A lot of celebrities tend to enter partnerships that really don’t have much to do with their personal brand. No judgement here- even reality stars have to pay their bills. It’s worth noting, however, that there is merit to choosing your partnerships very carefully. When your name is linked to another’s, so too are your core values and overall goals. If, for example, you were running a makeup company that is loudly and proudly vegan, you should probably think twice about collaborating with an influencer who specializes in reviewing NYC’s best cheeseburgers. You’d run the risk of losing the trust of your consumers.
I previously mentioned, Taylor caters her marketing to her fan’s interests, such as leaving easter eggs in Instagram posts and album artwork. But that’s not to say that she doesn’t remain true to herself. Although she’s become a relatively private person, she has never shied away from her opinion on an artist’s right to own their own work. She’s even in the process of re-recording her first six albums so she has full ownership of them. In 2015, Taylor published an open letter to Apple explaining why she would hold back her album “1989” from Apple Music after it announced a plan to offer a three-month free trial period. She wrote, in part, “We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.” Following this letter, Apple announced it would compensate artists for this trial period. Later that same year, Taylor & Apple announced their partnership. The tech giant would be the exclusive home of the “1989” world tour concert. Here, Taylor showed her commitment to associating with brands that align with her vision. She’s also partnered with brands such as Keds, Diet Coke, CoverGirl, and Target, appearing in fun, family-friendly commercials.
A solid brand identity is essential to business success. According to ICEF, a brand identity “reflects your values, how you communicate those inside and outside of the organization, and how you want customers to feel when they engage with your business.” If you don’t take the time to regularly re-evaluate and refresh, your business suffers from cultural fatigue. Your audience gets bored, begins to stray, and, worst of all moves on to another brand. When this happens, fear not: ease the pain by listening to a Taylor song about getting cheated on.
Us Swifties don’t just have a favorite Taylor album or song- we have a favorite era. In marketing terms, Taylor’s eras are the different phases of her personal brand, which are made up of so much more than music. With every new era comes a new hairstyle, wardrobe, and overall social media aesthetic. One can identify which era Taylor was in by just looking at a red carpet photo- is she decked out in pastel colors? That’s the “Lover” era (who else was devastated that the pandemic cut it short? RIP Lover Fest). She regularly engages with fans this way, keeping us on our toes, forcing us to perpetually speculate on what’s to come. Best of all, she continues to resonate with us throughout our different stages of life, uniting peers and generations alike through her music and – as unequivocally proven above – her marketing brand.
What free marketing tools still exist?
Are the free online marketing tools as good as the paid tools? As a digital marketing agency, we use paid and free marketing tools every day. So, here is a list of our absolute favorite FREE marketing tools. Once you’re done, check out our review of our favorite paid marketing tools!
“Google Analytics lets you measure your advertising ROI as well as track your Flash, video, and social networking sites and applications.” As an agency, we rely heavily on Google Analytics to track everything that happens digitally with our clients. This includes organic, paid, and everything in between. We use GA (an essential free online marketing tool) to track every user through the sales funnel, their journey through a website, the phone calls that are made, and much more. Being able to make decisions based on sound data collection is essential in creating efficient and top-performing marketing campaigns. Google Analytics enables us to be able to track users that turn into conversions and better optimize campaigns to recreate this process.
Google is still the reigning champ when it comes to data collection. So, it makes sense that Google Analytics is the best at analyzing the mountain of data it collects on each and every one of our clients. The tool is completely free. In an age of add-ons, this is a huge bonus for a marketing agency, considering we have dozens of clients that we need to manage on a daily basis.
Canva is a free, online graphic design platform that allows you to create social media posts and ads, infographics, banners, gifs, videos, and more. With the free version, you have access to many templates for every social media platform as well as the free elements and stock imagery. The animated elements all in one place mean that you don’t need to customize a stock vector in illustrator to get the graphic that you want. You can do it all in Canva. We use Canva when we need to create simple social media posts or quickly whip out infographics. Interested? Check out our 5 tips for content creation.
As a digital marketing agency, we have all the tools, including the entire Adobe suite. So, why do we use Canva? Canva is a place we can quickly snag a template for a social post or even a video. We use a lot of their features to create content for ourselves! Canva does have a paid version, but you will definitely be pleasantly surprised by everything that does come with a free account.
“Ahrefs is an all-in-one SEO toolset with free learning materials and a passionate community & support.” Ahrefs has free online marketing tools (for search engine optimization) that any business owner can and should use to improve their digital presence. We utilize Ahrefs when we want to do a quick site rank for a potential new client or even perform Youtube, Amazon, or Bing keyword research that doesn’t require an exhaustive search through Semrush (for which we have a paid subscription). While Ahrefs does offer everything that Semrush offers, we personally find that Semrush has more bang for our buck and we absolutely love our rep (shoutout Tyler).
As stated above, Ahrefs does offer free online marketing tools for SEO for those that are looking for the basic information to get started on their SEO journey. However, Ahrefs does have a paid version that you can try for 7 days through their free trial offer. After the 7 days, it is $99 per month for the lowest tier and $179 per month for the all-inclusive package.
“WordPress is a free and open-source content management system written in PHP and paired with a MySQL or Maria DB database.” In layman’s terms, this means that a website can be custom built from the ground up. We use WordPress alongside many other platforms and plugins to create interactive, mobile-friendly, and visually stunning websites that are not only friendly to all search engines but are light enough to have a less than 1 second load time.
To get started on WordPress, it is absolutely free. In addition to this, WordPress offers templates for free. These templates are more akin to Squarespace and Wix. You will install the template you desire and then follow a detailed tutorial that shows you how to use it. The template allows you to upload your own content and drag and drop everything on your entire site. Keep in mind that the more detailed you want to get, the more likely it is that you will need to pay for a monthly subscription. However, monthly payments start at a mere $4 per month, but it does go all the way up to $45 per month depending on the type of service you and your company require.
“Google Optimize is a free website optimization tool that helps online marketers and webmasters increase visitor conversion rates and overall visitor satisfaction by continually testing different combinations of website content.” In other words, Google Optimize allows us to A/B test landing pages to determine the best layout by measuring traffic, user retention, and conversions. There are many other metrics that are tracked in Google Optimize and can also be tracked in Google Analytics to get a better picture of landing page performance.
For every client for which we perform PPC ads or develop landing pages, we utilize Google Optimize. We are able to determine whether it is the form placement, the length of the page, or even the copywriting that deters or retains users on a landing page. As an agency, it is vital that we are able to optimize landing pages to have the highest conversion rates possible for our clients. In addition to being one of the best platforms Google has come out with, the software is completely free. Even the most inexperienced website developers are able to navigate through the platform. Keep in mind that you do need to have access to the backend of the website in order to use Google Optimize.
Eye Dropper: Found a color online and absolutely love it, but don’t know the hex or RGB code? Simply point and click! Eye dropper does the hard work and tells you the exact code you need.
SEOQuake: We love this tool because no matter what search we perform on Google, SEOQuake shows the key SEO metrics on every single search result that populates. Know instantly the page ranking and keywords for this site with a simple click of a button!
Why pay for marketing tools? Paid digital marketing tools are an important arrow in the marketing quiver.
What advantages do subscriptions have over free?
As an agency, we use paid and free marketing tools every day. So, here is a list of our absolute favorite marketing tools for which we pay.
“Semrush is an online visibility management and content marketing SaaS platform.” In other words, SEMRush allows us to see not only information about our clients but also their competitors. We are able to perform keyword research, pull organic insights, and see social media performance. In addition to these features, we are able to create projects for each one of our clients. This enables us to keep track of the ongoing SEO efforts through position tracking, link building, and a daily site audit. Having the ability to dive deep into a client’s competitors’ online performance and activity is immensely beneficial. We are able to identify trends that occur within any industry. We combine that with our own organic research and experience to create advertising that converts and develops an SEO strategy that puts our clients at the top of their industry.
As a marketing agency, we know that you get what you pay for. In this instance, there’s no better program than Semrush when it comes to digital marketing research. We use Semrush on a daily basis to ensure we are always staying on top of our client’s performance online.
When you sign up for Semrush, you start off with a 14-day free trial and then move on to a paid membership. Monthly memberships start from $99.95, while annual memberships start from $999.40.
“Planable is an end-to-end workflow tool that makes content collaboration fast and painless.” This is a social media development and distribution platform that allows us to load all content, for specific social media channels, into a project for a specific client. We are able to tag that client that content is ready for review. Within the platform, we can then communicate directly with the client until all of the content is to their liking. Once we have approval from the client, we are then able to schedule and publish the content directly to the client’s preferred social media channels. Planable can distribute content to Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, Twitter, and now Google My Business.
We are an agency with dozens of clients. We need a space to be able to keep our clients’ social media channels organized and on schedule.
Planable has a similar pricing structure to most other content calendars. It is based on the number of workspaces and the amount of users that you want to have access. It starts off for free and goes up to custom pricing for large agencies. For more information on pricing, visit them at https://planable.io/pricing/.
Teamwork is an “easy-to-use project management software” that is powerful, simple, and large enough to handle complex projects. As an agency, we rely on Teamwork to help us manage every client’s project. Whether we have a client for 12 months or 12 years, Teamwork helps us to break down every task. We are then able to track the progress of each task as well as the project as a whole. Teamwork not only allows for interoffice communication on each task and project but allows for communication with every client. We are able to set due dates, recurring tasks, time tracking for better time management, and reporting. Our project managers utilize Teamwork to ensure nothing slips through the cracks.
Paying for Teamwork is a no-brainer for us. We need to be able to manage our team member’s time, track our overall progress for each client, and ensure we deliver to our clients.
If you are a small business, there is a free option. For every other business size, it’s still reasonably priced. Starting at just $10 per month, it can increase to more than $20 per month. For more information regarding their pricing, visit them at https://www.teamwork.com/pricing/.
“Adobe Creative Cloud is a set of applications and services from Adobe Inc. that gives subscribers access to a collection of software used for graphic design, video editing, web development, photography, along with a set of mobile applications and also some optional cloud services.”* Adobe’s entire suite is used by our content developers to create and edit graphics and videos. We use Photoshop, Lightroom, Premiere Pro, and After Effects the most out of all of the platforms. We’re able to create stunning graphics and engaging gifs and videos.
Being a marketing agency means we need to be able to deliver the best to our clients. We consider Adobe to be the best, especially for the price point. We’re able to create infographics, social media content, and even youtube videos.
The costs for the entire Adobe Creative Cloud can be found HERE. The pricing ranges from $19 to $80 per month depending on what type of organization you are.
Zoho CRM is a “unique and powerful suite of software to run your entire business…” Zoho has a lot of applications within its software such as Zoho SalesIQ, Zoho Campaign, and Zoho Social. Our agency mainly uses the software for the CRM. We are able to input and track every PNC (potential new client), and view the status of emails sent to them (i.e. opened, delivered, bounced). Zoho CRM also allows us to reach out to inbound leads via email and phone to those who fill out a contact form on our website or give us a call.
Having a CRM is invaluable to any company. A great CRM allows you to keep track of all of your advertising and marketing efforts in one neat place. We choose to pay for Zoho because of the size of our company, how many clients we have, and the number of applications we need to integrate with our website and marketing efforts.
Zoho CRM offers four options suitable for all different businesses. For small businesses, Standard starts at $18 per month, and Professional starts at $30 per month. Enterprise, the most popular option, is $45 per month. Their final option, Ultimate, starts at $55 per month. If you prefer to get billed annually, all four pricing options go down by 20%. Zoho CRM also offers a “flexible free trial” and they allow users to cancel or switch plans anytime. More information on Zoho CRM’s pricing can be found HERE