Social Media Trends of 2019…So Far

Every year has its ups and downs, and that is especially true for the digital industry and social media. Here we are looking at how 2019 has been so far for social and digital media trends.

In-the-moment, ephemeral content has taken over. Highly produced, super perfected content has lost out to these on the spot posts, even from professional business accounts. Stories are starting to overtake feed posts, and more mobile users versus desktop users mean an increase in the popularity of short-lived content. It adds personality and an authentic style, as well as helping you to be more vulnerable and “human” with your consumers.

AI-driven experiences, such as bots and ad optimization have begun to take over the customer service world. It is predicted that by 2020, over 80% of all customer service experiences will be powered by bots. This allows you to tailor the experience to the consumer directly.

One out of every four Facebook pages now uses paid advertising, and Facebook accounts for 23% of the total digital ad spending in the US. It is more competitive and more expensive, so you should pair your ad dollars with equal time and creativity. Sometimes it is simpler to boost your existing organic content if it performed well enough to start off. Brand awareness ads are especially thriving. They should feel like they are coming from a close friend and you absolutely must know your target audience.

Vertical video now accounts for over 50% of digital videos. They are taller than they are wide, just as the name implies, and that means that they are optimized for mobile platforms. 94% of smartphone users prefer to hold their devices vertically rather than horizontally, even if the video they are viewing was meant to be in a horizontal format. Vertical videos saw a 130% increment on views, and 4x more Facebook engagement according to Wibbitz, a video automating platform. They catch viewers’ attention and vertical video ads tend to see a 90% completion rate as well. Social media “television” is also taking off, with formats like IGTV and Facebook Shows being released on a regular basis.

Omnichannel marketing is reaching and interacting with customers in all channels. It is viewing the experience through the eyes of the consumer. It also orchestrates the user experience so it is integrated seamlessly and anticipates a customer’s journey through those channels (aka funnels starfishadage.com/marketing-funnels/). Almost nobody today shops exclusively through one medium; they will shop online, in stores, read reviews on various websites, and listen to their friends and family. All of that adds up, so you need to be able to reach that consumer on all levels and platforms, such as paid ads, social feeds, and email.

These are just some of the trends that have seen an increase in 2019. It will be interesting to see what else comes up throughout the year.

5 Rules for Graphic Design

Whenever you are working with text it can be easy to just crank down the leading to make the text take up the least amount of space possible, but you want to make sure that there is enough leading between the tallest part of the line below and the lowest part of the line above to ensure that there’s nothing touching. There should be enough room for you to be able to run a line between them without it touching either one. This rule is more flexible when you’re designing logos because they usually only have a handful of words as opposed to a full paragraph, and sometimes you can play off of the letters touching.
When choosing text do not make every font stylized otherwise they’ll be fighting for the viewers’ attention, you want to only choose a maximum of three fonts. For your primary font, you can choose whichever style you want, this will be the attention piece of your design. For the secondary font, choose on that is more readable that you would use for a paragraph heading. This font should be what grabs the viewers attention after they’ve read everything you want at the forefront. And for the third font, you should choose something easy to read in bulk because this will be what you use for all the lengthy content. The font you chose should be simple to provide a visual break from the previous two.

When working with colors never choose all fully saturated colors, choose one or two colors that you really want to stand out then choose more subdued colors from there. Start by choosing any color you’d like, preferably not a fully saturated color like 100% red, but your mileage may vary. For your next color, choose something complementary to the first one, while keeping the saturation under around 70%. And for your final color, it should be something plain in comparison to the others, this will be the color you use most so it shouldn’t take away from your primary.

Never use two fully saturated colors on top of each other when it comes to text, a common example would be red on blue or vice versa. When you have two colors like those right next to each other, they create a visual tension that makes it almost impossible for the viewer to read. Another example would be when you are designing for people above 60 years of age, or who have poorer eyesight. In that case, you should try to avoid white text on a black background because when they look at it the black constricts the white type. So to counter this you should choose a nearly white background for your text so that it doesn’t have to fight for dominance.

Finally, you shouldn’t leave visual elements too close to the edge of your design. This creates a visual tension that either leads the viewer’s eyes off the design or makes it harder for them to focus on anything else in the design. You should keep all elements within a good distance of the edge, anything that leads off the page should be intentional. An example would be if you are trying to lead the viewer through the current design and guide them into the next.
These are just some examples of the ways that our graphic design team ensures quality work for their projects. They are very precise when it comes to details, and they keep the client and their target audience in mind with their designs. If you want to know more, contact us about taking your marketing to the next level.

The Best Software for Graphic Design

There are options for people that want to build graphics and different programs offer features for various needs of graphic designers. At Starfish, we use Adobe programs for most of our creative. Adobe offers several programs in its Creative Suite; InDesign, Photoshop & Illustrator.

When building ads, I tend to use both Photoshop and InDesign. I choose the images that will be used and edit them for contrast, colorspace and sizing, then I save them for use in InDesign.

InDesign is the program I use to lay out large amounts of text or to create multiple pages of copy. While most ads I build for Starfish are more graphics-heavy, I use InDesign for most of the ads that I create. I previously worked for various newspapers and that is the program that we used the most. The text is easiest to manipulate in this program and it has guidelines that make it easier to keep items aligned. Drawbacks to the software include lack of adjustments for graphics, which means that they need to be ready for layout prior to being imported to the file, and the files can be quite large when exporting them.

Photoshop is my second favorite software for creating art. I love the multitude of options for editing, and its interface is pretty straightforward and simple to understand. The reason I don’t really use it for ad building is that I find the text tool difficult to use. But my favorite options are the filters, which I use to make photos look like paintings or stone. I also cut-out objects from the backgrounds of various images on a daily basis and photoshop makes that easy to do.

Illustrator is the most powerful of the three programs. It is used for creating larger, vector type files which can be scaled for large display signage and other uses. I typically do not use the software but it is great for people who want to create characters and logos.

I enjoy using these programs and they go hand in hand together with the design. There are other programs available for designers and people who just want to do simple photo editing. There are free options out there as well. I am so grateful that I have the ability to use the Creative Cloud.

How Are We Different?

I was asked the other day why I opened up an ad agency and quite honestly my answer is that I just got tired of working for media companies. They measure their success based on their own metrics rather than on results, and customers don’t know who or what to believe anymore. A lot of customers have misconceptions about how digital works because they have this rep that they trusted and that rep was told how to pitch a product based on some metric that was given to them by their “corporate VP of digital sales” or whatever. Those are incorrect metrics.

I came from a pretty big organization, and I had a lot of the VPs and people that were supposed to be more educated on digital come to me and ask me questions once they found out that I was IAB certified. Once I became certified I got a lot of pushback because those people felt threatened by me. They thought I was going to come in and take their jobs but honestly, I didn’t want their jobs even though I knew more than they did. Was I looking for a “seat at the table” so to speak? Yes absolutely. That’s why people go to college and get an education so that they can be compensated in some way, shape, or form to move up the corporate ladder.

And the reality is that working for a media company fucking sucks. Unless you are at the top it really does just suck. Being an account executive or a sales manager means that you don’t have any pull or say so in what you are trying to accomplish for a client. You are pretty much just pushed to the side and told “shut up” and “do what you’re told” and “go to your corner”. One of the most fundamental differences in what I want to instill in my ad agency is that I want to train and empower people. I want to surround myself with people way smarter than I am and who knows way more about a specific platform than I do.

Half of the business that we have generated has come strictly from referrals. It’s been amazing because of the talent that we have as an agency. My team is extremely talented and I want them to understand that I want to empower them every day. I always tell them “I’m not saying no. I want you to convince me as to why this is going to work” and it doesn’t take much to convince me honestly. It really comes down to the fact that I opened an ad agency because I got so fucking tired of ad agencies lying to their client about this proprietary bullshit. Everyone is buying from the same exchanges and the same platforms unless they are an ad tech company. They have invested a ton of capital into an actual technology that they own. That is the only thing that would really set you apart as “proprietary”.

Now when it comes to the fact that I feel that I am one of the most intelligent individuals when it comes to programmatic in East Texas… I will own that every. single. day. As a matter of fact, there are two events, one next week in New York and another in San Francisco, the “Who’s-Who” in programmatic will be there. Those are the two places that I need to be if I want to stay on top of this game. This industry moves at such a rapid pace and it’s constantly evolving.

There is so much technology behind programmatic that it’s impossible for you to stay in one platform. That’s why a lot of people don’t like programmatic because they feel like they need to have an understanding of how it works. You can learn it, don’t get me wrong, but it will take you a lot of time to teach yourself. I am not going to take the time to educate a client on how each and every little step to programmatic works because that would take months. That’s why a lot of people fall back on things like Facebook and Google. Those platforms set up free training that is very easy to complete, but programmatic is a little more difficult. It involves the entire ecosystem.

You have to ask yourself how you are going to use programmatic in a way that is going to be not just the vehicle but the engine that will get you to your desired destination. Also, understand that search and social are the driver and the passenger inside of that vehicle. You still have to have someone to direct you to that place. That’s what I was just talking about yesterday.

Media companies and most agencies haven’t figured that out. And they’re not going to because they are stuck in that rut of social or search, or they’re afraid of trying to deliver real results because it will cut into their bottom line profit. I am not worried about that. I am going to make sure that I can generate real results. That’s why I am in business. The only way that I will succeed is if my clients succeed.

Utilizing Instagram Stories

Instagram was founded in 2010 as a new social media platform for image sharing. It quickly took off, gaining over one billion users in just 8 years. In August of 2016, a new feature was rolled out. Instagram Stories were introduced as a new way of sharing moments. They only last for 24 hours, and after that, you can choose to have them saved in an archive where you can also choose to repost them later. The content that you share to these stories won’t show up on your profile grid or in someone else’s feed. They show up at the top of your followers’ feeds as your profile picture with a colorful ring around it and they can click on it to see your stories. If they click on the right side of the screen it will progress them forward, and if they click on the left side it will rewind to the previous post. If you swipe to the left you will go to the next person’s story. They are shown in chronological order as well.

There are a few top ways that brands on Instagram are using stories. Many companies will show behind-the-scenes content to give their brand a more personal reputation. They also have employee takeovers where a staff member will take their followers on a journey through their day as an employee of that business. A takeover could also be when one brand will takeover an Instagram account from another brand. Stories are very useful for one-on-one communication as well, by asking direct questions, taking polls, and going live.

Stories are a great way to stay at the top of someone’s news feed because that is where your story would show up if you were actively posting content to it. They can help drive traffic to websites by having a direct link where viewers could “swipe up” to load the link. Stories don’t have likes or public comments however, and they can also be muted. So if you are posting too many stories to the point where a follower has to take a lot of time to get through yours and onto the next, you could be muted too.

You can see analytics such as how many times your content has been viewed and by who. Stories are highly customizable, with text in different colors and fonts, drawings, stickers, hashtags and even location tags, which increase discoverability. According to Instagram, 75% of users take action after seeing an ad, and you can post ads in your story directly from Facebook ads manager. You can also promote existing stories on Instagram as ads. So as you can now see, Instagram Stories can be a very useful tool for brands and businesses. You just have to know how to successfully utilize them in a way that benefits you.

Total Panic over Panic! At the Disco

On February 8, I took off of work and kicked off my weekend in Austin, TX for the Two Feet and Panic! at the Disco concert. I was so incredibly pumped to see one of my favorite up and coming artists, Two Feet, in concert performing live for the first time. It only made it 10 times better than Panic! was going to be headlining the show.

My name is Mindy, I am the Sales Director for Starfish Ad Agency, and this is my story about the time Brendon Urie touched my hand.

I grew up during the emergence of the Emo/Scene days, so getting to see Panic! perform with songs from their previous sound to their modern music with the new members was going to be amazing; however, Brendon Urie was the only original band member left. For those who don’t know Brendon, he is easily one of the most beautiful humans currently occupying planet Earth.

Anyway, I got to Austin and settled in with one of my closest friends, Nicki. We had some snacks, wine, and got ready to go party it up at the concert. Once we got there we immediately took to our seats to see what kind of view we had of the stage. I had noticed pretty quickly while observing the auditorium that there was a round platform just to the left of our seats hanging from the ceiling. Anyone who follows Panic! and Brendon Urie knows he always performs a song playing on the piano in the crowd. Not to mention their Instagram page displayed several images from the tour showing the type of setup Brendon’s piano number looked like. We were a little skeptical at first about that being the platform, but after leaving our seats for fan merch, we were able to see the full platform and confirm that it definitely was his piano sitting right above and next to our seats!

As the concert went on with a brilliant performance by Two Feet, Panic! finally took the stage. We were so excited and could not wait for him to do his piano set. When they started playing “Death of Bachelor”, Brendon took off into the crowd, just as we suspected. It was at that moment Nicki and I both realized that Brendon Urie was about to walk literally right by our seats to get to his piano. I readied my phone because I knew without a doubt that I needed to document this once in a lifetime moment. He drew closer into the crowd and as he came right up to our seats, we threw out our hands in hopes that he would give us a high five or a handshake. Sure enough, he reached out and grabbed both of our hands while smiling and laughing. Nicki and I both, like little girls, just lost it and started squealing and screaming. I captured the entire moment on my cell phone. Later, after coming down off cloud 9, watching the video made me laugh so hard at how much I acted like a pre-teen girl. It’s so funny to see myself, a 28-year-old woman, screeching and squealing over a pop star. Nonetheless, I do not regret a single moment of it and I will always cherish that memory in my heart.

Going to concerts has always been a passion of mine and most recently has developed into a dedicated hobby. Music is what gets me through my good, bad, and everything in between. I married a musician so my life pretty much revolves around it. As an artist, it helps me focus and drives my motivation and creativity. In January 2018, after Dolores O’Riordan, the lead singer of the band The Cranberries was found dead in her hotel bathroom, I made a pact with myself that I was going to seize every opportunity to see a band/musician that I enjoyed performing live. I always thought I would have the opportunity to see her and others like Tom Petty perform before they passed or officially retired. After both of their deaths, I realized that I could not wait around for the next concert date or put it off to enjoy the music I loved. Since making that promise to myself, I have been to 6 concerts/events, seeing a total of 13 bands perform live. I have one more concert coming up next month and I am actively awaiting the announcements of tours from others.

For this reason, I am so glad that the digital advertising world exists. With my busy and chaotic schedule, I don’t have time to actively search and keep up with all my favorite artists. With modern technology and my behavioral data from my playlists, social media page follows and likes, and music venues I frequent, select marketers are able to target and serve me ads relevant to the music I love. Now I can be notified of these events through digital platforms to ensure I get first bids on tickets and seats. I am so fortunate to be alive in a time where the things I love can find me at the tips of my fingertips effortlessly. Now I won’t ever have to miss out on those cherished memories of gorgeous pop stars grabbing my hand and giggling along with me.

Marketing Funnels

Marketing funnels are considered by some to be the very essence of building and growing your business, especially an online business. A marketing funnel is essentially a collection of “levels” that prospective clients progress through. Developed in 1898 by American advertising advocate, E. St. Elmo Lewis, they were originally designed with just four main objectives: awareness, interest, desire, and action. Ultimately, the purpose of these funnels is to drive prospective business through a series of conversions.

Marketing funnels are deliberately designed to go in line with your specific business model. They keep track of results, automates the process, and reduces the amount of your own time you spend investing in the process. There are many different formats and templates for these marketing funnels, but no matter how you go about it, you need to have a system that gets people to know who you are, provides value and builds trust, convert them into buyers, delivers a great customer experience, and converts them into loyal repeat buyers. They are beneficial because you can see the weak points and where you are losing potential customers, at which point you can make any necessary adjustments to gain more business. These funnels take your client on a “journey”, all the way from discovering your business to purchasing your products, and even to a post-purchase phase that brings customer loyalty and repeats business. The data collected is also measurable at any given point in the entire process. The better a funnel keeps track of this customer data, and the more automated it is, the more successful it will be at getting you the results you want.

Funnels are more beneficial for subscription-based e-commerce businesses, but not as much for transactional, one-time-service businesses, such as a medical practice, auto dealer, or larger purchases, like real estate. In our business, we have taken concepts from what other templates for these funnels are like, and we have tailored them to fit our clients’ needs and the goals that they are trying to achieve.

Awareness, research, intent, and purchase are the main ideas in the templates we use. We create a plan that is more focused on the intent and purchase. Research is more used in a search or a social platform, and awareness is plugged into social, as well as programmatic. We have been able to take steps into not just generating leads, but also filtering out those individuals who are truly in the market for a specific product or service and eliminating those who are not ready for that purchase. There are steps that you can take to create that “filtering” process, but it is unique to each individual client. You could take that same concept and it would work well for one brand, but you could try and copy it to someone else and it doesn’t work. That’s the problem that a lot of companies that offer lead generation through a funnel process; they just copy and paste those funnels. They don’t focus on results, or the purchase or intent. They just focus on generating as many leads as possible, but those leads fall through because they are still in the research and awareness phase. You are wasting your time, money, and marketing efforts at the top of the funnel.

They shouldn’t even be called “funnels” anymore. They are customer digital journeys inside communities of fans, shoppers, explorers of all walks of life.