In a word? Coffee. But on a serious note, it is a challenge to be creative 24/7. However, it is one of the daily requirements, being a graphic designer. It is important to keep things fun while staying true to the requirements set forth by the client.
Personally, I take a lot of photos while I am off of work. I also travel quite a bit, so I like to use my personal photos in the ads that I create. I go walking on my lunch break and look for cool images that could be used for backgrounds. Sometimes a picture of something seemingly boring like a gravel path can be interesting when added to an ad.
Starfish is a digital agency, so I also use the social media platforms that we design ads for in my personal life. I like to be able to keep it fresh in my mind how the images will look on phones or tablets. Each platform has its pros and cons, and it is important to be aware of both.
Plus our work environment makes easier to come up with ideas. We have a fun group and joke around when brainstorming. Our more “out there” ideas get written on our chalkboard walls. One step into our office and you would have a chuckle at our antics.
I also like to look over ads that others have created so I can get ideas, but also avoid accidentally copying artwork others have done in the past. I look at ads that I have created before but try to make them look refreshed, and new and exciting.
Those are just some ways that I can keep myself in a creative state of mind. It is very important in this industry, and each person is different, which is what makes our company so great. We all have different perspectives and techniques that come together to create amazing content for our clients.
When trusting an agency to build up your brand and grow your business, you want to know what you are getting yourself into and who you are trusting your company with. There are a few things that you will get out of a partnership with Starfish…
A Full Digital Audit
Auditing your digital presence will allow us to identify areas of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Digital audits align with one of our core values (hustle) because we work hard to continually improve. We perform an initial audit as well as additional audits periodically throughout our partnership.
A Customized Strategic Digital Plan
Many ad agencies offer predetermined packages that cannot be customized to fit your specific needs. One of the reasons we perform a full digital audit prior to beginning our partnership is because it allows us to identify areas that best meet your needs. We also continue to perform audits so that we can revise the strategic plan as necessary. In other words, as your companies digital needs change, we can customize the strategic plan to meet your needs instead of continuing to offer the “same old, same old.”
This specific area sets us apart from other advertising agencies. Many programmatic advertisers and Social Media marketers offer packages that only include generic advertisements they can use with any company. Our creative team produces personalized advertisements in which the images and content are tailored to appeal to your specific audience. Personalized ads are important for increasing brand identity in your market which aligns with one of our core values: family. We strive to produce content which will invite people into your brand’s family.
A Partner Invested in Your Success
We are more than an ad agency. We form partnerships because we understand that building a digital presence requires open communication and consistent effort from both partners. It also aligns with one of our core values: accountability. Partners hold each other accountable for their contributions to the partnership because those contributions make an impact on results.
We are invested in your success. Every ad, every post, every strategy, etc. is formulated from analyzing the data from your individual accounts. We are investing time and expertise in improving those results. It’s important to fully understand that we are making a long-term investment into your success. Just as social changes do not happen overnight, neither does a digital performance.
My name is Caroline Herman and I am Content Writer and Digital Media Assistant for Starfish Ad Age. I am the youngest staff member here at just 23 years old, but I like to think that being so young makes me a great addition to the team because I have a completely different perspective to bring to the table.
I write most of the content on our site, as well as editing all of the blogs before they go out, and writing page content for our clients. I also am the assistant to Abel so I handle emails, to do lists, and note taking galore. I am a college student right now studying Journalism and Mass Communications, and when I told Abel that I loved to write, he instantly began to assign me all kinds of projects. I absolutely love getting to do what I do every day.
When I am not at work though, I really like to spend time with my dog and my fiance. I love to read, explore thrift stores, and watch movies. On a rainy Saturday afternoon, I even like to sit at the kitchen table with a puzzle and a cup of tea. I have always loved school and being in college and working full time is difficult of course, but I wouldn’t change it. I love the challenge.
A fun fact that people don’t really know about me is that I have lived in 4 different states and I have moved a total of 14 times in my 23 years. When I tell people that the first question I get is if I am from a military family. The answer is no, my dad’s job just took us around and then when I got older it was my own choice to move again. Now I live in Longview and while I don’t miss physically moving all of my stuff from place to place, I do want to live in a bigger city again someday. But for now, I love it right where I am with school and my job and my family close by.
When one of our fabulous Social Media Coordinators asked for a blog about common social media problems and their solutions, I jumped at the opportunity to assign myself to the task. I believe I could seriously write a book about this one (I’m a problem solver by nature) and sometimes it’s a bit of struggle helping a company move from point A to point Z especially when I want to be on point ZZZ (haha that wasn’t meant to be a sleeping joke, but it kind of turned into one).
Branding A common problem with branding on social media is that companies think the same rules for traditional advertising apply to digital advertising. The short answer is – they don’t. Here’s the problem: advertising on social media is not as simple as taking your traditional advertising (flyers, leaflets, coupons, brochures, etc.) and reformatting to digital sizing. #Nope. Let me repeat that a different way in case you’re a visual person.
Branding on social media is more than using the same font style and layout for every post. In fact, that may hurt your company because the content becomes boring to the audience. Each platform’s audience communicates differently and each of your audiences within those platforms communicates differently. It takes time and patience to learn their languages.
Solutions: 1) forget most of what you know about traditional branding guidelines because very little of it applies to social media, 2) create social media guidelines that define your social brand and how you will/will not speak to your audience but don’t put too much emphasis on colors/font styles, and 3) learn what awakens your audience(s) so you can increase opportunities to speak with them, actually keep their attention, and cultivate engagement.
Ads vs. Posts One of the biggest mistakes (IMO) I see companies making on social media is that they use every post to sell something to their audience. They have 2500 followers and so they think “everyone” saw their post because it’s digital. In actuality, they are reaching 50-100 people with less than 5% engagement and sometimes 0% engagement. That’s a low percentage of reach and engagement.
Solutions: Rethink how you use social media. It’s much more involved than making a pitch to a follower. Paid ads on social media should be 1) designed to attract a buyer with creativity and strategy and 2) create a connection with a potential customer that leads them to follow you.
Posts on social media should be 1) centered around content that generates an atmosphere of dynamicsocial response, 2) building a community of loyal followers, and 3) limited to 1 pitch for every 20-25 posts (unless you are an influencer/public figure with a major following).
People who like your content will like your product, buy it, and promote it. It really is that simple. Companies who embrace this simple philosophy will see the power of social media work to their benefit. Companies who try to work against the different platforms/audience types will continue to struggle in their social media efforts.
Reality vs. Expectation
SMH. This one. This one right here gets me every month. When I look at current results and the expectation of better results, I smh. Data is an important part of generating results on social media. Did you know that many of these platforms have advertisements that are actively learning multiple factors that affect ad performance? An active ad gathers information about potential customers that is extremely important for planning, strategy, and implementation of future content/advertisements. Problems: 1) expecting more for less, 2) impatience and 3) expecting immediate results.
Solutions: 1) set expectations based on actual data and don’t just choose numbers out of the sky such as 50% growth over the last month or even 3 months because it’s most likely unrealistic and it lowers morale, 2) tell yourself over and over – chisel it in stone “There WILL be ups and downs. Plans don’t ALWAYS go according to plan. There are obstacles and external factors that affect results which may be out of your control. Adjust accordingly. Sometimes THAT IS the best anyone can do.” In other words, have patience with the process, and 3. It takes a minimum of 2 weeks to a full month to get a good baseline of data. Account for strategy/implementation time. Realize there will be adjustments along the way for each creative and even for every factor and all of those adjustments affect data/results.
Audience & Growth
I just about fall out of my chair laughing when I hear someone question the population of their city and why they don’t have more followers. Here’s the problem: they think that potential audience growth is calculated by deducting followers from the population. That is absolutely incorrect. SMH. Let’s look at a real-life example. The population of Kalamazoo, Michigan is 75,807 (2017 US Census). Lindenwoods Dental has 222 Facebook followers. It’s a problem to think that they could potentially add another 75,585 followers. It’s unrealistic, unreasonable, illogical, and a whole list of other not so fabulous adjectives.
Solution: realize that your data pool of potential followers gets smaller or larger as you consider internal and external factors.
Here are a few things I would consider to start:
What is the percentage of people in the area who use dental services? How many competitors are in the area? How far would they like to extend their reach? Are they looking for customers who only want a specific type of dental service?
This list gets more detailed and refined as more factors are added into the audience growth strategy. The answer to these questions (and many more) will increase/decrease potential audience growth. And it makes a difference which platform of social media as well as whether or not you are a single local company, one with multiple locations/branches, a national chain, etc.
The Boost Monster
Problem: not knowing when to boost or promote a post. I call it the boost monster because some companies feed it lots of money with very little return. Month after month, they spend hundreds of dollars (maybe thousands) on boosting/promoting posts that receive less engagement than what they would if they were to focus on increasing their organic growth.
Solutions: 1) determine the level of engagement you require to boost a post and adjust this number as you grow your engagement rates and 2) evaluate your return on spending. Most social platforms are designed to calculate engagement and they provide useful tips to help you decide if something is boost/promotion-worthy. Evaluate your return. Were the results worth your cost (both in time spent/dollars spent)? What results could have been yielded if you spent those hundreds or thousands of advertising dollars on something that yields greater results?
This morning I had a thought as to how brands can leverage some of the platforms across all of these different ecosystems. One of the things that I have learned, based purely off of experience and practicing what I preach, is being able to build a brand inside of these ecosystems. When you look at social, those platforms are the best way for you to build your brand regardless of if you are just starting out or have been in business for decades.
On these platforms, there is no way that you can go in there and think that what you did five or ten years ago with traditional will give you the same brand recognition on those platforms. You have to go at it like nobody knows who you are… because they don’t.
It’s kind of like what Gary Vee’s book Jab Jab Right Hook says. Can you sell a product on these platforms? Absolutely. I believe you should. But not every single post should be about you trying to sell something to someone. You are actually talking to another human being. This is an interaction and a networking opportunity for you. Once you establish that connection with your consumer, then you have the ability to target them. You can use that same methodology; jab with social and give them a right hook programmatically.
A lot of people don’t understand that you can use programmatic strategically as an overall capability to leverage so much of your marketing and your strategy. Because so many people get lost in just two platforms, or maybe they hate programmatic. Gary Vee is not a fan of programmatic, but he talks about doing a Google search and hours or days later you go on youtube and see an ad for what you searched previously. That is a form of programmatic. When you think about it, you are actually telling Google what you want to see. You put yourself in an auction environment inside that ecosystem. You are telling the market what kind of product you want to see and what you are interested in buying.
Being able to do that is a form of programmatic regardless of what you think. It is extremely important for brands right now to use social as a way to tell a story. If you can’t tell a story, and you are just going to rely on the traditional media you have used for the past 50 years, you won’t get any engagement or new business. You need to be able to appeal to a younger generation; someone who is actually using these platforms. You need to give them a reason to buy your products and tell them a story that makes them feel comfortable as if your product is the right one for them at that particular time. If all you are going to do is sell, sell, sell… you are going to lose.
I’d like to discuss “Social Transparency” and why it is important to utilize that transparency. As a whole, we all have been lied to and faked out by industry leaders all competing for our attention via social media platforms, causing us to doubt much of what we see or hear.
So why is this practice of “Social Transparency” important for your business? The answer is powerfully simple; Transparency builds trust. Transparency provides powerful insight into customer satisfaction and engagement. At Starfish, we hold ourselves accountable and practice “Social Transparency” as we launch and execute campaigns on behalf of clients and of course ourselves. This is how we do just that:
Use diverse channels – Make it easy for your audience to access the story and information that they will need to make an informed decision to trust your content and overall, trust your brand.
Truth: Practice honest marketing and communication, and always own up to your mistakes. Don’t try to cover up a mistake. Acknowledge it and move forward, as that helps to build trust with your audience as well.
Embrace open communication: Cultivate opinions and community dialogue to gain differing points of view that can help to diversify your content.
Information Hub: Give the audience the information they need to help their decision to interact with you or buy your product and/or service.
—>Define your identity
Who are you: Share practice areas, product niches or specialties. Why should they choose you over your competitor?
Know your place: Don’t try to be all things to all people. Avoid creating a gap in perception where visitors or customers think you are something you are not.
Be real: Share your story, explain your values.. what do you stand for?
Share your platform: Explain how you operate by publishing your business model, process or structure.
Social proof: Publish reviews and/or testimonials.
Did you catch our Director of Sales, Mindy Lewellen’s, Facebook “live” presentation? Mindy utilized the principles of “Social Transparency.” Abel Sanchez’s provides great insight and candidly shares the opportunities to advise peers and business we are afforded Starfish Ad Age.
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 invested 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.
We live in an instant society. Which means that one of the biggest misconceptions about digital advertising is that people think of the word digital, and they think instant results. But anyone who says they can give you a return in less than 30 days is lying to you; they don’t truly understand how it all works. Like the competitor, we could also promise to get you leads. But those leads don’t matter in the long run, unless you’re also seeing the results you desire.
As with anything you do in life, it also takes time to build your brand. There are so many different platforms to work with, and not everybody knows how to use them all. And if you think that just spending a couple of hundred dollars on AdWords or Facebook is going to get you the results you want, you are mistaken. Our job is to help businesses navigate through these platforms and help brands generate an ROI.
For example, we have clients that haven’t run a TV ad for six months, but they still have customers come in and tell them that they heard about them on a TV commercial. How is that possible? Time. Repetition. It takes time for people to receive your message, and what’s more, is that they also need to get your message at the right time so that it is relevant to them. If you were to put a commercial on TV, it would take time to get the commercial done right, and then more time to get it heard and seen, and then even more time on top of that to see the results.
Digital doesn’t just send things out to the entire market randomly as traditional does. It’s about finding that community that your message is relevant to at that particular moment in time. And in this time when everyone and their grandmother is on a smartphone, we are very mobile-oriented; meaning that we are highly skilled with social media and mobile friendly sites.
Our slogan is “in a sea of advertisers, we make you the star of the ocean” for a reason. Here at Starfish, we help your brand stand out. We target the right consumers at the exact right moment to get you the results you are after for your business. So let us make you a star.
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