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.
There are many key components to being a successful marketer. One of them is understanding how (and why) people think and behave the way that they do. It would be really hard to create a motivating ad for someone if you don’t know what it is that motivates them in the first place wouldn’t it? Understanding some very basic principles of psychology can really help your marketing go from good to amazing. There are 5 basic principles to psychology that you should be using in your marketing strategy:
Priming- Here’s how this works: You are exposed to one stimulus, and it affects how you respond to another. It’s that simple. For example, if you ask someone to follow a word you say with the first word that pops into their head, they will respond to whatever you say with their semantic association to that word. I would say “banana” and you would say “yellow”. In marketing practices, you could benefit from priming because you can subtly help people remember your brand better. Think about the smallest details; they could make a huge difference.
Reciprocity- If someone does something for you, you will naturally want to do something for them. In marketing, there are a lot of ways to make this work in your favor. Giving away freebies is a great way to make people feel like they should do something to “pay you back” in a way. And it could even be something as simple as a piece of candy or a pen with your business’ name on it.
Social Proof- This is the theory that people will become very similar to the people closest to them and that they trust. In other words, this is a desire to conform. Use social sharing and follow buttons on your blogs that display the number of followers you have. That causes people to fall in line and follow you too.
Scarcity- The rarer an opportunity or product is, the more people are inclined to purchase it. You just have to be very careful with how you word this one. You have to make it sound like there used to be a lot of a product but now there aren’t due to popular demand. You can’t make it seem like there are only a few products total because that is all you had to begin with.
Anchoring- People base decisions on the first piece of information they are given. That means that if someone normally buys shoes for $50 and they see some on sale for $35, they are going to buy the cheaper shoes because they think they’ve gotten an amazing deal. But on the other hand, if someone who normally pays $20 for their shoes sees those $35 sale shoes, they aren’t going to be as impressed. That’s why online sales have the sale price listed next to the original price, which is exactly the principle you want to follow.
As you can see, there are many different ways our psychology can affect how we purchase products or services. Which means that as a marketer there are almost limitless possibilities to how you can use this information to your benefit. You just have to know the science behind it all.
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.
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 know 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 onto 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.
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.
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 that 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 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 be 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 perform 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.
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