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- Eric Bush
Why & How Companies Are Using PPC to Strengthen Their Marketing Campaigns in 2022
Backed by incisive data insights, here’s why today’s marketers need to include PPC advertising in their digital marketing toolkits.
- Kimberly Mehrtens
5 Standout Examples of Unique Content Created For Software Clients
In the software industry, it’s vital that your content is just as great as your products or services. Explore 5 of our most recent standout client examples here.
- Dan Haverty
4 Bad Mission Statements (and How To Do Better With Yours) [Infographic]
Defining your purpose in life is a hefty goal. Perhaps that’s why there are so many bad mission statements out there that we can learn from.
- Gabrielle Sadeh
15 Best Marketing Blogs to Follow
Bookmark these marketing blogs to fuel your growth, expertise and curiosity. Never miss an algorithm update or marketing report ever again.
- Autumn Green
How to Write a Newsletter That Gets Read (+ Infographic)
Your step-by-step guide for writing a newsletter that captures your subscribers’ attention and keeps them engaged.
- Michael O'Neill
What is SEO Content Writing? The Complete Guide to Writing For Search [Video + Infographic]
Conquer SERPs with effective SEO, one word at a time.
- Michael O'Neill
Types of Infographics You Should Be Using in Your Content Marketing (Infographic)
Learn more about the value of infographics to a brand, from data visualization to increasing engagement.
- Dominick Sorrentino
11 Types of Marketing That Should Be on Your Radar (With Examples) (Infographic)
There’s way more than 11 types of marketing, but this is a good place to start if you don’t have time to read a book this afternoon.
- Ashlee Sierra
‘Above the Fold’ Episode Recap: One Man, One LinkedIn Invite, One Digital Marketing Empire
You didn’t think we were gone, did you? We know, we know — it’s been a long time since we released a podcast. Jeff insists there’s a convoluted explanation involving […]
- Amanda Ciarci
30 Funny Email Sign Offs That Are Better Than “Best” (Infographic)
Bored of your go-to closers? For some fun and attention-grabbing inspiration, check out these hilarious email sign offs!
- 360i
Adweek’s Social Confidential: How Sour Patch Kids’ ‘No-Rules’ Approach Hypnotizes and Delights Fans

Sour Patch Kids, everyone’s favorite sweet-sour candy, has taken social by storm. Soon after making Gen Z dreams come true with an Olivia Rodrigo collab that all began with a Tweet, the brand blew past one million followers to become the most popular snack brand on TikTok. How did they do it? 

Adweek recently caught up with 360i Social Strategist Shelby Jacobs to find out, as part of the Social Confidential video series that looks behind the logo to find out who is tweeting and sharing for major brands. Shelby dished on SPK’s most popular TikTok, the sweetest part of her job, her advice for fellow brand managers on social, and more. 

Head to Adweek to hear more about the strategy that launched SPK to 1.4 million followers.  

The post Adweek’s Social Confidential: How Sour Patch Kids’ ‘No-Rules’ Approach Hypnotizes and Delights Fans appeared first on 360i Digital Agency Blog.

- 360i

360i was selected as one of 15 agencies to watch by Adweek’s Agencies and Creativity editorial team. The brand was selected for its mastery of TikTok, work for OREO, a track record of new business and extensive plans to make Preparation H a digital super star. 

See why 360i was celebrated for its ability to effectively tap into culture and connect brands with consumers in Adweek

The post Adweek Names 360i as a Creative-First Agency to Watch in 2022 appeared first on 360i Digital Agency Blog.

- 360i

We’re taking a quick break from launching killer work for OREO7-Eleven and Burger King to welcome some new senior leaders to the team here at 360i and across dentsu’s creative offering, which also includes our sister agencies dentsuMB and Isobar. After a strong year of new business wins and organic growth, we’ve added some new roles and new leaders who are courageous, curious, and bring a can-do spirit to the work we do each day.   

Brian Eden joins 360i as Executive Creative Director after nearly three years at agency FIG. Prior to FIG, he spent more than five years at Droga5, and over the course of his career has worked with a range of clients including The New York Times, Hyundai, Ancestry, Hennessy, and more. In addition to picking up a Titanium Lion at Cannes for Prudential’s “Challenge Lab” and Best in Show at AICP Post for Zillow’s “The Journey”, his work has been recognized at every major industry awards show, including D&AD, One Show, and the Effies. Brian will be leading creative for clients including OREO, Kroger, and Pirate’s Booty.  

We’ve also brought on Bridget Jewell as Group Director, Social Creative. Bridget spent the previous eight years at Periscope, where she rose from her role as a community engagement strategist to become a Creative Director overseeing work for clients like Target, Ferrera Candy Company, and Hefty. Her work has picked up awards at D&AD, One Show, Effies and more. At 360i, Bridget will lead a creative team of 25+ and growing, tasked with creating culturally relevant and breakthrough content across social and digital channels for brands like Burger King, 7-Eleven and Kroger.  

Vasili Gavre has been tapped as Executive Creative Director for dentsu Creative, after working with brands such as Apple, Budweiser, Airbnb, Facebook, Nike, Unilever, and Vice Media. Vasili’s work has earned accolades from Cannes, Effies, D&AD, and One Show, to name just a few. As an artist, Gavre brings strong conceptual thinking with executional knowledge, innovative approaches and diverse perspectives. Working across the integrated agency network, Gavre will support 360i and Isobar – recently named one of Fast Company’s Best Workplaces for Innovators.  

And Jason Oke joins dentsu Creative as EVP, Business Leadership, leading a portfolio of integrated clients across industries like retail, food, travel, and finance, and helping build out the network’s integrated client leadership capabilities. Most recently, Jason was at WPP for ten years, in several global agency and client leadership roles including Global Client Leader for Walgreens Boots Alliance, Regional Managing Director for WPP’s Team Colgate-Palmolive in both EMEA and APAC, Managing Director of Y&R Hong Kong, and being one of the founders of Red Fuse Communications, Colgate-Palmolive’s dedicated, integrated global communications agency. Over his 25-year career, Jason has worked globally with many Fortune 100 companies, including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Frito-Lay, Nintendo, Starbucks and more. 

“From creating brand-building platforms at dentsuMB, to culture-rich campaigns from 360i, to experience-driven innovation at Isobar, dentsu Creative is fostering an environment in which talent with a wide range of expertise can do the best work of their careers,” said dentsu Creative CEO, Americas, Jon Dupuis. “The addition of proven leaders like Brian, Bridget, Vasili and Jason adds even more fuel to a year of strong momentum, as we build an unparalleled creative community where talent can unleash creativity for growth and for good. We’re thrilled to have them onboard, working closely with our CCO Menno Kluin, to guide our clients’ business success and our talent’s careers.” 

These new appointments follow a number of exciting developments at 360i and across the dentsu organization in 2021. In addition to landing creative and digital for a portfolio of GSK consumer healthcare brands earlier in the year, we were named Social AOR for Burger King in October. And our work is delivering. We launched the OREO x Pokemon collab, which has become OREO’s best-selling limited edition cookie to date; helped fuel 7-Eleven’s growth with their first brand campaign in years directed by the legendary Harmony Korine, and kicked off a spontaneous collab for Sour Patch Kids with Gen Z icon Olivia Rodrigo that had fans in a frenzy. More to come in 2022!  

The post 360i and dentsu Creative Bolster Leadership Team appeared first on 360i Digital Agency Blog.

- 360i

Burger King has hired 360i to oversee its US social media account, a move the brand says is needed to bring a fresh perspective to its strategy.  

Ad Age covered the significant win as part of their weekly agency brief. The international chain acknowledged a proven track record since 360i already handles social for 7-Eleven and several other Mondelez brands including OREO and Sour Patch kids.  

See this lead story in Ad Age’s Agency News email newsletter

The post Burger King Taps 360i to Ignite the Brand’s Social Strategy with Fresh Perspective appeared first on 360i Digital Agency Blog.

- 360i
360i’s Ashley Evangelista Recognized on Business Insider’s Rising Stars of Madison Avenue

We are pleased to share that our own Ashley Evangelista was named on Business Insider’s 2021 Rising Stars of Madison Avenue. This list recognizes individuals that develop standout creative campaigns, use data in new ways, change business practices, and challenge the traditional agency model. Ashley does all of these things and more with her team at 360i. 

Ashley is a key strategic leader on several large accounts at 360i and most recently led the strategy for 7-Eleven’s first major brand campaign in nearly a decade. Check out “Take it to Eleven” here. Ashley’s achievements go beyond creatively solving our clients’ business challenges. She helped to grow 360i’s roster by bringing in consumer healthcare brands TUMS and Emergen-C. 

Congratulations Ashley!  

Read the full article on Business Insider

The post 360i’s Ashley Evangelista Recognized on Business Insider’s Rising Stars of Madison Avenue appeared first on 360i Digital Agency Blog.

- 360i

This week, 360i launched OREO x Pokemon, which features a beautiful OREO cookie animation and OOH art display which is currently installed in Los Angeles. 

This work is an example of authentic brand alignment with the animation perfectly showcasing the artistry of Pokemon while still spotlighting the iconic OREO cookie. The collab is being celebrated in advertising trades and mainstream press.   

Witness how the hunt begins with coverage in Adweek

The post Catch ‘em. Then Eat ‘em. 360i Spearheads a New OREO x Pokemon Collab appeared first on 360i Digital Agency Blog.

- 360i
Ed Zazzera Joins dentsu as Head of Production for Network’s Creative Offering

We are excited to welcome Ed Zazzera as the Head of Production for dentsu’s creative offering. Ed will streamline, optimize, and continually elevate the creative output for dentsu’s creative companies, which includes 360i. He’ll partner with former DDB colleague and current US Chief Creative Officer Menno Kluin to build an integrated production process that ensures all parts of the creative machine operate in concert. Together, the duo will fortify craft and execution to produce bold, impactful creative ideas.

The former production lead for BBH and DDB joins dentsu Creative from McCann Health. Ed brings decades of dedication to executional excellence and numerous awards, including honors at Cannes Lions, D&AD, One Show, Clio, AICP, AICP Next, and the Webby’s, amongst others.  

Kluin stated, “This was a long sought-after role that required someone who can adapt to dentsu Creative’s unique integrated model. We’re a craft-first, outcome-obsessed network of creative companies that deliver everything – from big TV spots at dentsuMB and culture-rich campaigns at 360i, to experience-driven innovation at Isobar. Ed’s deep experience across industries, verticals, and disciplines will streamline these outputs and help deliver creative consistency across the network.” 

Most recently, Ed led integrated production on the highly awarded, The Unfinished Votes, campaign for Change the Ref, which utilized deepfake technology to bring a victim of gun violence to life to deliver a powerful message around voting and firearm legislation. 

Read more about Ed and his experience in Shots.

The post Ed Zazzera Joins dentsu as Head of Production for Network’s Creative Offering appeared first on 360i Digital Agency Blog.

- 360i

360i Executive Creative Director Devon Hong shared his creative inspirations and what has shaped his personal life and career in The Muse by Clio. He has a lot of experience to tap into, including recent work on 7-Eleven’s “Take it to Eleven” brand refresh and various projects for Mondelez International. 

Check out his storied career from Spotify to Smirnoff here

The post 360i’s Devon Hong Shares His Creative Distinctiveness in an Interview with The Muse by Clio appeared first on 360i Digital Agency Blog.

- 360i

360i has won a mix of Digital and Creative AOR duties for a portfolio of GSK consumer healthcare brands in the US. The firm will focus on taking a more strategic planning and data-led approach across GSK’s consumer health portfolio. 

Read more about the drive for more cultural and consumer relevance in Campaign US

The post 360i Named AOR for GSK appeared first on 360i Digital Agency Blog.

- Mekenna Wilson

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) is civil rights legislation passed in 1990 to protect citizens from discrimination based on disability in transportation, employment, government programs and services, and public accommodations. More specifically, it makes it illegal for any private business to bar disabled individuals from equal access to their goods and services. Any company with 15 or more full-time employees operating 20+ work hours per week must abide by ADA guidelines.

Wheelchair ramps and braille bathroom signs probably come to mind when you think of ADA compliance. But in an increasingly digital world, you also need to make sure your website is accessible to those with disabilities. Every year, thousands of well-meaning business owners are sued for unintentional ADA violations pertaining to website accessibility. In 2020 alone, U.S. businesses paid more than a billion dollars in legal fees for inaccessible websites.

This article will give you all the information you need to avoid costly litigation, protect your business reputation, and ensure a fully ADA-compliant website.

Defining ADA Website Accessibility

According to the ADA, a disabled person has “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” Approximately one in four American adults has at least one disability related to vision, hearing, mobility, or mental capacity. Such conditions may include (but are not limited to) blindness, deafness, autism, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, intellectual disability, and missing limbs.

Website accessibility is a term for how easy it is for a disabled individual to navigate a website. Those with disabilities interact with internet content differently than others and may require assistive technology, such as screen readers, speech input, screen magnification software, or other tools. 

The Bureau of Internet Accessibility considers a website accessible when its content and other features are equally available and integrate seamlessly with assistive technology. When a company fails to provide an accessible website or ensure its use with assistive technology, it creates a barrier to equal access.

Since the ADA does not have guidelines for website accessibility, most entities defer to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) for an industry standard. The WCAG has established four principles of accessibility that your website content should adhere to:

Operable: Easy navigation with keyboard accessibilityPerceivable: Information is perceivable to multiple sensesUnderstandable: User interface and content are easily comprehensibleRobust: Compatible with assistive technology and platforms The ADA and Websites

Even though the ADA was signed into law before the modern web came into existence, recent federal mandates and court rulings have set a precedent for website accessibility. The U.S. Department of Justice passed the Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design in 2010, which requires electronic information to be disability-friendly.

In a lawsuit against Domino’s Pizza in 2019, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled:

“The act mandates that places of public accommodation, like Domino’s, provide auxiliary aids and services to make visual materials available to individuals who are blind. Even though customers primarily accessed the website and app away from Domino’s physical restaurants, the panel stated that the ADA applies to the services of public accommodation, not services in a place of public accommodation. The panel stated that the website and app connected customers to the goods and services of Domino’s physical restaurants.”

This means businesses must provide ADA-compliant services everywhere business is done — not just on company premises.

Ways to Improve Website Accessibility

If your website is already up and running, don’t worry — you can still make accessibility tweaks. Here are some easy ways your web developer can make your company’s website more accessible to people with disabilities.

1. Include text descriptions with website images

If your website uses a lot of imagery to convey information, it’s a good idea to include alt text with your site images and other non-text content. Alt-text is a written description of a picture, and it ensures that those using screen readers get the full experience of your web page. 

2. Choose a legible font with a large text size

The ADA does not enforce specific font sizes for websites, but it is a general best practice to use at least a 16-point font for the body of your content. To maximize your website accessibility, we recommend choosing from Calibri, Tahoma, Arial, Helvetica, Arial, Times New Roman, or Verdana for the font of your body text. These standard fonts come with most website creation platforms and have proven to be the most legible for those with disabilities. 

3. Limit or avoid flashing content

Flashing, flickering, and strobing page elements can trigger seizures in epileptic individuals. As a rule of thumb, do not include moving content that flashes more than three times per second. If you must have these elements, be sure to provide user controls that allow the site visitor to pause the motion.

4. Ensure a stark contrast between text and background colors

People with low vision need contrast to read the text on your website. For large text, the contrast should be at least 3:1 and 4:5:1 for small text. You can use WebAIM’s contrast checker for an existing site or GitHub’s accessible color palette builder if you’re still developing your website.

5. Enable keyboard-accessible navigation

People with tremors and other motor difficulties are unable to use a mouse and instead rely on a keyboard to navigate web pages. Sadly, not many websites have this functionality. Refer to WebAIM’s table of keystroke interactions to see how the motor-impaired should be able to interact with your website on a keyboard.

6. Offer alternatives to video and audio

All video and audio content on your website should be accompanied by captions or sign language interpretation to give the deaf and hard of hearing equal access to your digital media. In order to be ADA-compliant, your captions need to relay the speaker’s content word for word (no paraphrasing) with correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation. 

Risks of ADA Website Violations

Any time a person with a disability is unable to navigate your website successfully, it constitutes a “denial of equal access to goods and services,” or in other words, discrimination. This leaves you vulnerable to:

Lawsuits: According to the American Bar Association, website and app accessibility lawsuits have accounted for one in five of all ADA federal court filings — and even industry titans like Netflix, Nike, and Burger King have fallen short of accessibility standards at times. Litigation doesn’t look good to current or prospective customers and can cost tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

Profit losses: The American Institutes for Research estimates that working-age adults with disabilities have $490 billion in disposable income after tax. When your business doesn’t allow them to purchase your goods and services, you miss out on major revenue opportunities.  

Reputational degradation: Consumers are more likely than ever to share their experiences on Google and social media. If word gets out that your website is discriminatory, negative media coverage could have disastrous consequences for your business reputation. Customers who were once loyal to your brand may decide to take their business elsewhere.

Benefits of ADA Website Compliance

By maintaining an ADA-friendly website, you’re helping an under-served demographic obtain needed goods and services, thereby improving their quality of life. Small efforts like this can set your brand apart and help you earn positive PR. 

What’s more, you have the potential to reach a much wider audience than before when you make simple accessibility adjustments to your website. (Remember the one in four Americans with a disability? Your accessibility improvements pave the way for them to reach you!) Accessibility adjustments tend to be good for SEO as well; adding alt text to images and improving site navigation will help you rank higher in search engines.

Start Prioritizing Web Accessibility Today

Accessibility may not have been top of mind before reading this article, but we hope you’ll take it into consideration in everything you do moving forward. If your website was developed without regard to accessibility, it’s time to stop turning away business unintentionally. It’s never too late to start testing and implementing fixes. If you aren’t sure where to start, check out the Bureau of Internet Accessibility’s free website accessibility checklist or contact our team for a site audit.

- Andrew Melchior
What Is Integrated Marketing and Why Does It Matter?

Online customers no longer use a single channel on their way through the sales funnel. Marketing today is done across dozens of channels for maximum reach and exposure. According to Forbes, 75% of online buyers use multiple channels to research products and make purchasing decisions.

75% of online buyers use multiple channels to research products and make purchasing decisions

Although the integrated approach to marketing opens up new lead generation opportunities, it can also make it challenging to stay consistent wherever your content gets posted. The 2018 Global Report by Kantar revealed that 89% of marketers think their strategies are integrated while only 58% of consumers feel the same. How do you make your ad campaign impactful on every platform without compromising the continuity of your brand messaging? That’s what integrated marketing is all about!

89% of marketers think their strategies are integrated while only 58% of consumers feel the same

Continue reading to find out the benefit of successfully integrated marketing campaigns and how you can improve your approach. 

What Is an Integrated Marketing Campaign?

In the simplest of terms, integrated marketing is the art of presenting your brand messaging in a consistent way on every marketing channel. Whenever a lead or customer comes across your brand, they will recognize it and have the same experience on desktop and mobile regardless of the channel they use. 

If you haven’t historically focused on integrated marketing, you may be delivering a fragmented experience to your leads and clients through mismatched slogans, inconsistent messaging on your social media versus the website, indistinctive logo variations, and so forth. This can contribute to a negative perception and lack of trust in your brand, making it less likely for people to want to do business with you.

How Integrated Marketing Helps Your Brand

An integrated marketing campaign will do more than just set you apart from your competitors and expand your reach. Here are a few of the other ways you could potentially benefit from a unified voice and brand message.

Get the Best Use of Your Marketing Dollars

Think With Google discovered that those leading in their respective markets are usually those who use integrated marketing technology to determine the best direction for their campaigns. Unfocused marketing campaigns can pull you in a variety of different directions — not all of which will be beneficial. Instead of wasting your limited advertising budget, hone in on the overarching message you want to get out on every marketing channel. That way, you can repurpose content across all channels and get more bang for your marketing buck while preserving your brand consistency.

Increase Brand Awareness and Performance

Take McDonalds as a good integrated marketing campaign example. Without seeing the company name, you’d probably know their ads anywhere in the world just by the red and yellow color scheme or the golden arches logo. Leads are more likely to remember and recognize a brand that uses the same imagery, taglines, and other brand elements from platform to platform. The more they see these elements, the better your chances of reinforcing your brand identity in people over time, converting them into customers, and boosting your campaign performance.

Improve Customer Loyalty

If you provide a cohesive experience for online consumers, you’re more likely to stand out from your competition and be remembered by your target audience. The University of Southern California has confirmed this in studies on the psychology of brand loyalty, explaining that customers are more loyal to brands that provide them with a unified and seamless journey through the sales funnel. When people love your brand and trust you to be the same business they know and love wherever they go, you’ll have some customers for life.

Customers are more loyal to brands that provide them with a unified and seamless journey through the sales funnel How Is Integrated Marketing Different From Omnichannel Marketing?

If you’ve read our past blog on The 8 Pillars of Digital Marketing for an Omnichannel Approach, you may be wondering about the difference between omnichannel and integrated marketing. While both marketing concepts are centered around brand consistency, omnichannel marketing is more about using all available channels to reach a customer while integrated marketing is about honing into the message and ensuring its uniformity on platforms. The implementation may be different for each medium, but the main theme should remain consistent. 

Though omnichannel and integrated marketing are slightly different concepts, both are important for fully integrated, memorable, and uniform ad campaigns.

How to Ensure an Integrated Marketing Approach

Knowing how important consistency is to any marketing strategy, you now need to alter your current campaigns for uniformity and brand cohesion. But where do you even start? Here are some simple tips for hammering out your brand story and integrating your channels.

1. Find out what customers want

Brands should do more than explain what their business is all about; they should anticipate customer needs and craft a compelling story about how their product or service can meet those needs. This story should build on itself in every customer interaction. 

To do this successfully, it’s important to think about what you’d want to see from your brand if you were part of your own target audience. Whatever those needs might be, you should position yourself as the clear solution across platforms and mediums. This will make people want to continue to engage with your brand and learn more as they repeatedly encounter your business on various platforms. 

2. Build a campaign around a unique selling point — and make it interesting

What is your brand known for that differentiates it from competitors? This should be a central element of your brand message. 

For example, although there are dozens of mobile carriers these days, Verizon built a successful ad campaign years ago on the idea that its coverage is better than everyone else’s — and they reinforced it with humor and a memorable tagline. The popular Verizon commercials are remembered for the famous tagline: “Can you hear me now? Good.” The Verizon user was always standing in a place where other carriers would drop the signal. 

Your unique selling points should be equally central to your storytelling across platforms as Verizon’s and fit in seamlessly alongside your brand’s core values.

3. Make sure your internal teams are on the same page

A common reason for disjointed ad campaigns is various people acting on their own ideas about what the brand should be doing or saying. When one person goes rogue, it can alter your entire brand identity. Thus, one key of a successful integrated marketing campaign is making sure all teams and key players involved in an ad campaign follow the same brand standards and agree on central messaging. 

If you find this not to be the case, it may be time for a company-wide meeting to discuss brand guidelines to get everyone on the same page and working toward the same goals.

Work towards the same goals Start Using Our Integrated Marketing Services Today

No matter how experienced of a marketer you are, the practice of integrated marketing is a lot to take on yourself — especially if your brand is just getting off the ground. At Avalaunch Media, we have all the tools and expertise to help you fine-tune your messaging, unify your voice and visuals, and integrate your ad campaigns. 

Our integrated marketing agency is home to a number of expert teams who each excel in their own area of digital marketing, and we can eliminate the guesswork to help you grow your brand. Check out our case studies to see brands like yours we’ve successfully launched and learn more about our people to find out what makes us the best team for your full range of marketing needs.

- Andrew Melchior
How A/B Testing Can Answer All Your Marketing Needs

As a business professional, you know that the one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work in the world of digital marketing; every company requires a custom approach for their own unique target markets. A/B testing, which is also sometimes called split testing, is a method of comparison between two versions of an email, an SEO keyword, or a paid ad, for example, to determine which one performs better with a target audience. It helps you quickly identify the most effective marketing strategies and land the most engagement.

Here, we’ll discuss in more depth what A/B testing is, as well as what you can accomplish with such testing and how to do it most effectively.

What Is A/B Testing in Marketing?

Think of an A/B test as an experiment. If, for example, you wanted to know which of two call-to-action buttons yields the most clicks or which subject lines cause people to open an email more frequently, you would split the target audience into two random groupings. You would then show one grouping button A/subject line A and the second grouping button B/subject line B and measure which one demonstrated a greater level of engagement. 

This experiment can be done with practically any element of your marketing. Some A/B testing examples could include variations in your:

A/B Testing Variations Web page color schemeButton copyHeadings and subheadingsBody copy formattingeCommerce store layoutSocial proofPaid ad designSite navigation structureAnd much more Why Is A/B Testing Important?

A/B testing is important because many businesses have more than one target audience for their products, and these various target audiences exhibit different online behaviors and priorities. So, what works for one target audience may not work for another. 

For example, let’s say you sell athleisure, a type of fitness clothing that can be used for exercise and/or lounging. The female group of your target audience is looking for different product qualities than the male group, and your offerings must be presented to them where they each shop and in a way that appeals to them. As an example, the men might prioritize cooling and moisture-wicking properties, while women may favor style, squat-proof, and stretch qualities. According to a 2017 study, men are more utilitarian in their online shopping behaviors while women prioritize the lifestyle that a brand sells and how it makes them feel. A/B testing can guide your search for the strongest calls to action, the best copywriting voice, and so on for the males and females in your target audience so you can reach them most effectively. 

Once you know what works for each target audience through A/B testing, you can decrease bounce rates, increase conversion rates, garner more website traffic, and decrease instances of cart abandonment. It’s important to be cautious, however, as making the wrong assumptions can lead your campaign astray. Below, we talk about how to set up an A/B test so you can avoid outside influences and statistically insignificant test results.

How to Run a Proper A/B Test 1. Invest in the right tools

A/B testing tools have come a long way over the last five years. Today, there are more than two dozen platforms you can choose from to run your tests. Choosing the best one for your needs will save you time, money, and effort. 

The best one for you comes down to your skills, budget, current traffic, and the number of tools you require within the platform. If you don’t have an in-house web developer or you aren’t experienced in statistics, you may want to opt for a more inclusive A/B testing tool that has all the capabilities you need within the platform. Below are some of our favorite options:

A/B Testing Tools Google OptimizeVWOOptimizelyOmniconvertHubSpot 2. Establish a variable and a goal

A marketing campaign has lots of moving parts, and to put together a reliable A/B test, you need to isolate a single variable for testing. Narrowing down a specific area of focus and measuring its performance ensures that you’re only testing the performance of that variable. 

You can decide on a variable to test by determining where there are holes in your marketing strategy. Consider whether the design and layout of a web page, the wording of a paid ad, the presence of a name in an email subject line, or the size of a call-to-action button is impacting your leads and/or sales, for example. Google Analytics is a great resource that can show you where people are dropping off in the conversion funnel, which can guide you to potential changes. Even the slightest changes can yield significantly different results; you’d be surprised how changing a single word on a button or the location of an image on a webpage can alter user behavior. 

Every marketer wants to increase conversions and sales, but your goal should be more specific and measurable than this. An example of a strong goal would be to decrease the bounce rate on a home page by X percent using A/B testing to determine the strongest tagline in the hero section. Your goal should stretch you but should not be unrealistic and exceed your current capabilities.

3. Decide on a challenger

A challenger is the alternative email subject line, button text, home page tagline, online store layout, or other test variables that will compete against what you already have in place (your control variable). For example, if you want to see if a client’s “Buy Now” button leads to more conversions when placed higher on the webpage, design a copy of that page with the button higher up. The copy becomes your test page (Option B), and the original is your control (Option A).

If you’re having trouble deciding on a challenger, it may help to do some market research on the variable you’re testing to see what strategies your competitors are using.

Bonus Tip: Avoid creating double-barreled tests! Test only one outcome for a single input. (Will Landing Page header with our key value proposition [X] text improve sign-ups for our monthly email newsletter [Y].) You can test multiple inputs, but it’s confusing to try and measure improved sign-ups for our newsletter while also testing if our bounce rate improves and sales increase. Optimize for a single outcome per test, and you will WIN!

4. Set up two sample groups

For an A/B test to produce actionable results, you need to divide your traffic between the challenger and control group randomly. Truly random sampling is achieved by ensuring that anyone who visits your client’s site has an equal chance of seeing one of your A/B variations. This will help you avoid false positives and negatives — instead, you’ll obtain only valid results. 

The way you split your audience will depend on the platform you use. Some testing tools will automatically divide your traffic for you. You may need to manually calculate a minimum sample size for your tests before you launch them, but again, this depends on the platform you’re using. You should only begin to analyze the results once the minimum sample size has been achieved.

5. Run the test for at least two weeks and decide on a significance level

There are three main factors used to determine the validity of a test: variability (acceptable error), confidence level(statistical significance), and deviation (statistical intervals). The unscientific way to say this is that a test must predict reliable results (confidence) within an acceptable range of numbers (variability) defined by your requirements (deviation) 

A common practice is to gather a large sample size to produce statistically significant results with a confidence level of at least 95%. Statistical significance means how confident we are that an outcome will fall within our sampled range – 95% confidence means out of 100 tests, 95 are expected to fall inside our expected range. 

Generally speaking, two continuous weeks of running your A/B test will produce reliable results. However, keep in mind that time isn’t the factor that determines your test’s reliability; The size of your sample increases the accuracy of your test.

The size of your sample increases the accuracy of your test

It is recommended that you do not continue running your test beyond four weeks, as longer-running tests can be influenced by extraneous factors that will impact your data.

6. Interpret your results and make improvements accordingly

Now that you have data from several weeks of exposure to both variables, it’s time to measure the significance and find out whether or not a change should be made. Even if there is statistical significance with a high level of confidence in favor of the challenger, make changes slowly so you can monitor the long-term impact and avoid unintended consequences.

Not Feeling Confident in Your A/B Test Skills? Let us Help!

A/B testing is a skill that can be challenging to master. There are so many external factors that can potentially influence the success of a marketing variable, and without the right help, you could end up with invalid data that throws off your entire campaign. 

Avalaunch Media is home to marketing experts with years of A/B testing experience. Get in touch with us for professional guidance that will launch your business!

- Andrew Melchior
The Rise of Private Browsing (and What It Means for Digital Marketers)

Internet users today are more aware of online security threats than ever before. They want to keep their online activity private, their login information protected, and their data from being collected. This is part of the reason that private browsing has become so widespread; surveys have revealed that one of every three people who know about private browsing use it.

One in every three people who know about private browsing use it

Privacy concerns are likely to remain at the front of people’s minds as technology becomes an increasingly prominent part of life. But what does private browsing mean for digital marketers who rely on search engine data to fine tune their SEO strategy, website content, and ad campaigns? In short, it means that you may have to adapt your online marketing strategy to accommodate your consumer’s desire for browsing privacy.

Here, we’ll discuss the following topics and explain how digital marketing is bound to change with the ushering in of the new digital marketing privacy era:

What is Incognito mode?Why does Incognito mode exist?Does Google track you in Incognito mode?How does Google Incognito mode work?Does private browsing hide your IP address?Can Incognito mode be traced? What Is Private Browsing and How Does It Work?

Private browsing (also known as Incognito mode, Google’s version of private browsing) isn’t actually as private as it sounds. Internet users sometimes confuse the function of a private browser with that of a VPN, which conceals your online identity. While a private browser can’t make you anonymous on the internet, it can hide your browsing history from those who have access to your computer while also preventing websites from tracking you and storing your login credentials. In private browsing mode, search engines can still see your location, IP address, and login history, which means some private browsing data is still available to digital marketers.

When you use a private browser, you start a temporary session that is separate from your main browser and local data. Terminating the session will clear your search history, file downloads, cookies, and browsing history so that anyone who uses the device after you will not be associated with or have visibility into your data or history.

Why Do People Use Private Browsers?

Today, most browsers have a private browsing feature, including Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer. Alternative search engines like DuckDuckGo automatically protect user data without requiring a manual switch to private browsing. People use them for a variety of reasons, such as to shop online for someone without ruining the surprise, research sensitive information, or safely use a public computer at a library or a university. Private browsing is also convenient if your nosy friends or relatives have access to your computer.

Digital Marketing and Consumer Data Privacy Laws

Despite the fact that many consumers have turned to private browsing, their internet activity can still be tracked through the use of cookies. A cookie is a small file that a website stores so that it can recognize your device in the future and provide a more custom experience based on your browsing habits. Digital marketers must use this data cautiously; now that so much of life happens online, there are more internet regulations and laws going into effect that restrict the way this data can be used. 

As a digital marketer, you need to thoroughly understand data privacy laws so you know what you can and can’t do in relation to them. While there aren’t currently any wide-reaching federal laws, there are two broad consumer protection regulations that all digital marketers should be aware of; the following pieces of legislation regulate the collection and use of private data for marketing and carry penalties for violation:

The General Data Protection Regulation: This law, passed by the European Union, is the most strict data privacy law in the world. If a marketer collects web data on someone located in the EU, they must abide by an extensive set of guidelines. Visit the EU’s webpage on this regulation to familiarize yourself with the legislation. The California Consumer Privacy Act: This law gives Californian internet users the right to know how a business collects, uses, and shares their internet data and allows them to opt out of their data being sold. Violating a California resident’s rights under this act could result in litigation.

Additional laws are cropping up all over the world. As new pieces of legislation pass, it will be increasingly more complicated to collect consumer data in a compliant manner. For marketers, it will be equally as important to have a backup plan for your marketing strategy as it will be to stay up to date with new laws.

As new pieces of legislation pass, it will become more complicated to collect consumer data in a compliant manner The Future Impact of Private Browsing on Digital Marketing

There used to be a time when you could track your target audience’s every move on the internet, but that isn’t the case anymore. Data collection is getting more difficult by the day. As more restrictions on consumer data usage fall into place, marketers will inevitably have to find alternative ways to target their audiences without depending so much on analytics. 

This means you may eventually have to adopt the old-fashioned marketing method of casting a wide net and marketing to broader audiences, focusing more on high-quality messaging that attracts the general public.

Tips for Adapting Your Marketing to Consumer Privacy Laws

In the years to come, marketers will need to focus more on innovation and responsible data collection when it comes to their target audiences. Here are some simple tips for reaching your marketing goals without violating any consumer protection laws.

Increase Your Emphasis on Transparency When consumer data is available, make transparency a central part of your collection process

When consumer data is available, make transparency a central part of your collection process. This means providing a clear and concise privacy policy on applicable websites and obtaining people’s consent before using their data by allowing them to opt in or opt out of data exchanges, email communications, and more.

Make Your Content Attractive to Larger Demographics

Over the past decade, digital marketing has been focused on targeting groups of small, specific audiences. In a world where demographic-specific data is no longer available, you’ll have to start targeting larger groups simultaneously with more creative, higher-quality content. You may also need to start running multiple ads from different angles to find out what resonates most with general audiences.

Focus on Brand Awareness and Recognition

As you start targeting general audiences, it’s important to perfect your brand messaging and connect with internet users frequently. The more your brand is seen in the world, the more likely people are to remember it; repeated exposure will help your brand recognition and generate leads from a broader pool of potential customers.

Consider the Bigger Picture

Adapting your marketing strategy to new industry standards provides you with an opportunity to take a step back and look at the big picture. Instead of evaluating small-scale elements of your various campaigns, you can instead start looking at higher-level success metrics, such as your customer satisfaction and return on investment, to see how you’re performing with the general public.

Partner With Avalaunch Media to Fine Tune Your Marketing Strategy

As of today, data-driven marketing is still alive and well — and until that ceases to be the case, the future impact of increased regulation will remain largely unknown. For the time being, your biggest challenge will be to prepare by reconciling your marketing practices with consumer data privacy laws. One way you can do that is by focusing on big-picture marketing. While your brand will need to make adjustments for compliance purposes, the fundamentals of digital marketing remain unchanged.

Avalaunch Media is home to dozens of brilliant marketing minds with years of experience strategizing with brands of all sizes. Our adaptable team is knowledgeable in all areas of digital marketing and is ready to work with businesses like you in ushering in this new era of high-level digital marketing. Contact us today to find out how we can help you launch your brand and help you soar to new heights while maintaining compliance!

- Mekenna Wilson
How to Advertise on TikTok

Tell us you’re looking for new marketing strategies without telling us you’re looking for new marketing strategies. You just went first by navigating to this blog! Not sure what we’re talking about? Then you’re probably missing out on the huge marketing opportunity that is the TikTok app! Read below to discover how to advertise on TikTok.


At the beginning of 2021, TikTok had an impressive 689 million active users viewing over a billion videos each day and spending about 52 minutes on the app. Considering that the majority of users on this hit platform are under the age of 30 and represent 40% of online consumers, you can’t afford to miss out on the exposure and opportunity that TikTok presents.

So what is TikTok, exactly, and how can you use TikTok advertising to gain effective exposure for your brand? Let’s discuss it — because it may just be the key to success for your business.

gen z tiktok What Is TikTok?

TikTok is a social media app launched in 2018, centered on sharing videos of 60 seconds or less in duration. Anyone in the world can browse endless creative content or create a profile for posting dance videos, lip syncs, comedy sketches, fitness videos, makeup tutorials, recipes, or practically anything else. The only limit is the user’s creativity. 

Because the primary demographic that uses TikTok is Gen Z (people born between 1997 and 2012), companies that market here need to appeal to a younger audience or find a way to present their products or service offerings in an edgy, youthful, or comedic way. Inherently youthful brands that have succeeded in TikTok marketing are ones like Chipotle, GymShark, Fortnite, and Elf Cosmetics, but even the Washington Post has made a name for itself on TikTok by posting funny sketches surrounding current events.

tiktok advertising Ways of Advertising on TikTok

The platform is still in its infancy, but marketers have recently discovered ways to get their ads out there — many of which are creative and unconventional. You don’t need a lot of money to succeed here, either, as long as you’re producing quality content. Here are some of the new ways to earn brand exposure in this new era of digital marketing.

Create a Profile

Yes — it can be as simple as creating a profile and putting out content periodically to build up an audience. While this way takes some time, it’s a low-budget option that can generate a lot of followers as long as you’re uploading engaging content and not being overly promotional. A good rule of thumb is to remember that people come to TikTok to be entertained, not to watch commercials, so be relatable and know what’s trending on the app before you start creating content.

H3: Pre-Roll Ads

You’re probably familiar with the concept of pre-roll ads from YouTube. Pre-roll ads are the quick video ads that play before you access the content. TikTok’s pre-roll ads play automatically whenever a user launches the app, so they’re almost guaranteed to see it. What more effective way to get your name out there than to be the first thing all 2.6 billion TikTok users see every day?

Branded Effects

Part of what makes TikTok so fun is the filter features that creators can implement in their videos, much like what you see on Instagram and Snapchat. As a business, you can pay to have your own branded effects available to content creators with company-specific information that is recognizable to anyone using your custom filter effect. 

In-Feed Ads 

In-feed ads are video ads that play automatically in a user’s “For You” feed, or the queue of videos suggested according to their liked and saved videos. These ads can be up to 60 seconds long, but it’s best to keep them to 15 seconds. The most successful brands on TikTok are the ones creating in-feed ads so entertaining that the user hardly realizes they’re watching an ad. In-feed ads have the same user interface as organic videos, which makes them almost indistinguishable from native content.

Influencer Marketing

Certain content creators on TikTok have millions upon millions of followers because of their useful or engaging content. Some of them are open to collaborations with companies that fit their brand, so it’s worth doing some research to identify influencers who are best suited to promote your products or services and increase your brand exposure.

Hashtag Challenges

Hashtag challenges arise when a user gives other users specific tasks to complete and challenges them to post their results along with the given hashtag. Anyone on the app can participate or issue a hashtag challenge, but it relies on widespread participation to go viral. 

As a business, you can pay to promote your own hashtag challenge for a set number of days with a link to your products. You can start your own challenge, or you can navigate to the Discover Page and see what’s trending to find out if there are any hashtags already trending that suit your products. 

One of the most viral hashtag challenges on TikTok was issued by e.l.f. Cosmetics. They invited users to flaunt their natural beauty in a video with the hashtag of #eyeslipsface for a chance at free makeup and skin care products. The challenge not only engaged millions of people but also got everyone talking about e.l.f. Cosmetics in the positive context of natural beauty.


Dance challenges are a TikTok hallmark. When a user choreographs a particular song, it often inspires others to recreate the dance themselves. Think The Git Up by Blanco Brown. While the artist had nothing to do with that dance, The Git Up dance challenge along with its associated hashtag (#thegitup) went viral with over 150 million participants. Your fast track to brand recognition could involve coming up with a viral dance!

The Creation of Sounds

Most TikTok videos are accompanied by sounds, which are snippets of songs, speeches, random dialogues, or any other sound played in the background. Once a sound is created, anyone on the app can reuse it. When used in conjunction with a hashtag or dance challenge, sounds create the opportunity for a lot of notoriety. If you don’t have any custom sounds to offer, create a video reusing one of the trending sounds on TikTok. Doing so will make you more relatable to those on the app — and they’ll love you for it!

How to Get Started

If you haven’t jumped on the TikTok marketing bandwagon yet, it’s not too late to start. Anyone on TikTok could be nonexistent today and viral tomorrow. Get started by creating a profile, determining your budget, researching the current trends, and finding out which of those trends may be most affordable and relevant to your products or services. 

If you’re feeling lost along the way, Avalaunch Media is home to a world-class social media team that can help you navigate the world of TikTok and succeed in your marketing efforts. Contact us today for a free consultation.

- Mekenna Wilson
Ten Steps of a Basic SEO Website Audit

A basic SEO website audit is a great starting place for your digital marketing strategy. Conducting an audit will help you see where you currently rank and how you can do better. This may sound complicated, especially if you’ve never done it before, but a DIY website audit isn’t as difficult as it sounds. A little extra time and effort on your part can have a lasting impact on your business success.

According to a 2021 report by HubSpot, 64% of marketers invested significant effort and resources into their search engine optimization (SEO) in 2020. If you aren’t making SEO a focus for your website, you’re willfully allowing your competitors to overtake you on Google and attract the customers that could be coming to you. But where do you even begin? Here, we’ll show you how to get started in these 10 steps of a basic SEO audit.

Step 1: Crawl Your Website

The first thing to do is crawl your website to check for SEO problems and ensure that only one URL works. Make sure your URL canonicalization and 301s are set up. Canonical tags prevent duplicate content from appearing in multiple URLs, and 301s help Google and its users navigate seamlessly to pages that have moved URLs.

Ubersuggest is a free resource that can show you how Google is crawling your website. It takes about 10 minutes to complete the scan. Upon completion, this tool will identify your critical SEO issues, whether they be duplicate content, site speed, inattention to keywords, etc. Many of the  the issues you identify will likely be quick fixes.

Step 2: Create Custom 404s

When a visitor searches your website and enters an invalid URL that doesn’t exist, you need to return a custom 404. Anything is better than a “This page does not exist” message that leads customers away from your website and hurts your credibility.

Step 3: Improve Your Title Tags

A title tag is the item of content displayed in blue on the search engine results page (SERP) that tells Google the title of your webpage. These tags should be no longer than 60 characters to prevent truncation, and they need to be relevant and compelling in order to drive traffic to your site. If you haven’t already, see to it that your title tags:

Have keywords placed near the frontAre not wasting characters with your brand nameAre encouraging the user to take actionProvide a benefit or value to the user for taking the action Step 4: Customize Your Metadata

While meta descriptions don’t directly impact your ranking on Google, they still matter. The meta description is the blurb below your title tag on the SERP that gives your user a brief summary of what they’ll find by navigating to that page. Metadata can be a deciding factor in whether or not someone visits your site. Because they aren’t usually created by default, some businesses don’t even realize that some (or all) of their pages are missing custom meta descriptions — so be sure to add them manually if you have not already done so.

Your meta descriptions should fall between 150 and 160 characters to avoid truncation. Make it very inviting and accurate to the page. Do not use the same meta descriptions for different pages or you could end up with identical SERP results and confuse your user.

Step 5: Check for Duplicate Content

Duplicate content is website copy that appears on more than one URL. This isn’t necessarily a penalty for your SERP ranking, but it makes it hard for Google to decide which version is better to present to the user in their search. Retail sites are notorious for duplicate content, as they tend to copy and paste product information from their dropshipper (a vendor who fulfills orders from a third party and has them ship directly to the customer). This floods the search results with duplicate content. 

If you’re using a free shopping cart or CMS that adds custom meta on your pages, you need to double check that these pages are as unique as possible to avoid duplicate content issues. Copyscape is an example of a helpful tool that can identify SEO problems you might have as a result of duplicate content.

Step 6: See That Your Site Design Is Up to Date

If your website looks like it’s straight out of the 90s, you’re not giving your customer the best user experience. A lot of companies neglect their web design, thinking that SEO is the “be-all and end-all” of their ranking. What they don’t realize is that web design has an indirect impact on SEO. 

When your web design doesn’t provide an optimal user experience, the potential customer will bounce. In fact, a study by researchers at Northumbria University and Sheffield University in the UK found that 95% of visitors would mistrust a company or leave a website because of poor web design. So, it’s worth the investment to update your web design if you haven’t done so in a while.

Step 7: Put Alt Tags on Your Images

Did you know you may be missing out on a lot of website traffic potential from sites like Google Images and other image search engines? These sites can lead users to your web pages through the alt tags on your images. 

Alt tags are HTML attributes assigned to image tags, or brief descriptions of the pictures on your site. They give search engines a text alternative to photos and increase crawlability. Thankfully, it’s much easier to add alt text today than it used to be. If you’re using WordPress or another modern content management system (CMS), you can easily add alt tags without having to mess with the HTML code.

Step 8: XML Sitemap

You can consider an XML sitemap as a roadmap of your site structure. It lists out your URLs and quickly tells Google which pages are the most important to crawl and how to reach them — even if you don’t have great internal linking. XML sitemaps are beneficial to large websites with extensive archives, brand-new websites with limited external links, and all websites in between. But how do you know which web pages to include in your sitemap? 

Determine the relevance of your URLs and which ones are the most important ones on which to focus. If you don’t want visitors to land on it, it’s best to leave it out. For example, you can exclude duplicate pages, archive pages, pages with no index, white paper PDFs, contact us pages, login pages, privacy policy pages, etc. Just because these aren’t listed in your sitemap doesn’t mean they won’t still be indexed. 

Step 9: Optimize for Target Keywords

Our SEO team finds that many of our customers have not identified any focus keywords for specific pages or throughout their website. Every web page on your site needs a focus keyword implemented naturally within the first 100 words. A business owner may know the keywords they want to be ranked for, but unless they optimize their site for these keywords, Google and other major search engines will never know. 

Keyword stuffing and other outdated SEO tactics are no longer effective, so you need to figure out what your target customers are searching for. When you optimize for these words and variants, Google will better understand what the page is about and bring the right people there. 

Tools such as Ahrefs, Semrush, Moz, and Rank Ranger can all help you identify the keywords your competitors are ranking for as well as their volume, position, average number of visits, and the amount of competition for those organic search words. 

Step 10: Manage Your Links

It’s a common occurrence for web pages to be moved or deleted. If your site contains broken links, your user will get frustrated and leave your site — and as you know by now, a high bounce rate resulting from a poor user experience will lower your ranking. Downloadable resources like Xenu Sleuth can automatically check for broken links on your site and identify which ones to change so you don’t have to do it manually. 

Want to Dive Deeper? Get a Professional Technical Audit Today

This wraps up some of the basic elements of a DIY SEO audit, but there’s so much more to a good SEO strategy than what we’ve discussed. If you want to capture even more opportunities, you need the help of a professional SEO team. Partner with our experts today in creating a strategic game plan to overtake your competitors. We can’t wait to help you succeed.

- Mekenna Wilson
Eight Common Mistakes on the PPC Checklist

Google Ads has become one of the most popular platforms for online marketing. Since being launched, AdWords has morphed to account for the various needs of marketers, which has made it more complex than it used to be. If you’re new to the world of PPC, you may find that new ad types, features, and targeting methods can be somewhat perplexing.

The reality is that running successful ad campaigns is more difficult than it may seem. Minor missteps can lead to significant underperformance and unmet KPIs, so it’s worthwhile becoming familiar with common PPC mistakes, so you don’t make them. 

Having worked with hundreds of clients over the years, we’re familiar with the most common ad campaign issues, and we’re here to share them so you can perfect your PPC checklist. There is always room for improvement, and we can help! 

Mistake #1: You’re only using a last-click attribution model 

An attribution model is a set of rules that lets you decide how much credit an ad interaction gets for conversions; it allows you to see how your ads perform so you can make them more effective and yield more conversions. There are several different attribution models, but the most common is the last-click attribution model. 

Under this model, you give credit to the last click before someone contacted you or bought your product, but you aren’t accounting for the entire journey the customer took to get to this point — so you can see why it’s problematic that so many marketers are only using this model of attribution. 

Most users pass through at least seven touchpoints with a brand before becoming a customer, so if you’re only giving credit to the last-click model, you’re leaving money on the table without educating and capturing users who are in research and discovery mode. Consider using one or more of the following models to improve your bidding and reach customers earlier in the funnel:

Position-based attribution: 40% of credit given to first and last interactions, 20% of credit given equally to other ad interactions along the wayData-driven attribution: Uses your account data to accurately determine the real contribution of every interaction along the conversion pathLinear attribution: Gives equal credit for conversions across all ad interactions along the conversion pathTime decay attribution: Assigns more credit to ad interactions occurring around the time of conversion Mistake #2: You’re not using negative keywords

Using negative keywords prevents your ads from appearing under irrelevant search terms. You don’t want to pay for clicks from someone who won’t convert in their search. For example, if you sell luxury textiles, you don’t want to appear in someone’s search for the negative keyword ‘cheap’, as they are looking for products that are lower in price and quality than yours. 

So, add ‘cheap’ as a negative keyword to your ad campaign so Google Ads knows not to show your ads for any searches containing that term. We recommend doing negative keyword research before launching any campaigns, and creating lists to ensure the right keywords and reach for your prospective customers. 

Mistake #3: Your landing page isn’t relevant to the user’s search

Landing pages are critical to customer conversion, which is why your landing page needs to be relevant to the target keywords by which your customer is searching. If it isn’t tailored to parameters like location and service, your quality score and conversion rates will suffer. 

Quality scores are diagnostic tools that show you how well your ad compares, in terms of quality, to those of other marketers, and they have a direct impact on what you pay per click. These scores are calculated on three components of your ad campaign, including CTR, ad relevance, and landing page experience, or how well your landing page content matches the user’s search term.

You can improve your landing page by optimizing for target keywords and visiting the landing pages of your competitors who have similar product or service offerings. See how they target customers and structure their pages. What are they doing well? What mistakes are they making? Determine the best features of your competitors’ landing pages and adopt them to create a competitive and relevant landing page that converts.

Mistake #4: Your CTR is below 3% because you aren’t testing regularly

As well as you may know your target audience, you will almost never create perfect ad messaging on the first try. Ad testing and performance tracking is important not just to your PPC campaigns but also to your entire marketing strategy, as it can help you understand which phrases your prospects respond to best within an ad group and turn them into customers. 

Start your ad testing by thinking of your goal (buy now, sign up for the newsletter, etc.) and draw up a list of possible search terms your target audience would use when searching for your product or services. When you know what you want to test and have values for each variable, decide which tests you’d like to run. You should be testing different phrases early and often and tracking KPIs such as CTR and conversions. Depending on the amount of traffic you get, let your test run for long enough to get accurate results (this may be days or weeks).  

High clicks and conversions will give you the best ROI. When you find combinations of search terms that convert strongly, you know where to devote your marketing dollars. If you’re getting conflicting or ambiguous results, run more tests with different variables until you find the ideal combination.

Mistake #5: Your landing page takes more than three seconds to load

Another aspect of your quality score is the speed of your landing page, which impacts the prospect’s experience. Your landing page load time should be quick, never exceeding five seconds. Every additional second increases the likelihood that the user will bounce, which negatively impacts your conversion rates. 

In order to prevent lost prospects and wasted money on clicks that lower your quality score, you need to optimize your landing page using Google’s page speed tool, which will tell you how long your landing page takes to load and what you can do to make it faster.

Mistake #6: You’ve allocated your budget to Google and nothing else

If you’re limiting your campaigns to Google, you’re missing out on opportunities to gain visibility and expand your ads and target specific audiences on LinkedIn, Facebook, Microsoft Ads, Pinterest, and so forth. A portion of your budget should always be allocated to new initiatives, which could include experimenting with other channels. If you’re running a profitable campaign on Google and want a cheaper CPC, for example, you could consider running them on Microsoft. 

Wherever you choose to branch out, you’ll be increasing engagement with your target audience wherever they search, browse, and socialize.

Mistake #7: You aren’t monitoring or optimizing your account often enough

While the “set it and forget it” tactic may have worked in the past, it’s not effective in online marketing today; poor campaign management could be leaving your ads hanging. If you navigate to “change history” within Google Ads and see no activity, your account is not being monitored or optimized appropriately. Even with Google’s smart bidding, there is always opportunity for keyword research and expansion, ad copy testing, negative keywords, and much more. 

Mistake #8: Not targeting customers throughout the entire conversion funnel 

A lot of marketers are overly focused on search when it’s more effective to present ads to customers in all stages of the conversion funnel. Focusing on bottom-of-funnel audiences or keywords may have a great return, but this is not a growth strategy. 

The buyer journey contains many touch points across a variety of channels, so you need to hit them where they are researching and comparing — Facebook, YouTube, the WSJ, etc. This will build brand awareness and make your bottom-of-funnel campaigns more profitable.

- Mekenna Wilson

In a recent press release, Digital.com named Avalaunch Media the Top Digital Marketing Agency of 2020. Our agency had the privilege to be a part of Digital.com’s 40-hour assessment of more than 280 of the top firms and agencies offering effective online marketing strategies. Those in consideration were evaluated on the basis of their service offerings, company size, and industry focus in order to identify which company could meet the needs of the most people. 

The finalists were ranked firms that can cater to clients of nearly any industry. We are honored to have been recognized for excellence in doing what we love every day. You can read the article we’re featured in here, which outlines our accomplishments and brand-defining strengths.

About Digital.com

But who exactly is this company conducting these business rankings? Digital.com is a small business that generates ratings for products, software, and services that small business websites and online shops need to operate. These ratings help business owners make smart, informed decisions about the resources they use to run their company. 

While many companies of this sort rely on user-submitted ratings or editorial opinions, Digital.com conducts sentiment analysis on relevant, up-to-date, authentic micro-reviews from Twitter comments to yield unbiased ratings about a business’s offerings. You can learn more about them on their website.

What Makes Our Agency Stand Out

Avalaunch Media prides itself not only on its vast multi-industry full-service offerings, but also on its core values, strategic engagement, and commitment to launching people.

Core Values

The character and culture we embody as an agency are equally important to us as our clients and quality of service. In order to promote an upbeat culture and offer the highest level of customer service, we adhere to a set of eight core values — our guiding star in all that we do. These core values encourage us daily to be innovative, positive, trusting, results-focused, distinguished, communicative, proactive, and to have fun. 

Strategic Engagement

As a full-service agency, we have the full picture of how a business’s moving pieces should fit together to lead them to success. That’s why we’re able to get more granular than many of our competitors; we go deep on a strategic level to figure out a company’s biggest hurdles to get them on track to success. Each of our clients gets a personalized playbook that outlines the game plan we’ve hand-formulated for them.

Commitment to Launching People

One of our top goals as an agency is to launch people, or to empower them with the tools and motivation they need to achieve their personal and professional goals. This applies to employees and clients alike. Perhaps our most proud accomplishment in business over the past decade is the profound impact our team has had on so many of the individuals we’ve interacted with. 

As we continue to deliver distinguished, award-winning service, we hope to touch the lives of many more people and lead countless businesses to success.

- Mekenna Wilson
CRO vs. SEO — Can You Truly Optimize For Both?

Do you want the copy on your website to help your business show up on Google? Or do you want it to convert customers who land on your site? Do you know if you should use CRO (conversion rate optimization) vs. SEO?

Your answer is most likely “both.” Some people will tell you that you have to choose. They’ll try to convince you that CRO vs. SEO are at odds, and you have to pick one to be your priority. But there is a way for the two optimization strategies to work in tandem to grow your online presence and boost your sales. 

What’s the Difference Between CRO & SEO?

CRO, which stands for Conversion Rate Optimization, and SEO, which stands for Search Engine Optimization, have different goals. They are: 

Conversion Rate Optimization: to get people to take an action on your website (call you, fill out a form, make a purchase)

Search Engine Optimization: to make sure the right people find your website, then to convince them to click on your link and remain on your site

Optimizing for both is a complicated process involving various strategies. For SEO, there are on-page and off-page strategies, and there are plenty of technical tricks to improve your CRO. This article will focus on improving the on-page copy and design of your website. If done right, you can reduce the cost of attracting a potential client to your page and increase the income you receive from website traffic.

Because these two optimization strategies have different goals, particular tactics stand out for both:


Precise, low word countPriority is convincing sales copyCTA buttons throughout the website/landing pageHeaders have catchy copy


High word countPriority is keyword placement Usually one or two CTA buttonsHeaders include keywords Similarities Between CRO vs. SEO

Even though CRO vs. SEO may appear contradictory, they actually have many similarities. When you are optimizing for one, you can optimize for the other. Both of them benefit from:

A superior user experience: Website visitors who have a pleasant experience interacting with your website and copy will remain on your site longer and be more likely to convert. Copy that matches the user’s intent: If the visitor arrives on your page but your website does not answer their question or provide the information they want, they will bounce from the page without converting. Google is focusing more on matching content with the searcher’s intent, so this is especially critical right now. Good selection of images and video: Images and video diversify the content, keeping website visitors on your site for longer and improving their ultimate experience on your website.Smooth navigation through your site: Users need to be able to navigate through your site with ease and not be distracted by a confusing, cluttered menu.Fast page speed and load times: Website visitors may become frustrated if they have to wait for your website images to load, and they may decide to bounce from the site and visit a competitor’s instead. Easy-to-understand copy: Your copy should relate to the user and be easy to read and understand.

The truth is that SEO and CRO truly work together to boost your online presence and increase your sales. If no one can find your site, it doesn’t matter how optimized your website copy is for conversions (unless you are dumping all of your money into paid ads), and if you have thousands of visitors on your website every month but aren’t converting any of them into a sale — you have a problem. 

CRO+SEO = the perfect marriage

Your website will only be able to reach its full potential when it focuses on both. 

How Do You Optimize for Both SEO & CRO?

SEO and CRO work together in many ways, but some of their differences seem to force you to choose. Should you optimize your headers to include keywords or to convert visitors to sales? Should you keep your copy short and precise or inflate the word count? 

In a perfect world, you would be able to give both equal attention, but sometimes, one optimization strategy should be dominant while the other takes a back seat. Perhaps you focus 60% of your efforts on optimizing for conversions and 40% for search engines.  

If your keywords are easy to include in headers and body copy without detracting from your sales content, then you should try to optimize your headers for both CRO and SEO. You can use catchy, sales-focused copy for most headers, while reserving some real estate for headers with keywords. 

As for word count, using bulk quantities of words isn’t always the best strategy for SEO. Blogs should have a higher word count than the blogs from competitors’ pieces focusing on similar topics, but your homepage and landing pages don’t need to have surplus words in order to rank. 

Here are some other tips that can help you optimize your website for both CRO and SEO. 

Optimize Your Title Tag and Meta Description

Your title tag should include a call to action and at least one keyword, and your meta description should include convincing copy sprinkled with some keywords. Your title tags and meta descriptions should also accurately describe what users will discover by clicking on your link, thus helping match intent to the user. 

Focus on Mobile Optimization

Mobile optimization matters for both SEO and CRO. Your website should display the most important content above the fold on mobile devices, and the copy should be precise and easy to read on your phone. 

Keep it Simple

Your copy should be intentional, rather than “fluffy filler.” Include clear calls to action and specific headers so users can understand exactly what they are reading and what their next steps should be. 

Clean Up Your Navigation

Unnecessary content in your navigation bar confuses visitors and distracts from your main message. Straightforward navigation improves the user experience and makes it easier for search engines to crawl and index your site, which helps your search engine ranking. 

Improve Your Page Site Speed

When it comes to your site’s load time, every second matters. Glitches or problems loading content or huge images can prove extremely costly. 

SEO and CRO don’t need not butt heads. Many optimization tactics cross over, making it easy for you to get not only a high quantity of people on your site, but also secure high-quality leads who are ready to convert. Use these tactics to get the biggest ROI for your marketing budget. 

- Mekenna Wilson
Six Critical Strategies for Your Q4 E-Commerce Marketing Plan

This year has been particularly challenging for businesses, so it is crucial to have a Q4 E-Comm marketing plan. The onset of the global pandemic in March and its effects on the economy forced many consumers into frugality, and retailers all over the country had no option but to shut their doors. With the possible exception of grocery and liquor stores, most industries have needed time to figure out how to adapt. 

But one of the few fortunate effects of the coronavirus was that many consumers earnestly started shopping online — many for the first time. Forbes reported in April that e-commerce purchases had grown by 129% year over year in the US and Canada with 146% growth in overall online sales. By June, online sales had increased by 76% since June 2019.

It’s commonplace to see companies pushing their sales in the fourth quarter in order to achieve annual and holiday revenue goals and clear out their year-end inventory. But with so many companies trying to recoup their losses from early spring this year, the competition will be much more fierce. This year, companies have to make sure their e-commerce marketing plan in the fourth quarter is planned more effectively than ever. Companies must be adaptable if they want to compete and crush their e-commerce marketing goals in the online post-pandemic selling frenzy. 

DOWNLOAD 6 STRATEGIES FOR YOUR Q4 MARKETING PLAN Evaluate the Success of Last Year’s E-Commerce Marketing Plan

Formulating a plan for Q4 marketing can feel like a daunting task, but fortunately, you have Google Analytics data from the previous year to help you proceed in the most strategic way. Analytics can be sorted by revenue. Pay careful attention to which products gave you the greatest return last year so you know what to focus your efforts on and can set an attainable goal for this year. Ask yourself: 

Do you have your best sellers in stock? Can you get enough of them restocked far enough ahead to manage holiday demand? Are your search campaigns helping you get traffic to these product pages?  Observe What Your Competitors Are Doing

Another strategy that will help you focus your efforts is observing your competition, which can help you anticipate new trends and shifts in the market. You can keep up with your industry competition by running a quick competitor analysis simply by searching for products, business names, or ideas like yours on Google or Amazon, using a keyword tool like Ahrefs to help. This will help you see which companies are targeting the same audience as you with the same products. You can also identify secondary competitors, such as those who target a different audience or sell budget-friendly versions of your offerings. 

Elements to examine within these companies’ marketing strategies include their:

WebsiteSocial mediaPricing strategyMessagingShipping methodsOnline reviews

Once you’ve seen what competitors are doing well or lacking in these areas, you can get ideas for improvement or make their weaknesses your strong points. 

Remember that the holiday season is a time when many consumers are visiting your site’s product pages for the first time ever, which makes it a prime time to stand out from your competitors and turn these visitors into loyal repeat customers. You can keep people on your site and lure customers from competitors by offering sales events and promotions comparable to or better than the ones your competitors are running, if it fits into your holiday budgets.

Create a Killer Content Strategy

The Digital Advertising Summit held by Adobe in 2018 revealed that over 50% of consumers find it easy to ignore ads online. With this in mind, it’s more important than ever to stand out and make your content less spammy and more engaging. Forget the lowest-price point marketing tactics; consumers of today want to know what makes your product the best and how it will address their pain points. Cue content marketing.

Content marketing is not a new concept; buyers are bombarded with all kinds of marketing material every day. If you’re going to be heard, you must deliver hard-hitting content that cuts through the fluff and marketing jargon and explains the benefits and uses of your products. You can do this through how-to guides, product reviews, explainer videos, and any other unique marketing materials that will give your customers a helpful and fulfilling user experience. 

This kind of content also happens to be highly shareable on social media by organizations and individuals, which increases your organic traffic and exposure. See some of our favorite examples of great content marketing here.

Be Strategic About the Channels You Use

Shopify reports that an omnichannel/multi-channel approach can increase your sales by up to 190% compared to a single-channel approach. If you’ve been limiting your marketing to a single channel, you’re missing out on big revenue opportunities — especially now that so many more people are shopping online. Customers aren’t loyal to any one channel; in fact, most consumers compare deals and discounts across channels before they ever make a purchase — even on Amazon Prime Day, on which 76% of shoppers will visit other sites to compare deals. So, you need to promote and sell your products across multiple channels. 

Today’s consumers are making purchases across Amazon, Facebook, Instagram, Etsy, your website, and more. If you aren’t already, make it your Q4 goal to sell in all the places your customers are currently buying. But before selecting new channels, identify the ones that make sense for your business to be on, especially your target audience. In order to figure out who your audiences are and where they’re shopping, ask yourself some of the following questions:

What is their age?How much money do they make per year?Where do they live?What is their education level?What struggles do they have that makes them seek out your products?

These questions will help you figure out what channels will be most effective for targeting your customers. For example, you’d be less likely to find the baby boomer generation on Twitter compared to Facebook. Similarly, you shouldn’t spend time targeting teenagers with traditional marketing materials (billboards, direct mail, TV ads, etc.) when they’re mainly shopping through social media. 

If you’d like to learn more about the importance of omnichannel marketing you can do so here.

Make Improvements to Your Customer Service

Approximately a third of Americans say they would consider halting business with a company that provided poor customer service. When it comes to online sales, customer service matters. There’s nothing quite as frustrating for a customer as not hearing back after multiple emails and calls when they don’t have the option to speak to someone face to face. This kind of negative experience could cost you customers. 

One way you can make sure customers get prompt responses to their inquiries is to make use of chatbots. These can resolve basic questions at all hours when live representatives are unavailable, and they can even upsell your customers. 

Another simple way to appease your customers is to optimize your website for user-friendliness and keep your social media pages, website, and Google My Business listing up to date so people can easily find what they’re looking for. 

Spend Extra Time on Your Holiday Marketing Tactics

Retailers make more money at once during Q4 than they do at any other time of the year, and failure to perform in this quarter could spell disaster for your company. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the week before Christmas are some of the biggest shopping times of the entire year. Your holiday success hinges upon your preparation, so start planning out your sales events and timelines well in advance so there’s enough time to prepare and plan your content, search, social, and email campaigns around these plans.

Whatever marketing efforts you’ve pursued throughout the year should be doubled down on in the last four months of the year — especially now that more people than ever will be shopping online this holiday season. Some things you can strategize for the holiday season include:

Discounts and coupon codesAbandoned cart email flowsGift guides Social media adsSales eventsLanding pagesProduct launch calendarsRetargeting ads Engage With a Digital Marketing Agency for Help

If you don’t feel confident about your Q4 marketing plan this year, it’s wise to consult a group of specialists who can identify all the holes in your campaign and determine the best end-of-year marketing strategies for your budget and audience.

Avalaunch Media is a full-service digital marketing agency employing a team of roughly 50 professionals who specialize in their respective jobs. We can help with your content marketing, SEO, PPC, social media, PR, design, and marketing automation, and we deliver results. Check out our case studies and contact us today for a custom proposal.

- David Griner
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- Natalie Venegas
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- T.L. Stanley
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- David Cohen
Twitter Introduces Super Follows Spaces
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Warner Bros Discovery Wants to Be as Big as the Broadcasters in First Upfront
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- David Cohen
Snap Releases Diversity Annual Report for 2022
Snap Inc. released its Diversity Annual Report for 2022 Wednesday, admitting that it is not quite meeting its goals and detailing the steps it is taking to remedy that. CEO Evan Spiegel and vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion Oona King wrote in the report's introduction, "So, how are we doing? When it comes...
- Patrick Kulp
Amazon Is Giving Customers Coupons in Exchange for Their Grocery Shopping Data
While Amazon's push to have consumers do more shopping over voice platforms still hasn't quite caught on, the company is still hoping Alexa will come to play a role in its customers' trips to the grocery store. The ecommerce giant rolled out a new feature this month that will allow users to upload receipts from...
- Phill Agnew
What We’ve Learned Launching a New Product as an 11-Year-Old Company
What We’ve Learned Launching a New Product as an 11-Year-Old Company

At Buffer, we spend a lot of time thinking about growth. Small business growth to be precise. We love reading stories about a start-up candle company growing revenue by 5x on social, and a brand that gained 400,000 followers in its first four years.

Amongst many of these stories, we’ve seen one consistent theme.

To grow, focus on doing less.

In our experience, when growing a business/brand/product, deciding what to do is probably less important than deciding what not to do.

We’ve experienced this ourselves at Buffer

Six months ago we launched Start Page, a free landing page builder that brings together all of your best content in one place.

Since launching, 12,724 pages have been built. In the last week, there were 865 Start Pages created and 6,096 people loaded a Start Page. We’re so happy with these metrics and love seeing so many new Start Pages shared on Twitter every day.

But, we’re aware there’s more to be done.

Just like the 1,000s of other small businesses out there, we focused on doing less by building the essentials with Start Page. But, we’re aware there’s more to be done. We decided to opt for an MVP (minimum viable product) first and asked our customers what to build after.

Read on and we’ll share how this approach worked for us.

Let customers craft the roadmap

At Buffer, we know that no matter how much insight and expertise you have, predicting the future is pretty much impossible. That’s why, when launching Start Page, we didn’t aim to offer everything customers could possibly need. Instead we focused on the fundamentals and encouraged customers to let us know what to build next.

Everyone who uses Buffer is asked to request new features via our Typeform survey.

This survey links to an internal Slack channel called #feature-requests. Most days around 10 new requests come through. Each and every request is read by our product team and all are grouped into categories so we can look for trends.

Following the Start Page launch, we noticed a number of customers asking Start Page statistics. Things like page views and link clicks.

What We’ve Learned Launching a New Product as an 11-Year-Old CompanyStart Page feedback comes straight into our shared Slack channel.

It would have been hard for us to prioritize this feature pre-launch. After all, there were dozens of features we knew users would want.

But seeing customers reach out and ask for it confirmed it was a key priority. We started building a statistics feature and launched just a couple of months later in December.

What We’ve Learned Launching a New Product as an 11-Year-Old CompanyDiego, our product manager for Start Page, sharing the news with the team.

Ultimately, product releases are a lesson in sacrifice. You have to learn to sacrifice features you might not need. Blogs you shouldn’t write. Messaging that won’t resonate. Focus is vital when bringing a product to market.

By releasing early and letting customers craft our roadmap, we’ve managed to build a healthy user-base without months (or years) of development in the shadows.

But, gaining users isn’t a given. If you build it, they won’t always come. So here are a few lessons we learned from building a new user-base.

Double-down on growth loops

When I first started as a product marketer, I assumed that launches were your one and only chance of gaining new users.

Get it right and you’re propelled to success. Get it wrong and there’s no second chance.

But, as most experienced marketers will tell you, that’s not the only option.

Sure, launches can build awareness, interest, and engagement with a new product. But typically that hype is short-lived.

After a day, or perhaps a few hours, the launch will fade from customers’ minds. The email is archived, the post is read, and the Twitter feed refreshes.

To continuously grow usage for a new product in a sustainable way, you’ll need to build growth loops into your marketing efforts and product design that consistently attract new users without active marketing effort.

What’s a growth loop?

“Loops are closed systems where the inputs through some process generates more of an output that can be reinvested in the input. There are growth loops that serve different value creation including new users, returning users, defensibility, or efficiency.” (Reforge 2020)

With Start Page, we purposefully built a growth loop into the product’s user interface. Here’s how it works:

The customer creates a Start PageThe customer shares the Start Page as a link in bioA follower views the Start PageThe follower scrolls to the bottom and clicks “Powered By Buffer”The follower creates their own Start Page

♻️ and the loop continues

What We’ve Learned Launching a New Product as an 11-Year-Old CompanyThe Start Page growth loop.

So far, 3,362 people have clicked this “Powered By Buffer” link, and 91 (2.71 percent) have gone on to create their own Start Page.

These aren’t astronomical numbers, but it’s a cycle that will continue to deliver as usage grows.

What’s unique about these loops is that they don’t require active marketing effort. Get it right, and the growth will propel itself, especially if a few Start Pages go viral. A day after launching, we noticed NATO had created a Start Page, that was a pretty cool endorsement.

Sooooo we launched Start Page yesterday.And @NATO created one. 🤯 (https://t.co/HR030U1FK8) pic.twitter.com/9U6kPhoZs7

— Tom Redman (@redman) October 14, 2021

Earlier this year, we also noticed an extremely popular BTS fan account sharing a Start Page which generated 5,957 retweets.

12AM KSTDARK&WILD 🎧https://t.co/kQOrYRQzCc pic.twitter.com/v7UZGLc5ZU

— BTS Charts (@btschartdata) February 1, 2022

The BTS Start Page is no longer active, but the results were tremendous. On one Start Page for BTS’s PTD gigs, 2,337 people clicked the “Powered by Buffer” link. Not bad, for a small link right at the bottom of the page.

Not all growth loops need to go viral though. There are simple growth loops that all of us can build.

Mike Eckstein, a Senior Product Marketer here at Buffer, realized that we were sending thousands of onboarding emails to new customers every month. Yet, only ~10 percent of them were creating a Start Page.

So, why not tweak those onboarding emails to promote Start Page.

What We’ve Learned Launching a New Product as an 11-Year-Old CompanyBefore and after adding the onboarding email growth loop.

This small loop had a major impact.

What We’ve Learned Launching a New Product as an 11-Year-Old CompanyMike sharing the results with the team.

The onboarding emails alone doubled traffic to the Start Page landing page from January to March. Just like other growth loops, this model for gaining users is sustainable:

Users sign up to Buffer and receive the onboarding email sequenceSome click the link to create a Start PageThese users share that Start Page publicly with their audienceMembers of that audience find out about Buffer and create a Buffer account

♻️ and the loop continues.

Today, 73 percent of new Start Pages are created by new Buffer users, showcasing the big impact small tweaks can make.

But that's not all! We now promote Start Page on our login page, which is visited around 400,000 times a month, massively increasing the awareness. And we shipped a new landing page, which improved conversions from 0.8 percent to 3.5 percent.  

What’s next?

For Start Page, our approach to both product marketing and development has been to focus. To hone in on the features and marketing campaigns that will deliver results and double down on them.

On the product side, we’ve launched five new features based on feedback. While on the marketing side, we’ve relaunched our landing page to try and rank on Google for popular terms like “link in bio”. We’ll share an update on that work on the blog soon.

In the meantime, why not create your own Start Page for free.

- Kelly Phillips
Why I Believe Employees, Not Customers, Should Come First
Why I Believe Employees, Not Customers, Should Come First

Typical business advice touts that the customer should always come first. Given that my title is hospitality director, you’d especially think that ensuring customers are having the best experience possible would always be my top priority.

And it is, but I’ve discovered a more roundabout yet incredibly powerful way of getting there: putting our employees first.

After helping open and run four restaurants over the past six years as co-founder of Destination Unknown Restaurants, I’ve found that focusing on employee happiness ultimately leads to better customer experiences and a stronger business. And while I’m speaking from the perspective of the restaurant industry, this advice applies across all small businesses.

For us, taking care of our employees primarily means ensuring they’re fairly compensated for their work. In 2020, we moved the bulk of our full-time staff from hourly pay to a salary so they no longer have to rely on tips or worry about scheduling when it comes to their income. We looked at what our highest-paid employees in each category made under a tipping system annually, then added 5 percent to determine their new base salary. The increase in cost for us is offset by a significant reduction in turnover and the associated training costs.

But more than the money, this move has transformed the way we relate to our employees, and the way they relate to the business. We feel invested in them and dedicated to their growth and well-being, rather than viewing them as people who could be replaced at any time like many restaurants do. They give this back to us in spades in their care for our company and customers.

Depending on the state of your business, giving your employees salaries may not be realistic, but looking for other ways to truly take care of your employees, be it through other benefits, professional development, or flexible work arrangements, will only benefit your success in the long run. Here are just a few ways we’ve seen this move improve things for our customers, for our operations, and for our morale.

It’s Built a Workplace Where Everyone is Working Toward the Same Goal

When employees feel taken care of rather than taken advantage of, it removes the “not my job” mentality and instead encourages a team environment where everyone is working to make sure every customer has a great experience.

At a standard, tip-based restaurant, servers are typically only worried about their section so they can make decent money for the day. At our restaurants, I see employees working together to make sure every guest has a positive experience. If a server has a slow section, they can help another employee out instead of stressing about their income. They run food to each others’ tables and are constantly checking guests’ faces to make sure they’re having a good time. I’ve also noticed everyone banding together to train new teammates since every person impacts the guest experience.

We’ve further incentivized this environment of working together to offer top-notch service by adding a bonus structure on top of employee salaries. Every month, our servers and bartenders are eligible for a bonus based on good reviews on Google and Yelp. If we get great press or an award like a Michelin star, there’s an additional bonus as well. This way, instead of just doing their one job well, each employee is focused on giving guests a great experience in any way they can.

It’s Helped Us Retain the Best Talent

Prioritizing employee happiness has saved us so much time and money on recruiting, hiring, and training. During a time when so many businesses are facing mass resignations and staffing challenges, we have very low turnover and have had no issues hiring.

During a time when so many businesses are facing mass resignations and staffing challenges, we have very low turnover and have had no issues hiring. - Kelly Phillips, Co-Founder of Destination Unknown Restaurants

Yes, it was stressful when we had to pull from our savings to make payroll during the pandemic lockdowns. But I was resolute that we didn’t let anyone go because I know I’m never going to find another Elmer, another Marco, or another one of the other outstanding employees who I trust deeply. Maybe I’ll find decent replacements eventually, but it’s certainly not going to be overnight, and not without a lot of work.

Longer employee retention also undoubtedly makes the business better. When people stick around for a year or more, they get to know everything there is about the position, they become more efficient, and they find ways to serve customers even better. Many of my employees are people who helped us open these restaurants, and I can’t imagine succeeding without them.

It’s Created a Relationship Where Employees Want to Reinvest in the Business

More than just retaining talent, I’ve noticed that investing in my team means they’re excited to invest back in the future of the business.

By nature of having a salary, they feel there’s potential to stay and grow here, to move up the ladder and make this role part of their career. I could see many of these people becoming managers or partners or spearheading the opening of another restaurant one day.

Obviously, this is a huge asset for us when we’re ready to grow and expand. But it’s also a huge asset now because employees are excited to work on the business rather than just work for it. For instance, I’ll notice on slow days, instead of just sitting around stressing about the lack of tips, my team will feel empowered to use the time to make small improvements around the restaurant or brainstorm new ideas. It’s exciting to have employees who want to help push the business forward, rather than just coming in and doing the bare minimum of their job.

It’s Reduced Stress to Create a Better Environment

Ultimately, I think one of the biggest ways putting our employees first has led to a better customer experience is by simply reducing the amount of stress our staff feels day to day.

When you walk into a business and the team isn’t happy, you can tell immediately. At so many tip-based restaurants in particular, servers are doing math in the middle of their shift to figure out if they can pay their bills, which takes away from their focus on the customer. Meanwhile, our staff has more peace of mind, and the guests can feel that, making them excited to come back again and again. You can see that in how our businesses are doing today: We recently had a record sales week, and Destino is one of the highest-rated restaurants in Washington, DC.

Your people really shape the identity of your business. - Kelly Phillips, Co-Founder of Destination Unknown Restaurants

Your people really shape the identity of your business. When they’re not well taken care of, that will reflect in how people feel when they interact with your business, even if it’s in unintentional or subtle ways. But when they feel prioritized, they’ll give that energy back to the customer.

This whole experience has been a powerful reminder to me that, yes, my job is to take care of customers. But, even before that, my job is to take care of my employees, because I can’t do any of this without them.

- Tamilore Oladipo
Ask Buffer: Should You Be Using AI for Content Creation?
Ask Buffer: Should You Be Using AI for Content Creation?

Question: Lately, I’ve been struggling to create content for all the platforms that I’m on and I found out about AI tools that help with writing. It seems like this would help me a lot with my marketing efforts, but I’m worried that it’ll come off as robotic and inauthentic. Should I consider using AI tools to create content?

GPT-3 is one of the hottest buzzwords in machine learning and artificial intelligence (see: this WIRED article and the handy graph below).

Ask Buffer: Should You Be Using AI for Content Creation?Google Trends data for the search term ‘GPT-3.’

Picture this: what if you didn’t have to come up with copy for every single marketing asset you created? That’s one of the problems GPT-3 tries to solve. After all, as Olabinjo Adeniran, a digital and growth marketing manager, put it, “Computers have always assisted us in our jobs. It's only reasonable that they continue to help us achieve business goals.”

It is especially gaining popularity with the advent of tools that will provide you with an article, email, or social media caption after you answer a few questions.

Despite the excitement around these tools in the tech industry, most people, especially marketers, tend to lean towards skepticism when it comes to adopting AI in creating copy.

When I read AI generated copy…I remember why creativity will be one of the last human skills to be successfully automated

— Katelyn Bourgoin ⚡️ (@KateBour) May 10, 2022

It’s also super controversial, with people divided on what circumstances warrant the use of GPT-3, which is essentially artificial intelligence, or whether it should be used at all.

i would argue the opposite!AI models like GPT-3 are *phenomenally* creative - it's their ability to conform to expected norms (format, structure, sequence) that struggles right now https://t.co/hW8UBk4lIz

— Ryan Law (@thinking_slow) May 11, 2022

In this piece, we’ll be diving into the different opinions on the use of AI in marketing, its various applications, and whether you should be using it to create content for your business.

What does “AI in Marketing” mean?

Using GPT-3 tools like CopyAI to create content for your marketing assets. GPT-3 stands for “generative pre-trained transformer 3.” It is the 3rd iteration of the project, released by OpenAI in June 2020.

The writer of this WIRED article pointed out that “GPT-3 can generate impressively fluid text, but it is often unmoored from reality.” However, ideas with a foundation in reality are essential for content development in marketing.

In addition to philosophical concerns about how GPT-3 develops ideas, there are also practical dilemmas. Marketers tend to worry about the potential for GPT-3 to only ever be able to create black hat SEO content – low-quality content created purely for a search engine’s algorithm.

Does AI writing actually work?

I asked around with polls on Twitter and LinkedIn, and the consensus seemed to land on — it depends. A small caveat here is that these polls aren’t a definitive data source, but are important for adding context.

Should AI (a la @copy_ai) and GPT-3 tools be used for marketing/content creation? Elaborate in the replies please🙂

— tamilore (@tamioladipo) May 9, 2022 Ask Buffer: Should You Be Using AI for Content Creation?The poll on LinkedIn

Many factors go into creating content, and GPT-3 could become one of those factors. While it’s not a perfect system and cannot yet create long-form content indistinguishable from humans, there are situations where it may be helpful.

One of the responses to the LinkedIn post was from Abdultawwab, a content marketer who said, “It depends. I’ve seen these tools as a way to escape writer's block. You know those minutes you spend staring at a blinking cursor without knowing where to start? GPT-3 will give you the juice you need to get started. But when using it to develop a full-length article, the content will just not sound right nor will it flow well. But that’s just for writing. For other marketing use cases, they’ll be almost perfect as chatbot agents.”

Even though AI can create content based on the facts and stats that it collects from the web, it can't develop empathy, creativity, and emotions. It doesn’t have the capacity for storytelling that humans have. Rejoice Obike, a content marketing strategist, shares this sentiment. In her reply, she shared, “It depends. AI tools can’t understand your business the way you do. People are your target audience. So copy should be as human as possible. AI can’t reach that emotive you want to achieve with your niche market.”

Essentially, whoever can figure out how to code that natural human creativity into AI might just take over the world – or at least the marketing industry.

Should you be using AI tools for content creation?

My gut instinct as a writer is to say no. However, part of my job is considering multiple perspectives when writing a piece — which changes my answer to “it depends.”

Adopting GPT-3 in your writing could definitely yield some benefits, some of which we’ve touched on in this article, from helping you escape writer’s block to generating content ideas.

Another scenario where it makes sense to adopt an AI tool in your marketing is if you’re a small business with a limited budget and team. If this is you, using GPT-3 for tasks like generating Instagram captions can allow you to focus your creative energy on other parts of your business.

Also, if you’re a regular person trying to build a personal brand and publish consistently, a GPT-3 tool might be a good companion on your journey. However, it shouldn’t become the replacement for your own voice by any means, merely an assistant.

On the flip side, if you’re working as an experienced marketer, AI tools should be left alone or used only for low-effort tasks. There’s no replacement for your innate creativity. As Tosin Onikosi, a content marketing specialist, aptly put it, “I personally think that great copy should be human in order for it to connect to the reader. If copy ideation/creation becomes fully automated, I would imagine that it takes the originality and creativity out of it. I just don’t believe that creativity is something that can ever be achieved by machine learning.”

Examples of a GPT-3 tool in action

To provide a relatively unbiased perspective, I used CopyAI to create content related to this article. The tool gives you several options to choose from, so I picked something that seemed relevant: a blog post intro.

I started by entering the information I had on hand as I was outlining and drafting this piece to see what would be different from my intro to the AI’s. I was also given the option to choose what tone I wanted the introduction to be written in and ‘Witty’ won over options like ‘Professional’ or ‘Empathetic.’

Ask Buffer: Should You Be Using AI for Content Creation?

A few seconds after clicking ‘Create Copy,’ I was presented with several options for my new intro. Here are some of them in order from my favorite to least favorite.

Intro #1Ask Buffer: Should You Be Using AI for Content Creation?

Thoughts: I actually like this introduction – it’s pretty straightforward and sounds like what a human would write for a post like this. My article is opinionated, so I’m not using a Pros → Cons → Effectiveness structure.

Intro #2Ask Buffer: Should You Be Using AI for Content Creation?

Thoughts: This one started off pretty well – empathizing with the reader and mentioning things that the tool might be able to help with. However, it fails to connect the dots, and it feels like something is missing between the first bit and the thesis statement.

Intro #3Ask Buffer: Should You Be Using AI for Content Creation?

Thoughts: No, it’s not October 2018 – this intro gets a deduction for misinformation. Some good points are made, but the AI also fails to connect the dots that let the reader know the point of the article. It also comes off more as LinkedIn influencer-speak than a helpful blog post intro.

Overall, I think this tool is a good jumping-off point for writing an article and can help spark some ideas if you’re stuck. Kenza Moller, a content marketer, pointed this out as well, saying, “They can be a great way to generate content ideas & speed up SEO content creation — but at their current stage, I think they're just an early starting point.”

Another snag with this tool is that it isn’t foolproof. The AI won’t have the full context that you do. You will also need to do a lot of editing to get it up to par with your other human-made work. So keep that in mind as you use these tools.

Want to give AI a go? Use it at the preliminary stage of your marketing efforts

It’s natural to be curious — which is probably why you’re reading this article in the first place. If you’re interested in giving AI a go or adding a GPT-3 stage to your marketing process, then go for it — with a caveat. Keep it strictly as a tool for getting ideas or handling the small stuff, and let your team’s creativity turn the initial loose threads into a well-made content garment.

If you’re curious about what AI can contribute to your marketing, consider CopyAI’s extensive options or Copysmith (the only tool to get a 4/5 star rating in this Writer article). The tool focuses on marketing for e-commerce teams and agencies but has several interesting use cases, including product descriptions, blog templates (not the whole thing), and ad copy.

And when you have your copy ready, at least for social media, you can publish it through Buffer 😉.

- Jenny Terry
Why We Increase Our Team’s Salaries Every Year
Why We Increase Our Team’s Salaries Every Year

You may have already seen our salaries and our salary formula, but another part of our process is to annually review the benchmarks that we use in the formula. To do this, we look at the data source for our salaries and make sure that all of our team’s salaries are keeping up with current market rates. We’ve been doing this since 2018, and we never decrease salaries during a rebenchmarking. In the last two years, we’ve also ensured that rebenchmarking always results in an increase rather than no adjustment.

Here’s an inside look from our most recent rebenchmarking in April 2022, followed by a deeper dive into how we approach salary rebenchmarking in general.

The Numbers Behind Buffer’s 2022 Salary Rebenchmarking

This year, we adjusted with a minimum increase of 3 percent and a maximum increase of 6 percent to align with market trends and help with rising costs due to global inflation.

This resulted in an additional increase of $42,000 per month or $504,000 per year to our overall operating expenses.

With a minimum increase of 3 percent and a maximum increase of 6 percent, salaries were adjusted in total between $2,078 and $13,500 per person across the team.

How Salary Rebenchmarking Works at Buffer

Every year at Buffer, we do a salary rebenchmarking, where we look at all of our salaries at Buffer and adjust them upwards to keep up with the current market. This is not a merit increase or any indicator of an individual’s value or contribution to Buffer. These changes are strictly to keep up with the job market. There are no changes to any other benefit or grant as a result of rebenchmarking, and we never allow rebenchmarking to result in decreased pay.  

To go about this, we compare all of our salaries to the market using our trusted compensation data source, Radford. Radford benchmarks thousands of tech jobs around the world and offers extensive training for our team to make sure that the way we match roles aligns with the way other companies are matching roles in the market.

In our salary formula, we benchmark all roles to the San Francisco labor market based on tech survey data for the software industry.  For all positions (excluding the executive team), we use the data from companies of all sizes. For the executive team, we do add headcount filters to be sure we aren’t comparing to salaries of executives at much larger companies.

From year to year, it’s not uncommon to see some variation in benchmarked numbers, either up or down. Ultimately, benchmarks are a reference point, and we apply them in a way that makes sense within Buffer. We have the ability to decide when we want to be influenced by the market and when we want to disrupt the market. For an area like customer advocacy, for example, we continue to lead the market in pay because supporting customers is at the core of what we do, and we believe our pay should reflect that.

To smooth out the volatility of the data over time and to stay true to our overall strategy, the 6 percent cap during the re-benchmarking season ensures that future merit-based promotions and pay changes result in salary increases. This is a decision that we’ve made given the factors we see at play right now, but it is something we will evaluate as part of this process each year.

We reassess every teammate’s salary at Buffer during the rebenchmarking, but there are a few cases where some teammates won’t have their salary adjusted either because they recently moved to a new job code that already accounts for inflation or because a greater change around their role is currently in the works.

Over to you

Do you have questions about how we do this at Buffer or want to share how your company approaches compensation? Send us a tweet!

- Jamie Ruden
How I Built a 15,000-Person Community In Under 2 Years
How I Built a 15,000-Person Community In Under 2 Years

The saying goes that it takes a village to raise a child. Well, I believe the same is true for dog parenthood. When I fostered my first puppy only to quickly find out he had fleas, I felt lost and in need of people I could turn to for trustworthy information, and as a dog mom today, I’m regularly looking for community support.

So, when I started Dog Spotted to help NYC dog parents navigate the ins and outs of living with these adorable pets, I knew that community would be a big part of it. I didn’t just want a platform where dog parents could come to get expert advice and find the best local pet businesses; I wanted a place where they could all support each other on their journey.

Of course, wanting a community and actually creating one are two very different things. The paradox of community-building is that it can often feel like you need community in order to create community. After all, nobody wants to show up to an empty party.

It wasn’t easy, but I made it happen: About a year and a half since launching, Dog Spotted has a thriving community of over 15,000 dog parents. Retrospectively, there were three main steps that I think helped us succeed—a process I hope other business owners can learn from when building communities of their own.

1. I Partnered With My Dream Advocates From the Start

In the early days, partnerships were our most powerful strategy for growing our community. We partnered with dog experts to create trustworthy content for our users. We partnered with dog influencers, both micro (as few as a couple hundred followers) and macro (tens of thousands of followers) to do virtual events that gave us access to their audience and aligned our community with a face people already knew. We even facilitated partnerships between the small businesses and influencers we worked with—the influencers would get free products, the brands would get exposure, and everyone would see us as a meaningful connector in the pet space, which propelled our reputation forward.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Discover Dog Friendly Places and Vets | NYC (@dogspotted)

Doing simple Instagram Lives with expert influencers like @seniordogdoc grew our awareness among their audiences and gave us valuable, trustworthy content.

I think these collaborations succeeded in a few ways to help us gain momentum. Obviously they  built  awareness that my brand even existed among the types of people I wanted to create the space for. They also made it look like the Dog Spotted community was already thriving: If all of these influential pet parents were already involved, who wouldn't want to join in? Finally, they helped me build a foundation of trust amongst new members coming into the community. By partnering with experts that people already trusted, it built our clout.

Many people are afraid to partner with similar businesses because they think they’re a competitor, but I truly believe collaborations can only be a net positive. There’s more than enough people who are passionate about their pups that all of our businesses can exist together. Share what makes your business different, and people will be thrilled to support both.

Many people are afraid to partner with similar businesses because they think they’re a competitor, but I truly believe collaborations can only be a net positive. - Jamie Ruden, Founder of Dog Spotted2. I Empowered Community Leaders Beyond Myself

I could see that our partnerships were doing a lot for us in terms of growing our site visitors, social reach, and email subscribers. But I could see that turning that into an engaged community was going to take a little something extra.

Around that time, I read the book Get Together, and it taught me the secret sauce: Building true community involves not only inviting people in to get involved, but asking them to take on a role. It can be so tempting as a founder to try and keep control of everything, but if I wanted to go from just being a source of information to being a source of community, I was going to have to pass the torch.

The first time I tried this was when we were planning a week-long walkathon to raise money for seven rescues in NYC. My team could have done all of the planning and promotion ourselves, but instead we pulled in “team captains”—community members who were really enthusiastic about the event—to help spread the word, get signups, and lead walks throughout the week. We gave them some guidelines around our community values and norms, then let them take ownership.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Discover Dog Friendly Places and Vets | NYC (@dogspotted)

Letting Dog Spotted members like @goodb0ycody head up aspects of our walkathon event made them feel more community-oriented and authentic.

3. I Created Different Spaces for Different Community Members

Finally, to keep my community engaged over time, I’ve found it helpful to create different channels so that individuals can interact how they prefer and get exactly what they need from the space.

For instance, while we love offering events for our members to meet in person, some may just want to follow us on Instagram for a regular infusion of dog advice. While Instagram is our most popular channel, our email has really high subscriptions and engagement because it includes content that can’t be found elsewhere.

We’re getting ready to uplevel our community by building a stand-alone online platform where NYC dog parents, experts, and businesses can come together. While the goal in doing this is to centralize everything we’re doing in one place, I never want to be prescriptive about how people need to engage with the community. I think it will add value to most members to be able to get everything they need in one place, but some may prefer to stick to one of our existing channels, and that’s okay.

As a final note, I’m committed to ensuring every member of our community continues to feel valued and invested in over time. Just like a plant, you can’t stop feeding a community when it’s reached the size you’d like—it’s always going to need attention even when it’s grown to a healthy number. If anything, I feel like I have to invest more time and resources into my community the larger it gets.

But as much work as it is, investing in my community is investing in the future of my business. Competitors may come in and steal our ideas, but they can never take away the people who trust our brand because of the support we’ve provided and the connections we’ve built.

Competitors may come in and steal our ideas, but they can never take away the people who trust our brand because of the support we’ve provided and the connections we’ve built. - Jamie Ruden, Founder of Dog Spotted
- Jess Williams
How We Offer Async Training To Our Fully-Distributed Customer Advocacy Team
How We Offer Async Training To Our Fully-Distributed Customer Advocacy Team

Within the Buffer Advocacy team, we’ve experimented with a few different training formats including live training at meet-ups, training over zoom, lightning talks, and recorded trainings. Training together as a team often fosters a sense of community and feels energizing! In contrast, watching a training video alone can feel isolating, and we hadn’t quite cracked the code on following up with other teammates or the trainer. At the beginning of this year, we had a chance to explore new training ideas for our remote team.

Juliet Chen, a Senior Customer Advocate at Buffer, and I were tasked with creating a four-part training series to help the Advocacy team with strategies around productivity and organization. As the team has grown, we’ve widened our coverage across the globe. We now have teammates who have almost no overlap with each other, spanning from every timezone in the US, to Europe and Ghana, to our teammates in Dubai, Brunei, Thailand and Australia. This means that live training sessions over Zoom have become more challenging to schedule.

When planning the training sessions, we immediately recognized that four live training sessions might not be realistic and it would not be inclusive for the entire team. Asynchronous (async) training made the most sense for us.

But we also knew that many teammates would have valuable input to share with the team and we wanted to capture that. We recognized that there are no “correct” strategies for productivity and organization, so we wanted to be sure to surface different perspectives through this training series.

Also, how could we prevent the isolation people feel when training alone? We also wanted to give everyone an opportunity to interact with each other, feel a sense of togetherness and get excited about the training topics. We needed to find an engaging way to present the information and encourage participation.

To address all of these challenges, we had a few brainstorming sessions and came up with some formatting and participation ideas that we’d love to share with you.

The training format

While we have had one-off training sessions asynchronously in the past, we had never done a series of trainings with a set schedule of participation before. To kick off the training, we posted a short introduction Thread (Threads is the primary tool we use to communicate asynchronously at Buffer) to the team, outlining how it would be presented and how they could participate. We also shared all of the topics that would be covered and a schedule:

Jan 21 - Jan 31: Planning for a productive 1:1 sync with your Advocacy leadJan 31 - Feb 14: Keeping up with Buffer communicationsFeb 14 - Feb 28: Leveraging performance reviews as your gateway to growthFeb 28 - Mar 14: Preparing for product launches

Throughout the quarter, we offered a new training every two weeks that was part of the overarching theme of productivity, communication and organization. We hoped this would encourage the team to continue thinking through these topics and promote sharing and learning for several weeks.

Each training outlined any Buffer company or Advocacy team expectations and then the trainer shared strategies, techniques and tips. It was written out in an article-style format without a template or any specific guidelines or rules, which let each of us write in our own conversational style. We also offered screenshots, supporting resources (such as blog posts and articles from others in the industry) and even some fun gifs.

How we encouraged participation

At the end of the training, we opened it up for submissions from any teammate who also wished to share what has worked for them. We asked the team to follow up on the training in two ways:

Create their own submission with organization tips or strategies they use successfullyComment or share feedback on the training or on other teammate’s submissions

When we asked for submissions, we decided on the following parameters:

We encouraged (but did not mandate) that all Advocates participate in at least two of the four trainings.The submissions could be submitted in written or video format - we wanted to give them the opportunity to share in whatever way felt most comfortable.We gave a two week deadline for submissions as we planned to include them in our wiki with the training once the session was complete.We asked them to submit right in the Thread so that everyone could see the training and submissions in a single place. We hoped this would also encourage conversation and feedback.

As the training sessions progressed, we saw some incredible submissions from some Advocates who had several strategies to share with the team. Some were very detailed, outlining an entire process, while others were simple (but effective) methods that really added value.

Other Advocates simply added a comment of praise or validation that they also used the same strategies to great effect or learned something new from the training or their teammate’s submissions.

These submissions were added (with credit) to the training when we moved them over to our internal team Wiki and it’s our hope that any new teammates who read these will benefit from the added submissions from their peers.

What we learned

Our most popular training was created by Darcy Peters, a Customer Advocacy Manager, on “leveraging performance reviews as your gateway to growth”. Hearing specific strategies and techniques from a manager’s perspective was invaluable for many advocates.

“Wow, I'm amazed by how thoroughly developed your system is, Darcy! You have thought of everything.”  — Julia Cummings

We were excited to see so many Advocates read through the trainings and responded positively throughout each training Thread.  We also received great feedback about the training series overall.

“I wanted to let you know that these trainings have personally been soooo impactful. It felt like each one landed with me just when I needed to focus on that area - for one reason or another.”  — Dave Chapman

“These trainings have been incredibly valuable and insightful!”   — Essence Muhammad


In the past, we’ve identified that many of our teammates learn very differently from one another. Some learn best by listening to a speaker or watching a video, while others prefer to read, for example. This can be tricky when choosing how to best format training for the entire team.

Now that we’ve tried a purely written format, we’d love to experiment with more formats in future async trainings. Some ideas include offering a written post, but also including an audio or video version of the trainer reading the post, or perhaps even including a simple slideshow.

Another idea would be to share an overview, then add bite-size info to the topic each day for a week (like a Twitter thread). We’ll continue to survey the team to find even more ideas on how to be inclusive with all learning styles while also keeping the training creation as lightweight as possible for trainers.


While we did receive a lot of positive feedback, the submission participation wasn’t as high as we had hoped it would be. The inbox was very busy during these weeks and some people were feeling a bit of information fatigue with many new announcements and conversations that naturally happen in the first quarter.

Perhaps another reason some Advocates didn’t offer a submission was that they felt the their own strategies were equal to what we offered in the training. But if they didn’t have many strategies themselves and the training was indeed valuable, we had hoped they would share more about what they might try. We saw a lot of positive emoji reactions, but we still hoped more people would participate by directly replying to the Thread.

With this in mind, we plan to further clarify the “submission” definition to encourage more participation and togetherness. We especially want our teammates to continue to get a chance to share their thoughts and to learn from one another.

For future async trainings, we’ll ask Advocates to to simply “check off” that they’ve read the training, and then also choose one of the following ways to submit:

Add a new strategy or technique that works well for themOr, identify a strategy we’ve presented that they’d like to adopt into their own workstyle and why they think it might work for them or how they will implement it.

We’re also going to explore ways to follow up with the team several weeks after the training to see how the strategies have helped them.

Looking ahead

We took a big chance by offering an entire series of async training for a full quarter, but we learned a lot and we saw some great benefits for the team.

Everyone had equal time to absorb the material and to participate, and teammates who wished to share their own strategies and tips had time to articulate those thoughts. It prevented us from adding four more meetings to everyone’s calendar — the team could schedule the training according to what worked best for them.

Lastly, the training and the valuable team submissions were easy to add to our wiki as resources for any new teammates coming onboard after the training session was over.

Overall, we’re excited about the future of async training for the Advocacy team and look forward to trying new formats and submission ideas!

What questions does this spark for you? Send us a tweet!

- Umber Bhatti
How To Start A Blog For Your Small Business
How To Start A Blog For Your Small Business

You’ve probably never envisioned yourself as a blogger. After all, you’re a small business owner, and probably not a trained writer. But you don’t have to be the perfect wordsmith to write compelling and engaging posts. Creating a successful blog really just requires being passionate about a certain topic — a characteristic you already possess as an ambitious entrepreneur! A blog can also be a low-cost way to elevate your small business’s reach and also build credibility with your followers, making it a win-win situation.

Another benefit of blogging is your posts are “owned content,” meaning you have complete freedom to create your blog as you please without relying on third parties. All the material on the site will be within your control, ensuring the tone and style of your blog are consistent with your brand values. Building a blog from scratch takes some work, but this article will help you get set up with the basics, while also providing insight into the various ways other businesses blog.

Why start a blog for your small business?

When thinking about the content you want to include on your blog, the 80/20 social media rule is useful to reference.This popular social media tenet dictates that while it’s acceptable for businesses to devote up to 20 percent of their marketing strategy explicitly promoting their products, the remaining 80 percent of posts should be entertaining and helpful for your audience.

The idea is that instead of bombarding customers with promotional ads, you should enrich their experience through interesting, edifying, or educational content. You probably want to add value to your customers’ lives in some way, and a blog is a perfect channel to do just that! Sharing this content will not only attract more customers, but it can also open a dialogue with your existing followers, creating a stronger online community. Blog posts can also be repurposed on social media — generating more content for your business.

Here are some reasons blogging is a good investment:

Highlight your knowledge

Customers want to know that the brands they’re buying from are dependable and trustworthy, and blogging can be a great way to relay your expertise in your field. Through blogging, CEOs, founders, and other employees can also dive deep into thought leadership by expressing their learnings from their own career journeys.

Expand on your brand’s values and goals

Oftentimes, Twitter threads or Instagram Stories may not feel like the right platform for when you want to write a deep dive into your company’s mission. Blog posts, however, are the perfect medium for an in-depth look into your company’s principles as you can expand about your goals and aspirations as an entrepreneur.

Document and share transparently

Running a business is no easy feat, and recording the ups and downs of the journey can be a beneficial experience for both business owners and customers alike. Sharing some useful content to include would be a timeline of company milestones, quarterly reviews, and a post honestly depicting the obstacles in running your business and how you overcame them. Individuals who are building in public have seen many positive returns, like finding community and gaining brand exposure. Readers will also appreciate this candidness and it may even help them see the humanity behind your brand instead of just viewing it as another company.

Include keywords in your post

By writing blog posts that contain keywords relating to your products and services, you can start driving more traffic to your site. This is an efficient way to build up the organic search for your brand. Just know that it will take some time for your posts to rank high for SEO. Still, if you consistently generate solid content that is crafted with search engines in mind, your articles can eventually start ranking higher on Google and similar sites. If you are interested in learning more, here are some SEO tools that can help.

How to start blogging

Setting up a blog is fairly simple, but there are some logistics to figure out before you begin writing.

Choose a Content Management System

There are a ton of content management systems you can pick from for your blog. Here are just a few options:

WordPress —  WordPress is used in 41 percent of websites, and for good reason. The platform is simple to use while also offering more advanced features for those who need it. The basic version of WordPress is free, but most brands and businesses will probably require a plaid plan.TumblrWhile Tumblr may be known as a social media platform, the user-friendly interface is perfect for writing blog posts. It’s also a great choice if you want to infuse your posts with trending memes and a more casual tone. Best of all, Tumblr is free.BloggerA free Google product, Blogger has been around since 1999 and has been credited as being a game-changer in the online publishing space. Blogger provides simplicity, easy-to-use templates, and can be linked with all of your Google accounts. A plus? Google Adsense can also be integrated into your site.Ghost At Buffer, we use Ghost for our blog and appreciate its intuitive dashboard, built-in SEO features, and the platform’s commitment to centering content at the forefront. Ghost Open-Source is a free version of the site, while the more advanced Ghost Pro starts at $9 per month.Make editing easier

A blog post that is filled with typos and grammatical errors can be jarring for readers, which is why it’s important to ensure your content has been reviewed. Grammarly is a great editing tool to use, especially if you’re an ambitious team of one. While there is a premium version, a free Grammarly account should take care of most major grammar and spelling errors.

Implement a content calendar

Similar to how one would set up a social media calendar, you can also make use of a content calendar for your blog. The calendar would include pitches and blog post ideas, the timeline for completing each post factoring in the outlining, drafting, and editing process, and the publish dates for each piece. This will give you an organized look into your blog and ensure you're staying up to date with your posts.

Generate Ideas

You may have a few top-of-mind ideas for your blog, but are wondering how to churn out content on a regular basis. Feeling unsure of what to post is common, but there are several ways to develop new topics to write about. Getting your followers’ input on the content they’d like to see is always a good option as they can bring up important customer pain points they'd like addressed. Asking the rest of your team for pitches – even if their role isn’t directly tied to marketing or communications – can also provide an insider’s perspective on the blog. And finally, creating a mindmap of relevant topics and doing other brainstorming exercises can allow you to think outside of the box.

Running a blog can feel like juggling multiple tasks at once, but eventually, you’ll settle into a good rhythm of creating content. Getting started is the most important part, and remember, you can always adjust your blogging strategy along the way.

How other small businesses approach their blogs

The great part about writing a blog is that you can be flexible in the type of content you share. If you want more ideas for getting started, these examples from other small businesses can give you a jumping start.

Documenting their journey

Blogs offer the perfect medium for customers to catch up with important news and updates from brands.

Scotch Porter

Scotch Porter —  a black-owned business that makes hair care products for men — has a variety of posts on their blog aka The Scotch Porter Journal. But their core focus seems to be sharing company milestones like announcing their launches in both Target and CVS. And when they were featured on Nick Cannon’s talk show in late 2021, they dropped the exciting news via their journal.

How To Start A Blog For Your Small BusinessScotch Porter updates fans about exciting company milestones on their journalBuffer

While it’s always nice to highlight your accomplishments, it can be just as rewarding to open up about the challenges and obstacles your business has faced. At Buffer, one of our core values is defaulting to transparency, which is why we document important learnings on our Open blog. In these posts, we don’t shy away from difficult topics but instead, get candid about areas we need to improve on and the steps we’re taking to do just that.

We’ve written about cultivating a better sense of community within our remote team, the challenges our engineering team has faced, and security breaches at Buffer. Our hope is that by sharing things transparently, we can inspire and help others on their small business journeys.

How To Start A Blog For Your Small BusinessSharing transparently is a top priority for us at BufferHighlighting products

While you may be used to advertising your products mostly through social media, a blog is a creative way to promote your products.


Glamnetic, a beauty brand that sells press on nails and magnetic lashes, spotlights their products often on their blog but keeps it fun by connecting back to other trending topics including TikTok, celebrity culture, and popular beauty trends. Some of their articles include Want nails like Kylie Jenner?, How to remove press on nails — TikTok viral hack, and 2022 spring beauty trends you need to know about.

How To Start A Blog For Your Small BusinessGlamnetic's blog contains trending beauty news along with product highlightsPassion Planner

Passion Planner similarly writes blog posts that tie back to their main products: journals. Their blog includes tons of ideas for customers who’re interested in journaling, like 42 planner ideas to give your schedule the glow up it deserves and The 7-day self-love challenge. Instead of focusing specifically on their passion planners, however, the tips in the blog posts could work for any journal or agenda. This makes Passion Planner’s blog feel less like another marketing ploy but instead a solid resource for readers.

How To Start A Blog For Your Small BusinessPassion Planner's blog includes helpful tips for journaling Flow Club

Flow Club, a virtual coworking space, highlights their product a little differently by including user testimonials on their blog. In this article entitled, “How Hustle Fund co-founder Elizabeth Yin beats procrastination with Flow Club,” they hone in on one customer’s experience with their product, providing direct quotes and personalizing the service a bit more for readers.

How To Start A Blog For Your Small BusinessFlow Club uses their blog to highlight customer experienceDemonstrating expertise

You know your stuff, and blogging about your experiences and knowledge is a perfect way to educate your readers about interesting topics related to your business!

Birthdate Co.

Birthdate Co. crafts their products with astrology, numerology, and tarot in mind, creating a unique candle for every birthdate. Naturally, their blog includes tons of resources about horoscopes and astrology, like: Gemini Guide: What Are the Traits of a Gemini?, Taurus Season Horoscopes, and What Are the Best Astrology Books To Learn Everything About Your Sign?

How To Start A Blog For Your Small BusinessBirthdate Co. shares atrology related postsPacific Cookie Company

A family-owned business, Pacific Cookie Company keeps it simple by centering their blog around all things cookies. Their articles include posts about the best cookie and coffee pairings, recipes for air-fryer cookies, and other baking topics like making cookies without butter.

How To Start A Blog For Your Small BusinessPacific Cookie Company includes baking tips and other cookie related posts on their blogPassion Planner

Along with writing posts revolving around journaling, Passion Planner also blogs about self-care and empathy. These principles directly relate back to their company’s mission statement as part of their business’s goal is centered around helping people fulfill their dreams and feel their best.

How To Start A Blog For Your Small BusinessPassion Planner also blogs about their core values 

We hope this article gave you insights into how blogging can add all kinds of value to your brand, like connecting with your audience on a deeper level. Once you have your first few posts under your belt, the writing process should become smoother, and running your blog will become a part of your regular routine!

Do you already have a blog for your small business? Share it with us on Twitter or Instagram!

- Dawn Scott
I Run 3 Small Businesses—Here’s How I Do It All Without Compromising My Life
I Run 3 Small Businesses—Here’s How I Do It All Without Compromising My Life

Most entrepreneurs and small business owners are familiar with other people not understanding what the heck you do and why. Your friends ask, “You can make money doing that?” Your parents pester, “Why don’t you just get a ‘real’ job?”

Well, I’ve experienced this threefold because I run three small businesses: boutique accounting firm Gratiam Consulting, content creation company The Empowered CPA, and blow dry bar GLAMbar. I get questions not only from friends and family, but also from other business owners, especially when they learn my consulting business is successful enough that I’m turning away clients. “Aren’t you leaving money on the table?” they ask. “Wouldn’t it be easier to focus on growing that one business?

Maybe it would be easier, but I wouldn't have my work life any other way. I love getting to expand my impact through my businesses, helping different types of people in different capacities. Working on a variety of project types keeps me excited about my work by ensuring that no two days are the same, and makes it feel more fulfilling because I’m impacting so many people at different stages of their lives. Plus, I love knowing that I’ve taken a very rigid industry and molded it into something that suits me.

But this structure obviously doesn’t come without its challenges, especially since I’m not the type of entrepreneur who is willing to hustle for 80 hours a week. When I left corporate life, it was because I wanted to create more time for my family, my health, and my mental well-being. Even while running three businesses, keeping space for all of that is a priority.

I know there are others out there like me: multi-passionate entrepreneurs who have a wealth of business ideas and are determined to find a way to make them all work together. For those people, here are a few strategies that have helped me keep my three companies running (and growing!) without sacrificing the other things I value in life.

I Thought Carefully About My Business “Portfolio”

I’ll start off by saying that I think the mix of different types of businesses I have—and what they each require from me—is part of what helps me succeed.

For one, I didn’t launch three businesses from the get-go. Instead, I worked on my consulting business for a few years and got it to the point where it was fairly stable, with new clients coming in 100 percent from referrals and a solid waitlist, before I turned my attention to another company. I think trying to do business development for three new ventures at once would have been challenging.

I also thought carefully about how much each business would need from me week to week. As a client services business in a highly regulated (and deadline-driven) industry, my consulting practice requires the most attention from me and is the least flexible on time. If I tried to take on another business with similar needs, I could see myself burning out fast. Instead, my content creation business leaves me with a lot of flexibility to adjust my schedule when urgent needs come up for my other companies. Similarly, I have a partner in the blow dry bar, which means all the responsibility isn’t on me.

I Regularly Remember That Saying No to Some Things Means Saying Yes to Others

It’s an unfortunate law of the universe that when you add on another business, you don’t get to add on more hours to your day. Instead, I have to constantly remind myself that everything I take on is going to take time away from something else, and that means making hard choices about what I’m going to cut.

For instance, when I started my digital content company, I knew that I was going to need five to six hours per week to create this content. If I wanted to do that without sacrificing family or personal time (or sleep), those hours were going to have to come from somewhere else. So I made the tough decision to stop taking on any new consulting clients. That meant leaving money on the table, but I knew it was worth it to me to be able to help more people through digital content, build a more passive income stream, and do it all without working myself into the ground.

When considering running multiple businesses, you have to be really, really honest about your time commitments, not only with yourself, but with anyone else relying on you, like a spouse or business partner. Understand what you can and want to bring to the table, as well as what might need to change to make that possible.

I Make a Plan (With Plenty of Padding for When the Plan Goes Wrong)

It probably goes without saying, but good time management is the key to making all of this work. Each week, I sit down and look at what needs to get done, prioritizing things from least to most flexible.

Because they are so important to me, I always make sure I have time for my personal responsibilities first, planning out time for meals, activities with the kids, and time at the gym. Then, I’ll check if there are any tax deadlines coming up for my consulting clients or accounting deadlines for the blow dry bar and carve out the hours I’ll need to do that work. Finally, I’ll see how much time I have left to work on more flexible things, like developing my digital courses.

Of course, as every business owner knows, the best laid plans never work as we want them to. So I always build in a lot of padding with the assumption that things will go wrong. I plan with my consulting clients far in advance and set deadlines far before any federal due dates. I also try to always have a few tasks on my plate that can be shifted if an emergency comes up.

I Swear by Systems and Delegation

The other cornerstones of my time management are setting up systems to reduce the amount of work I need to do in the future and delegating anything I don’t really need to do myself.

For instance, creating an onboarding kit for my consulting clients drastically reduced the amount of time I need to spend on that process, while still giving them the high-touch experience I aim to provide. Also, bringing on an administrative assistant this year ​​has opened up my time to tackle things more beneficial to the goals I’m trying to achieve. I made sure to find someone who was also excited about being involved in a variety of projects so they could help across all my different businesses.

Whenever I find myself spending a lot of hours each week doing something, I ask myself: Is there a system I could build to simplify this? Or training documents I could make to hand this off to someone else? Often, I find just a few hours of work operationalizing something can open up tons of time to focus on more valuable things in the future.

I’m Constantly Revisiting My “Why”

Finally, I’m constantly revisiting my goals for each business and my motivation for building them.

Even though I’m proud of the consulting firm I’ve built and the financial stability it’s given me, I know I don’t want to keep growing it right now because I’m also passionate about helping as many entrepreneurs as I can by creating content and digital courses. At the blowdry bar, I get to work with great collaborators on a brilliant business concept—I’d feel foolish walking away from such an amazing opportunity. Thinking about this helps me figure out the right balance of energy to give each company based on what it's giving back to me.

I also think that having a regular pulse on why I started each business will help me tap into the point at which my desires change. We all go through different seasons, and at some point I may decide one of my businesses isn’t for me. Or, I may decide to start yet another one!

Whatever decision I make in the future, I know that these tools will help me juggle everything, including the things outside of work that matter most.

- Tamilore Oladipo
6 Instagram Story Ideas for Your Next Post
6 Instagram Story Ideas for Your Next Post

If you’ve ever gotten lost in the rabbit hole of swiping through Instagram Stories, you know that they can be impactful as a user. From signing up for a product waitlist to buying a product recommended by your favorite influencer, Stories are a great way to quickly share content, and engage and influence users on the platform. It’s just as great for users as it is for businesses – agencies report two to three times more engagement with Instagram Stories posts than with regular content.

However, to get the attention of the massive audience for Stories, you’ll need to get creative. Stories’ ease-of-use means that you need to grab the attention of your viewer quickly because as easy as it is to reach people, it’s just as easy to lose them.

6 Instagram Story Ideas for Your Next PostFollow us on Instagram!

Thanks to Story Highlights (which are at the top of every profile), you can turn your temporary Stories into evergreen content. We’ve put together some great uses we’ve come across that you can apply to your next Story.

Guide your audience to the right products for them

Instagram can be a great tool for discovery – one in two people use Instagram to discover new brands and products. Using Stories, you can guide your followers down the sales funnel by showing them specific products for their specific needs. Then they won’t go to your website without a plan – they’ll just add the relevant product to their cart.

Examples of brands doing this: Plantmade: Plantmade shared the different results customers can expect to see by using their different hair oils6 Instagram Story Ideas for Your Next Post6 Instagram Story Ideas for Your Next Post6 Instagram Story Ideas for Your Next PostSourceLoft: Loft’s Style Assist series is focused on having different people from employees to influencers, share how they style their products for different occasions.6 Instagram Story Ideas for Your Next Post6 Instagram Story Ideas for Your Next Post6 Instagram Story Ideas for Your Next PostSourceHers: Hers uses their ‘skin care’ Story Highlight to what each of their products does for the skin.6 Instagram Story Ideas for Your Next Post6 Instagram Story Ideas for Your Next Post6 Instagram Story Ideas for Your Next PostSourceTake your followers behind the scenes

Authenticity is a big part of what helps audiences connect to brands, and your Stories are a great place to do that. And showing the behind-the-scenes of your business doesn’t have to be limited to what goes into making a product. You can showcase different employees in different contexts – doing their jobs, showing what they do outside of work, answering prompts or frequently asked questions, and more!

Examples of brands doing this: Djerf Avenue: In the Story we caught, the employees at Djerf Avenue shared what made them happy.6 Instagram Story Ideas for Your Next Post6 Instagram Story Ideas for Your Next Post6 Instagram Story Ideas for Your Next PostSourceYouth Marketing: YMC’s ‘#YMCrew’ Stories throws a spotlight on different employees, showing who they are and what they like to do outside of work.6 Instagram Story Ideas for Your Next Post6 Instagram Story Ideas for Your Next Post6 Instagram Story Ideas for Your Next PostSourceMejuri: Employees at Mejuri share how they get ready in the morning while working from home in their ‘Staff Styling’ Stories.6 Instagram Story Ideas for Your Next Post6 Instagram Story Ideas for Your Next Post6 Instagram Story Ideas for Your Next PostSourceCreate anticipation for a launch

If you’re in the process of creating and launching a new product, or service, or even just publishing a blog post, Stories are a great way to create anticipation.

From the Countdown sticker showing how long till your launch to linking to where your customers preorder/join a waitlist, adding stickers to your Story is a great way to engage your audience while building anticipation.

Example of a brand doing this: Good Molecules: Ahead of the launch of their new product, X, Good Molecules shared a series of Stories that explained what the product was and what type of customer would benefit from it.6 Instagram Story Ideas for Your Next Post6 Instagram Story Ideas for Your Next Post6 Instagram Story Ideas for Your Next PostSourceShare tutorials and how-tos

If you want to keep your audience coming back to your Stories, it’s important to create content that adds value. This means providing your audience with something that they would find helpful in their day-to-day lives or their work – all while integrating your product or brand values.

Along with sharing tutorials, add a competition element to make it fun for your audience. You can encourage viewers to share their take on using your product and tag you for a reward.

Examples of brands doing this: Caraway: Using Story Highlights, Caraway keeps a guide to storing your kitchen items (specifically, the ones you might purchase from them) forever pinned to the top of their profile.6 Instagram Story Ideas for Your Next Post6 Instagram Story Ideas for Your Next Post6 Instagram Story Ideas for Your Next PostSourceFur: The grooming brand communicates their views on sustainability in this Story, encouraging and showing viewers how to reuse their empty containers.6 Instagram Story Ideas for Your Next Post6 Instagram Story Ideas for Your Next Post6 Instagram Story Ideas for Your Next PostSourceShare social proof

There’s nothing quite as effective to build trust as seeing regular people talk about a product for free. You can use your IG Stories to quickly highlight posts from customers and content creators that talk about your brand. Keep an eye on your tags so you can highlight those who mention you in their posts. You can also use Remix by Buffer to grab tweets that mention your brand and share them on Instagram.

Examples of brands doing this: Arami Essentials: Arami, a skincare brand capitalizes on its audience’s excitement to use its products and share the results, by reposting mentions from their audience in a dedicated highlight.6 Instagram Story Ideas for Your Next Post6 Instagram Story Ideas for Your Next Post6 Instagram Story Ideas for Your Next PostSourceKai Collective: The fashion brand shares messages, tweets, and different social mentions of their brand as Testimonials on their page.6 Instagram Story Ideas for Your Next Post6 Instagram Story Ideas for Your Next Post6 Instagram Story Ideas for Your Next PostSourceHighlight important dates and events

Creating Stories centered on events that your followers care about is a great way to strengthen your connection with them. You can use Instagram Stories to put a spotlight on people, businesses, and products themed around month-long observances like Black History Month, Mental Health Awareness Month, Pride Month, and so on.

Keep a calendar of relevant dates for your brand. Along with popular dates like Black History Month, go for something fun like National Pancake Day. And Drafts in Buffer can help you plan your content in advance.

Examples of brands doing this: Apartment Therapy: For Arab American, Middle Eastern, and North African (AA+MENA) Heritage Month, Apartment Therapy used Instagram Stories to create a Small Business Spotlight series. In this series, small business owners like Dounia of @folks_and_tales who shares her story, telling people about her business and taking them through a day in her life as a small business owner.6 Instagram Story Ideas for Your Next Post6 Instagram Story Ideas for Your Next Post6 Instagram Story Ideas for Your Next PostSourceTry different things to find what sticks

It’s highly likely that the brands and great Stories we’ve shared happened overnight. Experimentation is a big part of what makes social media management fun, so you should try different things to find what sticks. Not every idea will work for your brand or your audience, but you have lots of leeway with Stories to see the impact of different formats.

👀 Now we’d love for you to do our homework for us. Is there anything you’d like to see from us in Stories? Send us a DM to let us know!

- Meha Agrawal
I Experienced Founder Burnout While Building a Self-Care Startup—Here's What I Do Differently Now
I Experienced Founder Burnout While Building a Self-Care Startup—Here's What I Do Differently Now

People often think that because I run a self-care startup, I must live a perfectly balanced life. Even I assumed that I knew the boundaries and habits I needed to put in place to take care of myself while running my company.

And yet, despite spending the past three years building Silk + Sonder—thinking about self-care every day, writing monthly journaling prompts for our members, and even being the voice of the audio meditations on our app—I recently found myself experiencing burnout like I never had before.

It wasn’t caused by a major company event or life crisis, just the typical requirements of being a founder. Every day, I was switching between big-picture thinking and putting out short-term fires. I was constantly making decisions across operations, product, marketing, and growth. I had been saying yes to every meeting and was constantly finding another problem to tackle.

Without me really noticing, my personal care habits started slipping: I wasn’t going to the gym, wasn’t eating the right foods, and was feeling pressure to keep the people in my life happy even though I had less social time than ever. I was overextending myself, but as a founder, I’m so used to operating outside my comfort zone and facing challenges left and right that I didn’t think anything of it.

Until one day, when I woke up with a headache so intense that I couldn’t even look at my phone. I took some Advil and hoped it would subside by the time I finished my morning journaling—but found I couldn’t even look at the words on the page. When I started feeling nauseous, I knew something was wrong. I managed to eke out a text to my assistant to clear my calendar for the day, then texted a founder friend for advice. “I think you’re experiencing burnout,” she said. I was in disbelief because I always associated burnout with heightened anxiety, not debilitating exhaustion.

I spent the next eight hours lying on the couch doing absolutely nothing. I needed to unplug, but even my go-to unplugging tools like a book or a podcast felt too draining.

After a day of rest, I was thankfully ready to get back in action. But I knew that if I didn’t address the root cause, I’d be incapacitated again before I knew it. And while some good, old-fashioned self-care spurred my immediate recovery, the long-term solution involved deeper changes in how I was approaching my work.

Here are the strategies that have helped me escape and avoid the burnout cycle since.

I started by reassessing my energy needs

Immediately, I knew I needed to make some adjustments in how I was spending my time so that I could better protect my energy.

Making my calendar work for me

First, I looked for ways to rework my calendar. I tend to operate best when I have two to three hours of focused work a day, but leading up to the burnout I had been ignoring that structure. So I blocked off some uninterrupted work hours each day and looked for meetings I could cut from my calendar, such as recurring check-ins where updates could instead be shared asynchronously.

Using an energy map to delegate

I also revisited how I was spending my time by creating an energy map: writing down all my daily and weekly tasks and categorizing which of them charged or drained me. I knew I wanted to spend most of my day on energy-giving activities, so this became an instant guidebook for what I needed to delegate. I noticed that sourcing candidates and taking the screening calls was draining a lot of time and energy, and it could readily be handed off.  To this day, I’ll create a new map when my to-do list feels like it's getting out of hand.

Reserving time for myself

Finally, I looked for ways to recommit to my wellness needs. I started pre-booking workout classes throughout the week so I wouldn’t neglect exercise and became more intentional about spending my weekends filling my cup with activities like journaling, reading, and fun social outings.

I Experienced Founder Burnout While Building a Self-Care Startup—Here's What I Do Differently NowThe “wheel of life” from our Silk + Sonder journals is one of my favorite tools for figuring out which areas of my holistic well-being could use some attention.I’ve worked on strategizing instead of reacting

One of the problems that led to my burnout was that I had fallen into reaction mode, constantly playing whack-a-mole with every question, need, and problem that came up. I knew that I had to get more strategic about how I was approaching the needs of my business so that I could focus on the most important tasks, rather than being pulled in a thousand directions.

Choosing one primary goal every day

I started by adopting a technique we recommend in our Silk + Sonder planners, in which you pick one thing to get done each day that will make everything else easier. I like to focus my one thing on expansive creative thinking for my business or tasks that make me a more effective CEO. I know that, unless the company is literally burning to the ground, these should take priority over other tasks that come up throughout the day.

I Experienced Founder Burnout While Building a Self-Care Startup—Here's What I Do Differently NowCarving out dedicated time to do your “one thing” can be valuable whether you’re running a business or just trying to figure out how to prioritize your daily work tasks.Setting realistic expectations with my team

I also had to be more transparent about when I could address questions or review deliverables from my team members, even if it wasn’t on their deadline. I’m always tempted to stop what I’m doing and address their needs—especially when I’m holding them back from getting something done—but I found that communicating realistic timelines has been better received than over-committing and under-delivering (or working myself into the ground to deliver anyway).

Empowering my employees to make their own decisions

Finally, I’ve been working on removing myself from every business decision. If a teammate comes to me for input in an area I don’t know much about, I’ll be honest with them that, while I’m happy to talk through it, I trust their expertise. This helps empower them with the knowledge that they can make decisions without me. All around, it’s been better for them, better for me, and better for the business.

I’m consistently building new positive habits

Finally, I’ve found that the journey to create healthy habits to avoid burnout is a continuous one. Not only have I regularly had to adjust or recommit to habits when I feel burnout creeping on again, I’ve had to remind other people in my life of my needs. After all, I am the best advocate for my own well-being.

I Experienced Founder Burnout While Building a Self-Care Startup—Here's What I Do Differently NowHabit trackers are a favorite journaling tool of mine for actually sticking to new healthy patterns.Reducing notifications & checking messages on my own time

For instance, to reduce the temptation to context switch and reshift intended priorities, I’ve disabled Slack notifications and email previews from my phone and computer. I am aware of my tendency to invite distractions in—especially if they help others move faster—but I’ve realized that, more often than not, my involvement can wait. To preserve time for flow and creative thinking, I check these accounts a few times per day on my schedule. I use this same approach in my personal life, reminding my fiance and family members that, just because I’m not in a meeting, doesn’t mean I’m available for personal or home-related questions.

Training my team on when to treat something as urgent

People know that if there’s a true emergency they can text or call me, but I’ve also been working on training my team on knowing when something is truly urgent. I encourage them to ask themselves, “Is this so urgent that whatever Meha is working on, she needs to stop right this second to help deal with it?”

It’s hard to do this when you feel like everyone is looking to you, but ultimately I think founders put more pressure on themselves than they need to. I’ve found that my team appreciates my trust in them, as well as my transparency around my needs. In fact, they respect that I’m setting myself up to do my best work for them and for the business.

- Ashima Sharma
I’m an Introvert With High-Functioning Anxiety — Here’s How I’ve Grown My Business
I’m an Introvert With High-Functioning Anxiety — Here’s How I’ve Grown My Business

For most of my life, I never thought I would be a business owner.

For starters, both of my parents started businesses, and I saw firsthand the emotional and financial toll it could take. But I was also an introvert who struggled with anxiety. All of the founders I saw were confident and charismatic, seemingly able to calmly handle every business challenge that came their way and pitch their business on a whim to any stranger they met.

Plus, when you’re dealing with anxiety mixed with introversion, you tend to talk yourself out of the risky moves and bold decisions that are often required to succeed in growing a company. It felt like starting a business would be even more of an uphill battle for me than it is for most.

But then I had the spark of inspiration that starts every entrepreneur’s story—the idea I just couldn’t get out of my head, the vision for the impact I wanted to make on the world. I had struggled so much with finding mentors through the various stages of my career, and I wanted to build a platform to make this powerful development tool easier for anyone to access, Dreami.

Around the same time, I was doing a lot of self-reflection around where I was in my life and my career. I suddenly felt this urge to step away from all the mental limitations I had and step into a more limitless version of myself—which is actually what my name means in Sanskrit: limitless. I wanted to embrace and honor my personality as much as I could, without letting it hold me back from taking steps that would make my life more fulfilling.

I had my vision and the fuel to drive me forward: Now, here’s how I actually overcame my challenges to get my company off the ground, land our early customers, and even get into a competitive accelerator.

Here's what fuels us, even when it's tough: we have the unique ability and opportunity to truly make a life-changing impact on someone's life. That is a privilege, and we won't take that for granted. #startups #mentorship

— Dreami (@JoinDreami) March 31, 2022 I started small to build my confidence

In the beginning, when I was just getting comfortable with the idea of being a founder, I spent a lot of time in Clubhouse rooms. In theory, this was the perfect platform for an introvert like me. The whole point of the app is to make the facilitation of conversation easier, and I already knew I had an interest in common with everyone in the room. I also didn’t have to show my face and could even have notes in front of me if need be.

Best of all, I was listening to all of these conversations that would be perfect for getting the word out about Dreami: women in tech opening up about how they feel unsupported and don’t know where to look for help.

But no matter how many times I found my finger hovering over the mute button, my crippling anxiety stopped me from pushing it. Who was I to say I had a solution? Where were my qualifications? What would others think of me? While anxiety was pestering me from one shoulder, frustration was shouting from the other. How could I keep letting great opportunities slide? Other people would love a forum to talk openly about what they’re working on!

Finally, frustration won, and I wrote down in my planner a small goal that day to speak up in just one Clubhouse room. It went great! The positive feedback and new followers I got from that pushed me to speak up more, and the ball was rolling. It’s not that every speaking gig from that moment went swimmingly, but I understood the power of putting my voice out there. And I had the practice and confidence to say yes when bigger opportunities came my way, like speaking at TEDx and pitching my company to the Techstars accelerator.

I delivered a TEDx talk about going from limited to limitless.I built habits to support my mental health

Even with practice putting myself out there, sales were never going to be easy for me. My introversion made constantly being on sales calls very draining on my energy, and my anxiety made me take every conversation that didn’t end in a “yes” personally. I would sometimes have days when I couldn’t get anything else done because my self worth was deflated by a rejection or lack of response, and I was ruminating on what I could have done better.

I knew this wasn’t a good cycle and that it would lead to demotivation or burnout fast. But I also knew that sales is a numbers game, and that if I wanted to get us those early customers (to eventually be able to hire someone to delegate sales to), I’d have to find a way to make it work. While I worked internally on separating my self-worth from the success of my business, I also implemented some external habits to better take care of myself.

0:00/1×Here's me on TikTok talking about making the ask. 

I started by batching all of my sales calls at the tail end of the week, giving myself a few solitary days to get strategic work done before any conversations wore me out or knocked me down. Since this would lead to long days of back-to-back calls, I also worked with a coach to figure out how to care for my energy. She recommended leaving enough time between meetings to do something that recharges me: write in my planner, do a short meditation, or take a walk around the block. I’ve been shocked by how big of a difference even just five to ten minutes of “me time” between calls makes.

Ultimately, I think this need to be extremely intentional with my time and energy has actually turned out to be a superpower as a founder. Whereas other business owners may spend years figuring out their time management, it was an immediate necessity for me that came pretty naturally.

I found mentors like me—and mentors who could push me

At Dreami, we always talk about building your personal board of directors—multiple mentors who bring different things to the table. When seeking other business owners to learn from, I found it helpful to take a similar approach, with a mix of introverted and extroverted mentors to help me both work with and push past my personality.

For instance, my introverted mentors have helped me become more comfortable with saying no to meetings that don’t drive my business forward (even when it feels tempting to say yes) so that I can preserve my limited energy for the most impactful tasks. They’ve also taught me that it’s okay to be upfront about my anxiety or introversion. I always felt like it was something I had to hide, but I’ve been shocked by how understanding people are when I’m clear about the boundaries I need because of my personality.

My extroverted mentors, on the other hand, give me something to aspire to. Every time I have a big meeting or speech, I envision the extroverted leaders I admire and try to embody their energy. Suddenly, I find my anxiety abating, my voice coming out a little stronger, and my presentation becoming more engaging. It’s a weird trick, but I swear it’s what got me through the final pitching process to get into Techstars, and it’s helped me every time since when I’m feeling nervous before a crowd.

I know this all sounds like a real fake-it-til-you-make-it story, but I won’t sugarcoat it: There are still hard days where my introversion is making me hesitate or my anxiety is throwing me into a spiral. But, with time and some smart techniques, I’ve learned how to bounce back from these moments faster. And, more importantly, I believe they don’t have to hold me back from succeeding in business.

- Umber Bhatti
Ask Buffer: Should I Hide My Likes on Instagram?
Ask Buffer: Should I Hide My Likes on Instagram?

Question: I’ve noticed some Instagram posts no longer have the number of likes visible anymore. I’ve been considering hiding my likes too, but I’m not sure if that’s a good idea from a marketing perspective. Would doing so impact the way advertisers or customers view me and my business?

Anyone who has ever posted a photo or Reel on Instagram before probably knows the thrill of watching the likes trickle in. Receiving likes from friends, family members, or customers can be a dopamine-filled experience – a validation that whatever you posted onto your grid is satisfactory and appealing to your audience. On the flip side, when certain posts don’t receive as many likes, Instagram users can feel the opposite – like their content isn’t good enough. Low likes on Instagram have also been linked to a rise in anxiety and depression in users, especially teens.

In an attempt to combat the problem, Instagram released the ability for all users to hide likes on posts in 2021. The move has divided the internet, with some users appreciating this new approach and others finding it unnecessary. But for certain small businesses owners – many of whom depend on Instagram, deciding whether to hide their likes might be an especially conflicting process. There really is no clear-cut answer, but here are some things to factor in if you’re considering a life free of Instagram likes.

Creativity can flourish without likes

In 2019, Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri said the whole purpose of hiding Instagram likes was to create a more positive online environment. “The idea is to try and depressurize Instagram, make it less of a competition, give people more space to focus on connecting with people that they love, things that inspire them,” he said. Mosseri seems to be on to something as it turns out for many, taking likes out of the equation does allow for greater self-expression.

More originality

In 2019, when Instagram had first announced they were toying with the idea of no likes, influencer Casey Barker told Esquire that the change might allow him to take more risks as a content creator. “I think I’ll care less about getting the quality right every time and it’ll probably be a more natural feed than a perfect-looking feed … It can be a lot more raw, a lot more myself, rather than thinking: ‘Will people like this?”

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A post shared by Casey Barker (@caaseybarker)

According to Dar Meishi, a cognitive neuroscientist, it's normal for individuals to want to be liked on social media. “We’re hardwired to find social interactions rewarding,” he told PBS. Amassing likes and comments on Instagram gives our brains a dopamine boost, which, consequently, has us all craving more and more likes.

Oftentimes, people get so consumed by this need for validation that they’ll only post photos or videos they believe will please their audiences, essentially stripping away any originality. Cam B, a 20-year-old, told the Huff Post he knows people who’ve deleted Instagram posts solely because they didn’t get enough likes. Long gone are the days when Instagram was a platform for candid and authentic snapshots. A 2020 study found that only 29 percent of users would post an unedited photo of themselves on social media. A Guardian article entitled, “Facetune conquers Instagram,” uncovers how prevalent photoshop has become amongst ordinary users. But, with likes out of the mix, there’s a chance this pressure to be perceived as perfect will diminish.

Sarah Roberts, a 22-year-old, was one of the first to experience an Instagram without likes when the feature was first rolled out for testing in Canada back in 2019 and said it changed her relationship with the platform for the better. “Personally, I love not seeing the like count,” she told HuffPost. “I’ve also been more personal with the things I actually like versus what everyone else is liking. This feels like more of what Instagram should be rather than an advertisement of ourselves on our page.”

The change can be beneficial for small businesses, too. While it may feel safe to post what you already know does well with customers, not tracking the number of likes could allow brands to experiment with different types of content without worrying that followers will automatically judge a post for getting a fewer number of likes.

Highlight quality, not quantity

When Instagram first rolled out testing for hiding likes, users were met with this announcement on the top of their feeds. It reads, “We want your followers to focus on what you share, not how many likes your post gets.” Our eyes often gravitate towards the likes on a post immediately, emphasizing the metrics of the content rather than the substance behind it. This can be seen across all social media platforms: Instagram likes, Reddit downvotes, and YouTube’s dislike button can all act as a kind of groupthink. The more likes a photo gets must mean it’s good while a video receiving tons of dislikes could give off the impression that it’s bad (partly why YouTube made dislikes private). Without this data, users will have to focus on the quality of an Instagram post instead of assigning a quantitative, predetermined value to it.

Whoever is running Instagram product. Give them a raise. #instagramlikes #Insta pic.twitter.com/7OgWpGHmUx

— vikas gosain (@vikgosain) May 2, 2019

In 2021, photographer Brandon Woelfel tweeted about the change in his content that stemmed from using the feature. “Hiding likes on Instagram has me actually posting photos I like… a concept.” Today,  most of Brandon's pictures have the likes visible, but there are a few where he’s chosen to continue to hide likes, including this photo of a woman in a red dress. There’s a noticeable distinction between the posts that have likes and the ones that don’t. The actual shot – the vibrant colors, the model’s nimble pose, the shadowing in the image – becomes the start of the show rather than a bolded number.

Ask Buffer: Should I Hide My Likes on Instagram?An instagram post by photographer Brandon Woelfel

A social media platform without likes can allow users and content creators alike to concentrate on the artistic element behind each post, rather than the arbitrary digits attached to it.

The potential downsides of hiding your likes

While doing away with likes can be beneficial for some, there are certain aspects, particularly from a business perspective, that could be negatively affected if an influencer or small business owner decides to privatize this data.

Partnerships and brand deals can be impacted

When Instagram first announced changing the way likes are displayed, most people immediately questioned how this move would impact content creators and brands who rely on Instagram as both a marketing tool and source of revenue. Oftentimes, large companies decide who they want to collaborate with based on the number of likes a business or influencer receives. And while there are other factors they consider too – follower count, click-through rate, story views, etc. – likes per post are one of the biggest contributors to sponsorship deals.

An early study done by HypeAudtior found that accounts that hid their likes and had between 5,000 to 20,0000 followers, experienced up to a 15 percent drop in likes. Fewer likes, publicized or not, could lead to fewer opportunities to work with advertisers and land sponsorships. Despite telling Esquire that he envisioned a life without likes as a positive change, Casey also said he was hesitant about the move for this very reason. “I just feel like when brands are looking at my page at the minute, the more likes I have in general, the more I think they’ll want to work with me,” he said. Looking at his account today – three years since the interview – his likes are still visible.

But even though likes won’t be observable by the public, the data will still be measured from the backend and can be sent to agencies who are interested in these numbers. According to Ben Jeffries, co-owner of a London-based marketing agency, if more and more people choose to disengage from their likes, however, this could cause a shift in the world of Instagram marketing, “ … what’s really important about it is that it will actively encourage advertisers to stop looking at metrics such as likes as the main important metrics within a campaign,” he said.

This shift could favor smaller businesses that may have a hard time securing brand deals over larger and more popular accounts, essentially leveling the playing field for everyone.

Lack of transparency

In the last few years, transparency between businesses and audiences has been a buzzword –  but for good reason. Even founders and CEOs have taken to their personal Twitter accounts to openly share their journey, something most followers appreciate seeing. Along with wanting more clarity, audiences are demanding to know that brands actually stand behind the initiatives they preach. Glossier –  a makeup company that markets itself as being diverse and inclusive – was called out for the alleged discrimination and racism taking place in some of their retail stores by former staff members who formed a collective known as "outta the gloss." In a statement, CEO Emily Weiss said the company would email former employees to “invite dialogue with anyone who has additional feedback and ideas to help move us towards our shared vision.” Though this wasn’t enough to assuage everyone, having an open conversation between staff was a step in the right direction for the brand to be more transparent with its own employees and slowly win back the trust of its customers.

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A post shared by Outta The Gloss (@outtathegloss)

One way to easily lose the confidence of customers is by withholding information and data. When platforms like Instagram, Youtube, and Twitter provided the option to limit replies and comments, the move was commended for giving users more agency over their content. But, when big retailers enabled these features, many customers felt like they were being silenced. This tweet from user Isabél calls out brands who limited comments on their posts during the summer of 2020 when the Black Lives Matter movement was at the forefront of online conversation. “Keep watch of the companies that are disabling comments on posts right now, especially when asked about their plans to implement real change, anti-racism & inclusivity within their workplace. They’re silencing important conversations and valid criticism. #BlackLivesMatter”

Keep watch of the companies that are disabling comments on posts right now, especially when asked about their plans to implement real change, anti-racism & inclusivity within their workplace. They’re silencing important conversations and valid criticism. #BlackLivesMatter

— Isabél ❀ (@imtheartistt) June 7, 2020

Just like disabling comments feel suspicious to some, there is a chance privatizing likes could provoke uneasiness in customers. Followers might automatically assume that hiding likes mean there’s something wrong with the content. But one way to be cognizant of your followers’ feelings is to directly ask them their thoughts on hiding likes. You could take to Instagram Stories or make a poll on Twitter and have an open conversation to assure your community your business values transparency.

Hiding likes is still such a new concept for many, and there currently isn’t enough data to judge whether doing so is the right move for brands. However, it does seem like most people – businesses and content creators alike – have chosen to keep their likes visible for now. With that being said, it might take some time for others to feel comfortable ridding themselves of Instagram likes.

But if you’re considering hiding your likes, think about what matters most to you. Keeping your likes visible can lead to more transparency, but there’s also a chance it’s hindering your creativity. Doing a trial run could be helpful in this situation. Turn off likes for a one to two-week period and take notes on whether you observe a change in your engagement and creativity. Are you more open to posting new content? Did you notice a decrease in likes and/or sales? Has your relationship with your followers changed? Once you figure out the answers to these questions, you’ll have a better idea if making the switch to an Instagram without likes is the right move for you and your business.

Have you decided to hide your likes or will you keep likes visible? Let us know on Twitter or Instagram!

- Mike Eckstein
How A Creative Marketing Agency Brings Brands To Life With Video And Buffer
How A Creative Marketing Agency Brings Brands To Life With Video And Buffer

What do a hamburger restaurant chain, a law firm, and a sustainable packing company have in common?

They all use social media to grow their brand and they all call on the team at Influence Media to help them create and manage their social content.

How A Creative Marketing Agency Brings Brands To Life With Video And Buffer

Founded by Luke Thornton and based in the UK, Influence Media has a broad spectrum of clients. Some large, some small. Some local, some international. It keeps life interesting for them and it makes Buffer the ideal tool for developing a consistent presence for such a variety of brands.

Here's what Luke had to say when we asked him about the role Buffer plays in his business:

We have ten plus clients on Buffer, which means we manage about thirty social channels in total and rising. Social media management makes up a significant amount of what we do here, so Buffer is an important part of our business.

A key ingredient in Influence Media’s secret sauce is their in-house creative team. Social media is an increasingly visual world, and having professional film and photography as part of their service enables them to deliver high-quality content for their clients' social channels.

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A post shared by Sapporo Teppanyaki Glasgow (@sapporoglasgow)

We offer the full video production package; from initial strategy planning, creative ideation, and storyboarding right through to production services and post-production.

The social content they create ends up in Buffer, where they plan and schedule posts across Instagram, Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter for all of their clients in a single, simple dashboard.

How A Creative Marketing Agency Brings Brands To Life With Video And BufferInfluence Media's social content calendar in BufferBuffer makes business manageable for us. We can manage all posts in one place and it’s easy to use. It’s a real lifesaver.

Luke has also shared new feature requests with the Buffer team and having that connection helps both Buffer and Influence Media deliver more value to their customers.

Video is such a powerful medium, and not just on platforms like Instagram. We had been asking for a LinkedIn native video scheduling feature for a while and when Buffer added it to their product we were thrilled!

As for advice for any business that wants to grow its social media following? Consistency is key, according to Luke.

The secret to a great social media strategy is consistency. Buffer is the perfect tool to maintain a consistent posting schedule, especially if you’re juggling content across multiple channels.
- Tamilore Oladipo
6 Ways Small Businesses Are Celebrating Earth Day
6 Ways Small Businesses Are Celebrating Earth Day

Earth Day is one of the (many) days when businesses can create or reaffirm a commitment to practicing sustainability. Business owners must take time out to create awareness, especially when climate action is more important than ever.

Along with the environmental implications, sustainability is growing in awareness among consumers. A 2021 study by Deloitte found that 34 percent of consumers choose brands that have environmentally sustainable practices.

Here are some ideas for small businesses looking to highlight Earth Day on Instagram.

Keep it simple with an informative message.

Sometimes, a simple approach is better than an elaborate campaign, especially when there’s an important message to get across. So these brands decided to take the simple route, with a bit of their own added flair.

Agnes LDN, a fashion brand aiming to educate its customers about sustainability, shared an Earth Day post with a simple but effective message. They ask readers not to focus only on the discounts and offers on Earth Day but also on its core themes of environmental restoration. They also highlight a creator, Poppy Okotcha, an ecological home-grower based out of the U.K., who shares information about foraging and regeneration gardening on her Instagram.

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A post shared by Agnes LDN (@agnesldn)

On the other hand, Reclaim Wellness, a sustainable self-care brand, offered a discount (15 percent off on all their products) and shared ways users could be more sustainable daily. Some of their tips include growing some of your own produce, recycling, and upcycling clothing.

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A post shared by reclaim Wellness (@reclaim.ng)

You can choose to share how your product helps people cultivate sustainable habits as Circular & Co, a reusable cups brand did in their Earth Day post. The team member that wrote the post highlighted that his own reusable coffee cup had saved ~85 disposable cups from the landfill, a great example of small changes making a big difference.

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A post shared by Circular&Co. (@circularandco)

Or, you might share the different ways your brand practices sustainability as natural skincare brand Cln and Drty did in their Reel. The Reel specifically highlighted reusing leftover products as samples and recycling at all points of production.

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A post shared by CLN&DRTY Natural Skincare | self care is mental health care (@clnanddrty)

Whatever you choose to do, remember to keep Earth Day and its core purpose –   making life more sustainable – at the forefront of your messaging.

💡Practical Tip: Here are some resources from EarthDay.org, the world’s largest recruiter to the environmental movement that can help you make the most of Earth Day.Highlight or collaborate with another sustainable brand or creator

Earth Day is all about working together as a community to improve the state of the world. Focus on the community aspect by highlighting someone else like a brand or creator doing great work in the sustainability space by giving them a platform to let their voice and vision be heard.

Love Stories Bali, a sustainable fashion brand highlighted Closed Loop, a sustainable fashion consultancy in their Earth Day post. They spoke about the brand’s sustainability efforts and shared images and videos of Closed Loop’s work to upcycle used clothing.

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A post shared by Love Stories Bali (@love.stories.bali)

Whiskers Laces, an environmentally-friendly shoelace business, took a similar approach, highlighting a digital tool called Ethicli that helps people practice sustainable shopping in their post.

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A post shared by Whiskers (@whiskerslaces)

💡Practical Tip: There are many ways to collaborate. You can do an Instagram takeover with a creator focused on sustainability. Or you might just pick up the activities of a fellow brand in the sustainability space and put a spotlight on them.Conduct a giveaway

In the days leading up to Earth Day, you can plan to give away some products or services if that’s a good fit for your business. A giveaway can be a simple way to create engagement for your brand and create awareness around Earth Day. That’s the approach these three brands took, asking participants to like the post, follow both brands on Instagram, and tag a friend in the comments.

Grandy Organics, an organic food company, partnered with Eco Bags US, the long-time reusable bag brand for a giveaway.

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A post shared by Grandy Organics (@grandyorganics)

Tegaa a sustainable resort wear brand, partnered with Maya’s Cookies, a vegan cookie brand to give away their products.

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A post shared by Maya's Cookies (@mayascookiessandiego)

Three Alaska-based companies – Alaska Glacial, Alpine Fit, and Elevate Art Studio collaborated to give their products away in the days leading up to Earth Day.

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A post shared by Kelsey Fagan (@elevate_art_studio)

💡Practical Tip: You don’t have to only giveaway using one format. You can do a giveaway that requires less effort on the customers’ part, including a free item in every order made on Earth Day or during that week or month.Donate your profits

In the weeks or days leading up to Earth Day, consider offering a promo on your products and donating the proceeds or a portion of them to a good cause.

Grandy Organics is donating 10 percent of its profits to Appalachian Mountain Club, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the outdoors.

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A post shared by Grandy Organics (@grandyorganics)

Sense of Shelf donated 100 percent of their profits to black-led farming organizations, with information about why in their Earth Day post. They also encourage their audience to forgo shopping and instead support the farms directly if they can do so.

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A post shared by SENSE of SHELF (@sense.of.shelf)

If you’re on the hunt for organizations to donate to, here at Buffer we’ve vetted and donated to environmental charities in the past like Cool Earth and VertueLab. You can also check out Giving Green to help you find the right cause that aligns with your brand’s values.

💡Practical Tip: Donating large amounts can be a big ask for many small businesses, but if you have any deadstock or cash that you can donate, that works great.Encourage followers to participate in sustainable activities

The impact of Earth Day needs to be felt physically and online. As a brand, you can encourage people to participate in more local activities that practically help improve the environment.

Sense of Shelf did an IG takeover with Tuesdays for Trash, an environmental conservation organization. The post encouraged people to clean up their neighborhoods and take a selfie to be entered into a raffle.

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A post shared by SENSE of SHELF (@sense.of.shelf)

💡Practical Tip: There are great Earth Day activities for every type of business, even if you have a primarily local audience. Consider organizing cleanups of a local beach or park or a recyclables collection event.Practice what you preach when it comes to sustainability

Aside from being active on social media, it’s essential to keep practicing sustainability throughout the year. Make it a core part of your business ethos, from paying your workers fairly to recycling materials.

Greenvelope’s Earth Day post reflects this as they share a simple message about their efforts to be a sustainable company.

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A post shared by Greenvelope | Online Invites (@greenvelope)

What are your favorite Earth Day campaigns from small businesses? Tag us on Twitter and Instagram to let us know!

- Peter Emil
Secure Access To Opensearch on AWS
Secure Access To Opensearch on AWS

At Buffer, we’ve been working on a better admin dashboard for our customer advocacy team. This admin dashboard included a much more powerful search functionality. Nearing the end of the project’s timeline, we’ve been prompted with the replacement of managed Elasticsearch on AWS with managed Opensearch. Our project has been built on top of newer versions of the elasticsearch client which suddenly didn’t support Opensearch.

To add more fuel to the fire, OpenSearch clients for the languages we use, did not yet support transparent AWS Sigv4 signatures. AWS Sigv4 signing is a requirement to authenticate to the OpenSearch cluster using AWS credentials.

This meant that the path forward was riddled with one of these options

Leave our search cluster open to the world without authentication, then it would work with the OpenSearch client. Needless to say, this is a huge NO GO for obvious reasons.Refactor our code to send raw HTTP requests and implement the AWS Sigv4 mechanism ourselves on these requests. This is infeasible, and we wouldn’t want to reinvent a client library ourselves!Build a plugin/middleware for the client that implements AWS Sigv4 signing. This would work at first, but Buffer is not a big team and with constant service upgrades, this is not something we can reliably maintain.Switch our infrastructure to use an elasticsearch cluster hosted on Elastic’s cloud. This entailed a huge amount of effort as we examined Elastic’s Terms of Service, pricing, requirements for a secure networking setup and other time-expensive measures.

It seemed like this project was stuck in it for the long haul! Or was it?

Looking at the situation, here are the constants we can’t feasibly change.

We can’t use the elasticsearch client anymore.Switching to the OpenSearch client would work if the cluster was open and required no authentication.We can’t leave the OpenSearch cluster open to the world for obvious reasons.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the OpenSearch cluster was open ONLY to the applications that need it?

If this can be accomplished, then those applications would be able to connect to the cluster without authentication allowing them to use the existing OpenSearch client, but for everything else, the cluster would be unreachable.With that end goal in mind, we architected the following solution.

Piggybacking off our recent migration from self-managed Kubernetes to Amazon EKS

We recently migrated our computational infrastructure from a self-managed Kubernetes cluster to another cluster that’s managed by Amazon EKS.With this migration, we exchanged our container networking interface (CNI) from flannel to VPC CNI. This entails that we eliminated the overlay/underlay networks split and that all our pods were now getting VPC routable IP addresses.This will become more relevant going forward.

Block cluster access from the outside world

We created an OpenSearch cluster in a private VPC (no internet-facing IP addresses). This means the cluster’s IP addresses would not be reachable over the internet but only to internal VPC routable IP addresses.We added three security groups to the cluster to control which VPC IP addresses are allowed to reach the cluster.

Build automations to control what is allowed to access the cluster

We built two automations running as AWS lambdas.

Security Group Manager: This automation can execute two processes on-demand.-> Add an IP address to one of those three security groups (the one with the least number of rules at the time of addition).-> Remove an IP address everywhere it appears in those three security groups.Pod Lifecycle Auditor: This automation runs on schedule and we’ll get to what it does in a moment.How it all connects together

We added an InitContainer to all pods needing access to the OpenSearch cluster that, on-start, will execute the Security Group Manager automation and ask it to add the pod’s IP address to one of the security groups. This allows it to reach the OpenSearch cluster.In real life, things happen and pods get killed and they get new IP addresses.Therefore, on schedule, the Pod Lifecycle Auditor runs and checks all the whitelisted IP addresses in the three security groups that enable access to cluster. It then checks which IP addresses should not be there and reconciles the security groups by asking the Security Group Manager to remove those IP addresses. Here is a diagram of how it all connects together

Secure Access To Opensearch on AWSDiagram for our solution to tackling Opensearch access problems through automated whitelisting, source: Peter Emil on behalf of Buffer's Infrastructure TeamExtra GotchasWhy did we create three security groups to manage access to the OpenSearch cluster?

Because security groups have a maximum limit of 50 ingress/egress rules. We anticipate that we won’t have more than 70-90 pods at any given time needing access to the cluster. Having three security groups sets the limit at 150 rules which feels like a safe spot for us to start with.

Do I need to host the Opensearch cluster in the same VPC as the EKS cluster?

It depends on your networking setup! If your VPC has private subnets with NAT gateways, then you can host it in any VPC you like. If you don’t have private subnets, you need to host both clusters in the same VPC because VPC CNI by default NATs VPC-external pod traffic to the hosting node’s IP address which invalidates this solution. If you turn off the NAT configuration, then your pods can’t reach the internet which is a bigger problem.

If a pod gets stuck in CrashLoopBackoff state, won’t the huge volume of restarts exhaust the 150 rules limit?

No, because container crashes within a pod get restarted with the same IP address within the same pod. The IP Address isn’t changed.

Aren’t those automations a single-point-of-failure?

Yes they are, which is why it’s important to approach them with an SRE mindset. Adequate monitoring of these automations mixed with rolling deployments is crucial to having reliability here. Ever since these automations were instated, they’ve been very stable and we didn’t get any incidents. However, I sleep easy at night knowing that if one of them breaks for any reason I’ll get notified way before it becomes a noticeable problem.


I acknowledge that this solution isn’t perfect but it was the quickest and easiest solution to implement without requiring continuous maintenance and without delving into the process of on-boarding a new cloud provider.

Over to you

What do you think of the approach we adopted here? Have you encountered similar situations in your organization? Send us a tweet!

- Tobias Buxhoidt, parcelLab
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AI content moderation concept: Network technology robot concept or robot hand chatbot pressing computer keyboard enterBy using AI and ML algorithms to identify and categorize content, companies can identify and remove unsafe content as soon as it is created.Read More
- Will Harris
What Makes NYT’s “The Morning” Newsletter One of the Most Popular in the World

Let’s break down the secrets to success behind The New York Times’ The Morning, and what you can learn from it for your own newsletter.

Some people say newspapers are dead, but The New York Times (NYT) isn’t taking that lying down. It has maintained its classic brand and award-winning content while evolving its product to serve a digital audience. Besides its website that serves as a digital news source for its readers, it has curated one of the most popular daily email newsletters in the world. The newsletter, called The Morning, has garnered over 17 million subscribers.

So, how has The New York Times built a newsletter subscriber list over twice the population of New York City? It took the strengths of its centurial newspaper and adapted them to a new platform. It translated attention-grabbing headlines into subject lines. It adapted award-winning photojournalism into newsletter illustrations. And it turned renowned news stories into a newsletter its subscribers eagerly wait for each morning.

While your organization may not be an iconic newspaper, you can apply many of the same principles The New York Times has used to build your own successful newsletter. That is, a newsletter that is engaging and informative, keeps your readers coming back, and ultimately promotes your brand to a captivated audience.

1. Short, intriguing subject lines

Eye-catching newspaper headlines have been a long-standing tradition in the world of journalism, a skill The New York Times has leveraged in its email newsletter subject lines. The Morning features succinct subject lines with compelling descriptions you can’t help but want to open.

The Morning email subject lines are typically no more than four words following the title of the newsletter. They offer enough for the reader to know what the featured story is about but hold back the details, so the reader has to click to find the resolution.

Don’t worry — even if you don’t have harrowing war stories or political unrest to share in your newsletter, you can still curate eye-catching headlines. Start with determining a distinct perspective or value to share with your readers. From there, isolate the most essential concepts or words and think about the goals of your customer.

For example, if your value proposition is a 50% off sale on summer clothing, don’t just share a deadpan subject line that says, “we have a sale.” Instead, offer your customer the tangible and aspirational value of the sale in your subject line. For example, your subject line could be “50% Off Summer Fashion Statements!” This highlights the savings value as well as the goal they can attain by participating (making a fashion statement).

The New York Times uses short, impactful subject lines to get their message across.

Source. In this issue of The Morning, the subject line only uses two words (and an abbreviation) following the title of the newsletter. And yet, just those couple of words create a striking image in the mind of the reader.


2. Vivid imagery

The first thing you see when you open The Morning is an in-your-face graphic or image. Let’s just say The New York Times definitely takes advantage of its award-winning photojournalists and designers when it comes to producing its newsletter. The image immediately conjures an emotion, making the reader invested right from the start.

The opening graphic in your email newsletter is like the welcome mat to the narrative you create within. Make sure it invites your readers in and tells them what they can expect. Maybe it says, “groundbreaking news” or “innovative ideas.” Or maybe it says, “If you’re pizza, Amazon, or Ryan Gosling, I’m home” (our favorite).

The NYT uses vivid imagery to conjure emotion in their emails.

Source. The striking image of grieving loved ones puts a face to the opioid crisis, driving home the individual impact of the headline.


3. Clear sections and clean design

The Morning makes it clear what its readers can expect in each section with descriptive section headers and clear dividing lines. The simple black and white print is not only reminiscent of its newspaper roots but also makes its content easily legible.

So maybe a straightforward black-and-white design doesn’t fit your brand or audience but maintaining legibility is still key. This includes taking into account the 49% of users reading email on a mobile device. Are your emails optimized for mobile? Is your content skimmable? Is the contrast between the font and background stark enough that it’s easy to read?

The NYT uses clear sections so readers know what to expect morning by morning.

Source. Each The Morning newsletter opens with a header, the author’s name, and then the lead story, separated by a thick dividing line. Similarly, the rest of the newsletter is broken into sections by a thick black line and section title. The sections are divided by news, opinion pieces, books, Times Magazine content, and games, so the reader can easily skip to the sections that interest them the most.


4. Timely and comprehensive content

The Morning gives readers everything they need to carry on conversations about culture and world events. It features events that are happening currently but also provides resources to understand upcoming news-worthy topics. The newsletter also explores cultural moments in time such as food, literature, art, and entertainment.

Even if your business is not reporting the news, it’s worth taking a note from The New York Times when it comes to timeliness cultural relevance in your content. This might look like making sure your promotions are in line with current holidays, your event reminders give your audience enough notice to act, and your voice and tone are in line with cultural trends.

Readers rely on The Morning to get news that's relevant and comprehensive.

Source. The Morning features a headlining story each day that highlights a major current event before moving into the culture and entertainment sections. No need to wonder what everyone is talking about around the water cooler when you get The Morning every … well, morning.


5. Authoritative voice and tone

Even the most renowned newspapers in the world have to maintain authority and trust with their readership. Most major news organizations try to distance their journalists from their work to promote the idea of unbiased news. However, The New York Times takes a unique stance in its newsletter by having each one “hosted” by one of its renowned journalists. This builds a personal connection with the reader and establishes trust and credibility by having a respected name on the byline.

In addition to naming the writer, the content is written in a strong authoritative voice and tone. There are no qualifying statements or punches pulled; the writers take a clear stance in every issue.

You may not be a leader in political or cultural opinion, but you do have the opportunity to be an authoritative voice in your industry niche. Own your space, take a stance on industry practices or trends, and challenge the status quo. Make a statement your readers will not only remember you for but come back for.

The NYT writes in a way that demonstrates their knowledge and authority on a given topic.

Source. The New York Times is not above questioning even commonly held beliefs about “science.” No topic or entity is too big for it to address; journalists write with the authority of an organization that leads public opinion.


Create your iconic newsletter

You may not be The New York Times, but you can still create unforgettable newsletters that subscribers will come back for and share. Good newsletters can promote their email enough to build a list, but great newsletters will grow themselves. Get started creating yours today with our easy drag-and-drop templates that will make your newsletter stand out in the crowd.

The post What Makes NYT’s “The Morning” Newsletter One of the Most Popular in the World appeared first on Campaign Monitor.

- Campaign Monitor
How to Find the Best Time to Send an Email Newsletter to Your Audience

It’s the age-old debate of every email marketing conversation: “when is the best time to send an email newsletter?” The answer is — there isn’t one best time. Yes, you read that right. If you want to increase email engagement rates, it’s not as simple as picking a certain day or time.

Similar to Farmers Insurance, “we know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two” when it comes to email marketing. Every year, we study over 100 billion emails to curate an annual report about email marketing trends and engagement. And do you know what we’ve found? The best time to send an email newsletter varies by industry, audience, and engagement goals. There is no one-size-fits-all time to send an email newsletter.

The core of email marketing engagement is a newsletter tailored to your product, brand, and target audience. To accomplish this, it’s essential to continually test, analyze, and optimize your email campaigns. What does this look like in real-time? Let’s dig in.

Test your emails

The foundation to perfecting email engagement is testing what works and doesn’t work for your audience in every aspect. This includes testing the time of day you send, subject lines, copy, graphics, and other key elements of the email.

Note that this may be different for each audience segment, product, and type of email (i.e., feature announcement vs. welcome email) you send. It may sound overwhelming to test so many things with multiple segments, but thankfully there’s a systematic way to approach email tests that will simplify uncovering trends: A/B testing.

1. Segment your email subscriber list

To segment your subscriber list, divide your email list into smaller lists according to key characteristics, such as demographic, business type, purchase behavior, or location. Segments will allow you to see what has the most impact on each brand audience as well as provide more targeted email marketing in the future.

Ideally, your email marketing platform should have a segmentation tool that will make it easy to do. Here’s how it works on Campaign Monitor’s platform.

2. Form a hypothesis

Once you have segmented lists, it’s time to form a hypothesis, or “educated guess,” just like you would in a scientific test. To develop your hypothesis, first pick a segment of your list to focus on, then pick a single element to test that’s key for that group.

For example, you may make an educated guess about what the outcome would be of changing the time you send welcome emails. Similar to setting a goal, your hypothesis should be S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timebound). In this case, your hypothesis could be “sending welcome emails within 10 minutes of a user joining will increase email open rates by 6% over the next three months with the new user segment.”

3. Split each segment into an “A” and “B” test group

Now that you’ve formed your hypothesis, split the subscriber segment in two: an “A” group for your control group and a “B” group for your test group.

Split the segment equally at random to ensure the results aren’t skewed one way or the other. The easiest way to achieve random group selection is to use an email service provider (ESP) that has built-in A/B testing.

Assess if each group is large enough to provide statistically significant results to ensure the most accurate data. If the groups are too small or not varied enough, the test will be prone to just reflect the results of randomness. Whereas a larger group will increase the accuracy of results by reducing the probability of randomness.

A statistically significant group is determined by a few factors and a lot of math. If you’re not a statistician or just don’t like doing math (because who does?), you can easily find the right size by using an A/B test calculator. A good starting size is usually at least 1,000 subscribers, but again, that can be lower or higher depending on the test and the subscriber list.

4. Create “A” and “B” test assets

To test a specific aspect of your email, create two variations of the same email with just that single element changed to reflect your hypothesis.

For example, create two identical welcome emails, but send one at the time you typically send your welcome emails and one at the time reflected in your hypothesis. Following the hypothesis example above: if you typically send your welcome emails two days after the user joins, send your control email at this time. Your test group email could be sent 10 minutes after the new user joins to test the effectiveness against your baseline results from your control group.

The only thing different between the two emails should be the time you sent them. If you were to test more than one element, it is called multivariate testing. For example, a multivariate test would be if you were testing both the time the email is sent and different subject line. You should only use multivariate testing when you are testing combinations of different elements. And it’s best to implement multivariate testing only after testing each individual element.

For example, after you test and find the most effective time to send your email, you can then combine it with winning subject lines to measure the combined impact. If you attempt to test all aspects of an email at the same time, it can be difficult to determine which is contributing positively or negatively to the overall outcome.

5. Run your test on a platform that can measure results

Now it’s finally time to hit play on your test. Make sure you send your email from an ESP that has a strong analytics dashboard so you can easily measure and assess the results. Remember to isolate all variables except the one you’re testing. So if you’re testing send times, don’t write different subject lines and send on different days of the week or different times of day. Include the same subject lines in both emails, and just change the time sent.

Analyze the data

Once you’ve run your test, it’s time to assess the outcomes and determine if your hypothesis was correct or not. When testing the hypothesis above, for example, look at open rates for each email segment to measure the impact of send time. Whichever group had the highest open rate would be the “winner.”

If you’re using an ESP that has built-in A/B testing, the platform should do most of the hard work for you. For example, in Campaign Monitor’s A/B test analytics dashboard, you can view graphs of your results and conversion values all at the same time. image.png

In addition to analyzing the results as they pertain to the individual test, assess the results in light of your overall email newsletter performance. This will allow you to gain further insights into the potential impact it could have on other email segments. For example, if a personalized subject line increased open rates with new customers, consider running the same test with other list segments.

Optimize based on the results

The data you gather and analyze will only go as far as you implement it. The key to long-term vitality is to implement the changes indicated by the test results as well as continuously iterate on them. Your audience’s needs change, your brand will likely evolve, and, as such, your email marketing campaigns need to adapt. To effectively adapt, A/B testing should be an ongoing practice.

Note that how you choose to optimize your email will have varying impacts. Therefore, it’s essential to set a clear primary goal before making changes to your email marketing. Our research has found that the best day and the perfect time to send an email is not only subjective to your industry but also to your goals.

For example, Mondays, on average, have the highest open rates, but Tuesdays have the highest click-through rate (CTR). So, if your goal is higher open rates, Monday may be a better day. But if a higher CTR is your goal, then a better bet would be Tuesday. All of this is subjective to your industry and audience, so it’s important to test this with your specific email list. image.png

It’s also important to tailor your changes to each audience segment because, again, email optimization is largely dependent on the audience. Sweeping, universal changes to your email marketing are typically less effective. They must be personalized and tailored to each audience segment’s needs to drive the greatest impact. In fact, according to research by Accenture, 91% of consumers are more likely to shop with a brand that offers a personalized experience.

Uncover the data that will tell you the right time to send an email newsletter for your audience

Campaign Monitor is the email marketing platform built for real marketing professionals. Our email marketing analytics uncover the trends that a winning email marketing strategy is built on.

Discover the trends specific to your audience in your own Campaign Monitor dashboard. You won’t see any gimmicky email functions, cutesy monkeys, or best guesses here. Instead, you’ll get real-time data that gives you a clear direction on what your customers want and need. You won’t just find the best time to send them emails; you’ll discover what makes your audience convert.

The post How to Find the Best Time to Send an Email Newsletter to Your Audience appeared first on Campaign Monitor.

- Campaign Monitor

Email newsletters often don’t bring immediate conversions or sales. They take significant time and resources to create. Is it even worth it to launch one?

Those in the know think so. The Content Marketing Institute’s 2021 B2C content marketing report found nearly 3 in 4 marketers use email newsletters. Among those who run at least two types of content marketing campaigns, 26% say newsletters are the most effective.

Email newsletters are an essential marketing tool for sharing information that goes beyond your products and services. People trust brands that fulfill the trifecta of strong products, a good customer experience, and support of social issues that align with their own. This trust leads to increased sales and loyalty, which is why newsletters are worth the investment.

The question isn’t whether it’s worth it to launch a newsletter; it’s whether you can afford to not have one. However, building a newsletter from scratch is no easy task. This post outlines everything you need to know about how to make an effective newsletter. It’s not just about writing, either — these tips cover everything you’ll need to go from initial idea to successful launch.

Phase 1: Set the groundwork before you start writing

Content creation and distribution are two separate operations, but you have to consider both at the same time. Set up everything you need to send your email beforehand to make a process you can easily replicate in the future.

Choose an email newsletter service

First things first: Don’t try to send your newsletter manually using Gmail, Outlook, or any other standard email service provider. Google Workspace limits senders to 500 external recipients (people outside your company) per message and 3,000 per day. It’s not a scalable solution, nor does it have important tools like email templates, segmentation capabilities, or analytics. You’ll run into similar restraints with any app that’s not dedicated to email campaigns.

Your email newsletter service should have an easy drag-and-drop editor, come with sign-up forms, and be built for collaboration so even a well-meaning blunderer like Michael Scott could get great results. Campaign Monitor offers all these features, plus automation, real-time analytics, and more, for a competitive price.

Make a strategy and set a schedule

The first step in planning an email newsletter is choosing a subject matter that’s both interesting to your audience and relevant to your company. You also need to decide when to send your newsletter. You don’t want to send too often (and annoy your subscribers) or too infrequently (and have them forget why they’re on your list). Just make sure your installments go out on a set schedule.

When it comes to timing your send, no one rule works for everyone. Campaign Monitor comes with testing capabilities and analytics that help you determine the best time to send to your customers. You can build off your existing email marketing strategy, and use practices you already know are successful.

Start building your subscriber list

A newsletter can only help your marketing efforts if people read it, which means you need subscribers before you start sending. You may already have customer emails from previous list-building campaigns. If you don’t, use these effective tactics to bring in new subscribers:

Incentivize sign-ups Run contests or sweepstakes Set up data capture forms and pop-ups on your site and landing pages Use social media (or other digital marketing techniques)

The easier you make it for people to subscribe to your newsletter, the more success you’ll have.

Don’t ever buy an email list to get more readers. Purchased subscribers are much more likely to flag your newsletter as spam and tank your deliverability.

Make sure you understand the laws

From CAN-SPAM to the GDPR and beyond, email marketing is regulated by multiple laws worldwide. Make sure you understand email legislation and follow it to the letter to avoid fines.

Some legal requirements, like getting consent from people before emailing them and including an unsubscribe link in every message, are common sense. Others require more technical knowledge. Campaign Monitor has tools to help you comply with major legislation like the GDPR.

Phase 2: Focus on strong content and design

The copy and design of your newsletter should work together to support its theme and reflect your brand identity. Your first newsletter needs to set the tone, as it will be a template for all future installments. Take the time upfront to make a process you can easily repeat.

There are a lot of decisions to make at this stage. You don’t have to make them all alone. Rely on the advice of experts who have been where you are.

Choose and customize an email newsletter template

Save time on your email design by using a free email template for newsletters. Choose one that works for the type of content you want to share and then customize it. Our email newsletter design tips can help anyone make a newsletter template look like their own.

If you get stuck during the newsletter process, try looking at our favorite resources for inspiration:

The Campaign Monitor email gallery Really Good Emails Milled Email Newsletter Examples Dribbble

Still having trouble? Try to find a different template that better fits your needs. This is frustrating, but it’s better to take time to find the right template than to struggle with design and layout every month.

Keep your content interesting and relatable

The only reason subscribers will engage with your newsletter is if its content is valuable to them. When looking for topics for your next newsletter, consider ideas that are:

Useful Timely Newsworthy Personalized

Depending on the size of your email list and the depth of your resources, you might want to create different newsletters for different segments. Most beginners — and those working in smaller departments — won’t have time to create content that’s personalized with that much depth. However, you should still use basic personalization, like customers’ names, to connect with readers.

Creating content regularly often leads to writer’s block. Don’t worry if you’re struggling — just refer to our list of 50 engaging newsletter ideas, which range from new product announcements to case studies to user-generated content. Or, you can check out some fabulous examples and get a breakdown of why they work from our list of 15 of the best email newsletter examples we’ve seen.

Make sure your newsletter has all the necessary elements

Email newsletters aren’t just about the body content. Don’t forget the other parts of your message. While they may take up less space, they’re just as essential to your newsletter’s success:

A subject line that follows best practices to boost your open rate A preheader that complements your subject line and offers another hook A CTA, whether you want readers to click through to your blog, send feedback, or engage in some other way An email footer that helps you follow legal requirements and meet reader expectations

These elements are the ones readers use to judge whether they should engage further with what you’ve sent. Take time to execute them well if you want your newsletter to succeed.

Phase 3: Test and optimize on an ongoing basis

Verifying everything in your email works before you send matters just as much as A/B testing and looking back at analytics afterward. Each installment you send is an opportunity to improve on your process and your results.

Pre-send tests should include email list maintenance, content optimization, and email previews. These 17 low-budget email testing tools can help you cover all the major bases. Set up a good workflow to automate as much of the testing as possible.

After you’ve sent, the only thing to do is wait for the results to come in. Your KPIs should match the goal of your newsletter; whatever your chosen metrics are, make sure you faithfully track them. Our 2022 email marketing benchmarks can help you compare your open rates, click-through rates, click-to-open rates, and unsubscribe rates to senders across 18 industries.

Be ready to keep learning

You don’t have to stick to the rules you set for yourself in the beginning if they don’t perform as expected. Don’t be afraid to experiment by adding new content or retiring sections that aren’t resonating with your readers. It’s hard to send a quality newsletter, and sometimes it takes time for new attempts to really find their groove.

The most important thing you can do is listen to your readers to learn how you can better serve them.

The post The Ultimate Guide to Writing Your First Email Newsletter appeared first on Campaign Monitor.

- Campaign Monitor
What to Put in Your Email Footer (+5 Examples We Love)

When it comes to email marketing, you probably spend most of your time thinking about the message you want to get across. You’re likely to focus your energy on crafting the perfect copy, as well as including compelling images.

Don’t let your attention to the body of the email come at the expense of important structural elements, like footers, though. Email footers may not be the first thing you think of when creating emails to send to your subscribers, but they’re an essential piece of the puzzle.

The footer won’t get the attention of your readers before they open the email, but it may be their last impression—especially if your readers are considering unsubscribing. A good email footer should include legal elements, tell your readers how to get in touch, and double down on your branding. A great one can unexpectedly delight your audience and invite more interaction.

Read on for instructions and examples to help you design an email footer that will strengthen your brand and improve your customers’ experience.

What is an email footer?

The footer of your email is located at the very end of your email. It comes after all the body content, including your email signature. It may be as basic as your company’s address and an unsubscribe link, or it might have useful details like contact information, social links, or legal disclaimers.

A two-line email footer. The top line has three links: "Unsubscribe From This Email - Manage All Notifications - Help". The second line reads "Skillshare, 407 Broome Street, New York NY 10013".



If you haven’t planned and standardized your email footer, it’s past time to do so. You’ll save valuable time when you no longer have to think about where and how to include basic details with each new email message. Plus, customers expect robust email footers, and making one that hits the mark will prevent frustration with your brand.

What should I put in my email footer?

Email footers are a great place for including information required by spam and privacy laws. They’re also a good place to connect with your readers. Here are the elements you should consider including.

Legally required footer elements

Your business must include certain information in your footer to stay on the right side of the CAN-SPAM Act, the GDPR, and other laws that protect consumer rights. No matter what, make sure you always include:

Your company’s physical address (or another mailing address you can be reached at) An unsubscribe (or email preferences) link A link to your privacy policy

If industry regulations require you to include legal disclaimers, your footer is a great place to put them. You may also want to include a copyright notice, though you don’t have to do so for your email to have copyright protection.

Optional (but useful) footer elements

Along with the legalities, you can use your footer as a hub for reader interactions. Footers are the best place to put utility items like:

Social media buttons and a website link: In case your readers need help or just want to learn more, give them a place to go that isn’t email. A subscription reminder: Tell consumers when and how they signed up for your list to preempt untrue accusations of spam. CTAs: Build your list and audience by including a referral link or a suggestion to forward the email to someone who might like it. A view-in-browser link: If your message isn’t displaying well in someone’s email client, they can follow this link to view it as an HTML web page. A safelist request: Ask readers to add you to their address book to stay out of spam folders and improve your overall deliverability. Company branding: Your company name, logo or wordmark, tagline, and other brand assets can make the footer recognizably yours. Examples of custom email footers and what we love about them

Email footers may be a standardized medium, but that doesn’t mean you should settle for being like everyone else. Personalize whatever elements you choose to include in a way that’s true to your brand. Here are five great customized email footers to inspire you.

1. Highlight your company values like United by Blue.

Lifestyle company United by Blue does a great job of communicating what they stand for. The company sells outdoor gear that’s durable and reliable, which they state in their footer. They also appeal to their audience of nature lovers by sharing how they’re involved in taking care of the planet.

Customers know where to go for help, thanks to the prominence of United by Blue’s phone number and hours of business. Everything is organized and easy to find, and they have their hashtag, so you can find the company on social media.

United by Blue sells outdoor gear that’s reliable and durable. In their email footer, the business includes the motto they live by, staying on brand. They also make it easy for their customers to get help by including their phone number and hours of business. Everything is organized, easy to find, and they have their hashtag to find them on social media.



Takeaway: Include relevant information for customers, such as valuable contact information and brand positioning that reminds them why they’re a fan.

2. Share your business personality like Moosejaw.

Moosejaw keeps their disclaimers lively by including subheads that let their company’s fun (and sarcastic/irreverent) voice shine. They even thank subscribers afterward for making it that far down in the email.

Their footer includes a link to their privacy policies, a link to an email preference center, and an easy-to-find unsubscribe link. Plus, the link to a picture of a giraffe does, in fact, go to a picture of a giraffe.

They also have a link to their privacy policies, a link to an email preference center, and an easy-to-find unsubscribe link. Plus, the link to a picture of a giraffe does, in fact, go to a picture of a giraffe.



Takeaway: Comply with the law, but don’t be afraid to make disclaimers your own.

3. Add brand imagery like Alaska Airlines.

Alaska Airlines makes their email footers stand out by sticking to their branding. They don’t include their wordmark, but anyone who’s flown with them will recognize the image that features on their aircraft’s tails. They also have a fun way of asking their subscribers to follow them on social media.

Alaska Airlines – Email Marketing – Footer with Image



Takeaway: Using your brand assets and voice is a great way to make your email footer feel unique.

4. Include an email preference link like Patagonia.

Patagonia shows they respect their subscribers by linking to their email preferences center with a promise that their emails will be more relevant for those who share their information. They also remind readers what’s so great about Patagonia by including links to a few of their community-oriented programs.

Patagonia – Email Preference Link Footer



Takeaway: Having a link to your email preference center in your footer is a great way to give your readers control over how you communicate with them.

5. Share your company mission like MiiR.

MiiR makes their company’s mission a big part of their footer to remind subscribers who they are and what they stand for. They also have all the required information, but they’ve made their unsubscribe message friendly and nice.

Miir – Email Footer – Company Values Footer



Takeaway: Strengthen your brand by making your company’s objective clear in your email footer.

Email footers are just one part of a great message

These email footer examples and tips can help you get started with crafting a high-performing email. Take that knowledge further with our advice on creating compelling copy and optimized headers, footers, and CTAs for email campaigns that are sure to perform.

Try out Campaign Monitor today to play with our range of flexible options for editing your footers – you can choose a layout; customize text color, font, and size; add a logo; add hyperlinks; customize the background color, and more.

The post What to Put in Your Email Footer (+5 Examples We Love) appeared first on Campaign Monitor.

- Campaign Monitor
How Amanda Natividad Got Her First 1,000 Newsletter Subscribers

When Amanda Natividad started her newsletter, the VP of marketing at SparkToro and classically trained chef focused mostly on the craft of creating a strong newsletter. Six months in, she had a repeatable format she was comfortable with, a steady cadence…and only 400 followers.

All her hard work deserved a bigger audience. Amanda turned to her considerable marketing experience and created a newsletter growth plan. She reached 1,000 subscribers a month and a half later.

Today, she has 2,600 readers and gains around 500 more each month. Here’s the method that helped Amanda gain 600 new subscribers in six weeks — and can help you, too.

Plan a sustainable format

Consistency is essential to building a successful newsletter. Before you write your first email, decide what you want to send and how often. The most important thing is finding a schedule you can stick to.

It might take some time to figure out what works. If the format you chose is causing you stress, keep iterating until you find one you can stick to. Swap out a section you never have enough content for in favor of something more flexible or send less often than you initially intended.

[I]f you aren’t sure whether you’ve found your groove, keep testing new things.

“And if you aren’t sure whether you’ve found your groove, keep testing new things,” Amanda advises. “Not just new ideas, but test your schedule, writing cadence, try seeing if publishing ahead of time begets new ideas for a newsletter.”

Amanda’s newsletter has been through multiple changes since it launched. “I knew from the very beginning I wanted to have some curation element,” she said. But it took her a while to land on the name Petits Fours and the four-link format. At one point, she included screenshot interviews in each issue but dropped them because they took too much time. She can try new things without losing followers because she’s consistent in delivering high-quality, topical information.

Get an initial audience through existing networks

Your network can help you get your email list started, but you’ll need access to a bigger audience to continue growing. Even with word-of-mouth support from her initial subscribers, Amanda was limited in how many people she could reach. Her subscriber count started rising again when she looked to built-in social media audiences.

A screenshot of Amanda promoting her newsletter on her Twitter profile.

Amanda promoting her newsletter on Twitter.


She used her social media presence — largely on Twitter — to drum up interest for her newsletter. If you don’t have a lot of followers, reply to big accounts with fresh insights or funny observations. Follow up every attention-getting post with a plug for your newsletter. Twitter hashtag discussions can help you get traffic and earn new followers. Amanda also joined writing communities on and off Twitter to find support and subscribers.

Use early subscribers as beta testers

Your relationship with your audience shouldn’t be one-sided. Amanda A/B tested headlines and tracked link clicks to refine her content. The main metric she focused on was the open rate, which she got up to 60%. For reference, our latest benchmarking report found the average email open rate is 21.5%.

Amanda also solicited feedback by asking her subscribers questions. In fact, she still does “when it feels organic.” Only a small percentage of subscribers reply, but their comments can be invaluable. Sometimes, readers will respond without prompting if they have strong feelings about something: “One time, I skipped the recipe and instead offered a food tip, and 2 people replied to say they were bummed I didn’t send a recipe,” Amanda says. She’s doubled down on including recipes since then.

More people are rooting for you than you think.

The one thing Amanda wishes she’d tested was sending a shorter newsletter. “Sometimes I wonder if my newsletter is too long, but it might be strange to renege on length now that I have a few thousand subscribers,” she told us. However, her top takeaway had nothing to do with her content, scheduling, or newsletter logistics. “[The] biggest thing I learned is, truly, the importance of creating a safe space for yourself to test ideas,” Amanda said. “More people are rooting for you than you think.”

Incentivize signups (and make them easy)

Even engaged followers are unlikely to take your word that they should sign up for your newsletter. Amanda offered value with signup magnets. She didn’t go the traditional route of giving a downloadable resource to anyone who shared their email. She told her Twitter followers they’d get her recipe for Bulgogi Shepherd’s Pie if they signed up before she sent her next email. Seventy of them joined that day. It wasn’t an offer she could use more than once, but it did provide a sense of urgency.

For subscribers who don’t see the incentives she tweets, Amanda shows exactly what her newsletter provides. Her website, amandanat.com, has copies of every newsletter she’s sent. Offer free previews, so readers can see what they’re signing up for before committing.

The easier your signup form is to complete, the more subscribers you’ll get. Amanda sends emails through Revue, which is owned by Twitter. As a Twitter user, she loves how anyone who finds her on Twitter can sign up for her newsletter with one click.

Elements of a good newsletter signup page

How can your signup page reduce risk and make it easy for new readers to subscribe? Here’s what Amanda Natividad recommends:

Set expectations: Tell a reader exactly what they’ll get when they share their email and offer sample content for them to view before signing up. Prove credibility: Amanda mentions her culinary school training and tech/marketing work to show she knows what she’s talking about. Provide social proof: Share the size of your email list or reviews to prove your subscribers are benefitting from your newsletter. Create opportunities to promote yourself

Reach beyond your audience by appearing on podcasts, writing guest posts, or contributing to other credible media within your niche. Choose promotional efforts that benefit you and another creator in your niche for the biggest effects.

Every external marketing opportunity needs to have a double purpose or else I can’t commit.

The size of your audience and the amount of time you have to spend on promoting yourself will shape the types of opportunities you should look for. Here are Amanda’s recommended methods:

Co-marketing: Use your newsletter to recommend and link to other newsletters in the same subject area. You’ll likely get a shoutout in return, especially if you know the writer. Podcast appearances: Reach out to podcasters to see if they’re looking for guests and tell them you’ll cross-promote your episode to your email list. Then mention your newsletter during recording. Guest posts: Reach out to bloggers or newsletter writers and offer to contribute a guest post. Make sure your name is prominently attached, and add a link to your newsletter. Webinars: Partner with a friend to host a webinar. After you’ve won over attendees with your expertise, mention your newsletter and invite them to subscribe.

Cross-promotional opportunities can also help you come up with ideas for your own newsletter. Write an entire issue about something you discussed on a podcast, or add an excerpt from your guest post to your next newsletter.

Amanda now considers how opportunities can boost her personal brand or that of SparkToro, where she currently works. “Every external marketing opportunity (like a podcast or webinar) needs to have a double purpose (say, to promote SparkToro AND serve as inspiration for a Twitter thread for my personal account) or else I can’t commit,” she says.

Be careful not to stretch yourself too thin. Amanda learned the hard way that taking every opportunity means losing time she’d like to spend on other pursuits. She advises writers to “block times on your calendar for serendipitous opportunities (like potential podcast appearances), and STICK TO IT.” While too many opportunities may sound like a good problem to have, you don’t want your newsletter (or other commitments) to suffer because you’re too busy.

Anyone can start a successful newsletter

Everything Amanda did is replicable if you’re willing to put in the work. You will see a return on investment for the effort you expend to promote yourself and your newsletter.

The most valuable thing you can give your newsletter is time. “I spend maybe 2 hours on each newsletter edition, the day of the send. The fastest I’ve been able to do this is just over 1 hour,” Amanda shared.

She’s also constantly thinking about how to improve her emails. “Now that you ask me, I might always be testing a new section. You might see me experimenting with new ways to promote my YouTube show in the near future,” she told us.

You can see her new efforts for yourself by subscribing to The Menu or following her on Twitter at @amandanat.


The post How Amanda Natividad Got Her First 1,000 Newsletter Subscribers appeared first on Campaign Monitor.

- Campaign Monitor
10 Features Michael Scott Would Look for in an Email Newsletter Service

Learn what everyone’s favorite boss would look for if he was tasked with picking an email newsletter service.

Michael Scott, a character from the hit TV show The Office, is best known for his inappropriate (though humorous) office conduct. And while it’s probably not recommended to do most things he does, we can learn a thing or two from him. There are a lot of hard decisions to make when you run a business like Dunder Mifflin, and Scott takes on each one with a fresh and enthusiastic approach.

One of the most crucial decisions a company can make is choosing the right email newsletter service. A strong email newsletter is essential to growing your business. It is one of only a few owned media channels companies have. Email allows you to directly and consistently reach prospects and customers without the limitations of a hosting platform’s algorithm or other limitations.

Basically, your email newsletter service is a big deal. And as Scott says, when it comes to growing your business, the only time you should set the bar low is for limbo. To set the bar high for your email newsletter service, look at the core functions that contribute to a great email newsletter.

1. Collaboration



“In the end, life and business are about human connections,” says Scott, which couldn’t be more true when it comes to email marketing campaigns. Without the ability to collaborate easily, teams will find themselves duplicating work, producing less diverse or less inspiring content, and ultimately becoming less effective.

According to Gartner, “building more synergistic relationships across the organization to better communicate digital marketing vision” was cited as marketing leaders’ greatest challenge. The ability to connect with your team and collaborate on content is essential to producing timely and impactful newsletters.

So, when choosing your email marketing service, look for one that provides easy collaboration among your team. In Campaign Monitor’s email marketing software, you can use tags to assign team members and categorize campaigns by date, type, audience segments, and more. This makes it easy for team members to find relevant email campaigns and work together on content.

2. Signup forms



If Scott learned anything from trying to get an intern to sign up at a job fair, it’s the importance of an effective signup form. “[People] are very wary of being lured,” Scott points out. Your signup form represents your company. Its importance is equivalent to Dunder Mifflin having their signup sheet on their own quality paper — not “some Pendleton crap.” If your audience doesn’t immediately see the value of sharing their personal information with you, they’re not likely to sign up for your newsletter.

The basis of a great newsletter is an engaged subscriber list, which starts with intuitive signup forms. Intuitive signup forms are easy to navigate and integrate with multiple marketing channel platforms to draw your audience in wherever they find you. For example, maybe your newsletter sign-up is in the form of a website pop-up, or maybe it’s a branded landing page that you link to on social media.

Look for an email service provider that offers fully-customizable signup forms and landing pages that will reflect your brand image and value. Your signup form and landing page should make a promise to your audience about what they can expect from subscribing and showcase quality design and content.

3. Customization



Scott dances to the beat of his own drum. If there’s a standard way of doing something, he will do the exact opposite. He’ll always find a way to be the center of attention. In the words of his alter-ego “date Mike,” “let me do my thang!” In email marketing, you need to be able to “do your thang” to stand out in a crowded medium by customizing your emails.

With a forecasted 333.2 billion emails sent every day, you need to compete for your audience’s attention. Being competitive in email marketing includes customizing each email message to the individual subscriber. To customize your email messages, you’ll need to use an email marketing platform that enables you to segment your subscriber list and tailor the design to your brand.

Campaign Monitor’s email builder allows you to customize your email newsletters with the customer’s name, location, gender, interests, or other custom fields. Instead of a generic greeting in yet another marketing email, your subscribers can be invited in by a subject line that features their name and content tailored to their needs and wants. And personalization can have a significant impact on consumers. In fact, according to Accenture, consumers are over 90% more likely to shop when they have an experience personalized to them.

4. Automation



Whether it’s paper or his infamous catchphrase “that’s what she said,” Scott is always keen on delivery. Similarly, email delivery takes finesse to achieve the greatest impact. Marketing automation is the key to delivering email at the most opportune moment in your customer’s journey. Automation takes email list segmentation to the next level by personalizing the timeliness of delivery through app integrations.

For example, through e-commerce store integrations, you can automate transactional emails after a purchase is made or with CRM integrations that automate welcome emails. Automation features can send emails at the most crucial moments in the customer journey. Automation frees your team up to focus on larger initiatives like long-term retention and product offers while still maintaining the customer connection.

In addition, automation can improve email deliverability rates by enabling delivery throttling. Delivery throttling is when you send your email in small waves to avoid hitting rate limits or getting marked as spam by email service providers (ESPs). With automation, you can easily set the parameters for send times, hit play, and get back to running your business.

5. A/B Testing



A/B testing (also called split testing) is to marketing teams what gift-giving is to Scott. It’s a litmus test for what your audience is responding to. A strong email marketing tool should give clear attribution to specific elements so you can optimize your marketing strategy accordingly. In the immortal words of Scott, “It’s like this tangible thing that you can point to and say ‘hey, man, I love you this many dollars worth.’”

Rather than making assumptions based on general email performance, A/B testing allows teams to optimize based on tangible data. It’s imperative your email newsletter service has the capability to run A/B tests, determine results, and automate optimization accordingly.

This means you should be able to send two versions of an email campaign to a portion of your subscriber list. And then, after a set period, the platform should be able to determine the best one based on whatever KPI you set. Once it determines a winner, automation should trigger the winning email to be sent to the remaining audience.

A/B testing allows you to create something your audience engages with and continually improve upon it. Just like Scott’s advice to beet-farming Dwight Shrute, “Nobody likes beets boring emails, Dwight! Why don’t you grow send something that everybody does like? You should grow candy send something that’s proven to be engaging.”

6. Real-time analytics



The success of your email campaigns will only be as strong as your ability to track overall performance and conversions. If you can’t track this data in real time, it’s difficult to estimate the business impact of your newsletter. And if there’s one thing Scott hates, it’s being underestimated. To grow your audience and business, you need granular information about engagement and performance.

A good email service will make analyzing your email performance easy by not just measuring KPIs but surfacing actionable insights to build on. Email analytics should allow you to compare your email marketing performance to other channels so you can gain a holistic view of audience engagement. With a complete view, you can then build comprehensive strategies to increase your bottom line.

For example, when you have annual data in view, you can uncover seasonal trends in the data. Once you identify trends, you can better understand what type of content will perform the best and adjust your content calendar to optimize for conversions.

7. Email templates



While Scott definitely has his fair share of unique ideas (i.e., fake firings, the golden ticket idea), when he needs an idea with a quick turnaround, he often will look outside himself. For example, when he needs help coming up with an idea to fulfill his lifelong dream of leaving his mark in wet cement, he asks his employees.

When it comes to delivering impactful email marketing, quick turnarounds are often the name of the game, which is where email templates come in. Rather than wasting time building every email from scratch, email templates provide proven designs you can customize on the fly.

Better yet, if you use an email marketing tool like Campaign Monitor’s custom template builder, all you have to do to get a customized template is enter your company’s URL. The tool will identify logos, brand colors, and fonts and then build a template perfectly tailored to your brand.

8. Ease of use



Scott is not a man of nuance, and when it comes to technical explanations, he’d rather just keep it simple. Preferably the kind of simple that also helps him avoid working or thinking too hard. In Scott’s own words, “Why don’t you explain this to me like I’m five.” If he were choosing an email service provider, it would be one with a simple, easy-to-use interface.

Your email service provider should be making your life easier, not causing more headaches. If you want to customize something, you should be able to drag and drop exactly what you need without complicated HTML or CSS codes or a janky workaround. You’re a professional with too many things on your plate to be wasting time on an email service platform that doesn’t work for you.

Campaign Monitor’s drag-and-drop editor, free templates, and developer tools like our CSS inline generator make designing one-of-kind emails easy even for beginners.

9. Automated link review



We’ve all been there: you work for days on perfecting the design and messaging of an email newsletter, do a final grammar check, and hit send. And then you get a response. Only it’s not the response you’re hoping for; it’s the dreaded “ Ummm… the link isn’t working” response. After all that effort, all you can do is shake your head in defeat with Scott and say, “I tried!”

But there’s a better way. With automated link review, your email service provider can catch those broken links before you ever hit send. So, when you do hit send, you can rest assured the only responses you’ll get are the ones saying how great your newsletter was. To which you can reply as confidently as Scott, “I am Beyonce, always.”

10. Price-conscious



If there’s one thing Michael values, it’s a good deal. “I basically decorated my condo for free with all of my swag,” Scott brags after sharing the true definition of SWAG (Stuff We All Get). While a strong email marketing platform is invaluable, it is important to know that your investment is worth it. It’s especially important for small businesses and startups that have to be extra budget-conscious.

Campaign Monitor allows you to try its tool out with a free plan, so you can be certain it’s a good fit before making the investment. And, if you choose to move to a paid plan, pricing is based on the size of your email list, so you’re not paying for what you don’t need.

Build your brand without wasting time and energy



If you have an inefficient email service provider, you might be “working so hard, [you] forgot what it’s like to be hardly working,” in the words of Scott. What you need is an email service provider built for busy professionals who have stuff to do. Campaign Monitor is here to make building high-converting email campaigns easy.

The post 10 Features Michael Scott Would Look for in an Email Newsletter Service appeared first on Campaign Monitor.

- Lily Tansey
Introducing Campaign Monitor SMS: a New Way to Connect and Convert

Today, audiences expect a lot from the brands they interact with. They want personalized, relevant communications delivered in a format that’s convenient, at a time that suits them.

Email has been an essential medium for this kind of communication for a long time, and at Campaign Monitor, we’ve helped thousands of brands across the world use email to deliver personal, impactful messages to their customers.

And today, we’re excited to add a new medium to the mix as we introduce Campaign Monitor SMS.

A New Way to Connect and Convert

SMS is a powerful, yet simple marketing tool that helps you drive stronger connections with your audience and drive higher conversions for your business. It’s the perfect addition to email – increase the speed of return on your marketing investment by encouraging immediate action from your subscribers. 

Whether you want to boost sales through limited-time offers, maximize contributions to a donation drive, or level up your customer service through satisfaction surveys, combining SMS with email creates additional touchpoints with your audience, drives urgency, and gives you the best chance of increasing engagement and conversion. 

Campaign Monitor SMS is built for busy marketers. Using the same intuitive campaign creation interface as email, you’ll find it easy to get your SMS campaigns up and running fast.

A look at the UI for Campaign Monitor SMS.


Be on the lookout for helpful resources from our team as well. Whether you’re wondering how to capture SMS permission and grow your list, write effective SMS copy, or follow SMS best practices, our team is here to help you along the way.

Get Started With Campaign Monitor SMS

Ready to get started with SMS? Talk to our sales team to get a tour of how SMS works at Campaign Monitor, and learn how you can get started. Oh, and don’t forget to save your seat for our SMS launch event, where we’ll walk through how the feature works, and best practices for getting your SMS campaigns up and running.


The post Introducing Campaign Monitor SMS: a New Way to Connect and Convert appeared first on Campaign Monitor.

- Campaign Monitor
7 SMS Marketing Best Practices to Know Before You Hit “Send”

SMS marketing has quickly become an essential channel for businesses. Here are seven best practices to help you make the most of it.

If you’re like the average American, you spend around 36 minutes using your smartphone to text or call people every day. Most of these communications are done without a thought. However, the rapid-fire texting you do with your friends isn’t appropriate for marketing communications.

SMS marketing is one of the more interruptive ways of communicating with consumers because people feel compelled to read text messages. The 2020 Mobile Consumer Engagement report by Sinch found that 2 in 5 consumers have more than 50 unread emails in their inbox, but only around 2 in 50 have more than 50 unread texts. Many bulk SMS providers emphasize high open rates as one of the best features of text message marketing. We see it as a sign of higher stakes.

1. Comply with all laws and industry guidelines

Calling legal compliance an “SMS marketing best practice” may be generous, as it’s actually more of a necessity.

U.S. legislation, including CAN-SPAM and the TCPA, have clauses that apply to SMS message marketers. Many states have their own laws that apply to SMS marketing. You can download a state-by-state guide from the Contact Center Compliance Corporation. The CTIA’s Short Code Monitoring Handbook lays out more rules in its compliance framework.

Set yourself up for compliance by:

Getting documented permission from consumers before sending any text messages by explicitly asking for customer permission, and preserving it for at least six months after they’ve opted out of SMS communications Making your sign-up CTAs clear so consumers know what you’ll text them and how many messages they can expect each month Setting up a double opt-in, where consumers must respond to a text or click a link before they’re confirmed on your list (not legally required, but is a good practice) Including a disclaimer about message and data rates in your sign-up message, if not every SMS you send Including your company name in every message you send to identify it as a marketing communication Sending your texts during business hours — typically between 8 AM and 9 PM local time Including information about how to opt-out (Reply STOP to end or HELP for help.)

If you’re not sure whether a certain message is legal, err on the side of safety.

2. Use SMS for important and immediate messages

The best SMS marketing campaigns offer consistent value to everyone on your contact list. Send time-sensitive info (like a flash sale announcement) or critical updates (like shipping notifications or two-step authentication codes) via text to improve consumers’ relationships with your brand.

A text from Dressbarn that reads, “Dressbarn: BIG CLEARANCE SALE! Shop in the next 11 hours & get up to 80% OFF sales items with code CLR280! [link]”


We also recommend adding an element of exclusivity by rewarding subscribers with special offers. SMS-only coupons and free shipping are great perks to entice sign-ups and keep consumers on your list. Show readers the benefits of being on your list by including a clear CTA in each message.

3. Watch your send frequency

The optimal frequency for most text campaigns is one message a week. Start there — and then try varying your message cadence once you have a big enough contact list to gather meaningful data. If you know your target audience well, you might risk starting with a higher send frequency. Just don’t get too spammy. Upland data shows there’s a significant increase in unsubscribe rates once a brand reaches the threshold of 10-15 messages a month.

The reason message cadence is so important goes back to what we mentioned earlier about text messages interrupting your customers. Everything you send must be worth an immediate read. If it’s not, you’re betraying the trust your consumers put in you when they shared their phone numbers. Triggered marketing texts or automated message flows must be built with this in mind. Ask yourself whether drip campaigns and follow-ups are worth increasing the number of messages your customers receive.

Don’t forget to consider the best times to send a campaign, either. Generally, 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM local time is a good guideline — with audiences being most likely to engage between mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Sundays typically the least amount of engagement, so unless you have a particularly good, timely reason to send on a Sunday, it’s likely best to wait.

4. Be concise without sacrificing clarity

Do U want 2 rcv a msg that 👀 lyk dis from ur fave brand? Neither do we. Sure, there are only 160 characters to use and you want to make the most of them, but text speak is annoying and unprofessional. Avoid abbreviations where possible because they make texts harder to read. Stick to common ones if you must use them.

Take this example from Ulta: Instead of writing out “24-piece,” the company wrote “24 PC.” Most people can figure out what the message means, but it takes time to translate. The capitalization doesn’t help — a PC is, to most, a computer.

A text from Ulta Beauty that reads, “Get a FREE 24 PC Beauty Bag w/ any $70 online purchase. 👛 Choose from 2! 🧡Ulta Beauty [link]”



Make the best of your limited space by starting with something exciting. Flag a sale as “4 hours only!” or let SMS subscribers know when a deal is on its way out by telling them it’s their “LAST CALL” to shop. You can also just start with the goods. “BOGO” and “50% off” are things customers love to hear. Crafting the perfect SMS marketing message takes more time than you have characters, but doing it right pays off.

5. Lean into the conversational feeling

Your text message marketing efforts should respect the medium’s primary purpose: conversation. Readers should feel like you’re talking to them, not at them. SMS is a great place to bring your brand’s voice to life in a more personal way.

Start by using personalization and segmentation to send messages that reflect consumers’ interests and past behaviors. Then, write a text message, not a subject line. Messages should sound like they’re for one person rather than your entire marketing list.

The following efforts from bebe and Sally Beauty show why these details matter. One reads naturally and creates a connection with the customer. The other is a pain to scan and looks like a mass text sent by a computer.

A text message from bebe that reads, “bebe: Happy NYE, gorge! Use code: TAKE50 to save even more on sale styles you love. Exclusions apply. Shop Now > link”


A text message from Sally Beauty that reads: “SallyBeauty: We’re Leaving These Deals Behind & Saying Hello to 2022. Stock Up On End Of Year Deals To Jump Start The New Year & New You! [link]”



Autoresponders and transactional messages allow you to go above and beyond to create a true conversational experience. However, providing real-time responses takes more resources than one-way SMS blasts. Make sure you can commit to delivering a good experience if you enable two-way communications. It’s better to only run promotional campaigns than to mess up a conversational exchange.

6. Use SMS as part of an omnichannel strategy

Your SMS marketing strategy can benefit from integration with other marketing efforts. If you have a CX or CRM system, connect it to your SMS marketing software to take advantage of existing data and add new insights. The lessons you learn from other customer interactions can guide your text message marketing efforts. Likewise, SMS campaigns may surface interesting data points that point to new opportunities elsewhere.

Successful omnichannel marketing means sending the right message via the right medium. Not everyone will sign up for SMS, which means you can’t rely on it as a primary mode of reaching people. Given the other constraints we’ve discussed — namely message length and frequency limits — SMS works best when integrated with email, social media, and other marketing tools.

A table showing which situations you should use SMS, email, or both.

Email and SMS work best when they’re used strategically — picking the right medium for the right situation. This table shows some common use cases where you might opt for email, SMS, or both.


7. Test, test, test!

As is the case with any marketing channel, testing will be key to your success in SMS. As much as we as marketers like to think we know what will perform best, we’re all just guessing. The only way to learn about our audience and what they respond to is by testing.

This means trying out different types of offers, different text lengths, different send times — pretty much any variable you can think of — and seeing how your audience responds.

Rules are made to be broken

You can build SMS message marketing campaigns off existing customer data, but preferences aren’t interchangeable between vastly different channels. What works in emails may not work in texts. We suggest abiding by SMS marketing best practices until you have hard data that shows you should diverge from them. Stick to what everyone else does until your list is big enough to return meaningful insights.

All campaigns and marketing strategies evolve over time, and as consumers become more used to SMS marketing, their preferences may change. Keep testing what your audience responds to. Achieving a high open rate isn’t enough to win — it’s what you do with your customers’ attention once you have it that matters.

The post 7 SMS Marketing Best Practices to Know Before You Hit “Send” appeared first on Campaign Monitor.

- Campaign Monitor

Testing is critical to email marketing success. Here are some of our favorite email testing tools to help you get started.

The goal of any marketer is to get the right message to the right person at the right time — but to do that, you first have to consider what might go wrong. Some of the biggest issues that affect open and click-through rates can be tested before you hit “send.” Declining to optimize these aspects of your message hurts the chances of your email even making it to your customers.

Consistent testing is crucial for retaining subscribers and increasing engagement. The good news is, with the right email testing tools, you can automate almost everything you need to know. These tools provide comprehensive testing capabilities for marketing teams of any size with any budget. Make them a part of your workflow to improve your email marketing results.

Domain reputation and security tools

Deliverability measures how likely your messages are to make it to customers in the first place. It’s the first thing you should check because none of the other tests matter if people don’t see your emails. A low inbox placement percentage isn’t the end of the world, but it means you have some configurations to check and practices to update.

Your messages may be marked as spam based on their content or due to the reputation of your domain and mail server’s IP address. Your Sender Score, which tells you how likely your emails are to be sent to a spam folder, decreases if spam or phishing messages come from one of your domains. Securing your system and then testing your content against spam filters can decrease the likelihood of deliverability issues.

Our favorite email security and spam score tools are:

Sender Score from Validity is a free tool that shares the numeric score associated with your IP address. The site also offers a baseline to help you understand the results. A Sender Score above 80 is fantastic; below 70, you’ll want to take steps to repair your reputation. dmarcian’s DMARC Record Checker, free, allows you to view and validate your Domain-based Message, Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC) record. This protocol prevents spammers from spoofing emails from your domain. While you’re at it, run a free check on your SPF and DKIM records, which are also used by email providers to verify your identity. GlockApps DMARC Analytics, from $15/month, provides ongoing DMARC, SPF, and DKIM monitoring. This tool alerts you to suspicious activity, so you can shut it down before any damage is done. dmarcian, from $19.99/month, also monitors your DMARC, SPF, and DKIM records continuously and prevents spammers from using your domain. The platform also visualizes data rather than sending you raw XML logs. mail-tester newsletter spam test, a free service, generates an email address for you to send your message to. Then it analyzes your content and checks your back-end setup for configuration errors. SendForensics Email Deliverability Test, which has a freemium model, analyzes your emails and shares deliverability metrics and benchmarks for your target industry. Postmark spam test is a free, browser-based tool. All you do is paste your email into the text box for a free spam score from SpamAssassin. Postmark also offers a JSON API if you want an easy-to-use SpamAssassin setup that can be integrated into your existing tech stack. Email list verification tools

Verifying your email lists is a must to keep your emails out of spam folders and your email address off blacklists. High bounce rates and low open rates can both tank your sender reputation. Email list decay happens naturally, so email verification and list maintenance is a continual process.

Multiple tools offer this service. Though none are free, they charge one credit to check one address, so the cost is proportional to the size of your email list. We checked the price of 5,000 credits across multiple services to find the best budget-friendly email validation options:

Pabbly ($15) Emailable ($30) Clearout ($35) BriteVerify* ($40)

* offers Campaign Monitor integration

Content optimization tools

Your subject line is your first impression, and it may be your only one if it’s not interesting enough to prompt your reader to open the email. Give yourself the best chance of winning a customer over by using subject line testing tools to find the optimal word choice and length.

Likewise, the body content of your email has to be engaging, readable, and accessible if you want to convert customers. While you can use OS-level tools like Apple’s VoiceOver screen reader to check how assistive devices interact with your message, it’s much easier to use the following tools for a comprehensive check (and advice on how to fix any errors):

Grammarly, free, checks your grammar, spelling, and clarity beyond what Microsoft Word has to offer. Hemingway Editor, free, helps you improve readability by marking long or complex sentences, passive voice, and adverbs, among other content writing faux pas. Headline Analyzer, a free tool by CoSchedule, scores your subject line based on factors such as word balance, sentiment, and clarity. Send Check It Email Subject Line Tester, a free tool, offers a real-time evaluation that looks at aspects such as scannability and grade level. Even more valuable are its previewer, which mocks up your subject line in desktop and mobile views, and language checker, which looks for scammy or otherwise off-putting words. Accessible-email.org, free, opens your HTML email in a code editor and points to issues that may decrease accessibility. You can also link the online version of any past email campaign for a full report. Email preview and functionality testing tools

Optimizing an email for every screen size and client may be the most important thing you do in any email marketing campaign. More than 70% of people delete an email in under three seconds if it doesn’t look right on their device, and 15% go the nuclear route and unsubscribe entirely.

Your campaigns need to work across all operating systems, mobile apps, and desktop browsers. Apple’s iPhone mail app and Gmail currently have the majority of the market share, but you’ll miss a lot of customers if you only optimize your email design for these services. Complete uniformity is impossible when designing for multiple email clients and devices. Focus on usability and consistency instead. If everything looks professional, links are clickable, and the spacing is good, all your customers will have a good email experience.

You can test how emails render by sending to team members who use different devices or email clients, but inbox preview and validation tools offer a more thorough (and efficient) view. Some email services (including Campaign Monitor) have this capability built in. Unfortunately, most standalone services (like Litmus PutsMail and Email on Acid) are pricey. There’s one email testing tool that’s both affordable and has great functionality:

Testi@, which starts at $20/month, provides everything from email screenshots and HTML validation to a browser add-on. It’s also a pay-as-you-go service, so you can try it out without making a huge commitment. A roundup of the best email testing tools

In case you missed one, here’s a list of the tools we recommend for email testing and optimization: Domain reputation and security tools

Sender Score from Validity DMARC Record Checker dmarcian Glock Apps DMARC Analytics mail-tester newsletter spam test SendForensics Email Deliverability Test Postmark spam test

Email list verification tools

Pabbly Emailable Clearout BriteVerify

Content optimization tools

Grammarly Hemingway Editor Headline Analyzer Send Check It Email Subject Line Tester Accessible-email.org

Email preview and functionality testing tools

Testi@ Get to the top of your email marketing game

Once you’ve improved your email deliverability and open rates by running the pre-send tests listed above, it’s time for the next round of assessments. You can (and should) use A/B testing to determine which email content and presentation gets the best response from your audience.

The challenge — and the beauty — of email marketing is that you’re never done finding better ways to communicate with your audience. Skipped tests are lost opportunities to improve your engagement and conversion numbers. Don’t bypass the chance to make your next email marketing campaign the best yet. Take a few minutes today to set yourself up with the tools in this post, and you’ll reap the benefits again and again in the future.

The post The 17 Best Low-Budget and Free Email Testing Tools for 2022 appeared first on Campaign Monitor.

- Campaign Monitor
The Current State of MPP: Where Are We Now?

It’s been about six months since Apple released MPP to the public — going live in September of last year. And while we’ve learned a lot about this feature and how it works, email marketers have been left with a lot of questions as well.

What’s been happening during that time? How many people have opted into MPP? How is it affecting my metrics? How have email service providers (ESPs) responded?

Marketers are still concerned with privacy changes, and understandably so. With more inbox providers releasing their own privacy-related features, it feels like we’re at the beginning of a trend that will continue to impact marketers for the foreseeable future.

Let’s take a quick look at where things are at with MPP, and how we’ve been responding to those changes here at Campaign Monitor.

So, what’s the state of MPP?

A lot has happened since Apple released iOS 15 and Mail Privacy Protection back in September of 2021.

For those who don’t remember, Mail Privacy Protection is a new feature in iOS15 that essentially does two things:

Effectively disables open tracking, removing an email marketer’s ability to reliably track whether or not  Obscures the user’s IP address, removing an email marketer’s ability to know their location

MPP disables open tracking by pre-fetching (or downloading), emails and email images to each device, regardless of whether or not the user opens and reads the message. Email image pixels, which are used to track opens, are included in this download, meaning that the email will count as “opened”, even though the user didn’t open it.

The big questions for marketers once this feature was announced were: How many people are going to opt into this new feature? and How drastically will this affect open rates?

Six months in, we’re finally starting to get clarity to those questions.

How many people have opted into MPP?

It’s difficult to get a raw number, but we do know that over 75% of all Apple iPhone users are currently using iOS 15, and among them, about 97% have adopted MPP.

As you can imagine, that already makes up a large percentage of people. While we don’t know the exact number, SparkPost estimates that 40-50% of all email opens now come from MPP.

Has MPP started affecting open rates?

Definitely. If nearly half of all email opens are coming from MPP, we can be sure that not all of those people are actually opening those emails. In our 2022 Email Marketing Benchmarks report, you can see that open rates have risen steadily since MPP’s release.

Open rates in 2021, shown by month.

Looking at the data, there was a small uptick when Apple released the iOS 15 developer beta. Then again with the public beta. And then, open rates rise drastically and continually when MPP is released to the public.

These metrics confirm what a lot of email marketers (including us) speculated — that open rates have become far less reliable. 

How we’ve responded at Campaign Monitor

As an email service provider, we know that people like you rely on Campaign Monitor not only to send great email, but to analyze your campaigns and understand what’s working. With that in mind, we’ve made some changes to our platform to help you navigate this new, privacy-centered world.

Updated Clicked metrics

Given MPP impact on open rates, the click-to-open rate (CTOR) will become less reliable. Therefore, we’ve updated the “Clicked” metric on our summary pages to show the click rate rather than the CTOR. 

A pop-up showing click rate and click-to-open rate

You can still view the CTOR by selecting the info icon. The CTOR can also be found in our detailed reports including Insights and compare campaigns

Minimizing the impact of unreliable location data

We no longer record the location of a subscriber when we suspect it has been impacted by Apple MPP. This means that you’ll likely see more subscribers where the last known location is “unknown”, however, this will ensure that inaccurate location data does not impact features such as Worldview, time zone sending, or campaign reports.

Apple Privacy category in the Email Client Usage report

The email client usage report (campaigns and journey emails) gives you a breakdown of the different clients and devices that recipients are using to view your emails. We’ve added a new category, Apple Mail (Privacy Protected), to the report to give you visibility of the portion of Apple Mail Privacy recipients opening your emails. This new category is available for emails sent after February 2022. 

an example email client report showing the new Apple Privacy category

Look out — there’s more to come

As we said, user privacy is a trend that’s here to stay. With Gmail and DuckDuckGo launching their own privacy features, we can expect more inbox providers to release privacy-focused features in the near future.

But don’t worry. Campaign Monitor is keeping a close eye on all of it. We’ll keep you in the loop on what we learn, and the changes we make to our platform to help you navigate this ever-evolving privacy environment.

The post The Current State of MPP: Where Are We Now? appeared first on Campaign Monitor.