Posts filed under Social Media

Scoring Strong with Email Marketing

Email marketing is still viable. Social media consultants, gurus, and (even me included) have spent the past decade telling you it’s all about the social networks. And there continues to be a LOT of value in those channels. However, the truth is that through it all, I have never abandoned the email channel.

In an effort to explain this email I'm an avid fan of the Orlando City Soccer Club (MLS) and the Orlando Pride (NWSL); I'm also and insatiable fan of great marketing. Weird, I know. Therefore, when I saw opportunities for future marketing success I thought to share it with everyone, not simply the team's outline. That said, read the following email looking through the lens of how best to market to some of the greatest fans in the MLS and NWSL.

Here are some suggestions and best practices for successful email campaigns:

All content must be responsive:

  • Desktop
  • Tablet
  • Mobile
  • Wearable (tiny screen)

Create an email marketing SOP that aligns with your brand standard manuals for all scenarios. This manual will be a biblical introduction to the next point:

Modular template environments

Modular Template Environments – Type 1: Like any publication, you need to create an environment where different departments and calls to action (CTAs) can be represented, categorized, and moved based on need and action.

Modular Template Environments – Type 2: Ads are getting overlooked or confused with real content because sizes for each are the same. Therefore a user will skim an email and not know what’s an ad or an article. So you must change sizes and locations. Example: header, 50/50, 1/3, 1/4, panels, etc., assigning a character count or word count for each.

Modular Template Environments – Type 3: Sizing and layout options. This way, assets will be consistent when you’re collecting and assembling them from various vendors or departments.

Rewarding VIP Status

When creating a revised email programming campaign for SeaWorld, the first item on the list was a newsletter/email for “Pass Holders” and “Non-Pass Holders.” It’s essential for retention efforts that the park offers exclusivity to those with annual passes.

Here is how we could apply that philosophy Orlando City Soccer Club season ticket holder and fan emails. This action should be replicated for Orlando Pride as well.

Contextual emails: Invite users to update their email account to give them a more personalized experience. Right now you only talk about yourself and it plays thin and will eventually work to your detriment. 

Suggestions might be:

  • "Club & Country” – emails about OCSC/OP and all MLS
  • OCSC/OP – calendar alerts
  • “This day in Soccer” – random history and trivia
  • Player Spotlights
  • Soccer EDU – history, trivia etc.
  • Gear Head – product reviews that piggyback merchandise and e–commerce efforts
  • Social Roundup – fans not only love social media, they love to read what they might have missed from other fans. Create a BuzzFeed-like weekly email that highlights 12 great posts from around Central Florida. This is a great “social proof” area as well “70% of people that read the article on our last game agreed that the red card was understandable”

These emails should be designed (in color, voice, and contextual directive) and sub-branded uniquely to avoid confusion with other segmented emails.

Hearing your email subscribers is key confirmation and welcome messages are a must.

Length: With more email options you’ll be able to cut down on your copy. Your current footprint is trying to be all things to all people and it comes off as noise.

Deployment consistency: You need to drop an email on every “X” day. It’s fine if you want to run alternate days for special categories or quick alerts. Just don’t overdo it.

Custom iconography: Create a series of icons that can be subtended throughout all your emails to indicate sales, events, recent news, coming soon and alerts!

Add motion: GIFs and click–throughs to video are eye-catching and a way to repurpose your efforts with channels like Giphy.com.

There are NO ASCII links in your email: This is a HUGE red flag. More people will click on a hyperlinked word than they will an image.

Heat mapping: Run heat mapping on your best and worst emails and find out where/what people did or did not engage with.

Spam scoring: Run all email wording through a spam scoring algorithm. I prefer Apache Spam Assassin – this procedure will lessen the blow on some email servers that might blacklist your content due to trigger words or perceived illegal formatting.

Subject lines: Run “split testing” on outgoing emails to see what a small percentage of our lists will open the most. Once activated, deploy the highest-testing subject line to your audience for maximum results.

Test email launch variables:

  • Subject line
  • Copy amount
  • Image amount
  • Offer/CTA
  • Time of day of send
  • Placement of the CTA
  • Personalization variations
  • More ads, less ads etc.

Create age–specific content: If you intend on cleaning the list (going back and asking your audience to confirm receipt of emails and allow for further customization of content), this is a perfect time to profile your user in basic terms: age, race, family, and other bits of basic demographic granularity will allow you to serve up better content for their needs.

Add native advertising in your written content: Allow brands to pitch association to teams within content outside of events, and make the association within the content as well. “After the game, the club was treated to a BBQ dinner from [sponsor] followed by a night on the town at [sponsor].” etc.

More contests for fans: T-shirt designs, shout-outs, video programs, etc.

Add buttons: Your emails are currently only using the images as linking mechanisms. Keep it simple in for folks to connecting to additional content and offers.

Squeeze emails and quit to reengage: With inactive email accounts, send out a series of emails stating that you’ll be unsubscribing them giving that they’ve not opened their emails in “X” # of days/weeks/months. This allows you to clean your list, as well as “poke” inactive recipients into reconnecting or disconnecting.

Cheat sheets: Send more PDFs and infographics to facilitate deeper learning and understanding of the game and allow them further interest in team members. For instance, offer things such as a “game day” lineup and so on.

Feedback emails: Send a minimum of two emails per season asking fans what they want from their email. This email is an excellent way for them to simply reply or for you to link them to a survey.

Humanize your brands: In player spotlights for example, create content that connects fans in a personal way with causes or groups that players are passionate about. This galvanizes fans to subject matter that they will then positively associate with the teams.

Encourage activity: Create email content where you TELL fans what do. Step-by-step; FYI; DIY and tour-based content works well in this format.

Use social and cultural trends: Connect to current trends by using tools like https://www.google.com/trends/ leverage topical positions that incentivize participation in programs.

Thank you emails: Announce and reply to fans regarding successes and participation in events and programs.

Use the "Inverted Pyramid Method: It drives users to a CTA or actionable button.

 

Journalism Marketing (Part 2.): Church and State

I've crafted a career on persuasive messaging to tap into want, desire, fear, love, or any other points of note that hold importance to you. However, there have been very few instances that I've done it for companies that have puritanically lied, and in all cases, I don't think I knew it with any certainty.

I think the time is now; we need to separate journalism/content creation from marketing/native advertising. We need to construct the following:

  • Fact-check content through online browsers, tools, email and all mobile devices as part of the operating systems (a user can choose to manually turn off this feature).
  • All content must meet certain criteria for marketing articles, as well, articles that might not be considered as marketing.
  • All monitoring algorithms must be progressively optimized by both the content creator as well as the readership's ability to flag content for review from both the creator and an independent party must be progressively optimized by both the content creator as well as the readership's ability to flag content for review from both the creator and an independent party.
  • Content creators, bloggers, videographers, photographers and others must all meet various criteria in an effort to seek compensation from viewership or advertorial partners.
  • Ongoing tools, metrics, and transparencies of ALL content (streaming, hosted, archived or otherwise) that is deemed "public" will be required to index it in a fashion to inform users as to the nature of the content.
  • Lastly, the onus needs to be placed squarely on the shoulders of the social channels themselves. As we're ONLY NOW seeing with Facebook in a step towards minimizing this trend with the ability to "flag" content as false or misleading. Is it enough, probably not yet, but that remains to be seen.

A tall order? Yes. But so was the idea of the Internet 20 years ago.

False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and/or Satirical “News” Sources

False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and/or Satirical “News” Sources

The Following post is by Melissa Zimdars . © 2016

Some of contents of this educational resource/google document, specifically the list of potential false, misleading, clickbait-y, and/or satirical news sources, have been removed in order for it to be transferred to and expanded on in a more permanent, dynamic, and collaborative home.  This page will reflect updates as they become available.

Tips for analyzing news sources:

  • Avoid websites that end in “lo” ex: Newslo. These sites take pieces of accurate information and then packaging that information with other false or misleading “facts” (sometimes for the purposes of satire or comedy).

  • Watch out for websites that end in “.com.co” as they are often fake versions of real news sources  

  • Watch out if known/reputable news sites are not also reporting on the story. Sometimes lack of coverage is the result of corporate media bias and other factors, but there should typically be more than one source reporting on a topic or event.

  • Odd domain names generally equal odd and rarely truthful news.

  • Lack of author attribution may, but not always, signify that the news story is suspect and requires verification.

  • Some news organizations are also letting bloggers post under the banner of particular news brands; however, many of these posts do not go through the same editing process (ex: BuzzFeed Community Posts, Kinja blogs, Forbes blogs).

  • Check the “About Us” tab on websites or look up the website on Snopes or Wikipedia for more information about the source.

  • Bad web design and use of ALL CAPS can also be a sign that the source you’re looking at should be verified and/or read in conjunction with other sources.

  • If the story makes you REALLY ANGRY it’s probably a good idea to keep reading about the topic via other sources to make sure the story you read wasn’t purposefully trying to make you angry (with potentially misleading or false information) in order to generate shares and ad revenue.

  • If the website you’re reading encourages you to DOX individuals, it’s unlikely to be a legitimate source of news.

  • It’s always best to read multiple sources of information to get a variety of viewpoints and media frames. Some sources not yet included in this list (although their practices at times may qualify them for addition), such as The Daily Kos, The Huffington Post, and Fox News, vacillate between providing important, legitimate, problematic, and/or hyperbolic news coverage, requiring readers and viewers to verify and contextualize information with other sources.

For more tips on analyzing the credibility and reliability of sources, please check out School Library Journal (they also provide an extensive list of media literacy resources) and the Digital Resource Center.

Here's the link to the complete document.

Journalism Marketing (Part 1.): It Ain't the Same As Free Speech

Content marketing. Brand journalism. Journalist Marketing.

Call it what you will, but the fact is that more and more businesses are cranking out editorial content to spread their messages and reach the ever-growing online audience.

With all this advertising framed as “real articles,” maybe the time has come to we govern these practices with real laws.

Here’s a scenario:

You read an article online talking about a revolutionary alarm clock that promises that it will help you sleep, monitor your REM time, stop snoring, fix sleep apnea, and create efficiencies in your sleeping habits. Sounds awesome, right? But of course there is no such thing. Therefore it's a lie and it's bound by certain legal parameters that make it illegal for you to market fraudulent information. This protects you, the consumer. It also protects (and holds harmless) many products that cover themselves head-to-toe with legalese. Nevertheless, at its core it was still a lie.

I'm a (self-proclaimed) marketing subject-matter expert with the bulk of my professional experience in the "inbound"marketing spectrum. I have pretty solid working knowledge understanding of the mediums, channels, tactics, and various strategies required to maximize results. The type of "branded articles" we’re talking about here is often referred to as "native advertising." Fundamentally, I don't have a problem with this style of content and use it frequently in my marketing initiatives. Properly deployed it looks foundationally like the following:

Interesting Title About a Like-Minded Topic

Notification: [the following article is an advertisement]

  1. Set up the problem, or define the situation.
  2. Talk about the various aspects of the situation — the educational “meat,” one might say.
  3. Answer the problem, or justify the situation in a light that is even further to the reader's benefit — here's often where you might plug a brand, product, or education to support your point.
  4. Summarize, and in some cases, apply transparency such as "while there are many types and styles, we suggest you do your own research to get the best results."
  5. Advocate sharing the article to your network or forwarding to a friend.

Boom. It’s an ideal scenario where you've not only constructed original content, but you've further given your opinion on a brand and direction for best results. So what's wrong with that? Not all that much, actually. Some argue that placing the article into a pool of content that's not backed by a brand, product, or education could be subversive. But I disagree IF the content is formatted in a way that if you REMOVED the marketing language it could still stand on its own as an article.

Where the wheels have come off is when content, disguising itself as journalism, takes on the role of swaying opinion with lies.

"Well Justice that's called ‘propaganda,’ and it's been used for thousands of years."

I won’t debate that. The issue is that the medium, culture, and accessibility of this misinformation is specifically to manipulate a directive without any transparency. The even bigger problem is that these delivery vehicles are being created to look, act, and deliver to you in a fashion that feels both natural and trusted.

Let’s pretend for a minute that a man comes to your front door with a DHEL uniform on. He has a package and waves, indicating you need to sign for it. You open the door, he hits you in the head with a hammer, buries you in the back yard and begins to live (as you) in your home.

Seem farfetched? That model in a digital world is called "Identity Theft" and the DHEL wasn't a misspelling.

In the real world, we saw subversive tactics during this year’s presidential election. Many of us were floundering between two candidates that you're not quite comfortable with, and we were being pounded with articles titles, and memes, and friends we thought were normal. Suddenly you're debating demonic possession. When there it is the “brass ring” of lies jumping on your fight or flight mechanism:

  • Security
  • Rape
  • Misogyny
  • Healthcare
  • Terrorism

All wrapped in a legitimate-looking wrapper of your favorite news website or blog — thereby providing the trust and security you've come to embrace in your decision-making process. This drives to the core of your psychological makeup as you unknowingly take the bait back to your home. In many cases, as with the marketing techniques that were used in the election, you may still not truly understand that the core of your passion for one candidate or another may very well be predicated on a lie.

... in part two I'm going to cover some additional suggestions that in all likelihood will never happen. What do you think we should do?

Posted on November 30, 2016 and filed under Advertising, Brand, Social Media.