10 Ways Marketers Can Win at Pokemon Go

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Pokemon Go is a new phenomenon that often times it is hard to know what to do with it from a business perspective. Jennifer Cario partners with Simplilearn / MarketMotive for this webinar to help walk businesses through ways that you can utilize Pokemon Go and connect with your customers. Sit back and enjoy the free webinar so that you can learn some new information.

Jennifer also wrote another article (Pokemon Go, A Marketer’s Dream) about how it has created simple and easy scenarios in which you can make use of this cultural phenomenon that is sweeping the world.

If you like what you see and would be interested in us working to advise you, please reach out to us here! We would love to have the chance to provide you with ideas and strategies to capitalize on what is going on in the world around you.

5 Steps for Building Your Holiday Marketing Strategy

As hard as it is to believe, the holiday season is upon us. Christmas trees and other decorations are already gracing homes, stores and places of business. Though a busy time of year, it holds excitement as well as opportunity, if businesses embrace it. The following steps should help your business effectively take advantage of the holiday season this year.

1) Develop a Strategy

In order to take advantage of this opportunity, businesses, first of all, need to develop a campaign strategy. While some strategies will carry over from year to year, each season offers new ideas and trends. It’s also important to think about how your holiday campaign will tie into your overall marketing strategy. In other words, even if you come up with a really creative idea, you don’t want consumers to know you only for your Christmas campaign. For this reason, it’s very important to look at the big picture.

What do you want to accomplish this holiday season? Are you going to target one specific holiday or the season in general? Although the focus is typically on December 25th, businesses could actually utilize Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, New Year’s Day, as well as Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. Are the ideas flowing yet? These questions and thoughts should get you thinking about what your needs and goals are, and this is the perfect starting point for creating a strategy.

2) Create a Theme & Stick with It

After you’ve developed your strategy, you’ll need to choose a theme. For instance, if you send out marketing materials and other promotional items, they should contain a common theme. The content you create, and we strongly encourage an aggressive content marketing approach, should also share this theme. It’s understood that most consumers are looking for coupons and discounts during the holiday season. But, if you can create content around why a particular product or service is exclusive, priced a certain way, or is something that provides value, you have the opportunity to stand out.

Also, as you select a theme, it’s important to understand what your target audience is paying attention to. How are they engaging with your brand? Are they gravitating toward images, video, etc.? These answers will play a vital role in theming your campaign.

3) Utilize Social Media

Just as with your other marketing strategies, social media is a must. Remember the genius OfficeMax Elf Yourself campaign? This came out several years ago but continues to receive incredible responses each year. So often, marketers get caught up in the “all about business” mode. The holiday season is the perfect opportunity to break free from this and incorporate some creativity and holiday spirit.

What social channels is your audience using the most? If it’s Pinterest, for example, then look at what they’re pinning and tailor content to match it. Whatever channel that you use, provide meaningful content that your audience will want to engage with.

In addition, with social media, it’s important to stay “in the know.” By doing this, you have the opportunity to jump on the latest trends and even boost them for your own benefit. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean you need to launch a Snapchat campaign, but it does mean you should pay attention to the trends your audience is embracing and adapt your strategy accordingly.

4) Don’t Forget to Be Accessible

As you roll out your campaign, remember that, in the digital age, you have to comply with where your audience may be interacting with you. Is it social media? Is it through a traditional advertising channel such as television? It may even be on a mobile device.

As you plan your strategy, create content that you can distribute across multiple platforms and channels to ensure simple accessibility. This step again allows you to embrace your creative juices. For instance, if your audience mostly connects on social media but your message is long, write a blog post with all the details but tease the content on social media in the form of an image or video. Even if your audience is active on social, no one has time for a long message.

In summary, be accessible by practicing smart marketing.

5) Share Holiday Cheer Too!

In all the hustle and bustle that is the noise around the holidays, it seems that the little things mean the most. When you go the extra mile by sending a card, offering candy at your brick and mortar, and other thoughtful shout-outs and merry treats, the impact is felt.

Online, brands can extend this cheer too by offering coupons, opening up and sharing an inward view of holiday traditions like a holiday luncheon, as well as many other tactics to showcase your brand’s personality. All these little acts of kindness reinforce that there are humans behind your brand. It strengthens relationships too, which in turn, often results in building influencers and brand advocates.

If you want to go beyond these steps, Marketing Land has a preparation guide outlining 28 helpful tips that could be very beneficial to your holiday efforts.

Regardless of what your holiday campaign involves, remember that it is the holiday season. I say this because, just as people often neglect the social side of social media, the fun and cheery part of the holidays is often an afterthought. This, however, is what makes the holidays exciting, even for marketers. So, take advantage and enjoy! 🙂


4 Ways to Create Buzzworthy Content (Butter Recipes Included!)

I was moonlighting as a server for a friend’s rehearsal dinner, passing around trays of artisan deviled eggs, when I heard, “Oh, this is my childhood, right here,” referring to the bread and butter table. That table was the pride and joy of Jen, SugarSpun’s fearless leader. She had artfully set the table with bread and baskets, Pinterest-worthy (she did write the book after all!), to display the four types of butter she had whipped together for the event. In fact, the butter table became the buzz of the evening.

“Did you try the butter table?”

“You have to try this butter!”

“Oh, this one is my absolute favorite.”

The guest who was marveling over the brown sugar and cranberry butter was also the most ardent proponent to other guests. “Oh, you haven’t tried the bread and butter table? Well, let me take you there.”

Now, I promise there is a point to this story beyond making you hungry. It’s very clear that every business on social media wants their content to be buzzworthy. Everyone wants their content to be shared and talked about on other platforms. So, how is it done? Here are four ways we believe create buzzworthy content:

1. Create a campaign with hashtag

Whether your campaign is for Twitter or Instagram – or both – hashtags can be the way to get buzz. Hashtags, although sometimes annoying, are fun. They also create organization.

Charmin’s #tweetsfromtheseat campaign is one of the most creative (and brave). For more ideas, visit Hubspot’s The Rules of Twitter Hashtags: Hits and Misses from 7 Big Brands.

2. Take advantage of timely events

A few weeks ago, Jen wrote a blog on small businesses geared toward the Firefly crowd. With the 10 year anniversary of the movie Serenity and the recently available internet show, Con Man, it was a timely piece. Yes, we all knew about these events long beforehand and were waiting for the release of the show with excitement. We’re mildly geeky that way.

When we posted the blog post, we boosted it specifically to Firefly fans. The resulting shares and likes were even higher than we anticipated! This is what can happen if you take the time to plan content around an event, season, or any other time-oriented happening. It resonates with a passionate group of people and has the potential of going viral.

3. Discuss a hot button issue

People on social media love to have opinions. Relating your product to a hot button issue can help boost the buzz. Understand that you have to use caution if you decide to take this approach. It’s a spontaneous approach that doesn’t allow time for careful planning and vetting.

Many brands have jumped on a Twitter trend thinking they are making great use of their marketing skills only to have it backfire on them. On the flip side, some brands have been able to have great success. As a general rule, just be smart when executing this idea and try to avoid topics like politics or the Lamar Odom saga.

4. Think outside the box

As in the #tweetsfromtheseat example, Charmin brilliantly used potty humor that was just the right amount of outrageous without stepping over the line. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Toilet paper isn’t sexy, but Charmin has made it fun.

The point is to make your brand more relatable rather than just being another company online. Make use of content that will cause your audience take a second look.

In summary, the main goal with buzzworthy content isn’t to have things go viral, though it’s nice when they do. Instead, it’s to have your target market talking about your business and sharing it with other people. You want people to say “Oh, you haven’t tried (your company here)? Well, let me take you there.” Social media is all about word of mouth marketing. Creating a buzz around your content is the perfect way to do it.

Now to take care of the hunger pains I created…

Buzzworthy Butter

The bread and butter table really was fantastic. You can check out our photo of the table, as well as other photos of SugarSpun happenings, on our Instagram page @SugarSpunMkt

The butter recipes are simple to make, especially if you have a food processor. Bring one pound of butter to room temperature per recipe.


Lemon Rosemary Butter


1 lb of butter (4 sticks), room temperature

Zest from one lemon

Leaves from 1-2 sprigs of rosemary


Put all ingredients into processor and pulse until well blended.


Chive Butter


1 lb of butter (4 sticks), room temperature

1 small plastic packet of chives, finely diced


Put all ingredients into processor and pulse until well blended.


Roasted Garlic Butter


1 lb of butter (4 sticks), room temperature

2 heads of garlic, roasted


Put all ingredients into processor and pulse until well blended.


Cinnamon Brown Sugar Cranberry Butter


1 lb of butter (4 sticks), room temperature

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 Tablespoon brown sugar

3-4 Tablespoons finely chopped dried cranberries


Put all ingredients into processor and pulse until well blended.




Everything I Need to Know About Running a Small Business, I Learned From Firefly

This week is a bittersweet one for fans of what can be argued as Joss Whedon’s most beloved show, Firefly. Today is the tenth anniversary of the release of Serenity, the movie that served as a peace offering to Browncoats after the too-early cancellation of Firefly. It’s also the week we celebrate the cast reunion with the release of the online series Conman, an Alan Tudyk/Nathan Fillion collaboration that pokes a bit of fun at life after a cult sci-fi series.

Our office is a huge fan of the original series and it’s not uncommon to hear quotes like “I could stand to hear a little more” or “I don’t disagree on any particular point” being tossed around in daily conversation. In honor of all things Firefly, our own Captain offers up:

Everything I Need to Know About Running a Small Business, I Learned From Firefly

It’s amazing how much you can learn from just fourteen episodes of a show…

It will Often Seem Like Other Businesses Have an Advantage Over You, This is Not a Bad Thing

Advantage1 Advantage2 Advantage3

There are times as a small business owner when it looks like everyone else you know in the industry is flying high; business is pouring in, travel is glamorous, and the company coffers are overflowing. Sometimes looking at how quickly the money drains out of your own business account or your inability to land that dream client because you haven’t scaled your staff up enough can be disheartening. The truth is every company struggles at some point in time. Learning to meet the needs of your customer with a small team can make or break you. Making the choice to focus on the things that make your company unique and valuable will help you realize just how much you are capable of.

Have Appreciation for the Team You’ve Put Together Even on the Days You Don’t Like Them

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Putting together the right team is one of the most crucial parts of running a business. For some companies, that means filling a stated set of needs based on desired skill  sets. For other companies, it’s about hiring the right type of person and training them yourself. Either way, there will be days where one of them will rub you the wrong way. Heck, one person may consistently rub you the wrong way. So long as this is more about personality conflict than it is about what someone brings to the team, make sure you are looking at the big picture and remind yourself of the value they add to your team.

Your Team Needs to Be Encouraged in Ways that Resonate with Them


One of the lessons I had to learn early on as we built up our team was that it wasn’t enough to meet deadlines and deliver quality work for our clients. I needed to learn how to encourage and show my appreciation for our team. Matt, our Director of Operations (and my husband) had decades of management experience under his belt and helped me learn just how important it was to take the time to say the things I assumed my team already knew. (And you can’t just say thanks. You have to learn HOW each person needs to hear that praise and appreciation and deliver it in ways that resonates with them.)

Take the Time to Understand the Situation You Are In

Communicate1 Communicate2 Communicate3 Communicate4

Entrepreneurs tend to be very goal oriented. We sometimes focus so heavily on end goals that tunnel vision kicks in as we focus on where we’re trying to go. Learning to take the time to evaluate each situation makes it easier to shift gears, fine tune approaches and make improvements. If you’ve hired good people, it’s essential to listen to them when they’re trying to let you know you are off course.

Don’t Be Afraid to Be Honest with Your Team

Turbulance1 Turbulance2 Turbulance3

This one won’t be a fit for everyone, but it’s been crucial for us here at SugarSpun Marketing. From my perspective, you need to be able to be honest with the employees you hire. Sharing the hard truths of why travel budgets need temporarily cut or why a specific project wasn’t up to snuff is essential to building a strong company. Equally important is your willingness to hear the hard truths from your employees and for them to feel comfortable enough to share them.

Be Adaptable, But Don’t Give Up Your Core Values


I’ve seen far too many small business owners who are willing to compromise their values or their ethics to get ahead. Being open minded and flexible is important in the business world, but staying true to who you are and openly communicating that with your employees will help you move your business forward while still being able to sleep at night.

Be Willing to Stand Up For Your Company and Your Employees

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In the six years I’ve been running SugarSpun, I’ve had to fire two clients. That’s not bad in the grand scheme of things, but a willingness to walk away from revenue can actually be an incredibly important part of building your business. In a world that is thankfully more and more focused on customer service, it’s crucial not to let “the customer is always right” go too far. Standing up for an employee that is being mistreated by a client fosters loyalty from the very people you need if you plan to succeed long term. Clients are almost always easier to replace than great employees.

Encourage Politeness and Good Customer Service in Your Team

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Every single member of your team is a reflection of your company; whether it’s answering the phones, heading to a conference, navigating a difficult client meeting or just plain living life. Encourage them to be polite and thoughtful in their interactions, even the difficult ones. (Bonus Tip: Yes, that absolutely means you have to lead by example. So even when you want to wring someone’s neck, remind yourself that what you say and how you react is demonstrating to your team what is and isn’t acceptable.)

Have Boundaries in Your Office But Balance it With People’s Right to Be Themselves


Corporate culture is a pretty common topic in the news these days. We’ve even shared an infographic about our own fairly unique culture here at SugarSpun. We have an eclectic group of people that includes babies, dogs, chickens and six humans. We’ve established some guidelines to help things flow smoothly, but for the most part, we try to let people’s quirks integrate into our creative mix as long as they don’t disrupt the team’s ability to get things done.

There WILL be Disagreements, Which is Why Every Ship Needs a Captain

One of the hardest parts of running a small business is balancing the needs of clients, employees, finances, work culture and your own set of daily tasks. You have to accept that there WILL be times when someone in your company won’t like your choices. While you need to be willing to hear them out, you also have to be willing and able to make the hard choice and take the responsibility that comes with being captain of the ship.

And finally…

Taking Advantage of Clients or Employees WILL Catch Up To You

There is no situation ever that justifies taking advantage of a client or an employee. I’ve seen too many companies keep the clock running just a little past that conference call, fail to pay fair wages to employees or outright lie to clients about what needs to be happening. It’s wrong. It’s not okay. It’s awful. These companies may temporarily find themselves flying high revenue style, but eventually, you’ll pay the price. Don’t do it. Ever.

If you are a Browncoat, we’d love it if you’d share your own favorite lessons learned from Serenity’s crew in the comments here or on Facebook. If you aren’t, what are you still doing here? The whole series streams on Netflix and it only takes one day to watch them all. Join the rebellion, people!

Mega Content Part 2: Boost Long Term Leads Through Compounding Lead Generation

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It’s a long recognized fact that corporate websites that include active blogs generate higher volumes of traffic, leads and conversions. After all, a steady stream of content provides search engines with more pages to index and provides marketers with more opportunity to focus in on specific areas of interest or on sharing multiple perspectives.

When it comes to a solid Mega Content marketing approach, these benefits quickly become a real and tangible part of moving your marketing efforts forward.

(In part one of this series, the concept of creating and leveraging Mega Content was introduced as part of your content marketing and email marketing initiatives. If you haven’t read this piece, you might want to back up and read it for some background.)

What short-sighted content marketers often miss, however, is the longer term compounding value these content pieces can create. In other words, unlike more standard list building efforts that tend to have a defined start and end point and are quickly and easily measured once the campaign has ended, Mega Content looks at lead generation as a more long term enterprise.

Before we get to the part of this series that explains how to create Mega Content, (that’s coming up, I promise!) let’s take a look at the math behind the method and why it holds so much appeal for companies of all sizes.

The Challenge of Landing Page Traffic

The biggest challenge that comes with promoting landing pages designed to produce email leads is the cost of driving traffic into the page. In general, businesses tend to rely on contests or advertising to push traffic. Both are effective, but they also tend to have a somewhat limited lifespan. Contests eventually end, and advertising dollars usually end up being diverted to the next project.

This means the average landing page tends to pull traffic for the span of 2-6 weeks before seeing a huge drop in traffic; or it requires significant ongoing ad dollars to keep the traffic flowing. As a result, you’ll often see blogs and websites triggering pop-up windows to invite you to download a whitepaper or research report. The cost is infinitely lower, and the life span of the landing page can be extended.

Extending the Lifespan of Landing Pages

One of the primary reasons companies engage in Content Marketing is to drive a continual flow of targeted traffic into their website. The goal of this traffic is to drive incremental sales or lead generation, but for many companies, the link between blog content and conversions is tenuous at best. Sadly, many companies still haven’t figured out what the call to action in their blog posts needs to be. (This is, again, a whole other article…)

By building out a Mega Content package, sites now have a high value offering to exchange for email contacts as well as a wide range of content for social media. Their blog also serves as the perfect place to lead people to the landing page for the content. So, instead of using ad dollars or contest promotion, brands can share an image, article or video content. By generating a few months’ worth of supportive content as part of the Mega Content package, you ensure a steady flow of traffic into the landing page over time.

In addition, the content being passed around social sharing services like Pinterest or being housed on the blog can lead to solid long term traffic.

The Power of Compounding Leads

How are your blog analytics? Chances are, your high quality posts are still pulling traffic months (even years) after you originally published them. What’s more, on the posts you included calls to action, your conversion rate is likely staying reasonably steady over time as well.

Using this as a foundation, let’s give consideration to how a well-placed and promoted Mega Content landing page might perform.

Let’s say the first blog post you put out for your Mega Content pulls in 3,000 visitors in an average month, with 3% of them going on to fill out your lead generation form to download the content. This provides you with 60 solid leads per month that can be tied back to the topic of your Mega Content.gears-01

For most established sites, we regularly pull thousands or even tens of thousands of visitors per month to blog posts on client sites for small to mid-size businesses. That said, 60 leads per month may not appear to be much, but it would truly be a mistake to jump to this conclusion. The goal is not to gain a paltry 720 leads over the course of the year. Instead, as new content is produced, new opportunities to build targeted leads are created and combined with the older opportunities that are likely still performing.

If you release one piece of Mega Content per month, for example, it gives you the opportunity to build targeted email lists around 12 distinctly unique topics over the course of a year. Since these landing pages are relying on content marketing, social sharing and search engines to drive traffic, you should continue to receive leads from one piece of content while launching the next one, and the domino effect begins.

A more realistic portrayal of your math would be:compounding leads-01

While you may only see 60 leads the first month, month two will bring 120 leads when both campaigns are performing. And, month seven could bring 360 leads in as the six prior campaigns work their magic together. In fact, by the end of the year, you are looking at a grand total of 4,680 targeted leads!

If you are the ambitious type, or you have a history of producing strong content, traffic and conversion rates, you can be even bolder. If we rerun those numbers with an average of 10K views per month on the content and a 3.6% conversion rate, we’re looking at 360 leads per month – a compounded outcome of more than 28K leads over the course of one year!

Our own internal numbers show these results are not impossible to achieve. In fact, one of our Mega Content landing pages has consistently converted around 40% of its traffic since we launched it.

compounding leads2-01

Just a Change to Your Current Marketing Strategy

The biggest thing to keep in mind when considering a switch to a Mega Content approach is that it’s not about adding yet another marketing task to your list. It’s about making the work you do now more effective by maximizing its impact. Ultimately, it will get your lead generation team to have conversations with your content marketing team so everyone can work together to produce better content AND better leads.

Coming up in the next part of this series, we’ll look at how Mega Content production actually works. I’ll walk you through the idea of taking a huge piece of existing content and turning it into a Mega Content Package as well as how to take a smaller piece of content and scale it up into a legitimate piece of Mega Content.


Mega Content: What It Is & Why Marketers Should Embrace It (Part 1)

MEGA content-01What if you could help create ready-made content for your social media sharing teams while simultaneously boosting the size of your targeted email marketing lists without dramatically increasing the work done by your content marketing team? It’s what every business wants, and it’s surprisingly possible with just a little bit of tweaking to your current strategy.

The History of Mega Content

According to the Content Marketing Institute, 70% of B2B marketers and 69% of B2C marketers say they are creating more content this year than they were last year. Add in the need to serve up a steady stream of both original and curated content across various social media platforms and we sometimes find ourselves drowning under a never ending barrage of content requests.

Why so much content, and what are we trying to accomplish with it? This is what marketers really need to be asking. Study after study has shown increases in indexed pages, traffic volume, leads and sales for websites that have regularly updated blogs. But, the challenge comes in balancing the need to create strong brand building and lead generating blog posts with a slew of other social media postings that are more engaging for audiences.

This can make it difficult for businesses both large and small to balance the knowledge that content marketing produces long term leads with the very real demand for producing trackable data and results on a more immediate timeline. The key to good online marketing is figuring out how to reach both goals, but the jackpot of online marketing is achieving both goals with one set of deliverables.

Thus, the idea of mega content was born.

What Is MegaContentThe Challenges with Mega Content

It started out almost by accident. One of our clients is a prodigious writer. She regularly churns out volumes of outstanding content and has a very strong blog following. This traffic has great carry-over to her e-commerce site and is consistently one of her strongest sources of converting traffic. While this has provided a wonderful bedrock on which to build a solid online marketing business, the need to increase sales and conversions still exists.

Despite strong blog marketing and social media marketing, this client had not done much in the way of targeting or segmented email marketing. As the client prepared to launch a newer version of their e-commerce site with a more flexible backend management system, we decided to prep for more aggressive email marketing in the coming year. Of course, the biggest challenge in email marketing is building out a strong list with good targeting to allow for proper segmentation.

When the client delivered a blog post that clocked in at over 4,000 words, we knew we had a decision to make. We could break the post up into 3-4 posts that were more digestible, or we could beef it up further and consider its potential as an e-book or whitepaper. Since we had already started building out an infographic on the same topic, we decided to move forward with an e-book approach that could be used to draw a list of email addresses that were clearly interested in this specific topic and its corresponding product line.

As our design team worked out the details of the 24 page e-book, we decided to take a more visual approach to the design. Because the topic was targeted at women, we developed a PDF more in line with a pull-out guide from a women’s magazine instead of taking the standard text heavy whitepaper or e-book approach. We included our infographic as well as visual call-outs, quotes and other snippets of information aimed at creating a highly informative piece of content.

The Possibilities of Mega Content

Once our e-book was designed, we then took the time to break the content down into individual pieces of content that could be used on the client’s blog and/or for social media outreach. Two 500 word blog posts were pieced together from the content and paired with the infographic to serve as three separate posts on the client’s blog. Also, a series of images were created showcasing tips and facts about the e-book, which were then optimized for Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter.

Next, we knew we needed to build out a traditional style landing page aimed at trading the e-book for an email address. We paired it up with the style, theme and information provided in our content package. We added testimonials from happy customers, and a few sound bites of information from the content piece. Overall, we ended up with more than a dozen “bite-size” pieces of content that could be shared on social media as standalone pieces of content, yet we still had enough meat to them to lead people back to the landing page to download the e-book.

MegaContent_Combines Best ImpactIs Marketing Mega Content Really That Different?

At this point, some of you may be wondering how this process differs at all from traditional e-book or whitepaper marketing. It’s a fair question with a very nuanced answer. E-books and whitepapers are traditionally written for the express purpose of creating a “prepped” buyer. Sometimes it’s about sharing research and data that draws in the exact type of lead you can feed to your sales team so they can pick up the phone and try to close the deal. Sometimes, it’s about sharing a case study or writing a story that leads people down a path to the right decision, right meaning your product or service, of course. And generally speaking, whitepapers and e-books are viewed as leading people into a fairly deep position in your conversion funnel.

Mega content, on the other hand, is about building a launch point for your conversion funnel. It’s about gathering a lead that can be fed into different parts of your marketing machine over time. It earns you an email address and a topic of interest, just enough to start reaching out. In other words, you have to accept that you are getting a lead with less immediate value than you might gather using traditional whitepaper marketing.

Why Mega Content Works

The appeal to mega content is that the lead isn’t your only value. Your social media team also receives a nice package of content that can be released across social media channels over the coming weeks or even months. This not only reduces the amount of time spent curating third party content for sharing and increases your ability to share a wider range of original content that can stand on its own, but it also has the potential to drive people to your landing page.

What’s more, this leads to the amazing potential for both traffic increases and lead increases, but you’ll have to tune into our blog again to find out how that works. For the next post in this series, we’ll map out the value of compound growth when it comes to long term lead generation and explain exactly how mega content fits into that process.

MegaContent_Breaking It Up

Getting Back to Good Headlines with the Curiosity Gap

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It’s no secret that if you want to use content marketing to drive targeted traffic to your web site, you’ll need to be strategic in social sharing. By the end of 2014, social sharing had surpassed organic search as a referral source for web sites, accounting for 31% of online referral traffic. With so many sites rushing to claim their share of socialized traffic, content and channel managers are left constantly seeking ways to up their game.

Enter the mildly ambiguous, overly sensationalized formulaic headline. It’s the crutch of all mundane content, and the security blanket of content marketing headliners around the world. It’s a concept born out of good marketing psychology but executed in a way that makes life more and more difficult for the content marketers of the world.

Think about the last time you scrolled through your Facebook News Feed. Chances are, you noticed a pattern in the headlines of the stories scrolling by.

Headlines on Facebook

The pattern goes a little something like this:

[Observational Statement] + [Transitional Phrase] + [Shock/Emotion] = Ideal Conversation Headline

At first, we tended to see these types of headlines showing up for really impressive, unique and engaging stories. Stories like WestJet’s Christmas Miracle campaign or the Tulane University students who met, became best friends, and then learned they were half-sisters. At that stage of the content game, the headlines were the natural byproduct of amazing stories. Of course, the headlines were also attention grabbers, due to a psychological theory called the “Information-gap Theory.”

Introduced in 1994 by Carnegie Mellon behavioral economist George Loewenstein, the theory is based on the idea that curiosity is created by the gap between what we want to know and what we actually know. Loewenstein explains that the spark of curiosity bursts into a roaring flame because our brain is driven to fill the gaps in our knowledge. What’s more, it actually causes us a measure of pain to NOT know an answer once we’ve realized there’s something we don’t know the answer to. It’s this knowledge gap that keeps us reading bad books or watching the ending of a terrible movie. The quality of the experience may be painfully bad, but our NEED to know how the story ends heightens our curiosity so much that we are unable to put down the book or leave the theater.

This need is also at the center of all those Facebook headlines you see in your News Feed.

Let’s consider one of the headlines from earlier.

Headline A: She Pours Baking Soda Into the Washing Machine, and What Happens Next, SO COOL!

Baking Soda Facebook Promo Most people are aware that baking soda has quite a   few uses beyond making chocolate chip cookies. They know it can be used to brush teeth and as a cleaning agent. The headline above expects people to know that baking soda CAN be used in non-traditional ways. It creates a “gap” in the knowledge by implying that, if you use baking soda with your washing machine, something “SO COOL!” will happen. The headline writer is relying on the gap they’ve just created to motivate you to click through to watch the four minute video.

Of course when you do, you simply find a video of a woman talking to the camera about ten different ways you can use baking soda clean your home. Not exactly something that justifies the wording in the headline, but now, you’ve already clicked and watched.

It’s a pattern we’ve all experienced countless times – clicking a link to see something interesting only to be met with absolutely mundane content at best. It’s also a pattern that is slowly killing the power of the curiosity gap.

Let’s take a look at another headline.

Headline C: It Looks Like an Ordinary Shell, But When He Pokes it, My Jaw Dropped

After our experience with the last headline, you’re likely expecting the diver to poke the shell and see a small fish swim out. Or, perhaps that it opens up, and we spot a pearl. After all, most of us see half a dozen or more of these headlines each day and have learned they rarely deliver on their promise.

In this instance, the resulting link is actually legitimate. It talks about the kleptomaniacal habits of the veined octopus, a species that searches out abandoned shells and uses them to create a fort for self-protection.

Another possibility is that you would have completely bypassed the headline because your curiosity gap has been so taken advantage of in the past that you no longer trust social media headline writers. Like the boy who cried wolf, content marketers have caused the social media villagers to come running so many times, they’re now snubbing their noses at even the genuine content. It’s almost as if I should have titled this article “They Wrote an Over the Top Formulaic Headline, What Happened Next Will Break Your Heart.”

Are We about to See the End of Curiosity Gap Driven Headlines?

The truth is, we’re probably just cresting the top of the hill when it comes to over-hyped headlines as a social media traffic driver. The trend will likely last for another year or so, especially for sites whose sole purpose is to drive traffic and page views rather than sales and conversions.

Smart content marketers who are focused on sending qualified leads into content-driven sales channels are already testing new ways to present their content. They know psychologically-based formulas only last so long and that timespan drops dramatically when those formulas are used and abused like this one has been.

Can We Still Leverage the Curiosity Gap?

The good news for marketers is that, while overuse is putting the final nails in the formulaic headlines outlined earlier, the curiosity gap is still (and will continue to be) a very real thing. The challenge for marketers will be in figuring out how to offer up enough information to spark the gap. For some, it will simply be a matter of changing the presentation and wording in headlines, while others will rely on visual cues sparked by images or videos.

A great example of curiosity gap content marketing is the “How to Make Rainbow Shots” video created by the folks at Tipsy Bartender back in 2011 that is STILL making the social media rounds today. The content introduces and reinforces the gap through words and visuals.

Headline: How to Make Rainbow Shots
Impact: Those who are interested in shots will wonder if each individual shot is a rainbow, or if a row of shots might be a rainbow. This opens up a curiosity gap of wondering what exactly is meant by a rainbow shot.

 Still Image:

Rainbow Shots Screenshot

Impact: Consumers now have a visual representation letting them know the rainbow shots are a line of shots poured from a single shaker but represent a rainbow of colors. This opens up a curiosity gap of wondering how this is accomplished.

Video Intro:

Impact: In the opening thirty seconds of the video, a bartender is shown pouring a line of ten shot glasses with what ends up being a full spectrum rainbow of colors. This creates the knowledge that such a thing is possible, yet opens the curiosity gap of wondering how it’s done.

It should come as no surprise that this video has more than four million views and is still regularly being shared to social media channels nearly four years after it was originally posted.

How Do I Properly Leverage the Curiosity Gap?

Once you’ve grasped the concept of the need for the gap, the biggest thing to keep in mind is the need to avoid sensationalism. Amazing content doesn’t need to be hyped up. It simply needs to be presented. Hyper-sensationalist headlines only try to overcome poor quality or lackluster content, and social media readers are quickly catching on. This means creating high quality content that will be of genuine interest to your target audience should always be the first priority.

Secondly, in a world where people have more choices than time, you need to give them a reason to click. Sometimes, this means actually telling them the meat of the story in the headline itself. A great example of this is the tragic story of 13-year-old Izabel Laxamana, who recently leapt to her death from a bridge after being social media shamed by her father. It’s quite telling that I bypassed the story the first few times I saw it simply because the headlines didn’t actually tell me what happened.

Tragic Story of Result of Facebook Shame

It wasn’t until I saw an additional headline that mentioned she had committed suicide that I was actually prompted to click to read the story, which is a perfect example of how desensitized we’ve come to ambiguous, sensational headlines.

Create the gap, but by all means, create the gap. But do it by having something of value to offer. Your readers and your bottom line will thank you for it.



3 Social Media Lessons Every Marketer Should Keep Close

With a vast amount of available information on social media, society as a whole, and especially marketers, sometimes forget just how young these platforms are. Now, we know that social media dates back to the days before Facebook and Twitter to forums and other chat rooms, but still, the social media industry is very young.

On one hand, the youth is positive because it brings energy, excitement and a new perspective. However, the flip side of this understands that the platforms are continuously evolving. In other words, a marketer can’t rely on the same strategy and tactics for 5 years or more. For instance, just this week, Twitter began experimenting with showing “favorites” directly in user feeds. While great for marketers in getting possibly more eyes on particular tweets, the change may go away, especially with users complaining.

This is why marketers have to stay on top of their game and evolve with social platforms. Otherwise, their marketing efforts would be obsolete and very ineffective. Marketing with social media is really a constant learning curve, which is why we all have to regularly remind ourselves of certain lessons.

A Quiet Audience

In most cases, when it’s been a while since you’ve received a comment, reply, message, retweet, it can be more than discouraging. In fact, some marketers will even want to stop everything they’re doing a start from scratch. But, even though you may not always hear from your audience, it doesn’t mean they aren’t there and that they’re not listening.

When we talk about listening as a marketing activity, we put great emphasis on quietly listening before taking action. This gives you the opportunity to observe, watch other reactions and prepare for when it is time for you to act. So, why should it be any different for our own audiences? Well, it’s not. Sometimes our audiences are just taking in the information we feed them, and it’s okay.

Excitement Spreads – Utilize It

There is no disputing that word-of-mouth takes on a whole new level with social media. For instance, think about the recent news of Robin Williams’ death, which spread like wildfire. Where did you see it? It’s likely safe to say that it was on some form of social media. Once this new is distributed to the masses, it’s really difficult to go back and change it.

While Robin Williams’ passing was sad news, good news also spreads quickly across social media. Simply put, don’t put any secrets out on social media. But, for marketers, this can be used to your advantage. You have the opportunity to tap into that news by producing an article that ties it in, making a related spoof video, a related meme or any number of other tactics.

As a word of caution, marketers do have to be careful of being respectful and tactful on certain news items. For example, it would have been distasteful to create a meme related to Robin Williams’ death. Unfortunately, some brands have made this mistake and have faced backlash as a result.

Marketers should utilize trends on social media even related #MondayMotivation, #ThrowbackThursday, or #FridayFunnies. Users love this type of content and will share your inspiration and excitement.

Social Was Made To Be Social

A recent study from Harvard neuroscientists shows that it is rewarding for humans to share information about themselves. Interestingly, talking about ourselves is just as appealing as food and money are to us.

Bragging reaction on brainFor anyone who’s on social media this news should come as no surprise. Yet, in marketing, we should know that we can’t talk about ourselves. We have to produce content that adds value to our audience.

A good rule of thumb to apply is what has become known as the 4-1-1 rule that was initially equated to Twitter. This says: Tweet 4 pieces of relevant original content from others and re-tweet 1 relevant tweet for every 1 self-promoting tweet.

4-1-1 Rule for Social Media

Ultimately, by making your story about your audience, it will subtly benefit you more than any piece of self-promotion could have. Social media was meant to be social, so please be human and social.

It’s these types of lessons that we sometimes neglect but that are critical in moving our marketing efforts in social media forward.

4 Ways to Keep People Coming Back to Your Website

Every business naturally wants more traffic to their website as traffic essentially translates to increased sales. What’s the secret for getting people there? And, how do you get them to stay? Like poker, while there may be a bit of luck attached to it, attracting and keeping people on your site is a skill.

It’s all in the headline

When you meet someone that you’re trying to impress, most people will take extra precautions with their appearance. The same should be true online. Catchy titles are beyond valuable since they draw people in. Multiple tactics work including humor, statistics, bold facts, and more, but please be careful to not sensationalize the title. Sometimes it’s tempting, but if readers feel tricked or misled, the super catchy headline serves no purpose.

The best advice in regards to headlines comes from Copyblogger in 10 Sure-Fire Formulas That Work. These tactics provide variety as well as meat that assist in SEO initiatives.

Content matters… a lot

If you read any content from SugarSpun, you should know that we place a tremendous amount of emphasis on content marketing. The reason is simple – it’s vitally important for business success. If a headline gets people there, the content keeps them and causes them to return. Your content has to deliver on what the title promised.

There is a lot of content across the Web, and much of it is good. To make your content stand out, you need to, first of all, be well-written. If you have misspellings or really poor grammar and punctuation, readers could be impacted negatively. You may have breaking news or a breakthrough on a new strategy, but if the reader can’t follow the story due to errors, you have a problem.

Focus on being informative, innovative, and helpful, among other tactics that make people feel like they need your content. From there, you can throw in some humor and other flavor to spice it up, but you must lay a strong foundation first.

Use multimedia and other outreach opportunities to your advantage

If you have a really enticing title and solid content that people can use, you’re setting high expectations. In other words, these visitors aren’t going to be satisfied with just text. The new media era has almost forced us to depend on visuals. This means images, charts, infographics, and videos. People like variety. They also like supplemental material. You can always do this through linking, as you should, but readers will also appreciate if you embed a YouTube video or an infographic directly into your content.

Statistics on Infographics
Courtesy of: Social Strand Media

It’s great if you produce this content yourself, but it’s also very beneficial to utilize content that’s already created. By giving other’s credit, it also helps to present you in a positive light in the industry. And who knows, they might even push your content out, which broadens your reach and creates new opportunities.

Be part of the community

Getting people to your site is not just a matter of writing an article or having a good website, it’s also about your overall presence in your industry. This means you need to participate in conversations that are already happening. Join groups on LinkedIn, answer questions on Quora, become influencers on relevant forums – these are just a few of the ways that you can be involved.

However, as you do this, you must really contribute. Don’t come across as if you’re trying to make a sale – be real and human. Play off of your content by being catchy and informative, but then let them know where they can get further information.

Another aspect of being part of the community involves your social media strategy. Don’t just constantly push out your content – that’s the easy part. Instead, find conversations to be part of and add updates to previous posts.

Above all, be present. People like communication and good, valuable content. If you fulfill this desire, you’ll get increased traffic to your site and long-term, repeat readers.

Marketing Just Got Smarter, Thanks to Yelp

Online reviews are continuing to grow in value as consumers are gaining trust in them. In fact, BrightLocal’s 2013 Local Consumer Review Survey found that 79 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Yelp, Angie’s List, Yahoo Business Listings, among others are some of the most popular sites, but social media channels including Facebook and Twitter are growing in value to become recommendation services for small to medium sized businesses.

As if there’s never a dull moment in the marketing world anyway, Yelp recently made an announcement that really shakes up the industry. The review site that was created to allow consumers to talk about businesses is now going to allow them to talk directly to the companies. In a blog post, Yelp said it would soon begin allowing individuals to message businesses as well.

New Yelp Feature

The logic is that, apart from the written comments, photos, ratings, and some videos, there are some questions that still come up. For consumers that prefer to not pick up the phone, the messaging functionality will allow them to send their question or comments over to the business. In turn, the business will receive the message via email.

The feature also gives consumers insight into how long the response time is for the business they want to message. For example, the wait time could indicate immediate responses or up to a few or several days for replies.

New Yelp Message Feature

Yelp cites Wade Lombard, founder of Square Cow Movers in Austin, TX, as he explains his experience with the new ability: “This feature is a conversation starter. Responding takes just a few minutes and it almost always leads to further correspondence or a phone conversation. We believe that responding quickly helps to show the client we deeply care about winning their business.”

The new feature is now rolling out for all businesses. However, businesses that do not wish to receive messages can simply disable the capability.

Marketing Impact

For businesses, this new feature is both exciting and challenging. On the exciting front, it provides a means to make a direct connection with target audiences. It also opens the door for longer and more meaningful conversations. Yelp is essentially adding a further human element to its offerings. The communication that results impacts not only the individual who sent the message, but it also provides valuable data that businesses can analyze and utilize to improve their products and services, which will ultimately better meet their target audience’s needs.

In spite of all the positive connections and relationships that could result from this new ability, there is also a challenging side. These challenges come since consumers’ expectations have now skyrocketed. For instance, consumers live in a real-time, Twitter-centric world, which means they expect answers immediately. Yes, your response time could be up to 2 days, but to be frank, many consumers may not care and choose to not give you business AND leave a bad review.

There is the point, of course, that businesses can turn this feature off, but it may be hard for them to dispel all the opportunities that come with leaving it intact. The fact of the matter is that, because the value is so great in the potential customers that may be built through this communication, it forces another layer to the every-growing marketing mix.

Time will tell what the true impact of this new Yelp feature will be, but we, as marketers, need to be proactive and make the proper adjustments to accommodate these types of features. This is just a hunch, but my guess is that many similar features are on the horizon.