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Connection in the Time of COVID

It’s safe to say that social media has played a large role in informing, connecting and entertaining the public during the COVID-19 crisis. The widespread lockdown and increased time at home naturally increased social media consumption. According to Social Media Today, people spent over 20 percent more time in social media apps during the COVID-19 lockdown. By utilizing unique content like virtual tours, live streams and Q&A sessions, Coles Marketing helped our clients stand out from the noise online and connect with their audience during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Social media strategies are not a one-size-fits-all solution, especially during the COVID-19 crisis. For some of our healthcare clients, the objective was to use social media platforms primarily as a source of information for the public. Clients in other industries used social media to connect and engage with followers in innovative ways during their time at home.

Here are a few ways Coles Marketing connected with our clients’ audiences on social media platforms:

  • We orchestrated an online photo contest and asked all followers to share a photo along with tagging the client and using the specific contest hashtag.
  • We published a Facebook Live stream of an awards ceremony scheduled in April so the show could still go on!
  • We hosted multiple Q&A sessions on Facebook and had experts answer questions about the products they offer.
  • We published many virtual tours, so followers were able to check out exhibits from the comfort of their home.
  • We used the platforms of an assisted living facility to share positive photos and videos of residents who were not able to see their families in person.
  • We started a campaign called #TriviaTuesday and encouraged followers to answer questions each Tuesday — a pleasant diversion from COVID-19.

Our efforts to create new and unique ways to engage various audiences were successful and resulted in increased followers, engagement and impressions.

These analytic results from the past few months show social media audiences are eager to engage with organizations through their social media platforms:

  • For one of our clients, Facebook fans increased by 49%. Engagement and impressions increased by 54% and 57%, respectively.
  • For another one of our clients, Facebook engagement increased by 166% while impressions increased by 222%.
  • For another client, Facebook impressions increased by 291% while Twitter engagement increased by 463%.

What’s the role of social media moving forward?

The pandemic has presented a need for brands and organizations to connect and co-create with followers through organic media. The results of our social media analytics indicate audiences reacted positively to unique organic content. While we still recommend paid media to our clients, organic media is still an important piece of their online presence.

All social media platforms are frequently updating their pages to help individuals and businesses connect with their online community. For example, Facebook recently added tools like group video chatting, digital gift cards and a COVID-19 update feature to promote virtual connection and consumption during this time. Coles Marketing is always staying up to date and utilizing all the social media industry has to offer our clients.

If you need assistance expanding your brand awareness and creating engaging content, give us a call today at 317-571-0051!

By Caroline Voelz
Social Media Manager

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Creativity Keeps Businesses Booming

Fortunately, working remotely is always an option for our team, but of course, it’s a necessity right now. Although our business office is closed, our home offices are open, and we are continuing to build our clients’ brands.

While COVID-19 is slowing down activities in some markets, it is providing opportunities in others. For example, we recently teamed up with Indiana Historical Society to build an online tool that allows Hoosiers to submit photos, videos and stories documenting how they are dealing with the “new normal” of life amid COVID-19.

We have been helping another one of our clients explain the financial aspects of this new normal on an almost daily basis, developing and distributing e-blast messages to their customers about tax filing and payment extensions, new loan programs, etc. To house the numerous financial updates, we created a COVID-19 Resource Center on their website.

We are also helping a senior living management company promote temporary jobs that have opened up in the wake of COVID-19, and we are documenting the many ways in which they are keeping residents and their loved ones connected despite visiting restrictions.

How are we doing all of this from the comfort of our homes? Here are a few tips and tricks that could help you and your business during this time as well:

Zoom Meetings: Zoom is the most popular video conferencing solution for companies with 500 employees or less. It’s gaining users rapidly amid COVID-19 concerns, adding roughly 2.22 million monthly active users since the start of the year. Allowing us to see each other and communicate face to face brings back a sense of normalcy and “business as usual.” It’s also keeping our company’s collaborative, creative spirit alive and thriving!

Task Lists: When everyone’s operating remotely, it can become easy to lose sight of what we’re all working on. That’s why we’re all sending each other bulleted task lists every morning. We also utilize Trello, which organizes everyone’s tasks in separate boards and lets you track each team member’s progress.

Sharing on Slack: Slack, our office newsfeed, has been our best friend lately. Not only does it allow us to stay in touch, but it’s been a great tool for boosting employee morale in the midst of COVID-19. Sharing pictures of our home offices — and the pets who break into them — is a particularly comforting activity.

Tapping into Creativity: When the mechanical shark kept malfunctioning during the production of Jaws, director Steven Spielberg took a less-is-more approach, making the monster’s presence known through menacing music and underwater point-of-view shots. This creative solution saved the film and made it even better than it would have been before. Think of COVID-19 as the malfunctioning mechanical shark you have to work around in order to keep your business booming.

By Brian Coles 
Chief Marketing Technologist / Owner

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What Does the Future Hold… for Marketing?

There’s been a lot of changes in marketing lately. And we talk about these changes all the time with our clients. But now I’ve been challenged to write them down. So as Zeppelin said, I’m going to “ramble on!”

What is the Future of Websites?

Let’s get real (this is a sales pitch). A website should change — constantly. And a major overhaul should Google Knowledge Paneloccur every 3 – 5 years. That’s the truth. Call us if you need a new website. 

The unknown — well, that’s tricky. I hesitate to write this, because one of our core services is website development and design. Google, which owns 90% of search traffic, has been making tweaks to its search results pages that have caught my (and others’) eye. 

One prime example is that the Google My Business Knowledge Panel is long (see picture). Longer than ever, with all the information you need to make a qualified decision about whether or not to use a company’s service or product. Photos, videos, reviews, location details, Q&A, Google Posts (usually I am out of breath when I say this in person), etc. Plus call to action buttons and information, such as phone numbers, reservation buttons or directions. 

This is on purpose, people. Google wants you to stay on their search page. They serve ads, they make money. You go to a website, they lose money. 

Additionally, zero-click actions, or taking an action from the search results page without clicking on any buttons, are more common. And in the future, I believe all real estate on Google will come with a cost — once the data supports more people converting from Google than your website. 

So, there you have it. Will you pay for Google Space or your website? Which one converts the highest? And do you need a website? Those are questions for the future.

Mobile vs. Desktop Web Traffic

Mobile Vs. Desktop TrafficRemember mobilegeddon? I do. The year was 2015, and everyone was freaking out. Mobile was set to outpace desktop views online. Desktop was on its way out. I remember, because frankly, we were busy — developing mobile-friendly websites.

But here’s the deal. I recently went to a conference where talk was different. Yes, mobile usage is increasing. But, so is desktop. This is fact: we are online more than ever. Right now, as I type on my desktop, my phone is sitting next to me — where it always is. I can’t live without my phone. But I also can’t do everything on my phone — like type this long blog article. 

But don’t take my word for it. Look at our traffic online. Most of our clients are 50-50. Or 40-60 or 70-30. What those numbers apply to doesn’t matter. It shows life in both desktop and mobile — depending on your customer or client.

Mobilegeddon was important but overrated. I fell for it. There, now we can move on.

Electronic Mail Messages or Email

We’ve come a long way since “You’ve got mail.” We call it email nowadays. It’s now a verb, you know. But what is its future? Is it effective?

Remember when you used to hold your email address close to your vest? Now you give it out freely. Or you’ve worked a system to keep the clutter in one email account and important emails in another. I could even write, “Remember when you used to hold your mobile phone number close to your vest?” We’re at that point, right? How many times have you heard, “Text me, it’s the best way to reach me.” But I digress. The point is that email isn’t what it used to be, at least from a marketing standpoint.

So, do I believe it will exist in marketing? Yes, but in a more limited fashion. Remember the word e-blast? Blast out messages to everyone on your list. Gone, or used sparingly. Now it’s segmentation. But you know the word clutter, right? Yeah, that’s real. We get SO much email. I bet I read half or less than half of all non-work-related, non-client-based email. Why? I don’t have time. And you probably don’t either. Unless it’s important. Unless it provides ME something. Or unless I’m over the age of 65. I recently read an article that email is an effective way to reach a senior audience.

The point is, provide value in email. Know your audience. Email may be the communication preference for some but not for all. I use my email to get whitepapers, VIP cards and coupons. But I rarely read your emails. And don’t overdo it. It’s a one way ticket to being ignored or worse too many unsubscribes. Find your frequency and don’t push it.

And did you know, you can target people differently with email addresses? Yes, you can — through Facebook, Google Display and other forms of digital advertising. So don’t NOT ask for the email address, just use it wisely.

Here’s Another Sales Pitch

Creative will always be important. Marketing automation is here to stay. And a lot of good people might be phased out of marketing by machines. Or maybe we’ll just have more to do, more on our plate — as it is the case today. 

There are marketing automation tools for digital advertising, email and social. You name a marketing tactic, there’s automation. CRMs are a must. Heck, I can slap a website up on the Worldwide Web in about 5 minutes. Automation and technology make our life easier (or maybe harder). We’ve adapted. We all use automation and technology. It’s cool. 

But does it make us more effective? I would argue, no. The message and look makes us more effective. They define our brand experience. The automation makes getting the message out to the right people more efficient. Creative sells, taps into emotion, creates the conversion. The more automation, the need for more and better creative.

In my opinion, creatives are marketing and the future of marketing. We’re lucky enough to have 17 creatives on our team — writers, designers, programmers, technologists, buyers, photographers. We’re right-brained, with left-brain reason, and we collaborate to make our clients stand out.

New School, Old School

I’m caught in the middle. I’m old, but I’m young. I’m actually the baby of the family, but I’m a middle child when it comes to marketing. I love digital, but I can’t live without traditional tactics. We buy media this way. It works.

Aside from the obvious tactics, I still love these two. 

You zig, I zag. The talk is around digital, but direct mail is still effective. I just had this conversation with my wife. Remember when you got birthday cards in the mail. It was great. It was a surprise. It felt good. Now I’m old and I only get bills. You CAN still stand out with direct mail. It CAN start conversations. It CAN lead to digital conversions. Don’t always rely on your customer surveys. Word of Mouth and Online are always near the top when it comes to “How did you hear about us?” But something started that process. And I believe direct mail can be that “something.”

Trade shows are undervalued. Nothing beats face-to-face contact. No, not that contact. The contact where you talk back and forth about stuff — like experiences with brands, issues, hesitations. Advertising can’t do that — not digital, not traditional. Technology can’t do that (not yet) — not Zoom, not Facetime, not email. You name it — “It” can not replace in-person conversations. A lot of times, it’s where marketing takes off. “I have a list of leads. What can we do with them?” Insert marketing plan here. It’s undervalued, and it should be part of your plan.

Recap

I’ve said too much but probably not enough. That’s rambling.

By Brian Coles
Chief Marketing Technologist / Owner

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