Never doubt the value of a social media audit

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Is your brand reaching the key performance indicators you first established when you began on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram? Is it reaching your target audience through the right channels? Are your followers becoming customers?

If you’re finding a lack of reward from your investments in social media, then maybe its time to re-evaluate how you’re using it to strengthen your brand and business.

Approach your brand’s social media audit step-by-step in the following order:

Inventory. Does your target audience for each platform actually align with the general demographics of users on those platforms? The Pew Research Center provides helpful data on the latest social media trends in users by age and gender. Use this information to pair your brand’s messaging with the platform used most frequently used by your target audience.

Policy. Who creates your brand’s narrative? Who is tasked with posting messages on each channel? When do you respond to users who tag your brand in their own social media posts? How do you track KPIs? Your brand’s voice will likely be loudest on social media, so planning ahead and answering these kinds of questions are key to ensuring brand consistency.

Activity. Examine information that each platform provides about your social media channels such as audience size, user age and gender, geographical location and engagement frequency. If you have social influencers pushing your brand, then determine the channels where they spend the most time and energy. Determine if visitors to your brand’s social channels prefer watching videos, listening to podcasts, or reading blogs. Find the messages for your brand that draw the largest positive responses and repurpose them to reinforce your narrative.

Compare. Regularly monitor the messaging your competitors are building for their brands as you would your own. Learn who the closest competitors are to your brand and how they’re sharing messages on social media channels, including the keywords and hashtags they most frequently use. Observe follower growth and impressions.

Analyze. If you follow the process above, then you will find all the pieces you need to reveal what the puzzle shows: the current state of your brand and the possibilities for the future. Set new goals for your KPIs, establish a target date to reach those goals, then perform another audit. You’ll see whether or not your brand is on the right track for success.

Outside Agency Services in an In-House Agency World

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Allstate, the insurance giant, announced that they’ve formed a 200-person internal creative team and it plans to take more marketing services in-house.  The brand is maintaining relationships with its external agencies including Leo Burnett, which has had the account for 62 years. This has become a common theme in the marketing world and many agencies are considering it a setback to the advertising industry as a whole.  The Association of National Advertisers reported last year that 78 percent of its members have an in-house agency. 

The trend is strong and it will continue as long as the media landscape continues to proliferate at warp speed.  In the recession, in-house agencies were a brief phenom driven by cost cutting in a tough economy. Quickly, clients realized the strain to produce solid work coupled with the constant overhead was not the way to go.  Today, it is a completely different landscape. The amount of work that needs to be completed in a real time digital world has created more than enough work to go around. The primary reason clients have in-house agencies is “knowledge of the brand” according to the In-House Agency Forum.  In-house doesn’t mean they do not use external agencies.  Many companies believe that having knowledge of the brand and being able to integrate a message to a wide variety of contacts in the digital world is the reason to take it in-house.  VWA believes external agencies have an opportunity to work with in-house agencies for the following reasons:

Creative Chops:  Many in-house agencies are set up as production hubs getting all the materials produced and placed in a timely and cost efficient manner.  Clients with in-house agencies often go out in the market to get a fresh perspective on their brand and look for agencies to bring ideas. Isn’t that what we are in the business for anyway?

Digital Experts: The changing pace of digital and the technology that comes out everyday keeps even the most nimble agency hopping.  CMO’s recognize this and often rely on agencies to help set up digital processes and consult on analytics.

Partnership:  An agency that is able to work collaboratively with an in-house agency will be able to find a place with the client that is productive and will end up improving the work for the client and agency.  Even if you bid work against in-house agencies, you should look at it as an opportunity to enhance client knowledge and produce better work. A smaller agency that can react quickly can be a life saver to an in-house agency.

Cost: In-house agencies are set up as cost centers and charge between $50 and $175 per hour to the client’s production budgets.  This is calculated with and without an overhead factor. Assuming the $50 is a without overhead number, smaller and less bureaucratic agencies should be able to negotiate a rate that is within this parameter.  Often you can come in as a savings verses a cost to the client. 

Is Your Website ADA Compliant? 

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You may have read about the recent class action lawsuit against Beyonce’s Parkwood Entertainment, LLC alleging its website discriminates against the visually impaired.  The woman, Mary Conner says the star’s website is not designed or accessible for the visually impaired and doesn’t give blind fans a chance to buy tickets , merchandise or read about Knowles. The suit filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, cites the ADA or Americans with Disabilities Act, states, “ requires places of public accommodation to ensure access to goods, services, and facilities by making reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities” The suit requests an injunction requiring Knowles’ company to make adjustments to make the site accessible for blind fans and browsers.  Conner also requests payment of “compensatory damages in an amount to be determined by the court” 

Web compliant litigation is becoming a more common issue as websites are increasingly the main communication a consumer has to interact with a business.  The ADA guidelines for a compliant website are:

  • CertainCertain business make accommodations for people with disabilities.

  • Businesses that fall under Title 1, those that operate 20 or more weeks per year with at least 15 full-time employees, or Title III, those that fall under the category of “ public accommodation,” are covered by the ADA

  • Web content should be accessible to the blind, deaf, and those who must navigate by voice screen readers or other assistive technologies

  • There are no clear regulations defining website accessibility

  • Failure to create ADA-compliant website could open a business to lawsuits, financial liabilities and damage your brand reputation.

The interesting part is that there are “no clear rules”, but a company is required to have a website that accommodates people with disabilities.  Websites should be built from the ground up with ADA compliance as part of the architecture. However; existing websites can be retrofitted with ADA compliance, but that can come at a significant cost.  The best place to look for for ADA compliant websites is government websites. Here are a couple of ways to address accessibility issues for a website:

  • Create text transcripts for video and audio content: Text transcripts allow the hearing impaired to interact with your site.  It can also increase your Google site rankings.

  • Identify the sites language in header code: This helps users with text readers.

  • Offer alternatives and suggestions when users encounter input errors: You should always offer an alternative for users who are having a hard time with you site.

  • Create a consistent, organized layout: UX design of your site should clearly layout the site so that it is readable and clearly organized for the impaired.

  • Create alt tags for images, video, and audio files: Alt tags give the users the ability to read or hear alternative descriptions of content they might not otherwise be able to view.

The cost on non ADA compliance can be quite steep.  Not only are you giving up a chance to build relationships with a potential lucrative customer base, but fines can be up to $50,000. 


This area is still very subjective and at VWA Atlanta we believe a reasonable effort to offer  accessibility for users with disabilities can help companies avoid legal action until hard and fast rules are put in place.  If you would like a free ADA Website Compliance review please reach out to VWA at avanwinkle@VWAAtlanta.com.

10 Marketing Trends Still Worth Watching

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It’s hard to believe we are halfway through 2019 already.  We thought we’d look back at marketing trend predictions and see how accurate they were.  Here are 10 from Entrepreneur magazine that we think are still worth watching:


  1. The marketing funnel is shifting.

  2. Content is everything

  3. Chatbots aren’t going anywhere.

  4. AI continues to grow.

  5. People are cautious about security.

  6. Voice search is getting louder.

  7. Vertical video is on the rise.

  8. It’s time to focus on Gen Z.

  9. Visual searches are taking off.

  10. Influencers have different identities.


Click here to read the full article:

5 Surprising Insights About Marketing to Generation Z

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Gen Z, the demographic cohort after the Millennials is fast becoming the most discussed and debated new target group in marketing as they start to enter the workforce and earn their own incomes.  While many studies have been done to attempt to identify key traits and characteristics of this group, the best insights sometimes come from first-hand knowledge.  The Ad Age article, 5 Myths About Marketing to Gen Z – From a Member of Gen Z, outlines the following interesting insights:

1. Being Real Really Pays

In a time when Photoshopped images of “perfect” bodies flood Instagram, my generation yearns for brands that are truly authentic.  What we really want to see is reality—something that often seems to be in short supply online today.

2. Share Our Values

We’re very attuned to societal injustices such as racism, and we support brands that share the same values as us.  If done right, standing up for social justice will resonate with Gen Z. For example, Nike took a chance with its controversial ad campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick. Some didn’t like it, but Gen Z definitely did, and Nike’s increased sales showed they nailed it among their customers.

3. Brand Loyalty is Possible

My generation can still be loyal to a brand if that brand can earn our trust. No company has cracked the Gen Z brand-loyalty code more successfully than Apple—a survey found that as of spring of this year, a new high of 83 percent of U.S. teens own an iPhone, and 86 percent plan on their next smartphone being an iPhone. 

4. Subtlety in Branding is Key

Gen Z places a premium on individuality, and while we still appreciate expensive clothes, we don’t want our clothes’ branding overshadowing our personal brands.  Gen Zers want our Instagrams to be a reflection of our uniqueness—not just free advertising for a luxury brand. 

5. Focus on In-store Experience

42 percent of Gen Z members surveyed prefer in-store shopping to online, while just 23 percent prefer only shopping online. But to get Gen Zers coming in to your store, it has to be a fun time—56 percent said an enjoyable in-store experience impacts where they shop.

To read the full article, click here:

Print Isn’t Dead!

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It appears that the early pronouncements of the demise of print are premature.  According to the article, Print isn’t dead:  Why marketers are going back to the basics, print remains a viable and effective medium.  

Some key takeaways:

Consumers trust printed books and magazines as a way to switch off and reduce digital overload.

“While many believed physical books were done and dusted after the Kindle launched in 2007, the stats tell a different story. Since 2013, publisher-reported revenue in the US has increased by $820 million, while e-book sales slipped by 3.9 percent in 2018. 

Marketers are also beginning to realize the benefits of integrating print and digital efforts.

“The argument about whether digital or print reigns supreme is ultimately a false dichotomy. For marketers, the combination of both can be the most effective strategy.  Branching out into different mediums allows you to connect with a whole new audience and introduce them to your content.  Using print to supplement a digital strategy also lets you cut content in a range of different ways for different audiences: as with any channel, it’s about making sure the content fits the medium. “

Print can also help to leave a deeper and more lasting brand impression upon consumers.

According to a study conducted by Millward Brown in 2009, tangible material is more real to the brain. It has a meaning, and a place. It is also better connected to memory.  In addition, printed items generate more emotion, which in turn helps to develop more positive brand associations.

It turns out print is alive and well. If anything, it’s going to be more of a focus in 2019, as brands discover new tools and technologies that mean they can apply the same tactics and measurement from digital channels to print. Smart marketers will be jumping at the chance to reach audiences in all the different places and moments they consume media – as long as it’s relevant and unique.

Learn More

The Three Most Important Benefits of Working With a Single Agency Partner

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The agency model has continued to evolve over the last decade as the trend toward specialization continues to grow.  According to the recent article, The growing complexity of the Agency Model for Marketers, from The Drum Consulting, there are at least 20 identifiable agency models today leading to confusion among marketers when it comes to choosing the right agency partner. 

At VWA, we’ve always believed that the full-service agency model offers the most value to marketers, no matter the size brand or budget.  There are many benefits of working with one agency partner for all of your marketing needs, but we have identified three that are the most important ones.

1. Enhanced Integration

What marketer do you know that doesn’t want or expect a consistent, seamless, multi-dimensional brand experience for their customers and prospective customers?  Unfortunately too many times when employing the multi-agency partner model, campaigns fall short of this goal due to lack of communication, a unifying strategy or an effective approval process.  When working with one invested agency partner, your team is working as one entity to devise a compelling, unified voice for your brand and extend that into every aspect of the brand’s persona from advertising to merchandising to customer service.

2. Sharper Insights

With so much focus on measurement and analytics, it’s easy to lose sight of the importance of synergy between the message and the medium.  When a creative agency develops content with a particular objective or goal in mind that conflicts with what the  media agency is focused on, you can end up with a disjointed effort and analytics reporting that doesn’t add value or sometimes even make sense.  Integrated campaigns with aligned creative and media KPI’s provide sharper insights that are more actionable.  

3. Improved Efficiencies

Utilizing one agency partner can save you real money in fees or commission, allowing you to allocate more of that budget to content development and media placement.   Agencies that function as an AOR have the ability to be more flexible with their staffing and pricing models leading to more efficiency across the board for their clients.   Additionally, with all processes being handled in-house by the same teams, speed to market and quality control also increases. 

VWA is a client focused, media agnostic, full-service advertising agency headquartered in Atlanta, GA.  To learn more, visit vwaatlanta.com.

5 Tips To Creating a More Modern Web Site in 2019

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With the plethora of web design platforms available today, it’s easier than ever to build a simple, clean and more modern web site for your company or your clients.  Whether you use WordPress, Shopify, Squarespace or a custom design to bring your vision to life, keep these five tips in mind.

1. Keep it Simple

You’ve heard the acronym KISS before (Keep It Simple Stupid).  Well that applies to web design as well.  It’s important to complete the exercise of editing down your content to just the most important points you want to make or information you want to share with your audience.  Think elevator speech vs. annual report.

 

2. Use Clean and Legible Type

Make it easy for your visitors to view and absorb your content.  Using scripted fonts or reversed type on complex images increases the chances that your customers will miss important information or even worse, will become frustrated and bounce.

3. Use a Content Framework That Is Easy to Understand

If your customers can’t find what they are looking for in a few simple clicks, they will look for it elsewhere.  Use a simple navigation system that provides clear links to they key information you want to convey. 

 

4. Provide the Most Relevant Information On The Home Page

Related to tip #3, the more information you can put on your home page, the better to decrease click fatigue.  Many of the most popular templates now provide the option to include all site content on the home page in a scrolling format for this reason. 

5. Consider Video Or Simple Animation To Bring Energy To Your Site

Using video or simple animation within your site will help to create more energy and interest in the static content portions.  A sense of movement keeps the viewer engaged and makes the site feel more organic.

If you or your clients are in need of assistance with web design or development projects, check us out @vwaatlanta.com.

WHY IN-HOUSE AGENCIES STILL NEED OUTSIDE HELP

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Last year, Ad Age reported (click here) on the skyrocketing growth of internal agencies with 78 percent of members of the Association of National Advertisers reporting some form of in-house agency. 

While this may seem like an alarming statistic to traditional advertising agencies, it really shouldn’t be.  One of the primary reasons for the rise in in-house agencies is the increasing demand for branded content and the ability to produce it on a daily basis to feed content strategies.  Some agencies have done a better job than others of recognizing this market need and adapting their business models while others have been slower to catch on.

However, whether your agency offers branded content development or not, agencies still offer value to advertisers with in-house agencies.  Here are the top 3 reasons:

  1. Outsider Perspective – Your agency is an independent partner tasked with driving results for your brand.  That independence allows for the development of ideas without restriction, which can help lead to work that breaks through category norms or challenges conventional thinking.

  2. Talent – The most talented creative professionals are drawn to creative environments where they have the opportunity to work on various brands and marketing challenges and rub shoulders with others in their industry.  Even some of the best designed and run in-house agencies are still operated within a corporate environment with corporate standards and more oversight, which may be less appealing for some.

  3. Cost Savings – Marketing needs can vary throughout the year.  This can make it challenging to have the appropriate level of staff available at all times or to make operations financially efficient.  Agencies can assist in picking up the slack throughout the year with an ever-ready talent pool that knows your brand and your team.

Of course there are more than 3 reasons to consider investing in an ongoing relationship with an agency partner for ancillary services.  But the overall benefit is helping you run your in-house agency more effectively and efficiently.  

To learn more about VWA, visit our website, www.vwaatlanta.com or call 404-355-0127.

MARKETING AT THE SPEED OF PERFORMANCE

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One stat that will stick with you for the rest of the day is that 90% of the worlds online content was uploaded to the web in the last two years. This clearly illustrates the way that marketers have shifted in mass to what is now called performance driven marketing.   The subtle and time intensive efforts of building brand equity have been challenged by the need for data and immediate performance. In a day where CMO’s and CEO’s are held to quarterly profits in spite of long term goals, this plays perfectly in that arena.

As brands have embraced performance based marketing there have been challenges. The days of hiring an agency to develop a campaign and having the campaign executed with perfect rhythm to the annually approved marketing plan are over. Speed, change and execution have become the norm and the marketers have to adapt or get the heck out of the way. The pace never stops. Marketers work day in and day out to develop personas, content to match, target multiple audiences, buy ads via a number of online resources, and measure the KPI’s and costs. And all of has to be constant as campaigns are optimized in real time. This delivers the C-suite’s ultimate goal of ROI based campaigns to drive transactions.

To do it well, you need a team. All the technical aspects of performance based marketing have spawned a plethora of specialized agencies: content marketing agencies, digital media agencies, SEO & PPC agencies, social media agencies, UX agencies, Influencer agencies, email marketing agencies, and digital marketing agencies. The skill for everything is rarely in one place. Many agencies are working together better than ever because the machinations of marketing have be come so diverse. Clients have started to realize that smaller more nimble agencies can react faster and stay in their lane better than large network agencies that have P and L’s for their respective departments.

Clients who try to operate a performance based program with their marketing department are waking up to a sobering reality. Marketers are attempting to “ fix the problem” by bringing it all in-house. This is easier said than done. In 2016 a large numbers of marketers said they were going to bring everything in-house but a follow up in 2017 revealed that few had made the move. There are too many moving parts and those who thought they would rely on media giants like Facebook and Google were forced to face the fact that they are just media companies looking for more money and not concerned about actual business results.It comes down to the agencies and where they will go. Will they be able to bring together the creative and technology in a way that provides results while winning the hearts of consumers? The technology guys need to become more creative and the creative guys need to embrace technology. Instead of working on optimizing the media we need to work on optimizing the creative. The data obsessed performance marketing marketers are here to stay, it’s our job to make it better.