Four Ways Social Media Professionals Can be More Effective

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This article was originally published by Front Office Sports.

Social media marketing strategy and planning have come a long way since the “Wild West” days of the early 2000s. Gone are the days of doing social media just to do social media. You can’t say you have a Facebook page, or Instagram and Twitter account and not build a strategy around them.

You may be surprised to find that PR and #smsports pros still struggle with certain aspects of social media. Whether it is trouble showing ROI, lack of support or resources, or frustrations with the ever-changing platforms that exist.

All of these factors play in to a team, company or brand having to constantly re-evaluate their social media strategies and goals.

In a recent dialogue with #smports and #highered pro Chris Yandle, he brought up some great points about some of the hardest elements that PR pros struggle with when it comes to social media.

His quote was perfect . . . “Too many PR people treat social media like a megaphone rather then a conversation.” That is so spot on. Many brands and companies still treat social like a one way conversation. Using the old “spray and pray” method, they just shout their messaging and don’t try to make their content “social” at all.

So, when trying to make sense of how PR pros can get better, Chris listed four elements they need to concentrate on more to be effective. Allow me to elaborate on Yandle’s thoughts and present the four ways social media pros can be more effective on social media.

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Strategy

I’ll say it again, you can’t just do social media to do social media. It’s not a place to just dump press releases and news stories. It’s not a place where you consistently cross link to content from other platforms and not make it unique. Social media has to tie in to your overall goals. It has to help answer the “why” or the “what” behind your goals.

It has to help serve a purpose. What are you trying to accomplish? What are your growth goals? What are your revenue goals? Do you want more fan engagement? What content are fans telling you they want? You have to build a strategy to help achieve these goals with social media. I know for a fact that companies and athletic departments are filled with many talented leaders and thinkers. Get them together and build a comprehensive strategy that ties social media to your business goals.

Planning

Once you have a sound social strategy that aligns with your goals, you must develop a plan to execute said strategy. Too many people fall into the trap of figuring out the “why” and “what” behind their social efforts, but then fail to plan accordingly and fall into the same pattern of content. Planning also means you need to consistently evaluate your reporting data and analytics.

You know what they say . . . “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” You must be diligent in your reporting and evaluate the success of your plans with data. Don’t be afraid to test and learn, but always evaluate what is working with data-based decisions.

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Content Curation

I’m sure you’ve heard this term thrown about plenty, but how many PR and #smsports pros actually know what it is or how it is beneficial? Content curation is the process of gathering information relevant to a particular topic or area of interest.

A good PR strategy must include organizing and sharing the best and most relevant content on a specific issue. This is content curation. What are your fans saying about your team or brand? Can it be leveraged to help tell your story? What are the popular subjects being discussed in your subject matter area? How can you position yourself in that space? A good content curation process will definitely help set your social media apart from your competitors.

Being Social

You would think being social on social media is a given. You’d be wrong. I can’t echo Yandle’s thoughts enough, that “too many people treat social media like a megaphone and not a conference call.” There are so many opportunities on social media to interact and delight your fans or targeted personas by listening and responding to them. Be authentic. Tell stories. Ask questions. Listen and respond.

Be sure to track the conversation around specific phrases or words that are important to your company. Then leverage them to discover opportunities on how to better serve your targets and create better content for them. You’ll be impressed at how your platforms will grow in both audience size and engagement when you are truly social and conversational with your content.

We all should have a goal of getting better everyday. Try to something new. Inch closer to those campaign goals. Evaluate your data and see what’s working. Network and meet someone new. Constantly strive for improvement.

All of these things should be considered when you’re working through your social media strategy. By thinking strategically about social, you’ll be able to impress your bosses who may still not “get it.” You will not only be able to show them the plans in place to succeed, but the results they want to see that affect their bottom line. You can’t ask for much more than that can you?

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Your Career May Be A Jungle Gym…And That’s OK

A popular book on the #SBBX and one my wife read this summer is Sheryl Sandberg’s thought-provoking book, Lean In: Women, Work, And The Will To Lead. It’s a great read for working women and for the men who are married to them.

One of the more popular quotes from the book, one which we have discussed at length, is the following: “A jungle gym scramble is the best description of my career. I could never have connected the dots from where I started to where I am today.” She attributes the metaphor to Fortune magazine editor Pattie Sellers.

She’s totally right. We grow up hearing about the “career leader” and how your career should be a “climb to the top” or at least a climb to a level that makes you happy and secure. I had this mindset for most of my early professional career. It was all I knew really. But, if I had to do things over again, I’m positive I would approach my career differently.

The era of employment for life with one company is over. Workers now switch from job to job much more frequently in search of grafter fulfillment and compensation. Today, the average person changes jobs 10 to 15 times (with an average of 12 job changes) during his or her career. Most workers spend five years or less in every job, so they devote more time and energy transitioning from one job to the next.

That is why approaching job searches must be done differently these days and consistent networking is a must. You also have to be agile as you track and adjust to job market trends.

So how do you go about having this agile mindset? How do you plan for professional development and not just career planning? Let me provide a few examples I now employ during my career shifts that I wish I had been more cognizant of from the jump.

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Stay Relevant I’ve written this previously, but staying relevant by learning to code, getting various certifications and learning the basics of video production and photography are great ways to stay up to date on industry trends. Many companies today look for talent that is experienced in wide areas of expertise. Always learning new things and staying relevant in the skills that industry HR people are looking for will help you as you look to advance your career.

Be Mindful of Your Social Media Presence — I have many thoughts on “personal branding” which I hope to write about for FOS soon, but I did want to touch on the topic here. Whether you realize it or not, everything you post on social media can help form people’s opinions of you. Therefore, it is your choice to either actively control and shape your personal brand, or let others do it for you. You need to be your best advocate because how you present yourself online could determine future leadership or career opportunities.

Take Advantage of Lateral or Downward Moves — This one may seem counterproductive, but career opportunities come in all shapes, sizes and directions. This is really what can turn your career path into a career jungle gym. During my time searching for new employment I’ve spoken with many people who arrived to their current position by moving laterally within a company or even down, to then progress in a different department. These moves also allow you to see the bigger picture of your business or brand from another point of view. Always stay open to the opportunities that present themselves. You never know what move, no matter the direction, may be the next key to your career success. Trust me here, I can pinpoint a specific lateral opportunity with a previous employer that I wish I had pursued. I don’t dwell on it, but I do look back at how foolish I was for not even entertaining the thought of trying a different route during my early tenure in athletics.

Apply For The Position Anyway — I can’t tell you how many times professionals hold back from applying for a position because they don’t think they have the skills needed to succeed. It’s OK if you don’t, as long as you have the drive, motivation, and resourcefulness needed to get the job done. Be calculated in your risk taking. Honestly assess where your skill gaps are and get advice from a mentor to help you determine if the position is a right fit for your development plan.

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These are just a few things to consider as you move around on your career jungle gym. It’s perfectly OK to not always climb upward as you move to each new career opportunity. You have to move in the directions and in the positions that will bring you the most joy and give you the most career fulfillment.

Just because the move may not be in the direction that your father, mother, sister or brother made in their career path, doesn’t mean you’re not advancing your career.

By considering the steps above, continuing to network and build relationships, and knowing it’s OK to make career moves every few years, you’ll ultimately find that progressing through your career like a kid on a jungle gym is perfectly normal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Professional Development Q&A With Kevin DeShazo

This post is the 10th in a series of Q&A sessions with friends, former colleagues, acquaintances and other contacts who I consider both influential and inspirational. Each of these individuals possesses a skillset that I believe you will find valuable. They have each made an impact throughout my career path and I wanted to feature them in this series.

Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4   Part 5   Part 6   Part 7   Part 8   Part 9

Name: Kevin DeShazo (@KevinDeShazo)
Profession: Founder of Fieldhouse Media and Culture Wins Championships
Degree: BS in Management Information Systems, MBA in International Business

You should know by now that I’m a big fan of Twitter.  You’ll find out below in this interview that so is Kevin. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he and I first connected on our favorite social media platform. We’ve been having conversations on our favorite social media platform for around 2-3 years now. He may even have ended up in my timeline because of interaction with Mark Hodgkin or Chris Yandle.

But, I digress. Kevin and I share many common traits and have had lots of conversations outside of Twitter quite frequently. His thought leadership when it comes to smart social media use for student athletes is second to none. Make sure to check out what he has going on over at Fieldhoue Media. His latest effort, Culture Wins Championships, is all about providing leaders in athletics with a proven program to create a championship winning culture. He is an expert in both areas and is constantly delivering his messages to the top athletic programs in the country.

All of that said, I think you will find Kevin’s discussion below not only informative, but useful as well. I hope you enjoy the following tidbits and advice from Kevin DeShazo.

1) How does your current profession align with the degree you graduated with? If you have held other jobs, how closely have they been aligned?
Ha. It doesn’t, at all. My degree was in Management Information Systems. I knew early on I didn’t want anything to do with that field, but I sort of stumbled into where I am now. My first job out of college was as an embalmer’s assistant at a funeral home (a story for another day) then I got into the healthcare recruiting. In 13 years (that makes me feel old), my actual degree has had nothing to do with my professional career.

2) What did you ‘plan to do’ after college and how close is that to what you’re doing at this point in your career? Were there any deviations along the way and did they help/hurt your path to your current job?
Truth be told, I’m not much of a planner. I go wherever “feels right” and love to keep my options open. So I didn’t have a specific plan once I graduated. This is probably why I ended up working at a funeral home. It seemed fun, so why not? I never could have envisioned doing what I do now.

For one, social media wasn’t really a thing. Facebook existed and MySpace was coming, but the iPhone didn’t exist and the world as we know it was vastly different. And traveling the country to speak to athletes, coaches and leaders was honestly never something I considered. I always wanted to do something “big” but I didn’t know what that was.

Along the way I went from the funeral home to the corporate world and then to starting my own businesses. There were incredible successes and failures along the way (I went 2 years without making any money). But those opportunities and situations gave me perspective on the bigger story of life, and drove me to want to help people believe they have a story worth telling.

3) What’s your best piece of advice for today’s entry-level candidates?
Know your strengths and weaknesses, be humble yet believe you’re capable. Be willing to do the work. Know your why.

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4) What do like the most about your profession?
I love being on campus and interacting with people, getting to help them realize what they’re capable of. On the social media side it’s helping players, coaches and administrators realize they have a story worth telling and guiding them in how to tell it. With leadership development, it’s helping them believe they are capable of being leaders worth following and guiding them through that process. It’s incredible to see a leader and a team truly change their culture. And the emails/calls/texts I get about the impact that our work is having on individuals, teams and even families/marriages. It’s incredibly humbling and energizing. It’s a tiring job that requires a lot of travel, but I head home every trip grateful for what I get to call work.

5) What is the biggest challenge you face in your profession?
People have gotten to a place now where they think that because student-athletes spend a ton of time on social media, that means they understand it and know how to use it well. So helping administrators realize that’s not reality, and that social media education is still crucial for these groups. I thinking also battling complacency. Fieldhouse Media has established itself as the leader in social media education for college athletics, but that doesn’t mean I can get comfortable. With Culture Wins Championships, the challenge is that the leadership space is really noisy and crowded, so trying to serve leaders in order to show them how what we have to offer is different.

6) How has your industry changed during your time as a professional?
I started Fieldhouse in 2011, when the social media world was mostly Facebook and Twitter and most people were afraid of it. Today, social media is the way people communicate and new platforms continue to arrive on the scene. Early on, administrators wanted student-athletes to be scared of social media and wanted education centered on that. Today, they realize how important and valuable it is for student-athletes to use social media purposefully. I prefer to focus on the positives so that has made my job a lot easier.

7) Why do people leave your field or company? Do you agree with why they leave?
I think people leave the field because they are exhausted. Athletics is an “always on” industry and it can cause serious stress on individuals and families. People either embrace that and find the balance where they can, or they get frustrated and tired and pursue careers outside of athletics.

8) Are you considering leaving your current field or company?
Absolutely not. I genuinely love what I do.

9) What is your favorite social media platform?
Twitter, without a doubt. I love the community, the people I’ve been able to meet and the opportunities it’s provided me.

10) What was the last book you read? The last TED talk or other e-learning content you consumed?
Last book I read was Shoe Dog (the Phil Knight bio – highly recommend). Also a huge fan of the StoryBrand podcast and (shameless plug) The Liberator podcast – provided by the guys who run the GiANT Worldwide, the leadership company behind Culture Wins Championships.

11) Where do you receive your news and information?
Twitter…end of discussion. Just kidding…

A. Print Newspaper — What’s that?
B. Online Newspaper — The Oklahoman, The Tulsa World, The New York Times
C. Television — Typically tuned to ESPN or The Food Network. (I try not to watch cable news).
D. Twitter — A variety of news outlets and individual journalists (from sports to politics to culture to religion or a variety of other topics)
E. Facebook — I try to avoid Facebook

12) What are your hobbies? Do you wish you had more time to pick up a hobby?
If I’m not at work or with family/friends, I’m running, cycling or roasting coffee.

How Marketing Automation Helps Improve Your Alumni Relations

Football season is back! That means tailgates and re-connecting with alumni when they return to campus. Most alumni associations spend considerable amounts of time during the offseason planning tailgate events.

Marketing automation is a great way to nurture these relationships with highly personalized, useful content that helps convert prospects to strong leads and turn those leads into delighted customers. This type of marketing automation normally generates new revenue for your alumni accociation and provides an excellent ROI.

I know that higher education professionals cringe at the words prospects, leads, and sell. But, bear with us here. Though we’re using some marketing lingo, the techniques we discuss are the same whether we’re talking about customers buying a product, or alumni donating to your campaign.

Let me tell you how marketing automation helps improve your alumni relations.

Improved Insights into Donor Behavior

Marketing automation software works to gather information from prospects on a consistent basis. Many have the ability to track actions such as page visits, email opens, downloads, form signups, donations, and much more. All of this data is stored into a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system and helps build customer profiles. These profiles help you:

  • Deeply understand your donor profiles by knowing their interests and actions
  • Measure engagement from most-engaged to least-engaged
  • Analyze effectiveness of campaigns and outreach efforts  

Improved Fundraising, Member Retention and Nurturing

Marketing automation also allows for better communication with your entire prospect base. This communication can be personalized to each individual in various ways such as.

  • Campaigns targeted to current members that automatically send 30-60 days before renewal dates and/or important giving initiatives. These messages can be tailored to each member based on activity level, or donation level.
  • Messages triggered to individual donors based on webpage visits, page clicks or form signups to help solicit additional gifts.
  • Newsletter delivery, instant communications based on certain web actions, other membership offers and survey data capturing for potential members or very new leads to help gauge interest in certain initiatives and allow for up-to-date and immediate contacting.

Marketing automation allows for messages to be sent at the right time, in the right way, to the right person without delay. When you automate parts of your higher education marketing strategy, you gain great insight into how your alumni and possible donors think and act.

This competitive advantage allows you to predict behavior and respond to their inquiries more effectively. This technology isn’t just for increasing giving potential. You can also use it to maintain long-term relationships with alumni and donors.

For more information on marketing automation and inbound marketing, subscribe to my blog

This post was originally published by Verge Pipe Media

Five Easy Ways To Maintain Accountability With Your Client

Leading clients is a contact sport. It’s one of the phrases that stuck with me after I first heard it while at Account Executive College. You must be in the trenches every day with your clients in order to properly lead them. Being in the trenches, for me at least, means being in front of clients consistently, while proactively offering them strategic counsel.
Doing these simple things will help maintain accountability in your agency/client relationships. What is accountability you ask? Let me get technical with you for a minute.

In leadership roles, accountability is defined as the acknowledgment and assumption of responsibility for actions, products, decisions, and policies including the administration, governance, and implementation within the scope of the role or employment position.

Whew, that’s a mouthful.

I’m going to try and simplify that for you. Below are my five easy ways to maintain accountability with your client:

Make sure you can deliver: Quick wins are a good way to prove your value early on in the client relationship. But, as you are banging out quick wins, you have to be working on the long-term strategy and goals that ultimately won you the account. You have to properly strategize to ensure that you can deliver upon your promises. Then once you have delivered, further prove your worth by providing the client data and analytics.

Never wait: Clients look to you for guidance, for support and to be the idea person. So, don’t ever wait for the client to propose ideas, or say “I hope you can help us with this.” You must consistently push and motivate your clients. Sometimes motivation can come in the form of simply keeping them on task and holding them to deadlines. Hitting goals and deadlines together only increases your worth in their eyes.  

Take responsibility: A true leader of clients will always take responsibility during both good times and bad. You should always take responsibility for the final product and give credit to all involved who made it happen on your team. Accountability runs both ways and therefore if you make mistakes along the way, or a campaign fails to hit its goals, you must take responsibility in those cases as well. This openness will go a long way in solidifying your role as a trusted partner.

Refuse to do mediocre work: Don’t ever accept a client’s proposal or idea just because it “came from the client.” Never agree to do any project or campaign at the client’s whim if the concept or idea is mediocre. The quickest way to compromise your agency’s integrity is to do mediocre work, just because it is work you can bill to the client. The client will respect your honesty and integrity if you discuss with them why you only will do quality work and settle for nothing less.

Be transparent: Transparency is key in every aspect of the agency/client relationship. In fact, it is a major part in making the four previous elements of accountability listed happen successfully. Transparency leads to trust and trust leads to lasting partnerships that will lead to major wins for both the client and the agency.

If you’ve enjoyed this latest series of blogs, subscribe to my blog to get all my updates. 

This blog was originally posted for Verge Pipe Media

 

Be A Partner NOT A Vendor

Leading clients is a contact sport. It’s one of the most important things I learned while at Account Executive College. This means that if I’m going to lead our clients successfully, I must be in front of them consistently and speak with them frequently.
This constant contact requires the utilization of certain tools and principles by which to abide. In this blog I want to discuss how it is important to be a partner NOT a vendor for your clients. Clients will often try to do more on their own, so you have to be there to lead and advise them during your relationship so they realize the impact you can make in their marketing efforts. The deeper the relationship you can build and the better leader you can be for them, the less they will want to explore other options when the new “in” thing comes along.

Having said that, here are three ways to help you be a leader for your clients to help guide them through the changing media and marketing landscape.

Look for inconsistencies to fix 

An easy way to get quick wins early in a client relationship and a tactic that will help gain their trust for the duration of the partnership is to look for brand inconsistencies. Once you’ve identified the areas you can help correct for them, immediately tell them, “we can fix this!” This can be as easy as suggesting better content to post, better times to post it or making sure all social profiles have consistent bio information. Prioritize the importance on these projects and knock them out quickly and effectively. Your client will be impressed that you solved, what seemed to them, complex problems more quickly than they could. This will help you earn immediate trust.

Take work off their plate

One of the first questions we ask when we start working with new clients is, “what keeps you up at night?” Actually, we begin to ask that question well before we’ve signed on as the agency of record, and then we reiterate it again during our first meetings. We want to take work off our cleint’s plate very quickly and be known for the problems we solve for them. If you are consistently making their workload lighter, you’ll start to become a trusted advisor for them. They will come to you when they’re considering making a decision or will ask that you be in meetings that impact their daily workload. This action goes a long way in building up lasting trust.  

Always show value

The final step in becoming a trusted partner and earning long lasting confidence from your client is for you to always show value. The first two points listed above will help you establish quick value and value during the early stages of the new relationship. But, being able to consistently show value will make a partnership last a long time. Value can mean many things to many people. In the case of a client partnership it can be in the form of offering ideas, solving problems, being available when called upon, sticking up for your client when they face internal strife, meeting and exceeding deadlines, and generally just making their lives easier.

I mentioned zero-cost client service initiatives in the first blog of this series and being a trusted partner is also a way to bring your agency tremendous returns at zero cost. Following these above steps will also help you gain various levels of trust with your client that can lead to a lasting and productive relationship.

For more client service tips and tricks, subscribe to my blog

This post was originally published for Verge Pipe Media

Listening With Mirrors

Leading clients is a contact sport. As the former Executive Director of Client Leadership (fancy title I know!) at Verge Pipe Media, I learned to roll up my sleeves and get dirty to lead our clients successfully. pexels-photo-85040

Being able to do this requires certain tools in your client services toolbox. Therefore, in my upcoming series of blogs I pull back the curtain and reveal some tools that I’ve used to be successful.

The first tip I’d like to discuss is “listening with mirrors.” “Listening with mirrors?” you say. “What does that even mean?” I’m glad you asked.

Reflective Listening

The way I like to define listening with mirrors is as follows: Listen to your clients intently and then reflect back to them what they just communicated. This is sometimes called “reflective listening,” I’ve come to learn. But I like the sound of listening with mirrors. It presents a great visual reminder for me.

Seriously it does. If I think in my head “mirrors” as I start a discussion with a client, it reminds me to focus on what a client is telling me and then probe deeper into what they just said. This doesn’t mean just repeating what they said, it means responding with reflection (mirrors, get it). Responding with reflection allows the client to “re-see” or rethink about what they just told you.

Reflective sentences may begin like this:

“It sounds like…”

“What I’m hearing is…”

“You feel…”

Beginning your phrasing like this allows you to reflect back, in your own words, what you understood them say. This is often different than what they actually said or what they mean to say. Listening with mirrors usually prompts the client to fill in gaps or add further explanation as to what they wanted to convey. Thus, you are both ultimately speaking the same language when it comes to the problem or situation the client is laying out before you.

Don’t Judge

Another key piece of listening with mirrors is to not judge what the person said when you reflect back. This gives your client a chance to see how they’re coming across, which may or may not be how they meant to come across with the message. Not judging will prevent you from coming across as rude or argumentative, which could lead the client to get defensive.

Overstate

Reflecting back with clients can give you the chance to overstate or slightly embellish their comment or issue in order to see if they really meant what they said. This method may surprise your client, but will usually cause them to pause and consider if they really meant what they said, or if the problem is a big as it seems. Again, it’s all about making the client think about their needs in a different light and possibly re-evaluate or re-prioritize what really matters.

Trust me, it works

I have found in most cases that listening with mirrors is validating to our clients. Think about who you communicate with on a regular basis. How do you feel when that someone takes the time to really listen to what you say and take the time to understand your problems? Feels pretty good right?!

Listening with mirrors is a zero-cost client service and the return can be tremendous! Reflecting back to clients consistently will help you better retain your current clients and make it easier for prospects and new clients to see that you are genuinely interested in helping them solve problems. Doesn’t get much better than that, does it? 

For more client success insights, subscribe to my blog here

This blog was originally posted by Verge Pipe Media. 

 

10 Apps Millennials Actually Use

There are countless mobile apps on the market today. Just visit the App Store or Google Play and you could spend countless hours scrolling through apps of many kinds. When it comes to apps for higher education, people tend to think of just ways apps can be used in the classroom or for curriculum, but that’s not all there is to it.

I know there are many other helpful apps out there that today’s college students can’t live without. How do I know this? Well, I polled a current crop of interns and part-time workers, most of whom are recent graduates or current students.

The apps listed below were unanimously used by our group of millennials. We will call it our list of the 10 apps college students actually use. I guess you could say they couldn’t survive college in today’s atmosphere without them.

University App – It doesn’t matter what college or university you attend; it will have an official app you can download to your phone. In our case, our group unanimously used the Auburn University app to stay up to date with what was happening in and around campus. Most apps also allow you to view your schedule and grades, keep up with news and events, and look up contact information for students and faculty.

Transit App – Likewise with University App, our entire group used the app that helped them track the campus transit system. Auburn’s app provides real-time location and next stop information as well as a small map for all active vehicles and routes. You can even access announcements that might impact your ride.

Moodle/Blackboard/Canvas – These learning management apps are all similar and serve virtually the same purpose, a way for you to track and stay current with your curriculum, courses and grades anywhere you go. Particularly, Auburn uses Canvas which includes course materials, including syllabi, lecture notes or slides, assignment submissions, files and links to external sources, and audio-video content.

Amazon Prime Student – Our millennial workers all took advantage of the discounts available on Amazon Prime. With the “Student” program you receive a 6-month Free trial that includes Free Two-Day Shipping on eligible purchases. You’ll also receive access to unlimited photo storage through Prime Photos, as well as Student-exclusive deals and discounts. After your 6-month free trial ends, your Prime Student membership makes you eligible to receive 50% off Amazon Prime, including all Prime benefits, for up to four years or until you are no longer a student. Sounds like a pretty good deal for the ever-frugal college student.

Venmo – Venmo is a free application that links your device with your bank account to make it easier for you to pay back money without having to deal with cash. With its help, you can share your payments with friends, collect money from people who owe it to you, pay your bills, and much more.

GroupMe – GroupMe is the free group messaging app that acts as a private chat room for your small group. Our millennials proclaimed this app essential for coordinating group projects in order to schedule meetings and update responsibilities, etc. when collaborating on a project. The app allows for sharing videos, photos, emojis, your location and even direct messages. Another plus, the app is available on both iOS and Android, eliminating the possibility for Android group members to be left out of an iMessage group text.

Google Docs – Google Docs is also the most commonly used file sharing app among our young workers. Google Docs allows users to create and edit group documents whenever and wherever, in real time. Editing permissions allow those with access to edit and style documents and all changes are instantly viewable to everyone with access to the document. We were told that students today aren’t sure how they’d get group projects done without the real-time collaboration of Google Docs.

Quizlet – This online learning tool is essentially a memorization aid. It lets users create “sets” of terms customized for their own needs. These sets of terms can then be studied under several study modes. The most popular study mode for our team was “flash cards.” In it, users are shown a “card” for each term. Users can click to flip over the card, or use their arrow keys, and see the definition for that term.

Chegg – Chegg is a multi-faceted app that featured textbook rentals, homework help, and online tutoring. While not a free app, Chegg was made to seem invaluable by the majority of our team members. It allows you to connect with tutors instantly, as well as get instant answers to a variety of educational questions. Step-by-step textbook solutions for your hardest classes are also easily available.

TinyScan/Scannable – These apps, essentially the same but one’s for Android and one’s for iOS, turn your smart phone into a mini scanner for documents, photos, receipts and other texts. With TinyScan, you can scan your documents, like your classmate’s notes on a lecture you missed, at anywhere and store or email them as PDF files. Sending and exchanging PDF files can sometimes be cumbersome, or not achievable at all, on many smart phones. These apps simplify document delivery and were used by more than half of our current staff.

It’s funny, when researching other articles for this piece, we asked our team members if they thought the apps listed in those pieces were accurate or even representative of today’s student. The majority of them said no. In fact, most apps listed drew blank stares or looks of bewilderment.

My goal with this list was to paint a more accurate representation of the 10 apps college students actually use to navigate today’s collegiate landscape. In most cases, the millennial workers said these were the apps a college student can’t live without.

So, let’s consider this the definitive article on the subject shall we? 

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This blog was originally posted by Verge Pipe Media. 

Simple Instagram Tips to Increase Engagement

Instagram is increasingly becoming “the” platform for brands to reach the elusive Millennial demographic. A recent study says that 90% of Instagram users are younger than 35. Instagram also boasts an average per-follower engagement rate of 4.21%.

The numbers don’t lie.

We’ve put together some simple Instagram marketing tips to help you grow a robust and engaged following. So, as you look to build or expand on your Instagram strategy for your university or brand, engagement metrics should guide your content plans. To help you along the way, we’ve put together some simple Instagram marketing tips to help you grow a robust and engaged following.
Consistency is key

If there is one thing we learned early on as we ramped up Instagram efforts, it’s the more frequently and consistently we posted for ourselves and our clients, the better our engagement rates were. We continue to see a consistent rise in followers on our accounts when we post at least once a day. The key to making this task manageable is to establish a content calendar. This will serve as your content road map and allow you to plan as far out as needed to ensure you can post consistently. By planning ahead and posting frequently your followers quickly realize they can expect quality content from you on a regular basis.

Be responsive

Engagement begins with you! Take part in conversations, respond to questions and comments and offer fans a chance to connect. If you are consistently responsive, your fans will be more likely to engage with you in the future. Make sure when you respond to specific users that you include their handle or username so they will receive a notification. If you want to take the engagement even further, monitor your brand notifications to learn when others @mention you and reciprocate with gratitude.

Establish and monitor hashtags

Establishing hashtags helps you organize and track your photos, while allowing you to also run and measure specific campaigns. Hashtags are a great way to give your followers the chance to join a larger conversation when they want to share experiences with you. By encouraging the use of branded hashtags, you will be providing your followers with hashtags to use at certain events. It is also critical to monitor hashtags and look for ways to engage with hashtags that were crated organically. You may try really hard to brand a hashtag, but ultimately find that one is already being widely used by your audience. Just begin using the one that is already popular and make sure to consistently engage with those using the hashtag. Sometimes your audience sets the rules, and that’s OK. Just play by them and your audience won’t mind!

Monitor location check ins

Most Instagram users will attach a location to their content when they post. With a few simple searches, you can usually find a handful of locations where relevant content is being tagged. Make sure to tag your posts appropriately and then search to see who is also posting in the same locations. Engage with the most recent photos that are appropriate and then also follow those users when it is appropriate. When they begin to see that you notice their tags and engage with their content, they will most likely reciprocate. This is a great way to build your following with users who have similar interests as your brand. It also allows you to share user generated content from your feed. This will help fill your content calendar and is a good way to show how your brand is being showcased organically by loyal followers.   

Be conversational

As you participate in tips 2-4, the goal should be to make all interactions conversational. You’ll have learned a lot about your followers by the time you do the above, so interact with them in a way that is natural and conversational. Even though you’re a branded account, you are engaging with people. So, establish a brand voice that is similar to that of a friend. You will build trust with your followers and ultimately turn them into brand ambassadors by responding to questions, comments and concerns in a timely manner that also comes across as genuine and appreciated.

Test and Learn

We say this a lot at Verge Pipe Media, but we mean it. The only way to improve on your efforts, or course correct your plans if necessary, is to test and learn. What types of posts have the highest engagement rates? Did using a certain hashtag drive new engagement? What hashtags have an active communities and did joining those conversations help follower count of engagement? Has building these new relationships led to hitting your KPIs? If the answers here are yes, then keep doing what you are doing. If the answers are no, then course correct or possibly scrap the ideas. Either way you tested and learned!

Instagram is a newer and sometimes intimidating platform for universities, but the chances for engagement make it a must for anyone wanting to reach millennials.

Instagram recently announced coming changes (algorythyms, analytics, oh my!) and also rebranded with a new color scheme and logo. So, make sure your content strategy takes these updates into account.

Posting relevant content and engaging frequently are the quick and easy ways to ensure these changes will have minimal negative effects on your strategy and ensures your content will still be seen.  

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This blog was originally posted by Verge Pipe Media.

Creating Content For “Boring” Industries Can Be Easy

Selling a service can be hard, especially a B2B service that may be considered “boring” to the average person. At Verge Pipe Media we pride ourselves on figuring out the problems that keep our clients up at night. The pain points, if you will, that we can help them solve to effectively get the conversions for which they are looking.

During my tenure working for a boring industry, I liked to say that “we aren’t selling Nikes,” so we had to cut through some clutter and make engaging and educational content that would convert visitors into prospects.

Think for a minute about the end user or the person making this “considered purchase.” What are they trying to understand? What research are they doing? What problem are they trying to solve with the service? When you nail that down, produce content and content offers around that problem.

It may be hard to “un-boring” your service (think engineering, finance, banking, etc.) but it’s not about making something that isn’t flashy, into something flashy. Rather, it’s creating content and offers that compel people to want to learn more about how your business can solve a particular problem. Inbound marketing for boring industries is all about producing educational content that shows you are the trusted resource in the industry.

Try hard to find an un-boring angle if possible. Good content for boring industries doesn’t have to be exciting, but it has to be compelling to your target audience. Creating compelling content for boring industries is also about finding that one un-boring angle and using it to your advantage. Knowledge is power, so as long as you prove that you know what you’re talking about and know it better than your competitors, you’re on your way to gaining customers.

We do want to caution you, although what we just said may seem simple, it’s not. Boring industry marketers are often at a disadvantage because we have to do lots of extra homework. Often we find ourselves teaching our team in great depth about what this industry does and who it serves, before we can even start marketing.

With that said, here are some helpful tips to follow if you need to convert new customers for your “boring” industry:

It’s all about your personas

In order to create compelling content, you must know your target audience. Creating detailed buyer personas will help you know the likes, dislikes, interests, activities and influences of your ideal customer. Want to learn more about personas? We have you covered.

Leverage your subject matter experts

Every industry has subject matter experts, no matter how boring it may seem. These experts often have unique insights to share and can bring an “everyman” perspective to the content. They often have to explain their craft to people, so leverage those thoughts into blog posts, content offers or white papers.

Offer educational content consistently 

Be known by the problems you solve! If you are consistently creating and distributing content that is solving problems for your personas, you will see conversions. It’s as simple as that. The inbound marketing methodology works in spades when you’re solving problems and making people’s lives easier with your content.

Sales and Marketing have to be closely linked/share input

Mixed messages will derail any progress. You can’t create content that solves problems if your sales and marketing teams aren’t aligned and pushing out the same messages. It may also be helpful to involve your customer service team (if you have one) when creating content. The sales team usually knows what’s preventing prospects from becoming customers and can help you create content around those problems. Same with the customer service team. They can help you delight customers by telling you what customer love, or what aspects with which they struggle.

Constantly search for success stories and trends

Leveraging testimonials and “warm” stories can go a long way to building trust and brand loyalty. Let those advocates help tell your brand’s story and how it solved their problems. Additionally, always look for how you can capitalize on trends, keywords, etc. You’re not boring if you’re providing answers to timely questions and to make things relatable to your potential customers.

Don’t be afraid of the challenges that may come with trying to market a boring industry. Dig in, roll up your sleeves, and learn all about what it does, how it works and its ideal customers. Then begin to create content that will be helpful, educational and problem solving.

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This blog was originally published by Verge Pipe Media