What I've Learn After a Year of Putting My Phone Down

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While I write this post I am wearing a Facebook shirt, working on my MacBook Pro which is in a room filled with Apple products. I run an online marketing agency and online ticket portal, amongst other online properties. My staff work remotely for the most part, meaning digital comms are the only way to reach each other 90% of the time. I'm 6'4" and I leave a mighty impactful digital footprint wherever I go.

The iProblem

That said, about a year ago one of the reasons my relationship failed was because I was never putting my phone down. My iPhone was essentially another limb. When a text would chime I would answer within seconds no matter what was happening. You could reach me at 4pm and 4am (I never sleep so I was okay with it).

In short, my phone was controlling me. But let's be honest, "phone" is an underwhelming term for the smart devices in our pockets. My iPhone has over 700 apps and connects me with the world. Truly, I could never talk to another living soul again, and I'd still know everything I need to know.

The iSolution

Enough was enough, and it was time for a change. I consciously made a few decisions and then built on them. The first was that just because I'm awake doesn't mean I need to be reachable. So, I put my phone on do not disturb mode after 7pm and only allowed family and my GM to have settings that would slip past it. Then, most days I turned the sounds off on my phone during the day. Those two decisions changed my life.

No longer can you always get a response from me within seconds, and the digital anxiety (I guess you could call it) brought on by a chime that I just had to get to, melted away. Then I noticed something interesting. I kept forgetting my phone at home when I was going out with family. This is something I would have never done a year ago, because it was always top of mind.

Through all of this, you know what I learned?

My businesses still run just as smoothly as they did before. My time with those I care about is so much more intimate now. My clients are happy. My friends and family are happy ... I am happy.

Basically, the work still gets done, but somehow in less time with less contact. Of course there are still plenty of days when emergencies pop-up and I have that phone stuck to me like guerrilla glue, but once those emergencies pass I'm back to being content without my mechanical appendage.

Life is just better. I hope you can do it too.

Written by Jay Hall, Chief Strategist

The Argument for Less Privacy

Privacy Online - Sync Digital Solutions

In this ever evolving world you can go to sleep with one understanding and wake up in the morning needing to learn the "new way of things". With the digital innovations that fly at us at a rapid pace, it is an exciting time to be alive. However, as we innovate the public becomes more concerned about privacy.

Everyday on my feeds I see someone with real concerns about social sites and the use of their data, the government watching our every move, and other privacy related concerns. I get why you're so worried, but what you may not have noticed while sharing articles about the evil intentions of Facebook is that less privacy has actually made for a better life.

Now, I'm not saying we should give away our rights and allow everyone to know everything about us, but the current use of information is actually pretty constructive. If 9/11 proved anything, it's that the unexpected can happen at any moment. Data sharing and a more open society have helped aid agencies in preventing many different terrorist attacks around the globe.

Outside of a little less privacy keeping us safe, it's also keeping us sane. Remember the days before PVR when you'd actually have to watch TV commercials? It feels like the times of cavemen and striking sticks and stones to build a fire.

The reason we hated advertising so much is because it wasn't catered to us. Now, with a little less privacy and a technology called retargeting, ads are being served up to us based on our activities and interests. This means that while there are more ads popping up online, they are more relevant.

Letting go of some data through what is called a pixel is what we needed to make this future possible. The pixel installs a tiny scrap of data known as a cookie in your browser. It's hard at work around the clock so that if you're looking for a car, but not a house, you're not seeing a ton of ads from real estate agents. Instead, car ads will be popping up around the web (wherever you surf) and the Internet Gods will help you find that new vehicle you're dreaming about all day long.

I see this as a good thing. Not being a parent, I don't care about formula or diapers and I don't want ads for those items popping up all over the internet. Instead, I get ads for digital tech, accessories for my car, items I could buy for date night, and trips. That's what I want to see, and that is why advertising online is superior to real world advertising.

Now of course, in a perfect world there would be no terrorism and no advertising, but this less than perfect world of ours has both so we need to figure out how we co-exist with those realities. Let's face it, you're not doing anything wrong online and the only data that sites like Facebook, Google, and Bing can pull is the data you're putting out there into the world anyway. It's simple to keep your privacy in tact if you'd like, just unplug. Short of that, you'll have to make what some might call compromises, and what I call adjustments.

Absolute privacy can only exist if we share absolutely nothing, which isn't happening so instead of fighting it, look at the revolution of personalized ads and identification profiles within government agencies as progressive. Then, if any person or company steps over the lines of acceptable limits then punish them by taking them to task.

Domain Renewal Scams: iDNS Canada

You may or may not have gotten a letter from a company called iDNS Canada (also known as Internet Domain Name Services). iDNS is a company that preys on people who don’t fully understand the domain registration service by sending letters in the mail about their expiring domain and requests payment. This scam is very similar to the one that went a couple of years ago by the Domain Registry of Canada (DROC).

What this company is actually doing is scamming money from you and trying to transfer your domain away from your current provider, in order to try and scam more money from you later on. Here are some important things to note so you can avoid being scammed when it comes to your domain:

  • Real domain registration providers will never send you a letter in the mail.
  • Report any letters you receive to ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers)
  • Report all letters you receive for all domains to the Canadian Spam Reporting Centre

iDNS is not the first, or last, company to try doing this. If you are ever unsure about something, always ask your web provider first. Remember, if you are a Sync client, and we manage your domain, you will never lose it. So, you can sit back and relax because we’ll take care of it.

Example of the type of letter iDNS sends out:

iDNS Scam

5 Apps to Make Your Job Easier

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Tech was supposed to make our lives easier, but it just seems like we're all so much busier. However, there is a silver lining to the integration of tech that has taken over our very being. Here, I list the top 5 apps that can make your 21st century worker bee lifestyle that much better. Dig in, and enjoy.

Trello

When you've got a team spread out throughout a city or even the world, it can be hard to keep track of a project or tasks. That's where Trello comes in, and surprisingly you get a versatile package for free. Of course, there are paid features, but truthfully we use Trello in the Sync office every single day, and it's kept us organized in a way that Evernote could never dream of.

Slack

The oddly named app is BBM, Whatsapp, and Facebook Messenger on steroids. Slack provides secure chat across various channels, and groups. There's also private messaging between colleges, file sharing, app integrations, and a plethora of other features. My only hang up is with the clunky sign-in and sign-up process. After you get past that though, you'll be hooked.

Google Drive

Gone are the days of Microsoft Office, their prices, and the headaches with their 365 products. Say hello to your new little but mighty friend. Google Drive is a free cloud based solution for document, spreadsheet, and presentation creation. There's a bit of a learning curve, but once you have taken the tutorials you'll wonder why Office still exists.

Dropbox

Still messing around with multiple hard drives, trying to make space on your computer, or emailing files? Say no more, because Dropbox is here to save your world. For a surprisingly low annual rate, you can have your own private piece of the cloud. It's important to note that you will need an external HD to run Dropbox because the app does save local copies of the files (except on mobile). Once you've jumped over that hurdle though, it's clear running towards the finish line. A side note: if you have a lap top and want to run Dropbox, get those no residue velcro strips, and affix your HDD to the back of your lap top. With Dropbox, your team will always be in sync, your files will always be available, and you'll never have to utter the words, "I'll send you that file when I get to my computer".

TextExpander

Find yourself sending repetitive messages, or typing the same content many times over? I have the solution for you. You may be thinking, "But Jay, I copy and paste with the best of them." Well, copying and pasting is so 2012. This is 2017 and automation runs the world. TextExpander allows you to formulate any sized content with the stroke of a couple keys. I personally have a piece of content that's 24,000 characters. I use it all the time, and all I have to do is hit 2 keys for it to appear. No more searching, copying, pasting, modifying, or messing around with multiple snippets in many different places. Just expand on your text.

Conclusion

So there you have it. 5 apps that will change your workflow for the better. Go ... play. You won't regret it.

Next blog, I'll touch on hardware to help you reach new heights of productivity.

Disrupting the Disruption that is Advertising Online

It's an age old battle—the consumer vs the advertiser. When you watch TV, you'll get up during the commercials. At a game, you'll often ignore the ads on the screens. Lit up signage on top of cabs are basically background noise. Then there's online advertising and sponsored content, which cannot be so easily ignored.

This is because the ads you see (if done right) stem from your activity. In the case of Facebook, go and search out restaurants in your area and then try to avoid ads for exactly that. It's next to impossible.

While there has been an overall improvement in trust in advertising over the last three years, digital ad distrust still hovers around 39 percent, according to a recent YouGov poll.

Your brand relies on social advertising and sponsored content to feed the top, middle and bottom of the buying funnel. While these platforms offer excellent exposure, there is an inherent risk of the presence of your ads resulting in a negative impression of your brand to some consumers.

My goal at Sync is to make it so that your ads compliment online platforms. This article will touch on some of those points. Portions of this article are excerpts from an article written by Dan O'Brien.

Integrity!

Even though other advertisers inundate users on social platforms and media sites with click-bait, don’t allow your brand to do so. Ensure that your ads and sponsored content are true to your brand’s core product or service. Resist the urge to promote any posts or content that will garner a lot of interest or clicks, but not accurately represent your brand.

A good rule of thumb to follow when promoting editorial-based content is to not force a hard sell upon the reader. Don’t lure readers in with informative content and then try to force them to convert.

Another is to produce content that will educate or entertain the reader and provide legitimate editorial value. When you follow these rules, readers will feel they are reading content from a brand that is authoritative and thought-leading in its vertical.

Be Authentic

This tip is one that I cannot put enough emphasis on; your headlines must accurately depict the experience that the reader will be led to after they click. Otherwise, you end up paying for unqualified clicks and an unsatisfied reader.

Here is a trick I have used in the past. Present your headline concepts to an unbiased/uninformed third party. Have the person(s) write a brief synopsis of what they envision the content to be, based upon the headline. If you find that the perception of your content is unclear from your headlines, adjust headlines or content accordingly.

Drill Down

Many social and native advertising platforms allow for some level of blacklisting of media sites where you do not wish your ads to show. The most common capability is to enable advertisers to blacklist categories of media sites (e.g., adult, political, tech) An example of this type of barring of ad placements can be enabled on Facebook and Instagram’s Audience Network.

Some native ad networks enable advertisers to reverse-engineer the blacklisting approach, with a targeted whitelisting approach identifying sites where you prefer your ads to be shown. For example, if your brand sells wearable technology and would resonate well with a tech-engaged audience, you could use this whitelisting tactic to target buckets of similar tech-focused sites, or even just one site, and optimize independently of your other campaigns.

Be Creative

You can always find ways to reach your audience more effectively, and adopting a continual test-and-learn strategy ensures that your ad dollars continue to be well spent. Analyze engagement signals like Facebook relevance scores and intent signals like click-through rate (CTR), and iterate upon what’s working well.

Pay close attention to frequency, and look for any signs of audience fatigue, such as a decrease in CTR or an increase in CPM or CPC (cost per click).

Pro tip: Some social and native ad platforms will provide an “x out report” upon request. Reach out to your account representatives to learn which of your ads or headlines are producing the highest rate of users wishing to no longer see your ad.

Lights, Camera, Action!

Do not focus your efforts on a vanity metric such as click-through rate to determine whether your social ads and sponsored content are being well-received by your audience. Instead, use back-end measurement benchmarks that signify a qualified and high-quality visitor to your site or app.

Depending on the objective of your social ad or sponsored content placement, the measurable actions will differ. For purely editorial promotions, you should measure elements such as time on site and page views. For advertorial and direct response objectives, these measurable actions will take the form of email signups, form completions and purchases.

Network

Word-of-mouth advertising is the oldest and often the most effective form of advertising. When a brand is recommended by a friend, reputable media source or an influencer you personally connect with, it carries more weight than a brand endorsing itself. Influencers, even when clearly paid to endorse a brand, do effectively persuade — particularly with millennials.

For your social and content marketing initiatives, do not be shy about leveraging any positive brand endorsements. Amplify positive brand mentions with paid advertising dollars to build credibility and social proofing. Also use “calls to authority” in your ad copy and creative, such as “featured in, as seen in…”

With these tips in mind, how will you actively work to make your ads less adversarial?

As always, if you need help with any element of your online marketing, let me know.

What Makes a Website Great?

Build a Website with Sync Digital Solutions

There's a lot of noise about what makes a website great. In the 1990's a great website had flashy movement. In the early 2000's it was all about big and loud graphics. Now, in 2017 there is a different take on the subject. You see, just a few years ago websites were viewed as billboards and ads by many; some still think this way. You shouldn't.

If you have a brick and mortar location I want you to take a step outside and view your storefront. That's your home page. Now, enter. Take in the decor, talk to your staff about their positions within the company, and play around with your products and services.

If you don't have a brick and mortar location, take a look at your logo and branding package, then proceed with the other steps.

That is your website!

Now of course, there are technical aspects to building a great website, but that's where you should start. Then, once you get to the technical side, here's some quick points to note:

  • Make it responsive: there are endless advantages to making sure your site fits on all kinds of devices.
  • On-Site SEO: make sure big search can find you.
  • Image to Text Ratio: ensure that you have a good balance; go 40:60.
  • Clean and Modern: Don't get caught in the trap of trying to be too fancy. Keep it clean and your customers will appreciate the ease of use.
  • CTAs: Ensure there are regular calls to action throughout the site.

Once you take care of those steps, you're ready to step into a more advanced setup. But first, before all of the technical aspects surrounding website creation, make sure you treat your website like another storefront or office.

If you need help with building your next great website, let me know. I love working with new clients that offer great products and services.

Social Media in the Face of Terror

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When the worst happens, how do you react on social media? Yesterday, as the news rolled in about the terrorist attack on Manchester, brands were left scrambling to make sure they weren't posting anything insensitive. But what should you do, as a brand, when terror strikes? Here's our guide:

Personalize

Do not post as your brand. Rather, post as the people behind the brand. It's humans that were hurt or killed in an attack, and it's humans that will react to terror. A genuine expression of compassion from person-to-person is far more applicable in these types of moments.

Stop Posting

In the face of tragedy, it's always best to stop posting. Generally, the rule of thumb is to stop posting for 24 hours if the incident is international, while posting can be inappropriate for as long as a week if the attack is closer to home. The lines have blurred over the years, and as terrorist attacks become more common place many brands just forego the "Stop Posting" rule. However, if you are sensitive to these types of incidents, or if you'd like to align your brand with compassion (and we recommend you do, because behind brands are humans, and we all care about these types of incidents) we recommend to be mindful of such rules.

Posting About the Incident

There is a fine line between compassion and exploitation. It is fine to post a message of condolences and solidarity, but there are a few points that need to be considered when doing so. First, do not tie that post to profitability of any kind (IE: Don't offer a discount on UK flags along with a post about the Manchester attack). Second, if you can personalize the post, then do so. When 9/11 happened, I posted a personal message to my brand MySpace with a picture of my staff and I holding up signs to show our support. A basic graphic is fine, but try to personalize it. Again, these types of incidents deserve the human touch. Third, with international incidents there can be a language barrier. For example, gift in English means poison in German. Make sure you're checking that content before it goes out.

Ads & Sponsored Posts

Stop all ads for 24 hours, period.

Don't Revisit

After some time has gone by, don't revisit the incident as a brand. Do so from your personal profiles. Revisiting an attack can come off as exploitation. There are only select exceptions to this rule, and they come in the form of businesses that were directly impacted by the incident.

Understanding our Packages: Online Marketing You Can Bank On

Sync Digital Solutions Services

If you've ever considered working with a marketing agency in the past, you've probably re-visited the subject several times. Quite often there are 4 uncertainties that go through business owner's minds when making the all important decision to work with an online team that's not in-house:

  1. How will content work?
  2. How will I gauge results?
  3. Will communication be solid?
  4. How will live branding and online branding work hand-in-hand?

As a business owner myself, I understand the need for accountability and defined agreements. In fact, it has been a part of our growth over the last 2 years to establish programs for all types of business owners.

Couple what you're about to dive into with an award winning graphics and video department, and the best R&D team in the industry, and you'll quickly see why your business should be Synced.

Here's what we offer:

  • Online Marketing Training: For the businesses that want to do it all ... properly.
  • Growth.Hack: If you want to grow your online audience, introducing new potential customers to your brand, but still control content.
  • Executive Level: We do it all, and report back to you.

Now, let's define these programs.

Online Marketing Training

We have put together the most comprehensive OLM training on the planet (seriously). In the training you will learn how to build a website from scratch, manage your base SEO, revolutionize your social media, and you'll acquire the skills to use all the tools needed to bring it all together (IE: Photoshop, cameras, etc.).

You'll go through training videos, and have access to our team via Slack for consultation during the course.

The Goal: Learn and implement in 2 hours/week. While we didn't build the course with the goal of spending only 2 hours/week on your OLM, that has been what previous students have reported back to us; once they get through the course, they can implement all of their online strategies in just 2 hours/week! That's less time than most spend looking at selfies, food porn, and dogs smiling for the camera.

Growth.Hack

Our most popular service offering! You control the content while we bring you new customers. We do this by administering your network growth on social media, implementing changes to your SEO monthly, and taking care of your advertising online. We also offer valuable advice in drafting your marketing plan and video training regarding our tried, tested, and true posting procedures.

In short, you publish the content in-house, we bring new customers in the doors.

The Goal: 8% (in many cases much higher) growth on your networks month-after-month. Quality leads, and connections that take action to be a part of your network. So, no spam.

Executive Level

Content, posting, ads administration, network growth, SEO, website design, social media administration, interaction management, and consultation come together with our Executive Level package that is working 24/7 for you. Quite literally, you rarely have to think about your online marketing with this service. We will work with you quarterly to establish programs and goals, then get to work so you can worry about the business that you love.

The Goal: Definable ROI, and our teams working together to ensure maximum revenue growth while alleviating advertising expenses where we can.

The Communication

Sync has strong communication procedures with our many fantastic clients:

  • Communication via a closed, secure chat.
  • Same day support.*
  • Monthly reporting via Trello, keeping all reports in one place for comparison.
  • Availability for Google Hangout meetings.
  • Quarterly planning sessions.
  • Our Departments: Content, Research & Development, Multimedia, SEO, Design. Get access to them all with certain service offerings.

This is the part where you get excited! We, quite literally have an option for everyone. Work with a team of business owners, TV producers, SMM influencers, published authors, and just all around smarty-pants kinda people (your kind of people).

Give us a shout, and if we both feel good about a potential client relationship, we'll get to work immediately, growing your business. Oh, and by us, I mean we. Every client relationship starts with a conversation between you and the actual owner of Sync. That's just how much we care about making sure you are well taken care of.