Tell Captivating Stories on Instagram

Instagram Stories (and to a lesser extent, Facebook Stories) have become a major tool in a brand's digital marketing tool kit. However, there are some really ugly Stories out there so I've put together a list of the top 4 apps we use at Sync Digital Solutions for Story-telling.

Mojo

Mojo

Want to create video Stories? Then Mojo, a video editing app, is for you. 

Videos stand out on Instagram Stories because they're quick, engaging, and fun. But let's be realistic - branded videos can be a lot of work. Luckily, you don't have to stress too much because apps like Mojo make this a walk in the park.

Through Mojo, you'll have access to more than 100 video templates, all of which are 100% editable. There are also hundreds of different text variations to choose from, all of which are fully animated and customizable.

Mojo is also constantly innovating, coming out with new templates and text styles every month.

Canva

Canva

Canva is a visual editing app that has it all. Whether you’re a beginner or a Photoshop master, you'll be able to find design gems that'll make your life easier.

While many Stories apps focus on photo editing, Canva is unique because it offers a range of different features. Unlike other apps, Canva offers the ability to create custom graphs in just minutes. The process is quick and painless - you can choose from their wide range of templates, select a diagram you want, input your data, and there you go. You now have a premium piece of content, without even having to pester your design team.

Of course, that's just one of many features Canva offers. The app also provides its users with beautifully designed templates, photos, and icons – all of which can be edited straight from the app.

InShot

Inshot

Inshot gives you the ability to perform a variety of different creative tasks from editing videos to adding funky stickers that will make your Stories stand out above the rest.

With this app, you can confidently edit videos straight from your phone, with advanced features that enable you to adjust the speed, merge clips, cut out sections, and even split up the video.

Inshot also lets you sharpen your audio game, with the ability to add your own music, select tunes from a library, and easily insert voice overs. It's a great way to transform your Instagram Stories into interactive content your audience will want to respond to.

Storeo

Storeo

Tired of trying to navigate the shaky waters of Instagram Stories videos? Then Storeo is the perfect app for you.

Forget clunky videos that restart every 15 seconds - Storeo enables you to upload one seamless video to your Instagram Story automatically cutting it into 15-second increments so you can say and do everything you want to without getting cut off or losing the attention of your audience.

There you have it! Forget huge lists of apps to achieve the perfect look for your Stories, these are the only 4 apps you'll need! If you still need help with anything to do with Instagram, let's talk.

How to Learn about Digital Marketing in 30-Minutes Per Week

We're all busy. That's just a reality of 21st-century professional life. By the time we're done work ... we're done. At Sync, we understand your time is precious so we've put together information in bite-sized portions. Here's the list:

  • We offer 60-second answers to questions we get in our email on Instagram. Follow us for quick tidbits of info.

  • Elaborating in roughly 10-minutes or less on the 60-Second Email Question, Sync has a podcast you can listen to our Apple, Google Play, and Spotify.

  • For detailed info that you can read, our blog is always a great source of longer-form content.

There are a couple of podcasts we all listen to at the office daily. They're both short and to the point. Combine these with the resources we provide and we guarantee you'll have a better understanding of digital marketing:

So there you have it ... digital marketing knowledge in about 30-minutes a week. Have fun learning, and if you need help with any of your digital marketing, just reach out.

Wix vs Squarespace vs WordPress

1.jpeg

WordPress

About 3 years ago I made a controversial call at our agency. I pulled WordPress as a platform to build websites. This was controversial for a few reasons:

  1. 75,000,000 websites are built on WP. That's a large share of the market.

  2. WordPress is a buzz term. A lot of clients know it and request it because WP is all they know.

  3. My staff were concerned that if we didn't offer WP sites we would get less business.

All are legitimate concerns, however, I didn't make the call lightly. When I looked at the 500 most recent websites we had built at the time, 180 were on WordPress. Of all our support requests for anomalies over 80% were on sites that used the WP platform. Once those websites were swapped with Wix, Squarespace, or custom code, those websites joined the 20% of anomalies support. This means we had had an 80% drop in website related issues since switching away from WordPress. That's a huge decrease!

I, personally think using WordPress for a website is like going to look for a new car in 2019 and leaving with a 2001 Hyundai Accent passed off as a 2019 Audi R8. The platform is bloated, many of their updates have been compiled on top of each other, plugins are only as reliable as the third-party developers, and unless you are excellent with code, you know a WordPress site when you see one. I had other, more technical concerns, but I felt those points were enough alone to switch.

So, let's remove WordPress from the equation and talk Wix vs Squarespace. Before I do though, it's important that you understand I'm talking web design on this post. We offer full-service web development with custom code. Those sites are in the league of their own. Let's keep things on a level playing field.

2.png

Wix Pros

Wix is a great platform when you have no idea how to build a website. If you've ever used Word or Photoshop, Wix works similarly. You start with a template, you drag and drop, and in a matter of days, you can have a professional-looking website. I love their image libraries and access to stock images. Other highlights include their Wix Apps which are kinda like WP plugins but vetted and completed by the Wix team so you know they'll be stable. Wix also offers a cleaner process for edits than WordPress. The Wix mobile editor is aces! It's actually my favourite pro to the Wix platform.

Wix Cons

There are a few big items that really bug me about Wix. Their developer tools are absolute garbage. Custom coding in Wix is kinda like asking your partner for a favour on the same day they learned you cheated on them—just don't do it! Wix is also limited in some functionality that they should have updated forever ago: full-width layouts, eComm first sites are clunky, and no ability to export.

3.png

Squarespace Pros

Squarespace is a modern website builder with incredible templates and an excellent system for custom coding. Most of our SS sites have a lot of custom code and as such, they rarely look like a SS site. Coding in SS is a breeze. The editor is easy to use and the guided block approach will keep even the least organized designer on task (unlike Wix). I absolutely love how they've organized their menus (except code and CSS, which I'll get to) and I'm a pretty big fan of how modern a SS feels. You can build nearly the exact same site on WP, Wix, and SS ... SS will feel the most modern every time. Anyone that knows me, knows I am a fan of spacing out blocks of content equally. SS makes this easier and I think it goes a long way to understanding why SS sites just look awesome no matter what.

Squarespace Cons

While I love SS, there are a few ridiculous limitations. Little things like adding drop shadows or backgrounds to text need to be coded. You can't really scale menu items, which is frustrating. The big piss off with SS though is the mobile editor—there isn't one. That's right, they use automation to create your mobile site, which rarely ever gets it right. Every single SS site we host has custom code to get the mobile layout right. With mobile being incredibly important today it seems absolutely insane to me that they haven't released an update with a mobile editor.

4.png

But What About SEO?

I recently had an instructor for a course I took state that "Squarespace and Wix aren't good for SEO like WordPress is". This statement is flat out wrong. A lot of people believe that WP is better for SEO because of Yoast, a plug-in that walks you through the process. There were several years there when WP was better but that is a thing of the past.

Wix has a great step-by-step SEO guide. Start there. Then optimize your content. After that, make sure you submit your site to Google Search Console and start on off-site SEO.

Squarespace buries their SEO tools a bit more as they automate most aspects. However, at the page level, you can click on the cog and edit SEO settings. Then, just like with Wix, optimize your content, submit to GSC and get to work on off-site SEO.

We have rigorously tested whether WP, Wix, or SS are better for SEO. In the end, we found equal results across all 3 platforms when taking the same actions on each.

And the Winner is ...

If you're comfortable with code and a rigid block approach to editing then Squarespace is hand's down the best host and editor. If you're looking for something easy that makes mobile editing a breeze, Wix is the winner. It really comes down to priorities in your design process.

We at SyncDS love Squarespace and whenever we can, we will use the platform as our #1 choice.

Need help with your website? We can elevate your build above the obvious features of these platforms or get you a custom coded site that meets your wildest expectations. Let's talk.

Sales: Freelance vs Staffer

How stressed out do you think Mark Zuckerberg and the team at Facebook are these days? The government is cracking the whip but luckily for us, the marketing machine that is Facebook and Instagram continues to function (mostly).

Ahead of the holiday season, Facebook is testing out two new shopping ad options, both of which are aimed at streamlining the path to purchase, and keeping users in-app, as opposed to filtering them off to other websites. Yep, they're hogging ALL the traffic!

Let's Start with Facebook

The Social Network is testing out a new, Dynamic ad option which would enable users to order an advertised item direct from the News Feed ad itself.

Facebook's Dynamic Ads are designed to "automatically show the right products to people who have expressed interest on your website, in your app or elsewhere on the Internet" by utilizing your uploaded product catalogue and taking cues from user behaviour.

article1.png

As you can see in the above example, with this new type of Dynamic Ad, users would be shown relevant products, but then also have the added option of making a purchase, via the 'Checkout on Facebook' option.

In order to do this, users do need to have a payment option attached to their Facebook account, which, given Facebook's more recent privacy issues, may not be an ideal option for some. But then again, convenience tends to outweigh privacy in most respects—if there's a way in which users can buy relevant items quickly, which is obviously boosted by the matching of Dynamic Ads, then it could be a winner.

When you've reviewed your information, you can tap on the 'Place Order' button, and you'll get a confirmation note sent to you via Facebook.

I'd say this is the most significant update to Facebook's ads platform in quite some time.

Instagram Wants Your Traffic Too!

Instagram has been slowly rolling out its Shopping Tags to more businesses, but thus far, they have only been available within organic posts. Selected businesses will now also be able to amplify their on-platform shopping prompts, via Facebook Ads Manager, while Instagram has also noted that it's looking to add paid promotion options to its 'Checkout on Instagram' shopping posts in the near future. 

The expanded options would keep users on Instagram, while also facilitating quick purchases via targeted ads - a win-win for both Facebook and the relative brands.

article2.png

Instagram is shaping up as a key platform of focus for shoppers - according to Facebook, 80% of Instagram users follow businesses, and over 130 million people tap to reveal tags on shopping posts every month.

There's clear interest in Facebook's on-platform purchasing options, and the capacity to reach users where they're active, and capitalize on that active shopping intent, will be of significant interest to many brands.

Conclusion

Of course, all of this times out with testing and expansion for the lucrative Christmas season. Oh, Christmas ... it's coming. I, for one, as a marketer welcome this change. At Sync we have a pretty strict rule to keep people on the platform they want to exist on. So, keeping people on Facebook, while still turning ROI is optimal.

Need help with Facebook, Instagram, or any social media? Let's talk!

Why I'm Protecting My Social Circle in 2019

Screen Shot 2019-10-02 at 7.04.29 PM.png

Remember when you first signed up for Facebook? Chances are you added whoever tried to add you, brands››› that sent you page likes requests were added on auto-pilot and that annoying person from high school who's now that annoying person in the adult world somehow made it onto your friends list. Then you probably carried that habit over onto LinkedIn. I did it and according to a Mashable poll from 2016 so did over 70% of users.

In 2019, the name of the game is tightening up social circles. This is true for many, especially in my case. Here's how I use my social networks:

  • Facebook: I only add people I know or with whom I have 100+ connections in common. When it comes to brands, I only add them and have turned off notifs to get invites.

  • LinkedIn: This is a professional playground, so to speak. So, that in mind I only add those whom I can see having a mutually beneficial relationship. Two good examples would be someone who could potentially be a client. I benefit by getting a client and they benefit from my agency giving them ROI backed campaigns. Another would be someone in an industry that I could see myself needing in the future.

  • Instagram: I'll add anyone in my industry, that I know, or who interacts with my written word.

  • Twitter: I don't even bother with the tweets anymore. It's become too negative of a space.

There are clear no-brainer blocks in my social world:

  • Lead gen companies not willing to give up real proof of concept or not willing to work on commission.

  • Someone who sends me a spammy message with a connection request.

  • Any business on LinkedIn that has their business name as their profile name.

  • Any person or business with following counts that dwarf their followers count.

I protect my social circles because just like the real world, I wouldn't give anyone the time of day if they weren't following basic social decorum. Social media is no different. It's SOCIAL media, which means you should be trying to build relationships, not throw digital billboards at people and hope someone wants what you have to offer (personally and professionally).

REAL Teamwork Makes the Social Dream Work

Teamwork

I come from the nightlife industry, which is essentially "Try Anything 101". Those in nightlife spend endless amounts of time and money testing new features and opportunities in social media extensively. Now in most cases, the testing is flawed because they don't have a business background and can't fully understand the delicate balance between advertising and assault but one thing is certain; if you see nightlife people doing something on social media you've never seen before, it's coming to an industry near you.

This is no more evident than in the gratuitous use of staff members in social media marketing. Back in 2008 (yes, 11 years ago) I opened up a nightclub and pretty much banked its entire success on the staff. We made videos, bios, had them post about the club, and featured them in as many pictures as possible. The crazy thing is ... it worked! We were packed.

However, nightlife has—much like they do with everything—taken things too far. Staff are now forced to post on behalf of the club. Yes, forced! I suspect this is because nightlife entrepreneurs generally don't like spending money and because they want to blame failure on their staff "not doing it right". A dirty little secret of the industry is that everyone is planning for failure because it's an industry without a standard.

Staff Buy-In

There is a valuable lesson here though. Staff buy-in is a huge piece of marketing online. It's one thing for you to say you're awesome as a brand, but for the people who work for you to say it is a huge bonus! However, you can't force them to post 2 or 3 times a week, or whatever other ludicrous ideas you have. Consumers are savvier than ever. What you need to do is give your staff reasons to post about your brand, make it easy for them, and reward their dedication.

Here are some key points to get you started:

  1. Get your staff together and ask them for ideas and a media shoot.

  2. Use those ideas in a constructive way.

  3. Advertise those ideas and use the media from the shoot, showing off your staff.

  4. Setup a group on each medium you advertise on with all of your staff. When you have something important to say, make that post easily accessible and ready for sharing.

  5. Each month, at your staff meeting, reward those who made whatever impact you'd like to measure.

  6. Repeat.

To give you an idea of the impact this can have, here's a bit of a case study.

Case Study: Facebook Ads

We represent a real estate brokerage with several dozens of agents. There is a month post that goes out on Facebook with a $1000 spend. The average reach of that post is usually about 218,000. The average interaction is roughly 600. This is with no staff buy-in. When 4 staff members are engaged on $1000 we got 322,049 reach and over 1000 interactions. With 12 staff members engaged on $1000 we got 518,001 reach and over 1500 interactions. See where I'm going with this?

Now, the goal is 200,000 reach and the max spend is $1000. If we had reliable buy-in we could cut that budget by $100 each month and still get the same reach. If all of the staff bought in that $1000 would become $0.

Tell me again why staff buy-in isn't near the top of your priority list?

If you need help with your ads or any digital marketing, let's talk.

Facebook Ads - The Right Way

Facebook Ads

We all have a love/hate relationship with Facebook's advertising platform. As it evolves, from a business standpoint the platform seems to get more convoluted. From a user standpoint, it seems to be more intrusive. What is a marketer to do when the number one ads platform online has lost its way?

Play smarter.

Just because Facebook offers up a new way to advertise doesn't mean you should take them up on it. I'm sure you've seen those video ads that interrupt the user experience. After convenience, the top reason people don't watch TV is related to intrusive commercials. Why Facebook ever thought it would be a good idea to give that same dated experience on a 21st-century platform is beyond me (money isn't everything) so why "do it" just because Facebook "offers it"?

Then you have their suggestions as to how an ad should be run. Who do you think those suggestions benefit? Time-and-time-again we have tried Facebook's ad suggestions against basic common sense in the interest of the business we represent only to find basic common sense winning. Of course, that's because we have an intimate understanding of the platform.

So, with that in mind, here are some tips to get your Facebook Ads on track straight from our cobweb minds and even the desks of Facebook.

1. Choose an objective that drives business value

Facebook offers a wide range of advertising objectives which can help brands reach their business goals. We no longer live in a world where Facebook ads success is only achieved by running 'Page Likes', 'Website Clicks', or 'Engagement' campaigns - in addition to these, Facebook now offers advertising objectives which include 'Awareness', 'Consideration', and 'Conversions'.

These categories each offer different ad units which are geared towards achieving specialized results.

Awareness

Objectives which generate interest in your product or service.

Brand Awareness - Reach people more likely to recall your ads and increase awareness for your brand

Reach - Show your ad to the maximum number of people in your audience.

Consideration

Objectives that get people to start thinking about your business, and look for more information about it.

Traffic - Increase the number of visits to your website

Engagement - Get more people to see and engage with your post or Page

App Installs - Send people to an app store where they can download your app

Video Views - Promote videos that show behind-the-scenes footage, product launches or customer stories to raise awareness about your brand

Lead Generation - Collect lead information, such as email addresses, from people interested in your business

Messages - Get more people to have conversations with your business to generate leads, drive transactions, answer questions or offer support.

Conversion

Objectives which encourage people interested in your business to purchase or use your product or service.

Conversions - Get more people to use your website, Facebook app, or mobile app. To track and measure conversions, use the Facebook pixel or app events

Catalog Sales - Show products from your catalog based on your target audience

Store Traffic - Promote multiple business locations to people who are nearby.

Don’t be overwhelmed. Yes, there are a lot of options, but choosing the right objective which is aligned to your broader strategy, and drives true value for your business, will make all the difference.

2. Using Placement Optimization

We often get asked which Facebook ad placements are the best. To clarify, a Facebook ad placement is anywhere that an ad is eligible to be served—this includes in the Facebook News Feed, Instagram feed, Stories, Audience Network, and even in Messenger.

According to Facebook, the best way to run campaigns is to activate all placements. This enables the Facebook Ad platform to optimize against which placements are achieving your desired objective at the most cost-effective rate. While we mostly agree, we don't recommend turning on Instagram placement. Instead, promote natively on Instagram. The boost feature is currently the best type of ad on Instagram because it also helps bolster your followers.

Facebook calls this 'Placement Optimization'. The logic here is that the more placements you use, the more data the Facebook Ad platform has to learn from. The more it can learn, the better your campaigns can perform.

But even though this is one of Facebook’s own recommended best practices for Facebook Ads, it is important to consider where you, as the advertiser, want your ads to be shown.

For example, ad placements on Audience Network won’t generate engagements. If you care about that metric, you might want to omit Audience Network from your efforts. We recommend going to market utilizing Placement Optimization and nurturing what performs the best.

3. Embrace Campaign Budget Optimization

Facebook's Campaign Budget Optimization process is a way of optimizing how a campaign uses budget across ad sets.

Typically, an advertiser would set budgets at the ad set level, however with Campaign Budget Optimization, Facebook will continuously and automatically find the best opportunities to achieve your designated objective across your ad sets, and prioritize budget to the ad sets that are performing best. This gives you less control as an advertiser but gives the system more control to use your budget efficiently.

The one thing to be cautious of here is that if there are campaigns that you need to get a certain level of attention, you will not want to use Campaign Budget Optimization. You'll want to set the budget at the ad set level to ensure visibility. Otherwise, this is one of those automation tools you can use with confidence.

4. Use mobile-first creative

It's no secret that social media has rapidly become a predominantly mobile-first experience. Keep this in mind when it comes to creating your Facebook ad campaigns.

You'll want to ensure that your ad creative is attractive, engaging and looks great on the small screen. Consider bright visuals for banners, and be sure that your video ads are under 60 seconds.

Focusing on mobile first creative will enable you to activate more users into your marketing funnels, at a more cost-effective rate. Make sure your ads look awesome on mobile.

5. Understand the value of broad vs specific targeting

In conversations with our partners at Facebook, this best practice surprised me personally.

In the past, the goal of Facebook ad targeting was to be as specific as possible. However, due to increased competition and the evolution of the Facebook Ad platform, being super specific in targeting can sometimes lead to more costly results.

When you go with super-specific targeting, you're telling the system that you want to serve ads to a certain amount of people no matter what. The Facebook ad system then goes after those people, and you, as the advertiser, are battling budgets for a presumably small amount of people who are also being targeted by other advertisers.

This can drive costs up, and Facebook doesn’t have much to learn from. When you go a little broader with your targeting, however, Facebook has more touch points to learn from, and will automatically optimize to serve your ad to the people in your target audience who are most likely to take your desired objective action.

While doing this, the system also looks for the best use of budget in an attempt to drive more results for lower cost. We recommend testing this for yourself - specific targeting always seems great, but consider going a little broader when trying to stretch your budget.

Conclusion

Some times Facebook is helpful and their automation can give you the insights you need to realize success. But, don't rely on Facebook's direction solely. Think about your business and what you want to achieve. Set it and forget it doesn't work.

I hope this has helped you in your pursuit of Facebook Ads supremacy. If you need help with your ads or any digital marketing, let’s talk.

The Journey to the Perfect Website

If you're thinking about building a website, get ready for a mental overload. First, you have to decide whether you’re going to build it yourself, or get someone to do it for you. Then, you have to find someone that can take the project on. At that point, you have to decide what kind of website you want built.

There are literally, hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of “website developers” out there in the world today, and they will present you with a plethora of options. 

So, how do you make decisions regarding your new site? Here’s a SyncDS cheat sheet.

To Build, or To Let Someone Build

If You Build It

You have full control. You have no middle man to execute changes. You’re working on your timeline, not competing with other outside projects. You’ll get to learn a new skill. You must now take time out from your business to build. There are endless choices in technology. You won’t be able to keep up. Your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts will surely be negligible. 

If Someone Else Builds It

You can run your business while the site is being built. You’ll have a wealth of knowledge working for you. You’re paying for results, which means you’ll get them. Your site will [should] be optimized for SEO. An organized workflow, and trackable results.

Now, let’s assume, someone else builds it:

Who Will Build Your Site?

Someone You Know

Examples: Uncle, Friend, Cousin, Nephew, Employee, etc. They will be fitting your site into their daily lives. This is likely someone at a small scale operation with limited resources. You’re probably looking at mixing business and pleasure at this point, which you have to take into consideration. This is almost always, you’re cheaper option.

Someone You Don’t

Examples: Agency, Firm, Web Designer by-trade, etc. You’ll be presented with a proposal, and given options. There will be a structured timeline for completion. All of the latest trends and tech will be taken into consideration. This will cost a bit more, but you’re likely to get a greater deal of satisfaction.

What Kind of Site Should I Get?

Your Options

Examples: Custom, Template, Custom Code, Animation, Graphical, etc. TIP: You probably won’t know what your web dev contact is talking about. Instead of jargon, think about your commitment to long-term online strategy. Most analysts say a website should cost around 2% of your gross annual profit, if your business makes less than $5-million, per year. That’s a part of your overall suggested 7 - 8% marketing spend. You may be scared of the word template. In the 90′s, it suggested that someone was buying a design that would not be reserved exclusively for your site. Essentially, you could end having a site that looks just like your competitors. Today, templates are starting points to get the project launched quickly. If you have a limited budget, ask to start there.Websites have come a long way. Every quote should contain a CMS system (a way you can make small edits), design, options to add 3rd party video, content drafting, and a responsive site (no matter what screen size someone is on, the site is designed for them to view it).

Don’t Get Caught in the Hype

It’s easy to get lost in the words of a developer, but tell them to stop, and consider your industry, your budget, and your timeline. Even if you’re taking percentages into account, you should never spend less than $1000 on a website, before hosting. You want to motivate developers to do a great job for you.

Now, what does a good job look like? 

http://www.newinc.org/

http://darrenbooth.com/

http://lukeslobster.com/

http://live.wired.com/

http://www.innovationme.com/

These are just some examples of quality websites that incorporate the latest trends, and that you can get done within that budget outlined above. Of course, it’s but 5 examples amongst thousands.

I hope this has helped you make a decision. If you need help with your website, let’s talk.