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Ethics in Marketing

ethicsinmarketing

Working for a small business that attracts some amazing clients, I’ve never run into a situation where I’m asked to carry out a task or promote something that I’m morally opposed to (and, I have the freedom to politely turn down such a project). It’s a freedom I often take for granted, until I hear stories about people who don’t necessarily have such freedom.

A couple weeks ago, I was listening to a podcast (Real Talk Radio with Nicole Antoinette) where a woman was being interviewed about her blog (Super Strength Health). Part of the podcast that I found intriguing was towards the end, when she spoke about being approached by various brands to promote their product (a fairly common occurrence for lifestyle bloggers). Usually when this happens, the brand has done a bit of research to determine if the blog’s message meshes well with the brand’s message. As a bit of background, Super Strength Health shares very raw material about eating disorder recovery. The brand that approached her had a tagline along the lines of “guilt-free snacking.” You might see the problem here.

So, the blogger was a bit frustrated. “If you spent any time on my blog, you’d know that we were not a good fit.” Which is true. The discussion goes on to discuss the slippery slope of assigning guilt to food/eating in marketing, and whether or not that is unethical. Regardless of where you or I stand on that particular issue, it made me wonder about the messages I’m putting out there. How can I be ethical (or more ethical) in what I produce?

As mentioned before, I have the freedom to turn something down if I feel it is unethical or immoral. We never really get those clients. Usually when I think “unethical marketing,” it’s the blatantly obvious not-cool marketing, like promoting unhealthy habits, tearing down a competitor’s product or service instead of focusing on why your product/service is valuable, or ignoring glaring flaws or safety concerns with a product (think recalls). These are all easy for me to avoid (in that I’ve never encountered them).

So, instead, I thought of a few little ways to be even more ethical. Here’s what I have:

Do the Research. Make sure you know your facts, especially if others are coming to you for information.
Be Objective. Do you really think this product/service would benefit other people, or do you maybe have dollar signs in your eyes?
“Is this Something I Would Do?” If you’re having a hard time being objective with the facts, ask yourself if you would follow your own advice.
Be the Good. This is my way of remembering my bottom line: whatever I put into the internet/world should make it a little better, even if in a small way.
Get Better. There’s always room for improvement, and as someone who produces content for the internet I could in theory find a rhythm and rest on my laurels. But I could also keep an open mind and look for ways to improve my work (because this isn’t just about me).

My hope is that following these five points in a more thoughtful way will help me feel even better about what I produce, and be more helpful for our clients. (I say ‘more thoughtful way’ because I usually perform research or try to be objective, but it can be reflexive).

The cool thing about marketing ethics? Marketing Schools defines it as “less of a marketing strategy and more of a philosophy that informs all marketing efforts.” It’s not a strategy or a game-plan, but more like having a Jiminy Cricket on your shoulder asking if you believe in the message you’re about to share with the world.

 

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

Your Video ‘Style’

I would never market myself as a video producer. If you want someone good, go see Mike Perlman. But if you want short videos to stick on your Facebook page with light editing (as in maybe a title shot and closing credits with maybe some background music that fades in and out), I’m your gal.

So in talking about making these social media videos with a new client, I wanted to get at what her ‘style’ was. Here are a few I’ve come up with:

Option A: The Highly Produced Video


Pros: Short, edited, and educational, these videos are meaty without being overbearing. They are conversational, sure, but not much fluff.
Cons: You need a professional to make things look this great, which means having a budget and something specific you want to accomplish. Assuming you are able to put professional looking aspirations aside, you’ll be needing something to drive it in terms of content (ex: user questions, a very clear topic). Probably not likely to ‘go viral’ but, as you have probably figured out, that’s not what it’s all about.

(There are other times I mention Marie Forleo on this site. Try this blog post, this one,  and this one.)

Option B: Interview Style

Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 4.35.59 PM
Pros: Involves other people, zero production value. To be fair, most of the big shots (Marie Forleo above included) started with these kind of videos. Also all you need is a webcam, a mic, (headphones too so there is less echo), and some screen capture software. You can get this whole tech setup for under $50. Clearly who you interview is infinitely more valuable. Plus, not only do you get to share the video on your network but also the interviewee will likely share it to theirs. Double exposure!
Cons: When you involve other people and have low production value (see the ‘Pros’ section), you have to be interesting. Because you are the interviewer, you should be ready to carry it if you have to (some people are not fun in an interview situation). Also, since you may each be in your own individual location, while you can control things like lighting and sound quality on your end, you have to trust the person you’re interviewing is taking an equal amount of care.

Think of interview type videos as the ‘you gotta walk before you can run’ of online video. It’s a good way to start.

Option C: Teaching Session


Pros: Can cover more material (or in more detail), can have notes, can market a series of these as a course in the future (yay money)
Cons: Makes people think of school so you have to be extra interesting about it (Look at the way Moz lays out the notes and this dude’s mustache as examples of this.)

This is an often overlooked style because few can pull it off. But if you’ve got interesting material that’s not going to ‘happen’ in less than 5 minutes, this allows your video to be meaty and get people your content in both visual and auditory ways. If you create videos this way, you can also turn them into an online course (more on that in a future blog post). Websites like lynda.com and Skillshare are popular for a reason!

Option D: Scripted


Pros: Scripted, can make it pretty short
Cons: Having to be ‘clever’

So you may ask yourself, Nicole, why did you separate this from the ‘Highly Produced’ option? Well, I’d say this kind of video (which I get is a commercial) is more scripted. I am doubting in Option 1 Marie Forleo has scripted everything she is going to say and has it down to the letter. I’m also doubting she’s thinking about scenes or storyboarding out what each frame looks like.

If you are a less confident presenter, having the script (and potentially working with other people, having multiple camera angles, etc.) gives you options.

As important as what your video is about, having a style can give you a structure to work with, especially if you are feeling a little blocked. I’m sure now that I’ve named these, you can think of other examples of each. If you are thinking one style speaks to you more than the others, watch videos like the style you want to emulate for more pointers. How long are they? What are good things you should copy? What’s the pace like? Take notes and you can keep these in mind as you make your videos.

So stop thinking video equals perfection. It doesn’t. People just like watching videos… so go make one already!

 

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Tech Thursday: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (Your Marketing Content)

You know all that work you just put into putting something online? Let’s ride the wave a bit and do a bit more work for a lot more impact. Whether you’re making a video, blog post, newsletter, or promotional image, we have some ideas on getting more “bang for your buck”- that is, making the most out of things you’ve already spent a lot of time and energy working on.

Have you seen marketing content re-used in a way you thought was interesting? Any ideas for a topic you’d like to learn more about? Let us know!

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

Anonymous Social Networks 101

The internet began as an anonymous place. Chat rooms asked us ‘a/s/l’ and I’m sure I am not the only one who pretended to be a completely different age, sex, and location than I was. There was something about trying on a new identity.

As social networks using our real names came into play, it was harder to be anonymous. Your potential employer or your mom could be looking at what you just said or shared.

It was only a matter of time before the internet cycled back, recoiled from too much sharing. Apps and websites where you can be anonymous have come back into popularity.

We’ve previously blogged about YikYak but there are a couple of other anonymous sites to know about:

Whisper

So this network combines anonymous with location data. So you can share your secret thought and other people can like or comment… but you can also see other people’s secrets that are near you (1 mile radius, 5 mile radius, etc.) The secrets range from silly to serious:

whisperconfession1

whisperconfession2Something about having the image with the thought makes them stand out a bit, nice to read on a mobile device. And since this is an app, that makes sense.

 

Reddit

Reddit is a bit of a longer form social network with writing and links. You can see what’s trending overall by going to the homepage:

reddit-homepage
The more interesting part of Reddit though are the subreddits. For example, you can join a community about Game of Thrones (at www.reddit.com/r/gameofthrones) and discuss you interest in this show in detail with people all over the world.

Clearly works well if you are more verbose, or want to share a link and get comments on it.

Some people chose to have an active anonymous account while others use ‘throwaway’ accounts for a one time confession.

Anonymous social networks are similar to regular social networks:

  • Typically ordered by most recently updated content
  • Can participate on your phone only for some, others you can access on your computer too
  • You can like/heart/upvote things that you like to show support
  • You can leave comments for more detailed feedback.

Of course, sometimes anonymity brings out the worst in people in the way of cyberbullying but honestly, in these communities, I have found mostly support for my ideas too weird or dark to share on regular networks. (I know it’s sad but I used to be a little nervous to go on Reddit but, much like staying away from the seedy streets in your city, is a nice place for the most part of you don’t go searching for the bad stuff.)

As we figure out what is and isn’t acceptable to share with our real life friends on social media, I see the popularity of these sites growing. I personally love Reddit because there’s no real ads, no messaging, and I can just browse information… and contribute when I feel like. Personally I appreciate that because of the internet, there is a lid for every pot.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Tech Thursday: Why Don’t You Want My Website to Have Fun?

Some weeks, we end up doing more design than marketing. This was one of those weeks. After some of our meetings, we felt kind of like parents who were telling their kids they couldn’t go to a party, but that they’d thank us later. We aren’t trying to shoot anyone’s design dreams down, but to better explain our rationale, we thought we’d use this week’s Tech Thursday.

We walk the line between artists and technicians in the web design process. It’s not that we don’t want your website to be fun and pretty- because we absolutely do. It’s just that we’re also thinking about things like mobile users and load time-the customer’s overall experience. As Kassie says, when your website’s animated header won’t load on a Kindle, it fills her with nerd rage. We want your site to look great, but also work well!

Tools such as Pingdom (tools.pingdom.com) are a great way to test a website’s load time, and it will show you the elements of the site that are taking longest to load. Most of the time, it’s an image that is slowing your roll. There are also ways to customize your site that aren’t going to impair your site’s load time- think of sprucing up photos by adding drop shadows, rotating pictures in your slideshow- and all that jazz.

To summarize, we aren’t being lazy or lame when we try to steer you away from an idea. We’re just trying to make your site the best it can be!

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

Why Doesn’t Anyone Read My Blog?

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So, you’ve set up a blog. You post consistently, your topics are relevant and helpful to your readers, and hey- you aren’t too bad at this whole writing thing. So why does it still feel like the only person reading is your mom?

It may be a matter of accessibility. People won’t look at your blog if they don’t know how to find it (or worse, if they don’t know it exists). You’ve already done the grunt-work, now it’s time to add a little hustle to the mix. Here are four places you can apply said hustle:

1) Can people find your blog within your website? If you’re blogging as part of a business or a larger website, is there clear navigation to the blog portion of the website? Many businesses will link their blog right from the main menu, but there’s more than one way to get from A to B (with websites, anyway). Take a look at your sidebar, it’s another important piece of navigation real estate. Could you put a Recent Posts section in there, like Stonyfield does below? Or, maybe it’s a matter of creating a button or image that directs people to your blog home page when they click on it.

Problogger has their blog as menu item 2, pretty hard to miss.

Problogger has their blog as menu item 2, pretty hard to miss.

Take a look at other pages on your website- are there ways you can link to your blog on these pages? I got to this article about Organic Farming on Stonyfield Farm’s website  by clicking a link in their About page.

Stonyfield_Blog

If you look closely, they’re using the sidebar for additional blog posts AND linking in the menu. Way to hit the trifecta, Stonyfield.

If you’re having a hard time critiquing your website, have a friend take a look. Adding an unbiased brain to the mix  can only help, after all! Giving people alternate routes and clear signage is a great starting point. Now, let’s forge beyond your own territory.

2) Are you sharing on Social Media? Sharing a link to a blog post, old or new, lets people know that your blog is active and ready for readers. It also guarantees more eyeballs are going to see it- Facebook has over 1 billion users, after all. This could be a status update on Facebook or a quick tweet on Twitter. If it’s industry-related content, share it on LinkedIn. Think about where your people hang out online- those should be your target places. Facebook may have a bigger audience, but if your particular audience is hanging out on Google+, don’t turn your back on them!

This step can be accomplished in a few different ways, depending on your preference. If you’re more comfortable with the simple write and post, and can’t be bothered to remember to share on Facebook (or wherever else), you can automatically post to social media once the post is published (that link is for Wordpress users- there are other ways to do it if you have a different kind of platform though!). That means less remembering for you, and more readers for your blog! However, if you aren’t keen on automation and/or don’t want to share every blog post, you can always manage it yourself.

You don’t necessarily have to be the only one sharing your content, either. Wouldn’t it be great if people could share your posts once they’re done reading? You may have noticed some places have social sharing icons at the bottom of articles. You can have that, too! After finishing your latest post, all readers have to do is click the little bird icon and presto! your article just got shared via Twitter, my friend.

Not only does The Hungry Runner Girl share updates on her Facebook Page, she has a link to the blog in the handy dandy sidebar.

Not only does The Hungry Runner Girl share updates on her Facebook Page, she has a link to the blog in the handy dandy sidebar.

3) How about email? Do you have a list of e-mails? Maybe you have an e-mail newsletter that goes out once a month. This is yet another opportunity to promote your blog. If your newsletter for the month focuses on car maintenance, and you have an old blog post that ranks different brands of windshield wipers, go ahead and link to it. Readers will ideally click on the link, read the blog, and it’ll be in the back of their mind. Depending on what type of software you’re using, you can also integrate a feed that pulls in links to recent blog posts within your newsletter, or create a separate email altogether. Using an RSS component within your email management system pulls your recent blog posts into an email, and automatically sends to subscribers weekly, monthly, or whatever period of time you choose. Again, depending on what software you use, is customizable, so you can play around with formatting (i.e. title and featured image, title and a blurb, title, blurb and featured image- whatever boats your float).

The benefit of RSS is it brings your blog to the people. Let’s face it, we can all be a bit lazy at times, and may not feel like checking a website X number of times just to see if there’s a new blog post. Other times, we just forget. Having your posts delivered once a week/month/whenever is like having the paperboy deliver to your front step as opposed to going out, starting the car, driving to the store, buying a paper, and coming back home. It’s easy for you to set up, and it’s easier for your audience to read.

4) Can search engines find you? Just to clarify, this is not to say you should bend over backwards for the whims of SEO, but there are a few things you can do to make your work SEO friendly. No matter what game-changing rules come down the pipe (like Google deciding to nix authorship), if you are consistently creating relevant, meaningful content, you’ll be just fine. The rest is just detail.

A few details that might help get your blog some attention: creating compelling headlines (somewhere in between chapter in a 1950s textbook and linkbait for easily distracted people), tagging keywords when applicable and relevant, and renaming your images (i.e. instead of IMG_05948.jpg, use spidermonkey_fights_mastadon.jpg). To reiterate, these changes are not going to move mountains for your blog, they’re simple things that can give you a little boost. For more on headlines, wording, and other content related issues, check out this article from ProBlogger.

Writing a blog shouldn’t feel like shouting into the void. If you have great content, share it with the world (or, at least, the internet) more effectively so that content you spent hours on will get more eyeballs on it!

Stay tuned, we’ll be launching a product for bloggers like in March that involves setting a lot of this up. Get on our email newsletter and you too will be the first to know when it’s launched. (You can also subscribe to our blog via email there. Boom.)

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.
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