social media

To GIF or Not to GIF?


A lot of social media platforms are now allowing you to share GIFs. GIFs are like the moving pictures in Harry Potter, they aren’t still but aren’t necessarily a full video either. In our internet travels, we’ve seen the good and bad side of GIF usage. They’re usually clips from popular movies/t.v. shows, or at least, that’s what typically comes to mind for me. Some businesses are using GIFs in a different way by creating their own and using them in marketing.

The GIF format has a few advantages. First, since it’s moving, it’s more likely to catch the eye of people scrolling through a feed. The clips are also usually short, another bonus for attention spans. There are also GIFs for almost every occassion/emotion out there, so they’re often used as a way to articulate or react to something.

Some companies or brands use them to showcase new products or demonstrations. It’s easier to illustrate than writing (and let’s face it, more interesting), and it’s easier to digest than a full (or at least several minutes long) type of video. A compilation of GIFs combined with some text instructions create an easy way for people to follow instructions. The Learn to Crochet Tumblr is one example of this.
Example: The tweet below from The New York Times uses a GIF as a way to catch your eye as you scroll.

It’s not the most revolutionary use of GIFs ever, but it’s a step up from reading the tweet sans image. A more innovative use of a GIF I’ve seen is from Dunkin Donuts, who uses it to create a conversation between two friends making breakfast plans. It’s quick, and a little bit corny, but it appropriately conveys the enthusiasm people have for donuts and coffee.

Wait, you might be thinking, making my own GIFs? That’s nuts.  There are places online where you can accomplish this, like Although, to be fair, most of the larger companies like NYT or Dunkin Donuts have staff/agencies on hand to do exactly this. Fortunately, there are plenty of places online where you can find a library of reaction GIFs (mainly,

A couple common places you can find GIFs are Tumblr or Buzzfeed lists, which are purely for purposes of entertainment. Some people add them into their blogs or other social media as a way to illustrate a point. For instance, there’s this Buzzfeed list of “21 Perfect Reaction GIFs to Every Occassion” (FYI, they’re all animals).

Some blogs use GIFs, in addition to images and/or video, to emphasize a point. One of my favorite blogs, Run Eat Repeat, does this pretty frequently (usually with Bravo TV GIFs, which I love even more). Below is an example of one that she used to elaborate a story about getting stung by some bees on a run:


So, whether you choose to make your own GIFs, use them to express a reaction/emotion, or just as a way to further illustrate a point (kind of like a meme on steroids), consider GIFs another tool in your marketing arsenal.

Pokemon Go from a Marketer’s Perspective

Lately it seems like a lot of things from my childhood are coming back into the world, but repurposed for modern times, but with a bit of a twist. On July 4th, I was part of a conversation that relived the whole Pokemon obsession that most of the group had experienced in the late ’90s/early 00s. We joked about the varying levels of involvement- one guy was able to name all of the first 150. Only one person in the group hadn’t partaken in the Pokemon craze, and we teased her about it. 5 days later, Pokemon Go was released. Although we were all pretty into Pokemon as kids, the latest revival wasn’t as appealing to us. I asked my brother if he’d heard of it, and his response was along the lines of “Oh wait, they actually want me to walk around? Nevermind.”

If you’ve been on the internet at all lately, you’ve probably heard about Pokemon Go. Despite it’s lukewarm reception in the group I mentioned above, there are plenty of others who are going just as crazy over this game as the first round. It’s attracting users from all walks of life and is even becoming more popular than Tinder and Snapchat less than a month after release (in terms of mobile apps and usage).


From a marketing perspective, Pokemon Go has some unique opportunities, and unlike a lot of the other fringe networks, businesses have quickly discovered some different ways to get in on the action.

Let us!!! It will absolutely help you catch 'em all!!!! #pokemongo #charmander #pokemonshoes #mainerunning

A photo posted by Fleet Feet Maine Running (@fleetfeetmainerunning) on

This Instagram Post from Fleet Feet Sports uses the latest fad to create fun marketing messages. You don’t necessarily have to be “in” on the whole thing, but knowing enough to make a decent reference to it in your marketing can get some positive feedback. This applies to any fad/trending topic, too. Knowing a little can go a long way.

A slightly deeper knowledge of the game could lead to a sign like this (there are 3 teams to choose from in the game, giving it another interesting edge). Yes, there’s the risk of alienating some people who aren’t in on the joke, or people who are in but not part of that particular team…That’s a risk you’ll have to decide whether or not is worth taking as a business. Either way, I thought it was pretty clever, or at the very least, humorous. Another thing was a restaurant that offers specials based on what level you’re on in the game, all you have to do is show your server your phone.


Full story here:

Another popular way businesses are getting involved in the game is dropping lures. The art/science/what-have-you of obtaining a lure admittedly doesn’t make a ton of sense to me, but as a business or individual you can acquire them (they’re apparently pretty hard to come by and/or cost some money). The idea is that it attracts Pokemon to a certain area (i.e. your business), thus attracting potential customers. This article does a better job at explaining the whole “lure” thing that I am” Even the Sydney Opera House tried it out a couple weeks ago...And as a few businesses in NYC have noticed, the little bit of money they spent on a lure was returned seven times by attracting enough people in to the storefront (full story here).

So whether or not you decide to take advantage of the Pokemon Go market in the near future, it’s an interesting look at how a new platform can be used in unexpected ways for businesses. And then there’s this:


If you are in on the joke, be in on the joke… or ignore it. Being a poor sport gets you no points… in gaming, marketing, or life. Where will you ‘Go’?

A/B Testing And Your Social Media

abtestingsocialSo when we traditionally think of A/B testing, we usually think of testing a variable while leaving the time period and audience the same. We test the homepage headline during a two week period in August, where half our website visitors see THIS HEADLINE and the others see THAT HEADLINE and we see who clicks through multiple pages or sticks around on the website longer or is more likely to make a purchase. (You have to pick what you care about, since caring about everything is not only exhausting but not possible in a testing sense). If you want more about the basics of A/B Testing and how A/B Testing could work with your website, check out those linked blog posts.

You may ask ‘How can I do A/B testing on social media?’

We can’t show half our Facebook audience Image 1 and half Image 2… so we have to think of social media testing a little differently.

Using Social Media to Test Timing

One thing you’ll notice, in particular with Facebook and other social media sites that work on algorithms, is that most people never see your posts… which means you can repeat stuff with a) little to no chance of the same people seeing your message and b) even if a couple people did see a repeat message, it might not register considering the volume of other messaging they see from everyone else.

Posting the same thing at different times may feel spammy but it can give you a good idea of when a given post is most likely to be seen. It’s not true ‘A/B’ testing but similar in that we’re testing only one variable (in this case, timing versus content) and using data to give us feedback.

Using Social Media to Test Messaging

You have probably noticed those sexy ‘carousel’ ads on Facebook (the ones with multiple images). Here’s kind of a dynamic view of how they work from Quero Media:


What these kind of ads allows us to do is display different content at the same time to the same users… and see what converts them.

This is a more accurate application of A/B testing since we are showing the same users at the same time multiple content choices and seeing what they react to.

Now you’ll notice with the example above, both the image and text vary in each picture. In the best test, we’d only have one variable be different (the text or the image). Being able to see, for instance, that the Premium Italian Leather image getting more clicks, the company could further test by using the same headline with different images, seeing if indeed it was the photo or text that caused more interest in the messaging.

Like this month’s A/B testing theme? Stay tuned for next week when we talk about A/B testing with email newsletters! Subscribe here.

A/B Testing And Your Website

abtestingwebsiteEvery month here at Breaking Even, we try to have a loose theme. This theme determines a series of blog posts, our monthly email newsletter subject, and gives us an opportunity to dive into a concept we think people should care about.

How many of you have said one of the following things?

“My customers would never be interested in that.”

“My website visitors can get to my shopping cart just fine.”

“I never go to our website on my phone.”

We ALL say them (I am including myself here) because, after years in our business, we have a pretty good idea of what our customers want and don’t want.

Thing is, we don’t know what anyone thinks. Ever.

We can guess. But we can’t know.

We can really only manage what we measure.

So in order to get an accurate view of what is and isn’t happening is present the same set of customers with two almost identical options with one variable change (ex: color of a button) and see how people react. This concept is called ‘A/B Testing’ and is this month’s theme! If you want to know some basics about A/B testing, I wrote a lovely blog post about it previously. Click here to read it.

OK, so what can you test on your website?

  • Color of a button
  • Position of a button
  • Size of a button
  • Writing on a button
  • Lead photo on a page
  • Headline of a page
  • Size of product photos
  • Featured product photo
  • Length of a form
  • Color of text
  • Text in your menu
  • Position of your menu
  • Size of writing in your menu
  • Number of photos in slideshow
  • Order of photos in slideshow
  • Changing a step in an order/checkout process (ex: wording on a particular page)
  • Changing position of sidebar (or adding a second sidebar)
  • Changing position of item in sidebar/footer
  • Changing color of sidebar background
  • Length of testimonials
  • Size of social media sharing buttons
  • Position of social media sharing buttons
  • Lots more!

I wanted to make that list somewhat ridiculously long but I think you get my point.

What should you test?

Deciding what you are going to test to start off with may be as simple as deciding what’s important to you. For example, if email signups are important, you may test an email signup positioned in header area versus sidebar and see how this change affects signups.

You may want to start with testing something ‘controversial’. Maybe everyone in your company argues about whether your products should have a plain wood or a plain white background.

When should you test?

You obviously need to test long enough to collect some data, so when and how long you run your test may depend on how much web traffic you get, among other factors. That said you probably don’t want to do this during a really important time, say, during the holiday rush. Think long enough to get data to make a decision and not so long that it annoys everyone.

How often should you test?

You don’t want to be in testing mode all the time, so plan your year accordingly. Quarterly tests may feel often enough, or twice yearly may be more than enough. Just put it on your calendar/agenda as something to do at a regular interval.

How do you test?

This is probably your biggest question: how do you do split testing on a live site?

You have three options:

    1. Using your current website software (ex: Wordpress) with Google Analytics goals. There is a robust discussion and how-to here: Note: this is somewhat limited as, for example, it would be somewhat impossible to use this method to change, say, menu text as it works best on main page content.
    2. Use an add-on to your current website software. So there are tons of Wordpress plugins that allow you to, say, split test headlines “Title Split Testing For Wordpress”, or do more general changes. Some ideas here: (Note: just because a plugin works, doesn’t mean it’ll work on ALL websites so test test test! Want to know how to pick a plugin? Read this.)
    3. Use a third party A/B testing service like Optimizely or VWO. Check out their complete guides to A/B Testing, here for VRO and here for Optimizely (not affiliate links). Note: Remember if someone makes something easy for you, you’ll likely have to pay them.

If you’d like to learn more about A/B testing this month, subscribe to both our blog and monthly email newsletter. 

Don’t Be A Multi Level Marketing Nightmare

I’ve been wanting to write this post for months. And just when I would decide to do it, I get an update from one of my friends who has added me to a group or invited me to a party and hold off.

To summarize, multilevel marketing (MLM) is where people sign up to sell products direct to the consumer with commission. So for example, if I liked Cutco knives, I could sign up to become a sales person for them. Every time I sold knives, I would get some portion of the sale. The real power with MLM companies, however, comes from recruiting others for your ‘team’ … then not only are you getting a portion of your sales but also your team’s sales.

So you can see where something like this would be attractive: you have products, a business model, sales support, and more. If you believe in what you are selling (and actually like selling), you could conceivably do well. More often than not, however, only a small percentage of people do well enough to create a full time income for themselves.

As more people are selling Shakeology, Lifevantage, Lularoe, Athena Home Novelties, Pampered Chef, Plexus, etc., now more than ever, this post is needed and maybe even appreciated by MLM people trying to do a good job. I have friends running MLM businesses that aren’t spamming everyone. If you’re considering this income option, you can be ethical, non-annoying, and profitable about it too.


Give Me Six Months

Here’s the thing. There is a certain percentage of people in my life (and probably yours) that seem to always be onto the next thing. You know, you get another notification to like their new Facebook business page and think ‘Don’t they already have like four businesses?’

Typically, these are people who move from one MLM to the next. One month they’re selling t-shirts and next month, candles.

I get invited to like pages, go to events, etc. all the time but typically, before doing anything, I’m going to lurk for six months. If you’re really serious, you’ll still be there.

Demonstrate longevity and you’ll stand out from other people in our newsfeed trying to sell us the same things.

Social Media Isn’t An Excuse To Be Lazy

You can’t just slap an update on Facebook, connect with everyone you have ever talked to, and call yourself a marketer.

Trust me, if that’s all it took, I’d have a lot more competition.

Social media is a tool in your toolbox, not a way you run your entire business. This is why the most successful MLM people have websites, email newsletters, blogs, multiple different social media accounts, and real life events. They are in their communities, donating to worthy causes. They are actually using what they are selling and letting people ask them about it.

Diversify how you talk to people and build the relationship over time. Social media is as much pull as push so encourage interactions, questions, discussion (even if you don’t agree), and overall participation.

Do A Team Leader Gut Check

I went on a walk with one of my MLM friends. She was telling me what the ‘social media expert’ on her group call told her to do and I was shocked. The tactics were very aggressive and not at all like her.

Here are things you may be asked to do by a team leader, marketing expert, or other person in your MLM group:

  • Ask all your Facebook friends to have parties for you.
  • Add people to online groups without asking them.
  • Tag individuals in posts about your products.
  • Invite people to every ‘event’ you throw, regardless of their ability to attend or interest in attending.
  • Add people to your email list without asking.
  • Try new social platforms you don’t entirely understand. (I Periscoped via my private account there to show my sister how mean anonymous users can be. Maybe I’ll write about that sometime!)
  • Talk people into how they can ‘afford’ a product.
  • Posting 10-20 times a day on Facebook and other platforms.
  • Posting pictures of your children/family. (Everyone has different rules for this, just know how the people you involve feel about it.)
  • Using hashtags you don’t understand (trust us, hashtags can associate you with things you #sodontwant).

I personally think this whole list is gross… but you may have certain things you are and aren’t comfortable doing.

If your gut tells you something isn’t good, don’t do it, no matter what the ‘expert’ says. And if you are being pressured to sell in ways you aren’t comfortable with, ask if you really want to be part of a company like that.

Be Mindful Of Notifications

If you are using a social media platform, consider making a fake user (or enlisting a few trusted friends) to understand how your customers are seeing things. Example, how does a public post versus a private message work? Is the link in the photo caption clickable (and is it obnoxious)?

For example, if you post to your Facebook group six times in one day and I am in the group, I’m getting six notifications. Now to you, it’s easier to do it all at once but for me (your potential customer), I’m silently wishing you’d shut up and considering opting out of the group. Staggering your posts over three days, while less convenient for you, may be far less annoying to your customers.

If you don’t get how something works, do your research and test it with a small group of people (or on your fake user account). All social media sites work a little differently and understanding those differences will not only make you more successful but not alienate your base. Trust the feedback you are getting from customers. You are ‘in it’ but they aren’t… and ultimately, they need to like you and trust you before they’ll think about buying from you.

Nurture Relationships, Not Leads

If you see little dollar signs above everyone you meet, people are going to feel that in your interactions.

I know from my business experience it can take years for someone to become a customer. If you show up to one two-hour networking event and expect to leave with ten customers, you are going to be sorely disappointed.

Let people like you. Post about your life, ask people about their lives.

At social events, my goal is to put off telling someone what I do for work as long as possible. I ask them where they are from, who we know in common, where they live, what they are doing during the upcoming weekend… anything but work. Trust me, nothing makes your business more compelling to another person than seeming completely uninterested in discussing business. It’s like you don’t need the money, and isn’t that the most relaxing kind of person to do business with? You seem content and confident, rather than another person trying to close a sale.

Desperation and sales never mix, especially in the MLM world where someone else selling the same thing you are is a literal click away.

So am I saying MLMs are evil? No. 

Am I saying you should think about what you are and aren’t doing very intentionally related to marketing and running your MLM business? Yes.