communicating

What's Instagram’s Algorithm? #3

This is the third post in a series about Instagram’s algorithm. You can read session 1, here and session 2, here.

As I wrote in the previous posts, I’m not a social media strategist. I’m a marketing strategist who, among other things, can help professionals determine which social media platform is best for their needs - Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. Then I can help curate content that speaks both on my client’s behalf but also solicits authentic engagement from a target audience.

Lot of marketing jargon in that last sentence. But it’s important to differentiate that a social media strategist is more likely, for example, to help you accumulate that audience of 10k within 3 months on Instagram. And to even do that you’ll likely need to engage in a paid advertising campaign to push your ads - on any platform (I may also add that your presence online needs to be sharp before you bring 10k followers to your content - that’s also where I typically come in :))

So I continue to do the research so we can use a platform like Instagram without all the paid (or too much of it) advertising and still benefit. And I find the insight from Alex Tooby is both relevant and useful. I did, for example get an out-of state client using my Instagram account. As I write this, we’re currently working together on a monthly basis. Not to mention a number of old colleagues have contacted me via Instagram for work. A return on your Instagram investment is certainly a positive.

Image by Earvin Huang via Unsplash.

Image by Earvin Huang via Unsplash.

Alex’s backstory:

She studied digital graphics and design in college and when she started her own business in social media consulting out of Vancouver she worked hard to “figure out” the Instagram algorithm. Insta with Alex, one of her verified accounts has over 40k followers. Men and Coffee has over 400k followers, also verified by Instagram. Plus…she’s reached a $1 million in revenue via her online work. She’s Canadian so we believe her.

4 Ways to Increase Your Following Engagement in 5 Minutes

Session 3

Not all followers are created equal. Get followers who are actually going to support your goals and visit your website to buy what you’re offering. Attract the right follower, not just any follower (This goes back to defining your target market. Who is your ideal customer? Know this. Learn it. Take time to develop it).

Optimize your headline

This means toying with the first bolded line of your instagram bio. The Headline of your profile is searchable. Added keywords are needed to make your bio become searchable. And you must select keywords that will attract your target market to your feed. This Headline will show up in grey when your account appears in search results within Instagram’s search bar.

Right now? Your head line likely has your name or your company’s within it. But you should dedicate this Headline bio space to keyword placement. Add searchable terms to your Headline. For example: Architect Firm. This specificity to industry gives the account a chance to show up in keyword search for architecture. (Go to your profile and edit this bio, stat! Takes 1 minute to change)

 
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Engage with specific content and people

Go to ‘search’ within Instagram and toggle over to ‘tags’: (you must first know your target market) and type in a keyword that describes this target person: “independent business owner,” “interior designer.” The results will have ‘top’ and ‘recent’. Click on recent.

Here’s where you get to have fun. What catches your eye? Which image grabs you? Go in and like those images. Aim to find a few images within each account that you can like and maybe even write a comment.

Be genuine and just wander through images that are within this keyword search. This should be enjoyable!

You’re giving engagement and encouraging these people to visit your page.

(Alex does not mention this, but you can follow that tag. And that tag, which is relevant to you, will begin showing up in your feed. You won’t have to follow all the people within the tag, you can just follow the tag and use the same advice above - engage.)


Use Instagram Poll Features

To get more engagement, you need some to start with. You must encourage it.

Try taking advantage of Instagram Story features like polls, questions and quizzes. Ask people things that are relevant to what you offer and when people start participating in it, Instagram signals that people are interested in what you’re sharing and will share your content to those people again next time you share.

Only takes a minute or two to set up a poll or quiz! Additionally, this will give you some insight into what your audience likes. You could ask: do you prefer to see images of houses in the woods or do you prefer city scapes?

Be relatable and honest

Typically, people will read a caption to the end and may comment on something in which you’re being honest and raw. This is hard with a business profile - but if you present yourself as an individual, this is a major opportunity to be open. You may have experienced this before in pervious posts. Use that as encouragement to keep going. If you’re a business, you can tell a personal story related to your industry but doesn’t have to be embarrassing or revealing of your businesses weaknesses or shortcomings.

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You can watch Alex’s session 3, here. Approximate view time: 35 minutes.







































What's Instagram's Algorithm?? #2

This is the second post in a series about Instagram’s algorithm. You can read the first one, here.

As I wrote in the previous post, I’m not a social media strategist. I’m a marketing strategist who, among other things, can help professionals determine which social media platform is best for their needs - Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. Then I can help curate content that speaks both on my client’s behalf but also solicites authentic engagement from a target audience.

Lot of marketing jargon in that last sentence. But it’s important to differentiate that a social media strategist is more likely, for example, to help you accumulate that audience of 10k within 3 months on Instagram. And to even do that you’ll likely need to engage in a paid advertising campaign to push your ads - on any platform.

Image by Teemu Paananen via Unsplash

Image by Teemu Paananen via Unsplash

As for Alex Tooby, who’s content I present here, everything she teaches is based on her personal experience, and she’s built accounts to almost 1/3 million followers. Everything she shares are approaches she’s personally tried that also work. I’m not being paid to write these posts, I simply find her content useful and relevant. So enjoy!


3 Mistakes You’re Making That Are Costing You Followers and Engagement

Session 2

One

Maybe you’re posting too much or not enough.

If you post too much it’s not only too stressful, you may be overwhelming your followers and the quality of your content may be weak.

If you’re not posting enough, you followers may forget who you are. PLUS, posts can compete with one another. The newest post will outshine the earlier post, according to the Instagram algorithm. Because the ‘older’ post is considered no longer relevant:/ Read more about this here.

Find a frequency that works for you and is consistent. Post multiple times a day - fine - but STICK with it every day. If not, then find a schedule that really works for you. Consistency is more important that quantity. Every other day or every day is perfectly fine. Erratic posting throws off Instagram’s understanding of your behavior.


Two

Not using hashtags correctly.

One, if you’re not using them at all, start (you can use up to 30). And if you are using them, you may not be using them right. Here’s some guidelines:

  • Use 30. Each hashtag offers exposure so may as well get the exposure. More hashtags = more exposure.

  • Use hashtags between 1000 and 5000 posts.

  • Use hashtags that describe your account as a whole. This is hard. (If you’re a painter and paint and post a canvas of say, the ocean, but your other work contains mostly portraits, the hashtags may throw off visitors who follow the hashtag #water and who then arrive at your profile and see mostly portraits. They want images of water. I know. Human behavior can be so fickle.)

  • Not switching your hashtags regularly can trigger a spam alert for instagram. (So, I recommend that you can collect several groups of hashtags, up to 30 in each group and store those in Notes on your phone and rotate these regularly). A tool like an Instagram hashtag generator will help you find hashtags that are relevant to what you offer.

Three

Posting content that is irrelevant to your following and target audience.

I.e you’re posting content unrelated to what you do or offer. (You design interiors and you love wildlife and post sporadically about wildlife. Your followers want your interior design expertise. They do not necessarily share your love of whale pics.)

So you must must decide on your niche. You can then branch a little by choosing 1-3 potential subjects within this niche that give you some flexibility.

(For example, Alex mentions a feed about fitness. Part of this regime is related to food, some some food photos and content isn’t too far fetched. But sticking within your theme and providing context is important.)

Image by David Cohen via Unsplash

Image by David Cohen via Unsplash


That’s the end of Session 2! You can watch Alex’s youtube session of this content, here. Approx watch time: 19 minutes.









What's Instagram’s Algorithm? #1

Precursor: I’m not a social media strategist. I’m a marketing strategist who, among other things, can help professionals determine which social media platform is best for their needs - Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. Then I can help curate content that speaks both on my client’s behalf but also solicits authentic engagement from a target audience.

Lot of marketing jargon in that last sentence. But it’s important to differentiate that a social media strategist is more likely, for example, to help you accumulate that audience of 10k within 3 months on Instagram. And to even do that you’ll likely need to engage in a paid advertising campaign to push your ads - on any platform.

Organic Growth. Image by Francis Cheung via Unsplash.

Organic Growth. Image by Francis Cheung via Unsplash.

So keep in mind, that while these social platforms were in fact built on the premise of free access for sharing personal and business content, the promise to investors and shareholders was and remains revenue growth. Enter business platforms and added features that come with a price - like access to the audience you’ve either organically grown already, or now need but must pay to get and grow. Hence paid advertising. And valuable paid advertising.

So I do the research to make sure that while the algorithms are consistently evolving, shifting and morphing to help shape and build the advertising and paid platform, you can keep up without having to pay.

The results are not the same as paid, but the basics are a must.

Image by Mark Adams via Unsplash

Image by Mark Adams via Unsplash

At this point, if you have a basic business profile, you’re probably interested in not losing more followers, or you’d like to get another hundred or two in the next few months and perhaps hit 1000+.

But how do you do that.

Instagram has a few guidelines.

Enter Alex Tooby. Her light hearted but strategic Instagram verified account like Men + Coffee has over 400k followers and she’s taught social media management for 3 years. Via her job as a social media strategist who generates income from selling tools like workshops, she claims to have reached $1 million in revenue. And she’s Canadian so we believe her.

The content below has been transcribed by me while listening to her work via Youtube. The transcription is not exactly word for word, but pretty close. Please keep in mind this is her advice, not mine. Though I do endorse her work as I’ve found it relevant and valuable. I’m not getting paid to write this :)


Understanding the Insta Algorithm and 3 Ways to Get it on Your Side

Session 1

First of all, lower engagement is being experienced across the board for everyone. It’s not just you. The kind of engagement that one could get a year or two ago is just no longer.

So what’s the secret: the longer you or any user are on the app, the more money Instagram makes. Longer use = more opportunity for Instagram to show advertisements. And Instagram rewards more engaging content by showing that content to more people, more frequently.

So - how can you create content that keeps people on the app longer? This is really the way of the platform. Really.

Also, if you haven’t gathered this so far, Instagram first shows you the content that it thinks you’ll like the most. This is based on what you like, who you DM, where you comment, etc. This is likely obvious. But you can use this feature to increase your own engagement.

Action Tip #1

Discover what content your ideal audience already likes.

(This means you need to be following the people who you’ve defined as your ideal audience).

Do some market research.

Go to your notifications tab and hit the “Following” tab in the upper left hand corner. See screenshot.

 
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This space in the Instagram app will tell you what the people you’re following like (which may also introduce you to cool, interesting and new content).

What do you see pop up the most? Paintings? Graphics? Loud colors? Black and whites? Posts with text? Faces or selfies?

Look for recurring themes. These themes can tell you a lot about what your ideal audience engages with most and inform your decision next time you post.

Action Tip #2

Use more video.

A video keeps people on the app longer. And longer engagement means Instagram will show your work more.


Action Tip #3

Write longer captions.

Again, longer time to read = longer time spent on app.


Timeliness

Instagram prioritizes information relevancy not by the content itself, but by when that content is posted.

The newness of a post is not based on the last time you posted, but the last time the user was active on the app.

If you post at 8 am and your audience comes online at 11am Instagram will show posts to users that were most recently made at say 10:45 am or 10:50 am. Yours post from 8 am will get pushed further back.

That means posting multiple times a day is not the answer. Determining when your audience is online, is.

If you have a business profile, you can go to your profile and hit the three stacked lines in the upper right and corner.

Click on “Insights”.

Hit “Audience” and you’ll see the times your audience is online most frequently.

 
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Alternatively, you can use a third party app called WhenToPost. (I’ve downloaded this and it’s Instagram approved. And Alex reminds us that whenever you use a third party app you should see the Instagram logo front and center. This format will indicate you’re not giving your login info to a spammer.)

 

This WhentoPost tool can give you up to the minute indicators of when to post or not. You’ll also see 3 best times to post per day and other days of the week. (I’ve been using this but haven’t found any major difference, but will give it a few more weeks for testing). If you don’t have instagram insights on a business profile this tool can be helpful, Alex says. If you do have a business profile with insights, this tool can help you cross reference.

Correct format when logging into a 3rd party Instagram app.

Correct format when logging into a 3rd party Instagram app.

Relationship

No matter how many accounts you follow, you should see your ‘best friends’ posts, first. This is based on again, your previous actions and the actions between another account with mutual engagement back and forth.

If you like images a lot on an particular account and that person is not liking back, the relationship is not considered strong.

The strength of an Instagram relationship can be built when you engage more with your ideal target market and encourage them to engage back. One way to do this is by ‘giving a little Instagram love.’ Go into your following list and begin participating in the various accounts of the people who are following you.

You’re basically opening up the lines of communication. Also, it tells Instagram the relationship exists. A CTA (call to action) can also help encourage relationship building by asking your followers to respond to something.

Image by Annie Spratt via Unsplash

Image by Annie Spratt via Unsplash


That content above is from Alex’s first session of her Insta Education series.

That said, I will allow that some of the above tactics are time consuming. This process takes work and commitment and consistency. You must know you ideal target market and you must have content that resonates with this group. I’ve made money off Instagram simply by attracting a client from out of state with whom I now work on a monthly basis. But I do have a strategy, I do use it consistently and I know who my target audience is. And I engage with them. And yeah, it’s a lot of work.



































The Marketplace - More Time & Money on Disappearing Stories

'Ephemeral Marketing' aka 'Stories' is by now a tool that most users know on Instagram. I've always been adverse to Snap Chat, and Facebook still hasn't really grabbed me, but Instagram had me from day 1. 

And when stories came out, I have to say, I was pretty captivated. And as a consumer, and a self-titled consumer analyst, I've been watching companies weave their way into the Stories I personally watch, right along side the hair-stories, or dog-stories, or travel-stories of my friends.

And I really love making Stories :)

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NPR's Marketplace, in case you missed it, did a brief piece on the 'Stories' tool yesterday. They interviewed a few people with interesting points:

"Branded stories appeal to users who are watching family and friend updates along side [the brand story]." - Katie Talbot, author, content marketer, entrepreneur.

 "I think [stories are] the future of content marketing...

"According to the recent Facebook Conference, more people are using Instagram stories than posting on the grid itself...[Users] like stories because they’re true and they’re authentic."

And this: The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) theory, which may be a cheap tactic to capitalize on people's inherent fear-nerve, but that's another 'story':

"Platforms [like Stories] that provide ephemerality - a sense of scarcity - get people to move. Hence flash sales...When you know that door is closing you feel a sense of loss aversion so you do what you can to avoid that.

Same with stories. If you miss it, you're disconnected, you're not a part of the network - from an anthropological perspective, your survival is low." - Marcus Collins, at Doner Ad Agency

And if that's not enough, about some figures:

They are currently an estimated 400 million daily users on Instagram stories.

100 million brands are creating  stories.

And on average, companies are reportedly allocating 8% of their marketing budget to Stories.

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- If you want a most basic Story how-to-tutorial, give Alex Tooby’s a try. She’s Canadian, so you can trust her :)

“The Art of Making Your Website Compatible for Google Search Engines”

The first memory I have of hearing a dial-up modem reaches back to the age of about 5 or 6 years old.

I used America Online and probably chatted with too many people, was too young for exposure of that sort, and had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Precursor: I'm not a techie, not a coder, but I've always found consumer behavior & marketing fascinating.

When SEO became a thing many years ago, I understood it in concept - I got that it matters and still does, but I didn't understand what was happening behind the scenes.

Therefore I found the topic too ambiguous to dive deeper.

Since, and through reading, research, various info osmosis, I get SEO. But still, it can remain daunting.

In my line of work, I listen to a lot of podcasts about the topics that relate to marketing. And I'm picky. I don't love everything I hear.

So what I'm about to share, I share because I've filtered out much of the repetitive, irrelevant, maybe even uninventive information. 

And focus instead on information that works.

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Well, that's why when I listened to a podcast today (link at end of article) with Amy Porterfield and Neil Patel, I was taking notes through the whole thing and even listened twice.

Amy is the sweetest and Neil is not only sincere but incredibly credible.

While Amy is a marketing maven, she relies on paid advertising for her online business.

Neil suggests, why not both?

 

“It’s not [paid advertising OR SEO]. You need to optimize your business for total profitability."

 

“Warning,” he says, "with SEO you won’t see results right away. It's long and hard and why most people don’t do it. And SEO simply does not ‘convert’ as well as paid advertising.”

He goes on to add, “...the majority of people don’t click on paid ads, Google is worth around $7hundred billion+.
And $80 million or $80 billion of that is from PAID AD REVENUE."
This is important:
"Hence why organic results are worth so much <because  they are competing with paid advertising>. Google is not going to make it easy to have organic results otherwise companies wouldn’t spend money on advertising.”

 

You see? SEO matters because the engines controlling the results are designed to push you into two options:

1.) Pay

or

2) learn SEO for your website.

If you're still with me it's because I'm not the first person to tell you SEO matters, and you're waiting for the plan that Amy and Nate shared in their v. long podcast. (Sure, you can listen, but you can also use my notes, below. The sharing of these notes is in fact for you.)

Again, Amy doesn't really rely much on SEO.

So this plan is from Neil.

He offers a 3 month plan. Yes, yes. SEO results take a long time! And then the plan takes management.

But don't spend more than 10 hrs/wk on this stuff. If you are, Neil says something's up.

 

MONTH 1 - Check out your online competition. Do your homework.

Gather, say 5 URLs of your competition and then try these tools:

  • UberSuggest - Free. Type in keywords of your ‘industry space.’ In return, the engine will give suggestions to keywords in your ‘space’ and provide the cost per click to use those words in paid advertising.

If a keyword has a high cost per click...it’s worth more! If you’re getting clicks for pennies on the dollar, you're probably not going to get many results because the use of those words don’t generate results.

  • Semrush.com - Costs money. But here, you can type in your own URL and results will show your closest competitors who are selling the exact same service as you. Will also show the keywords your competitors are ranking for (read: show what keywords your competitors are using to get results) and how many visitors they‘re getting. If your competition is successful, their keywords could be valuable.

  • Ahrefs.com - Costs some money. Provides another version of the options, above.

Month 1 Takeaways:

  • Competition (should be low), cost per click (should be high) and search volume (this means a lot of traffic and search volume should be high).

  • Have at least 10-20 keywords, to start, then expand into hundreds if not thousands of keywords as you master SEO.

  • Spend a few hrs a week on SEO. Much more is not realistic.

  • How to keep organized: these tools, mentioned above, have their own dashboards. They update as the competitors update. You don’t have to keep doing the research over again, or refreshing.

 

 

karina napier creative portland maine marketing plan SEO annie spratt photographer

MONTH 2 - How to make great content for SEO.

First, Analyze Your Current Content

For Wordpress users, “Yoast SEO” plugin is free and basically optimizes your content and images for keywords.

REMEMBER: Google reads source code (and your written words), not images.

So we have to make our websites compatible with Google. Google needs to crawl the site in order to gather your info and rank you in search results.

You won’t rank high in search results if Google can’t crawl your site. If you're a Squarespace user, a tool for implementing keywords is at the bottom of this post. This step is critical. So be patient.

Also, if you haven't already, you must, must sign up for Google Search Console. It's free. And it breaks down how your site is performing with keywords. Google Analytics won’t show which keywords are driving your traffic. Console showcases that data. (Neil suggests getting this installed during month 1.)

Creating new content.

Start off with just one blog post per week. Video does not rank as well on Google. Audio content is good for engagement but still does not rank as well as words.

FYI, Google knows if your content is user-generated (your audience is leaving a comment, for ex) or if that content i's a blog, or if you have ‘show notes’ - notes posted after audio or video on the audio or video page. And Google likes blog posts a lot.  “Show notes” will not help with SEO.

Google is looking at engagement which tends to arise via blog posts.

And remember, you can always review Semrush to see which of your articles are performing on the world wide web.

IN CREATING CONTENT, KEEP THESE TIPS IN MIND:

Content in conversational tones does better. “You and I.” Create a conversation with your text versus "a teacher talking at you." This is good for engagement. Which is good for Google's tools.

  • Articles which show up on pg 1 of Google tend to have 2500 words, versus only 500 words. Make sure your content is thorough.

  • Use subheadings. Think of it as your book. Title of book, plus subheadings as chapters.

  • Keep your paragraph short 5-6 lines as rule of thumb

  • Use images or video and audio clips for engagement

  • Always wrap up the post with a conclusion, so if people scroll down first before reading, they may like the end and scroll back up to actually read from the beginning.

 

MONTH 3 - Building your online network via links and sharing.

A site ranked at the top of a search result is based on keywords and which site has the most 'votes'. Voting for sites happens in 2 ways:

1) A vote is a link to your site. The origin of the link also counts. A more powerful origin site will help your vote, more. Think RELEVANT origin site. Radiohead.com vs the casual resume-site of your best friend.

2) Another vote is social share. Here, think AUTHORITY links. Shares from the most authoritative links in your field. (If Amy Porterfield shared one of my links, I’d be getting a GREAT vote, in Google’s eyes.

Try: Ahrefs.com - you can enter in your competitor URLs and receive information about every single person and site which linked to that URL.

Neil's tip: Take that list and export it and find a contact person for each of the sites. Then email each contact and ask if they'll link to your content. Of course, this takes some time and savvy, but it is, in fact, an option... And you can get a Virtual Assistant to help with a lot of this.

TOOL:

Buzzsumo - put in keywords and URLs of your competitor’s article, and results will show how many social shares the article has, plus each person who shared that article. Neil's Tip:  you can reach out to those “sharers” and ask that they share your content, as well (apparently, some people are willing to do this).

 

Also with Buzzsumo, you can type in keywords and the results will tell you all the popular articles based on a keyword subject matter. Plus, you can see what people love and spot patterns and trends to help guide your ideas. I happen to like this one option. V. helpful.

 

karina napier creative portland maine marketing plan seo luca bravo photographer

Ok, that's it! if you're still with me, here are a few resources:

Amy's Podcast episode with Neil Patel:

https://www.amyporterfield.com/2018/07/221/

The Squarespace tool for keywords:

https://logicalseo.net/blog/squarespace-seo-plugin-the-alternatives

Semrush.com

Ahrefs.com

Ubersuggest.com

Buzzsumo.com



 

Mark(et)ing Happiness

Not enough money, not enough time. The scarcity model, when it comes to running your creative enterprise, and your life, is over.

 

If you haven't already noticed, you can get a LOT online, for free. This blog post is not about accumulating free stuff, but points out and asks why much of our consumer market has veered in two directions: incredibly, exorbitantly expensive, or basically free.

 

A dear friend passed along a killer article about happiness, via the Atlantic. Absolutely worth a read. I "don't have enough time" these days to read long articles, but I made time for this one and it was worth it.

I’ll also link these ideas to self promotion and the artist conundrum: 
self promotion is scary, money might be bad - or is it good?
I’m not good enough, or I’m so good that I don’t need to promote.

 

The summarized point: Scarcity isn't just a term in economics. It's also a mindset. And lately, a number of the most successful companies and industries in the world gauge their collective success on two things: is the creative process enjoyable? And is my team passionate about their work. 

art by cristina rusu.

art by cristina rusu.

These two values are the exact opposite of scarcity. They speak to opportunity, freedom of choice, and an increased value for good work (people's work gets better when they enjoy their work, and more likely than not, they master that work as a result = increased value), and giving away information with the objective to help others, also increases (back to point about our economy's fork in the road).

 

I'm writing about this not because I had an 'ah ha' moment but rather because I have long shared this perspective: there's plenty of everything (but don't waste), and do what makes you happy. Always. Period.

 

I also link these ideas to self promotion and the artist conundrum: self promotion is scary, money might be bad - or is it good?, I'm not good enough, or I'm so good that I don't need to promote. As a creative person, you have an infinite affinity to make. And as a creative person, you have an affinity to make because you feel something as a result. Mostly, you feel good. Self promotion and 'marketing' your work might feel in conflict with the euphoria, or ecstatic state. 

 

But it doesn't have to. Let your experience of happiness move into the promotional space. Share that with the rest of the world. You don't need to give away what you do, and you don't need to extremely price it. 

 

But you must share work and it's happiness. You must get rid of this idea that promotion is bad - or that you don't have enough time, or enough resources, or enough anything. That model is dead.

Proving People Wrong

Fast Company article link, here: https://www.fastcompany.com/most-creative-people/2018

Reese Witherspoon makes big budget female-centric films, Lyft's new VP of marketing raises $5 million dollars for charities and steals market share from Uber, and Vishal Shah makes it possible to use Instagram as a storefront.

Anyone can have a good idea. 

Implementation is the hard part.

 

'She turned Gone Girl and Wild into breakout films and followed them up with HBO’s Big Little Lies, sweeping nearly every category for which it was nominated at the 2017 Emmys. Having spent years hearing from studio executives that there was no market for big-budget female-driven content, Reese Witherspoon has succeeded to a degree that proves a hunger is there. “Fortunately,” says Witherspoon, “I like proving people wrong.” '

https://www.fastcompany.com/most-creative-people/2018

 

 

 

Popularizing Christianity

I don't know much about David Brooks. His name is familiar and if I take 30 seconds, the internet reminds me that he writes a column in the NYTimes. I've also heard him on NPR, and maybe PBS. If I still regularly tuned into PBS.

But I'm not writing so much about the career of David Brooks as I am about his life's work (there is, in fact, a difference). And his life's work is relevant to my career work because his life work is about marketing complex ideas to the mainstream world.

Growing up, I was raised, in part, by the son of a minister. The denomination isn't important so much as, one I'm still not a religious person, and two, our life was laced with religious ideas and values, morals, ponderings, etc. We didn't go to church frequently, but morality was big in our household and with a father who was not only the son of a minister but also a man of science, evolution was frequently a topic in addition to religion. 

The point: I found it interesting, even at such an age, that religion was so...sticky. Kids, like myself, didn't really get it, nor were we going to read a bible to ease our understanding. Before I understood how many children's books existed (those I hadn't seen obviously did not exist!) I remember suggesting: what about a book telling the story of Adam and Eve, but for kids. And it should additionally explain evolution. All content would be in kid-speak but the core, sticky stuff would also be presented. It was sort of like a book for meeting in the middle.

Back to David Brooks. He takes complex ideas and popularizes them for the mainstream such as Christianity and other impenetrable subjects. My 5-year-old brain had no idea what 'popularize' meant, nor of any streams except those behind our house. But I think I was kinda' talking about the same thing as Brooks.

And today, reading the opening paragraph of this article, I thought about my most complex client: highly skilled, talented, experienced architect and designer, who needs to popularize deeply intellectual work. This clients wants and needs to distill their ideas for the mainstream public. 

Why? Because they like many, want to grow business by acquiring more customers, and they like many struggle with the same problem as other firms: the mainstream customer does not typically understand the inner workings of a deeply intellectual artist.

And here there's a tug of war: does popularizing mean cheapening? Does popularizing mean omitting? But the tug of war can be a dance; there can exist fluidity in the communication between your brilliance, your creative genius, your spark, and the words, images, patterns, and thought-provoking choices any business makes in order to meet their ideal customer. It's just a matter, I think, of recognizing that you're not, in fact, compromising anything in this act of 'marketing'. Instead, you're doing your client a service by meeting them in the middle.