LeAnne Eck

We strive to empower our clients and audiences with knowledge and understanding of the work we do, whether it’s graphic design social media, video production or website development. The technical aspects of many of the areas we offer support can seem, frankly, overwhelming to some, which is why we’re breaking down our process. To help you better understand website production, let’s take a look at user experience.

A BRIEF OVERVIEW

The user experience (UX) looks at how people interact with a website in relation to the site’s overall functionality. It is the study of the who, what, why, where and when pertaining to websites, analyzing what the user sees and stands to gain when navigating a website. Focusing on creating a connection between the user and a website, a successful user experience evokes emotion and feeling that, without it, may come across as static and boring. A positive connection will, in-turn, make the user want to return over and over again.

When you think about website design, UX often takes a backseat to the design and development of a site, but the research and planning serve as the most important steps in the process. Without a good foundation, a site will not have a clear path to function and grow. The study of UX pushes site design further and allows for updates to functionality based on the users’ needs. Can you imagine trying to search for something on Amazon using the interface from 15 years ago? Industry experts study how people use the site to improve the UX over time so as users’ needs change, so does the site.

 

THE FIVE W’S OF USER EXPERIENCE

Taking the time to study UX early on in the site design process will make it easier to use and more likely have users remain on the site longer while also returning more often. Most sites can achieve these benefits by taking a closer look at the 5 W’s listed below:


Determine your audience through research

  • Create employee or customer surveys to identify your existing audience
  • Research analytics, if you already have a site, to see who visits the site
  • Based on the survey feedback and analytics, create a user profile listing a fictitious person who would use the site, this allows the team to give a face to the audience


Focus on what is most important and design the site from there

  • Build off of the information architecture and start by creating wireframes, blocking off areas of the site without actually designing it
  • Adjust the hierarchy of the site to ensure the site flow leads users in the right direction


Create an information architecture and describe information placement

  • If you have a current site, start by outlining the current structure so you can work on making it better
  • Use a white board with sticky notes to easily move items around in real-time
  • Add notes for specific page elements and visualize the layout


Build out a realistic timeline for when you want the site to go live

  • Base your site’s launch around a new product release
  • Stick to your deadline


Determine your goal for the site and the needs of the users

  • Create a focus group to meet and brainstorm what you want users to get out of your site
  • Use sticky notes to get ideas out quickly and narrow down a concept

 

Current website design trends create an easy-to-follow, almost templated user experience. But with creativity, research and planning, the possibilities of website design are practically endless. Follow the five W’s when planning your next website to put your site on the track to success.

Kristie Sheppard

Consumers think of email marketing as irrelevant and overbearing, taking up more than half of their inboxes. The metrics don’t support this perception, though!

With nearly 99 percent of people checking their email daily, brands are six times more likely to get a click-through from an email than a tweet. Similarly, 44 percent of users check their email for a deal from a company, while only 4 percent go to Facebook. With the new Facebook algorithms, which will probably move to Instagram before we know it, fewer fans will see your social media posts unless you pay to play. According to Campaign Monitor, email marketing has the highest return on investment (ROI) of digital marketing tactics. For every dollar spent, email marketing generates $44 in ROI.

Based on these facts alone, email marketing should play a fundamental role in your digital marketing strategy. Over a third of the worldwide population uses email, with nearly 80 percent of those users American. Businesses can use email to effectively communicate with their audiences by engaging with them on their home turf – their inboxes – and in various venues – home, phone, work, etc.

For successful email marketing, emails need to contain concise, relevant and actionable content. Every email provides an opportunity to build trust and resonate key messaging with the target audience. Grab the reader’s attention with great videos and photography, a catchy subject line and a distinct call-to-action.

Valley of the Moon Vintage Festival:
Kivelstadt Cellars:

Emails can generate immediate results. For example, if a tasting room is really slow on a rainy, cold winter day, developing an email with a tasting deal, special offer or impromptu party can help drive business. Target that email to your constituents within a 25-mile radius, individuals with the ability to take advantage of the offer.

The capability to accurately track results provides great value for email marketing. You can see how many people received the email, opened it and clicked through to the provided link. Even better, you can respond to these metrics and change your strategy if the results aren’t successful. Email marketing makes testing different messaging, distribution timing and subject lines easy and affordable. Lastly, you can repurpose your email marketing content on social media to garner new followers or email signups.

So, don’t abandon your email marketing strategy for social media. Drive engagement with relevant content targeted to segmented audience lists. Email is far from dead — it’s actually thriving! Try something new with your email marketing and comment with your results.

Shawn Nesaw

User-generated content (UGC) takes the form of content, usually photos or videos, created in support of a product, brand, idea or trend. Brands publish the content on social media channels, such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, to allow for republishing content on their own social channels to further promote the brand and build loyalty among audiences.

UGC offers a ripe opportunity for businesses to build a community around their brand. Similar to giving a compliment, UGC represents something everyone likes getting because it makes us feel good and encourages us. Similarly, when a business shares content that one of their customers posted on their social media page, the business compliments that person by featuring their content and thanking them for their business. This type of public recognition creates stronger customer loyalty to the brand.

Speaking of loyalty, some may say, “brand loyalty is dead or dying,” but consider these statistics from Accenture describing the behaviors of U.S. consumers:

  • 57 % spend more on brands or providers simply for loyalty
  • 51% show loyalty to brands that interact with them through their preferred channels of communication
  • 55% express loyalty by recommending the brands and companies they love to family friends
  • 14% publicly endorse or defend a brand or organization on social media

Building community around your brand is absolutely still important and UGC can help you achieve the community you want for almost no additional cost to you, the business. Explore UGC with the following best practices.

UGC best practices
After monitoring all your social media properties, it’s clear people tag your business, your products, even your staff in their photos on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Before you start posting customer content as your own, review a few rules of courtesy to abide by when possible.

  1. Ask for permission to use someone’s photo, video or GIF. Simply message the person using the direct messaging feature built into the respective social media channel. Compliment them and mention how you would love to share on your account. Nine times out of 10, flattered by your request, they happily oblige.
  2. Give photo credit in your post. A photo credit could be as simple as “(Photo cred: @username)” or “(📷: @username).”
  3. Recognize the person or business in your post thanking them for their business or support. You can also subtly weave in a key message. Just make sure the post reflects more about them than you.

Examples of great uses of UGC
If you still can’t envision how UGC works or how it looks for your business, read through the examples of effective UGC use below.

Take a look at each example noting the photo composition, the caption and the tag of the photographer. In each case, the brand used short and simple captions, emojis and tagged the photographer. Using the camera emoji or the word, “Regram,” before the users’ tag signifies the original photographer.

Starbucks:
Buffer:
Bass Pro Shops:
Ben & Jerry’s:
Perfect example of expert use of UGC
While the above examples make it pretty clear what UGC looks like in practice, we offer one more perfect example of how a restaurant successfully executed UGC on social media to promote their brand and turn a visitor into a loyal follower.A restaurant wanted to promote their weekly Wednesday ramen night. They monitored their Instagram account for recent posts for public posts tagging their business or their restaurant location was tagged. They found a sharp photo of ramen from the week before that matched the look and feel of their feed.

This execution checked a few boxes for the restaurant. It promoted the ramen night, garnered awareness and attention for the business and boosted brand loyalty for that person.

Have you considered using user-generated content to build a stronger community around your brand? If you already use UGC on your social media accounts, how’s it going? Let us know in the comments or share your best execution.

Katie MacNichol

In 2017, national Super Bowl ads cost an average of $10 million per minute and with that price tag came the opportunity to reach over 111 million people all in one sitting. Brands of all shapes and sizes use the Super Bowl as a broad reach platform for messaging, and even small- to medium-sized businesses use the game as a strategic and significant investment opportunity, shelling out $70,000-$90,000 for a market-specific Super Bowl ad.

However, following 2017’s big game, research from Communicus, an independent research-based consultancy, found that 80 percent of commercials failed to leave a mark on audience members. What an advertiser does with Super Bowl airtime can directly affect a consumer’s opinion or potential engagement with a brand, and at such a steep investment, keeping your audience in mind while meticulously planning your media buy helps promote Super Bowl ad success.

Communicus research shared that many failed commercials entertained viewers, but did nothing to build the business’ brand. Advertisers must then take part in a balancing act between engaging visuals and strong messaging that, when coupled together, leave an impression on audiences and help move the needle in terms of a return on investment, or ROI. When developing a commercial spot, ask yourself, “who am I talking to?” and “what am I trying to say?” Doritos, for example, consistently places their products and branding within the first few minutes of their Super Bowl ads. Keep a specific audience in mind and showcase your brand attributes from the very start of your commercial. Remember, viewer attention often drops off after just a few moments, so don’t waste any time and get your name up front in your commercial.

When it comes to creative execution, introducing out-of-the-box content seems fun and exciting, but going that route can often miss the mark in terms of drawing a connection back to your brand.

Only 10 percent of consumers even remember the average Super Bowl ad and can recall the brand advertised.

Don’t use the Super Bowl to reinvent the wheel for your business; use ad space to continue telling your story. Tell consumers why your product or service dominates the competitors and do it authentically.

Advertisers shell out massive sums to secure big-name celebrities in their commercials, but if your audience doesn’t feel a genuine connection between your brand and a new spokesperson, they’ll likely see through your ploy. For example, think back on the Kendall Jenner Pepsi commercial from April 2017. Poor planning and lack of input from audiences led to off-base creative execution that not only didn’t resonate, but offended consumers. That being said, playing it safe can also prove risky. Step out of your comfort zone and put your best creative foot forward, but be sure to do the research and find your business’ best fit for cutting through the clutter.

Now, you determined your audience, established a strategic way to message to them and developed a commercial bound to resonate. Don’t put all that planning into one Super Bowl-basket. As with all advertising, the more times a consumer sees or hears an ad, the higher the recall. Make sure to extend your media buy strategy before and after game day, setting viewers up for what they’ll see during the big game and continuing the conversation after the fact. Many advertisers get so caught up in the pomp and circumstance of putting out a game day spot that they overlook simple advertising principles, like a strong frequency of viewing.

The mark of successful advertising campaigns lies in the combination of strong reach, something the Super Bowl obviously brings to the table, and frequency, something advertisers must consider when building out television media buys. The media buy shouldn’t stop at television, however. When considering reach and frequency, don’t forget to build in a comprehensive media mix. Developing an integrated buy around your Super Bowl commercial means maximizing your investment across various media platforms. This approach to planning your media takes into consideration the bigger picture, as integrated buys allow for storytelling across various vehicles, increasing reach and affording your brand added exposure. Keep your Super Bowl commercial momentum going and build strong brand awareness and recognition by considering additional mediums like radio, digital and even outdoor marketing when appropriate. Continue the conversation and extend your reach even further by integrating the messaging and visuals into all organic communications outreach as well.

Not integrating your Super Bowl media mix to elevate your creative assets? Now that could lead to a major fumble. Carefully plan your business’ creative approach and media buying strategy to ensure a successful drive to the end zone.

Tell us who you think did Super Bowl advertising right! Comment your favorite commercials and ad strategies or tweet us during the game — @aBrightIdea96.

Katie MacNichol

While reminiscing on the Super Bowl (or maybe just longing for the weekend), I thought about the creative choices brands make in commercials to connect with their audience. The brands score when they make you act – buy their product, schedule a service, call or email for more information or log in to register for a service. Whatever the action, successful ads make you want to do it immediately. Brands do this through creative choices that tell a story to connect with you on an emotional level.

Think about these examples:

  • What if Audi placed a middle-aged woman in the cart race to replace the little girl to make a stand for raising strong, valued women?
  • What if 84 Lumber chose a group of men versus a woman and child for their “Journey 84” spot?
  • What if Hyundai used a group of sorority sisters partying at the beach instead of the nation’s Warfighters stationed overseas connecting with their families?

The creative choices in an ad shape the story and tell you how to feel, making the message more impactful. In these instances in particular, the theme of people (those actually used in the commercial; the actors) made a direct correlation and emotional connection back to the audience.

For example, Hyundai’s ad used a theme central to making life better – showing soldiers being led into tents to put them “with” their family watching the game while their families were set up in the stadium with 360 degree cameras. It brought families together – making life better – by using actual families in the creative.

While the touching scenes do not sell cars directly, the commercial pushes the theme and Hyundai as a brand shows its focus on making life better too. They say “Hi, audience, come buy our brand” by connecting on an emotional level and weaving storytelling through advertising.

In an age of media oversaturation, it’s good to get to the point. But what makes you more apt to buy? A message that literally says “Go online and buy XYZ now!” or a more tactful ad that cries out to your needs – all the things you’re feeling inside that you want to trust a brand you’re going to invest in understands and feels too.

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The Super Bowl was a great time to see the impact of creative choices coming to life, especially how storytelling through advertising makes a difference to the audience. But, storytelling also matters in any form, whether print ads, brochures, websites, logos, etc. Brands are thinking more strategically about how they communicate to their audience, shaping creative decisions and call-to-action around reaching them at an emotional level.

We hope to see this trend continue, too, because it means brands pay attention to their consumer and care about them on a more personal level than just sales and profits.

And before I say “bye,” check out one of my other favorite Super Bowl ads – #BaiBaiBai. To be honest, I’m not completely sure who serves as Bai’s target audience but the creative choices in talent used here make me want to be their audience. Who’s thirsty?

Kristie Sheppard

Can you believe that mainstream social media didn’t launch until the 2000s? Since the early days of MySpace and Friendster, social media experienced significant and rapid growth. Now, there are hundreds of social platforms worldwide. It’s impossible to have a strategic presence on every social network, even for the largest companies in the world. In fact, most businesses only manage 2-4 social channels truly effectively but for a good reason, audience participation.

It’s important for any business but nonprofits specifically, to strategically determine where audiences interested in your organization are on social. Nonprofit organizations can effectively manage social platforms even with smaller staffs, budgets and resources. We recommend using major platforms that engage with the most users: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and, if you’re on the trendsetting side of social media, Snapchat. With your social channels selected, your organization can focus on audience engagement.

Once upon a time, the number of followers/likes was the measurement of success on social platforms, but now success is measured by engagement. Why? Engagement translates to conversion rates – conversion to becoming a donor, attending events or joining your mailing list. Nonprofits want to see these actions as a result.

It is common knowledge that nonprofits struggle with resources of time, money and staff so we are recommending five tried and true strategies to increase engagement on your social media platforms.

  1. Get visual

Add photos to your posts on Twitter and Facebook. Share behind-the-scenes images. Show your donors what your group does! Photographs garner more engagement than text-only posts. Remember, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

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Using video to host interviews and show behind the scenes content of your business or event allows audiences to feel included in something special.

  1. Spark a conversation

Use social media as a way to dialogue with your audience. Social media has the power to serve as much more than a bulletin board. Engage your followers in conversation instead of just announcing information. Ask for their feedback. Find out what they want from the organization. Developing an online relationship will increase conversion rates.

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Start a conversation and continue it. Pets Lifeline monitored their Facebook feed so when Renaissance Sonoma commented, they were ready with a response to further the conversation.

  1. Get engaged

Just like you want engagement on your page, other pages want your engagement too! Get in the conversation. Follow like-minded groups and sponsors. React and reply to your followers’ posts. Share, with comments, what others are saying. Increasing your engagement with others will raise your social profile and expand your audience.

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Show your gratitude to other businesses on social channels, making sure to tag the business and others involved to lengthen the reach of the post, ultimately boosting engagement.  

  1. Be different

Every social platform has a different style and audience. Don’t just link your accounts so the same posts hit multiple platforms. While that is the easy way , it is not the effective way. The photo you use on Instagram needs different content on Facebook. You may tag different groups on each platform. Hashtags are most effective on Twitter and Instagram. The more hashtags you use on Instagram, the larger your reach, but on Twitter your text is limited.

  1. Pay to Play

We understand you might not have a social media budget. But don’t run away yet. Advertising and boosting posts on social media is one of the most cost-effective and targeted ways to increase engagement and grow your audience. Boost a post with a compelling image of why someone should donate, advertise your event or boost a post about how to join the newsletter. For as little as $25 a month, you can get great results.

Bonus Content: More tips to stay trendy on social media.

We always recommend starting with the development of a strategic social media plan, especially when multiple people from one organization are responsible for social media efforts. Success can only happen when the same messaging is consistently shared with your audience. For additional information, visit www.abrightideaonline.com.