Grab the opportunity…

I realise it’s been a while since my last post – not great for someone who bangs on to clients about how a blog helps with your website’s SEO, providing additional valuable information and keeping in touch with clients…it’s a bit of “do I say, not as I do”. 

The title of this post is one of the main reasons why I’ve not managed to schedule in “blog time” to my week (or month even!) I’ve been busy trying out new experiences, both in a business sense and personally.

Last month I was asked if I could design and deliver a number of workshops around the subject of Digital Marketing…something I had never done, other than group presentations at uni, or really thought about doing. After thinking about it from a “what’s the worst that can happen” perspective and then realising actually probably quite a lot, it was too good an opportunity to be missed. So, I did it.

First step, agree. Second step, panic!

Thanks to my Dad and several hours of designing and researching we had a workshop plan. But I quickly learned no matter how much prep you do you can’t predict the sort of questions people might ask on the day. Thankfully the delegates I worked with over the few days were wanting to learn, participate and have a bit of a laugh…always helpful!

Not only did grasping this opportunity allow me to experience something quite different to my “norm” (whatever that is!?) it also  helped clarify that I know what I’m talking about (most of it anyway!) and so boosted my confidence. It’s definitely not a bad thing to get out your comfort zone every now and then…I mean let’s be honest, comfort zones are starting to get quite boring repetitive places.

Ok so I mentioned it’s been a month of new things for both my business and personally..onto the latter. My partner Liam & I have been selected to represent our local town, Innerleithen, throughout Summer festivals as Standard Bearer & Lass. For those out with the Scottish Borders this all probably sounds a bit alien but in these neck of the woods it’s tradition, that in some cases has been going 200+ years, and is considered a real honour and privilege. So as well as meaning our Summer diary has now tripled it’s another great opportunity to meet new people, visit new places, make new contacts as well as having a blast. Again, a big ask but an opportunity we couldn’t turn down.

The moral of this rambling ? Try something new and don’t turn an opportunity because “your not sure you can” or “I’m happy as I am, why change?” Instead grab it, and go for it. You might even surprise yourself like I did. Honestly what is the worst that can happen*?

 

*excluding skydiving, bungee-jumping & swimming with sharks

 

Keeping up with Social…

How do you keep up with all the changes?

Something I was asked earlier in the week. Let’ be honest there’s not much that isn’t changing at the moment, whether it’s politics, technology, business we’re all surrounded by changes and ‘updates!’ Social Media is another one that over the past few years has totally changed. And for my business I don’t tend to learn about these changes until just before or once they’ve happen…not always helpful!

Keeping up with social...Information overload?

So how do I try to keep up? Well it’s a combination of things really…

Using & Playing Around with New Tools & Functions

As I’m more of a practical learner I get most out of trying it out first-hand. When Facebook changed the Ads Manager or introduced Live Video the first thing to do is try it out! It seems quite a few people are afraid of doing this when it comes to social media and business. When advising businesses I say to try out a few things and see what works for them. Ok it’s a bit of trial and error but unless you really don’t have a clue what’s the worst that can happen? Mmm, maybe don’t answer that…

Reading

I get heaps of blog updates, articles and news from various organisations to my inbox every day. The ones that seem of interest to me I flag up and make a point of going back and reading them. Often these are then the articles that I then share on Twitter. Some of my favourite articles to read about the latest trends, business fails, great examples and more come from Marketing Week, Think With Google and ClickZ.

Searching

If there is something that a business mentions or does and I’m not sure how they’ve done, like most people I turn to Google or YouTube. With more minutes of “How To…” videos on YouTube than there are in my life and endless step-by-step guides, there’s not much of an excuse to not even give it a try. Simply searching about the problem I came across or wanted to know about is how I learned and got to grips with Google Analytics and how to work various functions on Facebook , Twitter etc.

Watching

Over the last few months I’ve signed up to a number of Webinars and I’m a fan. Some have been free while others aren’t. What I like about Webinars is that it is real time (unless you’re catching up!) it’s like attending a workshop or course from the comfort of wherever you are in the world. Some of the webinar interfaces have chat boxes so we can ask questions directly to the presenter. Others are active throughout the session on Twitter. Pretty cool really. I attended a live webinar, a social media “masterclass” the other morning and although I think I’m fairly competent at what I do I still learned a number of top tips that I’ll use for both my own business and when advising others. It also made me realise how important attending such courses are – these experts have done the background work and willing to share their findings. Even better on certain programs their screen appears so shows exactly how to do something. Something else you could loose days watching and learning from is TED Talks (once you’ve finished reading this it’s definitely worth a visit, you can thank me later).

Following

Social media is a key tool when learning and keeping up to date with social media. I follow industry experts, businesses that offer similar services to myself and the social media platforms for business. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc are all great at posting tips for businesses and introducing the latest ideas and updates.

Talking

And lastly I keep up with social by being sociable and having old school conversations with people at networking events , over a coffee in a bar wherever. Listening to what they have to say, asking questions and swapping experiences. No wifi connection required.

Although all this sounds like information overload, half the time you don’t realise you’re learning and keeping up with the latest social media trends. Every day is a school day after all!

My Marketing Pet Hates

A direct mailing postcard appeared through my letter box the other week and although they usually end up in the bin this one was flung seconds after one of my pet hates jumped out at me. The well known brand has misspelled the location of my new nearest store…my eye went straight to the misspelling and then thought “amateurs!” (which they won’t be!)

So that lead me onto thinking about my other pet hates or common marketing mistakes that I’d recommend avoiding (unless you want to annoy me…)

marketing-pet-hatesMis-spelling (see rant above) & shortening of words

Text chat is so 10 years ago. It was only used to save time pressing your Nokia 3310’s buttons 4 times before getting the letter you were looking for. We all have qwerty keyboards on our smartphones, tablets, laptops etc…so why people still sign emails ‘rgds‘ is beyond me. How much time do you think you’re saving by missing out 3 letters?!

Typos

Although we all do this on a daily basis and let’s be honest, some of them are hilarious. Recently I’ve been typing the word ‘shire’ quite a lot…quite often I misjudge the ‘r’ key…it gives me a laugh anyway! Obviously once I’ve noticed and had a giggle it’s corrected before sending, printing, posting, tweeting whatever. It amazes me the amount of content I read where it hasn’t been checked and typos appear.

Wonky personalisation

When I receive an automated email “HEY [insert name]” rather than “HEY SAL!” that really bugs me. The personal aspect of the email is well and truly lost and usually ends up in the trash folder. There are plenty of tools on email marketing software, such as MailChimp, that allows you to check missing data or content and to test the email before sending out to your database. Personalisation is hugely important in online marketing and this simple mistake can easily be avoided. 

Sales pitch approach

I’m not sure about you but I’ve never gone onto do business with a company who sends an email or continually tweets or posts about their values, growth, how amazing their product is etc. A sales pitch approach doesn’t work. This is when people tend to get marketing and sales muddled up. Leave the sales pitch to the sales team and the marketing to a marketing team (or freelancer, hint hint). Any communication with your target audience should be focussed on the customer rather than about your company. There’s no harm in being confident about your products and services, but no one likes arrogant.

Testimonial pages

Maybe it’s because I’m young (no offence!) and haven’t been in business very long, but I just don’t get the point in featuring client testimonials on your website. I mean if someone sent you a negative testimonial it’s not like you’re going to share it. From what I’ve read they also more or less say the same thing and there’s probably some people who have written their own! Being recommended without asking for it is way more valuable.

Blurry or poor quality images

Whether it’s an image to feature in social media posts, an email newsletter, a blog post, a document for print a blurry photo stands out like a sore thumb. My advice would be if the image is poor quality you’d be as well scrapping it and finding a hi-res copy. With amazing quality cameras on smartphones and endless editing software available there really isn’t any excuse to be using blurred images (unless you’re Specsavers and trying to trick people into getting glasses….now there’e an idea!)

Right, that’s enough moaning for one day.

Video Content in 2017

the insane growth of Snapchat + the introduction of Facebook Live + over 1 billion YouTube users = video content is really only going to get bigger in 2017.

Video Content

Although YouTube and Vimeo has been around for a while now it seems video content continues to be on the up. A lot of us now prefer to watch a video about a product or service (amongst kittens & puppies!). It’s been predicted that 74% off all internet traffic this year will be video…here’s my reasons why:

  • Watching a video usually takes less time than reading an article so we can fit it in our busy days whilst on the go
  • A video of someone using a product can act as a mini “test run”
  • Videos allow brands to be creative whilst allowing viewers to get a better insight into the brand i.e. if the video is quite quirky, funny, unique etc then I’m more likely to engage and continue the customer journey.
  • You no longer have to be a film-maker to create videos. It’s easier than ever thanks to the quality of smartphone footage and editing capability. Although for businesses I would recommend a more professional and consistent look…something I can help with (#shamelessplug) See some of my work here.
  • Video content can now be uploaded or filmed live on most social media platforms

Ironically I came across this video about video marketing which outlines some of the facts and figures from last year…

Happy video-ing! 

So, 2016 happened.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who can’t quite believe we’re now in mid-December and in the final days of 2016. I mean, where has it genuinely gone?

Along with all the celeb deaths and crazy political shake-up 2016 will be a year I’m sure I’ll remember. The first full year of Saltire Sky Media and managing everything that goes with that. I think one of the main reasons I think this year has gone so much faster is due to the freelance lifestyle: every day, week and month is different.

Looking back on this whirlwind of a year here’s a few things I’ve learned:

  • The marketing world is evolving much quicker than I thought – it seems that every week I’m reading about new trends and up and coming technology, it’s not easy to keep up but if you don’t try there’s a chance you’ll be left behind.
  • Having friendly working relationships and banter with clients greatly helps – take the fun, friendly approach – a smile goes a long way.
  • Traditional word of mouth and connections shouldn’t be underestimated, as still a fairly new business most if not all of my clients have come through some sort of connection or referral. People trust their friends. Ok so it sounds like I’m contradicting myself when I’m trying to sell digital marketing and saying everything is online. It is. But the issue is there is SO much choice out there that people don’t have the time to scroll through page after page of Google Search, so by a simple name referral or Facebook page recommendation it helps cut down the process.
  • Working and collaborating in a virtual team is really effective when using tools such as Google Hangouts, Google Docs and Slack as I found through Squared Online projects
  • Starring at a screen doesn’t always help generate ideas, go for a walk or get away from the desk. It’s amazing how subconsciously your mind is still on idea mode and something will come to you without trying too hard!

Anyway, enough of looking back on the year, time to look forward to 2017…

 In the meantime have a great last few days of 2016 and have a very Merry Christmas and even merrier New Year!

Merry Christmas!

Reactive Marketing

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed but there’s some big news happening in America at the moment. Brands have been using the U.S. Presidential Election story as part of their content as a form of reactive marketing. (Reactive marketing is basically the opposite of proactive marketing which is content that has been planned). Yesterday I received an example of reactive marketing content from Ryanair – an email with the subject line ‘even Hillary wouldn’t delete this email’…a statement that is relevant to the latest election news and instantly caught my attention.

Reactive Marketing

I’m a fan of reactive marketing for a few reasons:

  • It helps with creativity as gives a starting point or theme to go on
  • It’s often humorous, fun and quirky – the best kind!!
  • It’s not always about pushing a brand’s products or services – just harmless social media fun
  • Topical stories are often trending in the social media world which in turn increases engagement

There is the issue of having to be quick and on the ball with what’s happening. When it comes to live news or topics of the day it’s not the easiest to plan for! It can mean drop everything else and get creating. This can pay off though. Earlier in the year when Storm Henry hit the UK I had a funny vision of henry hoovers flying around so quickly photoshopped an image, stuck it on social media and it’s had the most organic views and engagement than any other content.

Saltire Sky Media - Reactive Marketing Example

Other brands that I think do a great job of producing quirky, funny and current content on social media includes Innocent, Irn Bru, Krispy Kreme…keep a look out! No doubt there will be a lot more reactive content this week once the new president has been announced.

My Freelance Toolkit

Similar to the saying “your only as good as the tools” there are some key apps (my tools) that I think make freelance work a whole lot easier. They help me to organise, store, collaborate, entertain, create documents, design and content on a daily basis. And more importantly they allow me to complete work from more or less anywhere.

Saltire Sky Media Toolkit

Evernote: This virtual notebook is full of my to-do lists (you can even tick wee DONE tick!) For someone that likes to be and has to organised to keep a record on what’s been done, what’s still to do and who I’ve spoken to Evernote is a must have app. It syncs across all devices in a matter of seconds and means there’s no more searching through pages for that piece of paper with whatamacallhim’s name and number.

Photoshop: The first thing I download on any new laptop is the latest version of Creative Cloud, mainly Photoshop. This crazy powerful photo editing and creating tool is used for reformatting images, editing photos for websites, creating content visuals for social media, designing DVD covers the list goes on. The tutorials are a brilliant way to learn and try out some cool techniques and are usually only 10 minutes long at most so I don’t waste the whole day playing around.

Spotify: Although it’s likely I could complete work without Spotify I would probably go insane due to the silence of myself and me working together. I love it for choosing playlists so I don’t have to think about what I want to listen to and there isn’t any annoying voice interrupting the song like there is on the radio. I also think having some background music helps with my productivity…although there are some tunes which just need turned up and danced to!

Google Docs: There’s no more version 1 – 6 of documents or spreadsheets with Google Docs. It’s perfect for working on the same document at the same time. This was really handy when completing my Squared Online course as there was 8 of us in a group all from different parts of the UK and we could all collaborate and work on the presentation at the same time. Although it did sometimes get confusing with cursors and text flying all over the place it was still pretty cool.

Dropbox: This is the hub of my business. All content for social media, information and notes for clients, files of all sizes, videos and more are stored in the Dropbox ‘cloud’. I can just about access anything from anywhere and can share with anyone. It beats sending files via email which takes ages to send and depends on internet speed and available storage space. Fingers crossed this cloud doesn’t vanish!!

Pen & Paper: Despite loving most of the new and digital ways of everyday life I still rely on a pen and paper to quickly scribble ideas, notes and doodle…especially when on the phone. Quite often these notes are then transferred to Evernote so I can’t loose it but a lot starts with a good old biro.

Happy 1st Birthday

Happy 1st Birthday Saltire Sky Media

A year ago today I took the leap into self employment …where has the time gone? With very little routine (or weeks off!) time seems to go much quicker! Looking back it’s been an exciting year, a year full of meeting lots of new great people and getting know and understand a whole range of companies in various industries and sectors. There haven’t been any regrets, I love the flexibility with no routine and being in control of my own work. There’s quite a proud feeling having to find your own work and earning your own money. If anything it can be quite lonely, some days it’s just me and my Mac – thank god for Spotify! And some days I can be rather distracted, but I’ll make sure the work still gets done, even if it is 9 o’clock at night. So all in all being your own boss is pretty cool, here’s to another fun year of meeting some great people and working on some exciting projects…Happy 1st Birthday Saltire Sky Media!

Kids have the right idea…

 

Mick the Stick and Mini-Mick - Kids have the right idea - Saltire Sky Media

That’s me back to my desk, back to the ‘day job’ and away from the 150+ kids I’ve met over the past month. After a week of getting back into the swing of things, responding to emails and arranging meetings with clients (amongst catching up on sleep!) I’ve been thinking… We really all should work with kids more often! They have the right idea…they come out with some hilarious one liners but the imagination and creativity is insane. Kids say what they think, aren’t afraid to ask ‘why’ and conversations aren’t complicated. How much simpler would life being a kid again for the day? Maybe bring a kid to work day will take off!

Some conversations however sounded like a bunch of moaning middle aged men and it made me realise just how much information kids absorb from a whole range of medias in comparison to when I was younger. Quite a number of them had a smartphone and tablet and I’m in 2 minds about this! On one hand it’s great to see how quickly they learn to use technology and when it comes to getting jobs and using computers for school or uni it’ll be a doddle to them. But part of me feels like they are missing out on the childhood I had. I was speaking to an 8 year old who was amazed to hear that there was no internet like there is today when I was her age, what did you do?!” 

Call me old fashioned but a childhood should be spent outside, climbing trees, building dens, making up pretend games…there’s plenty time for technology and information. Being someone who works with technology and tries to keep up with the latest trends it may sound like I’m contradicting myself but there’s serious information overload out there for me…never mind for kids! I overheard a conversation from a group of 10 year olds about Brexit, at that age politics should be the last thing on their minds! While technology is great for business and everyday life I think the more kids, or anyone in fact! create their own fun away from screens the better…If we keep going the way we’re going babies will learn to speak using emojis or text their parents when they need a nappy change!

Change is good.

Mick the Stick having a wee Change - Saltire Sky Media

Sorry for not being on the ball with a monthly blog post recently…I’ve been busy wearing my other hat for the past few weeks and will continue to do so until Mid-August. My “Other Hat” is managing a Children’s Activity Camp during the School Holidays – yes, something TOTALLY different to my “day job!”

From screens and meetings to children and outdoors…

I’ve been working at PAC (Pentlands Activity Camp) since I was a teenager and just love the variety of work, being outdoors, engaging with kids from all sorts of backgrounds and of all ages and working with a new team every week. It is a full on role which I love not just because of the outdoor fun but also as I get a break from my norm and can take off my marketing hat (well, half take off!) for a few weeks and use some of my other skills. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy my freelance marketing work and meeting and working with some really interesting people and companies but a break from this and a wee change for a month can only be a good thing in my mind! I have always had this Seasonal job since I started my career it’s hard for me to imagine doing the same job for 52 weeks of the year! In my opinion doing a bit of this and bit of that is the way to go and I’ve been lucky enough to have the opportunity to do this from a young age. After all how do you really know what you want to do or are good at it without giving it a shot? As companies are starting to make contracts much more flexible I wouldn’t be surprised if having a couple of unrelated jobs became more common because a bit of change is good!