What I Learned at The Honest Conference

Last week Strategy Lab partnered with our good buddies at Pidgeon Social to present the first ever Honest Conference. The idea for the conference was simple: Get some amazing marketing leaders in our community together to have a frank and honest discussion about they know and even what they don’t. I wasn’t personally involved in a lot of the planning, so I don’t feel too bad about tooting the team’s horn when I say it was absolutely amazing. The lineup of speakers was the best I’ve ever experienced and the amount of value they offered was unreal. there’s no way I could even begin to cover each speaker’s background and presentation (head to honestconference.com for more info on that), but I felt it was important to jot down some of the big ideas from the day:

Create First and Improve Over Time

One of the big common threads that tied together all of the presentations was the idea that doing something is always better than doing nothing. If you have an idea idea for something you can create (be it a vlog, an Instagram, or a jewelry company), just do it, even (or especially) if it’s not perfect. Over time, you’ll figure it out and get better, but the first step is just to try. As human beings we have an unlimited capacity for talking ourselves out of things that have virtually no downside. Changing that is one of the first big steps towards doing something amazing.

Always Ask for Feedback and Act on It (in Moderation)

This feeds nicely into the idea of feedback which just about very speakers touched on at some point as well. As marketers, business owners, and people, we’re always wondering what we should actually be doing to succeed, when in reality the answer is very clearly right in front of us in the form of feedback from our people and our customers. Asking these people what we can do to improve our product, customer service, or marketing tactics gives us the road map to success. Now, this piece of advice comes with a caveat as not all feedback is helpful when you’re trying to innovate. As Henry Ford once said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

(Photo credit: Sprout Catering!)

If You’re Uncomfortable, You’re Probably Doing Something Right

This is another idea that seemed to emerge somewhere along the way in each presentation. Hillberk and Berk COO Mary Weimer got some laughs from the crowd when she revealed that she is in a perpetual state of discomfort, and never really knows for certain the right thing to do. The truth is, comfort is the cost of doing something that will never really move the needle. Justin Reves’ “80% and Go” rule of thumb I think sums this up perfectly: Get to the point where you’re 80% sure of something and then just go for it  (as Richard Branson would say, “Screw it, let’s do it!”)

Always Keep it Human

Whether it was HB&B’s policy of giving their employees sparkle balls to give out to strangers, or Wheelhouse’s “Wheel Mile” of encouragement at the Queen City Marathon, the stories that really resonated with people at HonCon were those that demonstrated honest to gosh humanity and compassion. In other words, the companies that succeed will be the ones that genuinely treat the people around them (customers and non-customers alike) like human being and not just numbers, dollars, or “stakeholders”. This was particularly evident when the Roughriders’ marketing coordinator Miriam Johnson spoke about their recent influencer campaign during the opening of the new Mosaic Stadium. They did a deep dive to find out what was important to key people in their community to find out what they truly cared about, then customized swag packages for each person along with a handwritten note specific to their lives and personalities. There was no hard-sell or expectation, just a true sense of caring and a desire to do something awesome.

At the end of the day HonCon was a tremendous success. I strongly believe that each and every person in attendance walked away having learned a lot about what other people in this new marketing world are doing to succeed, not only from the fabulous lineup of kick-ass speakers, but from each other as well.

Saskatchewan in Keywords – May 2017

May 2017 will go down in history as the month of the fidget spinner.

For any of who don’t know, Google Trends is a wicked cool tool that allows you to view real time Google search query data by location visualized. You can view the top search keywords in a given industry or generally across the the country or province over the past day, week, quarter, month, or year. Typically the top Google searches from month to month are more or less what you’d expect (some iteration of “Google”, “Facebook”, “YouTube”, “weather”, “news”, etc.), but what I find more interesting is the fastest rising keywords in a given month, or those which have experienced the highest increase in search volume. You can view these above by clicking the bottom right-hand arrow and selecting “Rising”. Here are the search terms which will now and forever define May 2017 in Saskatchewan.

 

Cinco De Mama

Topping the list by a wide margin are searches related to the tragic suicide of Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman Chris Cornell last week. Everyone’s favourite excuse to drink tequila at 11 in the morning Cinco De Mayo also topped this month’s search queries. Predictably, searches spiked dramatically for Mother’s Day as absent-minded sons and daughters (myself included) scrambled to remember what day it actually was, only to forget and look it up again a few days later. You’ll also notice a fairly significant increase in searches related to the latest craze in boredom-suppression: fidget spinners.

 

Despacito Means “Slowly” in Spanish

In addition to raw web search results, Google Trends also let’s you view to the fastest rising search terms on YouTube specifically. This month Miley Cyrus’s latest hit Malibu drew a great deal of attention and, correspondingly, a considerable amount of search traffic. A tearful performance at this week’s Billboard Music Awards didn’t hurt either. Topping the charts for increased search results on YouTube this month was…Wait a second…Fidget spinners again? What the heck is going on?

Okay, let’s try one more thing. Finally, Google Trends allows you to narrow keyword searches to those used in Google Images. There has to be something interesting there, right?

 

ARE YOU KIDDING ME FIDGET SPINNERS AGAIN. The only discernibly higher search phrase for images in Saskatchewan with an increase of 150% was fidget spinners. Wow.

May 2017 ladies and gents, the official month of fidget spinners in Saskatchewan.

 

PS: For reference, here’s what the trend line for fidget spinners looks like over the past year. Wild, right?

Let’s Take a Second to Remember The Basics

So you’re a business looking to dive into social media. What does that even mean? Back in the day when social was just beginning to become the massive snowball it is today, getting involved as a business was messy. It was imperfect. You had to watch and listen to how people were using various platforms. You had to try things and make mistakes. You had to learn in real time as things were changing and growing and evolving.

Nowadays it seems like you can just decide “I want to be on social media”.

And you probably should be. Creating a community and actively engaging with that community has become the new marketing model. Storytelling and relationship building are more important than ever, overtaking “brand-building” or “reach and frequency” as key outcomes for your marketing budget. That being said, businesses seem to be pivoting to social as a silver bullet for their online marketing while fundamentally forgetting basic marketing concepts. Before you even think about creating a page or an account be it SnapChat, Facebook, LinkIn, or the like, check yourself against these basics when it comes to social media

 

  1. Not all platforms are created equal.

    Gone are the days when you could just set up a Facebook and Twitter page, link them to auto-post and call it a day. There is a buffet of options to choose from when it comes to social platforms. It can be overwhelming, which makes it so surprising that most company’s first instinct is to jump into everything at once. Specific, methodic targeting is becoming a lost art. Less is more. Get really good at one thing, not mediocre at five. Take stock of your core function as an organization, the type of content you’ll be posting, and your audience and be selective with the platforms you choose. Which brings us to rule number two…

    never-half-ass-two-things-whole-ass-one-thing

  2. Focus on where your people are (and where they want to see you).

    “We need to be on Snapchat”. Why? Is that really where your target audience is? Is that going to be the best use of your time? Is that where you’re going to make the highest number of meaningful connections? More importantly, is that where your people even want to connect with you? You may have the best concrete company in the world, but I don’t necessarily want to look at concrete on Instagram. Founder of the Social Fresh Conference Jason Keath speaks regularly about the importance of focus when it comes to social media and his message is simple: if you really want to convert you don’t need to be (and probably shouldn’t be) everywhere. Respect your audience, view your business through their eyes, and act accordingly.

  3. Have a freaking purpose.

    This is possibly the most bizarrely broken rule in the book. Organizations and companies seem to think that the equation goes “IF I’m active on social media AND I get lots of likes THEN my business will do better”. What the heck does that mean?! There are so many other steps involved in that equation. I recently caught an episode of the Jelly Marketing Podcast (would highly recommend) featuring writer and speaker Tod Maffin where he hammers the idea of true purpose home and slays the concept of vanity metrics. What are you specifically trying to achieve with the tools you’re using? Are you trying to keep your membership up to date with new information? Are you trying to show how easy your product is to use? Are you trying to showcase the genuine personalities of your team? Have a purpose beyond getting likes and followers. Those will come and arguably don’t matter as long at your working towards a clear goal.

  4. Create value.

    Advertising and selling without value creation does not work. Period. Full stop. I don’t care about your car dealership. I don’t care that you can broker my mortgage. I DO NOT CARE. Do something that makes my life better, even a little. Tell me something interesting I didn’t know before. Better yet, show me it in a cool way. Make me smile, make me laugh, make me think, solve my problem. Do something that goes beyond the basic transaction. It’s not just a nice touch anymore, it’s expected.

Well there you go. None of this is particularly ground-breaking. They’re things we as internet marketers have been shouting about for years, but as the social media space becomes more and more crowded and confusing it’s important to remember the basics. They’ll save you time, money, and a whole lot of headaches.

An Open Letter to Social Media

Dear Social Media,

We’ve been together for a long time. We’ve seen some major highs and some rock-bottom lows. For better or worse, I always knew I could turn to you. Always knew that at the end of the day I had a screen and a community of people I sort of knew who could validate however I was feeling, and if they didn’t screw ‘em, I’d find new ones that did.

I was really your first love. Previous generations never had you and never dreamed they would. Throughout the time that we’ve been together you’ve grown and changed so much. On one hand it’s fascinating to see your relationship with each new generation change. On another, it’s exhausting trying to figure out how to approach you on any given day. Secretly I worry that I don’t really understand you as well as someone much younger does. Are you outgrowing me?

Lately things have been different. I’ve started seeing someone else: the world around me. There’s so much beauty to be seen, so much fun to be had, and so many memories to savour without your constant interruption. As much as I love having instant access to anyone, anytime, anywhere, as much as I like the likes, things are better in 360 full-colour.

You were always best when you made the tangible world brighter and more exciting. You still amaze me with your ability to connect people and tell stories, but lately you’ve been dividing people and shifting their focus inwards.

I think we need to take a break. We’ll still see each other around, but right now we both need to figure out how to actually be social again.

 

Sincerely,

Us

60 Second Instagram Videos are Coming… But That Doesn’t Mean You Should Post Them

If you have kept up with any of the latest content platforms and which ones are making it big lately you’ve probably noticed one major trend: These platforms are supporting shorter and shorter forms of content. First it was Facebook, where you could share statuses as long as your heart desired. Then Twitter, where you had to condense your thoughts into 140 characters or less; and god forbid you put a picture in there and get even that 140 cut down. Then Instagram and Vine, with standalone pictures and short, 6 second videos. And finally everyone’s favourite filter-toting, funny face-inducing, disappearing photo and short video platform Snapchat.

Then something interesting happened…

Instagram brought in 15 second videos. Based on the above pattern, this doesn’t seem to make a ton of sense. But, with their growing user base and the inevitable decline of Vine to a limited number of content creators treated like idols by tweens (can’t believe I just used that word), the move made sense. It was hard to get a brand’s message across in only 6 seconds, so the Instagram update worked, allowing brands to tease at promo videos, events, or whatever they were up to that was worthy of our 15 seconds of attention.

Now something even more interesting is happening…

In a statement released on March 29th, Instagram dropped that in the coming months they are increasing the length of videos that can be posted on the platform BY 4 TIMES. That is a pretty interesting decision given the popularity of Snapchat and the emerging use of it by some brands. It seems like everything is moving towards micro-content, or content that you can consume in the shortest time possible because hey, there might be a funny cat video if you keep scrolling.

As with everything, I think that this update can be used extremely well or very poorly. Just because you can now make 60 second videos, doesn’t mean you should. The golden rule applies as always: make kick-ass content. If you are crushing 15-second videos and getting amazing engagement from your audience (the perfect opportunity to engage back and create relationships) and don’t think you could fill a 60 second video with the same quality then don’t. On the other hand, this longer run time gives you the opportunity to hook in your audience and say, point them to a full vlog or video in your bio. The options are endless, but with content following an ever-shortening trend remember that the amount of time you have to make someone stop and say “Whoa” is growing smaller and smaller everyday. So if you choose to make these longer videos, reel them in with a strong opening, send them to the video or website link in your bio, and watch the traffic poor in. :heart_eyes:

Strategy Lab/Capital Ford Google Analytics Workshop

Thanks to everyone who came out to dive into the deep world of Google Analytics and measurement tools with us. The morning went very well, stimulated some educational conversation, and highlighted some compelling case studies. This workshop was geared toward non-profit organizations and will be followed by workshops open to all companies. See you all at the next one!

Strategy Lab Google Analytics Workshop

twitter-bird

The Top 100 Most Engaging People On Twitter In Regina [Infographic]

Follow me please!Hopefully you’ve seen the 100 Most Influential People on Twitter from Regina infographic we compiled last week. 

This list differs from the 100 Most Influential list because this is a list of the people who actually talk to other people on Twitter. So yeah, this is the list of people you’re going to want to follow.

This list is made up of people who have Regina listed in their bio on Twitter. Then I sorted the list of 16,141 people by percentage of @ mentions in their time line. I think this is one of the most interesting lists because these are the people who will talk to you.  Who want to talk to you. These are the folks who engage the most.

Methodology: 

Searched bios on Twitter for: Regina

Sorted by: % of Tweets containing @ mentions

For the entire list of everyone who came up for the “Regina” bio search (and to find your own score), see the Spreadsheet here: 8,267 people from Regina on Twitter.

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The Debate Continues: How Much Do Colours Affect Your Website’s Performance?

During the creation of a content-driven, engaging, educational, and well-measured website, people often spend a lot of time fretting over design details. While we’ll be the first to stress the website’s function and measurability as it meets your needs as being a much larger part of the website development and marketing strategy, the fact that the colours use have an effect on customers’ propensity to trust your business and make purchases from you can’t be overlooked. This is illustrated in great detail in this awesome infographic from the folks over at KISSmetrics. We’re sure you’ll learn something new. Let us know what you think.

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Operation Alberta Flood Cleanup

groupflood

The call came in the form of a group Facebook message from friend and former hockey coach Barret Kropf from Caronport. Some mutual friends of ours from High River, Alberta had been in one of the hardest hit areas of the recent flood and hadn’t been able to return to their home since their abrupt evacuation and Barret was taking it upon himself to challenge a group of us to hit the road in his family’s motorhome with whatever tools we could find to spend the Canada Day long weekend helping our friends clean up upon returning to their damaged home.

To be frank, as with many calls to action via Facebook, there was some tentativeness in the replies from the group. Notice was short for a weekend that was long and the knee deep water we’d soon find wasn’t the kind we’d expected to spend our weekends in. Regardless, Barret handled the logistics and did everything he could to make it possible for a few of us to make the trip. On the day of departure, when we received the news that residents wouldn’t be allowed to return to High River during the time we were there, we decided to strike out to Calgary anyway — eager to help anyone in need.

Here’s a CTV news clip of us the day before striking out on the open road that highlights the contributions of many Saskatchewan residents.
CTV News Coverage (at 1:00 mark)

Upon finally arriving in Calgary, we met up with our friends Ryan and Genevieve Morrison who directed us to the Bowness area — just a block from their home — where many houses had been severely damaged and the volunteer efforts were underway. With no real plan in mind, we buckled our tool belts, slipped on some gloves, and made our way down to Bowness Crescent. (Despite the hard work that would ensue, if your ideal job is one where you’re offered a burger and a popsicle every three minutes, this is the place for you.) Volunteers swarmed the street in many roles, shapes, and sizes. The rest of the day consisted of checking in at the volunteer tents which were located in the front yard belonging to the first guy we ran into, shovelling muck out of basements, hauling dirt to yards lining the river bank, politely declining burgers number 4 through 35, and enjoying the feelings associated with contributing to a worthwhile cause.

Here’s a taste of our weekend in video form:

The second and final day of our stay was spent in Calgary’s Mission District. The devastation in this area was even more of an eye opener. The volunteer efforts seemed to be more centralized and organized with dispatch tents, barbecues, spare tools, sunscreen, and mosquito spray all located in the Safeway/Shopper’s Drug Mart parking lot at the corner of Elbow Drive and 4th Street SW. From here, we were sent to various locations to move furniture in and out of garages, remove tile from basement floors, and tear down slats and drywall in homes. This was by far the toughest day of work. Homeowners were eager to show us just how severe the flooding had been in their homes. One owner of a beautiful home showed us where the water line had been at the peak of the flood; halfway up his fireplace, about four feet above the floor, on the house’s main level. It was now being completely gutted.

We ended up spending most of our time in a house owned by a twenty-something girl’s family. Over just a couple short days, she had been required to absorb the shock of being chased from her home, come to terms with the damage, see multitudes of people charge in to help clear all of her belongings out to the front lawn, and finally become a project manager for an extremely daunting job being carried out by roughly 100 different volunteers (often 20+ at a time) stopping in for varying lengths of time with sledgehammers. This was a situation common to many homes across the city and I couldn’t help but admire the strength of those dealing with that kind of stress and sleepless nights.

All in all, I took many things away from this edifying weekend. Among them were a restored faith in humankind, a recognition of the need for leadership, management, and humility in volunteer efforts, and the realization that helping fellow Canadians may be the best way to celebrate our country’s birthday — or any day for that matter.

 

 

TCBY – The Country’s Bygone Yogurt

TCBYThe scene was a sultry June evening in Regina’s third favourite frozen yogurt (froyo, or “FROYO” to which my my phone has grown accustomed to autocorrecting it) shop. After making plans to bike to TCBY, which is short for The Country’s (self-proclaimed) Best Yogurt, I’d ditched the idea at the last minute in order to take my car and get there five minutes earlier to avoid the awkward the-entire-staff-hates-me-for-walking-in-right-at-close scenario.

Success. I arrived at exactly 10:50pm.

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