digital marketing

Wanna be a Digital Astronaut? Basic Training has started!

 

Happy July 1! Today, we’re unveiling a new tCloud project that’s been in the making for several months: tCloud University!

tCloud University is an online learning website with classes for beginners to experts on social media, digital marketing, graphics &  photography, and more. Students can advance through 4 levels of courses, earning basic training badges and working their way toward earning Digital Astronaut status.

Right now, we’re in our soft launch stage, meaning we have several classes functioning currently with a roster of upcoming classes. The site is up and running but we want your feedback and your experiences so we can make it the best online learning platform possible. Additionally, classes have been slashed by 50%. That’s right, you can actually take one of our month-long classes for $10. But, there’s also a $10 off coupon code going around, which you’ll find on our Facebook page. So, basically, courses are FREE right now for a limited time.

tCloud University is an ongoing project of tCloud Solutions. If you have any suggestions for improvement or if you want to be a Digital Astronaut Trainer (online instructor), we want to hear from you!

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What’s With Those Creepy Brand Mascots?

In the world of marketing, May 2014 was the month of creepy brand mascots.

In the name of all that is great and glorious, what on earth were they thinking? That was the response many individuals had to the newest, creepiest mascots on the branding front.

So what’s out there that’s giving people the shivers? A young man with a lemon for a head and a toothy, overly happy Happy Meal box:

creepy mascots

Left: Lemonhead’s new mascot is supposed to appeal to an “older” audience Right: McDonald’s latest mascot, McHappy, has been instead dubbed “McScary”.

Sorry. It had to be done. You can hold us responsible for the nightmares tonight.

This week, Ferrara Candy Company introduced an updated brand mascot for Lemonhead candy. Just in case you can’t recall what previous Lemonhead packaging looked like, here is an example:

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One of the original Lemonhead designs featured an “older-looking” face with a 1950s bow-tie.

 

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Updated packaging left off the bow-tie and made the face look younger.

Dawn Sykora, director of marketing for Ferrara, told the Chicago Tribune that the update was greatly needed as research told them their previous packaging was “dated”. Sykora said the company wanted to appeal to an older demographic, with a 22-year-old Lemonhead man as the brand’s icon. And how did Ferrara decide to do this? With a real guy wearing a lemon head walking around Chicago and posting selfies on Facebook and Twitter. A few of his sightings have been documented here.

Then, in the same week, McDonalds (also a Chicago-based corporation) released their latest mascot designed to appeal to the younger audience. “McHappy”, as the terrifying Happy Meal is called, was designed to encourage children to make healthier food choices. McDonald’s spokeswoman Lisa McComb says the character has already been released in Latin America and Europe and has been well received. So far. On social media, it’s had exactly the opposite reaction. User-made photos like the ones below have started to pop up online, enunciating the creep-factor of the mascot:

 

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McHappy and Godzilla make a terrifying team…

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Boo.

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That isn’t creepy at all….

So, why are companies using creepy mascots? While it may usher in a flood of negative comments at the start, the concept is actually genius. Think about it this way: if McDonald’s created a sub-par mascot, it would just blend in to every other advertising campaign out there, going unnoticed in most cases. But if the Golden Arches released something a little more memorable (even if its memorable in a discomforting way) it creates buzz, which potentially drives new and returning customers through the door.

Whether you realize it or not, many marketers use human psychology to their advantage. One of the biggest factors that play into campaigns is how people react to what you’re putting in front of them. Psychologists say people have strong reactions to things that freak them out (obviously) and also to humor (which is the main goal of Lemonhead). However, those emotions are more likely to inspire social media users to share those particular photos, videos, articles, or links with others on a social network.

In essence, these companies are working hard to create viral marketing content, which is undoubtedly working since the mascots have the internet abuzz with chatter.

Either that, or they’re trying really hard to freak us out.

 

What are your thoughts on these new mascots? Are they creepy or cool? Let us know in the comments.

 

5 High-Paying Digital Marketing Jobs for Entry-Level Graduates

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Congratulations. You’ve just earned your diploma.

Right now, you’re probably still digging yourself out from the mountain graduation cards and using your free time watching Netflix. Chances are, you haven’t spent more than a few minutes pondering your next move in the game of life. And that’s okay. For now. Soon, you’ll be faced with the ultimate question: Where do I go from here?

You’ll  hear a lot of nay-sayers out there during your job search. Many will point to a wavering unemployment rate, an unsteady business climate and a recent article from USA Today that says new graduates may have a hard time landing a job in their field. That pessimism is expected to continue over time.

But it’s not all bad news As a matter of fact, marketing jobs are expected to grow 14% within the next decade.  Public relations will grow faster than average by 24%.  If you’ve just earned your degree in communications or marketing, the future is exceptionally bright (we’re talking supernova bright), especially in the world of social media and digital marketing.

Whether you want an Internet-oriented marketing job or haven’t thought about it yet, here are 5 jobs that may jump start your career in a way you never thought possible:

1. Social Media Strategist

Social media-savvy, educated workers are in high demand.  Businesses have started to realize the importance of branding on social networks as well as the need for someone who understands the platforms. Enter the Social Media Strategist.  Many wouldn’t think it’s possible getting paid all day to surf through social networks, but it is indeed a real and profitable career. That’s part of the reason why major universities are now adding social media-focused programs.  With the average Social Media Strategist making $61,000 a year, it’s one marketing grads should look into.

2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Specialist

Businesses in every industry are desperately seeking answers on their digital performance.  They want to know how their social pages are performing, how they can improve their rank on Google and what to do next. Who’s the ideal candidate for this growing need? Someone who is analytical and loves numbers.  Someone who can understand insights and trends, who’s able to inform the company of better practices to reach their customers.  SEO Specialists also focus on search rankings and keywords and other optimization techniques that makes a company’s web presence front and center. The average salary for an SEO Specialist: $69,000.

3. Blogger or Social Media Copywriter

What used to be considered a hobby is now a legitimate, full-time career. From freelance positions to job openings at major corporations, bloggers and copywriters are in demand. As more marketers focus on content marketing, more businesses are making room in the budget for bloggers. Bloggers are on the lower end when it comes to salary, but the average is still a cushy $43,000.

4. Public Relations Specialist

It’s been called the “Number 1 Hot Career” (Yahoo Education), “Best Creative Job” (U.S. News), and “A Skyrocketing Career” (CulpWrit.com) by critics, but you don’t have to go to a premier to be a part of this blockbuster. Public Relations Specialists are needed everywhere and with this position predicted to be at an all-time high by 2020, it’s definitely something to get behind. The national average for PR Specialists is approximately $46,000.

5. Graphic Design/Online Advertising

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 7% slower than average growth rate for graphic designers, the position is still widely needed in the digital marketing field. Companies are looking for skilled workers to design logos, websites, content for social media sites, and banner ads. Graphic design may be dwindling, but digital advertising and promotional design is certainly picking up.  The average payout for designers is around $44,150.

Have selfies gone too far?

Blue Swimsuit self portrait

Selfies are everywhere: from our social media news feeds to television to songs celebrating them on Top 40 radio stations. With stories like suicide attempts and plastic surgery inspired by selfie-taking, do you think the fad has gone too far? Read the Social Media Today exclusive here: Invasion of the Selfies

What are your thoughts on selfies? Leave a comment below or on Social Media Today.

How “Blood Moon” Lunar Eclipses Relate to Your Web Presence

red-moon-skywatcher

Courtesy: NASA; Space.com

Get ready, astronauts: you won’t want to miss tonight’s space show.

In the early morning hours of April 15, residents of North and South America will get a fantastic view of the first total lunar eclipse in a tetrad (which is basically a fancy word for a sequence of four lunar eclipses without a partial eclipse in between). However, tonight’s eclipse will be a little different, resulting in a visual rarity called a “Blood Moon”. That phenomenon pictured above is named for the way the sun’s rays shine through the Earth’s atmosphere and cast a reddish hue on the moon, making for quite a spectacular event.

Ready for another space metaphor relating to digital marketing? Of course you are.

Let’s liken your brand’s web presence to the moon. Certainly, you know what the moon is, but what is meant by web presence? When you search your name or company’s name, what comes up in the search results? Is it good or bad? What is your website like? Is it enticing enough to draw in traffic or is it scaring potential customers away?  What social networks do you use? Are you using them often? Are you using them well?

After you discern the answers to these questions, we can take the comparison between the moon and your web presence to the next level.

Here are two scenarios that can result during the eclipse of your figurative moon:

  1. Your web presence is ultimately eclipsed (obscured) by the shadow of your competitors.
    or
  2. Your web presence stands out among the competition in visual wonder, resulting in a blood moon eclipse.

Which eclipsed moon is the most like your web presence? Take a closer look at the way your online platforms are performing and make notes on things you can do better. If your content is dull, fix it. If you’re not engaging your fans as often or as well as you should, come up with a strategic way to connect and relate with them.

After all, you want your presence in the digital universe to have a lasting, profound effect on web users, right?

This digital universe needs more blood moons. Is your business’ web presence one of them?

Why You Should be Investing in Digital Advertising in 2014

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Where are your marketing dollars going this year? If you are anything like the other thousands of businesses in America, you’ll probably shift away from the more traditional forms of advertising in 2014 and pool your money into digital.

According to the Wall Street Journal, companies across the United States are expected to spend $50.1 billion on digital ads in 2014. While that figure still comes second to television spending at $68.5 billion, it’s growing at a much faster rate than any other form of advertising.

Let’s say your company is used to traditional ad spending: mail flyers, billboards, newspaper ads, radio blurbs, etc. For years, all your marketing department has done is focus on these methods without furthering the company’s presence in the digital realm.  While traditional ways of advertising are still effective, not investing in digital advertising could actually be having an adverse affect on your company’s bottom line.

Here’s our reasons why you should focus on digital advertising (with particular emphasis in social media advertising) in 2014:

Digital advertising reaches the same amount of people, if not more than traditional advertising

Welcome to the Internet, where the world truly is your audience. Your goal in marketing is to make sure people see your advertisements. Every time someone sees your ad, it’s counted as an impression.  Traditional forms of marketing have limited impressions, depending on their target audience. For instance, hosting a billboard in a medium-sized metropolitan area (like Sioux Falls, SD) reaches weekly impressions of around 55,000. If you take out a  1 column x 4 inches ad in the Los Angeles Times, you can expect a fraction of the 1.7 million readership will run across your message while flipping through the paper.

While this sounds like you’re getting a good deal, consider how many impressions you can get with online media. On Facebook, depending on the specifications you set for your ad, you can reach way more people, up to 180 million, to be exact. Remember that print ad for the Los Angeles Times? If you target a Facebook sponsored post and sidebar advertisement to appear to only those living in LA , you have a potential reach of 6.2 million people over the span of your ad campaign. That’s 4.5 million more than the LA times.

Digital ads ultimately save you money

Who doesn’t like saving money?  Every company keeps a hawk’s eye and a tight fist on their budget, so isn’t it time to update your marketing plan in order to help the folks out in accounting?  Think about it this way: would you throw down almost $25,000 for a billboard that’s only displayed for four weeks in a mid-sized market? Or take out a $13,000 4-day national ad in the Wall Street Journal or $6,275 for an advertisement in the Chicago Tribune? Or what about $1,500 for a 30-second television spot during local segments? Is it worth it? Maybe, but not necessarily.

Here’s a tCloud Solutions example: Just recently, we took out a Facebook ad to boost clicks to our website for 30 days. In that month, our ad received over 200,000 impressions and only spent $125. Remember how many people saw your ad via billboard per week in a medium-sized market? 55,000, on average, meaning 220,000 per month. That puts our digital ad right up there with that billboard ad, which is pretty incredible considering we spent $24,875 less than those billboard customers.

Your audience is online

 If you’re still not convinced that digital is the way to go in 2014, think of your target audience. Who are the recipients of your marketing messages? Chances are, your audience is on social media. Even if they’re not, they’re still using email and seeing your digital ads in Google search results.  And, once you connect with your customers online, your reach expands to their inner circles, causing a pleasant chain reaction of new customers and a boost in profits.

The bottom line: While having a strong digital presence is absolutely necessary for your marketing strategy, we’re not saying to completely forgo traditional methods. Just use them sparingly while making up for the rest online. Understand that traditional methods do have value, but digital advertising can match that.

If you’re not sure how to get started with digital marketing, let us know. We can help come up with a social media strategy that works for your company.

Smartphone or Car: Which Would You Choose? [POLL]

smartphone car

A recent survey by RepairPal shows that 86% of those polled would keep their smartphone over their car if they had to choose one or the other. Given the same scenario, which would you choose?

Cast your vote in today’s tCloud Poll:

Social Media Inspiration: Sioux Falls Edition

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If you’re one of those creative types, you know how difficult it can be at times to get a solid idea rolling, especially when it comes to an engaging social media post or blog entry. No matter how deep you reach into your creativity vault, nothing seems to stand out when translated from brain to computer screen. Don’t let  frustration or lack of motivation stop you from posting on your company’s social pages or blogs.  If you go too long without communication, your fans and followers might start to wonder why you’ve abandoned your online platforms.

Today, we want to share several businesses in the Sioux Falls, South Dakota area that utilize social media in an awesome way.  Take these examples as inspiration for your next online post:

1. Avera McKennan

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Courtesy: Avera Health YouTube

Avera’s latest marketing campaign, “My Avera Story” adds a human element to their social media. The health care organization uses amazing, personal stories that tug at the heartstrings to increase brand awareness and engagement on their Facebook and Youtube pages. Consumers want businesses that will listen to them and Avera is effectively tapping into this need through this social campaign.

2. All City Pet Care West

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Courtesy: All City Pet Care West Facebook

What’s better than a Facebook news feed full of fuzzy, cute faces? Using real photos of what’s happening around the veterinary office is a great way to connect with pet owners and show what they have to offer. It also increases their chance of having their posts shared by fans and followers. In addition to promoting services, All City Pet Care provides snapshots of adoptable animals looking for a new family. Posts are short, to the point and most importantly, visual.

 

3. AMaVo

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Courtesy: AMaVo Facebook

Local clothing retailer AMaVo does a fantastic job of providing original, eye-catching content across their social sites. They also cross-promote their social networks, advertising on Facebook that they have a presence on Pinterest and featuring blog posts on their Facebook page, and so on. The above post is a great call-to-action, encouraging their followers to check them out on other social networks.

4. Karmazin Family Dentistry

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Courtesy: Karmazin Family Dentistry Facebook

No matter where you work, your social media audience loves to see company employees in action. The above post from Karmazin Family Dentistry gives a sneak peak into a recent dental conference. If your company has representatives going to special events or seminars, let your followers in on the action, like Karmazin does.

5. Pomegranate Market

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Courtesy: Pomegranate Market Facebook

Pomegranate Market appeals well to its niche by posting timely, informative entries. In addition to photos of store displays, Pomegranate shares interesting articles from the natural food industry, promotes events and educational sessions, and highlights new product offerings. Sharing information relevant to your target audience improves social media engagement, which is why Pomegranate has a following of over 4,200 people. (Not to mention, Pomegranate employees take time to respond to questions on their Facebook wall. This is a must when it comes to businesses on social media.)

Do you know a company that’s doing well on social media? What do they do differently than their competition? Leave your answers in the comments.

The Best (and Worst) Times to Update Your Social Networks

Hello digital astronauts,

Check out this helpful infographic we found on Fannit.com. Go ahead, print this out for your office or cubicle to serve as a guideline for the best times to update your social media for increased audience engagement.

Courtesy Fannit.com

Courtesy Fannit.com