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Hashtags – Lazy or Effective Online Marketing?

Everyone loves a good hashtag…and there have certainly been some good ones (where would we all be without the #selfie).  But do they actually accomplish anything when it comes to a strategic marketing plan?  Does it make sense for a small to medium sized business to develop a hashtag as part of its social media marketing efforts?  I’ve often found myself asking these questions and I have come to a final answer.  Hashtags can be BOTH lazy and effective in online marketing; depending on the context of course.  Let me break it down the way I see it…

Hashtags Are Lazy Online Marketing When…
Hashtags are lazy marketing when there’s no conversation or plan built around the hashtags.  Sadly, I see this all the time.  Even from some huge companies that should know better.  What is the point of using a hashtag if there’s not going to be a specific goal in mind?  Often times hashtags become an afterthought and something that just gets tacked on at the end.  It’s kind of like adding links to all of your social media accounts to an email marketing template just because.  If the purpose of the email is for people to connect with you socially, then add them.  If the purpose is for someone to click back to read your blog post, then they aren’t necessary.  Same with hashtags.  While they may be trendy and cool (kind of like QR codes used to be) they aren’t necessary.

Not only do you need to have a plan for hashtags, but you need to reinforce them at every possible opportunity.  I think some of the Super Bowl commercials this year really dropped the ball on this and can provide an example of what not to do.  One that comes to mind is the Kim Kardashian T-Mobile commercial.  While the concept of the commercial is OK, the hashtag of #kimdatastash just gets lost at the end.  I mean, it’s literally on the screen for around one second.  Let me say that again – one second.  You look down to grab another chip while watching the Super Bowl and it’s gone when you look back up!  Why not keep something like that on screen the entire time?  As an online marketing professional, I have to ask that question.

I was curious about if there was something that I missed here, so I went to search.twitter.com to check it out.  At the time the commercial aired and the day after there were hundreds of tweets using the hashtag.  That’s to be expected.  I mean it is a Super Bowl ad and it is Kim Kardashian (love her or hate her) that we’re talking about.  But what happened after those first couple of days?  Well, sure enough there have been less than 30 Twitter mentions of the hashtag #kimdatastash – less than 30!  We’re talking about one of the most followed people on social media and Super Bowl commercial here.  If you were going to use a hashtag in a commercial been viewed on one of the biggest stages in the world, wouldn’t you want to make sure the conversation continued?  I would have to classify this in the category of lazy hashtag marketing.

Hashtags Are Effective Online Marketing When…
Hashtags are effective online marketing when there’s a conversation or plan centered around them.  I would encourage any online marketing professional to do some research around hashtags in the target market then work backwards.  What is the goal of using the hashtag?  Does it really make sense to create a new one?  If the purpose is to reinforce branding, maybe it does make sense.  Another time when it might make sense is if your company is involved in a specific event and you want to monitor conversation around.  However, if the purpose is solely to increase online visibility, then tapping into existing hashtags could save boat loads of time.  When it comes to online marketing, it’s much easier and takes far less resources to join a conversation that already exists than to create a new one.

One great example of this was the #shareaCoke campaign from Coca-Cola.  Clearly they had an incredible strategy ready to go build around this concept and hashtag.  It reinforced the brand, was very creative, yet a simple and fun way to engage its customers.  This is the perfect use of a hashtag in my opinion.


Want to talk more about online marketing and hasthtags?  Contact me here.

How Many Hashtags Should I Use?
It’s also a good idea to know how many hashtags to use on each of the social channels.  After all, part of using hashtags effectively is including the right amount. For example, Facebook and Twitter posts see the most engagement with 1-2 hashtags while Instagram posts get the most engagement out of a whopping 11 hashtags.  When I think about the number of hashtags, I can’t help but remember this popular skit on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon featuring Jimmy & Justin Timberlake.  Take a look…

In all seriousness, I didn’t pull the recommended number of hashtags to use on each social channel out of thin air.  Here’s an extremely helpful infographic from the folks at Quicksprout called The Ultimate Guide to Hashtags that has these numbers plus much more info.  Take a look and use this as a resource to help your posts get seen more and monitor what’s going on in your particular niche.

Want to talk more about online marketing and hasthtags?  Contact me here.


1 Key Ingredient That Makes Online Marketing Better


There’s one key ingredient out there that hooks your target audience and makes every single form of online marketing better.  It’s nothing new, yet over the past couple of years it has become more important than ever.  It’s the thing that enables social media posts stand out from the crowd, it’s the difference between someone reading your blog post or scrolling on by, it’s the most effective way to get someone to click on an ad, I could go on and on…  So, what is the 1 key ingredient you ask?  A great image.

Great Images Make All The Difference

It’s no secret that people do not like to read.  We’re all busy.  We’re all multitasking.  Other marketers are constantly competing for the same space.  While words can be very powerful and many still hale “content is king,”  more often than not it’s a great image that captures our attention.  I recently wrote about investing in video during 2015 and I firmly believe that great photos are right up there as an equally important investment.  Whether it’s product photos, staff photos or any other type of commercial photography – taking the time and money to do it the right way pays off.  I recently heard content marketing advice to invest just as much time in the images you use as the content you write.  I’d have to say I agree with that 100%.

More Than Just An Image

I’ve always had a passion for photography and Focal Point is known for providing the best commercial photography in Indianapolis.  One of the reasons being that we understand it’s about more than just an image.  Effective images have a meaning and message behind them and inspire the audience to take action.  Whether that be sharing a Facebook post, clicking through on an email or purchasing a product online – it’s imperative to make the image mean something to the target audience.  The best way to do that is by having the image tell some sort of story or evoke an emotion.  Let’s take a look at some examples I like…

Fishers Area Swimming Tigers (FAST) – Reflection of Hard Work

Reflection of Hard WorkThe mirror image in the foreground tells the story in this photo.  You can imagine the hours of hard work and determination put into defining this young man’s swim stroke, strength and character. This image is a tribute to his teammates, coaches, and sheer determination toward achieving success in athletics and academics. The young man featured in this photo happens to be my 16 year old son, Tyler and this is an image I volunteered my time to capture and design for the Fishers Area Swimming Tigers (FAST).

Nike – First Coach Photo

First Coach
This photo says so much with so little words.  Whether you’re a parent yourself or have been an influence in any child’s life – coaching has probably been something you’ve thought about.  While it’s not 100% sure this photo is of a father and son, one can certainly make that assumption. I’m willing to bet that all of the Dad’s out there, whether they’re coaching now or were a coach 20 years ago, can feel some type of emotion when looking at this photo.  No hard sell is needed as the subtle branding on the golf gear and swoosh logo is just enough.

Nike – Cold Shoulder Photo

Give Winter Cold Shoulder
Here’s another very effective image from Nike that says so much in so little words.  This image speaks to never giving up.  It suggests defying the elements.  It serves as inspiration for exercising while most others wouldn’t.  Again this is all done through an incredible image and minimal words.

Need Great Photos for Your Business?  Learn more about our photography services here!

2 Quick Photography Tips

Let me leave you with 2 quick tips that will make sure you get the most out of your photos.

1. Have A Plan For Re-purposing Each Photo
What I mean by that is before you hire a company like Focal Point to do commercial photography, make sure you have a plan in mind for how the photos will be used.  There’s no reason each photo shouldn’t be considered for use on your website, in your emails, as part of social media posts, featured on blogs, etc.  Get the most mileage out of every single photo and maximize the investment.

2. Know Your Photo Sizes
A crisp, clear image is always best.  All too often I see small images stretched to fit the space of a Facebook cover photo or something similar and it just ruins everything.  Know which photos you’re going to put where and make sure they are sized appropriately.  Below is an awesome social media image size cheat sheet from the folks at Constant Contact that will save you a ton of time.


Why Every Marketer Should Pay Attention to Twitter Right Now

Twitter is making some series moves and every online marketer should take a moment to pay attention to what’s going on…

Prior to the last couple of weeks, it had been awhile since I could remember the last big Twitter update.  A lot of speculation recently is that Twitter’s CEO is in the hot seat and the company is under pressure to grow its number of active users.   It certainly seems that message has been received as Twitter has decided to make up for lost time with some big announcements.  Here’s a quick recap on what has been going on with this microblogging service giant and what I think it means for online marketers.


1. More Tweets Will Soon Show Up in Google Search
A deal has been signed between Twitter and Google to give the search engine giant (Google) access to Twitter’s firehose.  What this means is that Google will be able to tap into Twitter users’ feeds in real time and serve up relevant Tweets as part of its search results instead of just being limited to showing Twitter’s profile information.

Key Takeaway – I see this being huge for marketers especially when it comes to events and trending topics.  Being able to report relevant industry news first on your blog and having a Twitter strategy that goes along with it which is visibly in Google sounds like a great online marketing power play to me.

Need help with your Twitter strategy?  Contact me & we’ll talk tweets. 

2. Twitter Videos Are Live & So Is Group Direct Messaging
Toward the end of last year, I talked about the importance of video heading into 2015 and specifically discussed some of the things Facebook has been doing to encourage marketers to upload videos directly to the site vs. using a 3rd party like YouTube.  Well, Twitter has followed this trend with the roll out of its native video feature.  If you haven’t noticed already, when composing a Tweet, you will now see the capability to add a video.

The length of the videos is 30 seconds which is significantly longer than the 6 second Vine service which is tightly integrated with Twitter and twice the length of Instagram’s 15 second video limit.  30 second videos are a length that advertisers are very familiar with and I anticipate seeing commercial type videos coming from the big brands.

In addition to Twitter video, group direct messaging capabilities were also made a reality.  This means instead of being limited to a one-on-one DM conversation, others can now join the party.  It’s basically like a private little group chat…very similar to something you might see on Facebook messenger.  It’s also worth noting that not all of the Twitter users in the group message need to be following each other.  Hopefully this doesn’t get spammy, as I could see it being a very valuable way to make new connections via a personal Twitter introduction.

Key Takeaway – The key takeaway I see from this news is that brands will now have an even greater potential to re-purpose video content.  By shooting one video and making several different versions, it’s now possible to use that piece of content on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc.  This means far more people can be reached and in new ways.  A lot marketers are seeing greater engagement from videos posted directly to Facebook as opposed to the video being housed on YouTube and linked to from Facebook.  I imagine similar behavior may start to take place over time on Twitter feeds.

Final Thoughts
YouTube is huge and yes, it’s possible to build up a great following of subscribers there.  But as I look to the future of online marketing as it relates to video, I see a progression of marketers being more keen on promoting their Facebook channel and Twitter channel as more of these huge social media platforms make it possible to host videos on their sites. Video is going to become more essential than ever and brands will/are getting more creative about they way they do it.

Need help making a highly effective video?  Contact me to talk strategy today!

How to: Deliver the 1-2 Content Marketing Punch

My last 2 posts really got me thinking about the 2 different types of posts that should be a part of every content marketing plan.  I often think businesses publish these 2 types of posts naturally, but don’t take the time to think about the strategy behind it and set realistic expectations.  Let me explain how using these posts right way can be just the 1-2 content marketing punch you’re looking for…

The Easy to Follow Content Plan for New Bloggers post I published a couple of weeks ago, is one that will never “expire.”  It’s what many marketers like to call “evergreen” content.  While my post from last week about my 5 of My Favorite Super Bowl Ads is definitely a post with a shelf-life.  Both types of posts are equally important to any effective content marketing plan and it’s important to understand that ahead of time.  To explain, I will dive deeper into each type of content and offer up some tips for making it all come together.

What Is Evergreen Content?

Evergreen content has no expiration date.  It’s always relevant no matter the day, month or year.  For example, let’s say you are an auto mechanic.  As part of your content marketing plan, you’ve decided to create a series of how-to videos.  two of those videos happen to be: how to change a flat tire and how to jump start a car.  This content is evergreen content.  Fundamentally, these two things are never really going to change.  Furthermore, a potential customer could need help changing a tire or jump starting a car on any given day of the year.  The shelf-life of this helpful content is potentially forever.

What Is Shelf-Life Content?

Shelf-life content is seasonal/cyclical in nature and/or has an expiration date.  For example, let’s say that same auto mechanic also included in the content marketing plan a video covering winter driving tips and other about ways to keep your car cooler in the summer.  Both of these could be very useful posts, however, they both will also be very seasonal posts.  When it’s summer, odds are that winter driving tips videos isn’t going to get very many views.  But when winter rolls around, the summer video is going to be more popular.

Both Types of Content Are Equally Important

The question I get asked quite often when having this discussion is: which type of content should I invest my time and money in producing?  My answer is always both.  It doesn’t matter if we are talking about video content, email campaigns, or even infographics – in order to deliver the 1-2 content marketing knockout punch you need to have both.

Here’s why: content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint.  But it sure does help if you’re able to sprint every other mile.  Pretty crazy analogy, I know, but not taking into account the elite athletes who sprint the whole thing – could you imagine if the everyday runner was able to do that?  Well that’s what having both types of content is like.

You see, for a business it makes sense to consistently publish helpful, evergreen content week after week.  But where you might really see the big spikes in sales or traffic will be around the shelf-life content.  Maybe it’s a Valentine’s Day campaign with a huge sale that really drives revenue in the month of February.  Or maybe every year Christmas time is absolutely critical to the success of the business.  All year long you’ve built the relationships, established trust and educated your potential customers.  By the time these key dates on the calendar roll around, you’ve got a bigger email list, larger social media following the marathon becomes a sprint you can win by accelerating sales like never before.

Ready to Start Your Content Marketing Plan?  Get in touch with me today!

3 Quick Content Creation Tips

So now that you know the importance of the 1-2 content marketing punch, here are 4 quick tips that are sure to help with creating both evergreen and shelf-life content.

1. Change Your Environment

Whether it’s writing a blog post, planning a video production or brainstorming a social media marketing campaign – we all get into a rut sometimes.  I’ve found that more times than not, it’s just a matter of changing up your environment.  Get out of the office, go to a coffee shop, try working in the morning or later at night.  Whatever the normal routine is, breaking free from it is often just the change of pace you need.

 2. Have Monthly or Quarterly Themes

This can greatly help to simplify things.  By planning ahead about the type of content that will be created, it’s easy to determine which pieces should be evergreen and which should have a shelf-life.

3. Answer Questions

Open your email and look at the last 4-5 questions you answered from clients or prospects.  Is it possible to turn those questions and answers into blog posts, videos, etc.  Each one could probably be classified as evergreen or shelf-life content and can easily fit into your content marketing plan.   Need more questions to answer, check out Quora, Reddit, Inbound.org, etc.

SEO TIP:  over half of all search queries use 3 words or more.  This means people are searching for answers to questions.

Need Help with Your Content Marketing Plan?  Contact me to help develop a strategy that makes sense.   

* Muhammad Ali photo from Huffington Post

5 of My Favorite Super Bowl Commercials & Marketing 101

If you ask me, this is a great time of year to be a marketer.  The countdown to the Super Bowl XLIX is in full swing.  The best of the best are getting ready to showcase their talent on the field.  And the best of the best in the marketing industry are ready to see what they can do off the field.  It’s one of those rare times when it seems the whole world is actually paying attention to commercials and marketing campaigns in general.  This means it’s the perfect opportunity for digital marketers and small business owners to take note of the strategies used by the big boys and taking note of how people react.

Today, I’m here to give you a break from all this #Deflategate chatter (we all need it) to share some of my favorite Super Bowl commercials from previous years and offer some Marketing 101 reminders that we often overlook.  So without further ado, let’s stop talking about air pressure in footballs and start looking at some fun commercials…

Original Budweiser Frogs Commercial

We have to go all the way back to 1995 for this commercial, yet I still remember it like it was yesterday.  This ad is great because it is incredibly simple.  Three frogs sounding out Bud-weis-er and that’s it.  As marketers we often times try to say too much when something as simple as this will do the trick.  There’s nothing about how great Budweiser beer tastes.  Heck, you don’t even see the Budwesier logo until the end.  But the goal of name recognition and branding is absolutely achieved.

The Force: Volkswagen Commercial

Kids, pets, cool parents and Star Wars come together for a funny commercial.  What’s not to love about this one?  The use of the Star Wars music is perfect. The whole concept of using the Force and capturing imagination is something every kid and parent can relate to.  By the end of the commercial, not much even needs to be said about the Volkswagen 2012 Passat because the audience has been captured and the message is clear.

Pepsi- Coke Guy Caught on Camera

How about this gem from Pepsi back in 1996?  The Coke guy is restocking some cans and can’t help but reach for a Pepsi in the cooler next to him.  Next thing you know Pepsi cans fall all over the floor and he’s caught.  It’s an ad that includes a direct competitor but does so without any words and in a humorous way.  This one still makes me chuckle nearly 20 years later.

Budweiser Wassup

Just watching the game, having a Bud.  One thing is for sure, Budweiser puts out some great Super Bowl ads and this one is another classic.  Once again, simple, funny and effective.  Here there’s some more branding and product placement going on, but in a natural and unforced way.

Doritos Crash The Super Bowl Contest


There have been too many great Super Bowl ads from Doritos throughout the years to pick just one.  The main thing to observe here from a marketing strategy standpoint is the way that Doritos empowers its audience through the use of social media to create the Super Bowl commercial and then rely on votes to pick the winner.  It’s a brilliant marketing move that has been going on for 8 years now.  The winner this year gets 1 million dollars, a job with Universal Studios and gets to see their ad during the Super Bowl.  How’s that for some nice incentive!  View the 10 finalists and vote here.

Super Bowl Commercials – A Marketing 101 Reminder

In a lot of ways, I feel like Super Bowl commercials remind all marketers of some basic lessons that we often overlook…

  1. It’s less about the product and more about the story
  2. Simple is always better
  3. People just want to be entertained
  4. Babies, pets, & sex sell

If you look at Super Bowl ads as a collective whole, the most memorable ads are incredibly simple.  There’s very little, if any dialogue or narration in a lot of them.  Many don’t even mention the product until the end and for maybe 1 second.  ALL of them are entertaining and most of the time humor is involved.  Including babies, animals and sex (if appropriate) in marketing still and always will work (Danica & GoDaddy).

Final Thoughts

Now, several of the commercials I included above were before the social media age we are living in.  The one HUGE THING I would advise to any marketer creating a video/commercial is to think about how that campaign can live beyond just the Super Bowl by creating a new hashtag or encouraging social shares.  With social media listening, marketers can now know immediately how an ad is being perceived, react and interact with their customers instantly.  That’s something that definitely needs to be used to your advantage.

Want to talk Super Bowl Ads or marketing strategy in general?  Contact us today!

Easy to Follow Weekly Content Plan for New Bloggers

I get it.  The thought of continually having to come up with new blog posts is overwhelming…especially for businesses who are just now considering a content marketing strategy.  Focal Point works with companies in industries that range from manufacturing to healthcare to the non-profit sector.  Each time we start to talk about launching a new blog and developing a content plan, it’s always the same discussion.  The biggest questions are: what am I going to write about and how often do I need to post to see results?

The key to making a content marketing strategy work is to take all the guesswork out of it upfront.  The other important ingredient is to provide some flexibility in the schedule so a new blogger doesn’t feel as though he or she is failing if a post doesn’t get out right away.  All of us marketers wear a lot of hats and sometimes things just get pushed back.  This is why I try to simplify things as much as possible in this easy to follow weekly content plan.

It’s all about getting started, so here’s a sample content plan that would result with publishing 3 posts each week.  Ideally, there will always be a Monday post, but beyond that there’s some flexibility.  Most importantly, the topics for each post are super easy to come up with and you know exactly what type of post you’re going to be writing each day.  Take a look at this super easy to follow weekly content plan for marketers…

Monday – How to Solve a Problem

zig-ziglarThis is the bread and butter post to start the week off with a bang.  Every business gets frequently asked questions.  Every business solves some type of problem in some way.  This is your chance to tell that story.  Put yourself in the shoes of your customer and use the similar situation sales tactic from Zig Ziglar.  Basically it’s this – tell your customers how you solved a problem just like theirs for someone just like them.

This is where it’s a good idea to consider personas of current customers.  How old are they?  What types of hobbies do they have?  Remember, the more the story on how your company can solve a problem is exactly relevant to that person, the better off you are in the long run.

Need Ideas?
Think of this post as a FAQ section of your site.  What questions get asked all the time about your business?  A good place to start is simply by going through emails to see if any questions stand out.  Or you can take a moment to think about the questions that come in on your contact us form.  For example, a plumbing company may get asked how often a hot water heater should be drained.  Answering this question would make for a perfect blog post.

Another great place to look is in Google Analytics.  I wrote a post all about educating prospects to turn them into better paying customers and in that post I share these simple steps below that are perfect for uncovering problems that need solved:

  1. Log into Google Analytics
  2. Drill down to the report showing the keywords driving organic traffic (in Google Analytics it’s under Acquisition->Keywords->Organic).
  3. Use the search feature within that report to find keyword phrases using words such as “how,” “what,” “why,” etc.
  4. Write down the top 5 keyword phrases within each of these searches.

Tuesday or Wednesday – Industry News

Every industry, every business has some type of go-to news source.  It’s important to capitalize on creating content revolving around hot topics.  Not only does it help establish your company as a thought leader and expert in that particular niche, it also really helps improve organic search results.

Do not try to reinvent the wheel here.  Stick to a short recap on the news article, link to it with appropriate credit given and offer your thoughts on the topic.  It’s that simple to do, yet can be incredibly effective.


Need Ideas?
Search out industry news sources and make sure you are signed up to receive any emails they send out.  I know, I know, we all get too many emails, but in reality it’s still one of the best ways to make sure you don’t miss out.

Make sure you follow any industry news sources on Twitter and Like them on Facebook.  While some will be better than others at posting updates, there’s still a really good chance if something big happens you might see it here first.

Finally, there’s always Google Alerts.  Every single company should have Google Alerts setup for any and all keywords that pertain to services offered, brand names, competitors, etc.  Not only does this help keep you in the know with what’s going on in the industry, but it’s a great indicator at what’s important in the eyes of Google.

Thursday or Friday – Spotlight on People

176640173THUMBThink of this as your customer/employee spotlight.  Kick back a little, have some fun and put faces with names.  Maybe there’s a receptionist who has been answer the phone at your business for the last 15 years.  Why not give that person some recognition while allowing customers to learn more about he or she?  I’ve worked in this industry for a long time and inevitably a website’s “About Us” page is always one of the most visited pages.  Why?  Because people are interested in people…especially the people they do business with.

Likewise, your blog is a great place to feature customer stories.  Not only does it give your customers additional exposure, it shows that you really care about them beyond just a business transaction.  And when visitors to your site see a customer from a similar niche, they’re more likely to pay attention and relate to that content.

Need Ideas?
Look around you.  Everyone has a story to tell.  While some employees and customers may be a little shy, most enjoy a little extra recognition.  You could even go as far as to roll out a customer of the month and employee of the month program.  Right there is at least 2 week’s worth of content just talking about the winners and providing background information on the person being honored.

Ready to Create Your Content Plan?

It’s this simple to get started.  Our team can help you come up with the ideas that will fuel your content marketing plan for months to come, but you’ve got to start somewhere.

Contact us and let’s chat about how we can get your company blog off the ground today!