COVID-19 Christmas

How To Market for the Holidays During COVID-19

There’s no denying that the holiday season is going to look a little different this year – from Zoom holiday get-togethers to Black Friday being primarily online. We’re all adapting to a new normal, and that includes new holiday marketing strategies.

Marketing strategies during COVID-19 have changed drastically. There’s a much larger push for online shopping and virtual events. Additionally, there is an added urgency to advertise these events on social media and other digital platforms. 

Changing digital strategies and shifts in holiday traditions means that your marketing plan needs to adapt to these changes, too. Here are some tips for how to market during this year’s holiday season. 

1. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge hardships

Although it can be tempting to try and gloss over COVID-19 or try and create a sense of normalcy amidst the chaos, consider a different approach. 

Consumers value authenticity, honesty and vulnerability. With COVID-19 impacting almost everyone’s lives, being real and honest with your customers is more important than ever. 

It’s also important to not overdo it, though. For months, people have been bombarded with the harsh realities of this pandemic, so don’t mention it continuously. Instead, try to work it in naturally without reminding customers of what was lost. 

For more on the effects of COVID-19 on businesses, check out our previous blog post.

2. Embrace holiday traditions

With that being said, be sure to embrace holiday traditions as much as possible. Above all this year, people want normalcy. Most won’t have the traditional experience of big in-person shopping days and fun, crowded outings. Instead, you can give them a sense of normalcy by highlighting how to keep traditions in a safe, socially-distanced way. 

Although there is no reason to pretend like everything is fine this holiday season, try to keep the tone lighthearted but realistic.

Instead of taking a view of pessimism or optimism, try one of realism: COVID-19 is changing the way we do the holidays, but some things can still remain the same.

Holiday marketing tips

3. Keep websites and social media updated and accessible during the holiday marketing season

This holiday season, you should focus on your digital marketing strategy above all else. This could be through target social media ads, interacting with customers or clients through social media, or revamping your website. 

The amount of consumers doing their holiday shopping online this year will be larger than others. This means that the bulk of your marketing efforts should go towards these digital platforms. Recent surveys showed a hike in online shopping for Black Friday; that trend is expected to continue into the end of the year. 

Make sure whatever product or service you provide is easily accessible online. This ensures consumers aren’t deterred from buying your product by needing to go to a store. Services like one-day delivery or curbside pick-up are especially efficient for consumers. 

Although your social media shouldn’t be totally focused towards selling your product, make a push to advertise a bit more than usual during this holiday season. Try to naturally work in links to products, blog articles or other content within your social media platforms. Consumers won’t have the same exposure to sales and advertisements that they do traditionally during the holiday season. Make sure to keep customers aware of any sales or exclusive promotions.

You should also make sure your website is accessible in addition to up-to-date. Run focus groups and analyses on how your website performs to understand where you can improve. 

Pay special attention to when people abandon their carts, conversion rates and bounce rates. Simple changes like a more accessible navigation menu can help boost your website and increase sales.

There is nothing normal about the holidays this year, so marketing strategies will look a little different. If you need help figuring out a holiday marketing strategy, contact us for a free audit.

SEO Terms You Should Know graphic

SEO Terms You Should Know

If you’re in the realm of marketing, chances are you’ve heard the term SEO before. If you’re not savvy with technology or aren’t as engaged in the digital side of marketing, the concept of SEO and the many facets of it can be overwhelming, to say the least. 

Understanding the terms and basic ideas of SEO is essential to marketing in today’s digital world. Luckily, once you get past all of the industry jargon and complex-sounding terminology, SEO isn’t too hard to understand. 

What is SEO?

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is how well a website, brand or page does on search engines. When thinking about SEO, you should consider all search engines, such as Google, Yahoo and Bing, to name a few. However, keep in mind that Google has more than an 80% share of the search market, so that should be your main focus. 

SEO involves a lot of analytics, too. The research is just as important as the actual practice of SEO. Use tools like Google Analytics to understand how your website fares on search engines, and if your SEO practices are working.

Why does SEO matter?

In this digital age, search engines are the most popular’ go-to’s when trying to find a product or service. If you use SEO strategically, you can ensure that your company will pop up on someone’s first or second search page. Ranking high in search results will make them more likely to visit your page. 

SEO words to know

Just understanding what SEO is isn’t enough, though. There are plenty of terms and topics that are important to know if you’re interested in using SEO. 

Here, we’ve compiled a list of popular SEO terms that you can use to grasp the basics of SEO.

Google homepage
Understanding SEO can improve your rankings on search engines.

Keyword

What it is: A keyword is the word or phrase that you are using in your content to gain traffic on search engines.

For example, if you’re a marketing agency based in Georgia, your keyword may be “marketing agency in Georgia.” That way, your content will show up when someone searches “marketing agency in Georgia.” 

Why it matters: Keywords are essential in SEO because they will help potential clients find your site or lead them to your content. To find the right keyword, make sure to research what phrases potential clients in your niche are searching for.

For more on keywords, check out our previous blog post.

Along with keywords, you may also hear the term keyword stuffing. Keyword stuffing refers to the use of too many keywords or cramping the same keywords into a few short paragraphs.

This is a common mistake because many assume the more keywords, or the more instances of a keyword, the better. In fact, keyword stuffing will harm your site’s ranking on search engines.

Traffic

What it is: Traffic is the amount of clicks and views your content gets. Organic traffic refers to traffic that comes naturally through search engine queries, social media pages, email newsletters and so on. Paid traffic comes from advertisements, such as sponsorships and pay-per-click ads.

Why it matters: Gaining traffic is a no-brainer because SEO is all about driving traffic to your website. It’s essential to getting more visibility and growing your business. 

Meta Description

What it is: A meta description refers to a part of your content’s HTML (the markup language of online content) that has a small snippet of the content. It is usually 50-160 words and search engines may use it in search results. 

Why it matters: If a search engine displays your meta description, it will influence the number of clicks your content receives. Your meta description should contain your keyword and be compelling, enticing the reader to learn more.

An example of a meta description for SEO use.
This meta description uses the keyword organically while giving a simple summary that engages readers.

Crawling

What it is: Crawling is a search engine process that uses crawlers (sometimes called bots or spiders) to go through the internet and find websites, links and other data. Using a specific algorithm, a search engine will determine which websites will be scanned and how often.

Why it matters: Your website being crawled by a search engine is the first step to getting it listed on a search engine’s database. From there, it will then begin to show up on search engine results pages. You can make sure crawlers find your most important content by making it easily accessible on your website. 

Index

What it is: Indexing is the next step for a search engine after crawling. Much like a physical index, it is the database a search engine uses to store all information and data for websites that come up as search results.

Why it matters: If your website isn’t in a search engine’s index, it won’t show up for users. The index will rank websites based on relevancy, which will then begin to show up on search engine results pages, or SERPs. 

Your SERP position should be a primary focus for SEO. According to this competitive research study, the first five results on a search engine page accounted for nearly 70% of all clicks.

Learning more

If you’re interested in more SEO terms and techniques, websites like Moz and Yoast are great websites to explore. If you’re ready to start or expand your SEO journey, contact us to learn about our copywriting services.

Alison Roller is a recent graduate of West Chester University of Pennsylvania where she earned a B.A. in English with a minor in journalism. When she’s not writing, she can be found wherever her cats are. Check out her LinkedIn profile here to connect.

There are signs you can look out for in a good content marketing agency.

What To Look For in a Content Marketing Agency

If you’re looking for a content marketing agency, the vast amount of companies and services that they provide can seem overwhelming, to say the least. Luckily, there are a few tell-tale signs of a good and reputable agency that you can be on the lookout for when considering which company to work with.

1. A Good Website & Social Media Presence

The first thing you may come across when looking for an agency is their website or social media accounts. If you know what to look for, these can tell you a lot about the agency itself. 

Is their website up-to-date? Are they active on social media, and is their brand recognizable and consistent? A good brand presence can tell you what the company’s all about. Their social media can also serve as a general idea of what the content services they would provide you would look like. 

Although this can be a way to assess any type of company, it’s especially important for content marketing. After all, if a content marketing company doesn’t put out quality content itself, would you trust them to make you good content?

A consistent social media presence can indicate a good content marketing agency.

2. Proven Results

Website testimonials or case studies are a great way to judge a company.

A good content marketing agency should have proven results, shown through past clients’ reviews and testimonials. Past clients can also tell you an agency’s core niches and whether they’ve worked with content similar to yours in the past. The presence of long-term clients can tell you that an agency is trustworthy and reliable.

It’s also important to go past website testimonials, though. To truly know if a company is trustworthy, you can scour the internet for any possible negative feedback or cautions. Use a website like Clutch to get totally honest reviews. 

If you’re seriously considering an agency that has a few bad reviews, don’t be too quick to judge.Try reaching out to the company to discuss any concerns you may have. If it’s a good company, they’ll be open to discuss how they’ve improved.

3. Modern and Effective Techniques

Content marketing in this day and age goes far beyond creating good content. Making sure the content reaches the right audiences is the second half of the battle. 

Marketing strategies and research like Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, should be part of an effective content marketing strategy. 

Ask about your potential agency’s SEO practices and make sure they’re doing the right keyword research, content analysis and optimization of meta descriptions.

4. A Diverse Staff

Diversity goes far beyond physical appearance. A diverse staff should include different niches, expertise, experience level and background. Consider things like age and expertise when looking at a company’s staff.

A diverse staff can bring the best of both worlds to your content. Your content will benefit from the knowledge that only comes with a long history in the industry paired with the innovation and creative ideas of someone newer to the field.

Does the content marketing agency have a staff with different backgrounds and expertise?

5. Solid Communication

One of the most important things when working with any kind of agency is a steady line of communication. Look beyond just basic communication, though. A lot of content agencies will be able to talk you up, but fall short on finished products. Make sure what they’re saying is in plain English instead of industry jargon and that what they’re saying aligns with your vision.

A good content marketing agency should reach out enough that you always know where your budget is going. They should keep you in the loop with where they’re at in the timeline for your project. Also, make sure that the agency puts you in direct contact with the employees that are working on your campaign. If not, you’ll risk your message getting lost in translation. 

Communication goes both ways, too. Do your work with an agency that leaves the line of communication open and encourages you to get in touch with a question or comment.

6. A Mission Statement that Aligns With Yours

Any company – from a content marketing agency to a local boutique – should have a clear and visible mission statement and vision for their company. 

If your values and beliefs line up with what the agency stands for, you can ensure it will be a good fit for your content. The beliefs that a company holds comes out in all they do, and that includes content. If your beliefs do not align with the agency’s you’re working with, it may come through in the content they create for you.

You should also make sure they put their efforts where their heart is – if one of their major values is contributing to the community, see what they are doing to turn that value into real results.

A shared and honest understanding of what their big picture is will help you in the long run.

Find a content marketing agency that is connected to their community.

7. Transparency

Transparency relates to almost everything on this list. If they’re not honest about deadlines, avoiding certain questions or are not responsive to constructive criticism, it can be a huge red flag.

You should also always be in the know, from coming up with due dates to getting the final project. If there’s even a small problem or bump in the road, you should be kept in the loop and know what happened and what they’re doing to get back on track.

Transparency within content marketing is especially important. It can help you know what they’re doing to reach your target audience and expand your reach with content creation.

If these traits of an effective content marketing agency resonate with you, consider working with PivotPath. We can help you create Real, Recognizable and Relatable content to connect with clients and expand your businesses. Check out our content services here.

Alison Roller is a recent graduate of West Chester University of Pennsylvania where she earned a B.A. in English with a minor in journalism. When she’s not writing, she can be found wherever her cats are. Check out her LinkedIn profile here to connect.

How To Attract Students To Your Institution With Social Media

Social media is a powerful tool that, if utilized properly, can promote your institution.

Studies show that Generation Z is more connected to social media than any other generation before them. Making sure your institution has a recognizable and relatable social media presence can give students a glimpse into what life is like at your institution and potentially show them that your institution is the right fit for them.

But attracting potential students isn’t as easy as simply having an account; you need to make sure you’re appealing to the right audiences and using social media to your full advantage.  

Why Does Social Media Matter?

Social media can be an added boost to promote attention towards your institution. However, it can also be a direct way to introduce your institution to potential students. The right social media presence can have a huge impact on attracting new students and retaining current students. 

If a student sees an outdated or barely-used social media page for an institution they’re considering, it could deter them from exploring your school further. On the flip side, a savvy, fun social media presence could peak their interest. 

It’s important to be relatable in your posts, and that starts with understanding the wants and needs of your targeted audiences. For attracting students, make sure you are highlighting all the best features of your institution, social events and campus culture. All students know what a typical institution is like, so what makes yours recognizable? What makes it stand out?

Making sure your social media presence is recognizable and engaging can help your institution stand out to potential students. Beyond attracting students, using the stats on social media can help you determine if you’re reaching your target audience. It can also show you how many people are interacting with your posts and if your social media strategies are effective.

What’s the Best Social Media To Use?

The three main social medias that will give you the most traffic are Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. But how can you use them? What’s the best strategy for each one? 

1. Twitter

Twitter is great for written content as well as sharing others’ posts. Use Twitter to livetweet campus games and use hashtags to increase engagement and visibility. Use a LiveTweet App to create a Twitter wall for your events to show potential students what others are saying about your institution.

2. Instagram

Instagram is one of the most creative and customizable apps to attract students. This platform has a ton of features that can help your institution. Features such as Instagram highlights and stories can make information about your institution more accessible. The photo grid on each Instagram account creates the opportunity for you to craft a unique look to attract new students. 

3. Facebook

Facebook should be the most professional presence you have out of all the social media platforms mentioned. Studies show GenZ doesn’t use Facebook as much as older people do, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important.

Even if your content doesn’t reach a potential student on Facebook, it may reach a parent or relative. It’s generally a good idea to share your Instagram posts to Facebook to make sure you’re reaching all your audiences.

Facebook is a good social media for older adults.

4. TikTok

TikTok has the potential to be a great social media platform for institutions because of its “For You” page. The “For You” page uses an algorithm to show the user videos similar to ones they’ve interacted with. It can also show content related to topics they’ve shown interest in. TikTok’s algorithm may help you reach your target audiences quicker. It also means you don’t need to have tons of followers for your video to gain views – giving your institution more visibility.

Not all social media is created equal when it comes to reaching your targeted audiences. It’s worth noting which ones may not be the best platform for your content.

  • Snapchat

Although this is a popular social media platform, your content isn’t accessible to people who aren’t following you, making it harder to reach potential students. Instead, try adding geotags for people to use when they’re in the school’s vicinity. 

  • Pinterest

Research shows that Pinterest is popular with older generations. While some older adults go back to school, it usually isn’t your target audience. Pinterest is also not ideal for content creation.

  • Tumblr

Tumblr isn’t as commonly used as other social media platforms. While it may work to use as a website to promote a service, using a similar photo-sharing app like Instagram will generate more engagement. 

How Can You Promote Engagement on Social Media?

Promoting engagement on social media can help your page gain more traction, and with more followers comes a more recognizable presence..

To promote engagement, make your page as interactive as possible. Instagram stories are a great way to pose questions, create polls or quizzes and interact with your followers. 

Giveaways on social media for school swag are another way to promote engagement. Try making some rules for the giveaway that will increase engagement. Ask followers to tag a friend in the comments or add the post to their story. 

Using hashtags can help get your page on more screens, but be weary of having too many in your captions. Use a few simple hashtags at the end of the post or incorporate them into the caption itself to make it look more aesthetically pleasing.

Gen Z uses social media more than any other generation.

Features To Take Advantage Of

  • Twitter/Instagram Polls

Polls are a great way to promote engagement. You can use the poll feature to ask institution-relevant questions, such as whether your team’s going to win the next game. However, to attract new students, make sure to keep some questions more broad to keep potential students involved.

  • Live Videos

The live video feature is on multiple platforms and is a great way to show prospective students what your school is like in real-time. Whether you want to record a game or other campus event, use this feature to highlight campus culture.

  • Instagram Highlights

Instagram Highlights are a convenient way to organize and archive past Instagram stories. You can use this feature to give a potential student a quick way to access information. Take some time to make well-designed stories that highlight all the best parts of your institution and answer some FAQs. Be sure to keep your Instagram highlights up to date.

There are benefits and drawbacks to any social media you may choose, but each post is a chance to attract a new student to your institution. If you’re looking to create a Real, Recognizable and Relatable social media presence to attract more students, PivotPath can help! Check out our social media management services here.

Alison Roller is a recent graduate of the West Chester University of Pennsylvania where she earned a B.A. in English with a minor in journalism. When she’s not writing, she can be found wherever her cats are. Check out her LinkedIn profile here to connect.

COVID-19 affecting businesses

What Small Businesses Can Learn From the COVID-19 Outbreak

In the beginning months of 2020, the COVID-19 outbreak has changed the world – and business operations – in ways we never expected. In this uncertain time, everything feels risky. People are losing their jobs, vulnerable businesses are shuttering their doors permanently, and no one has answers. In short, it seems like the worst time possible to take risks. 

However, though COVID-19 is changing the business world, not all of these changes are necessarily bad. In times of uncertainty there are always lessons to be learned. If you are a business-owner, or are considering opening a business, pay close attention to these emerging topics and trends.

1. Safety and Comfort Are Top Customer Priorities 

Most companies mindlessly say that the safety and security of their guests is the first priority in running their business. This makes sense; why would you shop somewhere if you felt uncomfortable or at risk by being there? However, the COVID-19 pandemic is testing businesses in the grimmest way possible. In a time where lives are legitimately at risk, businesses are up against the wall with all eyes on them.

Luckily, these organizations are showing initiative.

Many national big-box store chains, grocery stores, and drug stores are now requiring face coverings to enter and shop. This is a bold, smart move to make. These businesses are proving how important it is that their shoppers feel comfortable upon entering their establishment. The controversy surrounding this topic runs deep, but at the end of the day businesses can’t run the risk of being sued due to endangerment. On top of the mask policies, organizations are placing importance on sanitizing and cleansing every surface

While most establishments are now open, there are a few which are still wary of welcoming guests inside. AMC Theaters have yet to open, despite pushing back their opening date on multiple occasions. This proves that every business must do what’s best for their unique situation.

Small businesses can learn from these more well-known corporations by following their lead in putting safety first – and also learning from their mistakes. We can be sure that these new safety and cleanliness procedures aren’t going away anytime soon.

Businesses everywhere are cracking down on safety procedures.
Businesses everywhere are cracking down on safety procedures.

2. Ecommerce is Here to Stay

We’ve all shopped on Amazon and through ecommerce websites before – they are a common, useful service. This is why events such as Cyber Monday and Amazon’s Prime Day provide such enormous value. Online shopping is not only cost effective, but eliminates the hassle of traveling to a store and searching for a product.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, we have seen an enormous spike in orders from online businesses. This could have been foreseen, but what are the lasting effects of a world in which people are more eager to shop online than in person? We’ve already seen a massive shift in the film industry, where films are released through streaming platforms instead of in movie theaters.

If small businesses want to survive in our current environment, they need to make all attempts at digitizing their products and services. This is a step that will not only benefit them during the pandemic, but long after as well.

3. A Little Kindness Goes a Long Way

One of the heartening side-effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is how people are banding together to support vulnerable businesses. This doesn’t just apply to consumers, either. Like the linked article above references, business owners are finding creative ways to support each other through incentive programs and endorsements.

Small businesses need your support now more than ever.
Small businesses need your support now more than ever.

The COVID-19 pandemic is revealing just how vulnerable certain businesses are. We took for granted our local indie record store or vegan cafe, but now they face very real danger. These establishments are losing reliable customers, even considering the stimulus checks distributed to ease the blow.

Hopefully, a trend emerges in the future where businesses in the same community form stronger bonds and find ways to collaborate with each other.

4. Scale Down Your Operation Wherever Possible

One of the most heartbreaking side effects of the pandemic is the staggering amount of job loss. New businesses are extremely vulnerable, especially if they haven’t saved up a substantial amount of capital in the case of an emergency.

While massive layoffs are a huge issue that our country will have to deal with later, there is an upside. Under pressure, most companies are discovering new, efficient, cost-effective ways to operate. For example, Dunkin’ Donuts will close 450 locations by the end of the year. Companies who relied on a handful of employees or who had low product costs find it easier to stay afloat, unlike companies with greater expenses.

Only time will tell what trends businesses may start to follow, but don’t be surprised if they don’t return to their typical operating procedures.

5. Sometimes You Have to Make Hard Decisions

Being a business-owner can bring you to both the highest and lowest places of your life – that’s part of the deal. Because of COVID-19, business-owners are having to make difficult decisions that normally they wouldn’t choose to make. 

For example, businesses are having to shutter their doors because they can’t ensure guest safety. They’ve also had to lay off hard-working employees whom they can no longer afford to pay.

It can be easy to see your employees as more like family than what they are – employees. At the end of the day, you have to run a profitable business. Times like these really test your mettle as an entrepreneur, and force you to make the toughest choices.

As a business-owner, you have to do what's best for the survival of the business.
As a business-owner, you have to do what’s best for the survival of the business.
  • Do you need some help figuring out the best way to market your organization or business? Check out PivotPath’s valuable services here.

Our world is changing, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Flexibility is essential to survive in the competitive world of business. More than ever, we need to support our favorite businesses and think outside of the box. Nothing like the COVID-19 pandemic has happened in recent history, so we would all do well to pay close attention to what’s happening around us.

Cammie Conn is a Theatre & Performance Studies major at Kennesaw State University, and she also studies through the Joel A. Katz Music and Entertainment Business Program. She can often be found practicing creative writing, playing guitar, reading voraciously, or jamming to her vinyl collection. Check out her LinkedIn profile here to connect.