A Journey for a Domestic Violence Victim

This has to be one of the most powerful stories we have captured since we started working with Safe Harbor. Each year, we have pushed the boundaries, getting to a place where real, raw emotion translated into such palatable words. Jenita is such an inspiring woman, with an amazing ability to share emotion in a way that we could truly see into her soul.

It only took her only two times to read the script she wrote, staring into a teleprompter literally three feet away. She was nervous about “letting loose”, sharing the graphics words that truly showcased her inner struggles and path. I am so glad she found the space to let loose; and truly share her heart.

Telling stories is more than just creating something for the consumer to feel the depth of the story; it is also knowing when to step back and letting the story be told without stepping in the way.

I am thankful for Jenita’s strength. If this message upsets you or offends you; then maybe Jenita’s story truly achieved it’s goal…to make you think and see the inner soul of a survivor. We should be so honored to know that she is willing to expose and share her inner being to us!

How can we be champions for women like Jenita right here in Anderson County, South Carolina?

Executive Producer: Bobby Rettew / Chief Storyteller at Gray Digital Group
Producer/Editor: Mark Berry at Gray Digital Group
Client: Safe Harbor

Email Marketing 101

What is email marketing?

Email Marketing Strategy San Antonio | Gray Digital Group
Email marketing uses your company’s email list to generate new leads and business for your company. Email marketing can be used for branding purposes or lead generation depending on the campaign being run and your current goals. This is a great way to keep in touch with your current and potential customers.

Email Marketing Strategy:

The strategy for your email marketing campaigns depend on your current needs and goals. Our team will work with you on defining these goals and create a complete email marketing strategy based around them. All aspects of these campaigns will be driven by the various goals associated with the campaign.

Email Template Design:

As a part of your email marketing campaign you will inevitably need email templates. Our team will create templates directly associated with your marketing goals or work off of current templates you may have in an effort to optimize them for the campaign. These templates will be tweaked and tested against one another, in a practice called A/B testing, to increase the campaigns performance.

Email Campaign Analytics and Optimization:

Looking at the campaigns’ analytics will allow us to see campaign performance. This will include email engagement rates, on-site metrics, and overall goal metrics tied back to the original campaign goals. Once we understand these metrics, we are able to further optimize the campaign to increase them and a campaign’s overall success.

Email Campaign Reporting:

Each email marketing campaign will include monthly reporting as with all of our digital marketing services. This report will be in an easy to understand format that includes overall campaign performance, campaign goal performance, future optimizations as well as a full commentary of the campaign’s performance from the previous month by one of our email marketing experts.

Nonprofit Paid Search

Nonprofit Paid Search
Crucial Digital Marketing for Nonprofits

How Paid Search Helps Your Nonprofit

Most nonprofits limit their digital marketing strategy to just their website. Now a great website can help engage donors and showcase your cause, but without doing more, you’re only reaching the people who already know about your cause. Running multiple digital campaigns allows each effort to enhance the other, creating a more successful digital marketing strategy.

Increasing your donors and volunteers means increasing awareness of your cause by spreading your mission or vision. Paid search is a great way to do this using digital marketing.


Google Grants: Nonprofit PPC Made Affordable

Concerned about the cost of paid search ads to benefit your nonprofit? The Google Grant is the answer to your dilemma.

What Is Google Grants and How Does it Work?

What is it?

Google Grants allow eligible nonprofits $10,000/month of ad spend to share their cause on Google’s search engine. That means that every month your nonprofit could use up to $10,000 worth of FREE Google ads.

How does it work?

Once Google approves your nonprofit, it allows your nonprofit Adwords account to spend up to $10,000 each month, at a max Cost-Per-Click (CPC) of $2.00. Once you hit $10,000 in ad spend, your ads automatically stop showing for the month. Then, ads automatically start running again at the beginning of the next cycle, so there’s no worrying about extra charges once you pass your $10,000 spend cap.

The Perks of Google Grants for Nonprofits

Large Network of Users

More than 60% of all online searches happen on Google, making it the most popular search engine online. Google’s large user network can help you quickly spread your cause, and with a maximum CPC of $2.00/click, your site could receive up to 5,000 more visitors each month, for FREE.

Reach Your Target Audience

Another benefit of Google is its diverse audience. You can set target demographics, locations, and keywords to pinpoint the users who could be interested in your cause.

Increase Online Visibility

If your nonprofit is new or not showing up for keywords related to your cause, Google Grants can help you show up at the top of those keyword search results. Placing at the top of a Google search helps give your cause awareness while your site increases its organic rankings. Even if your nonprofit ranks well in organic search results now, search ads let you show up more than once on a page and increase the chances of a visitor clicking through to your site.

Google Grants Nonprofit Qualifications

Qualify for Google Grants

Google accepts applications from nonprofits that meet the following criteria:

  • Valid 501(c) nonprofit
  • Have a website with enough good content
  • Headquartered in the United States or eligible country
Maintain Your Google Grant

If your application is successful, you must do the following to keep the Grant:

  • Link ads to only one website
  • Do not link to a page where a majority of content hyperlinks to other websites
  • Log into Adwords at least once a month
  • Update your ads at least every 90 days
  • Only promote products, services, and events where 100% of proceeds go directly towards supporting your program


Apply for Google Grants

One of the biggest hurdles to winning a Google Grant is the application. The application includes writing a section of how you will use the grant and creating Google Ad examples for your nonprofit. It can take anywhere from 4 to 6 hours to complete, and not all applicants are accepted. Repeatedly rejected applicants must wait months before re-applying.


Manage Your Google Grant

Managing a Google Grant on your own is possible, but requires a lot of work to really benefit your nonprofit.

Google Grants Hurdles

Some common hurdles to Google Grant management are:

  1. Difficult Entry: Applying for and maintaining the grant is time-consuming.
  2. Use it or Lose it:
    If your account doesn’t spend the full amount allocated each month the remaining balance doesn’t rollover. A great strategy is important to make most out of your grant.
  3. Cap on Click Spend:
    Google sets a max CPC of $2.00 and shows Google Grant ads after paying advertisers. Creating compelling, optimized, and targeted ads is crucial to seeing a high impact from your paid search efforts.
  4. High Standards: You must keep improving your ads and maintain at least a 1% click-through-rate to continue receiving the grant.


Google Ad Grants Management

Gray Digital Group specializes in non-profit Google Grant management. We help nonprofit clients manage Google Grants from start to finish – from applying to receive their Google Grant, to setting up and optimizing the campaign for the long-term.


Nonprofit PPC Management Includes:

  • Determining if you are eligible for the grant
  • Applying for the Google Grant
  • Creating example ads for the application
  • Enrolling your nonprofit in Google Ads Grants
  • Creating and setting up your account
  • Keyword research
  • Optimizing your account structure
  • Optimizing target keywords
  • Optimizing bid strategy
  • Creating and optimizing ads
  • Setting up conversion tracking
  • Setting up ad extensions
  • Connecting Google Analytics
  • Setting up event tracking
  • Creating landing pages for your site
Ongoing Management
  • Campaign monitoring
  • A/B testing
  • Improving or changing ad copy
  • Adjusting bidding
  • Reviewing analytics
  • Monthly Reporting
  • Monthly Recommendations

Google Grant Management

If you would like to learn more about paid search for your nonprofit contact us today!

Schedule Google Grants Consultation

Content Management Systems

Content Management Systems (CMS)

We get it. You need to be able to make updates to your website without the help of an entire team of technology experts. The key to digital success is your ability to make regular content updates and add rich media, such as photos and videos. Implementing these steps will keep your site interesting and engaging.

We deliver a variety of content management tools that make it as easy as possible to update sites, integrate social media activities and handle videos and pictures.

Content Management Systems | Gray Digital Group

E-commerce SEO

E-Commerce Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization is crucial for online merchants. E-commerce sites depend heavily, or solely, upon search engine results to help consumers find their products. Without search engine optimization an E-commerce site won’t reach their target consumer and will lose out on sales. E-commerce SEO allows product descriptions, prices, and images to show up in search results, helping ready-to-buy consumers see that you have what they want.

E-commerce SEO Package

  • SEO onsite audit report
  • SEO off site audit report
  • Keyword research report
  • Onsite Optimization report

Setup Includes:

  • Robots.txt file setup
  • Schema markup
  • Sitemap implementation
  • Google Webmaster setup
  • Google Analytics implementation
  • Set up goals in Google Analytics
  • Bing Webmaster setup
  • Optimize website for social sharing
  • Optimize Google Maps
  • Optimize Bing Maps
  • Optimize website code
  • Content strategy
  • Setup rank tracking
  • Optimize mobile speed
  • Optimize site speed
  • Create review strategy
  • Implement canonicalization (if needed)

Ongoing Ecommerce SEO Includes:

  • Optimize products (monthly): 10-15
  • Fixing any 404 errors
  • Correcting any broken links
  • Correcting any crawl errors
  • Optimize product images
  • Product markup
  • Rich snippet optimization
  • Structure content including H1,H2,H3
  • Create optimized descriptions
  • Optimizing internal linking structure
  • Meta title optimization
  • Meta description optimization
  • Optimize videos (if applicable)
  • Monitor backlinks
  • Optimize website code
  • Optimize mobile speed
  • Optimize site speed

Monthly Report Includes:

  • SEO report
  • Analytics report
  • Keyword rankings report

Cost Effective Marketing for E-commerce Sites

E-commerce SEO is cost-effective for online businesses because it offers long-term value. Instead of paying for ads, the site consistently ranks for target keywords, increasing its traffic for free.

Amazon Optimization

Some online businesses sell products solely through Amazon. Sound like your business model? Then you already understand how important product optimization is to your products’ visibility. We can help put together strategies to optimize all your products on Amazon. Think of Amazon as just another search engine; it uses it’s own algorithms to rank products for consumer searches. Our digital team takes this into consideration when optimizing Amazon products and pages. Contact one of our specialists to get more information on Amazon Optimization.

Call Tracking

How Can Call Tracking Help Your Business?

Call tracking helps your business track the success of any digital campaign and separate what’s working from what isn’t:

Tracking campaigns:

Call tracking takes the guesswork out of which campaign is generating leads for your business. Each campaign uses a unique phone number enabling you to keep track of how many leads come from each online campaign. Campaigns are not limited to PPC or SEO. You can also track social media and email marketing campaigns.

Categorize calls:

Someone calls your business from one of the campaigns. Great, but how do you know if it is a good lead? With call tracking, you are able to listen to each conversation and hear if they are a new lead or a returning customer who found your number online. If you have multiple locations you can track which locations receive the most or least calls and then allocate spending accordingly.

Customer service:

With so many options on services and products, customer service is becoming an increasingly important factor to separate your business from the thousands of others. Call tracking helps you monitor customer service from your employees. Listening to how employees interact with customers will help your business identify common customer service problems.

Audience insights:

You can improve your business by listening to calls and creating audience insights. You can understand which zip codes generate the most qualified leads and emphasize this area in your offline campaigns or listen to the most common questions people ask about your product or service and write a blog on the subject.

Improve Campaigns:

Ever wonder which keywords convert users to leads? With call tracking we can track each keyword, whether you are running a PPC or SEO campaign, to understand which keywords yield ready-to-buy customers. Most businesses feel they know which keywords they want to emphasize, but aren’t sure which ones qualify leads. Call tracking shows you that, plus the time of day and days of the week people call your business so you can coordinate your paid campaigns around these times.

What’s Included in Monthly Call Tracking

Call Tracking

  • Monthly report
  • Setup of campaign (up to 4 locations)
  • Connect Google Analytics
  • Connect Adwords
  • Weekly listening to calls
  • Weekly calls to leads ratio
    • Monthly insights for improvements
    • Weekly adjustment if needed
    • 320 minutes monitored per month

More Info

Call Tracking for Healthcare

Call tracking is critical to creating a successful digital campaign in the healthcare industry. It is one of the largest industries where the majority of leads call to book an appointment or ask questions rather than filling out an online form. Without tracking calls, it’s much more difficult to know if your business’ online efforts are successful.

Tracking multiple locations:

Most hospitals or doctors offices have multiple locations. Call tracking helps understand which locations receive leads.

High competition:

The healthcare industry is unique in that most people follow a different hierarchy when choosing a doctor or facility. First, they check which doctors are in network, then by location, and lastly by customer service and reviews. Two of those three factors are already set in stone but customer service is always a determining factor as to which doctor or facility the patient will choose. With call tracking you are able to improve your customer service and increase the number of returning patients.

HIPPA Compliant:

Since most patients give private information about themselves to the healthcare industry, it can be a struggle to gain insights about your patients while abiding by HIPPA and HITECH. We maintain and comply with all regulations to ensure all patient information stays confidential.

PPC Management

SEM Management

Search Engine Marketing San Antonio | Gray Digital Group

Search Engine Marketing Management

SEM or “Search Engine Marketing,” is the process of purchasing ads online to increase the leads to your website. It sounds simple, but there’s a lot more to it than you may think. The costs of these ads relate to specific search data, like keywords. Once you get started, the ads in your campaign will show based on how well our research, strategy, and ad writing tie into what’s your target audience is looking for online.

Why make Paid Search part of your digital marketing strategy?

Paid Search has many advantages for any business:

  • Rank top in the search engines: Paid search helps gains exposure for a business by positioning the business website at the top of search engines and on relevant websites. This helps generate fast leads for a business.
  • Track success instantly: Paid search campaigns let us track your progress right away. There’s no second-guessing. If an ad isn’t performing we instantly re-strategize for better results.
  • Target your ideal customer: The best part about paid search is reaching exactly who you want, exactly where you want. We are able control who views an ad, down to the very keywords they search and the zip code they’re in. With control over target location, demographics, and search terms you can increase the percentage of conversions for a website.
  • You only pay for potential leads: Paid search is a great way to gain exposure for a site without wasting any money. With pay-per-click you do just that, only pay for each click on an ad. With a well-structured campaign, all the clicks you get will be from your ideal customer looking for your service or item.
  • Increase conversions: Our SEM management includes landing page design for your paid search campaign. Landing pages give you the flexibility to create a custom message for your campaign’s users and ultimately drive qualified leads.
  • PPC enhances SEO efforts: If you are just starting an SEO campaign we advise you to couple it with a paid search campaign. While one part of your business is working to reach the top of search engines for keywords, another part will be focused on getting you guaranteed exposure through paid search.

Paid Search Process

PPC Client Onboarding

The onboarding process allows us to better understand the client’s overall goals for their campaign including keywords, locations, demographics, goals, competitors, budget, and any other information we may need to begin the campaign.

PPC Research & Set Up

We focus on 5 objectives before kicking off your paid search campaign:

  • Demographic research: We discover your target audience by looking at the buyer personas along with any other demographics who have an interest in your business. If you haven’t started collecting digital data yet, we set out to change that using secondary target audience research, location-based research, campaign goal review, and an analysis of your current clientele.
  • Define clear measurements: We begin your paid search campaign by defining how and what we will measure. Each factor we analyze must correlate to a different goal.
  • Keyword strategy: Our SEM strategy team will conduct research on the keywords and phrases that will work best for your campaign. The final list will determine, not only the keywords we bid, but also your impressions and keyword competition.
  • Competitor research: Our team runs a competitor analysis on 1 to 3 competitors to discover your best keyword, landing page and ad copy strategy.
  • Account strategy: With all the research analyzed and all the pieces in place, our team will nail down the best campaign structure and set up to get your business its best results.

Paid Search Campaign Setup

Once we have a campaign strategy, we setup reporting for the future, organize paid search on all platforms, and ensure all analytics link to Adwords for capturing and ongoing analysis.

Setup Includes:

  • Set up campaigns
  • Optimize types of ads utilized
  • Set up target locations
  • Optimize devices
  • Optimize ad schedule
  • Set Up ad groups
  • Create & implement ad copy
  • Create landing page(s)
  • Design display ads
  • Optimize keyword lists
  • Set up bid strategy
  • Set up ad extensions
  • Connect Google Analytics to Adwords
  • Setup SEM platform dashboards
  • Setup call tracking (highly recommended)

Ad Design & Copy

Depending on the type of paid search campaign best suites the business goals, the client will receive optimized copy from our in house SEM & SEO specialist along with optimized ad designs from our in-house production team. These two campaign components are extremely important to the success of any paid search campaign. With a small amount of space and characters for each ad, it is crucial to make the most of each character and display space. All ad copy and designs are included in our monthly management from experts in SEM campaigns and award-winning creative production team.

Ongoing Management

After we set up the campaign we continually manage and monitor it to maximize potential leads.

Ongoing Management Includes:

  • Campaign monitoring
  • Viewing analytics
  • A & B testing
  • Change or approve ad copy
  • Create new display ads
  • Adjust biddings
  • Adjust geo-targeting (if needed)
  • Fix errors
  • Monthly recommendations

More Info

Monthly Reporting

Each month we send you a campaign report to help you track success, and gain insight into our future recommendations for the campaign.

Monthly PPC Report Includes:

  • Impressions
  • Clicks
  • Cost
  • CTR statistics
  • Top performing keywords
  • Top performing ads
  • Conversions
  • Recommendations

Types of Paid Ads

Paid ads come in many shapes and character limits. Some of the most common digital ads are:

Search Campaign

A Search Campaign ad is just another name for a PPC (Pay-per-Click) campaign ad. These ads allow you to target specific audiences based on their keyword searches and are usually built specifically for lead generation. Search Campaign ads usually show at the top or on the side of a search results page.

Display Campaign

A display campaign uses banner ads to target users by website content. If you know your users are sports fans, you can choose to target them on specific websites, like ESPN, or all sports websites within the search engines network.

Unlike the search campaigns, these campaigns are less focused on lead generation and more focused on increasing brand recognition and brand awareness.

Retargeting Campaign

Retargeting campaigns use banner ads to specifically target users who have already visited your website. When retargeting users you can choose to retarget all users or only users who have viewed a specific page or section of your site. This gives you the ability to serve up a very specific message to your visitors. This is also a great way to reach back out to users who you know are interested in your products or services.

Email Newsletter Campaign

Email newsletter campaigns allow you to keep interested prospects up to date with your company activities. Email newsletters are famous for promotions for already loyal members. This keeps your company top of mind for everyone on your newsletter list while also giving you the opportunity to grow your social channels.

YouTube Campaign

YouTube campaigns show video ads before and during YouTube videos. You can target a specific audience by demographics, topics, interests, placements, remarketing lists and keywords. These targeting techniques give you the ability to break down your target market and reach out to them with the specific message of your choice.

Facebook Ads

Facebook Advertising allows brands to develop and distribute highly focused ad messaging based on target audience. These ads are measured by various metrics, including but not limited to boosted page post engagement, video views and website clicks.

PPC Management for Nonprofits

Google Ad Grants Management

Gray Digital Group specializes in non-profit Google Grant management. We help all of our nonprofit clients through the Google Grant process, from applying for the grants to setting up and optimizing the resulting campaign. Receiving Google Grants can help your nonprofit increase donations, volunteers, and the overall awareness of your mission.

Responsive Web Design and Development

You most likely don’t have time to sit at a desktop computer all day, surfing the Internet and hanging out on all of your favorite social media sites. Chances are, neither do your consumers. They’re on their phones, tablets, and laptops. Now more than ever, websites must be responsive and maintain functionality regardless of what device someone is using to view it. Gray Digital Group’s designs are implemented with this in mind:

We want the user experience to be intuitive and informative, from desktop to smart phone.

Responsive Design & Development | Gray Digital Group

Gray Digital Group Recognized as One of San Antonio’s Top Local Agencies

This month Gray Digital Group was recognized by UpCity as a Top Local Agencies in San Antonio. As you may know, we at Gray have been providing high-quality digital marketing services to our clients since 2001, and so we are excited to celebrate this accomplishment!

UpCity helps scout out the best local agencies around that United States to provide small businesses with recommendations of only the most qualified and trusted agencies in their cities. Not all agencies qualify and must be nominated and vetted before making the list.

“We [Gray Digital Group] pride ourselves on giving only the best services and customer service to our client’s so it’s exciting for us to be apart of UpCity’s Top Local Agency list,” said Brad Gray, co-owner of Gray Digital Group. “Our goal is always to think of new and innovative ways to help add value to each client’s business. Each client is unique and has a different goal in mind for what success looks like so we emphasize customer service and customizing our services for each business. It seems like a no-brainer, but you don’t see that with all agencies. One size does not fit all when it comes to digital marketing and we understand that.”

We would like to thank all of our clients and staff for making this opportunity possible and hope to continue to provide our clients with high-quality digital marketing. Check out our profile on UpCity here for an overview of our services or contact us to find out how we can help accomplish your business’s digital marketing goals.

Strategy: Owned Media Before Earned & Paid #OwnedMediaRocks

Once again I sit through another meeting where a public relations professional’s performance is based on the number of print articles earned in the local newspaper. This has driven me to finally write this post.

Owned media can be a huge influencer for earned and paid. Let’s be honest, earned media is about relationships. Organizations can have the best stories, provide the best value for the community, and have the most topical items to influence media outlet’s bottom line…but without relationships this means nothing. ZILCH! That’s why you see organizations hire PR firms, mainly for their relationships leveraging their?sphere of influence.

Organizations that do not know how to tell their story (and tell it well) can have great relationships with earned media outlets, but do a horrible job of communicating their message. That is why I love the owned space. LOVE IT!

Investing in storytelling is not this hypothetical catch phrase that can make everyone feel warm and fuzzy, yet it is a practical, strategic approach that can influence ownership of messaging. It is an operational way of taking ownership of the stories that happen on an internal basis, funneled through digital properties as pitch mechanism, and influence media relationships to broaden the storytelling strategy. Plus…I think journalists are competitive and sometimes want to prove they can write better than the organization.

If you tell your story well, influence your community to engage with your story, people want to share. Creating a digital storytelling strategy as an internal focus can be executed very simply:

  1. Create blog
  2. Create a news area on the website
  3. Create a content plan
    – Create a content calendar
    – Capture and write an organization’s story through first person narratives via the blog
    – Capture and write third person news articles via the news section
  4. Write consistently (leverage content calendar)
  5. Share through social and digital outlets
  6. Leverage content as pitch narratives for earned media outlets.
    – Email blasts to media contacts
    – Have coffee/lunch/meetings with media contacts with story ideas from blog/news.
  7. Integrate paid promotion around content boosting performance (reach and funnel metrics)
  8. Track and report

This is the owned approach, putting a focus on telling your “own” story leveraging the organizations’ content for earned and paid media strategies. This allows organizations to focus on content on the tactical level (specialist, managers, directors) and the true function of PR, building long term relationships (director and vp level).

The best part of this approach is once the tactical strategy of content creation funneling through the organizations digital outlets…you can measure, refine, then scale.

Refining is the fun part! Measuring content that resonates with digital audiences then comparing the content narratives that support the communication/marketing focuses of the organization’s growth goals.

Now, I can hear you out there…”how do I get my internal team to focus on creation of quality content?” That is a whole other discussion, but it comes down to creating a commitment to this strategy, incorporating into individuals job functions/titles, and hiding them accountable. It also includes inspiring and recruiting the right people on your internal team that has a passion and voice for your organization, including outside the communications team.

Great Digital Approach to Zika Virus by Mayo Clinic #digitalhealth

This is one of the best updates from a hospital when it comes to the Zika virus. It comes from Mayo Clinic, and here is why it is works extremely well:

  1. It is simple!
  2. Dispels the myths
  3. Provides information in written and video form.
  4. It is sharable.
  5. It provides media outlets video content to download for use in broadcasts and online via the media section where they have to sign-in to download.


We are seeing more hospital leaders jump in front of the public discussion surrounding Zika Virus. Google Trends is continuing to show a large uptick in online conversation. Google Trends is also making it EXTREMELY easy to create a content plan. Google Trends lists for anyone to see the top five questions being searched online.

  • What is Zika virus?
  • Where is the Zika virus?
  • Is Zika virus contagious?
  • How long does Zika virus stay in your system?
  • How is Zika virus spread?

It is also showing which cities in the US are bring the largest search for Zika Virus: https://g.co/trends/t8yo

Here are the top twenty cities with highest search on Zika Virus:

  1. Des Moines-Ames, IA
  2. Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, FL
  3. Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne, FL
  4. New York, NY
  5. Raleigh-Durham (Fayetteville), NC
  6. Wilmington, NC
  7. Washington, DC (Hagerstown MD)
  8. Seattle-Tacoma, WA
  9. West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce, FL
  10. Cedar Rapids-Waterloo-Iowa City & Dubuque, IA
  11. Columbus, OH
  12. Baltimore, MD
  13. Ft. Myers-Naples, FL
  14. Boston MA-Manchester, NH
  15. Charlotte, NC
  16. Omaha, NE
  17. Sioux City, IA
  18. Hartford & New Haven, CT
  19. Gainesville, FL
  20. Milwaukee, WI

It is important for hospitals to start embracing and empowering their communications departments to do the following when getting in-front of public health situations.

  • Listen – Watch/Listen Social and Digital Trends
  • Create – Create a content plan
  • Roll Out – Distribute content to advocates that is accurate and transparent
  • Quit Stressing – Stop the worry about what might be and focus on how to effectively empower your community with accurate information.

Digital and Social Media Impact of Zika Virus: Strategy Recommendations

There is increased search on Google for information about Zika virus, based on data supplied by Google Trends. Charleston, SC is leading the state geographically with increased Google search about the virus along with our neighboring state (Georgia) seeing an increased amount of search. Bottom-line, people are searching and seeking information.

Over the past few days, articles are being released by local South Carolina media outlets including two articles of note from the State Newspaper on Friday indicating 15 people in the State of SC have been tested along with an article in Anderson’s Independent Mail piggy backing off the same data. These articles are creating an uptick in search for content online in South Carolina.

This is what I am learning from these experiences:

  • Hospitals need a solid public facing content plan. This does not mean we need to start posting content, but start building a strategic communications plan that includes digital and social media along with media outlets.
  • Need a comprehensive plan to handle responses from media and public, including on social media. These means understanding the virus, understanding how the virus impacts South Carolina, and empowering member hospitals to be the ones how are thought leaders in the public face.

Here are the top five questions being asked on Google right now:

  1. What is Zika virus?
  2. Where is the Zika virus?
  3. Is Zika virus contagious?
  4. How long does Zika virus stay in your system?
  5. How is Zika virus spread?

Digital Strategy Recommendations (Dedicated Zika Content Page)
I have pulled together resources that might help us frame what the pubic is searching for online, creating opportunities to frame responses based on other hospitals and health care resources. I can see a whole section of a healthcare organization’s website dedicated to Zika with information for the public. This could be a combination of resources below based on content already created from credible resources.

This does not mean I am recommending going public with a part of the website immediately, yet recommending the creation of content in a unified spot on the website…and when ready, launch as a resource for member hospitals and the public. The following content can be leveraged or can serve as a guide for member hospitals to create something similar.

1 – Great video from WHO with question and answer video showcasing an epidemiologist answering the following questions on camera:

  • What is Zika virus?
  • What are the symptoms of the Zika virus disease?
  • Is there treatment for Zika virus disease?
  • Should I avoid traveling to areas where Zika virus is occurring?
  • What can I do to protect my family?

2 – Here is another great video from Healthcare Triage’s Aaron E. Carroll, MD, MS, a Professor of Pediatrics and Associate Dean for Research Mentoring at Indiana University School of Medicine.

He discusses in great medical detail with consumer friendly graphics defining what the Zika virus is all about and whether we should or should not be concerned.

3 – There is also lots of connected conversation and Google search surrounding the connection between Microcephaly and Zika virus. Here is a great videos from WHO’s Dr. Anthony Costello who is the Director of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health:

He addresses these questions in the video:

  • What is Microcephaly?
  • As a pregnant woman, how would I know if my baby is affected?
  • What support would I need if my child has microcephaly?
  • What steps can I take to protect myself and my baby from Zika virus?

4- Here is a new video about the Zika virus from the CDC called “Zika Virus 101” with Dr. Anne Schuchat, Principal Deputy Director:

She tackles the same questions with informed responses:

  • What is Zika?
  • Statistics of who will become ill if infected.
  • Symptoms of Zika virus disease.
  • How to avoid getting Zika?

5 – Here is a wonderful blog post from Seattle Children’s Hospital tackling many of the questions and concerns for parents. I can see numerous blog posts from member hospitals tackling each of the topic areas from this blog post link:

  • What is Zika?
  • Potential birth defects
  • Guillain-Barre from Zika
  • What is Dengue?
  • Risks from Dengue for pregnant women & newborns?
  • Testing for Zika when you are worried.
  • Recommendations for men and their pregnant partners.
  • Bottom line advice about Zika, dengue, and pregnancy.

6- I can also see hospitals and create and display similar to content to Harvard School of Public Health’s Zika in the News webpage:

Should hospitals use social and digital to talk about Zika Virus?

I am watching the digital curve surrounding Zika virus from inside Google Trends alongside monitoring the amount of conversation on Facebook using the Signal product. It was just yesterday that we noticed that Zika Virus moved to the trending position in Facebook after the media covered President Obama’s announcement surrounding funding to attack Zika virus.

It is absolutely fascinating to watch disease specific and public health matters emerge through the use of digital search and social media conversation. We know that digital listening has become a key component to engage the consumer, taking part in the the digital path as the consumer is using Google to search for information and going to social media channels like Facebook to have conversations with their friends and other thought leaders.

Hospitals and health care organizations have learned from many health crisis that the digital path is key to engaging the consumer, providing information that will ether empower the decision patterns or dispel myths. We also know that leveraging digital listening is another pathway in the decision pattern whether to release public information from hospitals about these large public health issues.

Digital listening should not be the only determinant whether to go public, but can play a vital role how to frame the release public information, when to release, and how to frame the conversation for the community.

I have been watching the Zika virus in two specific areas:

  1. Google Trends – Indicator of consumer search
  2. Facebook Signal – Indicator of consumer conversation

When looking at Google Trends, here are a few things I noticed:

1) Google search for Zika virus has been up and down over the last few weeks, and began another up-tick on Monday, February 8th when it was announced that President Obama was going to request $1.8 Billion dollars to address this public health issue.

Why should we care about this as an evolving trend? This showcases the intensity of engagement online as it relates to Zika. When people are interested in information, they use Google as a mechanism to seek information. This showcases the consumers interest over time and using search to find information that is relevant to their daily lives.

2) The Top Five Questions being asked on Google about Zika Virus.

Why is this important? This is a key guide to see what the consumer is asking, a guide for hospitals and health care organizations to frame content as a means to answer the questions consumers are searching for online. So much time is spent inside content strategies trying to figure out what content will be relevant to the consumer, here is a clear guide to what the consumer is truly interested in learning.

3) The intensity of search based on geographic areas in the United States.

Once again, why is this important? I spend lots of time working with hospitals in South Carolina and Texas. This interactive chart allows me to hover over geographic areas, seeking to understand the intensity of search surrounding Zika. Right now hospitals in Texas (specifically in Austin) are showing that there is an increased level of search for Zika (68) compared to the top level of interest in Florida maxed at 100. In Greenville, SC the level of search sits at 36, Columbia, SC is 40, and Charleston, SC 43. This is a scale from 1 – 100.

As you see the shades of blue become darker, the increased level of search is getting close to the max number of 100. If you look at Florida where the Governor has expanded state of emergency to the fifth county, you can match the areas impacted with the level of search. The five counties under a state of emergency are Broward, Miami-Dade, Hillsborough, Lee and Santa Rosa. Each of these counties represent areas of Florida with the highest search level for information.

With increased levels of search in Texas, and the fact there are ten confirmed cases diagnosed, you can see there is a high level of search in Austin (location of the legislature) and Dallas areas.

South Carolina hospitals need to watch the search in our geographic area surrounding Zika, and if it looks like it is starting to increase dramatically, implementing a content strategy that leverages content and Google search to dispel myths and concerns. Let’s take this to the tactical level, using the top trending questions in the Google search:

  1. What is Zika VirusBlog Post and/or Video from Clinician answering this question.
  2. Where is Zika VirusInteractive map showing where the Zika virus is being found as it relates to your geographic area.
  3. Is Zika virus contagious?Clinical expert sharing thoughts via blog and/or video about the virus and how impacts the local consumer.
  4. How long does Zika virus stay in your system? – Clinical expert sharing thoughts via blog and/or video about the virus and how impacts the local consumer.
  5. How is Zika virus spread?Clinical expert sharing thoughts via blog and/or video about the virus and how impacts the local consumer.

Right now…major news outlets are dominating the content games in these areas, providing new information about the virus in these geographic areas and across the nation. Hospitals have a HUGE opportunity to do the following:

  1. Create a robust content strategy presenting hospitals and health care organizations as thought leaders online.
  2. Create a social media strategy to not only deliver content, but to engage in conversation online positioning thought leadership directly from health care leadership.

Hospitals MUST decide if and when they talk about the Zika virus online (website, blog, social media, and through earned media outlets). Hospitals have an opportunity to leverage listening tools to gauge the level of consumer interest on the Zika virus, and decide if that is a determining factor to release information digitally, empowering the public with accurate, real time information that does not create pandemonium, but empowers the community to become educated about this public health situation.

Here are some resources to leverage:

Explaination Video from WHO:

Here is the dedicated site to CDC:

Here is a link from Scientific America indicating 10 cases have been reported in Texas and none in SC:

Own Your Earned Media on the Web

In a recent report by Forrester Research called “No Media Stands Alone” media is broken up into three areas:

  1. Earned Media: Editorial influence of your brand, like a blog post which mentions your brand or product.
  2. Paid Media: Usually advertising space that is paid for, such as online banner ads.
  3. Owned media: Described in this study as a corporate website.

Did you catch that? OWNED media. We love this terminology! Your website is a form of media that you own—you have complete control over what it says, where people see it, and how often it is updated. You can (and you should) use your paid media to drive traffic to your owned media. Banner ads, print ads, billboards, radio spots. Your web address should be omnipresent on all.

We also think it is important to point out that social media, which has become a very powerful form of “earned media,” has the greatest potential to also become a form of “owned media,” too. Your company can absolutely leverage the power of social media by engaging in and directing the conversation about your product or service. For this to work, though, you need to be sure you are fully invested in your social media strategy:

  • Do you have the tools to communicate with your audience, and do they know where to find you? Which influential bloggers should you align with? What form of micro blogging are you using—Facebook or Twitter?
  • Are you listening? Do you have an understanding of what is being said about your product or your service—today—at this moment?
  • Are you engaging your audience? Are you ready to address positive and negative comments with equal exuberance?
  • Are you taking the time to generate conversation and ask for their input? Are you leveraging all the tools at your disposal? Are your social sites hooked to your blog? Is your blog prominently placed on your website? Are you using social media tools as part of your website?

Whatever your business, whatever your product, we say OWN it. Own your website and your earned media too. It will take some work, ownership always does.

Social Media Leverage for Small Businesses

Small business owners know that it takes community interaction to create growth. As the social media community continues to increase in size, small businesses are becoming interested in an online community strategy. At Gray Web Tech we’ve helped many clients navigate the world of social media to promote everything from happy hour specials to health and wellness events.

Alexis Lamster, VP of customers at Postling, created an infographic that shows how small businesses are using social media tools such as twitter and facebook to connect with consumers on another level.

How can social media leverage your business goals?

Community Management/Managers: Do we take ourselves too seriously?

I have always been caught in this dilemma…when it comes to managing a brand’s community or community within a brand, what is best for the community? Who should be really managing the community? One with experience with the Message? Community Management? Social Media Management? Brand Management? The actual brand employee(s)?

From the agency side, the business model says that it is the best interest of the agency to stay tightly woven into the community so that the brand can purchase the expertise of a community manager.

From the brand side, is it the best interest of the brand (and the community they are supporting) for the community manager representing a digital agency…to manage the day-today operations of the community voice?

From the community side, do they really see the community manager on a regular basis and is possible for that community manager (paid by a digital agency) to mange the best interests of that community?

Interesting questions to consider, and there are probably many, many more! I think we are always surrounding ourselves with these questions, especially those who take community management very seriously. These are the ethics we live in daily and continue to have long-term conversations/questions/thoughts when growing and sustaining communities.

Now…I hope you notice I have not mentioned that these communities are online? Maybe? It has always been my position that the technology is an extension of a vibrant community, yet the digital landscape can foster connection and create a platform for rich engagement.

I have found myself many times for large health care groups called into a crisis situation (or shift in internal resources) to take over management of a community. I typically resist (I say this with caution) the notion of getting into granular position of posting on behalf of the brand. But, I have made a few exceptions.

One recently, I managed South Carolina Hospital Association online, social communities for a few months during a transition from one community manager to the current team management approach. In that process, I candidly told them I did not want full control long-term of this community, that in order to foster long-term success…I would need to train their staff and hand back over the day-to-day operations of the community. The only reason I agreed to take over day-to-day management is because I completely understood and knew their messaging, their communities, and their politics extremely well. I knew what public policy statements were off limits and how to truly advocate on behalf of the hospitals messages. I also knew the community very well when management online conversation, what healthcare policy advocates would emerge…especially in a state where Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, Medicaid, Medicaid Expansion, and other topics were volatile hot topics.

I have helped build large digital/social media ecosystems with healthcare groups (hospitals), advocacy based non-profits in the healthcare space, and very small affinity groups inside secret Facebook groups for patient support. I understand HIPAA and the constraints of engaging patient conversation online.

I work with a great person who managed the Livestrong Foundations’ Community during Lance Armstrong’s departure and very public situations from the Oprah interview to when he finally admitted to the board, staff, and survivors he had been lying the whole time. Brooke McMillan’s case-study is absolutely amazing how they managed millions of fans online during a very public situation.

She and I debate all the time, what is the role of community manager who works for an agency and supports online communities for brands. This debate, discussion, conversation is one that I think is emerging more and more given the velocity of conversations online as brands try to reconcile real time situations.

At the end of the day, I am a teacher. Yes…I am a storyteller and as a part of what I do, I have to truly live inside a brands messaging. To create video, copy, content, narratives, engage social communities…we must truly understand narratives. But as a former journalist, we must find the parallels as journalist do everyday…who cuts the paycheck and does it best represent the community we are trying to engage?

How to Grow an Online Community with Facebook Ads

It is getting increasingly harder to create an authentic community on Facebook. I spent 5 years at LIVESTRONG painstakingly nurturing a supportive and loving online space where cancer survivors and their loved ones could safely come and share their stories of triumph and loss. Since the organic reach has declined and the rise of the “pay to play” model has become the way of the world, I have to be honest – I’m not sure if Facebook is the way to go for online communities who don’t have a dime to spend or a beginning base in which to start. That, however, is another post for another day. Today’s post is working within Facebook’s new reality. This is for organizations still wanting to make an impact and to engage and attract new people to their pages. Here are some do’s and don’ts to making the most of your advertising dollars.

Picture me on a mountain somewhere in lederhosen with one of the horns from a Ricola commercial yelling…


This is an absolutely terrible plan for two reasons:

  1. So you have bought people based upon some sort of self-selected personal identifiers. 99.9% of the people I have seen come through a pay for likes campaign have either appeared to be bots or somehow involved in the porn industry. I’m not sure if there is a statistical method to explain this fact. Maybe people in the porn industry tend to like more pages on Facebook. Who knows? Just do not waste your money – unless, of course, your page is indeed about creating community for the porn industry….even then I’m thinking an affinity community is where you need to go.
  2. They’ve clicked like. You paid. Now they click unlike 10 seconds later. Damn. You are out 30 cents. Way to go.

DO promote amazing content that your current audience has proven they really like.


How do you know they like it? There are tons of likes, of course! Most importantly, comments, shares. Shares are social media currency. That is really what proves your message needs to be seen outside of those currently in your community. This is the perfect opportunity to share your post to others. We assume that most people have at least a few friends and family members in common with us on Facebook. That is why many marketers choose to target “Friends of Fans”.

It’s usually a fairly easy one click option to find a generally similar group of folks. However, if you want to really get the message out to more and more people and broaden your reach, targeting people similar to your fans across all of Facebook is probably an even better way to go. How does this increase your fans? Check out this promoted post above? What is in the top right corner?

Everyone knows how important having a great nurse is during a really frightening time. This video was a compilation of actual nurses from the hospital system in honor of National Nurses Day. We felt it deserved to be seen by more than just the fans of the page, but by the whole community in which the nurses serve. Fans of the page had already liked and shared and commented so much that it reached 4 times the amount of the page’s organic base, so we boosted it from the ad center to reach the whole city. It performed very well and we added 33 page likes as a product of sharing viral feel good information about the hospitals. Although the cost of purchasing 33 fans would have been significantly less than this method, the fans obtained during this content push are much more likely to be interested in what your group has to say and much more likely to share related content in the future.

ADDENDUM – So how do you know when an organic post is ripe for boosting? What is the saturation point? That is a fantastic question. I think there are several ways you can quantify this point:

  • It is blowing every other post you have ever created out of the water.
  • It was posted a few hours ago and has already hit the average lifetime organic reach of your other posts.
  • You see a whole bunch of shares on the post a few hours after posting.
  • The content was created by your organization (not a link out to another source) and it is integral to who you are and what you do.

Now you know what to do and what not to do on a one off basis. Need a bigger plan? Want a strategy? Need some help creating an end of year campaign? Email us. Our experts are here for you!

Web style guides have gone mainstream

Below is a quick list of some well known digital companies who have launched online style guides over the past year. Most of these began purely as internal tools. As the resources proved more and more valuable, they’ve all become available for public use.

What are the benefits of an online style guide?

  • Gives viewers a quick and digestible overview of your brand
  • Faster integration with/of your products through reusable code and real-world branding samples
  • Less technical support required, which frees up valuable employee resources for other means
  • Proves your companies’ dedication to, and support of, your tech base
  • Shows off your creative and technological abilities
  • Builds a community around the company
  • Creates a potential conversion funnel for organizations who become power users

Most large organizations have already gone through a branding process and have a style guide for their marketing efforts.

What online guides allow, that traditional ones don’t, is much greater connectivity to your brand, in a modern format, quickly navigable from anywhere in the world.

In conclusion, by providing public access to your brand materials through either static content, code snippets, downloadable assets, or re-usable templates, you are doing a couple things:

  • Decreasing the burden on your employees, contractors, and partners who usually have to create new materials from scratch
  • Allowing your brand to be dispersed rapidly and broadly, while remaining true to your standards.

F is for Facebook in Google’s Alphabet (I bet!)

Yep…I am talking about this very specific relationship one that has been riddled with miscues and online battles of digital lines in the sand. It was last year our health care digital team launched a Google Hangout embedded inside Facebook, since that successful campaign..it has been a lot harder to pull off technologically speaking.

But I am not really thinking through the lens of how to make these digital properties talk to each other when deploying campaigns, but more of the relationship between these two audience giants when it comes to digital content marketing.

We have found a few things through evidence based testing:
1) Facebook is an awareness tool
2) Google is conversion tool

*Now…their is a caveat to this premise, we have successfully launched and deployed specific health risk assessment tools inside Facebook. This is where the user can take a risk assessment survey inside the Facebook platform allowing us to capture the user’s contact information into the healthcare organization’s CRM. Then we can attribute the user data to downstream revenue, calculating ROI for this patient acquisition initiative.

What I get really excited about…is real content marketing inside Facebook/Instagram to influence the user’s Google search, thus capturing them into the CRM. Yes…Facebook and Google work well together.

Facebook provides the audience reach and Google provides the search and pull capturing that very keyword search influenced by a campaigns keyword branding inside Facebook’s content engine. So let’s get specific.

Let’s take a video you may deploy inside Facebook for your audience to enjoy. Many people put a link in the status update hoping the person will either click the link in the copy or at the end of the video. This link many times is used to capture someone to make a purchase or sign-up for a service.

We are finding something different, the keywords used in the text of the video and the copy below will influence the Google search, so we are deploying Google Adwords to capture that search. People search to take action, so we use Facebook as the awareness tool to influence that search, branding keywords over and over again so the audience thinks of those keywords when search for that product or service.

Bottomline…we are finding Facebook has been a great way to not only make the community aware of a new product or service, but also educate and influence the audience which keywords to use when searching to make a purchasing decision.

I see this performing really well with customer testimonials where a third party shares their experience with a brand. As a part of the video and text, make the search terms available via Google Adwords very apparent in the content, creating top-of-mind awareness for those terms.

I can see the video playing with a customer sharing their experience and as they are talking, the text of those relatable terms appear in the video next to the person talking. This not only forces people to stop scrolling to engage visually, but reinforces the search terms purchased to drive the audience to specific digital property.

Bottomline, it is all about content! Yes…content is once again a key component. We can scale digital advertising buys up and down, but you have to create rich content that is engaging for the audience. Content is the equitable position here, and without any equity…you are borrowing from other tactics to influence an audience that is becoming more and more skeptical of digital advertising.

Shifting Your Digital Ad Budget —> Match Ad Dollar Spend With Content Curation Investment

The role of B2B digital communications has challenged me in so many ways, every day as a storyteller. I am attracted to the projects that brings audiences new places to explore, learn, feel, connect, and share. I have struggled to think through the marketing lens, actually…it is quite hard for me.

Over the last year, we have been working with groups ranging from large national clients to smaller business/organizations…and many things are ringing with the same tune. Digital marketing is a lot of damn work because people just do not like digital ads. We have to tell stories and put digital ad dollars being content for more effecting impact.

The Next Web just released a story reporting close to 200 million people are using adblockers, up 41 percent from 2014. It is estimated this will cost publishers roughly $21.8 billion in lost revenue.


From The Next Web: “That’s just six percent of the global internet population, but it’s worth noting that their adblocking habits account for 14 percent of the global ad spend. The report adds that in 2016, it will cost publishers over $41 billion.”

Just last year, I was working on a project with an extremely large monthly Google budget. The trends were indicating that they had bought up too many adwords, over saturating the market loosing ground against the competition. Bottomline, their competition is getting smart, buying up more market share, shifting the tide showing diminishing returns on SEM and SEO investments. 

Imagine, taking those half of those millions and investing in people, stories, groups, and sharable content. Imagine leading the charge in content curation and less in just digital ad placement and reach. Reach is good, but imagine if that reach does not allow you to attract the right audience.

BHPhotoVideo.com Example
As I was browsing my favorite website, I found something interesting. BHPhotoVideo.com is one of my favorite sites and I know they like to use the same digital advertising tactics. But, when I search for a gadget, I do not go to Google first to search for that particular item…I just go to BHPhotoVideo.com.

As I scrolled down…I noticed some interesting, a trending section at the bottom. Lots of social updates from consumers, bloggers, trending products, consumer images…content showcasing products in their context. I expected when I click a trending item that I would go to read more about why it was trending, but actually I was taken to a product page. This allowed me to see the consumer conversations along side actual products, then allowed me to click to see the product.

Manfrotto Facebook Example
Another company I follow is Manfrotto’s Facebook page.  I am a huge fan of Manfrotto bags and tripods, especially after they bought my favorite bag company Kata.

 I started following their Facebook page where they share images from their consumers, specifically how they are using their bags and tripods in their everyday life.

Each day, you see these products as they are being used in real life, not just a product with a “For Sale” sign. The hardest thing about buying a bag or tripod is size, does it fit my situation, and is it affordable. These social media posts/updates allow me to see these products being used everyday by people like me.

Canon #BringIt Example
Finally, I love Canon’s #BringIt initiative on Instagram. People are sharing pictures taken with their Canon cameras and including the #BringIt hashtag. Canon selects images daily that they feel live up to the #BringIt mantra and post these images on their BringIt website: https://bringit.usa.canon.com/. If you go to the website, you might see lots of pictures of Rosebud!

This allows you to see others and how they are using the cameras and the types of images captured everyday using all types of Canon cameras, from people just like me.