The Environment and Digital Marketing

Companies, big and small, want sustainability as a part of their core values. Not only is it good for the environment, but it is an ethically conscious thing to consider in a business model. The ESG is one way environmental factors are evaluated. It stands for Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance.

As the environment has become an increasingly important factor for companies and industries to consider, some have taken steps to help the cause on a global level.

Brands leading in Sustainability Efforts

One example is that PepsiCo has adopted the United Nations Business AMbition for 1.5 Degrees C Pledge. It is a UN campaign to help fight global warming. 

Another instance is how Patagonia and other clothing brands have made dramatic efforts towards sustainability and social responsibility. In 2017, Patagonia brought tons of attention to their brand by stopping all sales and creating a black out on their website with a PSA in response to the then US president’s announcement that he [Trump] would dramatically reduce the size of two national monuments in Utah. Their website gained so much traffic that it crashed the site temporarily. Patagonia, claiming to sue the president, made some bold moves in an effort to play their part in protecting the environment. Even Patagonia’s clothing materials are ethically sourced. Patagonia’s website blackout made the news and it ended up being a pretty unique and interesting way to advertise their brand…but their motivation was truly honorable. Other marketers should take notes. 

Toy News has announced that the LEGO Group is set to invest $400 million over the next three years to support their social responsibility and sustainability efforts. Their long-term goal is to be carbon neutral by 2022 and make all packaging sustainable by the end of 2025. They are going to start by phasing out single use plastic bags and installing additional solar panels on all factories. 

How Does This Relate to Digital Marketing?

Digital marketing actually plays a major role in helping businesses become more environmentally friendly. 

Digital advertisements are not only more effective, but they save time and energy in regards to direct mail being printed and delivered. Furthermore, digital ads have a better return on investment and can be optimized at a faster and more convenient rate according to the intended audience.

With more and more businesses taking their social responsibility seriously, there has been opportunity for interesting and engaging campaigns centered around environmental efforts. These campaigns tap into consumers’ ethos and their esteem and self-actualization needs on Malson’s hierarchy of needs. Many new products and services are trending this year that have some relation to being environmentally friendly, natural, safe, cruelty free, etc. It’s important for marketers to know shifts in behavior and common ideals that are being passed around on social media. Buzzwords and phrases can be used when targeting certain groups of people such as “ethically sourced”, “safe for the environment” and “fast fashion” among many others. 

 

At Gray Digital Group we keep up with industry trends and have 20 years of experience building digital campaigns that drive results. Contact us to help you create digital campaigns that align with and promote your core values!

 


Sources:

https://marketpie.ca/digital-marketing-can-save-the-environment/

Patagonia Article

Toy News

Page 33 of Future Today Institute’s Energy,Climate and Space Report

What is Synthetic Media Technology?

 

Synthetic Media is all around us. It can include algorithmically generated content such as audio, deepfakes, virtual figures, and much more. 

About Deepfakes

Even if you haven’t heard of synthetic media, odds are you’ve used or seen it in action. If you watched Disney’s Mandalorian’s season 2 finale, producers bring back Luke Skywalker (played by Mark Hamil) as he appeared in Episodes V-VI, using de-aging technology. After the fact, fans created deepfakes of Luke Skywalker resulting in much more realistic versions compared to the CGI version.

Deepfakes are essentially fake media or audio generated by advanced artificial intelligence techniques. They have commonly been used for entertainment purposes such as the deep tom cruise tik tok account, to show politicians acting in a certain way, for movies, and even for news stations in Korea. 

Deepfake technological advances benefit such areas such as accessibility, education, film production, criminal forensics, and artistic expression. But as we know, AI technology can easily be used in malicious ways. 

With the ability to essentially digitally clone real people and their voices, you can imagine what people might do. With fake news already rampant, synthetic media can elevate it. Imagine how this could be used to portray world leaders using offensive or threatening language…and people not knowing it’s deepfake technology. Predators could also use this for synthetic voices or media to lure victims. This technology is obviously risky and will need to be monitored even on a national security level.

Checkout this Tik Tok account featuring a deepfake of Tom Cruise – @deeptomcruise

Helpful Uses of Synthetic Media

One of the most common (and beneficial) ways we use synthetic media is through our phones. Our voice to text programs listen to what we say or wait for our voice to complete a task. Google has text-to-speech capabilities allowing you to hear written text in natural sounding speech. You can even “train” their AI technology to learn your own voice. 

Steve Gleason, a former NFL player, was diagnosed with ALS and lost his ability to communicate verbally. AI technology helped generate a synthetic voice resembling Steve’s. This made a world of difference to his family and young children. As Steve’s disease progressed, having the ability to still hear their dad communicate in a method that sounded like his own voice (rather than a computer voice) meant a lot to their relationship.

Amazon has created a synthetic digital environment in the county of Snohomish Washington to test their drones. This operation has proved to be successful and will help launch their drones into real cities and environments. 

 

What does this mean for the digital marketers? 

Synthetic voices have implications for strategic ad campaigns. Based on the targeted audience, a famous synthetic voice from the 80’s (someone like Bruce Springsteen) could be used for certain age groups. Another voice, such as Kendall Jenner’s, could be used when targeting a younger age group.  

At MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), researchers have been able to program computers to not just track what is present in a video, but what will happen in the future of that video. This is insight into how synthetic media can be used to help computer systems interpret real life situations and interactions. The technology could be effective in experiential marketing efforts. Picture robots standing in malls and street plazas and interacting with consumers. This technology could create a creative experiential marketing campaign that would catch the attention of many. 

We all see the rise in influencer marketing in the digital landscape. There are influencers all across the spectrum, from celebrity movie stars to famous YouTubers to viral Tik Tok creators. Synthetic media has made it possible for synthetic influencers to evolve. They have millions of followers, interact on the internet like any other influencer would, and they are being hired as brand ambassadors for companies such as Calvin Klein, Prada, and Samsung. Some will even hook up with other famous synthetic influencers. These synthetic influencers may be more cost effective and their behavior can be maintained and controlled… unlike real human influencers who can gain notoriety based on their actions.

Checkout Lil Miquela – a synthetic influencer living in LA.

 

How Do You Know if Something is the Product of Synthetic Media?

This is the problem that has risen with the developments in synthetic media. When looking at the media, one cannot easily tell between synthetic and humans. There needs to be some distinguishing factor to protect people, governments, and institutions from being victimized. 

Your current best options are:

  • Check the source publishing the information
  • When in question, do research to ensure you are not receiving false information. 
  • Check multiple sources
  • Converse with others to hear more ideas and thoughts on the subject

There are so many ways that this technology can affect the way we market a product or service online. If done carefully and in goodwill, then it can be a valuable resource, but as of right now one should take caution when engaging with synthetic media. 

 


Sources:

https://towardsdatascience.com/ai-generated-synthetic-media-aka-deepfakes-7c021dea40e1

Page 21 of Future Today Institute’s New Realities & Synthetic Media Report

7 Myths About Building a New Website

 

MYTH #1: I can save money by just using a free website tool

Free website tools can only do so much and require a lot more time and effort than most people may realize. Many people spend a lot of time with research and energy attempting to make a free website work for them but still don’t get the desired results. Most free websites are also limited in their functionality and have hidden fees. In the process, you may realize you are pouring more money and time into a site that can’t meet all your needs anyways. As far as UI is concerned, free websites keep your options limited. You won’t be able to customize your site to the way you envision it.

Also, using a free website means you don’t own your content. Free hosting is like renting a house.

SEO is a huge aspect of web development that many people don’t realize. Optimizing your website for Google is a must-have for any business and having free websites doesn’t allow for absolute optimization.

So, while tempting, going with a free site will usually mean more of your time, less features, no daily backups, limited web support, and constraints on: aesthetics, ecommerce, data files, analytical tools, SEO optimization, campaign tracking, responsive design, and security measures.

 

MYTH #2: Building a new website can be done quickly 

Building a custom website takes time for a reason. The planning stages should not be rushed. You should have a clear plan before even beginning development.

All written content should be completed first. The process includes reviewing client goals and analytics, finalizing a sitemap, creating wireframes, approving designs, building page templates, and optimizing the content.

For a professional website, all of this needs to be done using best web design and development practices, consideration to ADA compliance, SEO, all while also keeping your company goals in mind. Once the site is built, there is testing to be done, revisions to be made, and finally the launch.

If your needs include specific implementation of databases, ecommerce, or any other special features or interactive pieces then this will require custom programming from development experts.

Building a custom website is time-intensive — as it should be. When it comes to your business’s website, you want the team developing it to be detail oriented, organized, and thorough in their testing. 

 

MYTH #3: How the site looks on desktop is most important.

This used to be true — but now this statement is false. More and more users are accessing the internet through their mobile devices which means that websites should be immaculate on mobile view. In July 2019, Google changed the way they index and rank websites; they now predominantly use the mobile version of the content. If you are already using the mobile-first approach, your desktop and mobile content should be almost, if not exactly, the same. You don’t want to have a bunch of unique custom features on desktop view that won’t translate easily to mobile view

 

MYTH #4: Once a website is built, that’s it! We’re done. 

It would be nice if it were that easy! However, while you may have your web hosting settled for a bit — many of the other pieces need regular attention. Be sure to keep fresh content flowing in. You should regularly watch for bugs, security updates and errors. As your business evolves, be sure to update your site timely with accurate information. Nothing turns off a potential customer faster than out of date info! In short, once you build your website, be sure you have a plan for maintenance, support, and routine content updates.  

 

MYTH #5: Building a new website simply entails dragging and dropping content from the old site, onto layouts on the new site. 

Like mentioned before, there are so many more aspects to building a website than transferring content to another UI. There’s SEO, meta tags, redirects, inbound links, etc.  Goals may have changed or evolved and analytics should be reviewed to see what was and wasn’t working before. UI/UX layouts should be reviewed as well to see what improvements can be made, flow better, and improve bounce rates. A new website build is a good time to review all old content and see what is still relevant, what you should consolidate, and how you can improve your existing content

 

MYTH #6: Aesthetics are priority

Of course aesthetics are super important, studies show that colors and fonts, and the UI does make a huge impact on user decisions and impressions. However,  you should not sacrifice functionality and user experience for aesthetics. For example, it may be really cool to add a pretty moving graphic to the page, but if it slows down the site speed then it’s not worth it. If it looks cool to add a hamburger menu for the navigation, but that menu type neglects the need for two very important CTAs — then that might not be the best option.

Ultimately aesthetics need to serve a purpose and add value to your website (other than being purely decorative.) Any and all graphics also need to be optimized so they are not adding extra weight to your site and increasing load times.

 

MYTH #7: Every bit of information about your business needs to go on your website 

You have all the information behind the scenes so it is natural for you to feel like everything needs to be communicated to the user on your website. However, a website is a landing point for a user to see a summary of what you do. It’s also a way to guide them to take the action you want them to take. As long as you have the who, what, where, why, and how on your website (including the CTAs) you are all set.

There is such a thing as decision fatigue. If there are too many options and too much information on the site it can be overwhelming and confusing to the user. Limit the amount of content available as well as the number of CTAs. Organize the content you decide to have in a very clear way so the users can find information quickly and easily. 

 

Myths – busted!!

If you are in need of a website and ready to partner with professionals for your custom website development, Gray Digital Group develops responsive, mobile-first sites that meet accessibility requirements. We’re also happy to help with custom designs and advanced functionality.

Schedule a 30 min conversation with us!

 


Sources:

https://uniserveit.com/blog/common-myths-about-web-development 

https://lvivity.com/6-myths-about-web-app-development 

https://usabilla.com/blog/paradox-choice-less-ux-design/ 

Digital Transformation in Healthcare

The healthcare industry has undergone digital transformation over the years, but that process was accelerated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Doctors across the US scrambled to figure out the best way to provide care for their patients while staying safe and maintaining the quality of care that the patients needed and deserved. 

 

The 2020 Investment in Digital Healthcare Efforts

In 2020 alone, Investors poured 8.4 billion into the upkeep of digital medical platforms and telehealth efforts. In addition to video software, efforts included in-home lab tests, infusions and remote monitoring. Main players in this industry include General Catalyst, Nokia, and Accenture. 

 

What’s Next for the Major Organizations?

Many organizations are making headway with their medical documentation and data being more accessible in the digital space. Nuance Communications has created technology that will allow doctors to send dictated notes to other medical specialists.They are also getting creative with partnerships. For example, they are in the works of partnering with Lyft to bring patients to hospitals. 

The new software being pushed out during this digital transformation will hopefully allow doctors to improve remote care and create better doctor-patient relationships even when they don’t see each other in a physical setting. 

Cloud services, data standardization, electronic medical records, and consumer grade medical devices are enabling the health industry to adapt to the modern technology age.  It is no surprise that the big technology companies are helping the medical community effectively make this change.

Technology is now reaching far beyond business and entertainment. The main players are making groundbreaking strides in the healthcare industry. The amount of changes that we’re seeing have definitely changed the landscape of healthcare and will continue to do so. 

 

Websites Must Keep Up

With new services, virtual options, and expansive clouds for data and records it is more important than ever to communicate with patients online. There is critical education that has to be done regarding the services being offered. Furthermore, healthcare institutions must provide an optimized digital space, and be hosted on a server that is secure and allows their site to perform well. 

 

How We Help With Your Digital Healthcare Needs

This is where Gray Digital Group comes in. We have extensive experience working with clinics, hospitals, and health care organizations who have expanded their offerings over the last few years. We have helped incorporate virtual care on websites, and launched successful campaigns for specific service lines. Not only that, our web development team has optimized sites for easy user navigability, and for high performance. 

Connect with us today to see how we can help your organization keep up with this digital revolution in healthcare. 

 


Sources:

Page 19 of Future Today Institute’s Health + Medical Report

Harnessing the Power of Social Proof

Social proof is the psychological phenomenon where people are influenced by the actions of others under the guise that those actions are the correct ones. It’s actually an essential element in marketing to grow and sustain a healthy, profitable small business. 

According to a 2020 BrightLocal survey, 93% of consumers use the internet to find local businesses with 87% relying on reviews to determine the quality of a local business. Customers’ opinions can make or break your business. Winning their affection is key to taking advantage of powerful word-of-mouth marketing. 

Here are a few ways to please your customers and capture their 5-star review!

1. Build surprise and delight into your customer’s experience.

Personal touches and experiences, especially when unexpected, allow your business to stand out from the assembly-line nature of commerce and go a long way toward earning your customers’ affection.

2. Go the extra mile for your customers.

Making a habit of delivering the WOW factor will set your business apart from the competition and cultivate a foundation for your brand and product or service loyalty. 

3. Stay calm and present solutions.

Rather than panicking when things veer off course, stay in solutions-mode and use the bump in the road to create opportunities to provide first-rate customer service. 

Now for the ask.

Satisfied customers are often happy to give you a review or write a testimonial but they don’t think of doing it on their own. Don’t be afraid to request it!

1. Ask when you’re on fire.

Capture fresh insights and the excitement of a job well done by asking for endorsement right at the close of the sale or the completion of a project. Reaching out shortly after will ensure your great work is at the forefront of your customer’s mind.

2. Conduct “how did we do” customer satisfaction surveys.

Build these emails into your e-commerce platform and invite overall feedback to elicit ratings and reviews of your website.

3. Offer “beta” pricing.

When you’re just starting out or offering a new service/product — offer favorable pricing to customers in exchange for their feedback. Use that feedback to influence how you promote future offerings. 

4. Capture social love.

Scan your social media feeds daily for conversations and praise. Use this feedback for promotional use (of course with permission and in compliance with any federal and local laws and regulations.)

 

You know how great your brand is, but your customers’ approval is the ultimate validation of your product or service. Harnessing the power of social proof is powerful in marketing your small business and driving new sales.

Ask us how we can help you with reputation management.

Connect With Us Today

 


Sources

https://sba.thehartford.com/business-management/small-biz-owner/business-testimonials/?cmp=EMC-SC-SBA-54971154&eml=1

The Amazing Potential of Augmented Reality Innovations from Facebook Reality Labs

 

Facebook Reality Labs

 

 

AR is Everywhere

Augmented Reality (AR) is being used in so many ways already — you’ve most likely used and seen it in various ways without even realizing. For example, Target, along with other retailers, have an AR feature on their app that allows you to see what a product looks like in your bedroom or on the back patio. Or maybe you’ve used the famous story filters on social media apps like SnapChat and Instagram. The Pokemon Go game is another common example. 

 

The Future of AR

The concept of AR has far surpassed filters and product placement though. In fact, Facebook Reality Labs (FRL) is working on developing natural, intuitive ways to interact using AR glasses. The goal is for AR glasses to see the world as we see it and allow us to interact in that world using signals from our brain and contextually-aware Artificial Intelligence (AI). FRL states that “Two of the most critical elements are contextually-aware AI that understands your commands and actions as well as the context and environment around you, and technology to let you communicate with the system effortlessly — an approach we call ultra-low-friction input.” 

The first step down this path is collecting that “ultra-low-friction input” via a wrist-band. This wrist band has the functionality to pick up on nervous signals being sent from the brain, connect them with contextualized AI and, by doing so, manipulate your environment as you see it through AR glasses. This wrist band would act like an electromyography (EMG). The EMG “uses sensors to translate electrical motor nerve signals that travel through the wrist, to the hand, into digital commands that you can use to control the functions of a device. “

 

How does this translate to our daily life?

Yes, this all sounds very technical and advanced…so how does it translate to our daily lives? One example — imagine walking in your favorite park, the clouds start to roll in and you wonder what the forecast is. With the motion of your finger you can “press” an invisible button in the sky to display a screen that will show you the weather forecast, with the swipe of your finger you can see the radar, and then, with the wave of your hand it all goes away. 

Another example is in the workplace. Imagine HR directors being able to send employees papers to sign that they could pull up as augmented reality documents on the desk, and sign with the movement of their finger. The signals through the wrist with this technology are so clear that EMG can understand just a millimeter finger motion.

 

What does this mean for advertisers?

There are big things coming in the AR world. Not only may our workplaces be changed but the way we market our products and services could take on a new, AR realm. Will ad placement be used in AR technology? Will there be new grounds to explore in the web development world? For example, responsive web design may have new challenges if people can search the web via AR technology. 

It is exciting to think of all the possibilities. One thing is for sure you will need a strategy and plan in place as new technology is introduced. You want a marketing team that is thinking ahead and ready to explore new ways to advertise, engage with consumers, and produce results. Gray digital group is passionate about purposeful digital marketing. We prioritize strategy and innovative ideas. Let us know how we can help you in this exciting new world! 

 


Sources:

Facebook Reality Labs

The 10 Best Social Media Analytic Tools

The 10 Best Social Media Analytic Tools

As digital reach evolves, marketers are not only interested in website analytics but social media analytics as well. The growth of social media and your presence on it is now arguably as valuable as that of your website. Google Analytics provides an abundance of statistics and tracking that can help you build your marketing strategy. It’s now important to include social media analytics as well so you are reaching your target audience across the right platforms. These analytics help organizations determine which social media platforms resonate with their target audience most effectively. 

Data is key and is used to evaluate ongoing digital campaigns. Did you know that 63% of marketers are expected to discuss social ROI with their bosses to justify their spending for campaigns? Being able to analyze and prove that digital campaigns are working is important when justifying the spend. 

Thankfully there are plenty of social media analytics tools. Most offer cross-channel capabilities so you can view your campaign stats across multiple platforms. Customized reporting and templates both can provide data including impressions, engagement, reach, clicks, growth and any other stats you can think of. Third-party social media analytics tools are multi-purpose tools that will help you save time. They will also provide information for you to tweak your current campaigns as well as plan upcoming campaigns. Remember, the analytics are only useful if you take action based on the data.

The Tools

 

Gray Digital Group can help with your social media strategies. Let us know if you are ready to discuss your social ROI and how it can improve!

Connect With Us Today

 


Sources:

https://sproutsocial.com/insights/social-media-analytics-tools/

Your Website Content Matters…Make it KING.

We have to start with a hard truth; there’s a lot of bad content on the internet. Don’t let that discourage you. Writing persuasive and informative content that prompts the reader to take action is not a talent most people have. But, as with any project, using the right tools for the right job is going to be a key to success.

 

Image Optimization Matters for SEO and a Quality User Experience

 

When uploading images to a website you should always optimize your assets to prevent poor user experience from a slow loading page. If you are on macOS or Linux, one way to help with this is with a cool tool called ImageOptim. ImageOptim is used to optimize images in both a lossy and lossless manner. Lossy means that the data removed is not restored, whereas lossless rebuilds the data after the compression.

ImageOptim helps in two ways. First, it can remove metadata from an image. Metadata can be the location a picture was taken or the camera settings when the photo was shot. Second, ImageOptim can remove image data. This does degrade the quality a little, but it’s more important to optimize your images for the web vs. loading in a larger image.

Here we have a random image at 1.2MB:

 

 

Here is that same image after being run through ImageOptim in a lossy manner. We reduced the size of the image by more than half.

 

 

Here are the settings used in this example:

 

 

Now, this image was only reduced in size to 542KB, which is still way too large for the web. The issue with this particular image is it’s dimensions, it’s 5000×5000. In this example, the image should also be resized in an image editing application to reduce its file size to less than 100KB for web usage. Once resized, you can run the image through ImageOptim again to further optimize your photos. 

You can also batch optimize your photos by dragging an entire folder into ImageOptim and run them all at once. Although ImageOptim does not resize your photos it’s important to eek out as much savings as possible before uploading your images to the web. 

Use tools like ImageOptim to further speed up your website by removing unnecessary data that does not need to be loaded by your users.

 

Gray Digital Group helps ensure client websites are responsive and maintain high quality functionality. Let us know if we can help you! 

Connect With Us Today

 


Sources:

https://imageoptim.com/mac 

https://imageoptim.com/versions.html 

Making Sense of Digital Marketing Techno-Jargon

B2B, B2C, Bounce Rate, Redirect, Conversion Rate, CTR…wait…what??!

If some of this sounds like a different language to you, don’t worry. You’re not alone. 

 


It’s easy to get lost in the acronyms, terms and techno-jargon that’s associated with digital marketing. All this noise can make it confusing and even intimidating to learn about and try out new digital marketing tools and tactics. The truth is that once you get past the vocabulary, many of the described items are relatively straightforward.

Much of this vocabulary can be attributed to the breadth and depth of digital marketing and its technology roots. The terms are also vendors’ efforts to differentiate themselves and the need to describe things that simply had not existed prior. Don’t let it overwhelm you or become an obstacle to trying out new ways to market your business.

You can always Google individual terms, but we’ve found it’s helpful to proactively review digital marketing terms. Take a look at a couple of the online glossaries that we’ve identified below. Having a basic familiarity with these terms will make exploring and evaluating new digital marketing opportunities much easier.

The Ultimate Digital Marketing Glossary

Marketing Terms for Business Professionals

Glossary of Online Marketing Terms

 


Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

What is Web Accessibility?

The industry standard for assessing if a web page is accessible is using the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These guidelines provide 4 top-level principles for determining the accessibility of a web page.

What is Clubhouse…and are you invited?

What is Clubhouse?

Clubhouse is the new social media cool kid on the block. It’s an invitation-only social media platform that originated out of silicon valley.  Early members included tech titans, Hollywood stars, and other cultural influencers. This gave it an exclusive feel and proves to be an irresistible draw for many that would like to take part. 

Clubhouse is an audio-only platform. No pictures and no videos. Think of it as a meeting place to listen to and take part in various conversations. An interactive podcast, if you will. Conversations are divided into what Clubhouse calls “Rooms”.  Rooms are created by members and are typically topical in nature. Members participating in a room may have different privileges. Some may only be able to listen, while others can speak and be heard by the entire room, and some act as moderators. Moderators can mute, unmute, add and remove members from the room.

Who is on Clubhouse?

Clubhouse conversations tend to be business and/or centered around personal-improvement. Rooms (conversations) can be scheduled in advance — but can also be started in more of an impromptu manner making them wide-ranging and meandering at times. 

Clubhouse just turned one on March 17th, 2021 and it is already valued at over a billion dollars. Even with the invitation-only approach, they have amassed millions of users and it is expected that they will start opening the platform to more and more people. It’s currently only available for iPhone users — but an Android version is supposedly in the works and will be available soon. 

 

The Future for Clubhouse

It’s hard to tell what the long-term will hold for Clubhouse as its success has caught the attention of some of the big players like Facebook and Twitter. Facebook is reportedly working on an audio version of its Messenger Room’s feature that will surely be a direct competitor to Clubhouse. Clubhouse will have to work hard to retain its exclusive allure and quality content that is key to growing and retaining an audience.  

There’s not currently a way to advertise on Clubhouse. You can’t buy ads like you typically do on other social media platforms. Members are free to tout their brands, customize their profiles and profile pictures to tell their stories. But as of yet, there isn’t a direct way to pay for a brand presence on Clubhouse.

Where Clubhouse really shines is with personal development.  It has potential to be a great way to make business contacts, share information, and test ideas and concepts with relevant people that you may not have ordinarily had an opportunity to meet.

It will be interesting to see how Clubhouse develops and if it can maintain the meteoric trajectory that it has followed over its first year.

 

How to Push Social Media Content to the Right Audience

We often get questions or concerns from clients and friends saying that they feel like they “are screaming into a void” when it comes to their marketing.  In other words, organizations and businesses are creating content…but they feel like no one is on the receiving end.  

Unfortunately, that may actually be the case. Every platform you use is supported by ad revenue, it is a pay to play world.  

In general, there are two issues to address.

    1. What are the goals?
    2. Is the content being generated engaging?

This can be complex, but we will touch on high level components. 

 


 

What are your goals?

The most popular answer is to get more donors or get more customers.  That is fine. But you also have to dig deeper. Think about the following: who is your audience? Where are they online? What information will resonate?  Many will say we want to run one social media campaign to get more clients but when you start digging deeper – there are many more variables involved. The more detailed you can get, the finer you can separate and target your campaigns. One campaign can become 5 or 10 depending on the targets and relevant platforms.

Is the content being generated engaging?

Once you have gone through the goal development,  you have to figure out what you want or need to say – and make it engaging content.  When developing content, think about the details of your goals and campaigns. For example, the content on Facebook is different from the audience on LinkedIn. While the audience may overlap, what is expected on the platform is different. Another example is the difference between Instagram and Facebook. Instagram is a quicker platform and Facebook typically has more curated content. With Facebook, video is almost always more engaging and it does not have to be professionally produced video. It is great to have some produced and polished video but that can be mixed with quicker video that is shot from something as simple as your phone.  
Don’t be afraid to experiment and pay attention to your analytics. From your analytics, you’ll see what is working, what is not and can adjust your strategy accordingly.

Who is going to do this in your organization?

First, we discussed goal setting when engaging users on social platforms. Then we touched on content creation. Once you have those items established – do forget the who

Who will be responsible for your organization’s social media? This is sometimes an afterthought – but can make or break the effectiveness. From time to time organizations will say, “this person uses Facebook so they will be taking over our social media”.  However, it is not usually that simple. This person will be a public voice for your organization, are they qualified?  Do they completely understand your brand?  And do they even have time?  

Giving a large undertaking to a current team member who is likely busy already may not be the best option. Other options are to hire an “expert” or to engage an agency. When determining what will work best for your organization, there are a couple of considerations.  

  1. If hiring an expert, ensure you have the depth of knowledge needed to manage that person or they can end up working in a vacuum that you do not understand.
  2. If that “expert” is working in an agency environment they may have a high salary and a variety of clients to work with.
  3. While hiring in-house can feel less expensive and less risky, by the time you pay salary, benefits, etc you probably have a reasonable budget to engage professionals. 
  4. If hiring an agency, they are going to bring a team to the table to meet your needs. This includes a videographer, photographer, copywriter and people who know how to run campaigns to maximize effectiveness.

 

When starting or restarting social efforts it is worth taking your time to ask the tough questions internally so you can have a plan that is executable and fluid enough to be influenced by the analytics. Gray Digital Group is here to help you ask the right questions and to develop a plan that will bring success! 

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Humans Crave Community and Technology Delivers

One thing confirmed in 2020 was that humans crave community and that they’ll adapt as necessary. The isolation that we all endured as the pandemic began to unfold was almost unbearable to some. Thankfully we live in a digital age and found new ways to connect.

Virtual relationships are becoming more common and they will be a big part of the future. Some call this a hybrid life. At SXSW we learned how companies such as Tinder, Twitch and Peloton have thrived off of virtual communities. 

 

 

Tinder

Gen Z constitutes over 50% of Tinder’s audience. They are leading the charge into virtual life and experiences, with the pandemic driving many of these new behaviors. Tinder offered a way for people to connect online when there was an overwhelming sense of loneliness in 2020, and even now trickling into 2021. Since businesses were closed and large groups were prohibited, people needed to do activities together outside. Instead of Tinder taking a downfall during the pandemic, they did quite the opposite. People used Tinder more than ever to meet at parks, go hiking, roller skating, sit at lakes, etc. This online dating app did not keep people inside, but due to Covid, actually encouraged people to go outside to spend time together. 

Tinder also created a passport feature where you can drop into any town and start to meet people in that area. 

Twitch

Twitch, the video game live-streaming app, is all about community, connecting to a creator and the community attached to that creator. Twitch’s marketing efforts are focused on community, and the human connection element. Everyone craves  a shared experience of some sort. That’s what builds these communities. Although the creators and followers in the community may have never met in real-life, they meet virtually through the app and all have something in common, which is their passion for whatever it is the creator is offering. This creates a sense of belonging amongst each other and is a huge driving force in keeping people coming back. Covid-19 elevated time spent on Twitch and acted as a sort of medicine or temporary solution to people’s heightened loneliness. 

 

Peloton

Peloton has been asking the question: How can their experiences keep the human element? They decided to make sure they were marketing how those interactions were happening on the platform. 

They have leaned into powerful ways that connect members such as encouraging high fives, and creating tags that allow you to create micro communities within the Peloton platform. When targeting consumers their goal is to showcase those features revolving around community. Storytelling is huge for Peloton. Capturing members’ stories of their experience building community has been their advantage. 

The Artist Series

They also started an “artist series” which is so much more than just a 30-40 min ride. Artists such as Beyonce, Alicia Keys, Pitbull, and Bad Bunny are collaborating with Peloton to release customized workouts paired with their soundtracks. It’s a celebration of music. People join Peloton for physical AND mental health. Peloton is putting out engaging AND motivating content. 

This artist series not only brings together people who have a shared love for a particular artist but it also  allows them to tap into culture. Dara Treseder, SVP Head of Global Marketing mentioned that the black community had some hesitation stepping into the world of Peloton asking the question “Is this a space where I belong? Do I fit in here?” The artist series, particularly showcasing strong black women is helping them feel like they belong. In other words, the artist series is giving more access to different audiences. Music goes beyond division, it unites people through their love of music.  Influencers have had a powerful impact in this  industry and play a vital role in creating micro communities, and bringing others together to engage in a shared experience. 

 

Conclusion

Humans crave a sense of belonging. They need to be connected to others and to interact with others. In recent years some technology has been criticized for potentially adversely affecting human interaction. However, 2020 introduced challenges that most of us had never experienced. The ability to bond virtually through the apps described above and others was instrumental in helping people make it through a long and lonely year.  Communities will continue to be critical for humans, and technology will continue to evolve and shift the way communities are formed.  Keep an open mind and explore your options!

 


Sources:

Photo by Afta Putta Gunawan from Pexels

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Photo by Helena Lopes from Pexels

Photo by nappy from Pexels

Tips for Creating a Newsletter and Who to Follow 

 

At this year’s SXSW we got to hear from a few leaders within the newsletter market. They gave some quick tips for creating a worthwhile newsletter — and shared some of their favorites with us. 

If you are executing a newsletter every week or month you’re competing for people’s attention and need to provide quality content. 

 

“It’s so important to hold yourself accountable to creating great content that keeps people in the newsletter experience. Aim to make your newsletter the destination, not a content marketing tool.”

-Alex Lieberman, founder and CEO of Morning Brew (daily newsletter with more than a million subscribers)

 

Here are some tips when creating the newsletter component to your overall strategy. 

 

Generate your own ideas

Try to be original. Offer something that the others are not. Find ways to add in your brand personality, unique expressions of who you are that makes the reader perceive yours as different than other newsletters.

Solve a problem or serve a passion

This is hard to do with general service content but easier if serving a specific purpose or niche. Don’t try to cover all your bases…instead narrow in on something that will serve your loyal followers. If you’re solving their problem or serving a unique passion, odds are they will continue to come back and read. You are offering something very specific that the others don’t offer (at least not to your extent).

Make it a 5 min read (or less)

You want people to read through to the end. Many people read newsletters during spare moments in the day. So, the newsletters need to be a quick read. Long newsletters can feel overwhelming and not worth even starting. You can even communicate to the reader that your newsletter is approximately a 3 min read or a 5 min read before they get started. Stating this somewhere near the top can increase the number of readers.

Build a loyal audience that is loyal enough to pay

Finding that audience can take time, but those that enjoy and even share with others, will pay to subscribe to your newsletter. This not only benefits you, but it also gives the impression to the reader that they are in a “closed community” of sorts. They belong to something of value that they are invested in. 

Finding a Niche

So, how do you lock down a niche? Start by looking at the people opening your newsletter or paying for your newsletter and figure out what they do, who they are, and what they are interested in. Continue to cater your content for those people.  Pay attention to what is resonating and getting shared and read. This will take some time and research but you will have a better understanding of your audience and how they behave. With that information it’s much easier to hone in on a niche. 

 

Some of the hot topics that experts predict you will likely see in the near future being covered over a wide range of newsletters are:

  • Healthcare
  • Cannabis
  • Cryptocurrency
  • Real estate
  • HR

 


 

Some Newsletters to Follow: 

*as recommended by those on the panel at SXSW*

Ben Thompson

Matt Levine

Web Smith 2PM

Anne Helen Substack

Hunter Harris Substack

Haley Nahman

The Margins

Emily Atkin

Luke O’Neil

 


 

The Emotional Journey of Artificial Intelligence & Empathy

 

Artificial intelligence is doing what we all thought it couldn’t do, developing and engaging with human emotions. If you’re skeptical, just wait until you hear about the recent developments in AI technology. While some of this technology does give cause for concern, you may be surprised by the many ways this could be useful in society. The question is… do the benefits outweigh the costs? 

 


Emotion Economy

 

At SXSW, we learned about “Emotion Economy”.  The term refers to an economy that puts value on organizations that practice, implement and value empathy. This economy leverages technology that utilizes empathy. 

So, how can AI foster empathy? The discussion is starting surrounding how AI can contribute to such an economy that fosters empathy. In general, when people hear “Artificial Intelligence” they may picture stone-cold robots, void of the human element of relating and empathizing with others. There is a ton of mistrust in AI because of this absence of emotions. The name itself refers to something that is “artificial” which does not conjure images of emotion. 

But what if AI could understand human emotions and actually engage with them? Dr. Rana el Kaliouby went on a journey to find an answer to this question. Here are some interesting highlights on her findings:

 

  • When you dissect how humans communicate — only 10% is based on the choice of words we use. The remaining 90% is split between vocals, voice inflections, body language and facial expressions

 

  • Humans have the natural ability to read other people and adjust their communication based on the listeners nonverbal signals. 

 

These findings help explain why in virtual settings it can be much harder to adjust your communication and adapt to your audience. We can all relate to that given all the zoom calls we’ve participated in this past year, and the fatigue and disconnect that sometimes comes with them.

 

AI is now learning how to read people better based on things other than word choice. How does AI capture and read non-verbal communication? 

 

The answer is found through the study of “emotion science” and facial expressions. There are 45 facial muscles that create thousands of expressions and mental states. Facial coding refers to a system that was created to score facial expressions. Camera sensors are able to capture this data thus allowing a way to quantify an array of emotions. 


Tests and Uses

 

Children and adults with autism struggle to understand others’ facial expressions. Many of them tend to avoid the face because of this. Affectiva pitched the idea of AI google glasses that read the expressions of the person you’re interacting with in real-time. These glasses act almost like a real-time coach for those with autism. When testing them out they saw incredible results. Children wearing the glasses engaged with people more and made face-to-face contact.

Entering the Marketing Industry

 

Leveraging AI technology to better understand and engage your consumers is where the advertising industry is headed. 

Affectiva also tested their technology on advertising campaigns. When a user scrolled past an ad on their mobile device, they were asked for permission to turn their camera on. AI was able to capture the moment by moment responses and expressions of the user. Did they find the ad funny? Sentimental? Confusing? With the data being compiled from every viewer’s reactions, agencies were able to get a better understanding of how their ad was performing and what their viewers thought about it. 

Emotion AI has huge implications for tracking consumer behavior. It’s important to remember that emotions are tied to any piece of content. When sharing content, we are trying to evoke an emotion that will ultimately lead to decision making such as purchase intent. 

As marketers, it’s important to be empathetic in your message and find a way to tie it back to your brand. AI can help with this. 

Emotion AI can help capture moments of confusion, frustration, curiosity or interest as it monitors the reactions of a user navigating a website. This data can be incredibly valuable to agencies that specialize in UI design and web development. AI can essentially provide insight on any user experience. 

Other Applications

  • Call Centers

AI can capture voice inflections. This can be helpful for call centers and customer service departments. AI can read your tone and therefore determine which call center agent to transfer you to. For example, a frustrated caller may be sent to a top-performing agent or management based on their tone of voice.

  • Automotives

Applying empathy to technology via AI will change so many interfaces. Think about the automotive industry for starters. With AI built into the interface of our vehicles, it could detect the driver’s state. Is the driver tense, tired, drowsy? Are they distracted on their phone? Are they under the influence? With this information being fed into the vehicle’s system, many accidents could be prevented. 

Not only does this have safety implications but it also can provide customer value. The environment in the car can be personalized based on who is in the car. Imagine the personalization that can be done with the help of AI for a teenage driver vs an elderly driver. 

  • Home Robots

Home robots and Alexas can be taken to the next level where they are truly conversational and can persuade you to change your behavior. With the use of emotion AI, these devices have the potential to sway your decisions based on past behavior, conversations and body language. For example, let’s say you tell your device to play some sad music, and your facial expression can be read as distressed or grieving, AI could offer some encouragement, mimicking a true human conversation, or it could suggest some songs based on past data that cheered you up. Emotion AI can make these robots seem a bit more “human”. 

  • Healthcare

Emotion AI technology also has the ability to detect mental health and stress based on body language. This data could be a huge driving force in the healthcare industry. In the telehealth industry which is largely where healthcare is headed, soft skills are very important. This evaluative technology could apply not just to patients, but to providers as well. If the doctor is looking down at papers while on a virtual appointment with a patient, they may seem less empathetic according to AI which is reading the expressions of the patient. This could ultimately lead to the strict monitoring of doctors, even crossing into legal implications. 


Summary

 

Obviously, there is huge potential for this type of technology.  AI technology that understands emotion may be able to motivate us and persuade us to change our behavior.  People may be coaxed to be healthier, more active, and make safer choices. However, consideration will need to be given to unintended consequences. Affectiva and other companies must think about the ethical dilemmas. They have made an effort to prioritize thoughtful regulation but are not waiting for legislation but rather being a steward in designing the right way. 

Emotion AI is reimaging how human to human connection can be studied, replicated and applied. It’s not always comfortable to think about, but it’s likely something that is not going away. The possibilities that have already been demonstrated have some amazing benefits that can likely be built upon. One thing is certain, effective communication and consistently interpreting emotions correctly is something that not even humans have mastered. Perhaps Artificial Intelligence will help us understand ourselves better! 

 


Sources:

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Dr. Rana el Kaliouby Co-Founder & Chief Science Officer Affectiva

Why we Choose WP Engine as Our Hosting Partner

 

There are many reasons why we choose to partner with WP Engine as our hosting partner. Here are the top 5: 

 

1. Award-winning support has us covered 24/7/365. Sometimes things happen at all hours of the day or night. We have peace of mind to know that we can contact a live support agent at any time.

 

2. Account features are unmatched when it comes to managing your specific site. Everything from daily backups and quick restores to Global Edge Security (GES). They have the features in place to protect and keep your site running smoothly.

 

3. Easy set up for sites and development sites. Once your site is set up, we can set up staging and development sites with one click migrations. This means we can quickly create an exact copy of your site and either of us can make changes in that environment without affecting your live site.

 

4. Site migrations are quick and painless using WP Engines migration tools. This saves you time and money.

 

5. Troubleshooting tools for when the unexpected happens. We can address common WordPress issues quickly and efficiently. Everything from 500 server errors, security, white screens, and accessing logs all from one place.

 

Gray Digital specializes in creating advanced WordPress websites. We’re also happy to help with custom designs and advanced functionality. You don’t have to figure it out alone — let us know how we can help!

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Source: https://wpengine.com/support/

Image Source: https://www.dreamhost.com/blog/wordpress-crash-course/

Motion Data: the Latest Technology That Could Change Everyday Lives

The Motion Data Lab x SXSW

At this year’s SXSW, we got to hear about a project prototype in the works by a Japanese creative technology initiative that could change our future as we know it.

Dentsu Creative X Inc. worked with partner companies to develop a new concept called “Code Humanity”. This concept focuses on the human element in technology. This is often forgotten, or intentionally replaced, as technology becomes more advanced. But Code Humanity is purposefully zeroing in on the human elements such as motion, wellbeing, food cycle, and weather.

Motion Data Lab honed in on the human element of motion. The Motion Data Lab invented a way to measure human movement and behavior patterns. With this new technology we can compile data from every human movement. The data can then be used in technology and integrated into our daily life in many different ways. Read on for a few highlighted examples!

 

 

Providing solutions for health:

Motion Data can be used for preventive medicine. The data can help prevent and detect risk of injury or even onset diseases. For example, the data can detect if you have fallen or if you may be experiencing a seizure. It will also detect if your physical therapy efforts are working thus reducing the risk of injury. Chiropractors can measure if your posture is improving. These scenarios are just the beginning of how Motion Data could be useful for healthcare.

Providing solutions for training:

Motion Data Models can be used for skill acquisition and movement correction. This use could prove incredibly valuable for athletes, personal trainers, and physical therapists. Imagine how a pole vaulter could use motion data to reveal what part of their vaulting form is out of line. Or a ballet dancer could use the captured data to improve their pirouettes. This use is also applicable to creative projects. For movies and videos, Motion Data Models could help actors and actresses perfect a certain movement for fight scenes, action scenes and more. The possibilities are endless.

Preserving Culture:

One of the most interesting uses talked about for Motion Data is to capture the movements of traditional folk dances. With this technology, we can better preserve and accurately pass on the traditions and customs of cultures that are disappearing.

 

The Motion Data Lab x Xenoma

The Motion Data lab has collaborated with Xenoma on an e-skin product which is smart apparel that tracks and captures data from the person’s movements. Its material is machine washable and thin making it a product consumers could easily implement into their everyday lives. This e-skin can be used in filming studios and animation studios to enhance their CGI, animated characters and more. Who knows, you may be able to see yourself as a 3D avatar in the near future! Imagine how this will affect virtual meetups, online dating, the gaming industry and the social media industry.

This technology also has implications for the fitness industry. A new mirror has been made in collaboration with the Motion Data Lab to provide virtual instructors that help you correct your movement and form as the mirror detects your every move. This could up the game for at-home workouts, or perhaps for universities seeking to spend more of their tuition dollars on athletes.

Imagine all the things we do that require movement. Among many other innovative technologies being prototyped and implemented, the work the Motion Data Lab is doing could soon affect many aspects of the human experience. Aside from the use for recreational activities, there are promising ways it can be used to increase wellness, skills, and help prevent disease or injury.

We will be looking out for ways this technology will be implemented into society and can’t wait to see how this will affect the advertising and marketing industry.

Share with your “tech-y” friends — they are going to love this!

 

Sources:

https://www.dentsu.co.jp/en/news/release/2021/0315-010351.html

http://dentsusxsw.com/en/index.html

https://motiondatalab.com/