Summertime in Dubuque

Hey, guys—guess what? It’s finally summertime! If you’re looking for some ideas of things to do in Dubuque on a fine summer day, I’ve got you covered.

We're On A Boat

River
One of my favorite summer activities is being on the water. Whether boating, kayaking or canoeing, being outside on the Mississippi River is always a day well spent—just don’t forget your sunscreen! Can’t swim and prefer to stay on land? No problem—enjoy the water from one of the many waterside establishments in the area! My personal favorite, with a view that just can’t be beat, is The View Restaurant and Bar on the marina at Mud Lake just north of town—breathtaking!

You can rent kayaks, stand-up paddle boards (SUPs) and canoes from Fever River Outfitters and even take SUP lessons from Big River SUP. Renting boats is easy, too! Just visit American Lady Cruises—they rent pontoons and charter ships for dinner cruises! Looking to buy? Visit Hawkeye Boat Sales and you’ll be cruising the Mississippi in no time.

Music

The summer is alive with the sound of music in Dubuque! My friends and I take advantage of all of the live music opportunities throughout the summer—especially when they are outdoors and on the weekends! Dubuque Main Street and the Dubuque Jaycees put on Dubuque … and All That Jazz!—a monthly concert series on Friday nights with local bands at Town Clock Plaza. Summerfest Dubuque follows suit with live music at the Town Clock Plaza for all to enjoy, with an added bonus—it’s a fundraiser for the Dubuque Area Labor Management Council.

Farmer’s Market

What’s better than eating healthy? Eating fresh, healthy foods that support local businesses and growers! Spend a Saturday morning supporting local vendors at the Dubuque Farmers’ Market—a market that extends more than three city blocks on Iowa Street. I’ll share some of my favorite finds with you:

  • Freddie’s Popcorn (need I say more?)
  • Anything from The Food Store! You MUST try the eggrolls!
  • Fresh produce (tomatoes are my personal favorite)
  • Hand-made mittens—that’s right, the Farmer’s Market stays open through the end of October

Local Businesses

Paradise Distilling Co—Locally owned and operated, Dubuque’s very own distilled rum is a treat, like having the tropics in our own backyard!

L. May Eatery—Who doesn’t love a brick oven pizza and a glass of vino on the Main Street sidewalk? Feeling fruity? Check out the sangria! L. May is a must in town!

Dubuque Marina & Yardarm—This is a great place to visit by land or water, day or night! They offer a courtesy dock for boaters, a great deck to enjoy the sun during the day and a menu for lunch and dinner. Raining? No problem—a spacious covered bar and indoor seating keep the good times rolling because at night, the Yardarm hosts rockin’ bands!

 

These are just a few of my favorite (summer) things! If there’s something that you love about summertime in Dubuque that I’ve left off my list, share it with us in the comments!

Marry content and execution for truly impactful video marketing

The importance of production value can’t be overlooked when creating a successful video marketing strategy. It matters both what you say and how you say it, which we refer to as content and execution.

Content: what do you want to tell your audience?

The first part of producing an effective video is creating great content. At TAG, we often collaborate with our entire creative team to get the best ideas on the table and develop content that is well-crafted, direct and concise.

Execution: how do you want to deliver that message?

The other part of high production value is the execution of your message delivery. How you deliver your content is a huge part of your video’s effectiveness. For instance, emotional messaging enhances your message and overall brand.

 

Find out more about production value and TAG’s video skills on our website. For high quality content and execution, TAG… we’re it!

You’re in love with your new website. Now what?

Website Traffic photo

The day you have your website built and launched might be one of the best days of your life. But don’t let yourself slack off during the honeymoon phase. There is some serious work to be done to drive traffic to your new site and make an impact in your market.

Be sure to put yourself out there

You know how everyone loves posting their big life events on their social platforms? Do that with your website. It’s a big life event in the timeline of your business, and that’s something you can justifiably brag about. Link to your site through email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and other meaningful social platforms.

Word to the wise: Embed your YouTube videos on your homepage to increase your chances of being found organically through search engines.

Pay to play in the digital marketplace

Don’t underestimate the power of cash when it comes to digital traffic. Google Adwords, display ads and even ads on social media take your messaging beyond the limited scope of organic reach. Use a variety of designs and messages to reach targeted audiences and drive traffic to website content relevant to them.

Word to the wise: Marketing budgets are allocating more money to digital marketing each year. Be competitive in the marketplace by promoting your website with audience-enhancing ads.

Know the effect you have on your audience

Keep tabs on your website traffic with tools like Google Analytics. Note where your audience is coming from by monitoring referrals and search terms, and watch which messages gain you the most traffic. This is a strategic way to know what your audience is interested in and what makes your website relevant to them.

Word to the wise: Set goals for traffic—decide which pages you want to see traffic on, how much traffic you want on those pages and how many inbound marketing leads or e-commerce purchases you consider successful in a set increment of time, whether it’s one week or one month. Use digital methods to work toward those trackable goals!

Participate in active listening

Stay responsive to your audience. A digital relationship is something that takes ongoing work—don’t let yourself go just because your site is live. If you treat your website as a “set it and forget it” asset, you’re missing out on opportunities—and revenue! Tweak content and messaging according to your analytical feedback to keep things fresh and relevant.

Word to the wise: Use matching design elements across your website, social platforms, print and broadcast media in order to preserve your brand, but keep your branded content and campaigns dynamic and exciting month over month.

 

TAG understands new website infatuation, but we’re in it for the long haul with our clients. Think of us as your digital relationship counselor. From driving website traffic to creating complete marketing plans, feel free to reach out to the TAG team when your digital presence needs that extra something sprinkled in!

But why male models?

Here at TAG, we’ve been inspired by the brilliant marketing campaigns we’ve seen over the past few days. These three stand-out strategies set fire to our creative fuel, so we’re giving them the attention they definitely earned.

A release on the runway

In case you missed it, Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson took to the Valentino runway during Paris Fashion Week in order to promote the Zoolander sequel. The stunt not only announced the motion picture in style, it also grabbed some major attention. Part of the success of this promotion hinges on the serious attitude surrounding Fashion Week and its designers, critics and brands. The surprise appearance was a comedic twist to Valentino’s catwalk, earning buzz not only for Zoolander 2 but also for the well-respected fashion brand.

 

NotThere Campaign

A campaign so subtle, you can’t ignore it

The #NotThere campaign was launched by No Ceilings for International Women’s Day, bringing attention to the state of gender equality worldwide. Implementing dramatic absences of women from billboards, magazine covers and commercials, this campaign not only drew attention through subtraction, it also achieved high success by supporting its messaging with an excellent landing page, well-organized and visually appealing data and clear calls to action.

 

VinceVaughn iStock

Bad stock photos make for great advertising

To promote their new movie Unfinished Business, actors Vince Vaughn, Dave Franco and others helped create a series of business-related iStock photos by Getty Images. Playing on the campy and cheesy aspect of stock photos, the cast managed to insert themselves into some laughably terrible stock images—that aren’t a far cry from the actual selection available to and oft-used by marketers. The blankness of stock photos is both the appeal and the detraction when crafting campaigns and promotions, making them the perfect stage for Vaughn and company to tout their new movie.

 

We’re excited to take these pieces of marketing inspiration and put our uncommon energy to work creating successful and meaningful campaigns that stick with our clients’ audiences long after they launch. From surprise appearances to disconcerting disappearances, these campaigns have heated up our creative atmosphere. TAG—we’re it so hot right now!

When-Some-Hot-New-Person-Scene

Put the heart back into your content

Putting Heart into Your Content Image

Content marketing budgets are predicted to continue increasing, and social media is becoming inextricably linked to a successful content marketing strategy. However, it isn’t always simple to write content that engages and, more importantly, converts. One of the best ways to get that attention you’re looking for is to write content with heart in it, and these are a few tips to help you create content that hits your audience right in the feels.

Do your research

Stay on top of the industry you’re writing for. Set up Google alerts, follow partners and competitors on social media and subscribe to the feeds that will make you a semi-expert in that field. Relevant content starts with relevant information. Ask yourself: “If I made my living in this industry, what would I care about right now?”

Breathe life into your content by using an original voice

After jumping on the bandwagon topic for the industry (you know, for relevance), be sure you stand out. Take the angle that will resonate most with the brand’s target audience. Instead of another voice in the crowd, be a trusted source of information by carefully tailoring your content.

Pick a topic and stick to it

Especially on social media platforms, each individual post should speak to one specific topic. Keep the message clear by efficiently stating the topic, what piece of it you’re addressing and why it matters. This way, content is distributed in easy-to-manage bits that won’t confuse, bore or annoy your audience.

Put your best foot words forward

You have milliseconds to make a good first impression. Put the brunt of your information right at the front of your content. Use relevant photos and impactful words to get your message across even before your audience fully reads your post.

Make the company’s heart beat

The easiest way to lose an audience is to focus on the subject of the company. Warm up your posts by directing attention toward human aspects of the business. Leave out jargon, tell stories, highlight individual people, have fun and reassure your audience that there are, in fact, humans behind that digital platform.

 

If your content doesn’t seem to be hitting the mark, contact TAG. Our team of experts is ready to help you put the heart back into your content. TAG, we’re it!

Social Media for Dummies

How do I use social media to market my business or myself? How often should I post on social media? Which social media network do I need to be part of? What type of content should I post? How do I generate sales from social media?

The tricky part about answering these common questions is that the answer is never the same. The choices you need to make in your social media marketing strategy will all depend on what it is you’re marketing—and to whom.

Do your research

Start by researching who your customers are, how they consume information and how they buy. Every product or service is different, so it’s important that you understand which audience is on which network and how they prefer to communicate. Once you’ve identified your customers’ habits, you can choose one of over 200 different social networks to share information with them.

Entertain, educate and promote

The right strategy for any social media platform is to entertain to grab your audience’s attention, educate to move them to the decision-making phase and promote products and services to close the deal. Over 70 percent of businesses are eliminated in a consumer’s research phase, so build trust by focusing on help instead of hype and creating top-of-mind awareness by being in the same space they are. Many times people will forget about what you do and how you can help if you do not constantly remind them!

Be social

Although social media can certainly be used as an advertising outlet, its platforms are primarily used as social networks. When you see good content, share it and tell your follower why it’s worth their time and attention to become an authority for your audience. Sharing content in a more conversational manner allows you to start discussions, learn more about customer needs and uncover opportunities. Also note that consumers nowadays demand interactivity with their brands. If you are not responding to Tweets, Facebook comments or actively listening for opportunities through social listening, you are missing out.

Manage your time

There are several free tools out there that will help you manage your time in marketing yourself on social media. Hootsuite and Buffer are two free tools that you can use to schedule your content posts in advance during the times your target audience is most active on social media. Gather shareable content from news reader sites such as Feedly which collect valuable content from several sources. Just be careful not to share anything from your competitors!

Outsource your social media management

Although the social media channels are free to sign up (for now) and creating posts are also free, you will soon learn that social media marketing is not free. Time is probably our most valuable asset, and it is very easy to invest many “free” hours into your social media strategy. Even if you have the expertise and capabilities to successfully engage buyers, the amount of time it requires may lead you to explore outsourcing options.

TAG excels at gathering, creating and posting content that engages our clients’ target audiences, and one of the most important advantages of working with TAG is that our clients save loads of time on their digital marketing strategy while still reaping the benefits of the top-of-mind awareness, trust and leads that come with it. Click here for more information on TAG’s social media services!

Video might be the secret digital marketing ingredient you haven’t added yet

Online Video

A solid digital marketing recipe takes more than just sugar and spice. Video is the zest of the social media world. If it’s not in your strategy, its absence is definitely noticeable at a time when a good branded video experience can make 39 percent of viewers more likely to research your brand or product further and 19 percent more likely to share other content from your brand.

So, here are some video-sharing platforms to consider integrating into your digital marketing strategy—and fast.

YouTube

YouTube ranks as the world’s second largest social network and second largest search engine, meaning posting video to YouTube puts you in a good place to be found by potential customers. And, YouTube is getting into the e-commerce referral game with interactive features allowing viewers to buy products and services directly from the video platform.

Facebook

Video will rule Facebook in 2015. In the last year alone, video uploads have increased by 94 percent with Americans watching at least one video on the social network each day. Users will see four times more video in their Newsfeed in 2015—will your video be one of them?

Twitter

Twitter is introducing Promoted Video in 2015. Video ads will autoplay for six seconds, and Twitter’s beta test found that these native videos generate better engagement and more views than before. In addition to better user experience, these promoted videos also offer a Cost Per View ad buying model—meaning marketers only pay when a user clicks to play the video.

Instagram

200-million users strong, Instagram generates high engagement rates with 15 times more engagement than Facebook and 40 times more engagement than Twitter. And, this Facebook-owned platform now offers 15-second autoplay video advertising spots, though targeting ability is not as advanced as other channels. If brands can tailor their content to Instagram’s aesthetics, they can really bring in the engagement from this platform’s new sponsored videos.

Snapchat

Snapchat is growing as a marketing tool, allowing businesses to share messaging while being casual and relatable to their audience. Snapchat is perfect for showcasing your personality, and it’s also a good choice for teasing products, promoting sales and even hosting contests.

 

While there are many other video-hosting platforms available, these are the major players for 2015, and it will pay off BIG TIME to get them into your digital marketing strategy. From social media platforms to email campaigns to websites, video is perfect for showing off your brand and sharing your messaging in an engaging, meaningful way that drives traffic and conversion across channels.

For help creating an integrated digital marketing strategy that makes the most of video, get in touch with the team at TAG!

Do you remember these five social media phenomena from 2014?

As 2014 comes to a close, we might be surprised to remember everything that’s happened since January, especially when it comes to social media. In a digital space where the #trending board changes every day, it can be hard to recall those especially impactful events that gained momentum through social media platforms. To help jog your memory, here are five phenomena from 2014 that we shouldn’t forget.

#SochiProblems and the 2014 Winter Olympics fiasco

What happens when a city can’t boast great living conditions for its own citizens, let alone build itself up enough to support the Winter Olympics? Worldwide ridicule, disgust and #SochiProblems happen. The 2014 Winter Olympics were held in Sochi, Russia, a city that simply wasn’t prepared to handle the burden of hosting, housing and entertaining the hordes of athletes, correspondents and spectators that arrived to watch the games.

Within three days of its launch, the Twitter account @SochiProblems boasted more followers than the official @Sochi2014 account. From technical issues at the opening ceremony to bad bathroom planning, @SochiProblems poked rigorous fun at the humiliating mistakes in Sochi. While most #SochiProblems were due to unfinished construction, there were also issues like lost luggage, dangerous courses and unsanitary food and water. Athletes and journalists alike had a field day with #SochiProblems.

For a hot minute, it seemed that #SochiProblems would shine a light on the civil rights concerns in Sochi and other parts of Russia, but the Internet community was too focused on laughing at toilets to take a closer look at the underlying Russian culture.

The @SochiProblems account has since been modified, but #SochiProblems lingers, reappearing when preparation is horribly lacking and mass chaos ensues. We can only hope that a slew of #RioProblems don’t crop up in 2016!

Ellen’s Oscar selfie that broke Twitter – and the retweet record!

Kim Kardashian set out to “break the internet” in November, but way back in March it was Ellen DeGeneres that managed to shut down Twitter after posting a celebrity-filled selfie on her Twitter account during the Oscars ceremony. In the most retweeted tweet in the history of Twitter, DeGeneres poses with fellow stars like Jennifer Lawrence, Lupita Nyong’o and Brad Pitt while Bradley Cooper takes the photo.

The crowded frame of actresses and actors gathered around DeGeneres quickly became an iconic and incredible piece of social media history, earning well over three million retweets since it was posted in March. The greatest part of the event was the world’s ability to watch the phenomenon happen in real time on the television and immediately experience the Twitter platform crash on their devices. All hail the Oscar selfie!

The FIFA World Cup 2014 and global conversation

In June and July, the 2014 FIFA World Cup overtook the globe in a dazzling display of digital marketing power. Through social platforms like Twitter and Facebook, the tournament reached an incredible number of people, with billions of posts and millions of interactions, passing up the 2014 Super Bowl and Olympic Games on social media venues in the United States. Partly due to digital marketing tactics and features like Twitter’s “hash flags,” the World Cup exploded through viewer participation as they “joined in” the conversation, just as FIFA asked them to do. The social media sphere made the world a little smaller, connecting nations and fans through hashtags, pages and memes (like those about Luis Suarez’s biting problem or Tim Howard’s goalkeeping prowess).

TAG reinforced its social media strategies with some of the things learned from the engagement during the World Cup. Check out the investigation in a  previous blog!

#ALSIceBucketChallenge and viral charity

In a frenzied storm of charity, the ALS Ice bucket challenge took over social media in the summer of 2014. The “ice bucket challenge” itself was not originally linked with ALS, being a method of fundraising in which a few people were challenged to either pour a bucket of ice water over their head or donate money to a charity of their choice.

However, a non-profit baseball tournament raising money for ALS patient Anthony Senerchia Jr. reaped the benefits when #StrikeOutALS was used in conjunction with the challenge, and the challenge became fatefully linked with the fight against ALS. Through concentric social networks, the challenge reached former professional baseball player Pete Frates—and then it really took off!

Pete Frates

With incredible momentum, the #ALSIceBucketChallenge plastered itself across all social media channels, gaining celebrity and even political attention (before it was pointed out that politicians are forbidden from “endorsing” that kind of campaign), and the ALS Association saw a huge leap in donations. In the first month of the challenge, the ALS Association saw nearly ten times the amount of money donated during the same time frame in 2013!

The campaign might have continued if the weather hadn’t become too cold—or if there was anyone left to nominate!

Robin Williams and depression awareness

On August 11, 2014, actor and comedian Robin Williams was found dead in his home at 63 years of age, and his death was ruled a suicide. The beloved comedian struggled with severe depression, a stigmatized illness that took center stage as the details of Williams’ death were released.

From favorite Robin Williams quotes, to well wishes for Williams’ family, to support for those struggling with depression and thoughts of suicide, social media buzzed with the shock of loss. In the midst of the grief, hope shone in the form of depression awareness. Many spoke out against the stigmatization of depression and suicide, calling out media personalities who deemed Williams a coward for his actions, sharing support for people struggling with their own or a loved one’s illness and posting advice for suicide prevention.

 

It can be difficult to predict what the social media community will latch on to next, but one thing is for certain—events and ideas can spread like wildfire through these channels. What trends are you expecting to see on social media in 2015?

Show me your site map

You wouldn’t build a house without a blueprint, would you?

Building a website requires the same thought, planning and structure as building a house and having a site map before development starts is the easiest way to ensure the website you envisioned is the site that’s produced.

You might be asking yourself, “What’s a site map?” A site map is a document that outlines the structure, or blueprint, of your website, which allows you to visually understand the framework that holds your design and content together.

Site Map Sample

Before you proceed with the design and development of your website, make sure you have a site map in hand. A benefit that TAG offers to our clients, a site map is imperative to your success for three reasons:

Understanding the structure of your website
Where is your contact information stored? What pages have in-bound marketing? How do people find your company history? All of this information is housed on your site map, giving you the ultimate breakdown of how your website is laid out, where to find content and how the end user will experience everything your site offers.

By laying it out from the start, you can be sure everything that needs to be included makes it into the site and avoid surprises or oversights later.

Understanding the functionality of your site
Having a complete understanding of how your website functions is key to knowing how customers will interact with your content. This is especially handy when in-bound marketing is involved. Your site map will show you where in the process your customer will receive a confirmation email when information is submitted, how they connect with your social networks and where they will be presented with opportunities for ecommerce and email marketing.

Having this laid out in the site map in advance forces you to think through and coordinate functions across the site before development is underway so that you and the user get the most out of your site when it’s finished.

Understanding the scope of your project ($$$!)
Let’s face it, dollars matter. The only true way to know that the dollar amount on an estimate matches the work put into your website is to have it all laid out. Remember those potential surprises and oversights that could crop up without a site map? Those can add up over the course of development if the client and developer are on different pages as the site is being built.

For an accurate estimate in terms of time and expense, a site map is a must!

 

TAG saves everyone a headache down the road by taking the time to sit down with our clients and plan out a site map that includes the site structure, functions and scope. Projecting a vision for the site and nailing down the details in a site map is the best way to ensure a quality product that meets and exceeds expectations!

To download our free Web Development Services Checklist and learn more about our web design process, visit our website!

Here’s how social media affects the customer service experience

What holiday shopping feels like
What holiday shopping feels like. Via weloveit20.tumblr.com.

As the holidays approach, customers demand more and more of businesses, often becoming aggressive when products and services are not to their liking. If approached correctly, social media can be a blessing when it comes to soothing stressed consumers, providing an outlet for customer frustration as well as offering solutions to problems on both the customer and company end. This is a great chance to shine when it comes to customer service!

There are pros and cons to almost any tool these days, and social media is no different. Companies, businesses and organizations can leverage social media to their advantage when it comes to customer service but only if they are willing to take the risks and approach situations quickly, appropriately and accountably. Keep the season merry and bright with these considerations about social media.

 

It’s fast

The up side: Problems can be addressed more quickly, making customers feel valued and heard.

Organizations can immediately respond to notifications on social media channels, and it is in an organization’s best interest to do so. Especially when customer service phone lines are tied up or when offices are closed, social media is something that more and more customers are turning to in the event of an issue or emergency. Those quick responses garner customer respect and can smooth a few ruffled feathers before the conversation about their problem even begins.

The down side: The problems might not be able to be fixed as quickly as they are addressed.

Even when an organization representative can get back to a customer in record time, the customer’s issue itself may not be so easily resolved. Because their social media message received immediate attention, customers may then expect their problem will be fixed just as quickly, leaving them frustrated if that is not the case.

The take away: Extra lines of communication are always a good thing, enabling better feedback, understanding and a quick method of responding. Authentic replies build better good-will toward the organization which has the potential to offset frustrations that may arise. And, there’s a good chance the organization’s response can clear up the problem without further action, anyway!

 

It’s removed

The up side: It’s easier to be polite and organize your thoughts through text.

Written notes allow both the customer and the organization representative to plan out what they want to say, and frustrated tones are easier to leave out of text than speech. This means that the customer and the organization can have more productive conversations with less defensiveness.

The down side: Anonymity provides protection for bad manners, and some mediums (like Twitter) may be too limiting for thorough explanations.

Often, commenters will hide behind their keyboards as they sling insults and slanders at organizations or its members. There are some people that are more interested in tarnishing a reputation for past hurts than actually seeking a change in their service or product. In those cases, communication through social media offers few solutions beyond giving the customer the most positive impression possible.

Channels like Twitter that limit characters can also lead to misunderstandings as both parties try to appropriately abbreviate what they’re trying to say. It isn’t long before communicating through those social media channels feels more burdensome for both the customer and the organization than other methods of communicating, like a phone call or an email.

The take away: Always, always, always put your best foot forward in social media conversations. Manners, empathy and authenticity should shine through digital interaction—not irritation, condescension and apathy. If the organization reaches out with positivity, the customer will be more likely to respond in kind.

Use social media as a tool for starting a conversation—if the problem is too complex for the medium, offer other methods of communication such as a phone call, email or— depending on the organization—a face-to-face meeting. Organizations should use language that is accurate and precise but not confusing to the customer to ensure that the situation is handled appropriately and to both parties’ satisfaction.

 

It’s a public forum

The up side: Customers have the security of accountability on your part, and well-handled situations make the organization look good.

The promise of publicity helps to keep both customer and company honest in social media interactions, which means the customer may already be more relaxed than if he or she were to approach you over the phone or through contact forms. Organizations can take that natural security and turn it to their advantage by responding professionally, setting a precedent for the general audience about how they handle ALL forms of communication.

The down side: Bad reviews or organization mistakes can be broadcast to a wide audience and gain momentum.

If you build it, they will come. Once it’s clear that social media is an effective way to reach the organization, customers will jump on board, for better or for worse. Especially in the case of actual wrong-doing or fault on the part of a company or company representative, being called out on social media can snowball into a barrage of bad reviews and disparaging comments.

The take away: Organizations should respond publically to any queries on social media but promote a private method of communicating, like messaging, in order to have a more authentic conversation with the customer that is also less harmful to the organization brand. NEVER reveal a customer’s private information on a public medium or act rudely toward the customer. Your audience doesn’t know what may have happened in the past—make a good impression in the present.

 

Customers should not be punished for reaching out to an organization, no matter what attitude that customer adopts. Make social media work for your customer service strategy by responding quickly and politely to questions, issues or complaints, and don’t forget to reward positive feedback with a “like” or a retweet! The audience will be taking note of how the organization reacts to these situations, so always stay professional in public and private interactions!

For more on TAG’s social strategy and best practices, visit our website!