Facebook’s Miscalculated Metrics: What Marketers Need to Know

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Over the past couple of months, you may have heard some things about Facebook’s metrics.

There was talk of numbers — lots of them. Things were overestimated. Others were underestimated. People were kind of upset. But mostly, they were confused. What the heck happened? How was Facebook going to respond? And at the end of the day, what did it mean for marketers? Breathe, and don’t panic — we’re here to answer all of that.But before we dive in, let’s make one thing clear — none of it is the end of the world. Download our free guide for more data-backed tips on creating the optimal  Facebook Ad. In fact, most of the issues have already been addressed and repaired; at this point, the most important item on our agenda is to clarify what’s actually going on.

What Happened?

It started with video

The drama began in September 2016, when Facebook revealed that there was a problem with its video viewership metrics — the average time that users spent watching videos was being largely overestimated.

Mathematically, Facebook wrote in a statement, that metric should have been the resulting figure from dividing the total time spent watching a video by the total number of people who played it. Instead, the total viewing time was divided by the number of times the video was watched for three seconds or more.

So, let’s say a video received a total viewing time of five hours, or 300 minutes, and it was watched by a total of 1,000 people, 700 of whom watched it for at least three seconds. The viewership metric should be 30%. Instead, Facebook was dividing those 300 minutes by 700, resulting in a larger metric of nearly 43%. And, says the Wall Street Journal [WSJ], that went on for nearly two years.

For a social media platform that boasts how effective its video tools are for marketers, the announcement was an embarrassment. The advertising world was especially unhappy about it — Publicis Media, an ad-buying agency, told its clients that Facebook indicated viewing time overestimates of up to 80%. There were calls for third-party metric verification protocols to be put in place, and while Facebook said that it fixed the error and would be looking into such improvements, the metric misfortune didn’t end there.

A bit of a bug

In fact, just yesterday, Facebook announced that it discovered a bug in its Pages Insights that’s been lurking since May. The summary displaying seven- or 28-day organic page reach was incorrectly added up as the sum of daily reach over that period. That means duplicate visitors were being counted in every instance, leading to a number that was 33% higher than it should have been for seven-day summaries, and 55% for the 28-day ones. Facebook clarified that this error would not impact paid ads.

Here’s how Facebook visually represented the error — the red circle indicates where the duplicate viewership would have appeared.

Facebook Page Insights

Source: Facebook

But you’ll notice that there are green circles in that image, too. Those indicate the insights that were unaffected by the bug — which was the “vast majority” of them — and includes the following measurements:

  • All graphs
  • Daily and historical reach
  • Per-post reach
  • Exported and API reach data
  • All data on the Reach tab

What else was impacted?

In addition to the Page Insights, the bug really only impacted a total of four out of Facebook’s 220 measured metrics, according to WSJ. The remainder included:

More video miscalculations.

This time, the “video views at 100%” — which has been renamed to “video watches at 100%” — metric was impacted, thanks to a glitch that sometimes causes a video’s audio and visual components to be unsynced.

That means that even though the visual is played to completion, the audio may continue after the visual stops. But since about 85% of Facebook video is consumed without sound, viewers are likely to stop watching the video before this latent audio completes. As a result, “video watches at 100%” metrics might now increase by an estimated 35%.

Instant articles.

Here’s another case of Facebook’s overestimations. The average time spent reading Instant Articles — a method by which Facebook displays news articles at a rate 10X faster than a typical mobile web browser — was reported to be 7-8% higher than the actual length of time per article.

Referrals.

In Facebook’s Analytics for Apps dashboard, “referrals” are intended to measure the number of clicks on a post that were directed to an app or website. But it turns out that the “referrals” metric was counting more than that, and inaccurately also included clicks on the same post to view media, like photo or video. That led to an overestimate of referrals by about 6%.

Facebook’s Response

In Facebook’s defense, significant measures have been taken to resolve all of the above issues.

For some, the errors pertaining to ads seem to be the most pressing, which could be why the social media platform has dedicated an entire page to the updates around ads reporting alone. Most of those changes are intended to provide clarification over what exactly is being measured and how — mostly in the interest of “fairness and transparency,” Mark Rabkin, Facebook’s VP of core ads, told WSJ.

Plus, Facebook claims to be taking the feedback to implement third-party measuring protocols seriously, and aims to further clarify how it’s going to calculate ad viewership, as well as the source of that data. Some of it will be coming from Moat and Integral Ad Science — platforms that are used to measure ad and content engagement — which will be used to measure display ad campaigns (previously, those platforms were only available to measure video campaigns).

But Facebook is also enlisting the help of a true viewership pioneer: Nielsen.

Nielsen has its own Digital Content Ratings metric, which Facebook will be implementing to count video viewership — both on-demand and live. That comes with Nielsen’s Total Audience Measurement, which helps marketers compare digital metrics to those from TV.

There’s also a new blogging property launching — Facebook’s Metrics FYI — which will contain regular updates about any and all changes to the platform’s metrics henceforth.

These efforts are all compounded by the formation of a Measurement Council — or, as we like to call it, Facebook’s jury of peers. The Council will be comprised of “business and measurement executives,” and is a bit of an extension of Facebook’s existing Client Council, which helped to develop the tools that help businesses measure ROI.

What It All Means for Marketers

So just how seriously should we be taking it? Well, in short, marketers have reason to be happy about the improvements that Facebook is making, but shouldn’t freak out over the miscalculations.

Why is that? According to Daria Marmer, HubSpot’s social product manager, “Most of the metrics in question are what we’d call vanity metrics. Views and impressions are important, but don’t have a huge impact on your business at the end of the day.”

And while Marmer echoes the benefits of Facebook’s measures to fix these discrepancies, “We really encourage marketers to tie their social efforts to more concrete metrics,” she said, “such as website visits, downloads, new leads.”

She adds, “The social data from Facebook in HubSpot customers’ portals won’t change based on these updates.”

We’ve got you covered. And, we’ll continue to bring you updates to all things social as they emerge.

What do you think of Facebook’s latest announcements, and what sort of action are you taking? Let us know in the comments.

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How Emotion-Detection Technology Will Change Marketing

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Imagine someone arrives at your website, Facebook Page, or advertisement. Now, imagine that you could change your marketing dynamically, right there on the spot, in response to their emotional reactions.

It would be nothing short of a game changer for your business, right?

Yet this is not fantasy. Exploding with investment and technological advances, the world of emotion detection and recognition technology will change the face of marketing in the years to come.

Emotions are what drive your audience to purchase. In fact, studies by the neuroscientist Antonio Damasio found that people with damage to the part of the brain that triggers emotions — in other words, people that are unable to feel emotions — find it extremely difficult to make decisions.

The lesson? If your marketing is not evoking an emotional response from your target audience, you are making it extremely difficult for your prospective customers to purchase from you. That’s right, your own marketing is potentially causing prospects to turn away from you and your brand.

What’s a marketer to do? Let’s dive into some research. 

The Power of Emotions

Many of the most successful marketing campaigns and initiatives are focused on emotions. Take Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign, which was an attempt to change the conversation around women’s beauty. Or Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign, firing up the inner-athlete in everyone. Or MasterCard’s “Priceless” campaign, which has been powering brand success for a whopping 19+ years.

All of this marketing aims to move your heart, and then relies on the experience to build a lasting bond with the brand. What it doesn’t do is rely on feature sets, discounts, or new technology to move you to a sale. None of it speaks to the number of offices, employees, or years in business of the brand. Google Senior VP of Global Marketing, Lorraine Twohill, states, “If we don’t make you cry, we fail. It’s about emotion.”

Twohill is not alone with this sentiment. Multiple studies point to emotional marketing as more effective than other forms of marketing (e.g., product-focused marketing). Based on an analysis of 1,400 successful ad campaigns, the book Brand Immortality by Hamish Pringle and Peter Field reveals that advertising campaigns focused on emotional content performed approximately twice as well (31% vs. 16%) as those with only rational content.

The power of emotional content should not come as a surprise. After all, emotions drive us to action. As consumers, we first decide on a purchase based on emotion, and then try to justify it through the more rational parts of our brain. Longer-term, emotions are what cause people to prefer brand names, even if generic alternatives are available.

Findings from a 2015 Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience study of 100 ads across 25 brands in the consumer goods market revealed that ads with the best emotional response generated a 23% lift in sales, meaning that emotional marketing is not merely effective as an engagement vehicle but also as a true business driver.

And don’t think that emotion-based marketing is applicable to only B2C marketing and individual consumers. Business buyers are also creatures of emotion. In fact, successful B2B companies like GE, Cisco, IBM, AutoDesk, and Qualcomm all focus on emotions in their marketing. Similar to the Pringle and Field findings, the research report “From Promotion to Emotion: Connecting B2B Customers to Brands” by CES and Google explains that B2B brands achieve roughly twice the impact with a target audience when appealing to the personal value to the buyer including emotional benefits. 

A Mountain of Investment

In consideration of the power of emotional marketing, it should be no surprise that the emotion detection and recognition market is projected to be worth $ 22.65 Billion by 2020, according to the market research firm MarketsandMarkets. As a result, investment in the space is exploding.

Apple, one of the most valuable companies on the planet, has been keenly interested in emotion recognition for years. In 2014 the company filed a patent that described software for analyzing and identifying a person’s mood based on a variety of signals, including facial expression. Earlier this year, Apple acquired Emotient, an emotion-recognition technology company.

Emotient has a patent for a method of collecting and labeling up to 100,000 facial images a day, supporting a computer’s ability to recognize facial expressions. It’s reasonable to believe that Emotient’s emotion recognition technology will start appearing in iPhones and iPads before you know it, and then possibly used as a platform for more targeted and dynamic engagement when users are in their browsers.

Last year the consumer-research company Nielsen bought Innerscope, which uses biometrics such as brain scans and galvanic skin response (GSR) to measure subconscious emotional responses to media and marketing.

Affectiva, an emotion recognition technology developer, raised $ 14 million just a few months ago. Affectiva boasts the world’s largest emotion data repository, with 40 billion data points and close to 4 million faces analyzed using its technology.

Overall, those using emotion analysis to test audience reaction to their marketing include major marketers such as Unilever, P&G, Mars, Honda, Kellogg, and Coca Cola. For example, Kellogg’s used Affectiva’s software to determine its ads for Crunchy Nut cereal, with the goal of generating high engagement rates with the audience. Viewers were shown multiple versions of a commercial featuring animals. A version of the ad featuring a snake produced the most laughs, but low engagement rates when viewing the ad a second time.

The facial recognition software revealed that an alternative version of the ad featuring an alien produced the desired engagement levels. Kellogg’s therefore decided to rollout the alien-based ad instead, helping to drive the cereal’s sales.

Nothing Short of a Revolution

Being able to adjust one’s marketing dynamically, based on the real-time reactions of your audience, will empower marketers to provide the right message at the right time to the right person.

In the future, it’s likely that you’ll be able to calibrate your marketing mid-stream with just about any digital experience — no two prospects may experience a brand’s marketing in the same exact way.

Going beyond advertising, you can already see how Facebook is on a path to incorporating emotional reaction into a user’s News Feed by introducing “Reactions” this past February. Rather than simply “Liking” a post, users can now designate their reaction across six emotions: Like, Love, Haha, Wow, Sad, and Angry.

facebook-reactions-669x404.png

Facebook interprets the use of Reactions as an indication that a person’s network on the social platform wants to see more of those types of posts. That type of primitive application is sure to evolve moving forward. Sammi Krug, Product Manager at Facebook, explains, “Over time we hope to learn how the different Reactions should be weighted differently by News Feed to do a better job of showing everyone the stories they most want to see.”

As of the time of this writing, Facebook Ads treat Reactions the same as Likes. Ad reports do not include a breakdown of individual Reactions, although the breakdown can be found in Page Insights. For ad delivery, as well, Reactions are treated the same as Likes. Of course the next logical step will be for Facebook to treat different emotional reactions differently, rewarding Love more than Like, for example, and demoting an ad’s visibility if users express anger.

The Future

It’s safe to say that we should expect a great deal of change in the world of marketing moving forward. Gabi Zijderveld, CMO at Affectiva, provides a peek into the future by explaining the evolution of emotion recognition technology:

Initially, the technology was used to understand how consumers engage with their brand content and advertising, and how these emotions then influence brand awareness and purchase intent. Now the technology is also used to infuse consumer experiences, apps and interactive advertising with Emotion AI. This will help to transform the face of marketing and advertising by reading human emotions and then adapting consumer experiences to these emotions in real time. The technology gives marketers the power to truly delight and engage their customers with uniquely dynamic and personalized interactions.”

Web development is already on the path towards more personalization. As emotion recognition technology becomes more sophisticated and more deeply embedded in our array of devices, it will become expected that our computers and phones provide us with a continual progression of customized triggers and messaging. The technology will be found even in future car dashboards, refrigerator doors, and conference room walls — essentially any surface will become a possible means for detection of emotions.

Social media will constantly focus on each user’s emotions. For example, in the future expect Facebook’s algorithm to focus just as much on one’s emotional reactions as it does to one’s historical click behavior, providing a unique social environment that goes far beyond prediction of the types of posts, pages, and ads one would like. Expect Facebook Ads to provide advertisers with the ability to hyper target not only based on age, geography, and job titles, but also on the individual’s emotional state or progression of emotional states.

Online marketing will likely evolve into sequential experiences, with deeper engagement upon recognition of positive emotional reactions. You can also expect more deeply embedded forms of marketing similar to product placement. Ultimately, expect emotion recognition to be just another core component of marketing, similar to how “digital marketing” is now really just “marketing.”

Emotion recognition technology is clearly bringing about a revolution in marketing. Are you ready to start capitalizing on the opportunity?

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15 of the Best Email Marketing Campaign Examples You’ve Ever Seen

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At one point or another, we all need inspiration to do our jobs better. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a marketing veteran who has navigated through years of changing technology or a newbie fresh out of college — we all need examples of outstanding content. It helps us get through creative ruts, make the case to our boss for experimentation, and improve our own marketing.

Most of the time, inspiration is easy to find because most marketing content is publicly available. You can scour the internet or go on your favorite social network to see what your connections are talking about.

But there’s one marketing channel that is really, really hard to find good examples of unless you’re already in the know: email. There’s nothing casual about it — you usually need to be subscribed to an email list to find great examples of emails. And even if you’re subscribed to good emails, they are often bombarding you day after day, so it’s hard to notice the gems. Download our free guide here to learn how to create email marketing campaigns  people actually click. 

Because it’s so difficult to find good email marketing examples, we decided to do the scouring and compiling for you. Read on to discover some great emails and get the lowdown on what makes them great — or just keep on scrolling to get a general feel for each. However you like to be inspired is fine by us!

15 Examples of Effective Email Marketing

1) charity: water

When people talk about email marketing, lots of them forget to mention transactional emails. These are the automated emails you get in your inbox after taking a certain action on a website. This could be anything from filling out a form to purchasing a product to updating you on the progress of your order. Often, these are plain text emails that email marketers set and forget.

Well, charity: water took an alternate route. Once someone donates to a charity: water projects, their money takes a long journey. Most charities don’t tell you about that journey at all — charity: water uses automated emails to show donors how their money is making an impact over time. With the project timeline and accompanying table, you don’t even really need to read the email — you know immediately where you are in the whole process so you can move on to other things in your inbox.

charity-water-email-example

2) BuzzFeed

I already have a soft spot for BuzzFeed content (21 Puppies so Cute You Will Literally Gasp and Then Probably Cry, anyone?), but that isn’t the only reason I fell in love with its emails.

First of all, BuzzFeed has awesome subject lines and preview text. They are always short and punchy — which fits in perfectly with the rest of BuzzFeed’s content. I especially love how the preview text will accompany the subject line. For example, if the subject line is a question, the preview text is the answer. Or if the subject line is a command (like the one below), the preview text seems like the next logical thought right after it:

buzzfeed_inbox

Once you open up an email from them, the copy is equally awesome. Just take a look at that glorious alt text action happening where the images should be. The email still conveys what it is supposed to convey — and looks great — whether you use an image or not. That’s definitely something to admire.

Without images:

buzzfeed-email-example-1.png?noresize

With images:

buzzfeed-email-example.png?noresize

3) Uber

The beauty of Uber’s emails is in their simplicity. They let their email subscribers know about deals and promotions by sending an email like the one you see below. We love how brief the initial description is, paired with a very clear call-to-action — which is perfect for subscribers who are quickly skimming the email. For the people who want to learn more, these are followed by a more detailed (but still pleasingly simple), step-by-step explanation of how the deal works.

We also love how consistent the design of their emails is with their brand. Like their app, website, social media photos, and other parts of their visual brand, their emails are represented by bright colors and geometric patterns. All of their communications and marketing assets tell their brand’s story — and brand consistency is one tactic Uber’s nailed in order to gain brand loyalty.

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4) TheSkimm

We’ve written about TheSkimm’s daily newsletter before — especially its clean design and its short, punchy paragraphs. But newsletters aren’t TheSkimm’s only strength when it comes to email. Check out their subscriber engagement email below, which rewarded my colleague Ginny Mineo for being subscribed for two years.

Emails triggered by milestones like anniversary emails and birthday emails are fun to get — who doesn’t like to celebrate a special occasion? The beauty of anniversary emails in particular is that they don’t require subscribers to input any extra data, and they can work for a variety of senders and the timeframe can be modified based on the business model.

Here, the folks at TheSkimm took it a step further by asking her if she’d like to earn the title of brand ambassador as a loyal subscriber — which would require her to share the link with ten friends, of course.

the-skimm-email-example.png

5) Mom and Dad Money

Think you know all about the people who are reading your marketing emails? How much of what you “know” about them is based on assumptions? The strongest buyer personas are based on insights you gather from your actual readership, through surveys, interviews, and so on, in addition to the market research. That’s exactly what Matt Becker of Mom and Dad Money does — and he does it very, very well.

Here’s an example of an email I got in my inbox a few weeks ago. Design-wise, it’s nothing special — but that’s the point. It reads just like an email from a friend or colleague asking for a quick favor.

Not only was this initial email great, but his response to my answers was even better: Within a few days of responding to the questionnaire, I received a long and detailed personal email from Matt thanking me for filling out the questionnaire and offering a ton of helpful advice and links to resources specifically catered to my answers. I was very impressed by his business acumen, communication skills, and obvious dedication to his readers.

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6) Poncho

Some of the best emails out there pair super simple design with brief, clever copy. When it comes down to it, my daily emails from Poncho, which sends me customizable weather forecasts each morning, takes the cake. They’re colorful, use delightful images and GIFs, and very easy to scan. The copy is brief but clever — some great puns in there — and aligns perfectly with the brand. Check out the copy near the bottom asking to “hang out outside of email.” Hats off to Poncho for using design to better communicate its message.

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7) Birchbox

The subject line of this email from beauty product subscription service Birchbox got my colleague Pam Vaughan clicking. It read: “We Forgot Something in Your February Box!” Of course, if you read the email copy below, they didn’t actually forget to put that discount code in her box — but it was certainly a clever way to get her attention.

And the discount code for Rent the Runway, a dress rental company that likely fits the interest profile of most Birchbox customers, certainly didn’t disappoint. That’s a great co-marketing partnership right there.

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8) Postmates

I’ve gotta say, I’m a sucker for GIFs. They’re easy to consume, they catch your eye, and they have an emotional impact — like the fun GIF in one of Postmates’ emails that’s not only delightful to watch, but also makes you crave some delicious Chipotle.

You too can use animated GIFs in your marketing to show a fun header, to draw people’s eye to a certain part of the email, or to display your products and services in action. Here are the best places to find GIFs on the internet, and here’s an easy Photoshop tutorial for making your own.

chipotle-gif.gif

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9) Dropbox

You might think it’d be hard to love an email from a company whose product you haven’t been using. But Dropbox found a way to make their “come back to us!” email cute and funny, thanks to a pair of whimsical cartoons and an emoticon.

Plus, they kept the email short and sweet to emphasize the message that they don’t want to intrude, they just want to remind the recipient that they exist and why they could be helpful. When sending these types of email, you might include an incentive for recipients to come back to using your service, like a limited-time coupon.

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10) InVision App

Every week, the folks at InVision send a roundup of their best blog content, their favorite design links from the week, and a new opportunity to win a free t-shirt. (Seriously. They give away a new design every week.) They also sometimes have fun survey questions where they crowdsource for their blog. This week’s, for example, asked subscribers what they would do if the internet didn’t exist.

Not only is their newsletter a great mix of content, but I also love the nice balance between images and text, making it really easy to read and mobile-friendly — which is especially important because their newsletters are so long. (Below is just an excerpt, but you can read through the full email here.) We like the clever copy on their call-to-action buttons, too.

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11) Warby Parker

What goes better with a new prescription than a new pair of glasses? The folks at Warby Parker made that connection very clear in their email to a friend of mine back in 2014. It’s an older email, but it’s such a good example of personalized email marketing that I had to include it in here.

The subject line was: “Uh-oh, your prescription is expiring.” What a clever email trigger. And you’ve gotta love ’em for reminding you your prescription needs updating.

Speaking of which … check out the clever co-marketing at the bottom of the email: If you don’t know where to go to renew your subscription, the information for an optometrist is right in the email. Now there’s no excuse not to shop for new glasses!

warby-parker-email-example

12) Cook Smarts

I’ve been a huge fan of Cook Smarts’ “Weekly Eats” newsletter for a while. The company sends yummy recipes in meal plan form to my inbox every week. But I didn’t just include it because of its delicious recipes … I’m truly a fan of its emails. I love the layout: Each email features three distinct sections (one for the menu, one for kitchen how-to’s, and one for the tips). This means you don’t have to go hunting to find the most interesting part of its blog posts — you know exactly where to look after an email or two.

I also love Cook Smarts’ “Forward to a Friend” call-to-action in the top-right of the email. Emails are super shareable on — you guessed it — email, so you should also think about reminding your subscribers to forward your emails to friends, coworkers, or heck, even family.

cooksmart-email-example

13) HireVue

“Saying goodbye is never easy to do… So, we thought we’d give you a chance to rethink things”. That was the subject of this automated unsubscribe email from HireVue. We love the simple, guilt-free messaging here, from the funny header images to the great call-to-action button copy.

Not only are the design and copy here top-notch, but we applaud the folks at HireVue for sending automated unsubscribe emails in the first place. It’s smart to purge your subscriber lists of folks who aren’t opening your email lists because low open rates can seriously hurt email deliverability. We sent out a similar email in December 2015 when we automatically unsubscribed people once they became unengaged, which you can read about here.

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14) Paperless Post

When you think of “holiday email marketing,” your mind might jump straight to Christmas, but there are other holidays sprinkled throughout the rest of the year that you can create campaigns around.

Take the email below from Paperless Post, for example. I love the header of this email: It provides a clear call-to-action that includes a sense of urgency. Then, the subheader asks a question that forces recipients to think to themselves, “Wait, when is Mother’s Day again? Did I buy Mom a card?” Below this copy, the simple grid design is both easy to scan and is quite visually appealing. Each card picture is a CTA in and of itself — click on any one of them and you will be taken to a purchase page.

paperless-post-email-example

15) Stitcher

Humans crave personalized experiences. It’s science. When emails appear to be created especially for you, you feel special — you’re not just getting what everyone else is getting. You might even feel like the company sending you the email knows you in some way, and that they care about your preferences and making you happy.

That’s why I love on-demand podcast/radio show app Stitcher’s “Recommended For You” email. I tend to listen to episodes from the same podcast instead of branching out to new ones. But Stitcher wants me to discover (and subscribe to) all the other awesome content they have — and I probably wouldn’t without their encouragement.

I think this email is also quite a brilliant use of responsive design. The colors are bright, and it’s not too hard to scroll and click — notice the CTAs are large enough for me to hit with my thumbs. Also, the mobile email actually has features that make sense for recipients who are on their mobile device. Check out the CTA at the bottom of the email, for example: The “Open Stitcher Radio” button prompts the app to open on your phone.

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These are just some of our favorite emails. Don’t just follow best practice when it comes to your marketing emails. Every email you send from your work email address also can be optimised to convert. Try out our free email signature generator now. Check out some more of our favorite HubSpot marketing email examples.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in October 2013 and has since been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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Does Your Nonprofit Need Marketing Automation?

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Every marketing team is overworked. We’re all looking for ways to maximize the ROI on our efforts. For many organizations, using a marketing automation tool and workflows can provide a quantum leap forward in marketing results.

Of course, implementing a market automation system takes some money and know-how, which raises the question whether the investment makes sense for any given organization. It may well for your organization. Don’t buy into the overhead myth and assume higher marketing costs are a bad thing for your organization. The increased costs can be the best expense you make if they’re going to increase your membership and donations.

But not every organization’s marketing team is ready for automation. If you’re not already set up to take advantage of automation’s potential, that’s when you spending money and energy without getting the return. Your organization has important work to do with its funding. It’s no good spending it on marketing automation before you’re ready to make the most of it.

Here’s an overview of what marketing automation is really about, as well as a checklist you can run through to determine if you’re organization is ready or has some marketing gaps to fill in first.

What Marketing Automation is Really About

Most importantly, don’t think you can sit back and “set it and forget it.” That’s a big myth. Marketing automation doesn’t do your marketing for you. It amplifies the processes you already have in place. So if they’re good processes – terrific! If they’re not so good this checklist is a great starting place for your team to start building its own content marketing framework.

Creating a good framework means you’ve got a reliable system in place for publishing valuable inbound marketing content. Content that will attract and generate a strong, steady stream of leads you can nurture along to become members or donors. If your current challenge is generating traffic as well as leads using your content, focus initially on getting your system in place, and creating the desirable, valuable content your personas will want. 

Then when you’re steadily getting new leads, and your team becomes overwhelmed trying to respond to them, that’s the time to step up into your marketing automation system more completely. Turn on those lead nurturing and re-engagement campaigns. Start testing one lead nurturing email sequence against another. Tweak. Refine. Improve.

Marketing automation done well means leads won’t get ignored. The best of them will also automate the personalization of the content that you send. This is where marketing automation can take you a quantum leap forward.

Marketing automation is about scaling all the great marketing you’re already doing, so it’s executing the campaigns you design at a pace and volume that your team couldn’t possibly do manually. But you and your team need to still be at the heart of it all.

So Is Your Organization Ready?

Go through these questions with an objective eye to gauge whether your organization could benefit now by implementing a marketing automation tool.

1) Are you generating a constant stream of new, qualified leads?

To realize the benefits of marketing automation, your database needs to be a good size and constantly growing. Furthermore, the new leads coming in need to be good fits to convert into members and donors. If your database is too small, automation will just overwork the leads that are there. People will start to feel spammed and you may well see your list shrink rather than grow.

For more tips on this first crucial step, check our our introduction to inbound marketing and lead generation for nonprofits >>

2) Does your team feel overwhelmed by the number of leads pouring into your database?

If so, you may well benefit from marketing automation to make sure all these leads get their due attention.

3) What emails are you sending manually right now? Do you have email series that can be put into an automated workflow?

To reiterate the main point about what marketing can and cannot do, it can’t make a blah email series to re-engage dormant constituents, that only has middling results, into a success. What it can do, is take a string of your best performing nurturing emails and put them on autopilot for you. 

If you want to improve the efficiency and automate your lead nurturing campaigns, marketing automation can help with that. If you’re content to send one-off emails on a campaign-by-campaign basis, then marketing automation may not add much value  for you. 

4) Are you engaging with leads, members, and donors across multiple channels?

The more information your marketing automation system can gather about the people in your database, the more it can do for you. This means that marketing automation becomes more powerful the more you already engage with people through multiple channels. It’s easy to think of marketing automation only as email, but that’s selling it short. You can automate workflows that rely on other digital channels both to gather intel and push out content.

5) Do you already have manual “triggers” you use to push out relevant content to leads?

A lead who visits your donor page a certain number of times. Or a member who downloads your most recent annual report. A lead who watches a new video about the organization’s work. These can all be triggers. Do you know when your leads take relevant actions? If you do, do you have a plan that you execute that’s relevant to the action the person took 

These are all steps that marketing automation relies on. You can tell the automation system what triggers to identify and what to do with them once trigger conditions are met, but you need to know first.

6) Got the content needed to support personalizing and scaling up your marketing efforts?

The triggers and data collection intel are all about sending the right content to the right lead at the right time.  So you need the right content that speaks to different leads who are at different points in their journey. You don’t want to send a solicitation letter to join your highest donor circle level on someone’s first download. Maybe send an invitation to join your newsletter instead.

If you need sufficient input (leads) into the marketing automation machine to make it work, you also need sufficient output (relevant content). Your team needs to be producing and publishing content that’s mapped to a lead’s journey so they can be successfully nurtured further down the path.

Getting Your House in Order First

Content marketing is a continuous growth process. When you first start with inbound marketing, you learn along the way what messages and formats get your audience to respond at different points in their journey. As you refine your content and the donor’s journey, you start building workflows and criteria that make putting new campaigns and content together more efficiently

The next step in this process is marketing automation that moves your workflows from manual to automatic. The timing to move to automation makes sense when you have a steady stream of leads coming in, along with list segmentations, and lead nurturing campaigns that are getting good results.

If you’re not there yet, don’t worry. Start working on the steps on this checklist. You’ll start to see great advances in membership and donor amount drives every step of the way towards marketing automation.  Inbound Marketing for Nonprofits Crash Course


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11 of the Best Olympic Marketing Campaigns, Ads, Commercials & Promotions This Year

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The 2016 Summer Olympics are officially over. But for two weeks, billions of eyes from around the world watched athletes attempt to break records and bring home the gold. What a perfect opportunity for marketers, no?

Many brands jumped on the Olympics bandwagon, leveraging its popularity for their own campaigns. Some of these brands created particularly inspiring campaigns, both to viewers and marketers alike — whether for the emotion they elicit, or for the reminder of exactly how to execute a remarkable ad or marketing campaign. Download even more examples of remarkable marketing and advertising campaigns  here. 

We rounded up the ones that tugged at our heartstrings as viewers, or inspired us to be better marketers. (Sometimes both.) Check out this list of 11 of the best campaigns from the 2016 Summer Games and what made them so great.

11 of the Best Olympic Marketing Campaigns, Ads, Commercials & Promotions This Year

1) Under Armour: Rule Yourself

The Under Armour brand doesn’t just value the success that comes from hard work; it values the hard work and 24/7 dedication that leads to that success. Their emphasis is on self-improvement and self-reliance — which is why they acquired the fitness tracking platform MapMyFitness back in 2014.

Under Armour’s ad campaign for the 2016 Summer Olympics perfectly embodies these deep-seeded values. It focuses on the side of athletic achievement that no one sees. For Michael Phelps, that’s the ice baths, cupping therapy, and 12,500 calories he has to eat every day. For an ordinary person, it might be taking the stairs, getting a full night’s sleep, or tracking your meals using their MyFitnessPal app. But the message is the same, and it’s a powerful one: “It’s what you do in the dark that puts you in the light.”

2) Proctor & Gamble: “Thank You Mom”

For the 2012 Summer Olympics, Proctor & Gamble created a campaign called “Thank You, Mom” that showed flashbacks of Olympic athletes from all over the world growing up and practicing their sport with support from their mothers. That same campaign is back again this year, featuring athletes and their mothers from this summer’s Games.

This year’s campaign shows athletes’ mothers helping them through times of stress, cheering them along, and supporting them. Notice the clickable link they added to the video that takes viewers to a web page where they can send a personalized thank-you note to their own moms. Take a look … and maybe grab a tissue.

3) Panasonic UK: #Superfans

Cheering on your country is a lot easier when you’re the one hosting the Olympics, as Great Britain did in London in Summer 2012. With the Games in Brazil this year, Panasonic, a long-time official partner to the British Olympic Association, wanted to help Great Britain keep up the fan-fueled momentum. So in April 2016, they announced a crowdsourced campaign called #Superfans, which invited fans of Team GB to post pictures on social media using the hashtag to encourage engagement.

“It is a great opportunity for us to share our passion for the Olympics as a company and to connect with consumers on an emotional level,” said Managing Director of Panasonic UK Andrew Denham. “This is why Panasonic’s heritage as a global Olympic partner is so important to me – it adds some real spark and colour to the brand.”

All the fan photos posted with the hashtag #Superfans was posted on a dedicated web page on Team GB’s official site, and Panasonic UK offered extra incentives like Twitter contests.

Here’s a sampling of the fan-sourced content on Twitter:

Even the U.K.’s premiere parachute display team got in on the action:

4) Apple: “The Human Family”

What makes the Olympic Games so special? The elite athletic competition, yes — but also the bringing together of people and cultures from all over the world. And it’s that second part that the folks at Apple chose to focus on in their Olympics commercial.

The ad showcases beautiful photos and videos of people all over the world taken using an iPhone, and it’s set to Maya Angelou reading excerpts from her poem, “Human Family.” What a beautiful message.

5) Coca-Cola: #ThatsGold

Not all of us can be Olympic athletes — but the folks at Coca-Cola make the case that even ordinary people like you and me can experience the feeling of winning gold. To do this, they launched the campaign #ThatsGold, which they first integrated into a TV ad (shown below) with the “Taste the Feeling” campaign they launched in January 2016.

The Olympics commercial tied to the campaign is all about drawing a parallel between the thrill and excitement of winning a gold medal at the Olympics and the thrill and excitement of having a good time with the people in your life. They did a great job of drawing those parallels with compelling quotes and visuals, and nailed the ending with the line, “Gold is a feeling anyone can taste.”

In addition to the commercial, they set up a fully operational “real-time marketing” global hub in Rio that monitored the #ThatsGold hashtag during the course of the Olympics and created content around key moments in real time on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and more.

6) Virgin Media: #BeTheFastest

Virgin Media is all about being fast, advertising their WiFi speed as “fast,” “superfast,” even “ultrafast.” So it comes to no surprise that they chose to pay tribute to Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world, for their Olympics campaign this year.

Bolt set the World Record for the 100-meter sprint at 9.58 seconds at the 2009 Berlin World Championships in Athletics. To demonstrate what 9.58 seconds feels like, Virgin Media created an advertisement that strung together ten, 9.58-second vignettes that each cast light on a different part of Bolt’s life. The purpose? Both to celebrate Bolt’s spectacular accomplishment and to emphasize the importance of speed.

7) Airbnb: “Alternative Accommodations” Sponsorship

Back in March of this year, Airbnb became the first official “alternative accommodations” sponsor of the Olympics — the first time the Olympics has ever had an alternative accommodations sponsor, according to local Olympic officials. Why’d they do it? Mashable reports that when Rio won the Olympic bid in 2009, it had just half the 40,000 beds required for the games — so it was definitely a win for the city, the games, and Airbnb.

In exchange for an undisclosed amount to local Olympic organizers, Airbnb was included in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games’ ticketing platform by way of a specific landing page where customers were able to rent private homes and apartments in Rio. They also got a link to their site on the official Olympic website, along with calls-to-action encouraging people traveling to Rio for the Olympics to use the service for rentals.

Here they are in the first spot on the official Rio Olympics 2016 website’s homepage:

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To help promote homes and apartments for rent in Rio, they created Rio-specific videos and content for their larger #StayWithMe campaign, which invites Airbnb hosts to post photos or short videos on social media to showcase their countries. Here’s one Airbnb published right before the Olympics started, in June 2016:

8) Chobani: #NoBadStuff

Goodness is a choice you make, claims Chobani with their Olympic-inspired campaign #NoBadStuff. From a literal standpoint, their campaign is about the good, healthy ingredients in Chobani yogurt; metaphorically, it’s all about having a positive attitude, working hard, treating others well, and properly fueling your body.

Their campaign has a few moving parts, starting with a page on their website where you can meet the U.S. athletes they’ve partnered with who embody the positive, hardworking attitude that defines their campaign. Each athlete’s story includes an interview about their biggest challenges, how they stay positive, their favorite meal growing up, and so on — along with, of course, a giant picture of them enjoying Chobani yogurt

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Their campaign also includes a TV ad, content where U.S. athletes give advice on things like how to stay cool under stress, and — my personal favorite — a few limited-edition yogurt flavors inspired by Brazil.

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9) Folger’s: “Coach”

“Olympic glory doesn’t just belong to athletes, and it doesn’t just happen every four years. It happens one morning at a time, and one cup at a time.” That’s the message coffee company Folger leaves us with in their commercial, “Coach.”

Instead of focusing on the athletes, the folks at Folgers used their ad time to focus on the coaches that help those athletes get to where they are. Specifically, it follows the relationship between a boy and the coach that helped him through every win, every loss, every injury, and every moment of glory before he was eventually chosen to represent Team USA.

10) NBC & BuzzFeed’s Olympic Parternship

NBC is known for doing a thorough job covering the Olympics, from its online live streams to its TV interviews with medalists. But their roots are deep in old-school media like cable, which isn’t the most well-used and attractive medium for the younger generation. That’s exactly why the folks at NBC decided to partner with BuzzFeed for the Olympics this summer, where they produced special Olympic features and posted them to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat.

They sent “about a dozen” BuzzFeed staffers to Rio to create social media content, including a daily edition on Snapchat Discover, which is one reason this co-marketing partnership was a win-win for both brands. According to Steven Perlberg of Wall Street Journal, the President of NBC Olympics, Gary Zenkel, “wants to give BuzzFeed free rein to connect with Snapchat’s young audience.”

What kind of content did they produce? “The U.S. women’s gymnastics showed how friends have your back, like when they prevent you from texting your ex or have an extra hair tie,” wrote Perlberg. The women’s wrestling team destroyed watermelons. Swimmer Natalie Coughlin tested out waterproof makeup. The U.S. men’s gymnastics team took off their shirts, and readers were asked to guess the abs.”

Here’s a screenshot from a Snapchat Story featuring Olympic Swimmer Townley Haas, who showed off some tall people problems:

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Image Credit: BuzzFeed/NBCU

11) Budweiser: “America is in Your Hands”

Nothing says “America” like a can of Budweiser — and I mean that literally, thanks to their campaign leading up to both the 2016 Summer Olympics and November’s U.S. presidential election. In May, Anheuser-Busch announced it would be replacing the Budweiser logo with “America” on its 12-oz. cans and bottles this summer. The temporary re-packaging was accompanied by their summer campaign, “America is in Your Hands.”

The campaign itself has had mixed reviews, with complaints mostly surrounding the brand tapping into the polarized political climate. But the campaign did help increase Budweiser’s ad awareness and purchase consideration, at least initially. A week after the campaign began, the company reached its highest purchase consideration level of 2016 (i.e., the number of shoppers 21 and older who said they’d consider Budweiser the next time they bought beer), although that numbers have dropped back down since.

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Image Credit: STL Today

There you have it. We hope you found these examples inspiring. What other Olympics campaigns have inspired you, in 2016 or from previous Olympics? Share with us in the comments.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in August 2012 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

download the best marketing and advertising campaigns

download the best marketing and advertising campaigns


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