Thursday, March 31, 2016

Association Spotlight - SMBMSP: Community + Coffee (with a Side of Bacon)


“The overarching problem is that everyone sees and uses social media from a different perspective.” 

Social Media is and should be a significant component of any marketing strategy. Various platforms work for situations, be it business to business (B2B), business to consumer (B2C), start-up, non-profit, etc. Depending on your company's needs, you can use different aspects of paid, earned or organic social media strategies to build community and connect with your customers, consumers and prospects. So how do you know what strategies to use? Studying your target markets is important, but some associations like SMBMSP give you a chance to connect with other business professionals who may have so tried and true ideas, strategies and tactics to use. 

What is SMBMSP?

Social Media Breakfast - Minneapolis/St. Paul (SMBMSP) is a monthly event where marketers and other professionals meet to learn about all things social media. The organization was started in December 2007 by Rick Mahn and was modeled after the first event started earlier that year in Boston. The association goal is to connect people who enjoy sharing what they know to build partnerships, career, and friendships and help members manage job searching and career changes.

SMBMSP has had 87 events that include frequent "Social Media Case Studies", "Data Lies - Extracting Truth from Marketing Data", "Community Management Conversations", and "Content Kickstart: Get the Most out of your Video Content." The events typically take place on the third Friday of every month. The incredible management team always live streams and records the event those who cannot join can still tune in. 


I attended my first event in March of 2015, which was one of the Social Media Case Studies' Events. Marketers from the agency and corporate sides outlined their social media marketing successes, inciting discussions and ideas audience members could use in their respective fields. I have attended most of the event since then and have had a chance to learn a lot of real life examples and uses of social media as a part of marketing strategies. I have also been able to network with extremely knowledgeable people in the field and currently volunteer and help with set-up and welcoming attendees. 

How to join SMBMSP

If you would like to attend the events, you can either sign up for the next event on April 15th here or subscribe for email updates here. And remember, even if you are not in the Twin Cities area, you can still tune live stream or watch the event videos here.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Measurement! What Is It Good For?!

“Measurement is like laundry. It piles up the longer you wait to do it.” 
Amber Naslund, SVP of Marketing, Sysomos 

Most things in life have inputs and outputs. You do your homework; you get a grade or, at least, the self-gratification of a job well-done. You put vegetables and fruit in a blender; you get a smoothie. You give your customers 'great' content and hopefully, get engagement and conversion as outputs. 

As digital marketers, when we release this 'great' content into the ether, how do we know if it was well received or has accomplished the goals we set? That is when data collection, listening, and measurement come into play. In business, it is important to plan how we will measure the outputs of our actions, how frequently and have goals for success and failure and room for improvement. Amber Naslund, SVP of Marketing at Sysomos explains it best when she says, “Measurement is like laundry. It piles up the longer you wait to do it”, expressing the need to routinely check the results of campaigns and marketing efforts.

What is Measurement?

Measurement in digital marketing is a means of evaluating the effectiveness of the campaigns, online communities and other tactics against business goals and objectives. It is essential to be aware of your starting points (baselines), what you want to achieve (targets) and, how competitors you want to match or surpass doing, as well as your history (benchmarks). Measurement is incredibly important for being able to assess the return on investment (ROI) of your marketing efforts.

Types of Measurement
Hootsuite categorises two types of measurement, and defines them as
Quantitative, which focuses on numerical values and their growth and decline over time. Examples include follower growth, click through rate (CTR), and conversion rate (CVR)
Qualitative, which is a more nuanced approach to collecting insights and is best done on a post by post basis. Examples include positive and negative sentiments and comments on new product launches.
When setting goals for measurement, we typically look at key performance indicators (KPIs) like conversions, engagement rates, bounce rates and sentiments.

Measurement Tools
While there are many tools you can use for measurement in digital marketing, here are a few to serve as starting point for your exploration.
Google Analytics is an excellent tool for tracking referral traffic, that is, which channels people are using to find and interact with your business. 
Sysomos aids in gathering insights, monitoring and analyzing data from your social media that can then be used for decision making.
Hootsuite can be used to measure and manage the performance of your social media networks.
Social Mention allows you to search for your company or keywords and gather real-time data about mentions, sentiments, hashtags and more from social media, blogs, microblogs, bookmarks, images, videos and questions.
Marketing Grader by HubSpot uses various metrics to determine the strength of your inbound marketing initiatives through social media posts, conversions and frequency of blog posts.
Social Media Platforms like Facebook and Twitter have analytics and insights pages you help you track the effectiveness your posts and ads.

As you can imagine, measurement is one of the biggest and most important topics in digital marketing that could have an entire blog solely dedicated to it (and there are many). We will revisit this issue, take a deeper dive into each type of measurement, and review different tools. Until then, click here for more on the topic from one of the best minds in the business, Avinash Kaushik

What tools do you use for measurement? Comment below!

Thanks for reading!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Happy Easter Everyone!

Happy Easter Everyone! I wanted to take this opportunity to say a big thank you for following this blog and reading the posts. I truly appreciate the chance to share this journey with you. I am looking forward to sharing more digital marketer and association spotlights as well as reviews of courses and tools. In the coming weeks, we will also delve into important topics in digital marketing like Measurement, Community Management, Crisis Management, and more.

I hope you are enjoying the change of seasons for those of us in the temperate and subpolar regions. For those who celebrate easter, I hope you enjoy church and the plethora of opportunities to eat lots of candy.

Happy Easter and Thanks for reading!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Grow Your Skills… with Grammarly!

“The past is always tense, the future perfect.” 

  ― Zadie Smith                             

We have all had that moment where we have written an immaculate email or post for social media, proofread it numerous times, and then clicked send. And in that irreversible moment when the post is sent into the ether, you see that horrendous typo that makes you appear unpolished or unconcerned with detail. The horror!!! (Make sure you read that with the most British of accents!) In today's world, many of us have some form of writing in our lives, be it for work, school or a hobby. Any tools that help spare us the aforementioned embarrassment are greatly appreciated. 

A few months ago I began to see ads for a writing app called Grammarly, that promised to serve as a second pair of eyes for those silly writing errors we all make from time to time. I was a little skeptical but ended up trying the free version and loved it. I recently sprung for the premium version and opted for the quarterly plan, which I would recommend to anyone with a writing intensive job, major at school, or hobby. Even Forbes has praised the app saying, "Grammarly quickly and easily makes your writing better."

What is Grammarly?

At this point you may be wondering what Grammarly is and how it works. It is an application that acts as a grammar and spell checker. Most reviews confirm the claim that the app corrects more errors than most word processors and can help you avoid embarrassing mistakes in emails and on social media. Grammarly has a grammar checker, a spell checker, a plagiarism checker (students, a special shout out!), and a proofreading tool. With these tools, Grammarly wants to help you:
  • Eliminate Errors
  • Enhance clarity and meaning
  • Become a better writer
  • Write anywhere
How does it work?
If you are sold on Grammarly or want to check it out, you can click here to sign up. The app's algorithms allow it to find errors and suggest changes, propose synonyms for overused words, questions your choice to write in the passive voice among other grammar issues. 

You can use the free version, which does spelling and grammar checks whenever you are online, be it on Blogger, Twitter, Gmail and more. If you are more concerned with writing skills or want to be able to edit your content directly in a word processor like Microsoft Word, then opt for the premium version. The premium version allows you to unlock more advanced features like the proofreading and plagiarism tools. Grammarly's plans and pricing as of March 21, 2016, are $29.95/month, 19.95/month for quarterly plans (billed as one payment of $59.95), or $11.66/month (billed as one payment of $139.95)
I swear by the Grammarly app and use it for everything I write. If you have used the app and have any comments to add, please do not hesitate to comment below. As always, if you have any questions shoot me an email at, and I will explore the topic. 

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Meet Tony Rivera, Digital Marketer


"It is the ultimate luxury to combine passion and contribution. It's also a very clear path to happiness." 
- Sheryl Sandberg

Tony Rivera works as a Project Manager at Gage and is the Vice President - Programming at the Minnesota chapter of the American Marketing Association (MN AMA). Before taking on the Project Manager role at Gage, he worked as an Engagement Manager there. Tony started his career while working on his B.A. in Sociology at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, as a Promotions Coordinator at Red Bull. He then took a position as Event Production Intern at The Mayer Company, clocking hours of experience on projects like One Man Minneapolis and The Ivey Awards. Tony then had a three-year sojourn at Paradysz a Relationship Manager and then a stint as an Account Executive at Macleod & Co.

What does a typical day in your role look like?

I would venture to say I do not have a typical day. I work as a Project Manager at Gage, an engagement marketing agency, servicing the Microsoft Educator Community and working on a platform like this no two days are the same.

One day I am working on the content strategy for the latest Microsoft educational content and the next I am working with our UX team to enhance how users connect with that content. I love that each day is a little different – it keeps me engaged and excited about what we do.

What are you passionate about?

For me, all roads lead to ‘connection’. In my time serving on the Board of Directors for the MN AMA, I have had the opportunity to meet amazing people and make really wonderful connections with incredibly smart marketers. I want others to have that opportunity as well.

I plan the MN AMA’s monthly programs and events and want to create an atmosphere for people that is fun and inviting, and maybe they will learn a little something too. I love helping people find their place in the industry here in the Twin Cities. There are so many opportunities, and there is room at the table for everyone so if I can help someone make a great professional connection, I will do it.

What do you find most challenging about your job/career?

The way we connect with and serve content to customers is constantly changing, and we need to remain agile. This is not some wise epiphany I have had, we all know it. I think I am the most challenged by staying on top of emerging media and staying current on the industry trends. I love that challenge, though.

I make an effort to sit down each week and read a handful of industry articles even if it is only for a few minutes. Whenever possible I try to parlay that information into my career and ask myself ‘How can I leverage what I’m learning to most effectively communicate with my client’s consumers.’

What do you find most enriching about your job/career?

My work with the Microsoft Educator Community has provided me with a professional and personal fulfillment that I truly enjoy. Not only am I able to work on a project that is fun but it’s also creating some good in the world. Providing free educational content to educators globally who would not have had access to this information otherwise is a great feeling. 

These students can see how big the world actually is with live Skype interactions with expert speakers from around the world. It is helping to educate a new generation in a new way and create global citizens. 

How did you find yourself in the career you currently hold?

Honestly, by complete accident. At one point in my life, I wanted to be a lawyer but later in my college career I decided marketing was where I belonged (I think my parents secretly hope I end up going to law school eventually).

Marketing is such a broad term, and I have had the opportunity to test out several facets of it. I have done media planning, traditional account work, social media and community management and now content and creative strategy. I think working in several different types of marketing has allowed me to discover what I am truly passionate about. If you find your passion, the great work will follow.

Words of advice for anyone who wants to pursue this career?

Network, network, network. I honestly believe I have gotten where I am because of the people I have surrounded myself with. And I’m not talking about adding a bunch of strangers on LinkedIn, I mean get out and meet people. Ask people to coffee or happy hour and pick their brains. You do not need come with a list of million questions, just get to know them. Go to marketing and advertising networking events and make new friends. It is scary and challenging but in the long run; it is worth it.

To learn more about Tony Rivera, click here!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Free and Low Budget Ways to Increase Your Digital Marketing Acumen!

Henry Ford once said, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”It is imperative that whatever field you find yourself in, that you continue to educate yourself. Digital marketing has rapidly become a force to reckon with in the business world. Currently, if you are not in an educational environment or in a role where you routinely interact with or receive updates on the newest trends and tools, it may be difficult to have the skills required to thrive. That is why it is so essential to keep educating yourself, especially for those interested in building a lasting career in the industry.

Free Certifications & Courses
Hubspot has an Inbound Marketing Certification that is free charge and takes about 5 hours to go through the 12 classes that include topics such as IInbound Strategy, Social Media, Blogging the Conversion Process and Email Marketing. You have 75 minutes to answer 60 multiple choice questions. Read our review here

Google has two free certifications that are essential for digital marketers: Google Analytics and Google Adwords. Analytics certification allows you to demonstrate proficiency in the Google platform and teaches you the basics of analysing web traffic for business. The AdWords certification enables you to show proficiency in the platform as well as fundamental and advanced concepts of paid search. Reviews of these certifications are coming soon.

Hootsuite Podium has six free courses on the Fundamentals of Social Media Marketing. The courses include Introduction to Social Media Marketing, Optimizing Social Media Profiles, Social Media Strategy and Social Advertising Fundamentals.

Low-Cost Certifications & Courses
Udemy is a massive open online course (MOOC) platform that allows people of all backgrounds and experience levels to take courses and grow their knowledge. The courses available range from free guitar lessons all the way to insightful Social Media Marketing certifications like SO ME Academy's Certification. (Read our review here)
Hootsuite Certification: After completing the Hootsuite courses, you can take the exam to get certified for a cost of $199. The exam is timed, and you have 60 minutes to answer 60 questions with a minimum passing score of 80%. The exam does not expire and does not need to be retaken once you pass. There is, however, a subscription of $199 that is renewed annually. A review of this certification is coming soon.

Coursera is also a MOOC but is different from Udemy in that all the courses available are partnerships between Coursera and various colleges or universities. Most Coursera courses have certifications attached as well as a capstone project and can serve as an excellent way to get a portfolio piece to discuss during interviews. Coursera's pricing is on the higher side of the spectrum, with individual courses starting at around $49 and full certifications beginning at about $350. Two courses I can recommend are Social Media Marketing by Northwestern University and Digital Marketing Certification by University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

The article in no way meant to cover all the options of free and low-cost opportunity to grow your digital marketing acumen and brand yourself. Instead, it serves as a starting point to give you the tools and language needed to start this journey.
Instead, it serves as a starting point to give your the tools and language needed to start this journey.
If you would like to reach out for advice on any of these certifications or have any other topics you would like me to cover, please email me at  

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Digital Marketer Spotlight: Laura Best

Source: Laura Best

"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.”
- Dr. Seuss. :)

Laura Best, president of Best + Co and founder of the Passion Collective, is an advertising and marketing veteran in the Twin Cities. After getting her BA at the University of Warwick, she worked as an account executive at Smart Communications and as an account manager at Harrison Cowley. She came to Minnesota for vacation, fell in love with the Twin Cities and moved here. She continued to work in account management for agencies such as Hunt Adkins and Space150 before moving to the client side, where she worked in interactive marketing with Amercian Express and Ameriprise Financial. 

Laura eventually moved back to the agency side, working in strategy and account management at Schematic (now Possible Worldwide), Mono, FRWD Co., and RBA, Inc. (Talk about ruling an industry!). She most recently has created digital strategies for various top brands, such as Target, HealthPartners, and Medela. Laura also launched the Passion Collective as a space to help women find their paths and passions in life.

What does a typical day in your role look like?

I have multiple “jobs”! My first is a mom, so my first priority is always getting my daughter up and to school and planning for the family meal and activities in the day. Then, I can concentrate on work. Typically, I check my social channels for the news over a cup of Yorkshire Tea, and then I check my work email for any urgent client messages.

I’m currently running two businesses - my digital practice and my “Passion Collective” organization, so my day is typically split between the two. I try to do new business and Passion Collective work in the mornings as I find it suits my energy better that way. Then, depending on the strategy work I have, I hunker down in the afternoon to write, research or plan. Then, I break off for family and mom fun (school pick up, swim class, dinner, and bath time) and a few times a week I’ll work in the evenings although I try not to every night as I have found I need the downtime to relax and think. Somewhere in there, I make time to work out and meet friends or go to industry events…the working out often has to come first!

What are you passionate about?

Connecting people and helping them create a difference. I do this through my digital strategy work (where I help clients create plans and content that resonates with audiences and drives action) and though Passion Collective (where I am helping women make positive changes in their lives through community and content.)

Other than that, my daughter is the light of my life, and I can talk forever about baking, tennis and books ;)

What do you find most challenging about your job/career?

Gosh, big question. Over there years, there have been many challenges and one of the greatest has been being a woman in the “man’s world” of business. I’ve found that working hard and doing your best - although your parents tell you that’s what to do - doesn’t always apply and that there is a game to be played in business. It takes times to determine a balance between playing the game and being true to yourself.

Now I am my own boss, I can choose who I partner with and what I do with my days, so my challenge is different. Now, it’s more about motivating myself each day to do my best and also continually refining what I do so that people understand the benefit it can bring.

What do you find most enriching about your job/career?

I really value the relationships and interaction I make along the way, whether it’s on a project or meeting someone for coffee. I also am really proud of the impact Passion Collective is already having on women in the Twin Cities, just six months after launch.

How did you find yourself in the career you currently hold?

You know, I have a history degree. Nothing to do with media, marketing but a lot to do with stories, writing and making clear cases for the truth. So, I suppose that led me to where I am. That said, it has honestly been a mix of my tenacity along with some good old fashioned fate that has got me to this point in my career journey.

Words of advice for anyone who wants to pursue this career?

If you’re looking to get into digital strategy, you have to be utterly curious about how people think and behave. Marketing, whether digital or otherwise begins there. Then, be a power user and lover of social and technology tools. And finally, study how business works - especially those businesses that are disrupting the marketplace. What are they doing differently? What are they changing? How? There is so much competition out there now, you have to know your stuff, so any opportunity you get to volunteer your time, use it to practice your skills and gain case studies. Finally, and this is super important, you have to work incredibly hard and be true to your word. No career succeeds without those two things.

If you are in the Twin Cities area and are looking for opportunities to learn and gain skills, check out the Passion Collective, an organization for women. For additional information, contact Laura Best or visit

Thanks for reading!

Monday, March 7, 2016

What SO ME Academy Taught Me!


"Focus on how to be social, not how to do social."
- Jay Baer, president of Convince and Convert

Social media has quickly become one of the key components of digital marketing. Anyone who wants to be a digital marketer needs to have a basic understanding of how to use social media to help obtain business goals and objectives. For a person desiring to specialize in Social Media Marketing, it is crucial that you get some certifications from renowned and respected influencer businesses. Two of the social media influencers I have found useful are SO ME Academy and Hootsuite

What is Social Media Marketing?
SO ME Academy defines social media as "all the means of interactions among people in which they create, share, and exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks" and classifies six types of social media:

The Certification Process
SO ME Academy’s certification process costs $299 or $15-30 if you are lucky enough to catch one of Udemy's flash sales. The course has about 5 hours of video content in lecture style and walks you through:
  • The basics of social media
  • Social media strategy
  • Getting started with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, Instagram, and Blogging
  • How to do a social media audit (for those who already have social media pages)
  • The history of social media
  • Social media content marketing
  • Social media automation
The SO ME Academy course is also filled with lots of quizzes, case studies, workbooks, and templates and help you fully harness the social media marketing guru hidden in you. Once you pay for the course, you have lifetime access to the course including any updates made. You get a certificate from Udemy and one of SO ME Academy, as well as a badge for your LinkedIn profile. My one complaint would have been that the course does not feature social media marketing on LinkedIn at all, but SO ME Academy has a remedy for that with an hour and a half long course for $199 that you can find here.

To learn more about SO ME Academy's Social Media Marketing Certification, click here!

Thanks for reading!