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Why Instagram is an Excellent Platform for Advertising

Over the last few years, Instagram has proven itself to be a very valuable asset in social media marketing, especially now that they allow companies to pay for sponsored posts. Instagram has adopted its own style of advertising and aids brands on conveying their message the right way. These messages have helped several big brands prosper, but that’s not the only reason to love this mobile platform. Marketing with visuals allows for easy branding and a big creative canvas, and Instagram could be just what you need.

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Instagram is simple, easy to use, great for branding and handheld!

Sponsored posts are created with quality control for quality results.

Unlike Facebook, promoting a post on Instagram requires a one-on-one with their creative team. Much time and thought is applied to creating the right sponsored content for your target, which could take from weeks to months to perfect. Before you start thinking that it’s a bit extreme for a mere Instagram campaign, think again. Rolling in sponsored images onto the feed of an Instagram user is risky business; you don’t want to interrupt their experience. So, the purpose of working with the Instagram team not only ensures that your promoted images are native and not disruptive, but that it brings the best results. In many of Instagram’s case studies with big brands like Ben & Jerry’s and Mercedes-Benz showed an increase in both ad recall, purchase intent, website visits and brand awareness.

It helps enhance brand experience.

Branding visually is an incredibly simple and effective way to promote a brand message. For example, brands like Taco Bell have been utilizing their Instagram for users to experience their restaurants from the eyes of their customer, capturing moments that the customer has with their products post-purchase. Candid depictions of tacos among friends, over-the-head shots of breakfast burritos on the laps of paisley-clad teen/millennials are taken just as the typical Taco Bell consumer would. Taco Bell pays attention to their target market’s trends, as well as acknowledges them as they go through the walks of life through graduation photos and high school “promposals.”

Enhancing your brand experience as well as Taco Bell means understanding what your target wants to see and how they want to see your brand. Taco Bell did this by Instagramming like their typical customer. Careful consideration on how you want to present your brand visually through this outlet will help increase brand awareness in the long run.

It makes branding an art form.

More Instagram users are ditching the over-saturated and over-edited photos for a more realistic visual technique. Instagrammers have adopted a visual aesthetic that perfectly captures their lives while giving it that artistic feel that photographers strive for. Instagram has lead to increased trends in photography, illustration and design; it’s not only bending the trends, it’s allowing anyone to be a professional photographer. Popular images are perfect, but not too perfect, and if it looks staged, over-edited or over-thought, it’s not trustworthy. That’s important to consider when branding through the platform, because advertising with Instagram doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to look like an ad. Capturing your brand message in a carefree, yet aesthetically pleasing way will capture your audience and increase brand awareness.

Can’t afford to promote? No worries.

Applying social media marketing techniques can still bring in revenue without the help of putting the time and money down to have your posts sponsored. After all, the Instagram app, as well as creating an account, are free. Working creative hashtags into your posts can give you the right leverage to help get your account noticed, because Instagram is all about finding new people. This platform has grown into a global community that encourages discovery. Their “explore” page encourages you to find the newest trending artists, photographers, even pets, while also highlighting trending tags and trending posts. Whether it’s finding new people, places or trends, Instagram is meant for exploration, which is great news for your brand if you want to get noticed.

If you depend on visuals to carry your brand message, create an Instagram for your company. Not only does it keep you up to date on the latest and greatest trends, you don’t even need to pay for advertising to have a successful account. Release the photographer in you by capturing just what makes your brand great, you’ll find many others that think you’re great, too.

How to Boost Sales During the Fall Season Without Selling Pumpkin-Flavored Anything

Pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere. Those big, orange squashes aren’t just for carving anymore. They rule the autumn season, and it seems that everything is pumpkin-themed lately, and it’s become a fantastic marketing tool for many companies. Before the weather even began cooling, Starbucks already announced that they’ll be releasing their ever-popular Pumpkin Spice Latte early this year (made with a new recipe!). Pumpkin spiced coffees, or other pumpkin-flavored foods and beverages, remind everyone why fall is the favorite season, but there are so many other non pumpkin-related marketing opportunities! While you’re still gearing up for fall, take a look at these pumpkin spice-less ways to advertise during the fall season.

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Pumpkin has become a huge fall marketing element.

Support your local teams.

Get involved with community events by advertising for or during fall sporting events like high school football games. Advertise discounts on game nights, or even discounts for when the home team has a win. This would be a great opportunity to advertise in the local newspaper. Offer to sell team merchandise in the store, or even create goods that have the team colors or logo on them. Even decorating the interior of your storefront in a way that shows your support can solidify your place in the community and show that you’re a team player, too!

Get spooky for Halloween.

Have some fun with your fall holiday selling by taking on a Halloween theme. Participate in the yearly trick-or-treating by giving away candy if your store’s location is appropriate to do so. Create small trick-or-treat goodie bags to give out to kids who show up in a costume, and even encourage adult shoppers to come in dressed up for a special Halloween discount. This can even be taken to social media, where shoppers can send in pictures of their Halloween costumes and be voted on depending the amount of likes or favorites their pictures receives. Advertise any costume contest and have prize giveaways for the winners. Even have the employees dress up during the week of Halloween, then be sure to post them on social media.

Have a company mascot? Create a contest with employees to create the best mascot costume or company-related costume and set them loose in the area as “brand ambassadors.” It’s a great free, fun idea for Halloween night! The mascots can even hand out candy bags with a company business card.

Remind everyone to give thanks.

Thanksgiving is a time of humanity, a perfect opportunity to show everyone your personal side once the ghouls of Halloween have gone away for the year. Take to social media to encourage followers to share family Thanksgiving recipes and photos on your page. A great campaign can be generated by the responses received. With Thanksgiving kicking off the holiday season, it’s also an excellent idea to get the community involved with a fundraiser for a local charity. Don’t be afraid to be personable, thankful and kind this time of year!

There are, in fact, other fall flavors to feature.

Who knew! If you’re in the food and beverage industry, advertising other fall flavored items like apple, cinnamon and maple will offer something a little different during the pumpkin-flavored takeover. This blog listing seasonal pumpkin-free beers has the right idea, add some variety! Seasonal items are great, but it’s okay to change things up every year, and it’s even better to stand out.

Additionally, grocery stores and markets can blog, advertise or social share special recipes featuring particular items in their shop. Everyone loves to create warm, homemade goods for the fall and Thanksgiving holidays, so advertising different recipes to try can prompt them to come into your store and give your recipes a whirl. Even if food and beverage isn’t part of your business, sharing personal Thanksgiving recipes on social media are sure to be a hit.

Although pumpkin is well-loved, don’t let that be the only special element you bring to your fall marketing efforts. There are still plenty of different ways that you can market during the fall season, and amongst the many other fall sales around you, you’ll want to stand out! Brainstorming the many other reasons so many people like fall can help create more unique marketing schemes. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the pumpkin, it can help lead you to a great sales season.

4 Social Media Mistakes Many Businesses Make

A business can become incredibly successful through effective social media marketing. After all, it’s the best paid advertising out there. However, there are a few simple goof-ups that many social network users may not even think about, and some can be harmful to your overall social media marketing success. Be sure to check to see that you’re not committing any of these detrimental social media mistakes!

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Committing any of these mistakes may leave you wondering why your social media marketing isn’t as effective as it should be.

1. Making it all about you.

You’re probably wondering why it shouldn’t be all about your business. After all, it’s your social network. While it’s great to talk about new products, accomplishments and your day-to-day business news, that’s not all your customers and followers want to hear. Social media is an excellent platform for building a brand, but don’t let that be your only focus. Remember that people look for quality in social media content, not a bunch of content disguised as a pitch for your products. It’s never a bad idea to take the spotlight off of your business once in a while. For instance, you can try sharing posts by friendly competitors in your field, news in your community or sharing content that your customers want to see. Don’t be wary about sharing the content of other businesses if it’s relevant to the industry, it helps builds relationships and looks really good on your part.

2. Being afraid of commitment.

Having a social media account, or multiple accounts, is a time investment. Being unable to dedicate some time during the day or week to upload content, update statuses and maintain up-to-date information can be devastating to any business with a social network. Schedule times during the day or week to really commit to these websites, because people aren’t likely to remain a follower for a Twitter account that only updates once or twice a month. If you don’t have time during the day, make sure to at least check for any comments and measure any new likes or follows. If you have multiple channels but don’t have enough time for each, consider cutting ties with one or hiring someone who has the time. Besides, it’s better for you to have one well-managed social network instead of two or three not-so-well managed ones.

3. Failing to check your ROI.

Rate of Investment, or ROI, is important to measure, even if all that you’re investing is your precious time. Measuring ROI ensures that you’re not wasting any of your time, and that your efforts are bringing in the best results. Google Analytics can help you sort out how much you’re getting out of the time you’re putting into your social media use. It’s often measured through the amount of shares, likes, follows, website traffic and overall interaction on your page(s). Measure how well you’re doing. If you aren’t doing as well as you could be, take note of what you need to change. Don’t be afraid to set goals!

 4. Not creating enough engaging material.

Talking at your followers is one thing, but creating engaging content that encourages interaction is almost an art form. Chances are, your followers are looking at hundreds of different sources of content, most likely from friends, family and coworkers. This means that, unfortunately, you’re not necessarily a priority when it comes to their social media perusing. To help generate conversation, consider your target audience, what their interests are and what they want to talk about. Most importantly, be prepared for any responses from followers. Don’t leave comments unanswered, and try to answer them as promptly as possible. That shows that you care about what they have to say. Refrain from treating your business’s social media like a PR feed, get noticed by creating something worth talking about. Creating conversations based on a shared interest can not only keep the customer interested, but it can help build relationships.

Having multiple social media accounts for your business doesn’t mean that’s all the social media marketing you’ll need to do. Being consistently active by posting quality content can help build your business in the internet world, and the internet world is an important place to be. Keep in mind these simple mistakes for the next time you find yourself asking why your business’s social media networks aren’t getting enough attention.

Forget What You Know About Targeting Millennials

Recent studies by Carat tells us that the Millennial generation are more than just the typical digital native. This group of individuals aged somewhere between 15-35 have been generalized so much that there’s a good chance that your advertisements haven’t even been engaging them effectively. These studies are telling us that lumping “Generation Y”  into one simplistic category is so absurd in fact, targeting them would almost be like targeting the population of an entire country! So, it’s time to end the stereotyping and get to really know one of the most influential markets out there.

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Who the Millennials really are.

You’ve probably been force-fed the stereotypical nonsense that says Millennials are 15-35 year old digital natives with a wicked case of FOMO (fear of missing out), when in reality, you’re really only hearing about one extreme. Bauer tells us that this only represents a fraction of the Millennial population, and that there’s much more dimension and diversity to this group. When you step back and think about the age differences and wildly differing stages of life each 15-35 year old Millennial is in, you’ll realize that there’s no way that they should be mashed into a homogenous category. Think about it; were you the same person at 15 and 25 years old? Bauer creates multiple categories that can describe the average Millennials, making it easier for marketers to understand this increasingly complex group.

  • The Influencers: Big media users and leaders who use their unique voice to set trends on the internet and digital world. Otherwise known as the typical Millennial. Influencers are extroverted, digitally native and more prone to share their personal experiences online.
  • The Adopters: Also big media users. Value intelligence and physical appearance to gain respect of peers. Trust in reliable brands rather than what’s trendy
  • The Apprentices: Younger Millennial group that focuses on bettering themselves, less of a focus on trends. Are aware of over-sharing and may only share to a select group of people. Very online privacy-aware.
  • The Entertained: Older Millennial group, likely to have children and living in an urban or metropolitan area. They value personal relationships. Often relies on digital media to keep themselves and family entertained.
  • The Contented: Older Millennial group, likely to live in rural areas and don’t consume as much media as the rest of the group. They don’t find much satisfaction with following and keeping up with the latest trends, are more focused on raising or starting a family.

Some new insights also indicate that the Millennial feels “bombarded” by pressures that come with viewing so much shared content from their peers. These pressures, paired with the post-recession economy are two things that greatly influence Millennials and their behaviors. They want to be everything they can be, and they want to gain acceptance through experience rather than through personal belongings.

Millennials Hierarchy of Needs

Millennial groups have differing needs and wants. Image from: thedrum.com

Things for advertisers to remember.

This new information means that many need to re-think their targeting strategy when it comes to the Millennial, and be ready for future changes as they continue to grow up. Not all Millennials think alike and, as illustrated in the infographic above, don’t share similar needs. Marketers should keep these different categories in mind rather than focusing on the more typically known “Influencer” so that their advertising executions can have a better outcome.

To start, a few key points to keep in mind are that many Millennials are overwhelmed by technology and the constant pressure to share, like or keep up with social media postings. They create idealized versions of themselves, a peephole into their lives that doesn’t tell us the big picture. They’re still figuring themselves out and, in turn, are looking for reassurance from their peers, whether it’s through comments, follows or likes. For many, there’s still a tremendous pressure to be accepted.

Additionally, the Millennial values experience rather than a material possession, regardless of age. Experiential branding is beneficial to those attracting the Millennial, but don’t be too quick to create an experience for them. The trick to branding to Millennials is being able to set the stage for a “shareable” experience, something that they can create on their own. Encouraging them to co-create a brand experience by engaging in social sharing and communication are a few things that Millennials consider important.

These new insights give us an excellent and new perspective for one of the most sought-after and most researched market group to date. However, we should keep in mind that as trends, technologies and people change, so will these market groups. Doing the proper research on a target market like the Millennial generation can benefit you greatly in the long run because it preps for what’s to come, like the newer and younger generation.

Free Burger Graphic

August 27th is National Burger Day, so here’s a fresh burger graphic! What are some of your favorite toppings to put on a burger?

Free to download for just one week, so get it while it’s still hot!

Cheeseburger Display

FREE DOWNLOAD: (300dpi RGB jpg) (300dpi CMYK jpg)

Only available for free from August 24th, 2015 through August 31st, 2015.

Miss this free graphic? Search for it on Creative Outlet!

6 Graphic Design Hacks For a Tight Schedule

Time isn’t everyone’s friend. Design projects, especially if you’re juggling multiple ones at once, can take more time than initially desired, so being able to utilize your time wisely is incredibly important. Whether you’re new to graphic design or not, time saving tips are important to remember because nobody wants to find themselves rushing. Take note of these tricks so that you don’t find yourself caught in a time crunch.

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Don’t get caught in a time crunch again. Try these graphicdesign tricks to improve work efficiency.

1. Create a checklist.

First things first, get your priorities in line. Make a mental map of the stages you’ll have to go through when creating this design, and how much time you may be spending completing each one. Make a list of important pieces that you’ll need to see completed, and check them off as such. Perhaps start with research, follow through with crucial design steps and end with revision. Make a goal to complete a certain number of checkpoints every day until the design due date.

2. Sketch it out first.

Sometimes, it’s much easier to have everything out in front of you before you dive into the big stuff. Sketching a template or rough draft of what you want to put on screen can save you a lot of revisions and is generally faster than just jumping in and editing as you go.  Most importantly, you’ll have a solid idea and image of what you want to create before you are in too deep and have to backtrack.

Need a healthy dose of inspiration first? Try taking a peek at design blogs, or even checking micro-blogging websites like Pinterest to get your creative juices flowing.

3. On Photoshop, create adjustment layers to prevent mistakes.

Creating a sufficient amount of layers is a no-brainer for many designers. However, what if you’re testing the waters on a new addition to the design? This is where adjustment layers come in. Adjustment layers allow you more control over the appearance of the layer and it prevents you from having to adjust everything if you decide to scrap this particular idea. To create an adjustment layer, go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > and select the desired adjustment. The layer is applied as a mask over the original, so you can see your edits without actually doing any changes to the original. Nice!

4. On InDesign, create your own custom color swatch library.

This trick can be especially useful if you’re creating designs for the same business and want to maintain consistency. To make your own swatches, start by opening your swatches panel (Window > Swatches). Select multiple at once by holding Command (Mac) or Control (Windows) and selecting the swatches you want grouped together. After the swatches are selected, click on the New color group button at the bottom of the panel. Once your swatches are arranged, click on the swatch panel options button, and save the swatch library. Viola! You can now go back to use particular swatch groups by clicking by clicking the swatch panel options button again and clicking open swatch library.

5. Utilize keyboard shortcuts.

If you’re trying to up your design speed, perhaps its time you started using those keyboard shortcuts. Depending on the computer you’re using, keyboard shortcuts vary, but can be easily found next to certain commands on Adobe InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop. Write a short “cheat sheet” to keep by your desk while you’re working on a design using shortcuts for commands that you use the most often. Every designer’s best friend is the shortcut for “undo,” which can be easily executed by holding Command + Z (Mac) or Control + Z (Windows). You can even create your own keyboard shortcuts. To do this, simply click Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts (Windows) or Program Name (ex. Photoshop) > Keyboard Shortcuts (Mac). Become more efficient with your designing by memorizing a good handful of keyboard shortcuts, your future self will thank you.

6. Use stock images.

If you’re not a photographer, or don’t have the time to hire a photographer or do it yourself, you can’t go wrong with stock images. Stock images, like the ones found on Creative Outlet, allow you to pick and choose the right photograph, illustration or graphic for your design needs. Browse thousands of photos at your fingertips until you locate the perfect image for your design. They’re high-quality, versatile and can help cut some time off of your project if you planned to do the photographing yourself.

Slow and steady may win the race, but being utilizing shortcuts and avoiding future mistakes can prevent you from spending all of your time revising. Try incorporating these graphic design hacks into your work, you may find that you are working more efficiently!

Is Imgur the Next Big Thing in Social Media Marketing?

Imgur, a social media platform often referred to as “Pinterest for guys” may be just what your social media marketing is looking for. For those who aren’t familiar with the website, Imgur (pronounced “image-er”) is a Photobucket-like site that allows users to quickly and easily upload and share images, gifs, memes and other more humorous content. Imgur was initially created for easier image uploads on Reddit, but quickly became the universal way that internet users upload and post image content onto other social networking sites. The popular image sharing site has gained the attention of advertisers since they announced that they would be launching a promoted posts option for marketers this July.

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Millennials love Imgur for its funny content.

Imgur is home for 150 million users, mostly male Millennials. Although it’s not quite one of the top most visited websites out there, it is said that these users spend at least 3 hours on Imgur weekly. In fact, since last February, the website has grown by 97% in unique visits, that’s 31 million! It’s increased popularity has caused Imgur to evolve from a image sharing site to a more social platform. How? Imgur users are beginning to do more than just upload and share images, they’re sharing their own visual stories. Imgur has become a more personable website that allows for visual storytelling.

Imgur’s growing online community shows potential for advertising executions as it becomes more personable, but advertising on Imgur is tricky because users aren’t keen on ads. Imgur’s  owners want to maintain their user base without shattering their online community with intrusive advertisements, so the purpose of Imgur’s promotional posts are so they can remain native without causing disruption among the site’s visitors. Imgur’s creative team works to craft each brand’s post so that it fits in with the language, feel and style of the rest of the website’s content. They’re very careful with introducing promotions onto their site because users are likely to have a negative response. However, their methods have proven to be successful since 9 out of 10 users respond positively to Imgur’s promotional posts.

This is still the beginning for Imgur advertising, but they seem to already understand what they’re doing. Such a positive response from users who would normally dread their favorite website developing advertisements shows that Imgur knows and understands their users. Their native advertising allows for the ads to happen naturally, and maybe some people don’t even realize they’re ads. They tested their sponsored posts with Ebay, who knocked it out of the park with their storytelling campaign, “It’ll be worth something, someday.”  It seems that the Millennial still enjoys a good story, as long as it keeps some of the humor.

Even though Imgur’s new promotional features have allowed them to take the next step in social networking, it is still a little difficult for brands to navigate the site. Imgur doesn’t yet have follower counts for registered users, nor does one even need an account to upload images and peruse the website. This can be a challenge for those looking to create a presence on Imgur. However, with these big changes that have come to fruition, who’s to say that more changes aren’t on the horizon? Keep your eye on Imgur, their popularity is rapidly growing and could be an important element to your social media marketing tool belt.

Free Roasting Marshmallow Graphic

Can you believe that it’s August already? The end of summer is just around the corner, so don’t forget to toast up some marshmallows around a campfire before then! Whether you prefer your marshmallows lightly toasted, burnt to a crisp, or between two graham crackers and a hunk of chocolate, enjoy this free roasting marshmallow graphic!

RoastingMarshmallow DIsplay

FREE DOWNLOAD: (300dpi RGB jpg) (300dpi CMYK jpg)

Only available for free from August 10th, 2015 through August 17th, 2015.

Miss this free graphic? Search for it on Creative Outlet!

1 Minute Workshop: Cropping a Photo Using the Brush Tool

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Cropping a Photo Using the Brush Tool in Adobe Photoshop

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Step 1

In this workshop you will learn how to creatively crop a photo using the Brush tool. Begin by selecting and opening the photo that you want to apply the technique to.

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Step 2

Select the Brush tool in the Tool palette and click on the Brushes window in the upper left-hand corner of Photoshop to expand the brush selections. Select an interesting brush and adjust the size. Make sure the Opacity and Flow of the brush are set to 100%. For this example, you may use a scattered brush set to 139 pixels.

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Step 3

First, create a new layer. Next, with your foreground color set to black and the brush still selected, begin painting on the new layer with the brush. Create a unique opaque filled-in shape.

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Step 4

After you’re satisfied with the shape, click on the Move tool (solid black arrow with plus sign) at the top of the Tool Palette. Then go to Select > All in the top menu. This will select the entire layer. Now, you need to isolate the shape you just created. Simply click the left arrow key once and the right arrow key once. This will nudge the shape and make it a selection.

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Step 5

Now, with the selection still active, click on the original photo layer. Go to Edit > Copy. Create a new layer and paste the selection on the new layer. The result should look like the example above with your original photo cropped within the shape you created with the Brush tool. Experiment with different brushes and brush flow pressure to vary the results.