Digital Marketing, SEO and My Life as a 20-Something

Tag: digital marketing

4 Challenges of Being a Young Woman in SEO

Oh, SEO. I love you so. As a complex field requiring a wide set of skills combined with the challenge of constantly changing search algorithms, being an SEO professional makes my heart sing. What’s terrifying to many makes me roll up my sleeves with a grin on my face.

Unfortunately, being a young woman in SEO comes with a few unique challenges beyond the usual ones Google throws at us. 

From technical expertise being pushed aside to added difficulties in communication and networking, here are some of the challenges I’ve experienced as a 20-something female SEO specialist and the impact they’ve had on my career so far.

Your Technical Skills Are Overlooked

Certainly not unique to SEO, the technical skills involved in the job are often overlooked for content-oriented ones. Believe it or not, I can do so much more than just copywriting and content creation.

When you think of a woman working in a marketing agency, what role do you envision them as? Probably a copywriter, doing social media, working on the accounts team or in an administrative role. 

When you picture someone creating a landing page, digging through code, mapping out site migrations and troubleshooting technical errors, who comes to mind? It’s probably a man, isn’t it?

The amount of technical skills required in an SEO role varies greatly depending on the specific position. That being said, it’s hard to get far in the industry without at least some technical knowledge and/or hands-on web skills. 

Despite what some people think, I am capable of so much more than blogging and writing. I may not be a developer, but it’s actually my combination of skills in both content and technical SEO that makes me so great at what I do (if I do say so myself!).

Content may be king, but if it’s built on a poor technical foundation then it can only go so far. It’s time we recognize the technical skills that women bring to the table so they can be used to their full extent. And it’s definitely time we stop mansplaining basic technical concepts to them because it’s just a waste of everybody’s time. 

Finally, let’s be real. Technical skills = $$$. When technical skills are overlooked in female SEO specialists, that means they make less money and may have fewer opportunities for promotions and future opportunities.

Lack of Visible Female Role Models

Try a few informational searches related to SEO or look up any content published by Google’s search team and you’ll realize what a male-dominated industry this is. Similar to the visibility of women in other STEM and male-dominated industries, it’s not surprising that SEO isn’t a career many women initially see for themselves because they don’t see themselves reflected in it.

There’s no doubt that there are many incredible female SEO professionals doing phenomenal things at all levels in the industry. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to SEO by an amazing female professor and I’m extremely grateful to have recently joined the Women in Tech SEO community. 

We’re out there. We just lack that visibility at many of the highest levels, events and companies. This is not the post to dig into the reasons why, but visibility can go a long way in bringing women into the SEO industry and helping them move up the ladder.

The Uncertainty of SEO Can Come Across as Incompetence

It’s a bit like how a man being assertive is interpreted as confidence, while a woman being assertive is seen as being too aggressive or unlikeable. 

Anybody in SEO knows the standard answer to a question is “It depends!”. Unfortunately, when we look at how language is interpreted in different ways depending on gender, this can really backfire against women. 

Hearing “It depends.” coming from a woman can be seen as incompetence or a lack of confidence in her response. The same response from a man can be interpreted as “Oh, well that’s just SEO!”. 

Communicating complex SEO ideas can be difficult on the best of days. It’s become exponentially more difficult thanks to changes from COVID-19, as the data we used to rely on can no longer be trusted and the future is so uncertain.

I’m not really sure what the answer to this one is other than it sucks. Especially because if we change our communication too much, it can easily be seen as overconfidence and arrogance. Unfortunately (as my father told me many times as a child and in adulthood, too) we can only control ourselves, we can’t control other people. 

Being Young Makes You Stick Out Even More

I’m only just starting to really branch out to get involved in the SEO as well as WordPress communities, but I’ve definitely noticed that I’m typically the youngest in the room. If there are other twenty-somethings in the room, they’re usually male. 

Part of this is probably the path that leads to becoming an SEO professional, it’s not something you really go to school for! I’m a bit of an anomaly in that I had the chance to take a formal course in it during my post-grad. Given that most people develop the skills over time and stumble into the specialization, it makes sense that there’s not a lot of young guns like me. 

That being said, what are we doing to ensure young people are discovering SEO? How are we mentoring them? What are we doing to ensure the SEO industry doesn’t continue to be male-dominated?

It can be hard to speak up when you’re one of the only women and also the same age as the children of many people in the room. It can be uncomfortable, bring out the imposter syndrome and make it more challenging to make connections while networking. 

Getting over the fear has always been worth it, whether it’s giving a talk in the front of a lecture hall or answering an SEO question in a meetup, but it can be a scary step to take when you feel like you’re doing it alone. 

I love being an SEO professional. It’s definitely top-3 in the extensive list of things I can’t help but nerd out about. I am so lucky to have fallen into this field and to have been given some amazing, early-career opportunities that are often hard to come by.

SEO is a challenging, exciting field and I am proud to be a professional within this dynamic industry. Despite that pride, embracing the role of being a female SEO professional has come with its challenges, particularly getting recognition for my technical capabilities. 

Despite the challenges, with communities like Women in Tech SEO providing amazing support and resources, along with other female SEO professionals and allies, I hope that the path for those coming up behind me will be a little bit easier as time goes one. This was a challenging and slightly scary piece to write, but I hope by being honest about experiences I can help bring these challenges out into the open to improve the experience for all SEO and marketing professionals.

Are you a young woman in SEO? What challenges have you faced in your career and how have you overcome them? Leave a comment or send me a tweet @natasha_bd, I’d love to hear!

7 Things I Learned in My First Year Working in Marketing

One day you’re setting up your new e-mail at your new desk, and the next thing you know a year has flown by. As the saying goes, time sure does fly.

2019 was once again, a year. It was supposed to be a relaxing, boring one. Boy, was it anything but. It brought different challenges than 2018, but challenges nonetheless.

The exact date when I started in marketing is somewhat debatable, is it when I started my blog years ago? Is it when I started doing volunteer communications work? Is it when I started my co-op placement? For the sake of clarity and a more appealing title, we’re going to work with the date that I started working full-time in the marketing industry right after finishing my post-graduate degree.

Specific dates and technicalities aside, I’ve come a long way in the past 365 days. Here are some of the top lessons I’ve learned in my first year working full-time at a marketing agency.

1. Fasten Your Seatbelt, Agency Life is Fast Paced

Enjoy the quiet times while they last, because they never last for long. Agency life can be tough for a lot of people, but I personally love it. My life in an agency is easier than most given that most of my work doesn’t revolve around strict deadlines, but it doesn’t mean my job is any less busy.

One of the favourite parts about my job, and marketing agency life in general, is the wide variety of clients I get to work on. Big and small, new and old, a wide variety of industries and at various stages of their campaigns, local campaigns and across North America…it’s never a dull moment.

Sometimes I do miss being able to immerse myself in everything about one company while working client-side. But overall, I love the diversity, range of topics and challenges that agency life brings.

My personal and professional life before I entered marketing helped me form the time management and organizational skills that are key to succeeding in an agency. In the job itself, two things that help me stay on track are scheduling out my time for each client per month (it’s not always realistic to follow this plan but it definitely helps!) and listing out my priorities for the next day before I leave the office in the evening.

2. WordPress Was One of the Best Skills I Ever Taught Myself

I was asked the other day when I first started using WordPress…it’s probably been 6 or 7 years now? I taught myself HTML about a decade before that as well. Now, I use it every single day.

I had the chance to go back to the college where I did my post-graduate program to talk to current students on two separate occasions this year. On both occasions I encouraged them to learn some basic web skills, specifically WordPress since it’s so widely used. I’m not sure I’d be where I am now without my largely self-taught web skills.

3. Never Stop Learning

Digital marketing is a fast-changing landscape, especially the search marketing world I specialize in. I may have walked across the convocation stage, but that was only the beginning.

It’s so important to stay up with marketing industry news and developments. The last thing you need is to fall behind on an algorithm update or not know about a new feature on one of your platforms and fall behind your competitors as a result.

4. You’ll Doubt Yourself

Did I choose the right career path? Should I have specialized so soon? Is this the right strategy? Is this the right working environment for me? Am I targeting the right keywords? Should the budget be higher? Should the budget be lower? Is this the right way to pitch this? Is my head still attached?

It’s okay. You’re doing great. You wouldn’t be where you are if people didn’t trust you and believe in you. Keep going. Don’t confuse confidence with arrogance, but keep kicking ass, because trust me, you are!

5. The Coursework You Never Thought You’d Use? Oh, You’ll Use It.

That lecture about the history of the internet and how the internet, domains and website hosting work? Mindblowing at the time, now I use it on a weekly basis.

That course where we learned how to build a database? Well, guess who’s building a database?

Pay attention, because sometimes the most surprising skills and bits of knowledge are the ones that can really come in handy in a moment of need.

6. Find What Works Best for You

This will come with time, and you’ll have to work within the restraints of your environment which can be a challenge. Little things can make a world of difference, but figuring out what you need to be productive and produce your best work is important.

Noise can be a challenge for me in the office, so headphones have become important. I don’t like wearing them, but the reality is that they’re key to me being able to focus. I’ve also become more in tune with the days when I need to remove myself from the main office space to get work done, especially for large chunks of writing, and what days/moods I can tolerate (or even enjoy!) the background noise.

This will surprise a lot of people, but managing my energy can be a challenge. I may come across as being quiet, but sitting still can be a difficult at times! On these days, I break out the balance cushion (which doubles as a great core workout), listen to music to help channel my energy, or work in the other room and sit in one of the chairs where I can make it bounce up and down without disturbing anybody else.

Writing out my list of priorities for the next day has also become important. Some days it’s not necessary, but as my workload increased and I took on more responsibility just a few months after starting, this became more important. Listing out my priorities the day before helps make sure I don’t let anything slip and means I’m not planning out my day first thing in the morning while I’m still waking up!

7. This is Only the Beginning

There are still times where I’m just in awe at everything that’s happened since I made the decision to pursue marketing professionally. It was a lot of hard work, made much more difficult by family health challenges that emerged at the same time I went back to school, but boy was the hard work worth it because I couldn’t be happier with how things have turned out.

For as much as I’ve learned in year one, I know I still have so much to learn and so much ahead of me. I have confidence in what I’ve learned and what I’m capable of, but know to stay humble and never stop learning and reflecting.


It was hard to sum up everything I’ve learned this past year into just seven points, but for anybody who’s getting ready to jump into marketing full-time or currently navigating the early months and years of your career, this post is for you. I’m so grateful to be where I am, and if you’re not feeling that way yet, have confidence in your abilities and hang in there because I know you’ll find your marketing bliss soon too.

From professors and co-workers to clients and of course, my family, it took a village to get me to where I am today. Here’s to year two, and beyond!

Have any questions about my experiences? Did you relate to this post? Leave a comment or tweet at me and let me know what you think!

The Best Of…Social Enterprise Marketing Resources

Over the last few weeks we’ve talked about what a social enterprise is, why marketing a social business is a little bit different, best practices for marketing your social enterprise and a fabulous social business brand example. Hopefully, you’re feeling inspired with some tangible ideas to improve or get started on your social enterprise’s marketing.

Today, it’s time to hand out some awards for the best social enterprise resources out there. These tools and resources will help you achieve marketing success, and hopefully save you some time and money along the way. Happy marketing!

The academy (errr, I) would like to congratulate the winners in the following categories.

 

Best Resource To Learn about Social Enterprise Branding

Brand the Change book

Brand the Change

 

Without this book introducing me to this world, this post wouldn’t exist. Brand The Change by Anne Miltenburg is an excellent resource for marketers and social entrepreneurs, whether they are building a brand from scratch or looking to strengthen their existing brand. The book provides a helpful mix of actionable steps, real world examples and anecdotes and exercises to help you bring the book’s wisdom to life. The information is clearly presented in an easy-to-digest manner that doesn’t require a marketing or business degree to understand. I ordered it when the new edition first came out so it took a while to arrive from the Netherlands, but it was absolutely worth the wait!

 

Best Website for Social Entrepreneurship and Business Planning Resources

MaRS Social Enterprise Resource

MaRS

 

As one of the world’s largest innovation hubs, MaRS has a wealth of online resources available about all aspects of social business from business planning to legal issues and everything in between. You can browse their extensive library of articles and videos or enroll in their Entrepreneurship 101 online course. For those in the Toronto area, you can take advantage of their workshops, events, funding or job board.

 

Best Online Courses – Marketing

 

HubSpot Academy to learn about marketing

HubSpot Academy

 

HubSpot is not a social business focused resource, but it is one of my go-to places to learn new marketing skills. They have a large collection of free articles, videos and courses about various aspects of marketing from social media marketing to inbound marketing. HubSpot also offers certifications so you can prove and display your newfound marketing knowledge. If you’re looking for a CRM or marketing stack for your social enterprise, HubSpot is one of the options you should consider.

 

Best Online Courses – Social Entrepreneurship

+Acumen Online Learning

+Acumen

 

With a mission “to provide anyone, anywhere the skills and community to drive social change” +Acumen offers free and paid online courses for social entrepreneurs and change makers. The courses are both on demand and scheduled on a wide range of topics including social entrepreneurship, human centered design, leadership, business planning, social finance and more! Having taken their Social Entrepreneurship 101 course, I can vouch for the quality of this online learning experience. If you want to learn more about social enterprise marketing and social business planning, +Acumen is the place to go.

 

Okay, enough learning! The tools below will help with your day-to-day marketing activities.

 

Best Social Media Management Tool

Hootsuite for social business social media management

Hootsuite

 

Entrepreneurs often complain they don’t have enough time for marketing. With Hootsuite, you can make the time for marketing by managing your social media platforms in one place. Hootsuite also lets you schedule posts in advance (amongst many other awesome features!) to save time and plan out your social media messages in one sitting. If you want to learn how to use Hootsuite or improve your social media marketing, the Hootsuite Academy offers excellent free courses and certifications (for a fee) in these areas.

 

Best Tool For Easy Graphic Design

Graphic design for social entrepreneurs

Canva

 

Can I use Photoshop? Yes. Do I usually just go to Canva because it’s so easy to use? Also yes. Canva’s easy-to-use and free platform means you can create beautiful graphics for your social business without being or paying a graphic designer. You can make images in all different sizes with one of their templates or start from scratch. While Canva is free, they do have paid options if you want to take your creations up a level. If you want to learn a bit about design, you can use the free Canva Design School.

 

Best Content Management System for Your Website/Blog

Best CMS WordPress

WordPress

 

Whether you use the easier WordPress.com or go full-in with WordPress.org, WordPress is my go to content management system, and not just because it’s a free, open source software! WordPress is extremely user friendly for all users from beginners to expert web developers, and offers many different theme, structure and hosting options to meet any social business’ needs. Need more proof of how awesome WordPress? Well, WordPress powers 32% of all sites on the internet, so they must be doing something right!

Well, this is it! As I wrap up my blog series on social enterprise marketing, I hope you are now equipped and confident with not just the knowledge, but the tools and resources you need to help your marketing and social business succeed. Social entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart; I wish you the best as you continue on your adventure and look forward to seeing the change your social business will create in our world.

Have you used any of these resources? Are there any good social enterprise marketing resources that I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments!

Social Enterprise Brand Feature: Who Gives A Crap

In my previous post, I talked about how social entrepreneurs can create strong social business brands and effective marketing campaigns. This week I’ll be highlighting a social enterprise who’s brand and marketing activities put all of my social enterprise marketing best practices into action. (DIdn’t read my last post? Don’t worry. Scroll to the bottom of this page for a checklist that will get you caught up!) Who Gives A Crap is a fantastic social enterprise with a unique, memorable brand and an important social mission. Keep reading to learn more about them, their work and their marketing!

Introducing Who Gives A Crap

Who Gives A Crap is a social enterprise that sells toilet paper. Yes, you read that right, toilet paper! When their founders learned that 2.3 billion people in the world (about 40% of the global population) don’t have access to a toilet, they were inspired to act. Who Gives A Crap sells toilet paper made from environmentally friendly products, with 50% of their profits donated to non-profits working to improve access to toilets, clean water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in developing countries.

Who Gives A Crap Toilet Paper

Their Brand

I fell in love with Who Gives A Crap’s branding the moment I saw it. The funny, attention grabbing name. The bright and eye-catching, yet simple colours and design. The humorous brand voice. This unique, colourful branding remains consistent across their website, product packaging and social media accounts so you always know what to expect. When I discovered Who Gives A Crap, I knew I had to include them in this article because they are such a memorable, unique brand.

Their Product and Packaging

As I mentioned above, Who Gives A Crap sells primarily toilet paper, but also other household products such as tissues and paper towels. They offer a high-quality product comparable to, if not better than traditional toilet paper brands (they were Australia’s #1 toilet paper, after winning the award for most satisfied customers in Canstar Blue’s 2017 toilet paper review!). As far as pricing goes, it wouldn’t beat the bargain brands but has a reasonable and competitive price point that makes it a strong contender when shopping for toilet paper. They even have a subscription service so you can get your toilet paper delivered to your doorstep.

Each toilet paper roll is individually wrapped in paper packaging with a colourful design. Their customers often share pictures of their toilet paper rolls on social media…I can’t say I’ve ever seen that for any other toilet paper brand! Beyond being eye-catching and insta-worthy, wrapping each roll individually in paper helps them avoid using plastic packaging (which we all know is bad for our earth).

Their Digital Marketing

Who Gives A Crap is not a social business who is afraid of marketing; they have an excellent website and use both social media and e-mail marketing. Who Gives A Crap does an effective job of balancing sharing and leveraging their social impact story with putting their product first in their marketing messages. Visitors to their website are certainly aware of the positive impact the product has beyond meeting their own needs. As they say themselves, “Good for the world, good for people, good for your bum.” But their value proposition is not centred on the social impact, it is simply an added bonus of the customer’s purchase.

Who Gives A Crap keeps their colourful and humorous brand consistent across all of their digital marketing platforms, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts. They share both owned and curated content with a focus on being funny. They utilize lots of images and graphics that stick to their colourful brand, often using their own products and packaging in the posts themselves (sometimes with a dog thrown in!). In the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom they use paid social media ads that focus on driving conversions by advertising free shipping on most orders and sharing their subscription service.

Who Gives A Crap isn’t afraid to be funny! This humorous tone is consistent across all of their marketing channels.

 

Transparency

While they may not make their model of change their unique selling point (remember, that’s good!), they do an excellent job of being transparent about their model of change, their business activities and their social impact. In clear and easy to understand language, they explain and provide proof of how much they donate to charity and what it’s for and how their product and packaging itself minimizes its impact on the environment. They also explain how the 50% of their profits that are not donated to charity are used to grow the business. In addition, Who Gives A Crap shares regular social impact reports that go into more detail about company activities and how they are creating a positive change in our world.

The Verdict

Overall, I definitely give a crap about Who Gives A Crap! Their colourful, humorous brand pulled me in and stuck in my mind. I really felt that while buying their toilet paper would support a great cause, there was no doubt in my mind that I would be getting a high-quality product that would meet my needs just as well (if not better) than anything I would find in a local store. What more can you ask for from your toilet paper?

This post was supposed to highlight multiple social enterprise brands, but Who Gives A Crap is such a great brand example that I just couldn’t stop writing about them. Their unique and consistent brand, excellent digital marketing strategies and transparent business practices and model of change are an A+ example of good social enterprise marketing that all social entrepreneurs should learn from . Keep up the great marketing Who Gives A Crap!

Social Enterprise Brand Marketing

Does your social enterprise use these marketing best practices? It’s never too late to get started!

 

6 Best Practices for Marketing Your Social Enterprise

This is the second post in a four-part series where I explore marketing and branding in the social enterprise industry. Don’t miss out on part one where I define social enterprise, week three where I feature an awesome social enterprise brand and week four where I wrap it up with some useful marketing resources.

You’re ready to make a change in the world, and you’ve created the social enterprise to do it. Now, how do you spread the word? Keep reading for 6 best practices you can easily implement to effectively market your social enterprise and create a sustainable, long-term business that will change the world.

1. Be a business-first; focus on your product or service

Let’s start with a little math; social enterprise – social = enterprise. Too many social impact businesses rely on pulling on heartstrings to make sales. This can be an effective short-term strategy but is rarely sustainable long-term.

Market yourself as a business first, and then use your social impact story to complement and amplify your marketing message. Do some market research, identify your target market and create a marketing strategy and implementation plan. Then, hold yourself accountable to make it a reality.

It’s important to ground your social business marketing strategy in the core principles of marketing. This means creating a high-quality product or service, identifying your target market, pricing it appropriately (if you have a higher price point than competitors, you need to justify it with more than just your social mission!) and using the best distribution and marketing channels to reach and sell to consumers.

2. Don’t just tell your social impact story. Showcase it!

It’s one thing to tell your story, it’s another thing to truly showcase it to the rest of the world. Combined with the business-first approach to marketing as discussed above, a powerful story can create magnetic marketing that draws in consumers to power your social enterprise for the long term.

How can you showcase your story in an effective way?

Visuals and Videos

In today’s digital and mobile world, visuals are a key part of modern marketing. Showcase both your product as well as the benefit of your social enterprise through pictures, videos and graphics. This will help consumers understand, connect with and hopefully support both your product and the positive change your business creates.

Not a graphic designer? With free, user-friendly tools like Canva you can be!

Numbers

So, you claim to make an impact? Prove it!

Numbers help communicate your story and can also build your trust and credibility, all of which contribute to effective social enterprise marketing and building a sustainable operation.

social enterprise video marketing

The world is on their phones, watching videos. Will they be watching your social enterprise?

3. Be transparent

This is part of telling your story, but in social business marketing this deserves its own point. What is your impact? Do you use volunteers? What organizations do you donate money to, and how much? Who are your suppliers?

Being transparent builds credibility. A spectacular marketing campaign won’t get a response if nobody trusts you. Individuals increasingly demand transparency from socially responsible organizations. If you are transparent from the start you will build trust, and with time, a bigger audience and group of loyal customers.

You also need to be clear on what your model of change is. Consumers want to see that your profits really are creating a meaningful impact. If what you’re doing for the world and how you go about it isn’t clear, don’t expect consumers to open their wallets for you.

4. Utilize digital marketing – strategically

Digital marketing can be a very effective and cost-efficient marketing medium, but it can be easy to fall victim to the belief that a business needs to be present on every online platform.

The key to choosing the best digital marketing platforms is to think about your target audience. Who are they? Where do they spend their time? What type of content and topics are they interested in? Ask yourself these questions, and the platforms you need to be on should become crystal clear.

If there’s one digital marketing platform that you must have, it’s a high-quality website with your own domain. High-quality does not have to equal high-cost, thanks to many easy to use and free or low-cost templates and website builders.

You should also ensure that your website is optimized for SEO to improve its chances of being seen in search engines. While a website does not need to be a large expense, it is your social enterprise’s digital home. If you only have a small budget for marketing, SEO is where you should be spending it.

social enterprise

No matter the cause or budget, every social enterprise needs to have a website. Don’t forget SEO!

5. Build a consistent social enterprise brand

Branding does not have to be an extensive or expensive endeavour. But investing a small amount of time into developing your brand will go a long way.

Beyond the basic branding activities of choosing a name and creating a logo and colour scheme, the best thing to focus on is brand consistency. While your messages need to be tailored for each platform and its audience, you still need consistency, especially as most customers will encounter your messaging across multiple platforms and mediums.

To build a strong brand, keep your colours and logo consistent. Use similar and predictable tone and language. If there’s more than one person creating and managing external communications, you may want to make a style guide to keep everybody on the same page.

As your social business grows, building a strong brand is something you should dedicate more time and money to. Until you reach that point, consistency is the best thing you can do to develop a trustworthy and memorable brand.

6. Don’t be afraid to spend money on marketing

A misconception that seems to carry over from the charitable sector is that social impact organizations need to spend less on overhead costs, including marketing. Some people think that any money not spent directly creating social change is money wasted.

Similar to the saying ‘you need to spend money to make money’, you need to spend money to create change. To create social change, you need to leverage a marketing strategy to let the world know what you’re doing and how they can support your business and social mission.

For social entrepreneurs without a background in marketing, taking on the task of marketing a social business can be overwhelming. Even hiring a marketer or outsourcing it can be daunting if you’re not familiar with what your marketing needs are. Even for experienced marketers, social impact businesses still present a challenge in finding that optimal balance between product and story (often on a limited budget).

But in the end, social enterprise marketing doesn’t have to be as complicated as it may seem. By implementing these 6 best practices and making the most of our social enterprise marketing resources, you’ll be well on your way to running a successful social enterprise marketing campaign that will help generate long-term business, and social change, for years to come.

Social Enterprise…What Does It Really Mean?

 

This is the first in a four-part series where I explore marketing and branding in the social enterprise industry. Today’s post demystifies the world of social enterprise and lays the groundwork for digging in from the marketing angle. Check back on Tuesday for part two!

Social enterprise. Charity. Social innovation. Corporate social responsibility. Non-profit. Social impact. Systems change…if you have a desire to make our world a better place, then you’re probably familiar with these terms. You’ve used them yourself, you’ve probably donated time or money to organizations who label themselves as such. But do you really understand what these terms mean? Does anybody really know what they’re all about?!

Keep reading as I lay out for you what a social enterprise really is, what a social enterprise is not and why marketing for a social enterprise needs to be approached a bit differently.

First Thing’s First: What is NOT a social enterprise?

Before we get into definitions, let’s start off by clarifying what is not social enterprise. They may have elements of social innovation or social change, but the organizations and activities below are not social enterprises.

  • A non-profit organization or charity that is funded through donations, grants, government funding and/or service or membership fees
  • Corporate social responsibility
  • Social programs
  • A non-profit that charges a fee for membership or goods/services offered
  • A business that donates to charity

charity donation box

If an organization is funded primarily by donations, then it is NOT a social enterprise

So, What IS a Social Enterprise?

Social entrepreneurship as a whole can be described as any sort of entrepreneurship or business that creates social value or seeks to address social issues. Therefore a social enterprise, in its broadest sense, is an entity with profit-generating activities that simultaneously work to affect positive social change.

But if only it were that simple! There about as many definitions as there are social enterprises, also known as social businesses. This is due to the varied nature of social business activities, with many different social missions and models of change, numerous revenue models and various legal structures (which are different in each country or jurisdiction). I won’t be getting into these nuances, as this is ultimately about marketing. Now, what are others saying about social enterprise?

The BC Centre for Social Enterprise says:

“Social enterprises are revenue-generating businesses with a twist. Whether operated by a non-profit organization or by a for-profit company, a social enterprise has two goals: to achieve social, cultural, community economic and/or environmental outcomes; and, to earn revenue.” -BC Centre for Social Enterprise

MaRS’ definition takes a more nuanced approach, with a distinction between social enterprise and social business. In MaRS’ view, social enterprises are strictly part of a non-profit organization, while social businesses are “commercial for-profit entities, created by social entrepreneurs to address social issues. SPBs maintain their social purpose at the core of their operations, while existing in the market economy and delivering shareholder value.”

A social enterprise, according to MaRS, is:

“ Social enterprises are revenue-generating entities generally owned and operated by a non-profit organization (which may or may not also have charitable status). Since there are no shareholders, any profits from the operation are re-invested into the work of the organization.” -MaRS

Is your understanding of social enterprise more clear now? Great, now let’s throw one more thing into the social change mix…corporate social responsibility.

Are Corporate Social Responsibility and Social Enterprise the Same Thing?

Corporate Social Responsibility and Social Enterprise often look similar, but don’t be fooled! They are two separate activities that should not be confused.

How do you distinguish between them? It’s important to ask what the role of social change is in the organization as a whole. If social change is their primary goal, then they are a social enterprise. If financial profit and delivering financial value to their shareholders is their primary activity and purpose, with social impact as a secondary or less important activity, then they are simply engaging in corporate social responsibility.

How can you determine this? Remove the social impact activities from the organization’s operations. What’s left? If removing the social impact activities removes all or most of the organization’s operations and revenue, then they would be a social business. If removing the social impact activities leaves a fully functioning and profitable operation, then what they do for the world is simply corporate social responsibility.

volunteers corporate social responsibility

Many organizations have their employees volunteer in the community. This is a great form of Corporate Social Responsibility

Is Social Enterprise Marketing Any Different From Business or Non-Profit Marketing?

If you take away the ‘social’ then you’re left with ‘enterprise’, so wouldn’t the regular rules of marketing apply?

Yes…and no.

Social businesses have incredible, unique stories that can and should be shared with the world. Stories are excellent for raising awareness of important causes, as well as brand awareness and driving sales. A social enterprise should never shy away from telling their story and sharing their impact.

But their story, I would argue, is not their value proposition. It cannot be their unique selling point. Pulling on heartstrings and making people feel good may encourage initial sales, but if the product or service you offer isn’t of high-quality or isn’t priced appropriately, will they repeat that purchase? Some will, but many won’t. And that doesn’t bode well for the long run.

To be truly sustainable long-term, social entrepreneurs need to find an optimal balance between their model of change and a high-quality end product that is competitive in the market against other businesses lacking a social mission.

As far as marketing goes, social business marketers must put product and quality first in their marketing strategy and use their story as additional leverage instead of making it the core value proposition or marketing message.

social enterprise marketing product

To succeed in marketing a social enterprise, you need to put your product first, and then tell your incredible story

 

Social enterprises are on the rise, with many social entrepreneurs finding new ways to apply business principles to social problems. Social innovation has existed for centuries. Now, the increasing number of social businesses are creating new models of change and having a positive impact on millions of lives around the world. As social entrepreneurs market their businesses and causes, they need to find a better balance between leveraging their stories and putting their product first to create sustainable business models that will expand and sustain their positive impact that our world needs.

How can they find this optimal balance? Stay tuned for next week’s post as I dive further into the world of marketing for social enterprises with best practices and strategies for building a social enterprise brand and marketing it successfully.

Sources

https://www.centreforsocialenterprise.com/what-is-social-enterprise/

https://socialenterprisestuff.wordpress.com/2011/09/25/charity-vs-social-entrepreneurship-5-differences/

https://www.marsdd.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/MaRSReport-Social-Enterprise_2012.pdf

https://www.innov8social.com/2016/07/difference-csr-social-enterprise

https://www.marsdd.com/mars-library/social-enterprise-business-models/

https://www.marsdd.com/mars-library/being-a-social-entrepreneur/

https://www.innov8social.com/2016/07/difference-csr-social-enterprise

 

 

 

 

Our Mobile World: A Day in the Life of a 24-Year Old and Her iPhone

 

If I had a dollar for every time my grandmother asked, “do you ever take your eyes off that thing?” then I would have…well…a lot of dollars. Sorry Grandma but it’s 2018 and mobile is where it’s at.  Grandma may think it’s a waste of time, but my iPhone helps me stay organized, it provides and stores helpful information and is a useful tool for all the everyday micro-moments of modern life. So, how exactly does it help me? Keep scrolling to read more…

Starting My Mobile Day: Browsing the News

It’s 7, maybe 8 am. At this time, I’m either on the train into Toronto, sitting down at my desk at home or at the office or if I’m lucky, still lying in bed. This is when I want to browse the news, so I pull out my phone to get informed. If I’m already at my desk I’ll do this on my computer, but my first news check of the day usually happens on mobile. I’ll browse my usual news sites with Safari, as well as Twitter for more local sources and commentary from the people I follow. Unless I hit a paywall or that one stretch near Clarkson station where the signal is awful then this is a positive and frictionless experience. It leaves me feeling informed and ready to face the world, which for me is the ideal way to start a day.

Checking In on Slack

Alright, I’ve checked the news. Now, what’s going on with school? Being in a hybrid program has its perks, especially as a commuter, but juggling multiple group projects is challenging when you’re not on campus every day. Communication is key, so we use Slack (and sometimes Messenger) when I want to communicate or I want to know what’s happening with our projects. This need to know and communicate can happen anytime; you’ll see posts from me at 7 am, 11 pm or anytime in between! If I’m on the go then I turn to mobile. If I’m at my personal laptop then I may use the desktop app, but I’m often guilty of still using my phone. The outcome of this micro-moment ultimately depends on the discussion (or lack thereof) itself.

Apps, Apps and More Apps!

Every time I open my phone, I have 40 apps to choose from (23 of which I downloaded myself and weren’t pre-loaded). If it’s on my phone it’s there for a reason, but each has a different purpose. The value an app provides typically doesn’t correspond with how much time I spent on it. 

So out of all those apps, which ones do I use the most?

1. Safari

So many options! While the thousands of apps available offer many possibilities, no single app offers as much as Safari does. The possibilities aren’t endless, but close to it, which is why I spend a lot of time there.

2. Words With Friends

I’m a bit embarrassed (and surprised!) that this showed up as one of my most used apps. I’m not big on mobile games but I started using this about a month ago thanks to family. It’s our silly thing for when we can’t play Scrabble together in person and a great way to make a long train ride go faster.

3. Twitter

I love to stay up to date without having to read full articles. I love to connect with my community. I love live tweeting events. In other words, I love Twitter.

4. Messages

Unlike many people, I prefer to use text/iMessage when possible instead of other messaging apps, especially with the people closest to me, so this is where I do most of my mobile communication.

5. Instagram

It’s always good to do a bit of mindless browsing, catch up on what people are up to and share a bit of my own life. I may spend a fair amount of time here, especially for killing time on the train, but Instagram is something I could definitely live without.

safari browser logos

For both time spent and value provided, Safari is my number one mobile app.

Time spent =/= value. Which apps do I value the most?

Safari

As I mentioned above, there is so much you can do. This is the one app where the time I spend on it matches its high value to me.

Weather Network

Living in Canada I think the value in this needs no explanation. As someone who likes to do outdoor activities (especially in the winter, yes I’m crazy) this is critical for establishing plans and determining clothing and equipment.

Headspace

I was skeptical of meditation, but Headspace made me a believer. 2018 has thrown challenges at me that I never could have dreamed of. Headspace helps me relax, slows down my mind (that’s always in overdrive) and keeps me feeling grounded. That’s value I can’t put a price on.

Wallet

My phone’s always accessible, so why not use that to pay for purchases or earn rewards points instead of digging out your wallet? I’ve been on board with Apple Pay since its release. Nothing makes me happier than saving time, even a few seconds.

Messenger

In terms of time this is really split between Messages and Messenger. For value, I prefer Messages but can talk to more people on Messenger (like my sister who lives in Myanmar) and use it a lot during school for communication with classmates.

The Sun Sets with Spotify

As the evening rolls around and I’ve finally made it home, I either want to relax or I want to feel energized! For these micro-moments I turn to music from Spotify. Spotify’s endless choices mean I can always cater it to my mood, through my own playlists or saved songs, radio stations or Spotify/user-generated playlists for every occasion. Usually I listen to music at home, but also in the car, on the train or at the gym. However I’m feeling or want to feel, Spotify can help me out.

Do You Ever Want to Throw Your Phone at the Wall?

Unfortunately, it’s not always sunshine and rainbows in the mobile world, often thanks to a website that isn’t mobile optimized. Party City’s website comes to mind. I recently had an idea for a surprise for someone while on the train and wanted to plan it while it was fresh in my mind…but their mobile website is terrible! It kept adding filters I didn’t want, the menus were difficult to navigate and it was so slow.  I eventually gave up and waited until I had my laptop to do my final browsing and planning. Party City is the best choice for both selection and location, but if there had been a similar option with a better website I definitely would have switched to that one instead.

emoji tongue out

How I feel about Party City’s website on mobile

 

The Future is Mobile…and Analytics

Now for marketers…what does all the above mean? It means a million things, but that would require a whole series of blogs. A key takeaway for marketers is that time spent does not always relate to value. Mobile marketers need to view analytics as a big interconnected story as opposed to a collection of isolated metrics. They also need to ask what those metrics truly mean. For example, low time spent isn’t necessarily a bad sign for an app if, like the apps I mentioned above, it delivers significant value to the user. Similarly, you could have millions of people download the app but if they don’t use it regularly or the usage drops off soon after download, is it really that valuable?

Data tells stories, and each metric is its own chapter. You wouldn’t read only one chapter of a book and make a judgement about the entire story, so marketers need to look at all the data available to them and make decisions based on the big picture, not just a metric that fits their narrative or goals. Better data analysis will lead to better strategy and tactics, which will make a better mobile experience that meets all the needs and micro-moments of the many mobile users in today’s world.

The world is on their phones, and we’re still in the early days of mobile. I look forward to seeing how mobile developers and marketers will find better ways to cater to our micro-moments, how they’ll create new needs and micro-moments for us and how mobile will carry us into 2019 and beyond.

The Friday File: September 28th

It’s been a while (err, about 4 months) since I’ve published this but I’ve decided to get back to doing this regularly. A weekly post sharing some of what I’ve been reading and watching throughout the week. Enjoy!

Local cannabis retail shops – Burlington Ward 1 candidates weigh-in on provincial opt-out option (John Bkila, Burlington Post)

Really appreciative of the Burlington Post’s coverage of the municipal election, especially the compilations of candidate responses to key issues. Not going to lie, I’m rethinking my vote for mayor.

Rowan’s Law Day will remind everyone of the dangers of concussions (Charles Tator, The Globe and Mail)

The Globe and I don’t always see eye to eye, but for this article we do. Concussions suck, and we do a a terrible job around education, prevention and diagnosis (especially for youth). We need to do this better. Yesterday!

Guide to removing referrer spam and fake traffic in Google Analytics (Optimize Smart)

I did NOT have time for this in the office on Thursday. Alas, I had no choice. 

Progressive Web Apps – The Next Step in Web App Development (GeekyAnts, Hackernoon)

Who knew these were even a thing? Well, I do now.

Scrabble gets 300 new words in US dictionary revamp (BBC)

This Scrabble champ has even more words at her disposal now.

Content Meets Copyright: Ethical Content Marketing

In a world where content is king, content marketers are busy bees making content to feed their audiences. In 2018, it’s not just about feeding them so they’re no longer hungry but feeding them higher quality content using multiple mediums and platforms that targets various consumer needs and stages of the purchasing journey.

Sound exhausting? Trust me, it is. So how do some people cope with this pressure?

Content Marketing Meets Copyright Laws: What NOT to Do

To save some time and sanity, some individuals resort to shortcuts to meet their deadlines. What are these shortcuts that enter murky legal and ethical territory? Written articles that are reproduced without permission or credit. Images that aren’t under Creative Commons license.  Research or original ideas presented as one’s own or without proper credit.

These actions violate copyright laws, are unethical, can potential lost income for the original creator and can ultimately backfire on the person who is plagiarizing the works of others. The pressure on content marketers is real, but so are the potential legal, financial and reputational risks to both the individual and the company or brand they represent.

In my early days of blogging, I wrote from the heart, and copyright laws were never a concern because my work was 100% mine. As I’ve moved into the digital marketing world as a professional, my blog posts have changed (both at work and my personal site) and with that has come a whole new set of considerations. I am careful with the images I use, ensuring they are under Creative Commons and from a reliable source (Pixabay is my personal favourite).

When writing a blog post that requires research like this one, I give credit where credit is due. Content takes time, but plagiarizing is never the right shortcut to take.

What About Sponsored Content?

My two favourite sources of marketing information and inspiration are Moz and Search Engine Journal. I live for Whiteboard Friday! Both sites have limited sponsored content, and in the 6 months or so since I started following them I haven’t noticed an increase.

Regarding Search Engine Journal’s sponsored content, I am not bothered by it for three reasons. The first reason is that it’s quite infrequent (unlike many so-called Instagram ‘influencers’ who never seem to post anything they’re not paid for!). A sponsored post here and there isn’t unreasonable given that I access their content for free. Second, what sponsored content they do post is clearly labeled through post tags, a tagline at the bottom of the blog and even a slightly different background colour on the main blog page (as seen in the image below).

sponsored post screenshot

Finally, sponsored content on Search Engine Journal provides just as much value to me as their regular owned content. It can even be a good opportunity to learn about different tools and services available! Search Engine Journal finds the right balance between transparency, frequency and the nature of content itself when providing sponsored content to their readers.

With the pressure to produce more content than before combined with the ease of access to other people’s content online, it can be tempting for content marketers to take shortcuts that violate both copyright laws and ethical standards by plagiarizing. It’s important that we treat the works of others how we would want them to treat our own by not reproducing work when it’s not allowed, and giving credit where credit is due.

Sources

https://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2016/01/how-use-content-yours/

https://www.semrush.com/blog/most-common-legal-ethical-aspects-of-blogging-and-content-marketing/

 

 

Digital Literacy in 2018: It’s a Given, Isn’t It?

It’s 2018, isn’t everybody digitally literate? Digital literacy may seem like a default skill in 2018, and it is if you define it as being able to use the internet and other digital tools. I, however, would argue that true digital literacy encompasses more than just the ability to use the internet and requires a broader definition.

I believe true digital literacy is the ability to find, consume and produce digital content in a variety of mediums and platforms. As digital marketers, we need to ensure that we provide value for others, our content is responsive and accessible for various user devices and needs and adheres to relevant standards and legislation regarding privacy and security.

Digital literacy is not an either or but rather a spectrum. Take my Grandmother and I for example; we are both digitally literate but to different degrees. At 78 years old my Grandmother uses e-mail and she sure loves spider solitaire. This works well for her, and compared to some of her friends she’s an expert! However, if my own digital literacy skills were on par with hers, as a 24-year old digital marketing student, I would be struggling in my studies and probably finding another career path.

So, what exactly makes a digital marketer ‘digitally literate’? Here are 3 skills I believe are critical to digital literacy for marketers, both today and moving forward into the fast-changing future.

3 Critical Digital Literacy Skills for Digital Marketers

Written Communication

We’re moving towards an internet dominated by visuals and videos, but I don’t think words will ever disappear from our screens. Even if words disappear from public digital spaces, they will still be necessary for both workplace and personal communication and information management.

Technical Skills

Digital marketers need to be able to do more than post a blog with a photo in a CMS. You don’t need to be a coder, analytics whiz or techie, but you do need to understand how these things work and what is possible. This allows digital marketers to effectively communicate with the experts tasked with implementing these more technical tools for you.

Critical and Forward-Looking Thinking

There will always be some new tool, platform or development at our disposal (if you’re not the one involved in creating it!). Digital marketers must navigate the ever-changing digital landscape in a conscientious, strategic and forward-thinking way that ensures a positive benefit in the present and future for their client or business, and the internet and society as a whole. We have seen the harm that technology can create, and digital marketers must do their best to shape the digital world in a positive way.

These are three critical skills for digital literacy as a digital marketer, and areas I am personally strong in. Through personal blogging, managing my own website, as well as my summer co-op I have developed written and technical skills. I have used local workshops and conferences as well as online resources to further explore and learn about these topics. I am a conscientious person and a big-picture thinker; thinking of consequences and how something will play out in the future is in my nature, and was further refined during my liberal arts undergraduate education and non-profit board experience.

While I consider myself fairly competent in these key areas, there is always room for improvement. I look forward to further developing my digital literacy as I continue my studies and digital marketing career.

Do you agree with my thoughts on digital literacy? Let me know in the comments!