How to Make Money … by Spending Money

How to Make Money … by Spending Money

It seems like no matter what website you visit, there is an ad there trying to sell you something. Do you ever click on it? You might (maybe accidentally), but most of the time you’ll pass it by. So how do you take your own website and turn it into a money-maker, if most of your visitors skip clicking on the ads? There are a few steps you can take to make more money, but it will require you to invest some of your own money first.

“You have to spend money to make money” is an old saying, but it’s true for many businesses. By investing in high-quality products, whether physical items or software, you can improve your business, draw in customers, and keep your clients more satisfied with your products or services. By spending some money on better equipment and tools, you can often save money by saving yourself valuable time.

Stand Out With Design

So you’ve decided to build your website yourself. Great! This is a fantastic way to save money for your business, as long as you get it done well. You are most likely using WordPress as your design platform. This is highly recommended. WordPress has so many great templates for websites that are free, but tons of other websites have already used these. While it does save money to use the free templates and WordPress on your own, this does not compare to a custom-built website that is designed specifically around your business. This is where hiring someone to custom design your site is worth the extra money if you have it to spend.

If you just do not have the extra money to spend on hiring someone, you can always buy a premium theme on WordPress. This is a great option for a couple of reasons. When you buy a premium theme, it will most likely come with support, whereas most free themes do not. It is also more secure and less likely to have someone hack into it. Considering these things, it would be well worth the $40 it would cost to purchase a premium theme.

Invest in your Website

Okay, it may seem obvious that you need to invest in a good website, since it’s such an important part of a modern business. Seriously though, it is worth your money to hire a company that will build you a great website that is easy to use and has everything you and your clients need. This takes the stress off of you for maintaining the site and lets you run your business from the other side and focus on what you are best at within your business.

Will this cost money up front? Yep. Should you pay a monthly fee to have the company keep it fresh and current? Definitely. If you do this, your website will stay fresh and current, which is very important for modern businesses on the Internet. An updated site will keep your customers coming back as well as draw in new ones. This in turn will bring you more profit and make the money you invested in a great website worth it. By using someone to custom-build your website, it will also help you stand out in the crowd of thousands of websites for similar businesses online.

Make your Website Mobile-Friendly

Making your website mobile-friendly goes along with the previous topic, but is equally important. This is another solid reason to hire a company to build your site custom to you and your business, unless you know what you’re doing in WordPress. Any great website-development company will make your site mobile-friendly. This is critical now that most people browse the Internet and even do their shopping from their smart phone or tablet.

Spend on the Right Technology

Which company you choose to host your website is very important. The hosting provider will play a key role in ensuring site speed and good performance. This is where many businesses make the mistake of settling on the cheapest hosting option. While the cost can be just a small difference, a cheap purchase here can be a costly mistake in the long run. Slower site speeds have proven to cut down on site conversions. Basically, a good web host will be the key difference in a site that takes forever to load or an easily accessible site. You must make sure your site is up and running fast at all times in order for you to retain customers and make more money.

Investing into managed WordPress hosting will help you save time by having someone else do the troubleshooting and making sure you have the latest technologies available no matter how many plugins your site uses or how many changes are made to the site. Also, you wont have to worry about dealing with security breaches to your site, having to back it up, or doing the updates yourself.

It also a good idea to invest in good cloud storage. Free or inexpensive cloud storage is usually that price for a reason. Do not skimp here, and go for a good quality to ensure that your data is safe and secure.

Spend on Marketing

Now that you have invested in a professionally managed and custom built website, you need to draw your customers in. How do you do that when there are thousands of competitors attempting to do the same thing? You have to get out there and battle for every customer. This will include methods like utilizing search engine optimization (SEO), social media, and great content marketing.

Sure you can do your research on using SEO, and you can post your content to social media all day. But these things can end up feeling like an extra full-time job. Many people find that providing content, blogging, keeping current with SEO, and posting daily to social media is impossible to do while still running their business. Another option is investing in pay per click (PPC) ads, but this again will require the time to research and make sure your money invested actually brings you customers and a return on investment.

Content management and SEO are things your website and business will need to thrive online, but it comes at the cost of time to you, and I am betting this is time you don’t have. Here again is where it would be smart to hire an online marketing firm that will handle all of this for you. Luckily, Virtual Market Advantage can do this for you, with as much or as little input from you as you like. It may take some money to properly set up your website, but it is sure to being you plenty of money back to more than cover the costs.

All of these online factors will help your business grow and give you peace of mind. Using these digital marketing tools will give you an edge over your competitors. From social media management to email marketing, there are many avenues you can take to stay competitive and grow your online presence. Know how to make money by spending it wisely where it will make the most impact.

Strategies for Generating Leads Through Social Media

Strategies for Generating Leads Through Social Media

If you are looking to expand your business and get some customers and new revenue coming your way, you may want to consider generating leads by using a social media platform. There are several ways to do this, and of course there are multiple social media platforms to choose from. Below, we’ll go over a few lead-generating strategies that will have new customers and income flooding to your business.

Choosing the Right Social Media Platforms

Once you have decided try generating quality leads through social media, you need to make sure that the platforms you choose are the right ones for your business. There are so many platform available, from Facebook to Twitter to LinkedIn and more. Making sure you know which one is the best to target your customer base will increase your odds of getting good quality leads.

A good start for learning which platforms to use comes from taking a look at B2B (direct business to business) marketers. Some surveys have shown that businesses find the most success with leads through LinkedIn and Facebook. If you are unsure about which sites contain your targeted audience, you can look at analytics data for each. This post lays the demographics out pretty clearly for the major sites.

Using Facebook

If you decide to use Facebook as your platform, the first thing you need to do is take your Facebook page seriously. Use it as a sales page, not a personal one. Host the free sample offers and giveaways here, as this is the platform that most people are likely to share your promotions on or compete with their friends in an online contest. Basically any type of contest or giveaway you can think of is a great way to get names and emails from potential leads on Facebook. It’s also super easy for your audience to share the promotion with their friends for even more reach.

You will most likely have to invest in some Facebook ads at some point if you really want to reach your target market on that site. The nice thing about this is that ads bought on Facebook are less than half the price-per-click than if you were to use AdWords (about $0.80 per click compared to $2.50). So if you want to use advertisements to generate leads, then Facebook is a relatively cheap option.

Using Twitter

Not as seasoned a social media platform as Facebook, Twitter is still fairly new to the game. This means that it can and most than likely will go through some major changes as it develops. Even so, Twitter can really help you generate quality leads, as it is one of the most-used social platforms out there.

To accomplish this, you should use Twitter cards. This is a similar system to Facebook ads. Take full advantage of these cards by choosing the best image for whatever you are promoting and be sure to keep the content short and sweet.

Another great option for connecting with your audience on Twitter is by using its Live Events, which is a way to directly communicate live with your audience. Maybe think about hosting a bi-weekly or monthly ‘ask me anything’ event. If you end your chats with a plug for your lead-generating campaign, it offers you a big value without directly advertising for your company.

Using LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the platform that gives you the most direct access to your peers. It is the option that gives you the most leads for B2B, so logically it is one of the first places you should start for generating leads. It was also recently acquired by Microsoft, so this means that even more professionals will be using the platform to network and connect with each other in the future.

Keep in mind that LinkedIn was built for professionals and business owners to connect. This differs from Facebook and Twitter, which were built for and are used mostly by people looking to casually connect with friends and coworkers.

Offer free samples

One great trick for directly connecting with potential leads is to offer them free samples in return for some information. Everyone loves freebies! These types of campaigns are just the thing that people like sharing on their social media pages. Offering a quality sample with a quick form to fill out at the front to capture some good lead data is great. Make sure you have an option at the end of the form where they can then share the free sample offer on their personal page to all their followers.

Aside from the free sample offer, you can also run a giveaway campaign where the person is asked to enter some information in exchange for exclusive content. This can lead to success for both you and those who participated. The participant got educational or entertaining exclusive content, while you got new names and leads.

Discount Codes

Discount codes fall under a similar idea as offering a free sample or running a short contest. Try offering a discount code for a product of yours after the viewer fills out a short form. If you place a clear call to action or time limit on this discount code as you promote it, you create a sense of urgency for the person to fill out the form as well as share it with others, so that can choose to get the discount before the time expires. Many consumer companies are using this tactic as well, as it costs less than running the discount ads elsewhere. You can use this technique to easily generate leads that you can use later for email promotions and other outreach projects.

In short, knowing which social media platforms best fit your target market and which strategy to use while promoting is key. It’s always a great idea to try different methods and see which ones work best for you and your business. Also note that while generating quality leads is not fool-proof, by following these ideas, you will generate more leads and higher quality leads across all the social media platforms. If you want more information on SEO, social media, blogging, and more, check out Virtual Market Advantage’s blog here!

The Ultimate Guide for How to Use Hashtags

The Ultimate Guide for How to Use Hashtags

Hashtags are found everywhere in social media these days, and have even permeated into our everyday language. The symbol for hashtags was previously only known as the pound sign (#) on telephones. What does using a hashtag mean? Where does that hashtag go once you put it out on the Internet? Do they really serve a purpose? When used well, they are definitely very useful for spreading and finding information online and reaching out to your audience. This blog will go over how to use hashtags for your business while making them fun to use at the same time!

What is a Hashtag?

A hashtag is a word or phrase with no spaces that has a pound sign in front of it. It is essentially a word, phrase, or sentence fragment that has been smashed together. The ‘hashtag’ has become so widely recognized that the Oxford Dictionary added the word to its dictionary in 2010 and Scrabble added it to their dictionary in 2014.

The hashtag was first introduced and most widely used on Twitter, but has since found its way onto Facebook, Instagram, and countless other sites. Now that so many websites use hashtags, the format links them together so that people using the same kinds of hashtags on one site can easily find more information on the other. All this sounds great, but #HowDoIHashtag? Knowing how to use hashtags well is important. The more specific you are with them, the more you reach out to your target audience.

For some formatting basics, you capitalization doesn’t matter too much when using hashtags for reach purposes. Here, we’ll capitalize each word to make them easier to read, which is a good thing to do for longer hashtags or ones that can be read multiple ways without clarification. Many people only capitalize the first letter, no letters, or whatever they feel like capitalizing in the moment. No capitalization is just fine for shorter hashtags. Also, remove any punctuation from the sentence, including commas and apostrophes.

Be Specific

So you think you are ready to use hashtags to start promoting and marketing your business. Great! First off, you need to know your target audience. Imagine that your service is dog grooming. You could use the hashtag #Dog, but that is way too general. By using something more specific like #DogGrooming, you would get a more targeted audience to what you are actually wanting to sell. If you are trying to promote something other than a specific product, such as a photo, make sure the hashtag is specific to that as well.

Relevant Hashtags

When you are using hashtags for your business, try and come up with ones that have yet to be claimed by another business. This is where it can be tricky. You do not want to use your actual business name as the hashtag, but you want something that is relevant to it. However, tons of hashtags have already been claimed by businesses around the world.

As an example of good branded hashtags, many cities use official hashtags for tourists to use when they are posting pictures from a vacation. This is a great way to promote travel to their city using people who have been there and are posting their own pictures. A few examples of this are:

  • South Dakota uses #HiFromSD
  • Florida uses #LoveFL
  • Disney World uses #DisneyWorld

By doing this and asking audiences to use these branded hashtags when posting to social media, everything from baseball teams to travel destinations to small businesses can reach a target market while creating a good research tool for its viewer base. It also gives them follower-generated content to use on their website and social sites. The initial branding may take some time and research, but will be a powerful tool in the long run.

Short and To The Point

It can be fun to get witty and creative with hashtags, but make sure you do not make them too long. For example: #DontMakeAHashtagAnEntireSentenceLong. Even with capitalization, is that pleasant to read? Sure, a longer hashtag may target a very specific audience and provide lots of information, but it will not trend or search well at all. Pretty much no one would think up the same long sentence in a search. Also, no one wants to type in that many characters, and this hashtag would take up most of the character limit on Twitter.

Being too clever in your hashtags may hurt you as well. You want people to naturally search for your hashtag, not have to be super clever to even find it. Being simple and short with the hashtag will get you more searches and more eyes towards your business.

More Content than Hashtags

When you are posting to social media, no matter which platform, make sure you have more content in your post than you do hashtags. A post crammed full of hashtags overwhelms and annoys many readers. Just because Instagram reportedly lets you use up to 30 hashtags in a single post, does not mean you should actually do that! It is hashtag overload, and often leaves you looking desperate. Sure it will gain you more viewers, but with this many hashtags, the visitors you gain will most likely be spammers rather than real people or people who are not in your target audience. If you like to use many different hashtags, make a list and spread out their use in several different posts over time.

If your post just repeats information and does not add to the general conversation of the topic, it is sometimes best to leave hashtags off entirely. When you are just reposting a breaking news story or a DIY idea you found online, there is no need to hashtag, since you are essentially just repeating something that isn’t your own content that was already out there.

Cater to the Social Media Sites You Use

Each social media site has its own preferred way to use hashtags to get the most out of them while using the platform. Do the research for each site to find the best way. Instagram tends to be more focused on the content description, while Twitter is more focused on the topic of the conversation. Take the time on each social media platform to look into what is the most relevant hashtag for your topic and go from there. If you use LinkedIn, keep in mind that that site does not like hashtags, so using them there can actually hurt your posts.

Hashtags on Twitter

For Twitter, the hashtag is used widely to tie everyone together in an ongoing conversation. For example, if you use #2016PresidentialDebate and click on the hashtag in Twitter, it will pull up all posts for that hashtag. This connects people who are not actually friends and allows them to all be a part of the bigger conversation. There is a hashtag stream that Twitter uses that allows you to connect with people in several ways within the same hashtag. It goes something like this:

  • Top: This is the stream of tweets that have seen the most engagement, usually those that have the most recent followers.
  • Latest: This is the live stream of those tweeting out a hashtag at that very moment.
  • People: This is a list of the top Twitter accounts that you can follow relating to the current popular hashtags.
  • Photos: This a collage of photos that are included in the tweets that use the trending hashtags.

Knowing this system for Twitter can help you find your best target audience and help you in figuring out the best hashtags to use. You can see what kinds of hashtags become the most popular and formulate your own hashtags in a similar way.

Hashtags on Facebook

Hashtags on Facebook are much like Twitter, where they tie together people who do not know each other. Unlike Twitter, Facebook profiles can be private, so when the hashtag is clicked on, the person’s information and posts may not be visible. Most hashtags used on Facebook are by brands, publishers, and influencers rather than individuals using them to connect to strangers.

Hashtags on Instagram

Hashtags have the same effect on Instagram as they do on Twitter and Facebook, but the search for a hashtag is much easier. Just go to the search bar in Instagram and type in the hashtag you are looking for to find results including that word or phrase.

Hashtags in the Offline World

Can you use hashtags outside of the Internet for your marketing? Sure! They can be great on fliers to help with a promotion or fundraiser drive you might have. They are also great for weddings, since guests don’t all know each other but will all be posting photos. Having a unique hashtag will create an album of sorts for all customers, guests, or clients. The research may take awhile, but your business will reap the benefits of a good hashtag in the long run. #ExploreHashtags

Hopefully this blog helps you develop your strategy for how to use hashtags for your business or event. If you want more information about social media, check out Virtual Market Advantage’s other blogsThis one goes over how to use social media to promote your blog posts!

Simple Ways to Improve Content Protection

Simple Ways to Improve Content Protection

From blog posts, to pictures, to an actual web page, most people have some form of online content out there. But how do you keep this content from being copied and reused without your permission? With the ease of getting your message out there comes the ease of someone else reusing your message somewhere else on the web. Here we will go over some simple steps you can take for content protection to help keep your content on your website or blog only.

Blog Posts Already Stolen

You are surfing around the Internet and come across a great blog about your interests, and you realize its great because (ugh!) it’s your exact blog! What are the steps you can take to not only get the stolen version taken down, but to also prevent it from happening on your other blog posts?

Find the Webmaster: See if you can locate the web page owner on the blog and send them an email asking them to please remove the copied post. If you are unable to locate the website owner, you can go to WhoIs.com and type in the web address. Doing this should give you the webmaster’s email and/or information about the hosting company. Once you have this contact info, you can start sending DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) emails.

DMCA to Web Host: Send the same DMCA email to the webmaster and the web hosting company. Hosting companies also have forms to fill out for DMCA takedown requests. Most hosting companies take copywriting seriously and have a team dedicated to correcting the issue. Here are a few direct links to hosting company DMCA forms:

DMCA to Google: You will also want to fill out a claim form in its entirety with Google. Make sure you check every box so that your claim will not be rejected unnecessarily.

DMCA to Facebook: If you want to check and make sure that your content was not copied or posted to Facebook, you can do a search of the exact title in the search bar. If you found your copied content on Facebook, you will want to file A DMCA claim with them as well. When you fill out the claim form, make sure you copy the exact link to your content that was copied.

Protecting Written Content

Maybe you have already been through the above process of getting your copied content removed, or you are just starting your blogging journey and want to provide content protection from the start. There are a couple steps that can help you make sure your blog post stays yours:

Disable Right Clicking: You can disable the ability for visitors to your site to right click and copy your content. Doing this will prevent most people from copying and pasting your content or pictures for their own use. There are a few ways to do this. First, you can go into javascript and code it in yourself. If this is not something you want to do, you can install a plugin like WP Copy and Protect that can disable the right click for you.

Display Strong Warnings: To stop some content theft, you can place a warning in large bold letters that clearly states that copying your content is prohibited. For example:

WARNING! COPYING PROHIBITED

WE WILL PROSECUTE ALL INTERENT THEFT OF OUR MATERIAL

COPYING PROHIBITED!

There are also official badges that you can place on your website from protection companies such as Stop Web Pirates and CopyScape. This method works in a similar way to having a home security sticker in the window of your house.

Change RSS to Summary Instead of Full Post: Most spamming sites use an RSS feed to get to your full post and copy and paste it from there. By changing this to a summary instead of the full post, you will force them to actually visit your site. When they do this and you have the right click disabled, they will be unable to copy your post. Or they will not visit your site in the first place and will go on to the next one. To change this setting in WordPress, login to the dashboard and go to Settings. From there, click on Discussion and change the RSS feed to Excerpt. There should be a similar option on other development sites.

Protecting Your Images

Images are one of the easiest forms of content to steal online, so it’s important to protect them if you don’t want them to be spread without your permission. There are a few ways to go about this:

Watermark your Images. A watermark is a faint bit of writing or logo that is placed over the image. If you do this, there is no way for a person to remove it even after they take your image, so people will see where it came from. There are several software programs that help you create a watermark for your images.

Disable Right Click: Again, just like for your written content, you want to make sure that the right click option is disabled for your images. This is just like locking the door of your home to deter all but the most persistent burglars from getting in.

Copyright: You can also get a copyright for your images or business, if you are a photography business. If you do this, make sure you attach your copyright notice to the right of all images you post online. Doing this will give you good grounds to prosecute someone for stealing your images.

The Internet is a tricky place to navigate, as you try to provide content protection for your own images and writing. Sometimes it can seem overwhelming, but there is always a step to take to make your content protection stronger or fight back against thieves. When it is something written or created by you, then taking steps to protect it is well worth it. There are web content companies out there that can help you keep your website safe. Just like you keep your home and its belongings safe, you need to do the same for your content online.

If you want more information about content, website development, SEO, blogging, and more, check out Virtual Market Advantage’s other blogs here!

How To Promote Your Blog Post Using Social Media

How To Promote Your Blog Post Using Social Media

You have a great idea, so you sit down and write a piece about it. You put it out there by publishing it to your blog. Is just posting it on your website enough? The short answer is no. By sharing your blog post the correct way through social media, you will get a steady flow of visitors to your site. Here we will go over a few tips and tricks to get the most eyes on your blog using different social media platforms.

Posting the Blog Link to Facebook

There are a couple of quick steps here you can take that will ensure that you reach more of your followers. First, as you go to post to Facebook, don’t just copy and paste the link. Give your readers a tease before they click on the link. You are allowed over 63,000 characters on a Facebook post, but the first 480 characters are what is visible to viewers without clicking to see more. By providing a quote or paragraph from your blog to get the readers interested, you will entice a bigger percentage of viewers to click that link. Another way to get followers interested via Facebook is to include a picture in your post that relates to the content of the blog.

Posting to Twitter

Twitter is a whole different ballgame from Facebook. Twitter takes time and patience to reach a solid audience. It was the first social media platform to use hashtags and @ handles to spread information. While they have stretched out the character limit to 140, it is sill most effective to use the least amount of characters as possible. Using up to 4 hashtags also makes it more searchable for keywords. Also, use @ handles aimed towards specific people or companies to spread a message or give credit where it is due.

The average time a tweet stays relevant is 18 minutes. This is where the time and patience comes in. To keep your blog post relevant, it is best to share your blog post to twitter more than once and on different days of the week and at different times of the day. The best time to share on twitter is between 8-10am, 11am-1pm, and after work at 4pm. Keep in mind that your audience may mostly reside in a different time zone than you when you decide when to post. Posting within these time frames will give your tweet, and hopefully your blog, more eyes. You can post your link weekly and then slow up to monthly depending on what type of promotion you want for the blog.

Posting to LinkedIn

This is a platform that lets you post to a personal profile, to a group, or on a company page. If you’re posting to a company page, it works a lot like Facebook, where only the first 150 characters will be seen. So making those characters engaging and enticing to the reader will make people more likely to click on your link. Make sure that you establish a conversation with your readers within your post. An easy way to accomplish this is by asking them questions. When sharing your blog post to LinkedIn (as with Facebook), it’s a good idea to attach an image to your link.

The best time frames to post to LinkedIn are between 8-10am and 4-6pm. Make sure you are posting once here for the first promotion of a particular blog. Then post once a week, eventually reducing down to once every 2-3 months. Make sure these reposts are on your profile and not your page.

Pinning On Pinterest

This location of social media promotion is all about image. With thousands of images up to see on Pinterest, you want yours to catch people’s attention and hold them long enough to read the description and click on the image. Pinterest gives you up to 500 characters in the description. However, to keep the reader convinced, it is best to keep your pin at 150-300 characters long. Always use a link to your blog in the description here, because clicking on the image takes the reader to your blog location. Share your featured image of the blog post to Pinterest to help the reader connect from Pinterest to the blog, and add a call to action in the description to engage readers to like, repin, buy now, or read more.

To gain a specific audience, you should use the feature of creating boards based on specific topics and pin to those accordingly.

Sharing on Instagram

Instagram is similar to Pinterest in being image-driven. With Instagram, the images are shared in a single stream and lose impact quickly. Most interaction takes place within the first 3 hours of posting. With only the first 155 characters of the maximum 2200 characters allowed in the description of a photo showing, it is key to say what is most important within the first 3 lines. Hashtags are a great way to engage on Instagram, and there are times where the description is all hashtags. This decision is up to you, depending on what you are promoting.

Use your blog’s featured image to promote here first. Then post again over the weeks to keep an audience interested. You may want to post other pictures featured in your blog as well. The best time to post on Instagram is in the evening.

Post Based on Social Media Outlet

What all of this should tell you is that you should not go and post the exact same thing to all of these social media platforms. Each platform has a tailored audience and a different method of dispersing information. Look at your audience and your followers, and ask yourself what would make them stop scrolling and look at what you are posting. Tailor your posts to the platform and the readers who are going there. You also may not need to cross post to all of these sites with every post you make, depending on the blog. Each blog is unique, and so is the social media post that will give you the most viewers.

If you want more information about blogging, SEO, social media, website development, and more, check out Virtual Market Advantage’s other blogs hereThis one goes into the history of Vine, and why it dissolved even though short videos are a huge content powerhouse right now.

Why Vine Died

Why Vine Died

Vine was a hosting service for posting short videos. The videos could only be 6 seconds long and would repeat on a loop over and over. This short format pushed people to be innovative and make creative videos that worked well with the short time-span and repetition. These days, short videos are a powerful form of content that really draws in viewers and engages your audience. Let’s take a look at why Vine died, since it was a service that provided an easy way to create short videos.

Beginning of Vine

Vine was founded in June 2012 by Dom Hofmann, Rus Yusupov, and Colin Kroll. Its short format quickly drew the interest of Twitter, the social networking service that’s known for its short, 140-character posts. Twitter bought Vine in October 2012 for around $30 million. The service was officially launched as a free IOS app on January 24, 2013.

The creators of Vine envisioned the service as an easy way to share short, casual life moments with friends and family members. However, people found another use for their videos pretty much from day one. Many people took Vine’s 6 second limitation as a challenge for creativity, humor, and visual art. The original beta only had about a dozen people, and even those few people started to immediately use Vine imaginatively.

The creators have said that almost immediately after launch, it became clear that Vine wasn’t being used as a day-to-day platform for sharing daily moments. “Watching the community and the tool push on each other was exciting and unreal, and almost immediately it became clear that Vine’s culture was going to shift towards creativity and experimentation,” said Hofmann in an interview with The Verge.

Rising Popularity and Famous Vines

Vine only existed on its own for a few short months before joining Twitter. Ian Padgham, part of Twitter’s marketing team at the time, saw the creative potential of Vine immediately. He made many videos using Vine both as promotional content and for pure enjoyment. His first Vine was a simple view of the street outside Twitter headquarters. Padgham loved the 6-second limit, because it made you think more about your content. “It’s kind of like drawing in Microsoft Paint,” he said, “you couldn’t get distracted by the bells and whistles.”

Padgham’s Vines became pretty popular. One of his most famous creations is a tribute to early photographer and filmmaker Eadweard Muybridge. This short video took him several hours and 300 pictures to create. His time-lapse Vine that shows his fingers traveling around and manipulating Big Ben has been viewed 6 million times. 6 months after Vine was released, Padgham actually got enough offers from big brand companies like Sony to make him feel comfortable enough to quit his job at Twitter to pursue a career of Vine marketing.

In 2013, Twitter updated the Vine app to allow users to record their videos using their front-facing phone cameras. This change made Vine’s popularity explode, and many Vine stars arose from the masses. Magician Zach King became famous for his amazing tricks. Definitely check them out if you haven’t! Amanda Cerny became famous for her fun Vines that featured a lot of physical comedy. Logan Paul even turned his Vine popularity into an acting career.

Instagram and Snapchat: The Beginning of the End

Vine’s popularity peaked by 2014. Twitter didn’t release specific statistics, but once claimed to have an audience of 200 million. The humor became increasingly self-referential, and many memes came from Vine’s short videos. However, the beginning of the end for Vine had already begun in June 2013, when Facebook released the ability to post videos with Instagram. Not only did Instagram provide a similar service to Vine, but that company moved faster to respond to its audience and provide more innovations.

Instagram appealed to a wider audience than Vine. It permitted up to 15 seconds of video, allowing for over twice the amount of content within a single post. This was later extended to 60 seconds. Instagram also promoted its celebrity accounts with an “explore” option that allowed viewers to find new content easily. Marketers and celebrities quickly moved away from Vine into Instagram, which remains a powerhouse of social media to this day.

Another big draw that pulled users away from Vine was Snapchat. This service allows users to create and post 10-second videos. Through its design and marketing, Snapchat managed to secure the niche of users casually posting about their daily lives that the creators of Vine intended to fill. By May of 2016, reports indicated that Vine users were sharing fewer and fewer new posts, and many were leaving for other services.

Management Problems

Another problem Vine faced was a constant turnover in upper management. Hofmann had quit back in 2014, shortly followed by Kroll. Yusupov was eventually fired by Twitter. In response, he ironically Tweeted “Don’t sell your company!” on Twitter. Jason Toff took over Vine between 2014 and 2016. Hannah Donnovan followed after that beginning in March 2016, but she had no real experience running a company.

This kind of overturn in the company’s leadership most likely contributed to Vine’s inability to make money. Vine’s creators resisted most monetization strategies from the start, and the company never got on the same page as Instagram and Snapchat for cutting deals with celebrities and promoting accounts. There were eventually talks of combining Vine’s services within the default Twitter app. However, this never came to pass. By July 2016, most of Vine’s top executives had already jumped ship.

The End

In December 2016, Twitter officially announced that Vine would be shut down, and that Twitter users could instead post videos of any size directly to Twitter. In January 2017, a “Vine Camera” app was released that allows users to record and post videos on Twitter, but the app suffers from bad reviews. They also announced that preexisting Vines would remain online to view in an archive.

Ankur Thakkar, Vine’s head of editorial, explained the downfall of the company: “A couple of things plagued Vine, and it all stems from the same thing, which is a lack of unity and leadership on a vision.” Many of the stars continued to work on other platforms, but none of them have quite the same feel of the 6-second repeating loop that spurred such interesting innovation.

So how should we answer the question of why Vine died? The short answer is an inability to compete by providing new features for its users, leading to a dwindling user-base. The company also suffered from a revolving door of top executives who were never prepared to properly monetize the company.

If you want to see more information about SEO, website development, social media news, and more, check out Virtual Market Advantage’s other blogs here!

Improve your Copy with these Copywriting Exercises

Improve your Copy with these Copywriting Exercises

Our previous VMA blog defined copywriting and discussed what makes good copy. As a refresher, good copy will engage your audience and provide something valuable to make people want to buy your product or use your services. In addition to starting a conversation with your customers, good copy also needs to take web design and SEO into account in order to thrive in modern-age business.

The next question is:

How do I get better at writing copy?

Let’s go over some useful copywriting exercises to help you improve your copy and make you more comfortable with writing and creating as a whole. Practice makes perfect, so let’s go over some things you can do to develop your copywriting skills.

Re-Write Ads

Advertisements are everywhere. We’re bombarded with them constantly. As you interact with the world every day, pay close attention to the ads around you and try to re-write them. Can you figure out a way to make people crave that restaurant’s food even more with a better billboard slogan? Is there any way to improve that Google AdWord advertisement that came up on your last search?

Don’t worry about the quality of your fake re-written ads. The important thing is to constantly practice using different styles and methods to promote an idea or product.

Make a Swipe File

If you have a job that requires you to constantly produce new content, keeping a swipe file is a must. A swipe file is a collection of advertisements and copy that left a mark on you in some way. Even if it has nothing to do with your field, you can put content in your swipe file for any reason: great visual design, a clever turn of phrase, or even a cool font that you want to use later. Make sure to save anything that makes you click on a link, laugh, or even just pause for a closer look.

A swipe file can be either a physical file or digital file. You can even have one on your phone, which is a great way to keep up with mobile-responsive innovations. Screenshots are a great tool for easily saving digital copies. If you have a Mac, you can press command-shift-4, then drag a box around the desired image. By default, this saves the screenshot to your desktop, where you can drag it into your swipe file.

If you have a Windows PC, it gets a bit more complicated. Here’s an overview of several different ways to take screenshots in Windows. If you have Windows 10, by default one of the easier ways to take a screenshot is to press Windows-PrintScreen (usually abbreviated to something like PrntScrn or PrtScn and located near F12). This will save an image of your entire screen to Screenshots under the default Pictures folder.

So what do you do with your expanding swipe file? Use it for inspiration! If you need to make something, browse your swipe file for ideas related to that project. Need a clean-but-interesting web layout? Want to find phrasing ideas for blog titles? Check your swipe file and see if anything that popped out at you in the past can help with your current problem.

Copy Copy

A simple exercise for improving your content is to copy other people’s copy. While you’re filling your swipe file with fun ideas, physically write down advertisements, slogans, and other forms of copy that you think are brilliant. Copy them word-for-word, so you can get a better feel for how the sentence is structured and what makes it sound and look good.

Highlight the Benefits

When you describe the features of your product or business, don’t simply list them. You also need to let your customers know the results of these features and how they will benefit them.

For example, a feature of WordPress is the ability to publish content such as pages and posts without using code. This is a great feature, but on the WordPress website, the copywriter further explains that anyone who has created a document on their computer is already prepared to write a post, format it, insert media, and publish “with the click of a button.” Not only does the paragraph describe the feature of WordPress, but it also explains in simple terms how this feature benefits the potential user.

Keep in mind that you are most likely much more informed on your business’ field than your customers. They want to know how they can use your features to benefit themselves and why they should use your company over another. Most of them won’t be drawn to a jargon-heavy list of features.

Be Concise

There’s a reason why social media sites such as Twitter and Instagram are so huge. People love taglines. A short, concise phrase such as “just do it” or “I’m lovin’ it” sticks in your head much easier than a longer sentence would.

When creating your copy, try to trim down the content and get your point across with as few words as possible. By sending out information more efficiently, you will get your message across better. Whether it’s text, video, or audio, spread information with fewer words.

This doesn’t mean that all of your copy should be cut short. Long copy can spread a lot of information, draw people in, and sell well. Longwinded copy, on the other hand, drives people away before they finish listening.

Read Out Loud

One of the best things you can do to improve your copy right away is read it out loud. Not only does this help you weed out typos and grammatical errors, but it also helps you make your content sound more conversational. It’s much easier to make a sentence sound natural if you hear it as you read it. It will also help you avoid being as longwinded!

Read aloud to yourself, record your voice and listen to it, or even force someone else to listen to you. You’ll see instant results.

Learn More

Many jobs require you to keep up-to-date on the latest news, techniques, or trends. Working as a copywriter is no different, especially if your focus is online. A copywriter who is good at many things is always going to have an edge over one who is only good at one thing.

Get experience wherever you can. If you want to work as a freelancer, it’s best to start out in an established company for a few years. That way, you can learn how many aspects of the business works, and it’s not as easy to get stuck in a rut of your own repeating ideas.

Constantly search for more ways to learn something new or improve an old skill. Take classes, join a discussion, read a book…the possibilities for new information are endless, especially online!

Hopefully these tips help you develop your copywriting skills a bit more in the future. If you want more information on SEO, web development, design, and many other topics, check out Virtual Market Advantage’s other blogs here!