Lets all take a little break.

“You’ve been working really hard. You should take a break.”

If someone told you that, would you believe them? Would you allow yourself a few minutes of respite-- an actual break?

For so many people, break time means just stopping looking blankly at the section of their screen called “office” and instead looking at the section of their screen called Facebook. And that’s no good.

You should take a break. You deserve a break. A real break. Stand up from your desk—even if your watch hasn’t told you to yet—and walk around a little. Go outside. Go down to the atrium. Every company has an atrium; you just haven’t found the one at your company yet. Use that funny little bathroom that’s tucked in behind the stairs in the old part of the building. (True story. Can’t talk about it here.)

The point is, taking time off from working on your work doesn’t mean doing something else that is like work, but isn’t. Checking your personal email is a shitty way to take a break from checking your work email. Taking a break – a really good break— makes you a more productive worker.

  1. Fast Company, People Magazine for Entrepreneurs, says you should Stop pretending you’re too busy to take breaks.
  2. Taking a break at work makes you a better employee, according to Health.com, which (according to their fine print) is practically Time Magazine, and is not intended to constitute medical advice.
  3. The Huffington Post, creeping ever closer to becoming Buzz Feed for adults, has Five Very Good Reasons to Take A Break At Work Today.
  4. There is a great infographic about the importance of taking breaks at work published on Lifehack.org, who is hoping you’ll confuse them with Lifehacker.
  5. Want to know how taking time off is the secret to increased productivity? You’ll have to check out this Entrepreneur Magazine article, which is written from the unique perspective of a rich white businessman.

I'd like to make this list longer, but frankly, I'm ready for a break.

It Puts the money in the money hole: Getting Started with Facebook Ads

If you’re reading this from LinkedIn, you have any appreciable frame of reference for how Facebook makes money from organizations, or you're some kind of fancypants social media guru, this post is not for you. Well, maybe you can use this post to show your parents or your dumb bosses or something. I dunno. This post is attempts to talk through at a very, very basic level why even small orgnaizations should be advertising on Facebook.

Let the advertising begin!

This post is a quick rundown of the first set of Facebook advertisements I ran for The Watertown Players, a local theater group on which I serve as a member of the Board of Directors. I had a $25 budget (that I was donating on my own) and that’s it. I also had a passing familiarity with the content of the show we were putting on, and I knew we sold tickets through BrownPaperTickets.com.

I’m getting ahead of myself.

I decided, kind of at the spur of the moment, to spring for a few “advertisements” for the Watertown Players. We've struggled to "get the word out." We don’t have a marketing strategy beyond sending press releases to the local daily paper, posters, and word of mouth. Our website’s kind of broken. (Long story-- I won't link to it until I get a chance to fix it.)

But we do have a pretty good Facebook account. It’s got a few followers, and they're dedicated, and we probably know all of them between those of us on the Board of Directors. We typically use Facebook to tell people about events and promote the heck out of the good work we’re doing at the theater.

The problem is, if you’re an organization, Facebook pretty much doesn’t care what kind of good work you’re doing. Facebook mostly just wants you to put money in the money hole.

So, if Facebook is only going to show your posts (and only some of them) to people who already like and follow you, how do you get new people to know what you’re doing?

The answer: You pay Facebook to show people what you’re doing. It’s like any other kind of advertising. It’s not complicated, and Facebook makes it incredibly easy for you to do it. (No surprise: It’s in their best interest to make it easy for you to put your money in their money hole.)

So, I figured, why not? I do this kind of thing all the time as part of my professional life, why not give it a shot with the Watertown Players? I built and ran some quick ads that invited people to go to the Brown Paper Tickets website where we sell our admissions online.

The ads ran for about four days in total, and in exchange for about $20, I know the following facts:

  • 1337 unique individuals saw my ad at least once. (Facebook calls that “Reach.”)
  • 560 people decided to do “something” as the result of my ads. (Facebook calls that “Engagement.)
  • 51 people clicked on my ad. Which took them to Brown Paper Tickets, where I hope they bought tickets, but I honestly don’t know because I didn’t track that. I didn't have access to Brown Paper Tickets at the time. (If I knew how many people went ahead and bought a ticket because of my ad, Facebook would call those “Conversions.)

Did it work?

In all, I call the experiment a success.

Mostly because the only thing I wanted to know was if I could get $20 worth of ads to serve to theater-goers within 25 miles of our theater. And the answer is yes. That’s great. Now I can refine who I want to target, make changes to how we’re tracking the conversions, and start thinking about Facebook ads sooner in the promotional phase of our shows.

I expect the theater group’s board of directors will talking about better ways to integrate our online ticket vendor into the mix so that I can track conversions automatically. Once I can automatically know when advertising spending is converting to income, I can make meaningful choices about how much money it's worth putting into Facebook ads for our upcoming shows.

At the end of the day, even infinite posters up in infinite windows across town won't be able to do that.

Just sending happy little emails

Early on in my career, I was something of a Bob Ross of email marketers. Don't get me wrong, I love Bob Ross, but, just like how he would sometimes paint "Happy Little Clouds," sometimes, I was just sending "Happy Little Emails."

Like Ross' little clouds, my emails were fluffy and pretty and made me and my bosses feel good. At the end of the day we made little reports we could show off. We were so proud.

Don't get me wrong; I looked at the analytics-- in all cases, I had a pretty respectable readerships and click through rate-- but what I didn't have was any kind of inbound or follow-through marketing strategy.

And that's where the real power lies in email marketing, right? I mean, I know I'm preaching to the choir here. None of you would ever send out a huge smash of emails to everyone on your list just because.

Of course not. That would be crazy.

The problem is, people do just that all the time. If you've ever had your email address fed into the spam machine by a group of angry script kiddies (long story) you know just how large of a problem this is.

Five ways to be a better email marketer

So what are responsible inbound marketers to do? Here are five suggestions for how we can be better stewards of our email marketing efforts.

  1. Don't buy Lists. Ever. And refuse to work with those who do.
  2. Understand how email works. Not just server to server, but understand the peering and reputation systems at play behind the scenes.
  3. Segment, Segment, Segment. Don't send email to people who don't want it. People who already bought your product probably won't want to see that email that tells them you're having a sale on the thing they just paid full price for.
  4. Understand your audience Not just to the demographics of your audience, but understand all the ways your audience wants to interact with you, and what your unique value proposition is to them. If you don't have audience personas written down somewhere, you're probably not really marketing.
  5. Take a class or get a certification. You probably don't know as much about this as you think you do, and this stuff is changing all the time.