How Boeing’s Brand Can Bounce Back

Airplanes have one definitive feature: they fly. When fliers board that multi-ton tin can, they are trusting that it will somewhat-miraculously take off in one place and safely land in another. When that promise is broken, it’s not a minor inconvenience, but a frightful and public tragedy.

With two notable crashes of its 737 Max jetliner in the past year-and-a-half, Boeing broke that promise to 346 unfortunate passengers and crew in Indonesia and Ethiopia. This tragic loss of life echoed to millions of travelers beyond those onboard, shaking the foundational trust that air travel is built on. Airlines grounded the plane, stock prices dipped, and the CEO was fired.

Most challenging, and the toughest pill to swallow, is that this incident ran deeper than just a flawed design – it was a flawed culture and process that cut corners and produced a dangerous product. In recent days we’ve learned of internal emails that express disdain for management and regulators, indicate years of coverups and oversights, and present a focus more on shareholder value than on flier safety.

This isn’t something that a flashy advertising campaign or a well-worded tweet can fix. Brand equity is hard-earned, built slowly over years. But as Ben Franklin wisely put it,

“It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.”

Unfortunately, this wasn’t just one bad deed, but a system of repeated ones that ultimately broke the promise that lies at the core of Boeing’s brand. Righting this wrong will take concentrated effort and a large dose of humble responsibility.

Perhaps the best-known case of effective crisis management is that of the 1982 Tylenol murders. In the span of few days, seven people in the Chicago area mysteriously died of cyanide poisoning. The deaths were traced back to tampered bottles of Tylenol, and warnings were issued to discontinue using the product in the news and even through patrol cars using loudspeakers.

As hysteria built, Johnson & Johnson, makers of Tylenol, decided to take swift and decisive action. At great expense, the company issued a nationwide recall of all of its products, over 30 million bottles in total. Within weeks, Johnson & Johnson reintroduced Tylenol in triple-sealed tamper-proof packages, and a short time later the painkiller was back at the top of the market.

Notably, the Tylenol murderer was never caught, and Johnson & Johnson was not actually the cause of the crisis. But this incident is case-study crisis management because they took responsibility, went into action without regard to expense, and spent not a moment delaying.

Boeing, on the other hand, has been much slower in its response to the 737 Max crisis, largely just nodding to additional training so far. If they want to repair their brand, the company will need to heed the lessons of Tylenol nearly four decades ago: fully take responsibility for producing an unsafe aircraft that resulted in hundreds of needless deaths, invest heavily in a renewed focus on engineering and safety, and do both of these things without letting another news cycle slipping by.

New CEO David Calhoun officially takes charge today. He has an opportunity to turn things around, but it will not be easy.

How to Get Started in Digital Marketing

Every now and then I get asked by my students, people I meet at our events, or just anybody else, “Where should I begin to learn about digital marketing?” It’s a tough question: We’re not doctors or lawyers, and there is no set career path or accredited certification required to practice our craft. I know people that have taken undergraduate and graduate degrees in our field, and I know people that have stumbled into it after working in unrelated careers for years. And neither path necessarily produces a better marketer.

For many looking to bone up on their skills or to shift careers, it can be helpful to explore a more traditional path like the university degrees mentioned above, or on a more accessible level, a bootcamp-style program like General Assembly or BrainStation. These programs can be transformative and help unlock doors to a career in digital marketing, however they also come with a hefty price-tag and a serious time commitment. One way to dip your toes in the water are one-off continuing education courses at a community college or short-run seminars at these non-traditional institutions.

But in my book, the best bang for the buck for somebody truly starting at square one are not necessarily traditional classrooms, but through a suite of tools that you can start right now in just a couple clicks. Most of these tools are free or low-cost, and several of them will even guide you through actual hands-on practice with the platforms and software that digital marketers use on a daily basis.

Skillshare

Fresh off a rebranding to start 2020, Skillshare is still one of our favorite platforms for learning new things. The company’s strength is in creative topics such as design, animation, and illustration, but there are still tons of excellent courses in branding, social media management, SEO, and other more general marketing topics. I personally hop on Skillshare from time to time to help learn new tools and brush up on best practices, and their platform is one of the most user-friendly online learning tools I’ve encountered. A differentiator here from some of the platform-owned tools below is that the courses are largely taught by independent practicing professionals, meaning you will learn some tips and tricks that you won’t find in the metaphorical owner’s manual. There are thousands of free classes in a variety of subjects, but some of the best content (and offline viewing) is reserved for premium members at a modest price.

Google Skillshop

Google’s set of courses and accompanying certifications are probably the most widely recognized on this list, as the company has been providing extensive training programs for many years. There are options to dive into several Google products, but most relevant to an aspirating digital marketer will be the courses on Google Ads, Google Marketing Platform, Analytics, and YouTube. Most classes clock in at less than five hours, so it’s easy to knock one off on a slow day or over a couple evenings.

Once you learn the ropes, you can then take certification tests on a handful of the topics. These tests do require studying, but they will be worth it. Showcasing Google certifications on your resume can give you some instant digital marketing street cred and help you stand out in a crowded field of wannabe applicants or freelancers.

Adobe

Despite strong entrants from Sketch, Invision, and other firms, Adobe still makes the gold standard creative software on the market. Between Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, xD, After Effects, Premiere Pro, and other software in the Creative Cloud, you can make just about any vision a reality – across just about any medium. You’ll need a license for the apps that you want to learn, but once you’re set up you can dive in to multiple levels of courses that will let you hit the ground running on these professional-grade tools.

Facebook Blueprint

Between them, Facebook and Google make up more than half of the total digital advertising market, so it is imperative that you are familiar with both platforms as you begin to wade into the space. Luckily, Facebook has also built out a robust learning platform named Blueprint to help empower marketers and business owners to learn their tools. Blueprint has dozens of short courses broken out into different use cases and features of their business products. Remember that Facebook owns other gigantic platforms Instagram and WhatsApp as well, so you’ll also find content related to those two in here.

Like Google, Facebook also offers certifications that can be valuable on your resume. There is a cost associated with some of the tests, so make sure that you bone up on your material before you get started on those exams.

LinkedIn Learning

Once upon a time, LinkedIn Learning was known as Lynda. Even with its recent rebranding, this platform still offers one of the deepest libraries of online courses, covering dozens of topics in business and technology. Its digital marketing library is robust, both with a featured “learning path” that includes 15 hours of expert videos and a certification at the end, and with over 100 other lessons in branding, advertising, content marketing, and more. Unlike the offerings from Google and Facebook, this is a premium paid platform and will cost you a few bucks to get all the content … however with a little bit of poking around you may just be able to find free access through your local library.

Books

As much as we love to curl up with a good book, the field of digital marketing moves at too fast a clip to make most books on the topic relevant. That being said, there are plenty of fantastic tomes on the core tenets of good marketing that should be on your list, and we’ve covered a few of our favorites in a couple earlier blog posts. If you want more to read, here’s a good rule of thumb: If the book came out more than a few years ago and people are still praising it, it’s much more likely to include “timeless truths” about marketing than the latest release. There are also plenty of great books to check out about more specialized sub-topics within the marketing field, such as branding, copywriting, and graphic design. Reading a book is like borrowing somebody else’s brain, and whether you read specifically digital marketing books or really anything else, the simple act of doing so will help you be a better communicator and a more well-rounded leader.

Meetups and Events

All of the tools above can be digested from the comfort of your own own at any time of your choosing, but there is still something about real-world interactions that can’t be beat. On any given day, and in any given big-enough city, you’re apt to find dozens of free or low-cost events on sites like Meetup or through organizations like the American Marketing Association or the American Institute of Graphic Artists. Each event will be different, but seeking out and attending these talks and presentations will allow you to meet people in the field, ask questions of the presenters, and build relationships.

Regardless of which tools you explore, the best way to get started is to simply start. Find something you want to make or something you want to promote, and spend some time experimenting with real-world platforms and software to conjure it into reality. There has never been more opportunity, and there has never been more information at your fingertips. Good luck!

Why Should I Listen to You? How to Signal Authority

When we work with authors and other thought leaders, one of the first questions we ask is “why should anybody care what you have to say?” This may seem a little blunt, but it’s the internal monologue that is running through a reader when they see your book on the shelf or hear your voice in an interview. Why are you the authority on the topic which you are speaking or writing about?

People lead busy lives and can’t deeply research each and every source of information or opinions that are bombarding them throughout the day. We all rely on shortcuts to help us sift through the noise and figure out who’s worth our limited attention. We look at brief biographical blurbs, first-line Wikipedia entries, and Twitter bios to figure out who you are and why we should care.

In these short-form scenarios, we advise aspiring thought leaders to consider using the magic number of three when listing their bonafides: Jane Doe, Emmy-winning journalist, host of the Jane Doe Show, and PhD in subject X. Three is enough to show well-rounded experience, but also not too much as to become a full-blown resume.

There is no single way for you to become an “expert,” and some of it is a little bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy: the more you talk and write about something, the more you know about that something. But despite the lack of a clear path, there are some broad categories of signals that show you are worth listening to – and that fit in that Twitter bio.

Media

Are you a columnist, reporter, host, commentator, analyst, or some other form of talking head? If you’re the host of a podcast, featured panelist on a cable news show, or regular guest writer on a notable publication, you are able to directly show that somebody else agrees that what comes out of your brain is valuable. This is perhaps that most powerful signal.

On the flip side, have you been interviewed, featured, or profiled by a reputable outlet? While not as powerful a shorthand as creating the content itself, it’s still valuable to include these references in longer-form biographies.

Awards and Recognition

There are some unimpeachable awards that are the capstones of a career and become permanently attached to your name as a required prefix: Nobel, Oscar, Pulitzer, Emmy, and a handful of others. Including these in a biography goes without saying, but there are also dozens of impressive awards across industries and subjects that are also worth including as a signifier of noteworthy accomplishment and distinction. Beyond statuettes and medals, you may also be recognized on lists or rankings that are worthy of note: 30 under 30, top agencies in your city, etc.

Teaching and Learning

Nothing helps you learn a subject like teaching it. Fittingly, nearly nothing helps you be seen as a subject expert as teaching it. If you are an educator, whether it be full-time or part-time, you have a head start on building authority in your subject matter. You can do this at a formal institution like a college or university, or via more flexible means like a digital class on Skillshare or a seminar at General Assembly.

On the other end of the classroom, you’ll find the most traditional means of becoming an expert in something: studying it. Degrees, particularly advanced ones, are important in actually learning a topic as well as signaling to the world that you know said topic. Anybody can read a few books about something, but getting that masters or doctorate in the specialty puts you at a distinctly separate level.

Professional Accomplishments

Your resume is home to another set of valuable signals. Did you start a successful (or unsuccessful) company? Have you served in a leadership or specialist position in a relevant or noteworthy business? Are you on the board of any companies or non-profits? Your professional affiliations and achievements can help define your voice and bolster your credibility.

Personal Biography

Finally, we have the amorphous category of your personal biography: everything about you that doesn’t neatly fall into the buckets above. Did you grow up in a certain environment that makes your commentary unique? Are you a veteran, a social justice crusader, or related to somebody notable? Do you collect rare things or have read a thousand books? There is a lot that makes us who we are that doesn’t fit on a LinkedIn profile, and sometimes those are the qualifications that make us experts in the things we talk or write about.

Now, all these signals mentioned above are only so valuable if you actually do truly know what you are talking about. These can get you in the door to be considered by a reader or follower, but unless you have the brains to back it up then you’re not going to get you very far. Nothing is a replacement for true expertise, interesting insights, and effective communication.

Our Agency Resolutions for the New Year

Though New Year’s resolutions catch a lot of flack from those that say it’s just another day, I’ve always believed that it is helpful to use this milestone as a focusing event to reflect, and ultimately improve. Any time that people can use an excuse to better themselves is good in my book.

That being said, we’re closed for a few days to observe the holidays and it’s a nice time to look on the year ahead with a clear head and nice cup of tea. As we are gearing up for 2020, here are three resolutions, or intentions if you will, that we have in our sights for the new year.

Paint the Painter’s House

Every time we update our website, I think of the old adage “a painter’s house is never painted.” (There is another popular variant: “the shoemaker’s son walks barefoot.”)

We’re so focused on a day-to-day basis producing great work for our clients that we often forget to do the same for ourselves. It’s natural for any agency to fall into this trap. This past year we began to recommit to “self-painting,” with more blog posts, social media content, and emails that share our story and our point of view. Next year will only be a success for us if we continue that path and devote more time to our own public activities and sharing our knowledge.

Reuse and Recycle

A model we like to talk about is the great man-eating content monster – there is always a hunger for more and more content across every network, every day. To feed that beast for our clients, we’re looking to explore more ways to repurpose older material and get a longer shelf-life on the premier videos, podcasts, infographics, and articles we produce for our projects. It’s increasingly apparent to us that not everything has to be in the running for an Oscar in terms of production quality, and that we can make our client’s dollars go further by slicing and dicing what they have already put time and resources into. We still need to make premium content for many occasions, but we can also make those items more effective by spinning off more than just one piece of content from these marquee productions.

Help People Work Better

We’re always on the hunt for tools and practices that make our work more efficient and enjoyable at Natives. Each year we’re using new platforms and strategies to keep our team in sync and driving in the right direction, and in 2020 we need to continue evaluating the “how” of what we do more and more. Last year we paid a lot of attention to how we can limit distractions and allow our team to focus on what researcher Cal Newport calls “deep work.” This year we’ll continue that practice, as well as examine how we can promote healthier relationships with technology in general. This may mean we remove and streamline some things, or it may mean that we add things to the process – either way, the point is to be intentional with our own workflows.

We’re looking forward to a great year ahead, and we wish you a very happy and healthy one as well. There’s lots more to come.

Holiday Card: What’s your 2020 Vision?

Every year we try to do something a little special for our agency holiday card. Last year we planted a tree in honor each one of our recipients, and the year prior we recruited our friends and colleagues to send postcards to nursing homes in hurricane-stricken Houston. We once even literally sent the shirts off our backs to show our commitment!

This holiday, with 2020 on the horizon, we decided to sponsor the gift of sight to people in need through donations to OneSight. There is a lot of beauty in this world (including some things we designed!) and even though most of our team needs glasses to take it all in, we’re fortunate that we get to see it. OneSight is on a mission to bring eye exams and glasses to the over one billion people around the globe who lack access to vision care. In honor of each one of our clients, we’re bringing vision to one patient.

Beyond the great work of this organization, we want to know what your vision is for 2020 (and beyond). Please take a moment and fill out this brief survey, and we’ll keep you posted with a fun project based on these results.

We hope you and your loved ones have a wonderful holiday and a prosperous new year. There’s a whole lot to see in 2020!

Explaining the Five Dimensions of Brand Personality

A brand is not a logo, tagline, or jingle – a brand is a promise. A great brand is a promise that when you purchase product ABC, you will get qualities XYZ. McDonald’s promises delicious, affordable, and quick food. Disney promises magical happiness. Harley Davidson promises big, loud machines for, in their own words, “macho men.”

As you’re developing your own brand’s promise, it’s essence, it can be useful to examine one of our favorite models of defining a brand: Jennifer Aaker’s Five Dimensions of Brand Personality. Outlined in her paper in the Journal of Marketing Research in 1997, this framework helps organize how brands act and communicate. Identify what fits for your brand, and you’ll have a clearer path ahead in all of your marketing.

Adjacent, but not identical, to the “Big Five” personality traits, the five dimensions of brand personality are sincerity, excitement, competence, sophistication, and ruggedness. While every brand lies somewhere on the spectrum for each one of these attributes, the most enduring brands largely emphasize just one primary trait and optionally one secondary trait. You can’t be everything to everybody, and thus you can’t have every personality. You have to choose your direction clearly and intentionally.

Let’s evaluate each one of these dimensions and review some example brands in each bucket.

Sincerity

Sincerity

Every business wants to be sincere, but brands with sincerity as their primary attribute are those that are honest, genuine, cheerful, wholesome, and down-to-earth. Think of things that give you warm-fuzzies: family, friendship, caregiving, gifting, service, honor, and generosity.

Sincerity is an attribute you’ll see associated with many food, hospitality, and safety brands. Some favorite examples of sincere brands are Campbell’s Soup, Hallmark, Oprah, Pampers, Allstate, Coca-Cola, and TOMS.

Excitement

Excitement

Exciting brands are often those that appeal to a younger demographic, with energetic advertising, high-octane design, and celebrity endorsements. These brands are daring, spirited, imaginative, cool, unique, contemporary, and anti-establishment.

Lots of brands across nearly every category can fall under the umbrella of excitement, including Monster Energy, Nike, MTV, T-Mobile, Vice, Tik Tok, and Axe.

Competence

Competence

We’ve never done a branding project where the client didn’t object the first time they saw the word “competence” to claim that they were, of course, competent. The clients we’ve worked with are qualified leaders in their field, but that is not what we mean when discussing the brand personality trait of competency. Here we mean brands whose ethos is reliability, responsibility, trustworthiness, intelligence, successfulness, and confidence.

You will often see brands that deal with “important stuff” in the competence column, including banks, insurance companies, logistics firms, and medical brands. Some examples are Chase, Verizon, UPS, New York Presbyterian, New York Yankees, Volvo, and Microsoft.

Sophistication

Sophistication

Like competence before it, we often hear that the brands we work with are all sophisticated and complex – but again that is not the definition at work here. Sophistication as a brand personality means luxurious, glamorous, upper class, and charming.

And like excitement, sophistication cuts across categories, though generally at the northern end of the price range. Sophisticated brands include Hermes, American Express, Apple, Mercedes, Nescafe, Grey Goose, and Patek Philippe.

Ruggedness

Ruggedness

Rugged brands are those built to last, the tough and outdoorsy types that will “take a licking and keep on ticking.” These brands are hard-working, authentic, strong, muscular, and high-quality.

You may see a lot of rugged brands in the verticals of construction and hardware, outdoors and sporting, and automotive. Some example brands include LL Bean, Otter Box, Milwaukee Tools, Land Rover, Levis, Jack Daniels, and REI.

Creating Your Brand Personality

When developing your own brand identity, it can be helpful to look at your space and see where your competitors align. If there is already a competent player and an exciting player, maybe there is room for a sophisticated brand.

In some verticals, you will find that one particular dimension is the table stake for competing. Every hospital should be competent. Every greeting card brand should be sincere. Here is where combining your primary trait with a second attribute comes into play. In the credit card space for instance: American Express is competent and sophisticated. Capital One is competent and exciting. Bank of America is competent and sincere.

A personal favorite of mine is looking at how ruggedness pairs with other traits to create intriguing combinations. Orvis is rugged and sophisticated, as is Land Rover. GoPro is rugged and exciting. The Coast Guard is rugged and competent.

There is a lot more that goes into crafting compelling and exceptional brands, but using this model early in your process, and continually referring back to your results, will help you start moving in an intentional direction. At the end of the day, remember that a brand has to say something, make a choice, and take a stand – with a clear voice.

Posts That Stick: Our Top 4 Tips for Winning Pinterest

While Facebook and Instagram seem to dominate the social strategy space, we’re big believers in the power of Pinterest, a platform that shouldn’t be overlooked. A self-proclaimed search-engine-meets-social-tool, Pinterest is home to some 320 million users, making it a powerful network to meet new audience members, drive traffic, and make a sale.

Pinterest differs from other social networks in a few different ways, chief among them that it’s more of a search tool than a social network. What does that mean? Well, don’t worry about growing your follower count, but focus on creating content with rich copy that will surface in search time and time again. You can do that by following some of our tops tips below.

Content

Your newsworthy content piece might gain traction on Twitter, but you may want to skip that post on Pinterest. That’s because Pinterest is catered to more of a lifestyle audience, with product Pins, DIYs, recipes, and infographics performing best. Consider how you could repurpose existing blog posts, creating a Pin that drives back to the post on your website. For instance, if you’re listing five films that influenced your fall fashion collection, a long pin with posters or screenshots of each film would be better than any generic header image from your post. They key is to remember that the pin itself must convey as much information as it reasonably can. Clickbait imagery, like the title of the article, won’t do as well as pictorial representations of the content.

And if you’re trying to stay seasonal, we recommend that you start saving seasonal content about 45-60 days in advance. Activity will keep picking up as you get closer to the big day, so waiting to put your marque holiday pins up until the day before the holiday means your competitors have already started stealing your traffic.

Not sure what kind of content to create? Pinterest has a helpful insights tool that’s updated pretty frequently, so you can see the top trends, month by month.

Design to Convert

Design to Convert

Now that we’ve covered content, you’ll want to optimize your Pins for best performance. Here’s how to create the perfect Pin.

Pinterest prefers vertical pins over horizontal, with the optimal size coming in at a 2:3 ratio – other ratios may cause your Pin to truncate, or may negatively impact performance. Always include your brand’s logo (Pinterest recommends including your logo at the bottom or top over your Pin), and, for best performance, include a text overlay. The text should be easy to read on both desktop and mobile.

Put yourself in a position for success on Pinterest by using beautiful, high-quality imagery within your pins. There are endless online resources for stock photos, like Unsplash or Shutterstock, but you should utilize professional photography whenever possible – especially for any products you’ll be showcasing.

Caption That

When you’re ready to upload your Pin, ask yourself, “what would I search to find this image?” Descriptions add context and reinforce your branding, and they also impact where your content shows up across Pinterest. Descriptions can fit up to 500 characters, and Pinterest recommends writing as much info as you can – and always start with the most important information first. As you write, use complete sentences and make sure to include a call to action – oh, and don’t forget to include relevant keywords into your descriptions.

Create Your Strategy

We’ve covered the basics, so now it’s time to get to work on your Pinterest marketing strategy. But wait, before you go, a few more tips for your planning process:

Just like any other network, you should include Pinterest in your editorial calendar. Add new Pins over time rather than uploading a bulk at once. This will help you reach a wider audience, and remain consistency on your account. Pro tip: you can schedule Pins up to two weeks in advance with Pinterest’s scheduling tools, but you can plan with more lead time using third-party services like Buffer (which also let’s you measure performance) or Later, which can help you collect, organize, plan, and automate your visual social media strategy.

Can’t wait to see your boards!

Our Team’s Book Club Favorites From 2019

Once a month, we order in some lunch and get together around a big table to discuss the latest installment in our company book club. We’re big believers in the continual pursuit of self-improvement, and there is always something (or many things) we can learn from others in our space and adjacent to it.

With the year drawing to a close once again, we looked back on our shelf of dog-eared book club tomes and picked out our favorites. As is the case every year, not everything we read in 2019 was great, so these are just the hits.

It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, of Basecamp fame, have an uncanny habit for writing just the right book at just the right time. In 2010, their book Rework was the perfect guide for starting a company and establishing our agency. As we began to grow in 2013, Remote was an insightful outline about how to manage a team with people spread around the map. And today, in 2019 It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work is a needed manifesto on how to build a productive team in an age of buzzing and dining distractions. Each time we read something by these brilliant founders we get inspired to change our work for the better, and we can’t wait for the next one.

Make Time

Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky

In the same vein as the Fried and Hansson book above, Make Time by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky is a necessary little guide about how to reclaim your focus and energy in an increasingly chaotic digital world. We’re often in the business of promoting be-present-in-the-moment experiences via travel and healthy bodies and minds via publishing, so it’s important that we find a way to manage our own day-to-days to “make time” for deep and meaningful work (and play). This book is a helpful, down-to-earth, and step-by-step guide about how to have healthier relationships with our devices, platforms, and schedule.

This Won’t Scale

Drift Marketing Team

Honest and transparent storytelling about what it takes to find customers, build a team, and scale a business are what you’ll find in this quick read from the team at Drift. The big takeaway – focus on conversations with customers, not conversions (makes sense this is the team that coined the idea of Conversational Marketing). That’s one of the key topics covered in this manual, which runs through 41 key tips from the team that built this rising star in the marketing SaaS space.

Applied Empathy

Michael Ventura

We typically don’t read our client books in book club, but this one was too on-the-nose for us to let anybody get away without reading it cover-to-cover. Michael and his team at Sub Rosa are some of the best marketers in the business, and this book is the story of how they have developed a secret sauce that has led to an unbroken string of incredible work and unmatched results. Applied Empathy helps you see the world through somebody else’s eyes and develop ideas and solutions that spark innovation and solve tough challenges. Nobody today has such a clear articulation of what makes great marketing.

Ruined by Design

Mike Monteiro

Lastly, speaking of great explainers, nobody working in design has a better moral compass and sharper wit than Mike Monteiro of Mule Design. Like Rework above, Monteiro’s previous book, 2012’s Design is a Job was the right book at the right time earlier in our growth – it taught us how to run a good business, how to present work effectively, and how to handle tough conversations. His latest manifesto is an angry-but-hopeful look at how technology and design have contributed to many of the ills faced by our world today. It’s a survey of what’s wrong, how we got here, and then ultimately how we in the creative and technology industries can use our powers for good to help right the ship. We’ve always been a community-minded company, but this year we have doubled-down in our pursuit of sustainability, education, and economic empowerment – and we’ve turned away work that doesn’t meet our ethical standards.

Do you have any recommendations for things we should read in 2020? Tweet us at @NativesGroup with your recommendations and we’ll add them to our list! Happy reading all.

5 Super Useful Instagram Tools We Loved in 2019

Ninety-five million photos and videos are shared on Instagram each day, so if you want to stand out in a crowded feed, you’re going to need some tools in your arsenal. From learning how to create a consistent color scheme, to planning and scheduling Instagram posts, there’s never been a better landscape of apps you can use to improve your content, increase your engagement, and grow your Instagram audience.

So here they are, some of the year’s best tools available for obtaining insights, driving results, and leveraging Instagram. Best of all? They all have a free option.

Squarelovin

Make the most out of your Instagram account with the in-depth analytics of Squarelovin. Get access to metrics on your recent posts and growth, a monthly analysis, and a history of your posts broken down into year, month, day, and hour. Get more insights on your communities’ preferences and interests, and what drives engagement. Oh and the best and worst times to post on Instagram? Squarelovin shows you that, too! What more could you ask for?

Pixlee

Pixlee lets you monitor your brand, discover emerging influencers, and identify top content – pretty sweet, huh? The free tool also allows you to create shareable weekly reports (goodbye, ugly spreadsheets) and look at day-to-day data, and track hashtags, so you can monitor conversation and identify top-performing content.

Snapseed

Snapseed and VSCO are both great options for photo editing, but Snapseed allows a little more control on the go. Almost as if you’re working in Photoshop, Snapseed allows you to edit everything from brightness, contrast, exposure, saturation, highlighting, and whitening features. Create a blogger-worthy feed in minutes.

Later

Want to plan your Instagram posts, schedule Feed posts, and find user generated content, all through one easy search? Later’s free subscription provides you with 30 posts per month, one social profile, and one user. Later also has a tool called Linkin.bio that makes it easy to shop your Instagram feed. Linkin.bio is a landing page that resembles your Instagram feed and displays your posts as clickable images – perfect for sharing new blog posts or links to shop your website.

Canva

Canva is a free visual content creation tool that let’s you create beautiful images for your Feed or Stories. This tool uses a drag-and-drop format and provides access to millions of photographs, graphics, and fonts, so you can customize your graphics, without the learning curve and expense of Photoshop.

Top Six Mistakes Authors Make Marketing Their Books

Every year, it’s estimated that more than 2.2 million books are published around the world. And every year, only a teeny tiny handful of them actually sell any meaningful amount to break into the public consciousness and become best-sellers.

If you’re thinking that the existence of your book is enough to move the needle on its own, you are poorly mistaken. Successful authors are proactive about building an audience, nurturing their communities, and maintaining a movement. Unsuccessful authors often do a lot of things in common too, including a few we’ve seen over and over. Here’s our top six mistakes that we see authors make when marketing their books and themselves.

Neglecting Email

It may not be as sexy as the latest social network, but the decades-old marketing channel of email is still the single most valuable resource that any marketer has at their disposable. By some measures, the ROI on email can be many multiples what you may see from social platforms.

If you’re not actively concentrating on building an email list with your website and everything else you do, then you are simply losing readers and customers. A well-managed email list allows you to regularly communicate with your tribe on your own terms – without having to go through gatekeepers on Facebook, Twitter, or somewhere else. Too many authors ignore this channel completely, or invest so little in it that their list is effectively useless.

Not Pushing Pre-Orders

The simple, most powerful piece of arithmetic of publishing is that all pre-orders count as first week sales when factored in to most traditional best-seller lists. This means that instead of just having seven days to break through, you have weeks and months of lead-time in building up interest in your book and your message. Furthermore, strong pre-order numbers will bring you attention from retailers, media, and other players in the space that can influence the overall success of your book launch. The best author marketing campaigns will be pushing pre-orders from early in the cycle, and will use incentives like recipes, shopping lists, chapter previews, webinars, and more to help trigger that sale.

Not Coordinating Friends and Allies

Most authors know the power of endorsements and blurbs from other leaders in their space, but not enough take the next step to further engage these relationships for cross-promotion during the book launch process. First off, authors need to ask for social media or other promotional support, and not just assume it is coming naturally. A closed mouth doesn’t get fed.

But then once you have those commitments, you need to coordinate a strategy about what they are saying, how they are saying it, and when they are saying it. The best teams will put together a package of suggested tweets or talking points to make the endorsement job easier. Then, you want to use an 80/20 breakdown of these announcements: the majority should all be posted on the same day or week to create a “disturbance in the force,” but you should also reserve some posts for earlier publication to entice pre-orders and build anticipation.

Ignoring Their Audience

This mistake is so simple, and so easy to avoid. If a reader reaches out to you via a comment on Facebook, reply on Twitter, private message or email, or any other means – respond. Many authors simply let their inboxes and notification tabs run over, and this can foster a feeling of distance and aloofness with their following. Most often, a simple two-second like or thanks will suffice, but it will truly make the day of your reader to be acknowledged by their favorite author. To make this more manageable, consider scheduling a 15 minute block into your daily routine to go through and take care of all the community management across your platforms.

Too Many Cooks

Too Many Cooks

Teamwork makes the dream work. It’s important to have a support team by your side to help you launch your next great book, however you should carefully consider who is on your team and how you manage them. Make sure any agencies or contractors you engage with can play nice with others, and that there are clear areas of responsibility among your collaborators. At the same time, you both don’t want to have two people hired to do the same thing, and you also don’t want something crucially important falling through the cracks between scopes.

Being Afraid to Ask for the Sale

Finally, the biggest mistake authors make when marketing their books can be summed up in one word: bashfulness. Selling something can be uncomfortable, and many authors will shy away from being overly promotional with what they are doing, often overcorrecting too far in the other direction.

You’ve worked hard on this book for months or years, and it is now your time to shine. You should be proud of the blood, sweat, and tears you poured into this work, and the world deserves to read it. If you don’t actively market yourself and your book, and if in that marketing you don’t directly ask for the sale, then you are doing yourself a disservice. Go out there and spread the word with confidence and energy, and the readers will respond.