If you’re one of the lucky companies who only has enthusiastic and happy customers, recognize their desire to interact with you and be generous with your time. Be open to engaging with them on their turf. They’ll reward your brand with greater enthusiasm – which is a message that spreads through social networks like wildfire, and solidifies your brand. your site is designed well to convert visitors into leads The first step to measuring success in social media marketing is proper scope. There are new social networks popping up each week. It’s a waste of resources to join every new social network only to find you have no time to manage them. Find out where your most active customers & influencers spend time online – then listen and take notes. – Visitors (first-time and repeat) Topics: In fact, the lack of good metrics is cited as the biggest barrier to marketers’ adoption of social media. Particularly in this shaky financial climate, measuring impact is one of the definitive measures of a marketing strategy’s value. If you want to skip the blind experimentation, particularly in view of our current global financial crisis, we’ve assembled a list of 5 tips to help you start leveraging social media with minimal investment and with strong systems in place to measure success. , – Inbound links The end goals is lead generation and sales. But, there are plenty of leading indicators as you ramp up your efforts. – Social networking connections , Social Media Marketing For instance, on Twitter both Starbucks and Whole Foods share customer comments, local specials, and ask customers what their favorite items are. It’s casual and open, yet subtly appeals to the attractiveness of the brand. Check out some of the Twitter Search Bloglines Peter Caputa IV Step #1: Identify Your Target Market and Listen to Them – Search engine ranking , Photo Step #2: Get Involved in Conversations AideRSS here , The second step towards success is consistently utilizing social media to engage prospective customers. When you start listening to conversations, you might hear some things about your company that aren’t very complimentary. That’s ok. Your job now is to engage these customers and find a way to help. Be willing to acknowledge mistakes when they happen. Customers are surprisingly forgiving if a company engages in an honest and egoless manner. . – Mentions of your brand , It’s critical to tie your business strategy to your social media strategy. However, without a knowledge of what social media and social networking sites enable you to do, it’s hard to know how to do that. It’s important to establish a blog as your home base. Then, learn the capabilities of each site to help you interact. For example, Twitter provides an almost unfettered ability to connect with your prospective clients. But, it only allows you to type 140 characters at a time. So, maybe a video posted to youtube would be a better way to publish a “how-to”. Linkedin & Facebook let you see who your contacts know. But, facebook makes it much easier to connect with them. LinkedIn Answers is a much better place to answer business focussed questions than any other social network. from HubSpot & How involved is your team in communicating with prospective customers, influencers and current customers on social networking sites? How often are you publishing great content that helps your prospects do their jobs? How often do you blog, Tweet, post photos on Flickr, comment on other blogs, Podcast, upload videos, etc? The more content that you produce and publish on social media sites, the more traffic you can attract back to your website. If Let’s say you’ve gotten the approval to get your company involved in social media marketing and are ready to launch your efforts. How will you define success? This is an important question, because a large number of companies have jumped into social media without any clear business strategy. Before the financial meltdown of the last few weeks, some companies had the resources to experiment with social media without worrying about financial accountability. But now, most businesses must demonstrate an ROI on any new effort. This article was co-authored by – Number of times people search for your brand Use tracking codes, a solid analytics package and closed loop marketing , and implement some of their conversation techniques. It’s important to learn how to use these sites in order to get business value out of your social media activity. Talk to an expert to determine where to spend your time to get the best return. Socialized PR – RSS subscriptions 4_EveR_YounG. Ice Rocket Step #5: Use Website Analytics Software to Measure Leads and Sales. – Video/podcast views/listens . Many experts agree that social media will affect the next generation of search engine optimization techniques as search engines start to use the signals we collectively leave as we network and share media online. Even today, social media activity affects the success of many other inbound marketing techniques: Ghennipher Step #3: Give! Give! Give! Google Blog Search in order to track the visits, leads and sales that occurr as a result of your social media activities. Techrigy and – Comments on your blog Here’s some tools you can use to tune into the conversation: and – Leads & Customers! brands on Twitter , these activities will help you increase sales. Radian6 , a 10 year veteran of the Internet Marketing world. Ghennipher is an independent Social Media Marketing consultant and writes on Social Media’s effect on business. Subscribe to her blog “Social media strategy should tie to business and communication strategy, rather than being based on the available tools. But it is not possible to develop a social media strategy without at least having an understanding of the various tools that are available, their functionality and purposes, and the kinds of audiences and conversations for which they might be best suited.” – Joel Postman, Principal Originally published Nov 3, 2008 9:26:00 AM, updated October 20 2016 Technorati by Step #4: Master the Tools of the Trade . More advanced social media monitoring tools include HubSpot’s HubFeed – Social bookmarking activity Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlack
Didyou know press releases can also be used to help your website rankbetter in Google, target specific keywords and build links into yourwebsite? 4) Don’t embed multimedia in your press releases. Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlack 2) Don’t forget to use anchor text. Pressreleases can make great company blog posts. Why not take an adaptationand put it on your blog? It’ll reach another audience and it’s a great way to repurpose important content. Anchor text tells Google what a link is about. Take afew minutes to review your press release and look for words that youwant to rank for. Link those words back to related, internal pages as anchortext. We will be announcing those results on our May 20th webinar. Learn what happens behind-the-scenes after you submit a press release. Miss the live webinar? Flickr Photo: RobW Postit on your own website instead, and include a link to it in your release.It’d be a shame if people started linking to the press release insteadof your site. Also, multimedia capabilities tends to be a lot more expensive than regular releases. Why dish out the extra cash? to check. For now, here’s five common mistakes that any marketer or business owner can easily fix when creating press releases. 3) Don’t use Gobbledygook words. Gobbledygook Grader Catch the archive here The mostcommon link in a press release is the company website in theboilerplate. Don’t let this be the only link youuse. Make sure you aretaking advantage of every opportunity to link back to interior pagesthat often don’t receive any links at all. to learn how to best optimize your press releases to get more links. Topics: 5) Don’t forget to post your press release to your blog. They mean nothing to peopleor search engines. Flashy words as headlines also hurt a release’sability to be syndicated, or reposted, on other websites. Usekeyword-rich language that is straight forward. Use free tools like 1) Don’t only link to your main website. Watch the Webinar: New Research on Creating News Releases That Work HubSpot recently conducted a study to learn how best to usepress releases as a means to help your website perform better in searchengines. ( ) Public Relations Originally published May 15, 2009 8:26:00 AM, updated October 20 2016
Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlack Learn how to use social media for lead generation.Download the free video to leverage Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites to generate leads and customers. Social Media When you think about it, sharing on social media is a lot like bees carrying pollen. People who come across remarkable content spread it across the web, resulting in fertile discussion and the birth of new ideas — just like pollen gives birth to new fruit. But while this amazing phenomenon transpires in social media, businesses often fail to harvest the fruits of their labor. They fail to move their website visitors down their sales and marketing funnels by converting them to leads and sales. Of course, social media is first and foremost about people and dialog. But if it is being used as a business tool, you should get some business results from it! Here are some social media tips that you can apply at the top of the funnel that will help you move people lower down the funnel.1) Be relevant to your businessWe talk about being relevant in social media, especially when it comes to Twitter. However, if the content you’re sharing and the dialogs you’re having are not relevant to your business, where is the value to your bottom line? Share content that is fun but also share information that will attract relevant business visitors to your site. They are out there! 2) Be greedy for traffic Very simply, create your own content. While it is cool to share and retweet the content of thought leaders (I’m guilty); do your business a favor and write your opinions down as a blog post every once and while and share your response! You will build your brand and thought leadership and drive traffic to your own site! 3) Use calls-to-action to facilitate conversion I cannot stress this enough! You’ve done all the hard work for months building up followers, fans and friends. You’ve spent countless hours writing some remarkable content, engaging with them online and bringing them back to your site. How are you converting the relevant visitors to leads? A simple call-to-action at the bottom of your blog posts or on your website pages can help get you those leads your business needs! 4) Make it easy to share your contentPiggy backing on the previous point. Why not make it easy for your visitors to spread that around? A simple button like the one below can help gain you new followers and attract new potential customers. Lead Generation Originally published Sep 16, 2009 9:00:00 AM, updated March 21 2013 Topics: 5) Build the right bridgesWhen starting out in social media and networks it is common to follow friends, family and co-workers. More than a few people I know are obsessive about having a ton of followers. However, it is important to cultivate the right kind of follower and friends base. Quality is important. Once you reach a certain critical mass quantity might become a factor, but in the short term the right people is more important than lots of people. To sum it up for all you hard working bees, it’s great to fill the top of your funnel using social media, but if you’re in it for business reasons, make sure your pollination results in some fruit that can be harvested!How have you been using social media to help with generating leads for your business? Please share your thoughts in the comments section! Photo credit: Antonio Machado Video: How to Use Social Media for Lead Generation
Topics: Mobile Marketing Originally published Sep 9, 2011 5:00:00 PM, updated October 20 2016 Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlack Now that the final days of summer are over, retailers are busy decorating to prep for the busy holiday shopping season. (I know what you’re thinking; holiday talk already?) But when planning your marketing strategy, programs, and campaigns, it’s important to take a step back and look at how consumers are using their mobile and tablet devices to drive in-store and on-device purchases. Headlining the findings is a projection by Google that 15% of the total Black Friday searches will be from mobile devices based on historical growth rates.And, even more astounding, 34% of smartphone and 45% of tablet shoppers plan to start their holiday shopping this year before Thanksgiving, according to the research from Google. Adding to the “Can you believe we’re talking about Christmas already?” conversation, Google says, “Advertisers do not realize that mobile users actively search for last-minute holiday gifts and to locate stores to purchase these last-minute gifts.”In fact, Google projects that 44% of total searches for last-minute gifts and store locator terms will be from mobile devices this holiday season, based on historical growth rates. And those mobile searches drive in-store purchases: “65% of high-end (i.e. smartphone) device users report using their device to find a business and then make a purchase at that business in person,” according to the AdMob network holiday retail survey.Marketing TakeawayLike it or not, holiday shopping season is right around the corner. Because of its fast approach, and because mobile adoption among consumers in increasing every day, marketers must take the necessary steps to optimize their presence for mobile devices and take advantage of mobile marketing tactics to stay competitive this holiday season.Are you prepared to take advantage of such an increasing dependency on mobile search among shoppers? Is your website mobile-friendly? Can you leverage other mobile tools like QR codes, applications, or location-based services to grab the attention of this mobile demographic? While the holidays are approaching faster than we’d like to believe, there’s still time to jump on mobile marketing. Start optimizing your mobile marketing strategy today!Image credit: teamaskins
Originally published Aug 8, 2012 12:30:00 PM, updated October 20 2016 Marketing Strategy Topics: Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlack Here’s a question for you: How much does customer experience factor into your marketing strategy?If customer experience (CX) is a new concept for you as a marketer, think of it as the overall experience a customer has with a partciular business, from their discovery and awareness of the brand, all the way through their interaction, purchase, use, and even advocacy of that brand. In today’s wired world, chances are good that the relationship you have with your customers is going to include one or more digital channels — your website, landing pages, email communications, mobile interactions, social media participation, etc. That’s the increasingly important subset of CXM, something called “Digital Experience Management.” In other words, customer experience is way more than just a friendly voice on the phone.To deliver an excellent customer experience, you have to think like a customer, or better think about being the customer. But how do you “be” the customer when you’re, well, not? There are three “Be’s” to consider that will help you deliver a superior digital customer experience: 1) Being relevant, 2) Being consistent, and 3) Being iterative. Let’s learn more, shall we?How Marketers Can “Be” Their Customers1) Be Relevant: Creating relevant marketing requires an understanding of your customers so that you can present them with the right content, at the right time, so they convert and take the next step with your company. And being relevant requires a deep understanding of not just your buyer personas, but the customer journey — from how future customers find you, to how you sell and market to them, to how you support and service them when they’re finally a customer of yours. Relevancy is the backbone of any successful company.2) Be Consistent: Today, most marketing is organized around specific digital channels — web marketing, email marketing, social media marketing. But your customers don’t see these as marketing channels like you do; they only see your company. Marketers must put the customer at the center of their focus, designing a consistent experience for them that bridges across channels.3) Be Iterative: Focusing on customer experience means putting the right processes in place to understand customer behavior, and make improvements to digital channels through constant optimization.Now that we understand how to put ourselves in our customers’ shoes to create a better experience, let’s take a look at how to apply these concepts to our critical digital channels. Let’s learn how to be relevant, consistent, and iterative so we can deliver a memorable customer experience!Creating an Excellent Customer Experience on Your WebsiteWebsites have evolved far beyond being an online company brochure. Your website serves as the central hub for all your sales, marketing, and customer support efforts, and must address the needs of all audiences accordingly. It should help advance a visitor from lead, to customer, to happy and dedicated customer by providing every visitor with the right content at the right time to incite the proper action. And here’s how to do it.1) Be Relevant: Throughout the digital customer journey, you learn lots of implicit (learned) and explicit (stated) data that can help you deliver more relevant content on your site. In fact, you start learning about your customers from their first visit to your site! Here are some of the ways you can deliver relevant content on your website:Site behavior: What your customers do while on your website e.g. how often they visit, previous conversions, and top pages.Visit Source: How, where, and when someone got to your website e.g. referring domain, search term, location, time of day, etc.Social graph: Behavior on social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn. In fact, according to eConsultancy research, 88% of companies say social graph personalization generates results.Customer data: This includes data from your sales and marketing databases, like HubSpot and Salesforce.com — just take a look at all the rich data you can see from integrating your marketing software and CRM!2) Be Consistent: For companies to provide a consistent experience on their website, they must stop organizing marketing into functional silos like web, email, and social media, and instead embrace the fact that the customer journey weaves its way in and out of all of them. So keep your website in sync with the messages being presented across all channels. For example, HubSpot recently hosted #PinterestDay, which as you can imagine by the hashtag and theme of the day, occurred largely on social media. But the website wasn’t ignored — if you visited their blog, you would have found Pinterest-related content that aligns with that theme. Oh, and it was in your inboxes, too, as they coordinated an email marketing campaign for the day, too.3) Be Iterative: When marketers think about analytics, they most often think about web analytics, which provides a high level view of website performance against general metrics like page views, unique visitors, and bounce rates. But marketers thinking about digital customer experience need to be more focused on measuring and optimizing business outcomes, like leads, donations, downloads, and registrations. Marketing analytics provides insight into the metrics that move the needle on the website and tie investments to the ultimate goal for most companies — generating revenue. Creating an Excellent Customer Experience on Your Landing PagesLanding pages are a great way to convert visitors to leads, because they have a higher conversion rate than the homepage. Makes sense, since they serve a focused message targeted towards a specific audience, right? Let’s apply our three “Be’s” to landing pages, too, since they’re such a critical part of our marketing.1) Be Relevant: For landing pages, being relevant means delivering the content that a visitor expected to get upon arrival. Whether they came to that landing page from a paid search ad, an email offer, or a call-to-action at the end of your blog post, the copy that got them there promised something. Are you holding up your end of the bargain? Or are you pulling a bait and switch? If the content on a landing page doesn’t match the original offer that drove the click, it’s likely that your visitor will navigate away.2) Be Consistent: Consider how a visitor arrived on your landing page. Did they come from email, for example? Then they might be trying to convert on your landing page on a mobile device. Is your landing page optimized to provide an equally excellent user experience from inbox to landing page? Consider not just whether your landing page fits on a smaller screen without making scrolling necessary, but how long your landing page form really needs to be to get the information you need.3) Be Iterative: Landing pages are perfect candidates for iteration through A/B testing. Also called split testing, A/B testing provides a way for marketers to test different ideas about content, design, form fields, CTAs, and more to see if they improve conversion rates. And instead of making those changes based on hunches, A/B testing uses a scientific approach to ensure your changes are based on data — you know, what your leads and customers really want.Creating an Excellent Mobile Customer ExperienceIt isn’t enough for your digital marketing to be “mobile friendly.” Instead, you must deliver experiences that are best suited to the way visitors use different devices and screen sizes.1) Be Relevant: Creating a relevant mobile experience isn’t much different than creating a relevant web experience … except that you have to create it on a tiny little screen. Mobile optimization is becoming more and more critical for marketers to prioritize in their marketing strategy, but it’s also just one more thing to worry about on an already long to-do list for marketers. So if you’re struggling to prioritize how to optimize your company’s presence for mobile devices, start by optimizing for the devices your audience uses the most to consume your content. And remember that mobile optimization extends beyond just your website, but to your email marketing messages, too.2) Be Consistent: Try to create a mobile experience that’s similar to your desktop experience. Don’t consider this a time to try out designs out of left-field. You’ll have to make some tough choices about what to eliminate (or in some cases, what to add) considering the mobile browsing experience doesn’t afford the level of detail the desktop experience does, but any changes you make should never interfere with the user understanding that they are, in fact, on your company’s website.3) Be Iterative: As you’re designing a mobile site or optimizing your emails for mobile, it only affords more opportunities for A/B testing to make improvements. Mobile marketing is relatively new ground, so best practices are still burgeoning. If your emails are suffering poor click-through rates from mobile readers, consider testing a new layout. If your landing pages are suffering poor conversions from mobile visitors, perhaps you need a shorter form.Creating an Excellent Customer Experience in Your Email MarketingSpeaking of email marketing, any marketer worth his or her salt knows that it sure ain’t dead … it’s alive and kicking! And considering how protective we all are over our inboxes, it’s more important than ever to create a stellar email marketing experience for our readers. Here’s how.1) Be Relevant: The MarketingSherpa Email Marketing Benchmark Report indicates that 65% of respondents find the delivery of highly relevant content to be a very significant challenge, and another 30% find it somewhat significant. That’s not good. Delivering highly relevant content to email inboxes is critical for high click-through rates, high delivery rates, and low unsubscribe rates, so if you can do one thing for your email marketing today … it’s to segment those lists! Once you’ve segmented your email lists, start mapping relevant content to each list segment so your contacts are getting the best content for them and the best time they can receive it.2) Be Consistent: When generating your opt-in list, ensure that you clearly state how, when, and what your contact is signing up for upon subscription. This will not only set proper expectations — expectations that can be reaffirmed in a welcome email that also serves as a double opt-in opportunity — but decreases the chance that you’ll be marked as SPAM later down the road or suffer an unsubscribe because readers didn’t understand what content you’d be sending, and at what frequency. And most importantly, you have to actually maintain that type of content and sending frequency!3) Be Iterative: Like landing pages, marketers must build a continuous optimization plan into their email marketing. If you think A/B testing is reserved for pages on your website, you’re missing a huge opportunity to improve your email marketing results! Start testing your email’s layout, length, messaging, subject lines, sender name, call-to-action, and more to find the secret sauce that works for you.Creating an Excellent Customer Experience on Social MediaIf you build it, they will come. Except with social media, they’ll come whether you’ve built it or not. That’s why smart marketers are taking control of their social media presence, and finding exciting new ways to engage with prospects and customers. Here’s how you can always keep the customer in mind when managing your social media presence.1) Be Relevant: Stephen Covey once said, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” This is especially true in social media, where to be relevant you must first find the places where conversations are happening about your company or solution. Then, you can engage by providing relevant content. In other words, don’t spend your time on Facebook if your audience is on Quora and LinkedIn. And once you find that audience, take the time to listen to what they want and become a trusted member of the community — and that can only happen by providing relevant, helpful content on a consistent basis.2) Be Consistent: Integrate your social media presence across all your marketing channels. If someone’s following your company on Facebook, for example, there’s a good chance they already are, or will soon be, opted in to receive email communications from you. Or read your blog. Or follow your company on LinkedIn. That means if you’re not including social share and follow buttons across all of your marketing channels — even your other social media channels to promote your other accounts — you’re missing a huge opportunity to create an integrated experience for your customers.3) Be Iterative: Close the loop on social media marketing by monitoring the ROI around your social media activities. Most marketers know they “should” be on social media … they’re just not totally sure what they’re doing there. If you use closed-loop marketing software, however, you can see exactly how effective your efforts are, by tracking what content on which social networks drives traffic, leads, and customers.Be Relevant, Consistent, and Iterative with Hubspot and Ektron. Today, Ektron and HubSpot are partnering to deliver a Digital Experience Management solution, which combines Ektron Web Content Management with HubSpot’s all-in-one marketing product. The new solution was built on the HubSpot API, and combines the best of Ektron and HubSpot.This guest post was written by Tom Wentworth. Tom is the chief marketing officer at Ektron, a provider of web content management software. You can follow him on his blog, or on Twitter @twentworth12. Image credit: ganesha.isis
How does stock photography work?Stock Photography websites are directories of photos that can be purchased for use on your own site. Stock photos can add visually interesting and compelling content to your marketing without the added design or outsourced photography needs.Free Download: How to Use Photos in MarketingStock photos get a lot of hate. Most of time, the annoyance makes sense. Stock photos get super expensive if you’re going to use them everywhere; there are lots of weird and creepy photos that leave you wondering who the heck took them – or would want to use them; and then when you see them thrown in randomly in someone’s blog post or website, you cringe a little inside.But really, stock photos aren’t all bad if you can use them in the right way. They can add visually interesting and compelling content to your marketing. They take out some of the design or outsourced photography you might need to build into your budget. And they can be pretty quick visual content solutions in a pinch. (HubSpot customers — get access to 60,000 totally free Shutterstock photos right within your portal by clicking here.)Unfortunately, most post aren’t talking about how to properly use stock photos … so our social media manager, Brittany Leaning, decided to help. Flip through the SlideShare she created below to get a few do’s and don’ts for using stock photos in your marketing: Topics: Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlack 10 Do’s and Don’ts for Using Stock Photos in Your Marketing from HubSpot All-in-one Marketing SoftwareSee? Using stock photos the right way can be effective. Now that you know the do’s and don’ts of using stock photos in marketing, want to show the world your skills? Download three free sets of stock photos (general, business, and holiday) and get to work!What other stock photo best practices would you suggest? Share your ideas with us in the comments below! Originally published Oct 25, 2013 8:00:00 AM, updated September 05 2017 Images
It’s no secret that more and more people are accessing the internet using their mobile devices in addition to or in place of desktop computers.But what they’re doing on those mobile devices is even more compelling for marketers like us. According to Google’s Mobile Path to Purchase report, search engines are the most common starting points for mobile device users (48%), followed by branded websites (33%) and branded apps (26%).As a result, companies who have responsive websites generate more leads and maintain a widening competitive advantage over companies that don’t.But what exactly is responsive website design, how does it work, and should you make the switch? This infographic from Verve sets out to answer those questions, offer some compelling statistics, and teach you the key features of responsive design all marketers should know about. Check it out.18K+Save Originally published Sep 19, 2014 1:00:00 PM, updated July 28 2017 Responsive Design Topics: 18K+Save Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlack
I’m writing this post because I’m an emoji dummy myself.I only recently started using them on my iPhone, and after the initial excitement of sending dolphins and whales to my friends (not sharks — there’s a baffling dearth of shark emojis on the iPhone), I started to wonder what exactly some of these emojis were supposed to represent.Although I haven’t yet gotten to the bottom of the case of the missing shark, I did stumble upon something called Emojipedia, which breaks down what all the emojis were originally supposed to mean. (Of course, some people will use these emojis in ways that let them take on new meaning.)Download 195+ visual marketing design templates to use for social media posts, infographics, and more. Take a look at the intended translations of some of the most obscure — and oddly specific — emojis below. And if you don’t see the one that perplexes you most, head over to Emojipedia and do some investigating of your own. (Note: They cover emojis for Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter. For this post, you’ll see screenshots of Apple emojis, specifically.)35 of the Most Obscure, Confusing, or Oddly Specific Emojis: TranslatedFaces and Emotions1) Grinning Face With Smiling EyesIf you aren’t seeing the grinning so much as the grimacing, you’re not alone. According to Emojipedia: “The name of this emoji implies that it should appear similarly to the Grinning Face, but appears to have been mistakenly created by Apple as a variant of the Grimacing Face. Due to the popularity of the Apple emoji artwork, this is commonly used as a grimacing face, instead of its intended purpose as a grinning (smiling) face with smiling eyes.”2) Sleepy FaceIf you’re wondering why a sleepy person is crying, there’s an explanation: It’s actually a snot bubble. In Japanese anime, a snot bubble emanating from one nostril is used to indicate that a character is asleep — just like the “Zzz” used in Western cartoons. In anime, the bubble inflates and deflates in sync with the character’s breathing.3) Face With Open Mouth and Cold SweatI never knew what the blue in this was supposed to denote, but now it makes sense — a cold sweat! Clever.4) “No Good” GestureThis emoji is supposed to indicate “no” or “no good” according to Emojipedia.5) “Okay” GestureThis is intended to be a signal of “okay” — the arms raised above the head in an “O” shape.6) Women With Bunny EarsThis one always confused me. I wasn’t sure if it was intended to be twins, dancers, or something else. I hadn’t even noticed the bunny ears. Emojipedia lends some clarity:”An iteration of the Playboy Bunny known in Japan as a Bunny Girl. Usually depicted as an attractive woman wearing bunny ears, a bunny girl can also be seen in anime as a hybrid human/animal known as Kemonomimi. Apple’s version shows two girls dancing, each wearing a leotard and bunny ears. On Android and Windows this emoji appears as a woman wearing bunny ears, consistent with the name.”Random Objects7) Postal Horn”A postal horn (usually called a post horn) was used in the 18th and 19th centuries to indicate that a mail coach was arriving to deliver the mail. When the horn was blown, people would have to get out of the way, sort of like a siren today.”8) European Post OfficeHere’s an emoji for a European post office. See the postal horn on the front? … I told you some of these were oddly specific.9) MinidiscCD? DVD? Neither: Minidisc. If you don’t remember the minidisc, you’re not alone. “People briefly expected Minidisc to be the next big thing in music and audio. But along came MP3s and the iPod, and Minidisc became a distant memory,” Emojipedia explains.10) BookmarkI always thought this was just some nondescript gift shop trinket. Now we know.11) Lock With Ink PenIf that name did little to clarify things for you (as it did me), here’s Emojipedia’s explanation: “A locked (closed) padlock, with an ink pen (otherwise known as a fountain pen) next to it. May [be] related to key signing, a term used in digital security.”12) Pager Emojis Topics: Obscure mostly because of the object’s own obscurity in 2014. Fun fact: The number displayed in the Apple pager emoji is different than the number displayed in Twitter’s pager emoji.Food13) Curry and RiceThought this was just supposed to be a generic dinner plate? Wrong! Curry and rice, folks. Curry and rice. Apologies in advance to those who will henceforth be getting this as a response to “What do you feel like eating?”14) Meat on BoneWhile the curry and rice emoji is incredibly specific, this meat on a bone is literally just meat on a bone. Fair enough.15) TangerineTangerines are not strange in and of themselves, but it’s peculiar that the definition is definitively tangerine — not orange — considering such a similar outward appearance.16) Rice CrackerNom. Love these things.17) Roasted Sweet PotatoI was pretty sure this was a sweet potato when I saw it, but I was unaware of its status as roasted. More importantly, Emojipedia says this “Sweet potato emoji” is also known as the “Yam emoji” — oh boy. LET THE DEBATES BEGIN.Celebratory18) Pine DecorationMy friends and I debated whether this was a cactus or bamboo. Turns out, it’s not really either (it’s definitely not cactus). It’s a pine decoration called kadomatsu that’s made of bamboo or pine.19) Carp StreamerWhat’s a carp streamer? According to Emojipedia, ” Carp-shaped wind socks [are] traditionally flown in Japan to celebrate Children’s Day.”20) Wind ChimeEmojipedia says this is often referred to as a jellyfish emoji, so I think it warrants clarification that it’s actually intended to be a wind chime.Animals21) Chicken (Not Rooster)Emojipedia specifically warned not to mix up the Chicken emoji (top left) with the Rooster emoji (top right).22) Ram (Not Sheep)Can’t remember the difference between a sheep and a ram? Me neither. The Ram emoji is on the top left — the Sheep emoji is on the top right.I’ve already forgotten.23) Crocodile (Not Alligator)A common source of confusion. There was also no alligator emoji I could find, so we’ll just have to be content with crocs for now.24) Water Buffalo vs. OxTwo horned cow-looking things (is my city dweller showing?) are officially: A water buffalo (left) and an ox (right). You’re welcome.25) BugIt may look like a caterpillar, but it’s actually just a generic bug — it appears as a centipede or millipede in other operating systems.Astronomical & Meteorological26) All of the Moons There are emojis for every phase of the moon. If your high school was like mine and your astronomy teacher was also your gym teacher, you probably also do not know what these moon phases are called. File these away for the next time you want to impress your friends:From left to right (top): Waning Crescent Moon, Last Quarter Moon, Waning Gibbous Moon, Full MoonFrom left to right (bottom): Waxing Gibbous Moon, First Quarter Moon, Waxing Crescent Moon, New Moon27) CycloneI always thought this was just a fun swirl like you saw in the intro to 1980s sitcoms; but in fact, it’s supposed to represent a cyclone.28) FoggyWhile some may think this emoji is intended to be a landscape of some sort due to the bridge in the background, it’s really just meant to represent fog. Makes sense — fog with no other point of contrast just looks like blurry gray.Games & Sports29) Alien MonsterPerhaps familiar to gamers, this pixelated cutie is, in Apple artwork, a Space Invader alien. In Google’s artwork, he takes the form of a pink ghost with little orange antennae. 30) Flower Playing CardFor those not familiar with Japanese playing cards, this may just seem like another landscape. But according to Emojipedia, it’s a hanafuda card, which are numberless cards used in Japan for various games that require images.31) Mahjong TileI’ve heard of the popular game Mahjong, but have never seen a Mahjong tile. What we’re looking at here is the Red Dragon Mahjong tile, specifically.Obscure Symbols32) AnticlockwiseSome call this the “Refresh” emoji, but it’s a symbol intended to communicate anticlockwise movement. Makes sense … but I never would’ve thought to make a symbol for it. 33) Water ClosetWC = Water Closet. (Water Closet = Bathroom.)34) TridentThis is one of those symbols that I wouldn’t have identified as a trident on my own, but now that you say it, yeah, I see it.35) Hot SpringsThis is one of my favorite emojis. It’s a result of Japan having plenty of hot springs due to its volcanic activity — you’ll find this symbol on many signs or maps in Japan as you’re nearing a hot spring. Some may also use the emoji to simply denote steam or heat.There you have it, folks. Now, go forth with your newfound knowledge and write some oddly specific emoji stories! Originally published Oct 10, 2014 8:00:00 AM, updated February 20 2017 Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlack
Website Design Originally published May 27, 2015 11:00:00 AM, updated February 01 2017 Topics: When you’re craving pizza, you have a few options: You could take the easy way out and order a greasy pie or pop a frozen ’za in the oven. Or, you could make one from scratch.Those fast solutions will be satisfying in the short run, but you’ll get more out of making your own dinner. You’ll be more careful with ingredients. You’ll be able to make it exactly how you like it (one quarter pepperoni, one third green peppers, and the rest extra cheese? It’s up to you). And you’ll gain the experience of making something out of nothing.The same is true of website redesigns. You could hastily compile a website in 30 days, but it won’t be the same as if you dedicate your time to making it perfect.The difference is that a quickly built website often only focuses on the look and functionality of the website. As long as it’s easy on the eyes and the buttons all work, it’s considered a success. But inbound marketers can’t have that attitude.Because so much of inbound marketing occurs on your website, a website redesign has to focus on more than just the site’s style. It has to focus on meeting your goals and matching up with your overall strategy.That’s going to take a little longer than just slapping some content on a site page. But how long do you need? If you are planning a strategized website redesign, here’s a rough timeline that you can follow.A few notes: This timeline might vary a bit depending on the complexity of your site. More pages and more features mean more time. And it’ll also vary depending on the team that’s working behind the scenes.An internal team, freelancer, and agency will have different processes that will affect the schedule. If you plan to hire an outside developer, whether it’s a freelancer or through an agency, add in a 30- to 60-day window research and select the right one.Month 1Review of Current SiteYou have to have a good reason to redesign your website. That’s why assessing your current site is the first step — you have to find that key reason for the redesign.Take a good, hard look at the site. What do you not like about it? What do you like about it? This review has to go beyond your personal preferences though — it has to be about the numbers. Study (and record) key site metrics, such as time on site, bounce rate, conversion rate, and more. These statistics will tell you in black and white which parts of your site are failing (and, therefore, which parts to focus on during the redesign).Goal SettingOnce you’re well aware of what’s not working, you can plan goals around what you want your new site to accomplish in the future.Lots of people will skip this step (the goal is just to have a new website, right?). But don’t pass this part up. You wouldn’t launch a campaign without goals, so why would you launch a website without goals? Setting these goals early is important, too. That way, you can plan to build a site that’s optimized to meet those goals.These should be SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-sensitive) based on the numbers you reviewed in the last step. Ask yourself: How many visitors do you want every month? How many leads? What conversion rate do you want to see? Write them down and keep them in mind every step of the way.Buyer PersonasYou may already have clear buyer persona stories that guide all of your marketing efforts (awesome!). Even if you do, consider this a good time to revisit and potentially revise them. If you don’t already have thorough buyer persona profiles, you absolutely need them before starting a redesign project.There are a few reasons buyer personas are key to website redesigns. The profiles will determine how you set up your site. The site should easily guide users through the funnel, and the track has to be slightly different for various buyers. Personas also affect your premium content offers, so having ideal buyers in mind well before you start making the website will help you plan to bring in more leads.Month 2Content AuditYou wouldn’t order a pizza if you still had leftovers in the fridge. Just like you wouldn’t overhaul site pages or content that were already resonating with readers and encouraging conversions.That’s why you need to search through all of your organization’s online content assets — old site pages, blog posts, portfolios, case studies, any other materials you use with clients or for marketing purposes. Determine what can be kept, what needs revising, and what needs to be cut completely.For what you plan to keep or revise, determine if it will be at the same URL or a new URL. For things you plan to cut, where will the old page redirect to? HubSpot’s got a handy Excel sheet to plan this all out in a super organized fashion. Bonus: This document helps you plan for SEO while you’re at it — which is crucial at this stage. After all, you don’t want to lose the valuable SEO value your old site has accumulated.Month 3Information ArchitectureNow that you know what site content you’re keeping and cutting, it’s time to plan for new content to fill the gaps and how all of that content will be organized.Your first step: Draw out a site map. Plan what the categories will sit on your navigation bar, and what content will live under each category. Will there be drop down menus? A helpful trick: Don’t necessarily organize content by type or general topic. Instead, organize your pages to create a story or a path for those buyer personas. How do you want your ideal visitors to progress through your site pages? Make it easy for them to follow that path.An easy way to do that: A purpose map. It’s an extension of your site map. On a purpose map, you assign a specific buyer persona, lifecycle stage, and goal to each page (which can save you money and time in the long run). As you do that, you’ll need to add pages and remove pages to complete the buyer’s journey on your site.Write ContentWhen you know the ultimate goal of your pages, you’re ready to write content. Take plenty of time to craft all the content that will appear on your site. Do this early in the process — it’s always easier to design around content than to write content around design.While this does include body copy, don’t forget about some of the finer details. Write copy for calls-to-action, forms, meta descriptions, and other micro text elements. If you are redesigning on the HubSpot COS, you can think about smart content and personalization tokens here, too.Develop WireframesIt’s time for the designer to step in so that your site can take shape. Before making your site look awesome with eye-catching photos and beautiful text, figure out where, exactly, all of those elements will appear on the page. That’s what wireframes are for.Starting with wireframes saves so much time in the long run. Rather than moving around tons of design elements, you can simply move placeholders until they are exactly where you want them.There are lots of ways to do wireframes. The easiest route? Sketching on a whiteboard. But if you want sharper wireframes, draft them in Photoshop (or another image editing software), or use an interactive wireframing software like Axure.Month 4Design Mock-UpsOnce the wireframes are in place, it’s time to start making them pretty. Now, you can start adding colors, playing with fonts, and placing photos.This should all be done in Photoshop or another design software. When the design mock-ups are done, they should look almost exactly like what your site will look like on the web. That means they should include real content.Schedule several weeks for this process. First, it’ll take your designer plenty of time to incorporate all the elements. More importantly, though, you’ll likely want to incorporate a review and revision process. After all, you want the design to be pixel-perfect.Month 5DevelopmentYou’ve got everything exactly where you want it. You think your site will help meet your goals and move visitors through the buyer’s journey. The hard work is over. (Woohoo!) Now, go ahead and hand everything over to a coder.Usually, you can sit back and relax and wait for your fully functioning site to be developed. Programming can take a while, though. Depending on who’s in charge of development, the timeframe can vary. Plan for at least a month of coding allowance.2 Weeks Before LaunchDetermine Content PlacementOnce the pages are ready to work with, the first step is to place your content. This includes copying and pasting body text, building CTAs, uploading files, and dropping in images. Keep in mind that you might need to do some copy fitting. Even though you should have designed with content in mind, sometimes, the words you want just don’t look right. This is the time to adjust your phrasing so the message fits.It’s also the time to proofread! Nothing diminishes a site’s credibility like a glaring typo. Avoid that at all costs.Finalize URLs & 301 RedirectsRemember the list you made a few months ago of all your old site pages, their URLs, and where to redirect them? That will come in handy. Now’s the time to put those new web addresses into place. Enter in the right (new) URLs on pages, and set up 301 redirects for old pages. It’s super simple, but a super important step that you can’t skip over.SEOYou should already have a keyword and search engine optimization strategy in place. You’ll want to incorporate SEO best practices now, before the site goes live. On the back end of your site, add meta descriptions, add internal links, and double check that your keywords are in your URL, H1 tags, and alt text.TroubleshootBefore you push that “publish” button, make sure your users will have a great experience from the get-go. Preview multiple site pages in various browsers and devices to make sure they look nice and work well. If not, adjust! Click on all your links, too, to make sure there are no broken links. When everything works as it should, you’re ready to go!Month 6 (Launch Date)It’s the big day! Publish all of your new pages, but don’t sit back and relax right away. Instead, be prepared to fix unexpected problems.Be sure to do a bit of quality assurance today, too. You never know if something went wrong somewhere along the way. Check that your 301 redirects worked and that your site pages are all in the right place.Post-Launch(What, did you think you were already done?)Generate Heat MapsHeat maps are insanely helpful for understanding how your visitors interact with your website. Install a heat map software (like Hotjar, Crazy Egg, or HeatMapper) to learn where your visitors are clicking. This allows you to draw hypotheses around their actions and revise accordingly. Ultimately, you want to make your site easy to navigate.Run A/B TestingMaybe you couldn’t decide if that one CTA should go beside the copy or below it. Maybe you weren’t sure which headline to put on your homepage. After your site has been up and running for a bit, you can set up A/B tests to determine the best long-term solution.Experiment With User TestingUser testing can actually come before your site launch too — in fact, that’s probably preferable. But because most people are in a rush to publish that brand new site, it’s OK to push user testing to after the launch.During user testing, sit down with real people and see how they use your site. What do they like? Where do they get stuck? Use those insights to revise your site.Review Goal AnalyticsRemember those goals you set six months ago? (Sure hope so — they should have been guiding all your web design decisions). Now, it’s time to assess them. You’ll want to compare new site data to old site data to get the clearest picture about what is (and isn’t) successful.The specific analytics you look for will depend on your individual goals, but here are a few good ones to look for:Time on siteBounce rateClick-through rateConversion ratesTraffic sourcesHighest ranking pagesTotal pageviewsWhile this is the end of the timeline, it’s not the end of your work on your website. In fact, your website should never really be “done.” After all, you’ll want to adjust to optimize for conversions, add new content, and change it around as your organization changes. As you move forward, remember that revising along the way is OK, as long as your long-term goals are at the forefront of those decisions. Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlack
Originally published Sep 23, 2015 6:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017 If you’re normal, you checked your email within the past 60 minutes. If you’re even more normal, you don’t even “check your email.” Instead, it’s always there — pinging, dinging, distracting your mind, chewing up your workday, and making you stressed out and unproductive.Email is a monster. Each of us has our ways of whimpering and giving in to the monster, or rising to slay it with technological indignation.But whatever the case, email is what it is. And it’s here to stay.And as a marketer, you need to understand how the email obsession works so you can design more effective email campaigns. If we understand the psychology of checking email, we can create emails our recipients actually want to open and interact with. Here are a few core principles that you should know.Checking email is addictive.Many people suffer from email addiction. Email addiction happens due to something called operant conditioning. Operant conditioning is part of the normal way our mind learns things. In the case of email, our mind learns that if we do something (open our email tab, for example) then we get something else (new mail, and the excitement that brings).Here’s how it works.Operant conditioning, according to B. F. Skinner, applies to “active behavior that operates upon the environment to generate consequences” The action — checking email — is reinforced by the consequence — we get email.Lesson: Even though people may hate email, we love the pleasurable feeling of getting email. Don’t shrink back from sending marketing emails — just make sure you’re sending the right email content to the right people so you’re associating your emails with a good feeling.Checking email is a huge distraction.In one experiment, researchers found that technology workers became distracted after only 11 minutes of work. It took them 25 minutes to return to their task.Email is the primary cause of workplace distraction. Even though we feel like we’re working — email is work, right? — it keeps us from getting more important work done.Lesson: Distract customers in the right way. If you can use your email message to assure them that it won’t take much of their time, make them more productive, etc., then you are doing exactly what their minds are primed to desire.Checking email is a form of procrastination.Procrastination is a close cousin of distraction. Procrastination has the same negative consequence of distraction — not doing what we are supposed to be doing.We prefer email as a method of procrastination, because we tend to feel better about ourselves than if we were just watching cat videos on YouTube.Besides, we think that checking our email will “only take a minute.” Usually, the “minute” turns into much longer …Lesson: Make your emails short, so people can at least feel like they are getting through it quickly. Instead of creating a long email, create a chain of links or steps. Each sequence in the step gives the user a sense of progress and accomplishment.People check their email more often than they think they do. One email study asked users how often they thought they checked their email. The participants said that they checked their email every hour.Actually, they were checking their email every five minutes (source, source). The irresistible urge of email keeps us checking even when we don’t realize it.Lesson: Although there is a science to the best time to send emails, don’t stress about it. Most users are checking their email all the time, and they’ll see your email, regardless of when you send it.Email wastes our time.This point is obvious. Checking email is a massive waste of time. Various studies have discovered that we spend a quarter of our workday on email.Even though it’s a waste of time, email is necessary for today’s knowledge worker. We can’t simply ignore our email or leave it alone. We have to return to it, deal with it, and do business on it.Lesson: Respect the fact that people spend a lot of time on email. They want to get through their email quickly. If you want them to act on your email, then your email must communicate the big idea in the most direct way. Clear subject lines, big headlines, and a brief message are the ingredients for a successful email.Checking email usually makes us feel let down. Nancy Colier wrote this in Psychology Today: It seems that the urge to check it is disproportionally [sic] high and out of sync with reality and well-being.”She makes an insightful point. We check our email so habitually and eagerly, but it doesn’t make us any happier.In fact, it makes us feel let down. Colier calls it the “lottery brain,” a mental phenomenon that makes us do stupid things. Scientific American labels the lottery brain “dangerous,” and calls it “irrational.”Lesson: Since people often feel sad after checking their email, try to provide an antidote in your marketing emails. If you can improve an individual’s sense of wellbeing, you have a much higher chance of standing out in their crowded inbox.Checking email stresses us out.Checking email often doesn’t seem like a stressor. We tend to think that not checking our email would be more stressful.As it turns out, however, checking your email often could be a cause of stress and unhappiness.One study group was told to check their email three times a day. The other group was told to keep their email open and to check it frequently.The outcome of the study was predictable. After testing, researchers compiled the data and determined that “limiting the number of times people checked their email per day lessened tension during a particularly important activity and lowered overall day-to-day stress.”Simple way to get rid of stress? Stop checking your email so often. Lesson: Since email causes stress, give your customers a way to escape stress in your email. Selecting the right colors, subject line, tone, and content can subtly reduce stress as they view and interact with the email. ConclusionOverall, the psychology of checking email can be summed up in three statements:It’s an addicting habit.It’s time-consuming.It’s stressful.To create a successful email marketing approach, you should understand and adapt to these typical responses.Your email recipients are subconsciously seeking to be distracted. They will choose to be distracted by whatever best promises relief from stress. Eliminating stress, whether through a product or a message, is a helpful way to appeal to customers and to gain their respect and attention.If you made it to the end of your article without checking your email once, congratulations. And if you learned a thing or two about the psychology of email, then consider yourself ready to go and make your marketing better.What psychological insights have improved your email marketing? Topics: Email Inbox Tips Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlack
Originally published Feb 4, 2016 5:23:00 PM, updated August 02 2017 Facebook Marketing Data Topics:
Instagram Marketing Don’t forget to share this post! Topics: Black and white@jl_saezColorful@aurelyceriseCollage@anderson._paak Staging and Composing Your ImagesNow that you’ve decided on the style and emotion of your images, it’s time to introduce some basic photography tips to help you compose visually-appealing images that fit the tone of your account.SizeInstagram images are 1080 x 1080 pixels. Instagram then resizes the images to 612 x 612 pixels, which display in users’ feeds as 510 x 510 pixels. On Instagram, quality beats quantity, so you should post photos that are at least 1080 x 1080 pixels. If you’re tempted to share smaller pictures, it’s better to do so on other social media platforms.Color SchemeWhen choosing a color palette, keep it simple. Share photos that use only a few main colors. These colors should remain consistent throughout your feed.Design seeds is a great place to find inspiration for your color palette. In addition to this, you can also use Coolors.LightingThe best photos are taken in bright and natural light. If you’re outside, avoid shooting in direct sunlight. The best lighting conditions exist in early morning, early evening, and overcast days.Image by Felix Russell SawImage by Chirobocea NicuSubjectThe rule of simplicity also applies when choosing a subject. Some of the best shots feature a single, appealing subject. Because your photo will feature just one subject, it’s worth spending extra time to stage and restage the shot to ensure that you capture your subject from the most interesting perspective.Image by Kelly SikkemaImage by Ronald CuyanNegative SpaceMany skilled photographers follow the rule-of-thirds when shooting their subjects, meaning they dedicate one-third of the frame to the subject and two-thirds of the frame to negative space. This helps draw attention to your subject.Utilize the grid feature on your phone or camera to better understand the space within your frame and balance the space between your subject and background.Image by Trey RatcliffAs you can see from the photo above, the photographer used the grid lines to divide the photo into nine equal parts, placing the subject of the photo on an intersection of four grid lines. These intersections are naturally the most appealing focal points within a photo.Your use of negative space can transform a good photo into an excellent one. Consider restaging the same photo a few times, to play with negative space, as well as different angles and different depths.Images by: Lance Asper, Daniel Von Appen, Zia Syed, Simone HutschOptical Illusions and ShapesTake advantage of natural illusions like reflections to attract your viewer and create a sense of marvel and curiosity.Image by David MarcuImage by NgYou can use leading lines to focus your viewer’s attention on a specific part of an image. These lines can be straight, wavy, or circular. Great examples of this principle in action are railroad tracks, spiral staircases, or forest trails.Image by Sam PoullainImage by Tobias Van SchneiderCreating symmetry in your photos is another way to draw attention to your images. Symmetrical images are people-pleasers, and very simple to compose.Image by Steve HarleyImage by Vincent van ZalingeRepetitive patterns, geometrical shapes, and abstract textures are visually appealing effects you should use in your images. Consider mosaic tabletops, building facades, or fraying fabrics. Naturally-occurring patterns and symmetry are also very photogenic: think about the veins on leaves or a spider web.Image by Andrew RidleyImage by thr3 eyesBegin paying attention to the photogenic details of your everyday life. With the appropriate use of lighting and negative space, you have the capacity to transform an intricate detail into a very powerful image.Image by Pawel BlazewiczImage by Darren NunisPost-ProductionFiltersNow that you’ve staged and shot your image, it’s time to discuss the best way to apply Instagram’s filters. To create consistency within your feed, you should stick to using the same few filters for all of your posts.Check out this video for a helpful tutorial on editing photos directly from your phone:Using filters will help distinguish and draw attention to your Instagram photos. Take a look at these examples of types of filters:DesaturatedSaturatedImage by Kyler NixonBright and MinimalisticBeforeAfterImage by Bench AccountingBalancing Your Feed Once you’ve chosen your filters and edited your photos, you’ll want to look at your feed in its entirety to be sure that, as a whole, it looks uniform and balanced.Instagram is less about creating individual images, and more about curating a complete, coordinated, and consistent feed that captures the emotions you hope to communicate.@passion_shakeOne of the easiest ways to ensure that your feed has a uniform feel and flow is to consider each new image you post in the context of the images surrounding it within your feed.By focusing your attention on your previous photos, you will relieve yourself of the burden of considering whether each new photo you post matches the style of your entire feed.Another way to create a good balance within your feed is to look at the level of detail in your previous images when you post a new image. If the previous photos are less detailed, consider posting a “busier” photo next.GraphicsYou can draw more attention to your images by adding graphic elements that overlay your photo:Canva and Easil are two web apps that will help you create fast and simple graphics to enhance your images.If you choose to overlay your image with text graphics, limit yourself to one or two fonts, and make sure the font styles complement the feel and tone of your account.Fontpair and Typ help explain which font styles work well together.Take-awayIn today’s world of high-quality smartphone cameras and dozens of photo-editing apps, it is becoming easier to create visually-pleasing images to share on Instagram.But to sell your product and attract new followers, it is imperative that you compose and share photos that create emotional associations with your brand.This requires both preparation and creative execution, but by following the simple tips above, you’ll have new followers scrolling and day-dreaming in no time. Photographs are emotional time machines: they transport us to places of which we’ve only dreamed, remind us of past experiences we long to recreate, and spark inspiration for future adventures.It is not the photographs themselves that stir up these emotions, but rather the memories and aspirations we associate with them.Instagram is a visual platform, so the best brands on Instagram understand the images they share are essential components to building their brands.Download 25 Free Business Instagram Templates.But beautiful images of their products aren’t enough.Instead, great brands use Instagram to share images that create genuine connections between their products, and the hopes and ambitions of their followers.Tell a Captivating StoryInstagram is the perfect tool to create an emotional connection to your brand.Instead of posting images that merely showcase your products, share images to evoke the feelings, dreams, and ideals you want associated with your brand.Today, it’s fairly easy to compose and post beautiful images, but unfortunately, aesthetic beauty is not enough to be successfully marketable on Instagram.The key to establishing a loyal and enthusiastic following is to use your Instagram images to tell a story that captivates and engages your followers and allows them to be part of the adventure.Achieving both of these goals — composing beautiful images and sharing them in an engaging and emotional way –takes some work. But with preparation and attention, you have the potential to curate a dazzling feed that will keep your followers scrolling.Preparing Your Images for InstagramThere are four main ways your images can help or engage your followers. They can:Educate your followersEntertain your followersAssist your followers in solving a problemMotivate or inspire your followersTo attract attention, make sure your images tick at least one of the five categories below:Timely or topical: post about an upcoming event or festival that connects to your followingTrending: post the type of content that is currently hot and trending on InstagramOriginal: post unique and imaginative content to set yourself apartSnackable: post content that is easily digestable while your followers scroll their feedsActionable: include a call-to-action in your post, directing your followers to like, share, or comment on your imageInstagram ThemesTo curate an appealing, cohesive feed, it’s important to select a consistent style for your posts. From crisp minimalism to bold and colorful, there are thousands of accounts you can draw inspiration from.Here are some examples:Minimalism@serjios Originally published Feb 21, 2018 7:00:00 AM, updated October 30 2019
Firestarter (R)Friday, Feb. 13Featured speaker: Jennifer Bunch, photo double for Drew Barrymore Ricky Bobby’s No. 26 Wonder Bread race car from the 2006 movie Talladega Nights: TheBallad of Ricky Bobby. The 2006 Chevrolet, currently on view in the museum lobby, is on loan from International Motorsports Hall of Fame in Talladega, Ala., and from Shell Oil.In August 2012, North Carolina Museum of History curator and film buff Katie Edwards had an idea. She knew that major movies and TV shows are often filmed in the Tar Heel State. “We’d all heard about Bull Durham, The Hunger Games, Dawson’s Creek, and others,” she says. But she knew there were many, many more, and suspected that the history of filmmaking here could make for an interesting exhibit.The film clips, stories, history, and memorabilia she and her team uncovered amazed them all. Covering 3,000 films over the last 100 years, their work took two and a half years to complete and resulted in Starring North Carolina!, which opened Nov. 15 and runs until Sept. 6.The show charts the state’s emergence as one of the nation’s top film and television production locations – from silent pictures shot in western North Carolina in the early 1900s, to the birth of Wilimington as a movie-making hub in the ’80s, and on to recent blockbusters like Iron Man 3 and the successful Sleepy Hollow series.There are three main reasons why moviemakers flock here, Edwards and her colleague Camille Hunt say. The first is geography. With mountains, beaches, and everything in between, there’s no terrain we don’t have. The second is talent. As in any other industry, good work attracts it, and North Carolina is now home to thousands of professional crew members who make these productions happen. One of the many places they ply their trade is Wilmington’s EUE/Screen Gems Studios, the largest film studio outside California. The third is economics. North Carolina remains a far less expensive place to make movies than the West coast or many other places.Movie lovers won’t be surprised to see Bull Durham featured in the show – Kevin Costner’s bomber jacket is on display. But you might not know that 1986 cult classic Blue Velvet was primarily shot in Wilmington. The museum has not only Isabella Rossellini’s blue velvet robe but also the “severed ear” that figured prominently in the film. Other highlights include Ricky Bobby’s No. 26 Wonder Bread race car from 2006’s Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby; a costume worn by Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games; several items from Dawson’s Creek; and Daniel Day-Lewis’s fringed suede get-up from Last of the Mohicans.The exhibit will play host to the inaugural Longleaf Film Festival, which will feature narrative and documentary movies, on May 2, 2015. The museum will also run a monthly film series on the second Friday of each month in coordination with the exhibit. (See box below.)Starring North Carolina! Film SeriesIron Man 3 (PG-13)Friday, Dec. 12Featured speaker: Bryan Simmons, memorabilia collector. Dirty Dancing (PG-13)Friday, March 13Featured speaker: Dr. Marsha Gordon, associate professor, film studies, N.C. State Brainstorm (PG)Friday, Jan. 9, 2015Featured speaker: Ira David Wood III, actor, author, singer, director, playwright(see story, following page.) All films begin at 6 p.m. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased in the museum’s shop. For a complete list of films through Sept. 2015, go to NCMOH-starring.com.
After 21 years as Dean of the College of Design at N.C. State University, Marvin Malecha retires this month and will become president and chief academic officer at the NewSchool of Architecture and Design in San Diego, Calif. It seemed fitting in this interview with Walter to have the design visionary sketch his responses.What do you look like?A flash of white hairAgainst a black imageDefined by the geometry of eyewearFueled by an open spirit?But what does it matter?Do you have an alter ego?Yes and no. It is a circus.FriendsMentorsRole modelsComposed into an idealized aspiration.My alter ego has wings.Which building in Raleigh do you most admire?A building is a marker of life. It is architecture by its relationship to life. The vanishing tobacco barns are genuine. The Fadum House has a simple reality. The memory of the Catalano House haunts us. Dorton Arena reminds us of our better spirit, and the Hunt Library transforms our understanding.What’s your favorite thing to eat?In my personal quiet spaceA rich Italian red – Brunello and a bold cheeseWith my joyA soft black licorice with my granddaughterSo it depends …What are you afraid of?FEARTo restrict my curiosityTo cup my wingsThe authority of those who would seize my independenceCYNICISMTo drain me of my energyDriving color from my mindWhat’s on your feet?A message, a dialogue of Van Gogh,Heidegger, and Charlie Chaplin …Cole Hahn high tops todayMephisto for comfort yesterdayAsics from my son for exerciseMy identity!What is your favorite season?The season I am alive in! I am moved by the quiet of a snowfall and the crackle of the first steps in it. Who cannot be astounded by the brilliance of the color of a youthful spring? The lustiness of summer speaks for itself. But the beautiful subtlety of fall … the mature spectrum of color … the instigation … the demand for reflection – makes it my favorite.What’s on your mind?The past near and farToday … NOW!The transition to the future.Satisfaction for what has beenImpatience to be betterPossibilitiesColor!
by Tracy Davisphotographs by Nick PironioRaleigh artist Clark Hipolito is a man in constant motion, a quality he shares with much of the art he makes. His reputation was built with murals and commercial interior design – art that stays where you put it – but his interests have led him to fill a unique niche on canvases that move: surfboards, skateboards, and guitars.“His artwork is absolutely amazing,” says master luthier Jay Lichty, who won Garden & Gun magazine’s 2010 top “Made in the South” award for his handcrafted guitars and ukuleles. One of Lichty’s ukuleles, painted by Hipolito, hangs on the wall of his dining room. “I treat this one more like art. It’s just too pretty to keep in a case. And honestly,” he pauses midsentence, examining the instrument, “I’m still not sure how he pulls them off. Is this gold leaf? It’s gorgeous.”A Connecticut native, Hipolito, 45, first found his inspiration in the Atlantic Ocean. During a 2003 trip to Charleston, where he was creating custom interiors and murals, Hipolito headed out to Folly Beach, noticed that the waves were great, and decided to rent a surfboard. He ended up with a decrepit old board and bought it on impulse. “If a board could have rust, this one would have.” He cleaned it up, painted it with a faux wood finish, “put art on it, and then rode it.” The board got attention. Soon Hipolito was painting boards for other surfers, and next thing he knew, he had a 15-board show in downtown Wilmington. Surfboards eventually led to instruments.Serendipity also played a role early on. After graduating from Seton Hall with degrees in business and design, Hipolito worked as an on-air graphics designer at MTV Networks in New York. He saw murals being painted and thought, “I want that. So, I started being an artist.” In 1994, he founded The Art Company, Inc., which he still runs, to create custom art. At about the same time, Hipolito moved South. Stints in Atlanta (“meh”) and Charleston (“liked but didn’t love”) failed to win him over, so a friend suggested he check out the Raleigh-Durham area. His introduction to the Triangle was a walk down Franklin Street in Chapel Hill. Everything clicked. “I loved it. Lots to do, pretty people, everyone’s friendly, good cost of living. All the basics. I thought, give it a year.”Hipolito decided on Raleigh, setting up in a warehouse on Yonkers Road where, surrounded by purveyors of lumber, lighting, and plumbing, he figured he could draw on the area’s innate grit and build-it vibe to turn the place into a SoHo artist’s loft. “Nope,” he says. “Completely didn’t work.” But a mural he painted there caught the eye of a couple shopping for tile and led to his first real job in Raleigh: a mural in their Italian restaurant, Casalinga Ristorante, at the time a popular spot on Capital Boulevard. The mural job snowballed into a collaboration to revamp the entire restaurant, and ultimately paved the way for fruitful connections with area builders.That ability to spark connection is another of Hipolito’s talents. Quick to smile, quick to make friends, quick to say yes, he’s not a “mull it over” kind of guy. That translates to an aptitude for “connecting the dots,” as he puts it, with the dots being people, ideas, and projects.From the start, both his clients and his art have been diverse. Early mixed-media commissions came from the Carolina Hurricanes and Walnut Creek Amphitheatre, and his paintings have appeared in TV series like Dawson’s Creek and Sex and the City. His art reflects influences as diverse as Roy Lichtenstein’s blending of text and image and the classical forms of Michelangelo. His work is also as likely to be on the ceiling or floor as it is to adorn a wall.So it was only natural that Hipolito – and his art – would go off-road.Things That Go When he first started painting surfboards, “I had no idea how to price them,” Hipolito says. For lack of a better plan, he created a silent auction with bid sheets at his first show. It created buzz from the start – it didn’t hurt that there were film crews in town – and prices shot up. The boards sold out the first night. “I thought, ‘I need to stick to this!’ It was killer.”Surfboards led to skateboards, and then came the leap to guitars. That’s no surprise to anyone who knows Hipolito, an avid music fan. Guitars are “an intimate canvas,” he says. “You can focus.” He paints them on commission and in live settings, including at the Bonnaroo music festival and at Raleigh nonprofit Band Together’s annual Main Event.The 2010 Band Together show, with headliner Michael Franti, made for an especially serendipitous connection. “I’m painting live while Franti does his thing,” he says, “and after the show Franti tells me that he loves it. Then he says, ‘Got a minute?’” Franti showed Hipolito his favorite acoustic guitar and asked him to paint it, but there was a catch: It was the only acoustic Franti had with him on tour, and he needed it in Asheville, ready to play, less than 48 hours later. “If you can do it,” said Franti, “take it.”“I went back to my house and got to work that night.” says Hipolito. Several hours later, his girlfriend drove Hipolito – borderline delirious from lack of sleep and a head full of lacquer fumes – to Asheville. He delivered it to a delighted Franti, and more projects came his way, all via word of mouth, including two guitars for members of Journey and an electric bass for the bassist of the rock band Umphrey’s McGee. “I have huge gratitude,” says Hipolito. “I get to see someone amazing playing my guitar on stage. And when those artists say good things about my art? It’s the ultimate gratification.”That appreciation for the talents of other artists – “the makers,” he says – fostered his collaboration with guitar maker Lichty, and with East Coast Surfing Hall of Famer and renowned surfboard shaper Will Allison, who approaches boards as functional sculpture. Their 2011 Birds of a Feather show, featuring Hipolito’s art on Lichty’s instruments and Allison’s surfboards, was held at Deluxe in Wilmington. It brought together everything Hipolito loves.“Those guys are masters,” says Hipolito. “There was a symbiosis, as well as a generational thing – these three compatible arts coming together.”For his part, Lichty met Hipolito when his client Mike Gossin of the band Gloriana commissioned a Lichty guitar, and wanted Hipolito’s art on it. Lichty wasn’t sure that was such a good idea. “The top of a guitar is the main tone producing part of it,” he explains, “so any art has to be absolutely thin, with no depth. Put too much paint on there, it’ll mess up the sound.”But he was willing to try. After Lichty built Gossin’s instrument, Hipolito came to his Tryon workshop to paint it. “He got there about 7 p.m.,” Lichty says. “I eventually went to bed, and when I got up at seven or eight the next morning, he was just finishing up,” recalls Lichty. “Then he heads back to Raleigh. He’s got some energy.” The two later met in Wilmington to deliver the instrument to Gossin, who loved how it looked and how it sounded. Says Lichty, “The consensus was, this was such a cool thing. Let’s do a project together.” The result includes the ukelele he now admires on his dining room wall.How he does itHipolito works in all mediums, but acrylics are his favorite. “You can do anything with them. They dry fast; they’re compatible with any surface.” And they take well to being sealed, which is especially important for art that has a job to do. Surfboards need resin; guitars need lacquer. “I’ve seen oils dissolve under a clear coat,” he says. “Not cool.”Because much of his art is made in public or commercial spaces, he doesn’t get many stretches of alone time with room for his thoughts to wander. So the solo all-nighter has become his favorite time to paint and create. “I’ll start something at maybe 11 or 12, and stay with it till 4 or 5,” he says. “Then sleep! And then head out for on-site stuff.”He works in his studio and at his home, both in Five Points, and also in a space above Wine On Main in Clayton, which he co-owns with Temple Phipps. He likes that the wine shop has become a meeting house of sorts for diverse groups in the community, and he has immersed himself in the city, chairing veterans’ memorial and public sculpture trail projects there. “Clayton. I love it. That main street is Glenwood South twenty years ago,” he says. “Just you watch!”Over on present-day Glenwood South, Hipolito’s newest work is at Devolve, a motorcycle and outdoor lifestyle shop. His surfboards are for sale, his murals are on the walls, and his passions are represented: art, travel, and bikes. Hipolito got his first motorcycle as a kid. He and his father chanced upon a bike in a random shop, and decided it was meant to be. “It fit in the trunk,” he says with a grin. “I can still see it. A Suzuki JR50.”If there’s a downside to living in-the-moment as emphatically as Hipolito does, it’s that there aren’t as many chances as he’d like to savor the moments as they come. There’s too much he wants to do.The top of that list: work with the band Widespread Panic. And, he adds, “I’d kind of like to do a hotel. Something in downtown Raleigh. A cool hotel.” Unlike Hipolito, a hotel just might hold still.
“To share the joy of music with others is a privilege.” –Sylvia Wiggins, director, Helping Hand Mission marching band (far left, front row)by Jessie Ammonsphotograph by Travis LongSylvia Wiggins has always had a penchant for band music. But as a high school student, she couldn’t muster the courage to audition for her school’s mostly-Caucasian ensemble. “I told myself that one day I’d have a band where everyone can come,” says the founder and executive director of Helping Hand Mission, a nonprofit that provides food, clothing, furniture, shelter – and band music – to Southeast Raleigh.Wiggins was working on an anti-gang initiative for Helping Hand when she remembered her adolescent hope and founded the mission’s marching band for 7- to 17-year-olds. “We have black kids, Hispanic kids, white kids. We want everyone to feel comfortable.”The marching band fluctuates between 50 and 70 members, and teens must complete community service projects to join. No musical experience is required, and the band relies on donated instruments. “We practice a few times a week, but the kids hang out a lot, too. We have a lot of activities that … we don’t put under the title ‘practice,’ but are band-related. They dance all the time.” That dancing inspires the marching: Often, members compose and freestyle original music inspired by what’s on the radio.Wiggins leads the troupe, despite an already-packed schedule running the nonprofit’s headquarters and shelter on Rock Quarry Road. For her, it’s a non-negotiable commitment. “Teens are my favorite kind of kid,” she says. “That’s the age when a lot of people give up on them, but I know what they can be. I like to see the outcome, when they realize their potential. Band is a safe place and a structured place.” Visit helpinghandmission.org to learn more about the marching band and to donate instruments.
Nick Pironioby Fanny SlaterOnce upon a basket of cornbread, I made a decision that would forever change the course of my life. I slouched into the cozy, familiar booth at Margaux’s Restaurant and asked my family: “What about some kind of tangerine chicken?”My mom looked up from her Caesar, puzzled. It was now three days before the finale of Rachael Ray’s Great American Cookbook Competition. I was one of two remaining contestants, and we had been sent home and given one week to choose our final recipe. For some bizarre reason, I couldn’t let go of tangerine chicken. I had never even made tangerine chicken before in my life. This was clearly the moment when I began grasping for anything. Anything at all. In this case: tangerine chicken.After winning Rachael Ray’s Great American Cookbook Competition, Slater appeared on the show. Here, she is shown with Jacques Pépin and Rachael Ray. Slater’s book will be available March 1.My boyfriend Tony slid the shiny basket of still-warm cornbread under my nose. I peeled apart a crumbly, golden square and swiped it through a ramekin of whipped butter. I looked up at my dad – whose expression was solemn (unusual for someone who wears cartoon rotisserie chicken socks). “Why don’t you end where you began?” he suggested.I thought back to the first recipe I’d submitted for the competition: “The Tin Foil Surprise.” It was my spin on our family’s favorite to-go English muffin breakfast sandwich. My updated version featured creamy taleggio cheese and floral, homemade orange lavender fig jam. I stuffed the fluffy cornbread into my mouth and grinned. “If the rest of my life is riding on an English muffin,” I declared, “I think everything is going to be okay.”Many of my richest memories have taken place over a basket of Margaux’s cornbread. I grew up with a dad who prepared top-notch homemade meals on a near-nightly basis, so naturally, my family’s restaurant expectations have always been high. But it’s never been pretentious, complicated cuisine we’re after – just good food made with soul. And butter, of course.Margaux’s opened its North Raleigh doors in 1992 and instantly became our second kitchen. It was where we boogied for my sister Sarah’s post-Bat Mitzvah brunch (and for mine four years later). It was where my parents celebrated birthdays and anniversaries. It was where we even broke our cardinal ritual of a homestyle Thanksgiving to unapologetically surrender to the sinful buffet one memorable year. And it was Margaux’s where we took “Macho Man” Randy Savage to dinner. No, seriously. But that’s another story.Apple; treeIn 1975, my mom founded the nationally-acclaimed bakery business Rachel’s Brownies. In the beginning stages of her eventual business partnership with my dad, she would tenaciously re-wrap the brownies he’d dutifully tried to wrap to meet her impeccable standards. For her, each chocolate morsel was a work of art. My dad, while not a whiz-bang brownie-wrapper like my mom, was a highly-experienced marketing guru and self-taught kitchen wizard. He kept a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking on his nightstand. When I was four, he scooted a chair up to the stove and handed me a spatula. In first grade, he came into my class at Ravenscroft and taught us all how to braid and bake homemade challah. That’s pretty much all I remember from first grade. Needless to say, I grew up on good eats, and it was only a matter of time before I took the cooking into my own hands.As a Ravenscroft first-grader, Slater performs a cooking demonstration with her father.My last year at Peace College (now William Peace University), I was assigned a final writing project to fulfill my English major. Sitting in my advisor’s office, I talked in circles until I somehow convinced him to allow me to intern at my favorite Raleigh restaurant and write about it. Several weeks later, I found myself standing in that esteemed kitchen, looking out onto the dining room where I had spent many meals enjoying cornbread, peppered duck, and delicate profiteroles. In Margaux’s kitchen, I felt as though I had been granted entrance to a mystical universe where few elite members were allowed. I silently bowed my head at the crab cakes.A few years later, right around the time I turned 25 and moved to California, the restaurant movement in the Triangle began to erupt. When I came home to visit, I thought I’d be eager to dive into the trendy new hot spots. But it turned out it was familiar flavors I craved. Between my dad’s sublimely-seared scallops and Margaux’s expertly-wrapped shrimp summer rolls, I was happy. After all, I had a short window of time at home and only so many pairs of stretchy pants in my suitcase.I eventually returned to the East Coast (downtown Wilmington to be exact), where I got close enough to sample the exquisite fare of Raleigh’s most gifted chefs. This is how Ashley Christensen became my best imaginary friend. As Julie Powell, of Julie & Julia, once said, “I have this fantasy that she comes for dinner and I show her my new lemon zester. We become very close.”Slater prepares a root vegetable frittata in her Wilmington home kitchen. “I always have eggs and veggies and cheese on hand,” she says. Maybe it’s because Ashley’s food is full of imagination – but also reminds me of home – that I daydream of this citrus-inspired friendship. Because at the root of it all, I am still influenced by the flavors that have stuck with me all of this time. The anecdotes and recipes you’ll find in my cookbook,Orange, Lavender & Figs: Deliciously Different Recipes from a Passionate Eater, are modern tributes to the food moments that have shaped my life. Case in point: to honor Margaux’s succulent, butter-slathered cornbread – which has provided me with countless memories – I crafted these honey cornmeal pancakes with vanilla bean-fig butter. But first, back to the beginning… I decided to submit “The Tin Foil Surprise” as my final recipe for Rachael’s competition. I think you can guess how it all turned out. I knew that if I stayed true to myself, my love for nostalgia, and my whimsical spirit, I couldn’t lose. After all, coming from a family who relentlessly encouraged my silliness and my love of cooking, it’s no surprise I come up with eclectic, playful food. Can you blame me? Because, well, with a name like Fanny – it’s pretty hard to fit into the crowd.But I’m okay with that.
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The Powell GT chorus rehearses before its performance in Meymandi Concert Hall on April 5. The fourth-and fifth-graders had practiced for months, coming in to rehearse at 8 a.m. before their school day began.Raleigh Fine Art Society’s Choral Celebrationby Mimi Montgomeryphotographs by Jillian ClarkIt’s a Tuesday evening in April, and Meymandi Concert Hall is packed. In a few short minutes, Powell GT elementary school’s chorus will take the stage, and the kids are shushing each other as they wait in the wings for their cue. Their fourth- and fifth-grade faces are bathed in the blue light of backstage bulbs as they whisper last-minute notes and bits of advice to each other under the din of the audience outside and the sounds of the accompanists warming up. They’ve been counting down the months to this night. Their moment is finally here. On the other side of the curtain, it’s not the usual symphony crowd anticipating a night of classical music – it’s kids like them, all of whom will also have their own chance to perform. This is the first night of an annual two-night Raleigh Fine Arts Society Choral Celebration, bringing Wake County elementary school choruses to the capital city’s finest stage to perform for their parents, friends, and the public. The kids are all dressed in their best, some in white button-downs and dress pants, and others in black dresses and bows. As the audience goes quiet, the Powell students fidget anxiously and giggle; at the last minute, their teacher, Terri Gervais, confiscates phones from two of them. The kids stand up straight. It’s time to go on. “I’m so ready,” Damarian King, 11, mouths, a grin on his face.Leaving a legacy Powell is one of dozens of schools that have participated over the last 17 years in this annual concert, held each spring. Created in 1999 by RFAS founding member Martha Zaytoun, the event added music to the group’s lineup of programs designed to promote literature and the visual arts. The event rose in prominence in 2001 when it moved to Meymandi, and so many schools wanted to participate that RFAS had to add an extra evening to accommodate them all. Its popularity has only grown. This year’s Celebration included a record 16 schools and nearly 1,000 children singing. From the beginning, the event has showcased fourth- and fifth-grade choruses from Wake County schools, and has aimed to help improve their music as well as showcase it. The choruses are reviewed by an adjudicator, who provides notes and comments ahead of the performance, in which each school performs two songs individually and sings three all together. Because young children’s voices have their own special quality, working with them is different than conducting teenagers or adults, and requires experienced conductors trained in elementary music. The Celebration’s advisors (Ann LeGarde, Kenya Snider, and Ann Goldfinch) are all former or current teachers certified to teach music to children; they help structure the flow of the performance and help each participating school’s conductor select music that will showcase their children’s voices in the best way. This year, RFAS also assigned a choral clinician to each school who attended two rehearsals, and not only worked with the children on their selected music pieces, but provided feedback to their teachers, too. In addition, RFAS invited all of the schools’ choral teachers to a workshop with Dr. Frances Page, a professor of music at Meredith College and the conductor of the Capital City Girls Choir. Teachers filled out professional development forms before and after their school’s performances, as well, to chart their own growth and reflect on their students’ improvements. “This is something else we can do where we’re giving back,” says Dena Silver, chair of the Choral Celebration. “This is something where kids learn, where teachers learn. So, over time, you’re building on all that.” Silver says that’s important, because lower school choirs are at risk. “A lot of teachers and school administrators don’t feel that they’re necessary. So, we felt we needed to continue to improve the profile of those schools and elementary choral programs, and if we did that, they would maybe have a longer life.” Celebration advisor and Farmington Woods teacher Ann LeGarde says it’s working. “They gain so much confidence from that opportunity. When you finally see them on stage and hear them … their faces are lit up by the beautiful lights and they’re so excited and so proud of themselves,” she says. “It’s definitely a memory that lasts a lifetime. It’s just beautiful. It’s really beautiful.”The chorus stands at attention during one of their early morning practices.Going the extra distance Of the 16 schools participating in the Choral Celebration, Powell is one of four newcomers. A Raleigh magnet school, it is a diverse, arts-based elementary school near the Oakwood area focused on play and ingenuity. The children in its fourth- and fifth-grade chorus love to perform and go to great lengths to do so, arriving at 8 a.m. to rehearse before the school day begins. One March morning, some are sleepy, dragging their backpacks into the colorful room, but most seem excited. There’s a palpable buzz in the air – today their RFAS-assigned choral clinician, Anne Mormon-Smith, is there to listen to the group rehearse the two pieces they’ll sing in the Celebration. It’s clear that Gervais, Powell’s general music and chorus teacher, has set expectations for her students: They perch on the edge of their seats with rail-straight backs. In Gervais’ book, learning the correct way to carry a note or breathe from their stomachs is just as important as learning professionalism, responsibility, and cooperation. The group prepares to launch into a version of their favorite song, The Moon. “What is the feeling in The Moon?” Gervais calls out to her class. “Calm!” one child shouts out. “Soothing,” says another. “It makes me feel inspired and hopeful,” pipes up a voice from the back. She implores the group to use that imagery to infuse the piece with emotion. Gervais employs a variety of techniques to communicate what could be complicated musical terms to a group of elementary schoolers. She asks the kids to “color” the music with their voices to create emotion and movement in the music, and uses visuals like pulling an imaginary ribbon through the air to have them carry out a note and build a crescendo. “The kids that are coming really, really love to sing,” says Gervais. “They just have a natural ability.”Clinician Anne Mormon-Smith works with the children. After a rousing rendition of their second song, the classic Simple Gifts, and some helpful feedback from Smith, it’s time for the first class of the day. Everyone’s in a good mood after a morning of singing. Fourth-grader Elexis Creech, 10, says she can’t wait to perform at Meymandi. Her brother has seen the auditorium, and “he said that it was humongous and that it’s pretty. So, I’m really excited.” And more than a little ready to belt out the tunes. “I honestly think I was born to be in the spotlight,” she adds. That zest for performing runs through the group. Timmy Richardson, a 10-year-old fifth-grader, says he’s “just a little bit nervous,” but that he loves “to be in front of an audience.” The excitement is well-earned, Gervais says. The kids have taken it seriously, and it’s going to pay off. It’s an important lesson in working diligently towards achieving a goal. “It is hard work,” she says. “I tell them all the time – it’s hard work, but it’s fun. That’s what everything worthwhile is.”Teacher Terri Gervais conducts. Gervais knows all about that. “She’s gone above and beyond,” says Curtis Brower, Powell’s principal; he credits the chorus’ success to Gervais’ dedication, offering early rehearsals and ensuring that students who want to participate will be able to do so. Interest in what she’s doing has been so high she’s recently added a third-grade chorus, too, and many of her students have gone on to audition for outside groups like the Raleigh Boychoir. When she told her students they were headed to Meymandi April 5, they couldn’t contain themselves. “They were jumping up and down,” she says. It’s a first-time experience for many of the children in her group. The opportunity to perform in a real auditorium on a professional stage with excellent acoustics is a rare one. “This is a blending of backgrounds of kids,” says Gervais. “Some kids have probably gone to see things at the theater itself or the concert hall … (but) a lot of the other kids were never exposed to that. … So this is really a big thing for them to be able to sing on that stage.”Choral teacher Terri Gervais conducts the Powell GT chorus as they perform on the stage at Meymandi Concert Hall.Keep singing On performance night, it all comes together. The kids beam as all 500 of them come together to sing the last communal song of the evening, Stars, a piece commissioned by RFAS to honor Zaytoun. The sound of so many earnest voices rising up and into the ceiling of the auditorium is the pinnacle of an already memorable evening, and the students rush out to meet their waiting parents with grins on their faces. Teachers hand out cookies and hugs, and the kids high-five each other. They did it. It’s RFAS’ hope that many of the participants will continue singing long after this evening and help to preserve this celebration of music in Wake County. As everyone begins to leave, many of the students keep carrying the tunes even as they exit Meymandi with their families, humming the familiar melodies as they go their opposite directions into the night. Some are headed off to middle school next year; some have another year in thechorus. But one thing’s pretty clear: They will all keep singing.Scanning the music.
courtesy Thinkstockby Mimi MontgomeryI’ve never had the best luck with cars. I actually consider mysself a good driver, but I seem to be a walking, breathing manifestation of an automotive Murphy’s Law: Anything that can go wrong will surely come barrelling toward me and usually in an extremely public setting. On my driving record we have: three failed driving tests; uprooted mailboxes; fender benders; countless keys locked behind closed car doors; an incident with a flying bug and an air conditioner (don’t ask); numerous expired registration tickets; several middle fingers administered by portly, aggressive older men who could clearly use a hug; confrontations with neighbor’s trash cans; dislodged door handles; and a brief run-in with a boulder that I still maintain was not my fault (it was a very ill-placed boulder).Considering my colorful automotive past, I was a little intrigued when I took my car into the shop to be repaired for a week (yes, you don’t have to ask – another fender bender). What would it be like to commute without a car in a city like Raleigh? I’ve often thought that the parameters of inside-the-beltline Raleigh were just small enough to be pretty conducive to getting around car-less. Sure, you may not want to walk everywhere, but most places are within a decent bike-ride’s distance, and they’ve already got all the painted bike lanes and sidewalks set up for you. It’s clearly a city that wants to be bike-friendly, so why aren’t there more Raleighites who travel by two wheels or two feet?It seems that most distances that people drive here are stretches that big-city dwellers would stoically walk or bike in a heartbeat. When I lived in Manhattan for a summer, I would walk 30 minutes to work every day in the kind of sun-beating heat that leaves you praying for a solar eclipse. I frequently showed up to work looking like I had just ended an eight-month sojourn in the Amazonian wilderness: I would stumble in everyday loaded down like an urban sherpa with my gym and work bags, sweating like a nervous pig in a steam room, and grimy head-to-toe with city sludge.It was either that or take the subway, which during that time of year was basically like submerging one’s self into the subterranean molten lava of the Earth’s core. In fact, I would have rather licked the concrete sidewalk in Times Square than spoon the subway passenger standing in front of me in that overcrowded, overheated catacomb. But the thing is, I couldn’t really complain. I was hardly alone in this endeavor; everyone did it. No one thought twice about a half-hour’s walk in the middle of summer to wherever you were going.Part of that has to do with practicality, yes – it’s extremely expensive to keep a car in a large city, much less grab a taxi everywhere. But I also think Manhattanites all know something that I didn’t fully realize until that summer: There’s a certain paradoxical stillness to commuting outdoors in a city, to finding yourself perfectly aware of and in contact with your surroundings. Traveling unencumbered from a car, I was forced to actively participate in the world around me, to see the Hare Krishnas chanting in Union Square, the Middle Eastern man selling bananas out of a cart on my corner, the woman who put fresh flowers out every morning in front of the local bodega. These were the talismans of my morning walks, my own personal New York souvenirs, the bits of life that ingrained themselves into my own existence – steadily, slowly – like water-worn grooves on a rock.At the risk of sounding like Thoreau on a Transcendentalist ramble, I will confess this: I am an American consumer through-and-through. I have the carbon footprint of a diesel 18-wheeler – there’s nothing better than hopping into my fuel-eating Jeep SUV, turning on the air conditioner full blast, drinking out of a plastic water bottle I probably won’t recycle, and emitting some serious greenhouse gases as I easily cruise to my next destination and the ozone layer slowly withers away above me. Of course I feel a bit guilty about this, but it’s the kind of guilt I feel when I don’t floss for a few days or purposefully “forget” to set the trash cans out before the garbage trucks come – a certain apathetic cringe and knowledge that I could do better, while ultimately allowing sloth convenience to reign.So, when my most recent car misadventure forced me to revert to my ancestral state as a weary bi-ped traveler, I got strangely excited. This would be kind of fun, I thought, my mind racing: There I’d be, biking to work on a beautiful spring day on a cute beach cruiser with an adorable little basket, wearing some sort of chic ensemble like Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday. As you’ve probably already guessed, that’s not how it panned out. Since I don’t own a bike of my own, I borrowed my roommate’s, who is a small, lithe girl about four inches shorter and 20 pounds lighter than I am. When I hopped on her bike, it groaned like an old Grand Canyon pack donkey resigned to the fact that it had to take another obese person on a trail ride. The bike sagged to the ground and my knees were practically up to my ears as I took off, low-rider style, down my street.I tried to practice some Zen mindfulness as I cruised down Brooks Avenue onto Hillsborough Street, doing my best to take in the spring morning and the sights around me. Look – there was a beautiful collection of spring flowers, and some pretty birds perched in that tree, and was that an early morning dew I felt softly misting my face? No – that was sweat. A massive quantity of sweat, spurting from my pores like a ruptured water pipe.As I cruised by the N.C. State belltower, the cars beside me slowed down to get a good look at the girl in the highly-bike-inappropriate summer sandals wobbling on a bike clearly made for an undersized toddler. It became apparent that even though there are lanes specifically denoted for bike riders on Hillsborough, the majority of Raleigh drivers are still confused and frustrated by bike riders. Many cars veered too close into my lane or just lurked slowly behind me, unsure of what to do. Honestly, the way some people stared, you’d think I’d decided to ride a unicycle topless through morning traffic.One of the good things about this commute, though, was that I gained some major street cred with the Raleigh hipsters. As I got closer to downtown, they began springing up like mushrooms in the grass after a rainstorm, easily identified by their rolled-up jeans, purposefully nerdy glasses, canvas NPR tote bags, sustainably sourced coffee cups, and Bernie 2016 campaign stickers. As I passed by on my eco-friendly steed, they gave me a cool, vaguely visible nod as if to say, “Right on, man. You’re one of us,” before whooshing off toward whichever local start-up or alternative coffee shop lay on the distant horizon. If they had seen me in my Jeep, they probably would have given me a withering glance and mentally condemned me for driving something not fueled by hemp-seed oil or recycled kombucha.My embrace by the hipster subculture aside, by the time I got to work, my knees were aching like a geriatric and I looked like I had just emerged from a swamp, with enough perspiration covering me for three grown men combined. And I still had to bike home at the end of the day!Was it worth it? Yes and no. Raleigh is definitely a bike-able city, although I wouldn’t necessarily call it bike-friendly. Sure, you can get around where you want to on a bike if need be, and there are a good number of painted bike lanes and sidewalks for your use, but I would say bike transportation is nowhere near an expected or accepted norm.But maybe it should be – ridiculousness follows me like an ever-persistent shadow, sure, but there was a stretch of time on my commute where things seemed to fall into place (however briefly). As I rode past the North Carolina Democratic Party building, that old, white house sitting full of history and charm, and down along the various shops and businesses that line Hillsborough Street, I had that feeling of shimmering, full joy that comes from knowing you’re exactly where you need to be when you need to be. We live in a great city, full of life, vibrancy, new things, and kind, interesting people, and getting to see it from a new perspective reminded me of that all over again.Outside of a car, you simply catch things you wouldn’t otherwise. For better or worse (for my own well-being and that of the city of Raleigh), I’m sure I have some more bike rides ahead of me. If you happen to pass me on the open road, give me a honk – I’ll be the grown adult with training wheels and a padded crash suit.