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19 Easy Excel Tips, Tricks, & Shortcuts

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19 Easy Excel Tips, Tricks, & Shortcuts

Sometimes, Excel seems too good to be true. All I have to do is enter a formula, and pretty much anything I’d ever need to do manually can be done automatically.

Need to merge two sheets with similar data? Excel can do it.

Need to do simple math? Excel can do it.

Need to combine information in multiple cells? Excel can do it.

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In this post, I’ll go over the best tips, tricks, and shortcuts you can use right now to take your Excel game to the next level. No advanced Excel knowledge required.

What is Excel?

Microsoft Excel is powerful data visualization and analysis software, which uses spreadsheets to store, organize, and track data sets with formulas and functions. Excel is used by marketers, accountants, data analysts, and other professionals. It’s part of the Microsoft Office suite of products. Alternatives include Google Sheets and Numbers. 

Find more Excel alternatives here.

Excel is primarily used for creating financial documents because of its strong computational powers. You’ll often find the software in accounting offices and teams because it allows accountants to automatically see sums, averages, and totals. With Excel, they can easily make sense of their business’ data.

While Excel is primarily known as an accounting tool, professionals in any field can use its features and formulas — especially marketers — because it can be used for tracking any type of data. It removes the need to spend hours and hours counting cells or copying and pasting performance numbers. Excel typically has a shortcut or quick fix that speeds up the process.

You can also download Excel templates below for all of your marketing needs. 

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After you download the templates, it’s time to start using the software. Let’s cover the basics first.

Excel Basics

If you’re just starting out with Excel, there are a few basic commands that we suggest you become familiar with. These are things like:

  • Creating a new spreadsheet from scratch.
  • Executing basic computations like adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing.
  • Writing and formatting column text and titles.
  • Using Excel’s auto-fill features.
  • Adding or deleting single columns, rows, and spreadsheets. (Below, we’ll get into how to add things like multiple columns and rows.)
  • Keeping column and row titles visible as you scroll past them in a spreadsheet, so that you know what data you’re filling as you move further down the document.
  • Sorting your data in alphabetical order. 

Let’s explore a few of these more in-depth. 

For instance, why does auto-fill matter? 

If you have any basic Excel knowledge, it’s likely you already know this quick trick. But to cover our bases, allow me to show you the glory of autofill. This lets you quickly fill adjacent cells with several types of data, including values, series, and formulas.

There are multiple ways to deploy this feature, but the fill handle is among the easiest. Select the cells you want to be the source, locate the fill handle in the lower-right corner of the cell, and either drag the fill handle to cover cells you want to fill or just double click:

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excel autofillSimilarly, sorting is an important feature you’ll want to know when organizing your data in Excel. 

Sometimes you may have a list of data that has no organization whatsoever. Maybe you exported a list of your marketing contacts or blog posts. Whatever the case may be, Excel’s sort feature will help you alphabetize any list.

Click on the data in the column you want to sort. Then click on the “Data” tab in your toolbar and look for the “Sort” option on the left. If the “A” is on top of the “Z,” you can just click on that button once. If the “Z” is on top of the “A,” click on the button twice. When the “A” is on top of the “Z,” that means your list will be sorted in alphabetical order. However, when the “Z” is on top of the “A,” that means your list will be sorted in reverse alphabetical order.

Let’s explore more of the basics of Excel (along with advanced features) next. 

How to Use Excel

To use Excel, you only need to input the data into the rows and columns. And then you’ll use formulas and functions to turn that data into insights. 

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We’re going to go over the best formulas and functions you need to know. But first, let’s take a look at the types of documents you can create using the software. That way, you have an overarching understanding of how you can use Excel in your day-to-day. 

Documents You Can Create in Excel

Not sure how you can actually use Excel in your team? Here is a list of documents you can create:

  • Income Statements: You can use an Excel spreadsheet to track a company’s sales activity and financial health.
  • Balance Sheets: Balance sheets are among the most common types of documents you can create with Excel. It allows you to get a holistic view of a company’s financial standing.
  • Calendar: You can easily create a spreadsheet monthly calendar to track events or other date-sensitive information.

Here are some documents you can create specifically for marketers.

This is only a small sampling of the types of marketing and business documents you can create in Excel. We’ve created an extensive list of Excel templates you can use right now for marketing, invoicing, project management, budgeting, and more.

In the spirit of working more efficiently and avoiding tedious, manual work, here are a few Excel formulas and functions you’ll need to know.

Excel Formulas

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the wide range of Excel formulas that you can use to make sense out of your data. If you’re just getting started using Excel, you can rely on the following formulas to carry out some complex functions — without adding to the complexity of your learning path.

  • Equal sign: Before creating any formula, you’ll need to write an equal sign (=) in the cell where you want the result to appear.
  • Addition: To add the values of two or more cells, use the + sign. Example: =C5+D3.
  • Subtraction: To subtract the values of two or more cells, use the sign. Example: =C5-D3.
  • Multiplication: To multiply the values of two or more cells, use the * sign. Example: =C5*D3.
  • Division: To divide the values of two or more cells, use the / sign. Example: =C5/D3.

Putting all of these together, you can create a formula that adds, subtracts, multiplies, and divides all in one cell. Example: =(C5-D3)/((A5+B6)*3).

For more complex formulas, you’ll need to use parentheses around the expressions to avoid accidentally using the PEMDAS order of operations. Keep in mind that you can use plain numbers in your formulas.

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Excel Functions

Excel functions automate some of the tasks you would use in a typical formula. For instance, instead of using the + sign to add up a range of cells, you’d use the SUM function. Let’s look at a few more functions that will help automate calculations and tasks.

  • SUM: The SUM function automatically adds up a range of cells or numbers. To complete a sum, you would input the starting cell and the final cell with a colon in between. Here’s what that looks like: SUM(Cell1:Cell2). Example: =SUM(C5:C30).
  • AVERAGE: The AVERAGE function averages out the values of a range of cells. The syntax is the same as the SUM function: AVERAGE(Cell1:Cell2). Example: =AVERAGE(C5:C30).
  • IF: The IF function allows you to return values based on a logical test. The syntax is as follows: IF(logical_test, value_if_true, [value_if_false]). Example: =IF(A2>B2,”Over Budget”,”OK”).
  • VLOOKUP: The VLOOKUP function helps you search for anything on your sheet’s rows. The syntax is: VLOOKUP(lookup value, table array, column number, Approximate match (TRUE) or Exact match (FALSE)). Example: =VLOOKUP([@Attorney],tbl_Attorneys,4,FALSE).
  • INDEX: The INDEX function returns a value from within a range. The syntax is as follows: INDEX(array, row_num, [column_num]).
  • MATCH: The MATCH function looks for a certain item in a range of cells and returns the position of that item. It can be used in tandem with the INDEX function. The syntax is: MATCH(lookup_value, lookup_array, [match_type]).
  • COUNTIF: The COUNTIF function returns the number of cells that meet a certain criteria or have a certain value. The syntax is: COUNTIF(range, criteria). Example: =COUNTIF(A2:A5,”London”).

Okay, ready to get into the nitty-gritty? Let’s get to it. (And to all the Harry Potter fans out there … you’re welcome in advance.)

Note: The GIFs and visuals are from a previous version of Excel. When applicable, the copy has been updated to provide instruction for users of both newer and older Excel versions.

1. Use Pivot tables to recognize and make sense of data.

Pivot tables are used to reorganize data in a spreadsheet. They won’t change the data that you have, but they can sum up values and compare different information in your spreadsheet, depending on what you’d like them to do.

Let’s take a look at an example. Let’s say I want to take a look at how many people are in each house at Hogwarts. You may be thinking that I don’t have too much data, but for longer data sets, this will come in handy.

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To create the Pivot Table, I go to Data > Pivot Table. If you’re using the most recent version of Excel, you’d go to Insert > Pivot Table. Excel will automatically populate your Pivot Table, but you can always change around the order of the data. Then, you have four options to choose from.

  • Report Filter: This allows you to only look at certain rows in your dataset. For example, if I wanted to create a filter by house, I could choose to only include students in Gryffindor instead of all students.
  • Column Labels: These would be your headers in the dataset.
  • Row Labels: These could be your rows in the dataset. Both Row and Column labels can contain data from your columns (e.g. First Name can be dragged to either the Row or Column label — it just depends on how you want to see the data.)
  • Value: This section allows you to look at your data differently. Instead of just pulling in any numeric value, you can sum, count, average, max, min, count numbers, or do a few other manipulations with your data. In fact, by default, when you drag a field to Value, it always does a count.

Since I want to count the number of students in each house, I’ll go to the Pivot table builder and drag the House column to both the Row Labels and the Values. This will sum up the number of students associated with each house.

excel pivot table creation

2. Add more than one row or column.

As you play around with your data, you might find you’re constantly needing to add more rows and columns. Sometimes, you may even need to add hundreds of rows. Doing this one-by-one would be super tedious. Luckily, there’s always an easier way.

To add multiple rows or columns in a spreadsheet, highlight the same number of preexisting rows or columns that you want to add. Then, right-click and select “Insert.”

In the example below, I want to add an additional three rows. By highlighting three rows and then clicking insert, I’m able to add an additional three blank rows into my spreadsheet quickly and easily.

excel insert spaces

3. Use filters to simplify your data.

When you’re looking at very large data sets, you don’t usually need to be looking at every single row at the same time. Sometimes, you only want to look at data that fit into certain criteria.

That’s where filters come in.

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Filters allow you to pare down your data to only look at certain rows at one time. In Excel, a filter can be added to each column in your data — and from there, you can then choose which cells you want to view at once.

Let’s take a look at the example below. Add a filter by clicking the Data tab and selecting “Filter.” Clicking the arrow next to the column headers and you’ll be able to choose whether you want your data to be organized in ascending or descending order, as well as which specific rows you want to show.

In my Harry Potter example, let’s say I only want to see the students in Gryffindor. By selecting the Gryffindor filter, the other rows disappear.

excel filtersPro Tip: Copy and paste the values in the spreadsheet when a Filter is on to do additional analysis in another spreadsheet.

4. Remove duplicate data points or sets.

Larger data sets tend to have duplicate content. You may have a list of multiple contacts in a company and only want to see the number of companies you have. In situations like this, removing the duplicates comes in quite handy.

To remove your duplicates, highlight the row or column that you want to remove duplicates of. Then, go to the Data tab and select “Remove Duplicates” (which is under the Tools subheader in the older version of Excel). A pop-up will appear to confirm which data you want to work with. Select “Remove Duplicates,” and you’re good to go.

excel duplicates removal

You can also use this feature to remove an entire row based on a duplicate column value. So if you have three rows with Harry Potter’s information and you only need to see one, then you can select the whole dataset and then remove duplicates based on email. Your resulting list will have only unique names without any duplicates.

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5. Transpose rows into columns.

When you have rows of data in your spreadsheet, you might decide you actually want to transform the items in one of those rows into columns (or vice versa). It would take a lot of time to copy and paste each individual header — but what the transpose feature allows you to do is simply move your row data into columns, or the other way around.

Start by highlighting the column that you want to transpose into rows. Right-click it, and then select “Copy.” Next, select the cells on your spreadsheet where you want your first row or column to begin. Right-click on the cell, and then select “Paste Special.” A module will appear — at the bottom, you’ll see an option to transpose. Check that box and select OK. Your column will now be transferred to a row or vice-versa.

excel transpose

On newer versions of Excel, a drop-down will appear instead of a pop-up.

Excel transpose tool in newer versions

6. Split up text information between columns.

What if you want to split out information that’s in one cell into two different cells? For example, maybe you want to pull out someone’s company name through their email address. Or perhaps you want to separate someone’s full name into a first and last name for your email marketing templates.

Thanks to Excel, both are possible. First, highlight the column that you want to split up. Next, go to the Data tab and select “Text to Columns.” A module will appear with additional information.

First, you need to select either “Delimited” or “Fixed Width.”

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  • “Delimited” means you want to break up the column based on characters such as commas, spaces, or tabs.
  • “Fixed Width” means you want to select the exact location on all the columns that you want the split to occur.

In the example case below, let’s select “Delimited” so we can separate the full name into first name and last name.

Then, it’s time to choose the Delimiters. This could be a tab, semi-colon, comma, space, or something else. (“Something else” could be the “@” sign used in an email address, for example.) In our example, let’s choose the space. Excel will then show you a preview of what your new columns will look like.

When you’re happy with the preview, press “Next.” This page will allow you to select Advanced Formats if you choose to. When you’re done, click “Finish.”

excel text to column

7. Use formulas for simple calculations.

In addition to doing pretty complex calculations, Excel can help you do simple arithmetic like adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing any of your data.

  • To add, use the + sign.
  • To subtract, use the – sign.
  • To multiply, use the * sign.
  • To divide, use the / sign.

You can also use parentheses to ensure certain calculations are done first. In the example below (10+10*10), the second and third 10 were multiplied together before adding the additional 10. However, if we made it (10+10)*10, the first and second 10 would be added together first.

Excel simple formulas in action

8. Get the average of numbers in your cells.

If you want the average of a set of numbers, you can use the formula =AVERAGE(Cell1:Cell2). If you want to sum up a column of numbers, you can use the formula =SUM(Cell1:Cell2).

9. Use conditional formatting to make cells automatically change color based on data.

Conditional formatting allows you to change a cell’s color based on the information within the cell. For example, if you want to flag certain numbers that are above average or in the top 10% of the data in your spreadsheet, you can do that. If you want to color code commonalities between different rows in Excel, you can do that. This will help you quickly see information that is important to you.

To get started, highlight the group of cells you want to use conditional formatting on. Then, choose “Conditional Formatting” from the Home menu and select your logic from the dropdown. (You can also create your own rule if you want something different.) A window will pop up that prompts you to provide more information about your formatting rule. Select “OK” when you’re done, and you should see your results automatically appear.

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Excel conditional formatting

10. Use the IF Excel formula to automate certain Excel functions.

Sometimes, we don’t want to count the number of times a value appears. Instead, we want to input different information into a cell if there is a corresponding cell with that information.

For example, in the situation below, I want to award ten points to everyone who belongs in the Gryffindor house. Instead of manually typing in 10’s next to each Gryffindor student’s name, I can use the IF Excel formula to say that if the student is in Gryffindor, then they should get ten points.

The formula is: IF(logical_test, value_if_true, [value_if_false])

Example Shown Below: =IF(D2=”Gryffindor”,”10″,”0″)

In general terms, the formula would be IF(Logical Test, value of true, value of false). Let’s dig into each of these variables.

  • Logical_Test: The logical test is the “IF” part of the statement. In this case, the logic is D2=”Gryffindor” because we want to make sure that the cell corresponding with the student says “Gryffindor.” Make sure to put Gryffindor in quotation marks here.
  • Value_if_True: This is what we want the cell to show if the value is true. In this case, we want the cell to show “10” to indicate that the student was awarded the 10 points. Only use quotation marks if you want the result to be text instead of a number.
  • Value_if_False: This is what we want the cell to show if the value is false. In this case, for any student not in Gryffindor, we want the cell to show “0”. Only use quotation marks if you want the result to be text instead of a number.

Excel IF formula in action

Note: In the example above, I awarded 10 points to everyone in Gryffindor. If I later wanted to sum the total number of points, I wouldn’t be able to because the 10’s are in quotes, thus making them text and not a number that Excel can sum.

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The real power of the IF function comes when you string multiple IF statements together, or nest them. This allows you to set multiple conditions, get more specific results, and ultimately organize your data into more manageable chunks.

Ranges are one way to segment your data for better analysis. For example, you can categorize data into values that are less than 10, 11 to 50, or 51 to 100. Here’s how that looks in practice: 

=IF(B3<11,“10 or less”,IF(B3<51,“11 to 50”,IF(B3<100,“51 to 100”)))

It can take some trial-and-error, but once you have the hang of it, IF formulas will become your new Excel best friend.

11. Use dollar signs to keep one cell’s formula the same regardless of where it moves.

Have you ever seen a dollar sign in an Excel formula? When used in a formula, it isn’t representing an American dollar; instead, it makes sure that the exact column and row are held the same even if you copy the same formula in adjacent rows.

You see, a cell reference — when you refer to cell A5 from cell C5, for example — is relative by default. In that case, you’re actually referring to a cell that’s five columns to the left (C minus A) and in the same row (5). This is called a relative formula. When you copy a relative formula from one cell to another, it’ll adjust the values in the formula based on where it’s moved. But sometimes, we want those values to stay the same no matter whether they’re moved around or not — and we can do that by turning the formula into an absolute formula.

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To change the relative formula (=A5+C5) into an absolute formula, we’d precede the row and column values by dollar signs, like this: (=$A$5+$C$5). (Learn more on Microsoft Office’s support page here.)

12. Use the VLOOKUP function to pull data from one area of a sheet to another.

Have you ever had two sets of data on two different spreadsheets that you want to combine into a single spreadsheet?

For example, you might have a list of people’s names next to their email addresses in one spreadsheet, and a list of those same people’s email addresses next to their company names in the other — but you want the names, email addresses, and company names of those people to appear in one place.

I have to combine data sets like this a lot — and when I do, the VLOOKUP is my go-to formula.

Before you use the formula, though, be absolutely sure that you have at least one column that appears identically in both places. Scour your data sets to make sure the column of data you’re using to combine your information is exactly the same, including no extra spaces.

The formula: =VLOOKUP(lookup value, table array, column number, Approximate match (TRUE) or Exact match (FALSE))

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The formula with variables from our example below: =VLOOKUP(C2,Sheet2!A:B,2,FALSE)

In this formula, there are several variables. The following is true when you want to combine information in Sheet 1 and Sheet 2 onto Sheet 1.

  • Lookup Value: This is the identical value you have in both spreadsheets. Choose the first value in your first spreadsheet. In the example that follows, this means the first email address on the list, or cell 2 (C2).
  • Table Array: The table array is the range of columns on Sheet 2 you’re going to pull your data from, including the column of data identical to your lookup value (in our example, email addresses) in Sheet 1 as well as the column of data you’re trying to copy to Sheet 1. In our example, this is “Sheet2!A:B.” “A” means Column A in Sheet 2, which is the column in Sheet 2 where the data identical to our lookup value (email) in Sheet 1 is listed. The “B” means Column B, which contains the information that’s only available in Sheet 2 that you want to translate to Sheet 1.
  • Column Number: This tells Excel which column the new data you want to copy to Sheet 1 is located in. In our example, this would be the column that “House” is located in. “House” is the second column in our range of columns (table array), so our column number is 2. [Note: Your range can be more than two columns. For example, if there are three columns on Sheet 2 — Email, Age, and House — and you still want to bring House onto Sheet 1, you can still use a VLOOKUP. You just need to change the “2” to a “3” so it pulls back the value in the third column: =VLOOKUP(C2:Sheet2!A:C,3,false).]
  • Approximate Match (TRUE) or Exact Match (FALSE): Use FALSE to ensure you pull in only exact value matches. If you use TRUE, the function will pull in approximate matches.

In the example below, Sheet 1 and Sheet 2 contain lists describing different information about the same people, and the common thread between the two is their email addresses. Let’s say we want to combine both datasets so that all the house information from Sheet 2 translates over to Sheet 1.

Excel VLOOKUP function

So when we type in the formula =VLOOKUP(C2,Sheet2!A:B,2,FALSE), we bring all the house data into Sheet 1.

Keep in mind that VLOOKUP will only pull back values from the second sheet that are to the right of the column containing your identical data. This can lead to some limitations, which is why some people prefer to use the INDEX and MATCH functions instead.

13. Use INDEX and MATCH formulas to pull data from horizontal columns.

Like VLOOKUP, the INDEX and MATCH functions pull in data from another dataset into one central location. Here are the main differences:

  • VLOOKUP is a much simpler formula. If you’re working with large data sets that would require thousands of lookups, using the INDEX and MATCH function will significantly decrease load time in Excel.
  • The INDEX and MATCH formulas work right-to-left, whereas VLOOKUP formulas only work as a left-to-right lookup. In other words, if you need to do a lookup that has a lookup column to the right of the results column, then you’d have to rearrange those columns in order to do a VLOOKUP. This can be tedious with large datasets and/or lead to errors.

So if I want to combine information in Sheet 1 and Sheet 2 onto Sheet 1, but the column values in Sheets 1 and 2 aren’t the same, then to do a VLOOKUP, I would need to switch around my columns. In this case, I’d choose to do an INDEX and MATCH instead.

Let’s look at an example. Let’s say Sheet 1 contains a list of people’s names and their Hogwarts email addresses, and Sheet 2 contains a list of people’s email addresses and the Patronus that each student has. (For the non-Harry Potter fans out there, every witch or wizard has an animal guardian called a “Patronus” associated with him or her.) The information that lives in both sheets is the column containing email addresses, but this email address column is in different column numbers on each sheet. I’d use the INDEX and MATCH formulas instead of VLOOKUP so I wouldn’t have to switch any columns around.

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So what’s the formula, then? The formula is actually the MATCH formula nested inside the INDEX formula. You’ll see I differentiated the MATCH formula using a different color here.

The formula: =INDEX(table array, MATCH formula)

This becomes: =INDEX(table array, MATCH (lookup_value, lookup_array))

The formula with variables from our example below: =INDEX(Sheet2!A:A,(MATCH(Sheet1!C:C,Sheet2!C:C,0)))

Here are the variables:

  • Table Array: The range of columns on Sheet 2 containing the new data you want to bring over to Sheet 1. In our example, “A” means Column A, which contains the “Patronus” information for each person.
  • Lookup Value: This is the column in Sheet 1 that contains identical values in both spreadsheets. In the example that follows, this means the “email” column on Sheet 1, which is Column C. So: Sheet1!C:C.
  • Lookup Array: This is the column in Sheet 2 that contains identical values in both spreadsheets. In the example that follows, this refers to the “email” column on Sheet 2, which happens to also be Column C. So: Sheet2!C:C.

Once you have your variables straight, type in the INDEX and MATCH formulas in the top-most cell of the blank Patronus column on Sheet 1, where you want the combined information to live.

Excel INDEX and MATCH functions in action

14. Use the COUNTIF function to make Excel count words or numbers in any range of cells.

Instead of manually counting how often a certain value or number appears, let Excel do the work for you. With the COUNTIF function, Excel can count the number of times a word or number appears in any range of cells.

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For example, let’s say I want to count the number of times the word “Gryffindor” appears in my data set.

The formula: =COUNTIF(range, criteria)

The formula with variables from our example below: =COUNTIF(D:D,”Gryffindor”)

In this formula, there are several variables:

  • Range: The range that we want the formula to cover. In this case, since we’re only focusing on one column, we use “D:D” to indicate that the first and last column are both D. If I were looking at columns C and D, I would use “C:D.”
  • Criteria: Whatever number or piece of text you want Excel to count. Only use quotation marks if you want the result to be text instead of a number. In our example, the criteria is “Gryffindor.”

Simply typing in the COUNTIF formula in any cell and pressing “Enter” will show me how many times the word “Gryffindor” appears in the dataset.

Excel COUNTIF function

15. Combine cells using &.

Databases tend to split out data to make it as exact as possible. For example, instead of having a column that shows a person’s full name, a database might have the data as a first name and then a last name in separate columns. Or, it may have a person’s location separated by city, state, and zip code. In Excel, you can combine cells with different data into one cell by using the “&” sign in your function.

The formula with variables from our example below: =A2&” “&B2

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Let’s go through the formula together using an example. Pretend we want to combine first names and last names into full names in a single column. To do this, we’d first put our cursor in the blank cell where we want the full name to appear. Next, we’d highlight one cell that contains a first name, type in an “&” sign, and then highlight a cell with the corresponding last name.

But you’re not finished — if all you type in is =A2&B2, then there will not be a space between the person’s first name and last name. To add that necessary space, use the function =A2&” “&B2. The quotation marks around the space tell Excel to put a space in between the first and last name.

To make this true for multiple rows, simply drag the corner of that first cell downward as shown in the example.

Excel combination of cells

16. Add checkboxes.

If you’re using an Excel sheet to track customer data and want to oversee something that isn’t quantifiable, you could insert checkboxes into a column.

For example, if you’re using an Excel sheet to manage your sales prospects and want to track whether you called them in the last quarter, you could have a “Called this quarter?” column and check off the cells in it when you’ve called the respective client.

Here’s how to do it.

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Highlight a cell you’d like to add checkboxes to in your spreadsheet. Then, click DEVELOPER. Then, under FORM CONTROLS, click the checkbox or the selection circle highlighted in the image below.

Excel checkboxes

Once the box appears in the cell, copy it, highlight the cells you also want it to appear in, and then paste it.

17. Hyperlink a cell to a website.

If you’re using your sheet to track social media or website metrics, it can be helpful to have a reference column with the links each row is tracking. If you add a URL directly into Excel, it should automatically be clickable. But, if you have to hyperlink words, such as a page title or the headline of a post you’re tracking, here’s how.

Highlight the words you want to hyperlink, then press Shift K. From there a box will pop up allowing you to place the hyperlink URL. Copy and paste the URL into this box and hit or click Enter.

If the key shortcut isn’t working for any reason, you can also do this manually by highlighting the cell and clicking Insert > Hyperlink.

18. Add drop-down menus.

Sometimes, you’ll be using your spreadsheet to track processes or other qualitative things. Rather than writing words into your sheet repetitively, such as “Yes”, “No”, “Customer Stage”, “Sales Lead”, or “Prospect”, you can use dropdown menus to quickly mark descriptive things about your contacts or whatever you’re tracking.

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Here’s how to add drop-downs to your cells.

Highlight the cells you want the drop-downs to be in, then click the Data menu in the top navigation and press Validation.

Excel drop-down menu option

From there, you’ll see a Data Validation Settings box open. Look at the Allow options, then click Lists and select Drop-down List. Check the In-Cell dropdown button, then press OK.

19. Use the format painter. 

As you’ve probably noticed, Excel has a lot of features to make crunching numbers and analyzing your data quick and easy. But if you ever spent some time formatting a sheet to your liking, you know it can get a bit tedious.

Don’t waste time repeating the same formatting commands over and over again. Use the format painter to easily copy the formatting from one area of the worksheet to another. To do so, choose the cell you’d like to replicate, then select the format painter option (paintbrush icon) from the top toolbar.

Excel Keyboard Shortcuts 

Creating reports in Excel is time-consuming enough. How can we spend less time navigating, formatting, and selecting items in our spreadsheet? Glad you asked. There are a ton of Excel shortcuts out there, including some of our favorites listed below.

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Create a New Workbook

PC: Ctrl-N | Mac: Command-N

Select Entire Row

PC: Shift-Space | Mac: Shift-Space

Select Entire Column

PC: Ctrl-Space | Mac: Control-Space

Select Rest of Column

PC: Ctrl-Shift-Down/Up | Mac: Command-Shift-Down/Up

Select Rest of Row

PC: Ctrl-Shift-Right/Left | Mac: Command-Shift-Right/Left

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Add Hyperlink

PC: Ctrl-K | Mac: Command-K

Open Format Cells Window

PC: Ctrl-1 | Mac: Command-1

Autosum Selected Cells

PC: Alt-= | Mac: Command-Shift-T

Other Excel Help Resources

Use Excel to Automate Processes in Your Team

Even if you’re not an accountant, you can still use Excel to automate tasks and processes in your team. With the tips and tricks we shared in this post, you’ll be sure to use Excel to its fullest extent and get the most out of the software to grow your business.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in August 2017 but has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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How to Use AI For a More Effective Social Media Strategy, According to Ross Simmonds

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How to Use AI For a More Effective Social Media Strategy, According to Ross Simmonds

Welcome to Creator Columns, where we bring expert HubSpot Creator voices to the Blogs that inspire and help you grow better.

It’s the age of AI, and our job as marketers is to keep up.

My team at Foundation Marketing recently conducted an AI Marketing study surveying hundreds of marketers, and more than 84% of all leaders, managers, SEO experts, and specialists confirmed that they used AI in the workplace.

AI in the workplace data graphic, Foundation Labs

If you can overlook the fear-inducing headlines, this technology is making social media marketers more efficient and effective than ever. Translation: AI is good news for social media marketers.

Download Now: The 2024 State of Social Media Trends [Free Report]

In fact, I predict that the marketers not using AI in their workplace will be using it before the end of this year, and that number will move closer and closer to 100%.

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Social media and AI are two of the most revolutionizing technologies of the last few decades. Social media has changed the way we live, and AI is changing the way we work.

So, I’m going to condense and share the data, research, tools, and strategies that the Foundation Marketing Team and I have been working on over the last year to help you better wield the collective power of AI and social media.

Let’s jump into it.

What’s the role of AI in social marketing strategy?

In a recent episode of my podcast, Create Like The Greats, we dove into some fascinating findings about the impact of AI on marketers and social media professionals. Take a listen here:

Let’s dive a bit deeper into the benefits of this technology:

Benefits of AI in Social Media Strategy

AI is to social media what a conductor is to an orchestra — it brings everything together with precision and purpose. The applications of AI in a social media strategy are vast, but the virtuosos are few who can wield its potential to its fullest.

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AI to Conduct Customer Research

Imagine you’re a modern-day Indiana Jones, not dodging boulders or battling snakes, but rather navigating the vast, wild terrain of consumer preferences, trends, and feedback.

This is where AI thrives.

Using social media data, from posts on X to comments and shares, AI can take this information and turn it into insights surrounding your business and industry. Let’s say for example you’re a business that has 2,000 customer reviews on Google, Yelp, or a software review site like Capterra.

Leveraging AI you can now have all 2,000 of these customer reviews analyzed and summarized into an insightful report in a matter of minutes. You simply need to download all of them into a doc and then upload them to your favorite Generative Pre-trained Transformer (GPT) to get the insights and data you need.

But that’s not all.

You can become a Prompt Engineer and write ChatGPT asking it to help you better understand your audience. For example, if you’re trying to come up with a persona for people who enjoy marathons but also love kombucha you could write a prompt like this to ChatGPT:

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ChatGPT prompt example

The response that ChatGPT provided back is quite good:

GPT response example

Below this it went even deeper by including a lot of valuable customer research data:

  • Demographics
  • Psychographics
  • Consumer behaviors
  • Needs and preferences

And best of all…

It also included marketing recommendations.

The power of AI is unbelievable.

Social Media Content Using AI

AI’s helping hand can be unburdening for the creative spirit.

Instead of marketers having to come up with new copy every single month for posts, AI Social Caption generators are making it easier than ever to craft catchy status updates in the matter of seconds.

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Tools like HubSpot make it as easy as clicking a button and telling the AI tool what you’re looking to create a post about:

AI social media caption generator step 1

The best part of these AI tools is that they’re not limited to one channel.

Your AI social media content assistant can help you with LinkedIn content, X content, Facebook content, and even the captions that support your post on Instagram.

It can also help you navigate hashtags:

AI social media hashtags generator example, HubSpot

With AI social media tools that generate content ideas or even write posts, it’s not about robots replacing humans. It’s about making sure that the human creators on your team are focused on what really matters — adding that irreplaceable human touch.

Enhanced Personalization

You know that feeling when a brand gets you, like, really gets you?

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AI makes that possible through targeted content that’s tailored with a level of personalization you’d think was fortune-telling if the data didn’t paint a starker, more rational picture.

What do I mean?

Brands can engage more quickly with AI than ever before. In the early 2000s, a lot of brands spent millions of dollars to create social media listening rooms where they would hire social media managers to find and engage with any conversation happening online.

Thanks to AI, brands now have the ability to do this at scale with much fewer people all while still delivering quality engagement with the recipient.

Analytics and Insights

Tapping into AI to dissect the data gives you a CSI-like precision to figure out what works, what doesn’t, and what makes your audience tick. It’s the difference between guessing and knowing.

The best part about AI is that it can give you almost any expert at your fingertips.

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If you run a report surrounding the results of your social media content strategy directly from a site like LinkedIn, AI can review the top posts you’ve shared and give you clear feedback on what type of content is performing, why you should create more of it, and what days of the week your content is performing best.

This type of insight that would typically take hours to understand.

Now …

Thanks to the power of AI you can upload a spreadsheet filled with rows and columns of data just to be met with a handful of valuable insights a few minutes later.

Improved Customer Service

Want 24/7 support for your customers?

It’s now possible without human touch.

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Chatbots powered by AI are taking the lead on direct messaging experiences for brands on Facebook and other Meta properties to offer round-the-clock assistance.

The fact that AI can be trained on past customer queries and data to inform future queries and problems is a powerful development for social media managers.

Advertising on Social Media with AI

The majority of ad networks have used some variation of AI to manage their bidding system for years. Now, thanks to AI and its ability to be incorporated in more tools, brands are now able to use AI to create better and more interesting ad campaigns than ever before.

Brands can use AI to create images using tools like Midjourney and DALL-E in seconds.

Brands can use AI to create better copy for their social media ads.

Brands can use AI tools to support their bidding strategies.

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The power of AI and social media is continuing to evolve daily and it’s not exclusively found in the organic side of the coin. Paid media on social media is being shaken up due to AI just the same.

How to Implement AI into Your Social Media Strategy

Ready to hit “Go” on your AI-powered social media revolution?

Don’t just start the engine and hope for the best. Remember the importance of building a strategy first. In this video, you can learn some of the most important factors ranging from (but not limited to) SMART goals and leveraging influencers in your day-to-day work:

The following seven steps are crucial to building a social media strategy:

  1. Identify Your AI and Social Media Goals
  2. Validate Your AI-Related Assumptions
  3. Conduct Persona and Audience Research
  4. Select the Right Social Channels
  5. Identify Key Metrics and KPIs
  6. Choose the Right AI Tools
  7. Evaluate and Refine Your Social Media and AI Strategy

Keep reading, roll up your sleeves, and follow this roadmap:

1. Identify Your AI and Social Media Goals

If you’re just dipping your toes into the AI sea, start by defining clear objectives.

Is it to boost engagement? Streamline your content creation? Or simply understand your audience better? It’s important that you spend time understanding what you want to achieve.

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For example, say you’re a content marketing agency like Foundation and you’re trying to increase your presence on LinkedIn. The specificity of this goal will help you understand the initiatives you want to achieve and determine which AI tools could help you make that happen.

Are there AI tools that will help you create content more efficiently? Are there AI tools that will help you optimize LinkedIn Ads? Are there AI tools that can help with content repurposing? All of these things are possible and having a goal clearly identified will help maximize the impact. Learn more in this Foundation Marketing piece on incorporating AI into your content workflow.

Once you have identified your goals, it’s time to get your team on board and assess what tools are available in the market.

Recommended Resources:

2. Validate Your AI-Related Assumptions

Assumptions are dangerous — especially when it comes to implementing new tech.

Don’t assume AI is going to fix all your problems.

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Instead, start with small experiments and track their progress carefully.

3. Conduct Persona and Audience Research

Social media isn’t something that you can just jump into.

You need to understand your audience and ideal customers. AI can help with this, but you’ll need to be familiar with best practices. If you need a primer, this will help:

Once you understand the basics, consider ways in which AI can augment your approach.

4. Select the Right Social Channels

Not every social media channel is the same.

It’s important that you understand what channel is right for you and embrace it.

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The way you use AI for X is going to be different from the way you use AI for LinkedIn. On X, you might use AI to help you develop a long-form thread that is filled with facts and figures. On LinkedIn however, you might use AI to repurpose a blog post and turn it into a carousel PDF. The content that works on X and that AI can facilitate creating is different from the content that you can create and use on LinkedIn.

The audiences are different.

The content formats are different.

So operate and create a plan accordingly.

Recommended Tools and Resources:

5. Identify Key Metrics and KPIs

What metrics are you trying to influence the most?

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Spend time understanding the social media metrics that matter to your business and make sure that they’re prioritized as you think about the ways in which you use AI.

These are a few that matter most:

  • Reach: Post reach signifies the count of unique users who viewed your post. How much of your content truly makes its way to users’ feeds?
  • Clicks: This refers to the number of clicks on your content or account. Monitoring clicks per campaign is crucial for grasping what sparks curiosity or motivates people to make a purchase.
  • Engagement: The total social interactions divided by the number of impressions. This metric reveals how effectively your audience perceives you and their readiness to engage.

Of course, it’s going to depend greatly on your business.

But with this information, you can ensure that your AI social media strategy is rooted in goals.

6. Choose the Right AI Tools

The AI landscape is filled with trash and treasure.

Pick AI tools that are most likely to align with your needs and your level of tech-savviness.

For example, if you’re a blogger creating content about pizza recipes, you can use HubSpot’s AI social caption generator to write the message on your behalf:

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AI social media generator example

The benefit of an AI tool like HubSpot and the caption generator is that what at one point took 30-40 minutes to come up with — you can now have it at your fingertips in seconds. The HubSpot AI caption generator is trained on tons of data around social media content and makes it easy for you to get inspiration or final drafts on what can be used to create great content.

Consider your budget, the learning curve, and what kind of support the tool offers.

7. Evaluate and Refine Your Social Media and AI Strategy

AI isn’t a magic wand; it’s a set of complex tools and technology.

You need to be willing to pivot as things come to fruition.

If you notice that a certain activity is falling flat, consider how AI can support that process.

Did you notice that your engagement isn’t where you want it to be? Consider using an AI tool to assist with crafting more engaging social media posts.

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Make AI Work for You — Now and in the Future

AI has the power to revolutionize your social media strategy in ways you may have never thought possible. With its ability to conduct customer research, create personalized content, and so much more, thinking about the future of social media is fascinating.

We’re going through one of the most interesting times in history.

Stay equipped to ride the way of AI and ensure that you’re embracing the best practices outlined in this piece to get the most out of the technology.

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Advertising in local markets: A playbook for success

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Advertising in local markets: A playbook for success

Many brands, such as those in the home services industry or a local grocery chain, market to specific locations, cities or regions. There are also national brands that want to expand in specific local markets. 

Regardless of the company or purpose, advertising on a local scale has different tactics than on a national scale. Brands need to connect their messaging directly with the specific communities they serve and media to their target demo. Here’s a playbook to help your company succeed when marketing on a local scale.  

1. Understand local vs. national campaigns

Local advertising differs from national campaigns in several ways: 

  • Audience specificity: By zooming in on precise geographic areas, brands can tailor messaging to align with local communities’ customs, preferences and nuances. This precision targeting ensures that your message resonates with the right target audience.
  • Budget friendliness: Local advertising is often more accessible for small businesses. Local campaign costs are lower, enabling brands to invest strategically within targeted locales. This budget-friendly nature does not diminish the need for strategic planning; instead, it emphasizes allocating resources wisely to maximize returns. As a result, testing budgets can be allocated across multiple markets to maximize learnings for further market expansion.
  • Channel selection: Selecting the correct channels is vital for effective local advertising. Local newspapers, radio stations, digital platforms and community events each offer advantages. The key lies in understanding where your target audience spends time and focusing efforts to ensure optimal engagement.
  • Flexibility and agility: Local campaigns can be adjusted more swiftly in response to market feedback or changes, allowing brands to stay relevant and responsive. 

Maintaining brand consistency across local touchpoints reinforces brand identity and builds a strong, recognizable brand across markets. 

2. Leverage customized audience segmentation 

Customized audience segmentation is the process of dividing a market into distinct groups based on specific demographic criteria. This marketing segmentation supports the development of targeted messaging and media plans for local markets. 

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For example, a coffee chain might cater to two distinct segments: young professionals and retirees. After identifying these segments, the chain can craft messages, offers and media strategies relating to each group’s preferences and lifestyle.

To reach young professionals in downtown areas, the chain might focus on convenience, quality coffee and a vibrant atmosphere that is conducive to work and socializing. Targeted advertising on Facebook, Instagram or Connected TV, along with digital signage near office complexes, could capture the attention of this demographic, emphasizing quick service and premium blends.

Conversely, for retirees in residential areas, the chain could highlight a cozy ambiance, friendly service and promotions such as senior discounts. Advertisements in local print publications, community newsletters, radio stations and events like senior coffee mornings would foster a sense of community and belonging.

Dig deeper: Niche advertising: 7 actionable tactics for targeted marketing

3. Adapt to local market dynamics

Various factors influence local market dynamics. Brands that navigate changes effectively maintain a strong audience connection and stay ahead in the market. Here’s how consumer sentiment and behavior may evolve within a local market and the corresponding adjustments brands can make. 

  • Cultural shifts, such as changes in demographics or societal norms, can alter consumer preferences within a local community. For example, a neighborhood experiencing gentrification may see demand rise for specific products or services.
    • Respond by updating your messaging to reflect the evolving cultural landscape, ensuring it resonates with the new demographic profile.
  • Economic conditions are crucial. For example, during downturns, consumers often prioritize value and practicality.
    • Highlight affordable options or emphasize the practical benefits of your offerings to ensure messaging aligns with consumers’ financial priorities. The impact is unique to each market and the marketing message must also be dynamic.
  • Seasonal trends impact consumer behavior.
    • Align your promotions and creative content with changing seasons or local events to make your offerings timely and relevant.
  • New competitors. The competitive landscape demands vigilance because new entrants or innovative competitor campaigns can shift consumer preferences.
    • Differentiate by focusing on your unique selling propositions, such as quality, customer service or community involvement, to retain consumer interest and loyalty.

4. Apply data and predictive analytics 

Data and predictive analytics are indispensable tools for successfully reaching local target markets. These technologies provide consumer behavior insights, enabling you to anticipate market trends and adjust strategies proactively. 

  • Price optimization: By analyzing consumer demand, competitor pricing and market conditions, data analytics enables you to set prices that attract customers while ensuring profitability.
  • Competitor analysis: Through analysis, brands can understand their positioning within the local market landscape and identify opportunities and threats. Predictive analytics offer foresight into competitors’ potential moves, allowing you to strategize effectively to maintain a competitive edge.
  • Consumer behavior: Forecasting consumer behavior allows your brand to tailor offerings and marketing messages to meet evolving consumer needs and enhance engagement.
  • Marketing effectiveness: Analytics track the success of advertising campaigns, providing insights into which strategies drive conversions and sales. This feedback loop enables continuous optimization of marketing efforts for maximum impact.
  • Inventory management: In supply chain management, data analytics predict demand fluctuations, ensuring inventory levels align with market needs. This efficiency prevents stockouts or excess inventory, optimizing operational costs and meeting consumer expectations.

Dig deeper: Why you should add predictive modeling to your marketing mix

5. Counter external market influences

Consider a clothing retailer preparing for a spring collection launch. By analyzing historical weather data and using predictive analytics, the brand forecasts an unseasonably cool start to spring. Anticipating this, the retailer adjusts its campaign to highlight transitional pieces suitable for cooler weather, ensuring relevance despite an unexpected chill.

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Simultaneously, predictive models signal an upcoming spike in local media advertising rates due to increased market demand. Retailers respond by reallocating a portion of advertising budgets to digital channels, which offer more flexibility and lower costs than traditional media. This shift enables brands to maintain visibility and engagement without exceeding budget, mitigating the impact of external forces on advertising.

6. Build consumer confidence with messaging

Localized messaging and tailored customer service enhance consumer confidence by demonstrating your brand’s understanding of the community. For instance, a grocery store that curates cooking classes featuring local cuisine or sponsors community events shows commitment to local culture and consumer interests. 

Similarly, a bookstore highlighting local authors or topics relevant to the community resonates with local customers. Additionally, providing service that addresses local needs — such as bilingual service and local event support — reinforces the brand’s values and response to the community. 

Through these localized approaches, brands can build trust and loyalty, bridging the gap between corporate presence and local relevance.

7. Dominate with local advertising 

To dominate local markets, brands must:

  • Harness hyper-targeted segmentation and geo-targeted advertising to reach and engage precise audiences.
  • Create localized content that reflects community values, engage in community events, optimize campaigns for mobile and track results.
  • Fine-tune strategies, outperform competitors and foster lasting relationships with customers.

These strategies will enable your message to resonate with local consumers, differentiate you in competitive markets and ensure you become a major player in your specific area. 



Dig deeper: The 5 critical elements for local marketing success

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

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Battling for Attention in the 2024 Election Year Media Frenzy

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Battling for Attention in the 2024 Election Year Media Frenzy

Battling for Attention in the 2024 Election Year Media Frenzy

As we march closer to the 2024 U.S. presidential election, CMOs and marketing leaders need to prepare for a significant shift in the digital advertising landscape. Election years have always posed unique challenges for advertisers, but the growing dominance of digital media has made the impact more profound than ever before.

In this article, we’ll explore the key factors that will shape the advertising environment in the coming months and provide actionable insights to help you navigate these turbulent waters.

The Digital Battleground

The rise of cord-cutting and the shift towards digital media consumption have fundamentally altered the advertising landscape in recent years. As traditional TV viewership declines, political campaigns have had to adapt their strategies to reach voters where they are spending their time: on digital platforms.

1713626763 903 Battling for Attention in the 2024 Election Year Media Frenzy1713626763 903 Battling for Attention in the 2024 Election Year Media Frenzy

According to a recent report by eMarketer, the number of cord-cutters in the U.S. is expected to reach 65.1 million by the end of 2023, representing a 6.9% increase from 2022. This trend is projected to continue, with the number of cord-cutters reaching 72.2 million by 2025.

Moreover, a survey conducted by Pew Research Center in 2023 found that 62% of U.S. adults do not have a cable or satellite TV subscription, up from 61% in 2022 and 50% in 2019. This data further underscores the accelerating shift away from traditional TV and towards streaming and digital media platforms.

As these trends continue, political advertisers will have no choice but to follow their audiences to digital channels. In the 2022 midterm elections, digital ad spending by political campaigns reached $1.2 billion, a 50% increase from the 2018 midterms. With the 2024 presidential election on the horizon, this figure is expected to grow exponentially, as campaigns compete for the attention of an increasingly digital-first electorate.

For brands and advertisers, this means that the competition for digital ad space will be fiercer than ever before. As political ad spending continues to migrate to platforms like Meta, YouTube, and connected TV, the cost of advertising will likely surge, making it more challenging for non-political advertisers to reach their target audiences.

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To navigate this complex and constantly evolving landscape, CMOs and their teams will need to be proactive, data-driven, and willing to experiment with new strategies and channels. By staying ahead of the curve and adapting to the changing media consumption habits of their audiences, brands can position themselves for success in the face of the electoral advertising onslaught.

Rising Costs and Limited Inventory

As political advertisers flood the digital market, the cost of advertising is expected to skyrocket. CPMs (cost per thousand impressions) will likely experience a steady climb throughout the year, with significant spikes anticipated in May, as college students come home from school and become more engaged in political conversations, and around major campaign events like presidential debates.

1713626764 529 Battling for Attention in the 2024 Election Year Media Frenzy1713626764 529 Battling for Attention in the 2024 Election Year Media Frenzy

For media buyers and their teams, this means that the tried-and-true strategies of years past may no longer be sufficient. Brands will need to be nimble, adaptable, and willing to explore new tactics to stay ahead of the game.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday: A Perfect Storm

The challenges of election year advertising will be particularly acute during the critical holiday shopping season. Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which have historically been goldmines for advertisers, will be more expensive and competitive than ever in 2024, as they coincide with the final weeks of the presidential campaign.

To avoid being drowned out by the political noise, brands will need to start planning their holiday campaigns earlier than usual. Building up audiences and crafting compelling creative assets well in advance will be essential to success, as will a willingness to explore alternative channels and tactics. Relying on cold audiences come Q4 will lead to exceptionally high costs that may be detrimental to many businesses.

Navigating the Chaos

While the challenges of election year advertising can seem daunting, there are steps that media buyers and their teams can take to mitigate the impact and even thrive in this environment. Here are a few key strategies to keep in mind:

Start early and plan for contingencies: Begin planning your Q3 and Q4 campaigns as early as possible, with a focus on building up your target audiences and developing a robust library of creative assets.

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Be sure to build in contingency budgets to account for potential cost increases, and be prepared to pivot your strategy as the landscape evolves.

1713626764 197 Battling for Attention in the 2024 Election Year Media Frenzy1713626764 197 Battling for Attention in the 2024 Election Year Media Frenzy

Embrace alternative channels: Consider diversifying your media mix to include channels that may be less impacted by political ad spending, such as influencer marketing, podcast advertising, or sponsored content. Investing in owned media channels, like email marketing and mobile apps, can also provide a direct line to your customers without the need to compete for ad space.

Owned channels will be more important than ever. Use cheaper months leading up to the election to build your email lists and existing customer base so that your BF/CM can leverage your owned channels and warm audiences.

Craft compelling, shareable content: In a crowded and noisy advertising environment, creating content that resonates with your target audience will be more important than ever. Focus on developing authentic, engaging content that aligns with your brand values and speaks directly to your customers’ needs and desires.

By tapping into the power of emotional triggers and social proof, you can create content that not only cuts through the clutter but also inspires organic sharing and amplification.

Reflections

The 2024 election year will undoubtedly bring new challenges and complexities to the world of digital advertising. But by staying informed, adaptable, and strategic in your approach, you can navigate this landscape successfully and even find new opportunities for growth and engagement.

As a media buyer or agnecy, your role in steering your brand through these uncharted waters will be critical. By starting your planning early, embracing alternative channels and tactics, and focusing on creating authentic, resonant content, you can not only survive but thrive in the face of election year disruptions.

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So while the road ahead may be uncertain, one thing is clear: the brands that approach this challenge with creativity, agility, and a steadfast commitment to their customers will be the ones that emerge stronger on the other side.


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