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Employee-Generated Content: Tips To Inspire Interest

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There never seems to be enough resources to execute all your killer content marketing ideas, does there?

No matter how large and prolific your team of creators, how efficient your creative processes are, or how ample your outsourcing budget is, too many great content ideas are left on the drawing board. Meanwhile, you’ve got an increasing number of gaps to fill with engaging stories across multiple platforms.

Fortunately, a solution is sitting practically under your nose: Enlist the assistance of fellow employees – including internal subject matter experts (SMEs) and colleagues in sales, customer support, and other functional departments.

Have content gaps to fill? Enlist the assistance of employees outside the #ContentMarketing team, says @joderama via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Read on for tips on how to activate their interest, overcome common objections, and reap the rewards of having a wellspring of employee-generated content (EGC) at your disposal.

Tip 1: Provide process clarity and examples of success

Enlisting colleagues outside of marketing to help with content creation can be a big ask, if not a downright imposition. To make the request more palatable, set clear expectations and establish a framework for their participation. Use your process to solicit content from external industry experts or social community members to inform the EGC process.

Knowing in advance exactly what they’ll be asked to do and the time it will take can help reassure them they aren’t committing to something they don’t have the bandwidth to fulfill.

As part of their employee-centric LinkedIn evangelist program, B2B podcast company Sweet Fish created an internal document outlining requirements for participating, detailing what the commitment involves, and informing them of the benefits to both brand and employee. Those who join the evangelist program receive personalized brand development and content training and information on LinkedIn best practices.

It’s also helpful to provide examples of EGC efforts that performed well, so new contributors can get a feel for the types of content, tone, and voice used in their efforts.

@SweetFishMedia created an internal document outlining the requirements to help employees participate in its @LinkedIn evangelist program, says @joderama via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

In a LinkedIn post on how SaaS business Chili Piper activates its sales development reps (SDRs) as brand evangelists on social media, they point to a team member’s contribution. The SDR’s post generated strong engagement and inspired other employees to post similar content on their own profiles. (Special thanks to Emily Brady for sharing this example.)

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Tip 2: Provide tools, support, and training

Employees might raise objectives, such as they don’t have strong writing skills or they aren’t creative. While experience crafting quality copy certainly helps, EGC doesn’t need to be polished and perfected – or even in written form – to be an effective marketing vehicle.

To help reluctant contributors upskill and gain confidence in their writing abilities, consider providing support through these approaches:

  • Invite them to the creative’s table: Ask interested colleagues to attend your editorial planning meetings and creative brainstorms. They can get a feel for your processes and goals and get a chance to weigh in with their ideas. Being “in the room where it happens” can deepen their interest and investment in bringing new content to life.
  • Use technology to sharpen their skills: Experienced content marketers aim for technical precision when crafting copy. But it’s unrealistic to expect EGC creators to memorize the AP Style Guide before contributing content. Reassure colleagues that their writing skills can be developed and enhanced with the help of headline generators, apps like Grammarly and Hemmingway, fact-checking tech like Nexis for Media and Meedan, and other writing support tools. They’re easy to use, and many of them are available for free.
  • Point them to training opportunities: If your company offers a career development program, aspiring creators may have access to writing classes, creative workshops, photography and videography training, and other educational resources. That can include free access to LinkedIn Learning courses, Udemy classes, or even internal training tools. Document the opportunities and post them on your internal newsletter, intranet portal, or Slack channel. It is an excellent way to let colleagues know your team welcomes their content contributions and wants them to feel prepared for the task.
  • Create tutorials and guides: If no formal employee education program exists, try the DIY route: Ask your content team to write, screen-capture, or film the process as they do their next blog post, newsletter article, expert interview, or social content. Seeing how it’s done teaches colleagues the best practices and guidelines. This content also can be repurposed into brand-relevant lessons, such as tip sheets, how-to demos, and other behind-the-scenes stories to share on customer-facing platforms.

The CMI editorial team is always refining the guest blogging guidelines to onboard new contributors – internal and external. We include successful posts as models and educate writers on the kinds of submissions we accept. We also curated some of our best writing tips and advice from existing articles to produce an e-book on the secrets of successful content creation. We shared it with other teams across our enterprise.

Image showing text that says Discover the Secrets to Successful Content Creation with CMI logo.

CMI shares writing tips to help less-experienced creators succeed.

Tip 3: Make content creation easy and organic to their experiences

If aspiring contributors still feel intimidated, you can develop more ways for them to contribute to the content marketing cause. For example, if employees already post brand-friendly content on their social streams, downgrade your ask to create content to a request to share content.

If employees aren’t ready to create original brand-friendly #Content, ask them to share the company’s content, says @joderama via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

For example, Reebok used #fitasscompany on Instagram to provide a space for its employees to share photos from their personal workouts and other active hobbies.

Brands like Dunkin Donuts actively encourage employees to capture and post informal photos and videos of themselves during their workday using #DunkinCrewAmbassador. The company frequently reshares those posts on its official TikTok and Instagram profiles.

@clairerottman Popping bubbles coming soon @dunkin #dunkin #boba #dunkincrewambassador ♬ original sound – Claire Bear

Sephora makes it even easier for employees to play a role in creating the brand’s Instagram content: The company conducts employee profile interviews and shares snippets on its Sephoralife account, using #EmployeeSpotlight.

 

Not only do these approaches make it easy for non-writers to collaborate on content, but they tell a more personal and relatable brand story that tightly controlled and scripted content can’t.

Of course, it also takes less time on the interviewed employees’ part. This tip may not add more stories to your content calendar, but the subsequent amplification assistance from the employee can make a big impact on your brand’s reach, search rankings, and content performance.

Working with internal communication tools like EveryoneSocial, SocialWeaver, Bambu, and Hootsuite Amplify can help streamline the process. Use them to automatically distribute your freshly published assets to willing “content deputies” who can share those stories with a few clicks. Some such tools even provide scheduling capabilities, feedback surveys, and gamification features to make the experience more convenient and engaging for contributors.

Tip 4: Fuel their creative journey and provide an outlet to share personal passions

Employee-generated content doesn’t need to be about your company to further your content goals. Shifting the storytelling focus from brand to personal experiences of the workforce can result in relatable, empathetic, and engaging content.

One way to do this is to leverage team outings and events as a source of relevant, authentic brand stories. If your company hosts off-site retreats, allows colleagues to attend industry conferences, or organizes volunteer opportunities, consider splurging on a couple of disposable digital cameras or a photo booth or lending a few smartphones. These tools give employees everything they need to capture spontaneous moments of camaraderie and interactions throughout the day. They can livestream or post them on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or TikTok.

On a smaller scale, you can organize a happy hour or host a cross-team trivia contest (live or virtual) to give colleagues something fun to talk about. Or approach individual colleagues who have exciting roles, unusual hobbies, or have taken part in unique work opportunities that your audience might be interested in. Ask to interview them or for them to snap and share a selfie or write a summary of their experience that your team can polish up and publish.

Look at this recent post on the We Are Cisco blog from a team member who moved to the United Kingdom as part of the company’s employee rotation program. It gave the author a chance to tell a personally meaningful story – one that Cisco also can use for its recruiting efforts.

Team members share personal stories about their brand experience on the We Are Cisco blog.

Team members share personal stories about their brand experience on the We Are Cisco blog.

Tip 5: Incentivize, celebrate, and recognize

For some team members, the chance to share their knowledge and exercise their creative skills are all the motivation they need to jump on the EGC train. But others might need to know WIFM (What’s In it For Me?). You need to give them a more compelling reason to participate.

Take a page from Walmart’s playbook and offer an incentive. On its employee-centric Instagram account WalmartSocialChamps, the company recently launched an associate video contest to solicit more brand-friendly visual stories from its workforce. In addition to offering a prize (a free trip to its Associate Week event), Walmart made it easy to enter by providing starter ideas, animation assets, filming tips, and posting instructions.

If a sweepstakes is too much for your marketing, provide rewards like gift cards or company swag. If your budget is non-existent, offer public gratitude and recognition. Here are a few ways to do that:

  • Give a shoutout: After sharing the content they created, post a word of thanks or image of gratitude. Tag their personal social profiles or link to their personal website (with their consent). Not only is it a nice thing to do, it can raise their industry profile, grow their personal brands, and help them connect with others in their chosen communities to further their careers or achieve other personal goals.
  • Invite them as a featured guest on your team’s Twitter chats, webinars, podcasts, or livestream video shows: If their initial content asset references a personal passion, hobby, or specialized skill, they might relish the opportunity to continue the conversation and connect with others who share their interests.
  • Nominate them for company awards and recognition programs: It rarely hurts to raise HR and management team awareness of a colleague’s above-and-beyond efforts to support your brand, and it may even help get their name on the short list when their applying for an internal role or are up for a promotion.

EGC formula: Enlist, empower, and activate

The everyday responsibilities of co-workers outside the content team might not have a creative focus, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t ready, willing, and able to show off their knowledge, lend you their talents, and spread their enthusiasm for your brand. Often, all they need is some direction, encouragement, and the right motivation to get them started.

Please note: All tools included are suggested by the author. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used). 

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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YouTube Ad Specs, Sizes, and Examples [2024 Update]

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YouTube Ad Specs, Sizes, and Examples

Introduction

With billions of users each month, YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine and top website for video content. This makes it a great place for advertising. To succeed, advertisers need to follow the correct YouTube ad specifications. These rules help your ad reach more viewers, increasing the chance of gaining new customers and boosting brand awareness.

Types of YouTube Ads

Video Ads

  • Description: These play before, during, or after a YouTube video on computers or mobile devices.
  • Types:
    • In-stream ads: Can be skippable or non-skippable.
    • Bumper ads: Non-skippable, short ads that play before, during, or after a video.

Display Ads

  • Description: These appear in different spots on YouTube and usually use text or static images.
  • Note: YouTube does not support display image ads directly on its app, but these can be targeted to YouTube.com through Google Display Network (GDN).

Companion Banners

  • Description: Appears to the right of the YouTube player on desktop.
  • Requirement: Must be purchased alongside In-stream ads, Bumper ads, or In-feed ads.

In-feed Ads

  • Description: Resemble videos with images, headlines, and text. They link to a public or unlisted YouTube video.

Outstream Ads

  • Description: Mobile-only video ads that play outside of YouTube, on websites and apps within the Google video partner network.

Masthead Ads

  • Description: Premium, high-visibility banner ads displayed at the top of the YouTube homepage for both desktop and mobile users.

YouTube Ad Specs by Type

Skippable In-stream Video Ads

  • Placement: Before, during, or after a YouTube video.
  • Resolution:
    • Horizontal: 1920 x 1080px
    • Vertical: 1080 x 1920px
    • Square: 1080 x 1080px
  • Aspect Ratio:
    • Horizontal: 16:9
    • Vertical: 9:16
    • Square: 1:1
  • Length:
    • Awareness: 15-20 seconds
    • Consideration: 2-3 minutes
    • Action: 15-20 seconds

Non-skippable In-stream Video Ads

  • Description: Must be watched completely before the main video.
  • Length: 15 seconds (or 20 seconds in certain markets).
  • Resolution:
    • Horizontal: 1920 x 1080px
    • Vertical: 1080 x 1920px
    • Square: 1080 x 1080px
  • Aspect Ratio:
    • Horizontal: 16:9
    • Vertical: 9:16
    • Square: 1:1

Bumper Ads

  • Length: Maximum 6 seconds.
  • File Format: MP4, Quicktime, AVI, ASF, Windows Media, or MPEG.
  • Resolution:
    • Horizontal: 640 x 360px
    • Vertical: 480 x 360px

In-feed Ads

  • Description: Show alongside YouTube content, like search results or the Home feed.
  • Resolution:
    • Horizontal: 1920 x 1080px
    • Vertical: 1080 x 1920px
    • Square: 1080 x 1080px
  • Aspect Ratio:
    • Horizontal: 16:9
    • Square: 1:1
  • Length:
    • Awareness: 15-20 seconds
    • Consideration: 2-3 minutes
  • Headline/Description:
    • Headline: Up to 2 lines, 40 characters per line
    • Description: Up to 2 lines, 35 characters per line

Display Ads

  • Description: Static images or animated media that appear on YouTube next to video suggestions, in search results, or on the homepage.
  • Image Size: 300×60 pixels.
  • File Type: GIF, JPG, PNG.
  • File Size: Max 150KB.
  • Max Animation Length: 30 seconds.

Outstream Ads

  • Description: Mobile-only video ads that appear on websites and apps within the Google video partner network, not on YouTube itself.
  • Logo Specs:
    • Square: 1:1 (200 x 200px).
    • File Type: JPG, GIF, PNG.
    • Max Size: 200KB.

Masthead Ads

  • Description: High-visibility ads at the top of the YouTube homepage.
  • Resolution: 1920 x 1080 or higher.
  • File Type: JPG or PNG (without transparency).

Conclusion

YouTube offers a variety of ad formats to reach audiences effectively in 2024. Whether you want to build brand awareness, drive conversions, or target specific demographics, YouTube provides a dynamic platform for your advertising needs. Always follow Google’s advertising policies and the technical ad specs to ensure your ads perform their best. Ready to start using YouTube ads? Contact us today to get started!

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Why We Are Always ‘Clicking to Buy’, According to Psychologists

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Why We Are Always 'Clicking to Buy', According to Psychologists

Amazon pillows.

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

Salesforce launched a collection of new, generative AI-related products at Connections in Chicago this week. They included new Einstein Copilots for marketers and merchants and Einstein Personalization.

To better understand, not only the potential impact of the new products, but the evolving Salesforce architecture, we sat down with Bobby Jania, CMO, Marketing Cloud.

Dig deeper: Salesforce piles on the Einstein Copilots

Salesforce’s evolving architecture

It’s hard to deny that Salesforce likes coming up with new names for platforms and products (what happened to Customer 360?) and this can sometimes make the observer wonder if something is brand new, or old but with a brand new name. In particular, what exactly is Einstein 1 and how is it related to Salesforce Data Cloud?

“Data Cloud is built on the Einstein 1 platform,” Jania explained. “The Einstein 1 platform is our entire Salesforce platform and that includes products like Sales Cloud, Service Cloud — that it includes the original idea of Salesforce not just being in the cloud, but being multi-tenancy.”

Data Cloud — not an acquisition, of course — was built natively on that platform. It was the first product built on Hyperforce, Salesforce’s new cloud infrastructure architecture. “Since Data Cloud was on what we now call the Einstein 1 platform from Day One, it has always natively connected to, and been able to read anything in Sales Cloud, Service Cloud [and so on]. On top of that, we can now bring in, not only structured but unstructured data.”

That’s a significant progression from the position, several years ago, when Salesforce had stitched together a platform around various acquisitions (ExactTarget, for example) that didn’t necessarily talk to each other.

“At times, what we would do is have a kind of behind-the-scenes flow where data from one product could be moved into another product,” said Jania, “but in many of those cases the data would then be in both, whereas now the data is in Data Cloud. Tableau will run natively off Data Cloud; Commerce Cloud, Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud — they’re all going to the same operational customer profile.” They’re not copying the data from Data Cloud, Jania confirmed.

Another thing to know is tit’s possible for Salesforce customers to import their own datasets into Data Cloud. “We wanted to create a federated data model,” said Jania. “If you’re using Snowflake, for example, we more or less virtually sit on your data lake. The value we add is that we will look at all your data and help you form these operational customer profiles.”

Let’s learn more about Einstein Copilot

“Copilot means that I have an assistant with me in the tool where I need to be working that contextually knows what I am trying to do and helps me at every step of the process,” Jania said.

For marketers, this might begin with a campaign brief developed with Copilot’s assistance, the identification of an audience based on the brief, and then the development of email or other content. “What’s really cool is the idea of Einstein Studio where our customers will create actions [for Copilot] that we hadn’t even thought about.”

Here’s a key insight (back to nomenclature). We reported on Copilot for markets, Copilot for merchants, Copilot for shoppers. It turns out, however, that there is just one Copilot, Einstein Copilot, and these are use cases. “There’s just one Copilot, we just add these for a little clarity; we’re going to talk about marketing use cases, about shoppers’ use cases. These are actions for the marketing use cases we built out of the box; you can build your own.”

It’s surely going to take a little time for marketers to learn to work easily with Copilot. “There’s always time for adoption,” Jania agreed. “What is directly connected with this is, this is my ninth Connections and this one has the most hands-on training that I’ve seen since 2014 — and a lot of that is getting people using Data Cloud, using these tools rather than just being given a demo.”

What’s new about Einstein Personalization

Salesforce Einstein has been around since 2016 and many of the use cases seem to have involved personalization in various forms. What’s new?

“Einstein Personalization is a real-time decision engine and it’s going to choose next-best-action, next-best-offer. What is new is that it’s a service now that runs natively on top of Data Cloud.” A lot of real-time decision engines need their own set of data that might actually be a subset of data. “Einstein Personalization is going to look holistically at a customer and recommend a next-best-action that could be natively surfaced in Service Cloud, Sales Cloud or Marketing Cloud.”

Finally, trust

One feature of the presentations at Connections was the reassurance that, although public LLMs like ChatGPT could be selected for application to customer data, none of that data would be retained by the LLMs. Is this just a matter of written agreements? No, not just that, said Jania.

“In the Einstein Trust Layer, all of the data, when it connects to an LLM, runs through our gateway. If there was a prompt that had personally identifiable information — a credit card number, an email address — at a mimum, all that is stripped out. The LLMs do not store the output; we store the output for auditing back in Salesforce. Any output that comes back through our gateway is logged in our system; it runs through a toxicity model; and only at the end do we put PII data back into the answer. There are real pieces beyond a handshake that this data is safe.”

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