marketing internship swell digital grand rapids

Marketing Internship with SWELL Digital Marketing – Grand Rapids, MI

Who You Are:

Creative student looking to gain some real-world experience before you go out into the big post-grad world. You jump at the chance for a challenge and are internally motivated to expand your creative skill set. Constructive criticism is your friend and you enjoy working with others who want to include you in the campaign process. You consider yourself professional but thrive in a close-knit work atmosphere where you can be yourself.

Who We Are:

SWELL is a growing digital marketing agency in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids. We run well as a lean team, all working towards the best strategy for our clients. Our team at SWELL is a small group of passionate marketers who believe in using technology and data to its fullest potential. All ideas are welcome and encouraged within our group and we are looking for someone who wants to contribute with us.

Marketing Internship

  • Light project management
  • Blog editing/writing
  • Creating social media or infographics
  • Content writing
  • Data entry
  • Working within CMS for websites
  • Working directly with clients
  • Collaborating with rest of SWELL team on campaigns and projects

Education

  • Third Year Standing
  • All majors considered (Business, Marketing, Communication, and Design preferred)

Paid Internship

EMAIL YOUR RESUME

UX Design makes the User the Hero

Storytelling & UX Design Part 2: How to Use Story to Create Effective UX Design.

In Part 1, we shared with you WHY UX design needs to consider effective storytelling as synonymous with effective UX design. In Part 2, we’ll now explore steps a UX designer can take to get better at storytelling to create amazing journeys for their users.

Make your User the Hero!

UX Design makes the User the Hero

Designed by FreePik.com

 

 

UX design creates experiences with users in mind, duh. And the point of a story is to keep the events in the story related to the main character at all times. So, it stands to reason that “Storytelling Design” would place the user in the shoes of the main character or protagonist.  Good designers and good writers know that without first knowing your protagonist/user completely, it will be unlikely you will be able to create an effective experience for them.

When we design a website for a client here at SWELL, we first start with a brief. This is a series of questions intent upon understanding our client’s users and inspiring our design and content teams to create something beautiful and effective. In the same way, as a writer begins to form characters for their story, they ask very similar questions.   Let’s explore some from the writer’s perspective:

  • Who is the protagonist?
    • Just as in real life, this is so much more than a name. Where do they live? What do they do for a living? What about for fun?  
  • What motivates them?
    • Without understanding what truly motivates someone, we miss a major part of their story. It becomes a real challenge to relate to the character.  
  • What are their dreams, hopes, and fears?
    • Delving deeper, every individual has layers. Within the layers underneath motivation, lay a myriad of emotions unique to that individual. This is what influences how people process things – How they act upon the events in their world.
  • What are they struggling with?
    • This is probably the place that we should be relating most to our character (though your product or service should probably be addressing this inherently). What our protagonist struggles with is probably the most compelling piece for a writer to construct. These are the points in a story during which the character grows. Without the character growing within a story, the story falls flat.

The “Building of the World” and Architecture

Building Your User's World using UX Design

Designed by FreePik.com

 

 

Have you read Lord of the Rings? The Hobbit? Any science fiction or fantasy? (If not, you should – but I digress.) J.R.R. Tolkien (the author of LOTR, and Hobbit) was simply the best at investing a significant amount of time building the world in which his characters will live. He was known to make maps of cities and landmarks, define cultural and societal norms, introduce politics, and ensure the “science” of the world is consistent. Much of which he built surrounding his “worlds” was said to have never even made it into the books. The reason is simple: authenticity. The more complete the world is, the more real it feels to the reader. In this way, the “world” becomes a character in and of itself. In the same way, UX design should invest time into thinking through the “world” they’re tasked with creating. Again, let’s look at some questions we ask during the briefing process and relate them to questions UX designers can ask themselves during this process:

  • What is the world we’re building?
    • Is it a website? A web app? A mobile app? Depending on the platform, your approach will certainly change.
  • How do key aspects of this world interact with one another?
    • In a story, the writer may consider things like the rules of magic in this realm – do some characters have it? Do some not? Why? In the digital world, the concept is the same. How do elements on the platform relate to one another?

Story Arc and User Flow

In every good story, the hero makes choices. Those choices have impact on how the story plays out and what happens next. They dictate the “arc” of the story and eventually lead the hero to resolution.  

The same is true of users engaging with your design. Which is why it will be vital to understand the steps in the process of your “narrative”, in order to guide the user toward making the choices you want them to make.  

Here are a few questions our digital storytellers ask that are also worth asking for UX design:

  • What is the ending?
    • Every story has a conflict to be resolved. Every character – a struggle to emerge from. I.E. Frodo needs to get the ring to Mordor. Luke Skywalker needs to realize his potential as a Jedi. Poirot needs to be observant and uncover clues.
  • Why would someone want to get there?
    • I might take a note from Simon Sinek and argue that your “Why” should come first. But this harkens back to user motivation and how that plays into user’s choices. I.E. Frodo needs to save Middle Earth from great evil. Luke needs to help lead the Rebellion and restore the Jedi order. Poirot needs to solve the case.  
  • What decisions need to be made along the journey to get to the end?
    • Think of this as the GPS directions that guide the character through the struggle, telling them where and when to turn to reach their destination. The choice is still upon the character, and each decision has the potential to change the story. The fact is, characters don’t always know what they’re going to do in the moment – nor are they aware the decision is significant. But the writer is – and so are we as UX designers. It is our role as the creator to create a safe and enjoyable space for users to make decisions even if our user doesn’t realize they’re making decisions.  
  • How can we better help the hero?
    • Writers will plug in all sorts of assistance for the protagonist in the form of new information, items, companions, magic. How does your UX design provide what the user needs to get to the destination?

A Note on “Conflict”

For most of this post, we’ve been discussing the similarities between storytelling and UX design. But for a moment, let’s discuss a major difference.

Stories need conflict and struggle to be interesting. A writer will spend time constructing tragedies and events that their character must endure. They do so because it helps their character mature or understand their own surroundings in a way that helps define them. Through struggle, the character obtains clarity on what it is that they are moving toward and why!

On the flip side, UX design is about minimizing struggle within the user’s journey. The less conflict there is, the better the overall experience will be. We don’t need our users to grow as much as we want to make it as simple as possible to shine.

In Summary

If we want to create digital experiences that are unique and intriguing, we need to consider including storytelling. As humans, we relate innately to stories and learn well from them. If we can think about user experience as a story we’re writing and our user as the main character, we will deliver an overall story arc or experience that is compelling.  These methods will help us to achieve our goals of effective UX design.

boy reading a story and having an experience via UX Design

Storytelling & UX Design Part I: Why They Go Hand-In-Hand

Welcome to our two-part series on storytelling through the eyes – and talents – of UX design. In Part 1, I’ll share with you WHY UX design needs to consider effective storytelling as synonymous with effective UX design. In Part 2, we’ll explore steps a UX designer can take to get better at storytelling to create amazing journeys for their users. To start, indulge me in a quick thought exercise:

Which of the following two paragraphs do you find more intriguing ?


Paragraph 1

Stacy arrived at the airport. She checked in, went through security and waited for her plane. After a half hour or so, they began to board her group. Her plane was last in line to take off and had to wait on the runway for 45 minutes. Because of this, Stacy was late to her meeting in Denver.

Paragraph 2

Stacy arrived at the airport a bit nervous. She hadn’t been on a plane for many years, and she was heading to Denver for a meeting with a large potential client. Despite arriving plenty early, Stacy waited in a ridiculously long line to check in for her flight. Once her turn was up, it was pretty clear from the expression of the attendant and people in line behind her, that Stacy had no idea what she was doing – which made her face get red and her palms get a bit sweaty. After checking in, Stacy raced to the security area, only to see that the line was even longer there.  Even though she knew in the back of her mind that she had time before her flight took off, Stacy began to feel as though this whole day was going to go terribly wrong. While she waited in line, she decided that she was going to review her pitch in her head. She had been practicing for weeks and really wanted to land her first big deal. But Stacy’s train of thought kept getting interrupted by the stop and start of the security line. Finally, it was her turn. Learning her lesson and following the cues of the people in front of her, Stacy’s trip through the checkpoint went relatively quick. As she found her terminal and sat down, Stacy was beginning to feel a little better about the day. Little did she know that what was about to happen next was going to make her late for her big meeting in Denver.     


Both paragraphs have essentially the same information. In fact, the first paragraph has slightly more. However, the second paragraph is much more interesting because it is a story.  Some may argue that the first paragraph has a beginning, middle, and an end – so is, therefore, a story. But REAL stories are meant to connect with us emotionally, and the first paragraph is simply a list of facts. In the second paragraph, we feel Stacy’s stress. We experience her physical response to embarrassment. We understand her excitement to land her first big deal. And we empathize with her obvious inexperience and remember a time when we were that worked up over something we wanted and worked hard for. We are intrigued and want to find out what happens next (even though paragraph 1 contains spoilers).

So what does this exercise have to do with UX Design? Everything. The point of UX is to connect with your users and create lasting impressions. This means the UX designer’s list of talents MUST include the craft of storytelling. If we consider UX through the periscope of telling a good story, we are much more likely to create with a human-centered approach, therefore moving people to action through more memorable experiences.

Why Storytelling and UX Design go Hand-in-Hand

story

Source: Designed by Freepik

Let’s think about the fundamental goal of UX design: to improve customer satisfaction and engagement through the utility, ease of use, and enjoyment provided by interacting with a platform, product, or service. When we think of the process of UX design like the craft of telling a story, a few things happen.

  • We remain focused on our users. This may seem obvious because users are always SUPPOSED to be at the center of the design process. Still, it can be very easy to let our ideas and preferences muddle what the users not only need – but what they want. Stories are rooted in characters and maintaining focus on the story we are telling makes it almost impossible to remove characters from the process.
  • We create a meaningful buyer’s journey. The most effect product experiences will take the user on a journey. Some journeys take the user where they already want to go. The best journeys take them where they don’t even know they need to go – yet convinces them it’s where they need to be. The worst ones, however, will involve a series of unrelated actions that take the user somewhere they may or may not have expected – and moreover – don’t understand. If we envision our user flow as a story involving step-by-step events in a cohesive narrative (and even a more traditional story arc), we all but eliminate the confusion and disjointed nature of a seemingly random set of tasks.
  • We make a lasting emotional impact. The truth is, most products and services do not elicit an emotional connection. They make no long-term impact on the user, nor do they create a sense of anticipation for the returning or (better yet) the loyal customer. But stories – good ones – have the capacity to do all of these things.  

As human beings, we have stories ingrained into our very being. This makes us literally hard-wired to respond to them. On the flip side, humans are NOT wired to connect with digital products. Effective UX design marries the two and creates more meaningful user experiences.  

In this part one, we explain why you should wrap UX design in an effective story. In part two, we’ll discuss how. Keep an eye out and take this journey with me!

Google possum update

The Google Possum Update and its Effect on Local Search

Swell recently wrote an overview on Google’s update for Penguin 4.0, but we wanted to highlight another update Google released in September. On September 1st, Google released an update to what is being called “Possum” which focuses on local SEO. The name has been tossed around in the SEO industry because when several businesses were assuming their Google My Business listings had disappeared, they were really just being hidden (or playing possum) based on new filters applied.

What is affected?

Since Google doesn’t give much explanation to their algorithms for the purpose of authentic search results, SEO thought leaders have tested enough to find that the changes made affected local search only. Impact has been seen in the 3-pack and finder (Google Maps results) along with speculation that slight changes to organic search was carried out as well.

Why was it updated?

When it comes down to it, Google’s updates are always about one thing, creating the most authentic search results for the end-user. This means blocking or making it increasingly difficult for spam sites to gain rankings. While the Possum update was to police spam, it was also launched in order to diversify local business search results as well.

What is different now?

There are 5 main changes with the algorithm that affect local search.

    1. Businesses located outside of the city limit search are now included in search priority. This means that any business that services or sells products to customers in a particular city, but is located outside of those city limits will now be included in that local search. Before, businesses like this wouldn’t even be looped into a particular city search at all in Google Maps.
    2. Google now filters based on address and affiliation. In order to increase variety in search results, Google will only provide local listings that are not using the same address and not owned by the same parent company. Realize that this doesn’t mean the child company or business in the same building that is being filtered is penalized, it just means it is being hidden in that search. Users still have the option to view unfiltered results. Business will also rank differently based on different keywords.
    3. Heavier priority is given to the location of the searcher.  Businesses that consistently pay attention to their rank in Google for targeted keywords have already noticed this change. If you have one person performing a search with a keyword in one location and another person performing that same search in the next town over, the results for a particular business will, in theory, show up higher with whoever is closest to that business’s location. This is why it is critical for all searchers to have their correct location registered with their browsing device.
    4. More variation in 3-pack listings with slight variation in keyword search. With the algorithm update, there seems to be a lot more variation in business ranking even with slight differences in keyword searches. For instance, if you were to type in “furniture manufacturers in grand rapids” and then “grand rapids MI furniture manufacturers”, there would be a variation in the 3-pack listings. Prior to the update, the results shown would be very similar regardless of which variation of keyword you used.
    5. Local filter and organic filter are run independently. Before the Possum update, websites that were organically filtered out were negatively impacted. This occurs when a site is too similar to another one and will therefore be filtered out from the results. Now with Possum, (since local and organic results are filtered independently) local business websites will see a spike in ranking if they were being lowered prior to Possum.

Overview

Because there is so much fluctuation in local rankings recently, there is speculation that Google is currently A/B testing their algorithm. If this is true, it is completely possible that Google may revert back to its original filter settings if necessary. For now Possum seems to be a part of the Google algorithm family with the increase in priority for local search.

A woman blogging on her bed.

“Oh My Blog!” How Blogging Increases Your Lead Generation

Here’s the thing, the whole point of social media marketing is to engage your audience in such new and wonderful ways that they think, Hey! These people are pretty cool! I’m going to visit their website! I’m going to start following them regularly! I’m going to buy this amazing product they offer!

Did you see that?

You want the information you post on social media to effortlessly lead your audience back around to your website so they’ll look at YOU and make buying decisions about what YOU have to offer. In order to do that, you need to consistently deliver new and relevant information via. your site. One very easy way to accomplish that goal is by keeping up a regular blog that can be linked to through your social media platforms.

Still not convinced? Check out my five favorite statistics on blogging:

  1. Small businesses that blog get 126% more lead growth than small businesses that do not blog. Blogs are one of the best and easiest ways to keep a regular flow of new eyeballs coming through your site. (Source: HubSpot)
  2. The average word count for top ranked content in Google is between 1,140-1,285 words. This means larger pieces of writing (blogs) are top ranked, but it also means people aren’t wanting to read much more than two pages of text at a time. Relevant and concise information is what reigns. (Source: Source Metrics)
  3. Blogs have been rated as the 5th most trusted source for accurate online information. This means people are using blogs to find information they want and need. When you successfully present useful and accurate information, you will establish you and your business as experts and thought leaders in your industry. (Source: HubSpot)
  4. Google really likes when you keep it fresh. As far as SEO is concerned, you will be rewarded by having a blog. Watch your site climb closer to the top with each piece you write. (Sources: Tech Client, Social Media Examiner, SEJ, CMI)
  5. 61% of U.S. online consumers have made a purchase based on information they found on a blog. Let that sink in, people specifically use information from blogs to make decisions about their purchases. (Source: BlogHer)

By writing a well thought out, simple, engaging, and informative blog just a few times a month, you will have more leads, sales, better SEO rankings, and street cred. within your industry. Boom.

 

What is new in the Penguin 4.0 update?

Penguin 4.0 Update: What You Need To Know

What is Penguin?

In a nutshell, Penguin is a specific signal of Google’s algorithms for their search engine that looks over backlinks that are linking to your page. Penguin was initially launched in 2012 while making various updates throughout the years. Penguin was essentially created to promote or demote a web page in Google’s search results based on the quality of the links that are pointing to that page or site (backlinks). This check was put into place when spammy sites would link out to more credible ones to increase their authority, all while providing no substance for or relevance to the site they are linking to.

What is new in Penguin 4.0?

The largest part of the update in Penguin 4.0 is that the crawl will now be updated in real time. Previously, the backlink scan would update or refresh sites at the same time periodically. Now with 4.0, sites will be crawled and updated in real time allowing for a much faster change in rankings.

The other change to Penguin is that it has become more granular. This means that the rankings affected from spam are only issued to single pages themselves, rather than the overall site authority. So if a spam site is linking to a particular blog on your page, the penalty will only be in the form of that blog web page ranking lower as opposed to the entire site decreasing in authority.

What does it mean for you?

Pretty much what you should keep in mind as a site owner, marketer, or SEO specialist is to do backlink checks for your site regularly. As soon as you detect any poor quality backlinks, be sure to immediately disavow or remove them. Aim to stay up-to-date on this screening as often as possible.

Lastly, keep in mind that the Penguin crawler is just one of many (about 200) signals used to determine the ranking factor from Google. While it is important to stay current on your backlink analysis, it is not the only, or even most crucial aspect of where your site will rank in search engines.

hashtags in social media marketing

6 Tips for Getting the most out of your Hashtags

New to the whole hashtag thing? Well, the answer to your first question is, Yes, hashtags DO matter. They can actually be pretty powerful for attracting new followers and attaching your content to other brands and relevant topics. Don’t fret, it’s less complex than you might think, but there are some tactics and tips that will help you understand the reasons social media platforms use hashtags and how best to use them to your benefit.  

That said, we wanted to offer up a few simple suggestions for new hashtaggers. So, this is for you. You newbie hashtagger you!

WHY DO WE HASHTAG?

Did you know that twitter didn’t even use hashtags originally? It wasn’t until 2007 that the hashtag was added to their repertoire of social media offerings. It was suggested by a user to help categorize posts in a better way for ease of contributing and following specific topics.

Hashtags link your posts to all other posts with the same hashtags. They will show up in feeds with the same hashtags you use, which has the potential to get your posts in front of more eyeballs than it otherwise would.

Hashtags have become so popular that every other mainstream social media platform has jumped on board with them.

HASHTAG ETIQUETTE

  1. Keep it simple. #DontUseAHashtagThatsHardToReadAndWayTooLong. Make sure your hashtags are relevant to whatever your post is about, and that they’re simple to read. Think of hashtags in two ways:
    1. A quick joke you might mumble under your breath. #CoughCough
    2. An easy way to add your post to a conversation. #GreatAdvice
  2. Keep it relevant. You might know that there’s a trending hashtag like #PumpkinLatte, but it doesn’t make any sense to add it to your post about building a house. You’ll look like a spammer and lose credibility. Which leads us to…
  3. Control yourself. Yes, the more tags the more eyeballs our post may get to, but it can actually work against you too. If you have a bunch of hashtags at the end of your post, you’re likely to come off as desperate, unknowledgeable, and the eyeballs will scroll right on. Keep it to no more than three hashtags per post. The more you have, the more you look like a spammer. The more specific and to-the-point you are, the more professional you’ll look.

PRO TIPS

  1. Keep an eye out for what’s trending. You can use twitter, google, or a plethora of other websites to check on trending hashtags. That means those that are being followed by the most people. If there’s one that is relevant to your business, your post, your life, feel free to hop on and add to the conversation! #MoreEyeballs
  2. In your post (that’s using no more than 2 – 3 hashtags), use one hashtag that’s trending, and one that relates to your brand. The third is probably unnecessary, but I’m sure you can get creative! #MakeItUp
  3. Be creative and specific. You want to hop on tags that are relevant, but you don’t want to be too generic. #Wood #Building #SEO #Hashtag… these are too broad and you’ll get lost in the mix. Try being clever and just a bit more specific. Experts say the more targeted your audience is, the better your engagement will be anyway.
  4. Don’t use a hashtag when responding to someone, or trying to specifically call someone out in your post. That’s what the @ symbol is for. Everyone has a handle (screen name) with an @ symbol in front of it. Find out what your friends’ are, and use them in your post rather than #JohnnyJohnson.
  5. Don’t hashtag in the comments sections. It just doesn’t make sense.
  6. You might be eager to make up and take over hashtags that call out your specific brand names, but followers tend not to like this. Rather than putting #MyNameBrand at the end of your posts, think about who your brand is and what you represent. You may notice that we use #RethinkingConnection on some of our posts rather than #SWELL.

GO FORTH AND HASHTAG

Now that you have a bit more information on how it works, test it out! Let us know how these suggestions work for you, and if you’d have any more to add.