Spring Clean Your Social Media

spring flowersSometimes it is a good idea to go back to the basics of social media marketing, and what better time than right now? Take a fresh look at your social graphics suite. Social outlets adjust their systems over time, so that header image you designed a year ago, or the thumbnail image that used to work well, may no longer fit the platform’s format. Surely your communications goals have surged forward: does the content that was perfect last spring now look dated?

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Spark Freedom Interns: Meet John Nagle!

Hi, I’m John! I was born and raised in San Diego. However, when thinking about applying to colleges, I wanted a place where I could pursue my interest in politics. American University, with its Washington, DC location and public policy focus, was a perfect fit. I look forward to graduating with a BA in political science and a minor in economics in May of 2017.

My family consists of my mother, father, twin brother Jimmy, and older sister Katie. Jimmy currently attends the University of Nevada, Reno and my sister is teaching abroad in Australia. Despite the fact that my brother and I are fraternal, on the first day of kindergarten we accidentally “switched places” and attended each other’s class for the day.

Some of my interests include: reading, hiking, listening to podcasts, fencing, and cooking Italian food. What I like about fencing is the combination of physical quickness and strategy. You always have to be thinking on your feet, literally. My favorite Italian dish to make is spaghetti and meatballs.

In seventh grade, I read my first political book. It was Milton Friedman’s 1962 classic Capitalism and Freedom. It inspired me to learn more about my political beliefs and helped develop my interest in promoting a free society.  One quote from the book spoke to me deeply: “concentrated power is not rendered harmless by the good intentions of those who create it.”

I am excited to work at Spark Freedom because I believe strongly  in the cause of liberty but recognize that many people in the movement struggle to articulate our principles in an appealing way that is accessible to the general public. It’s great to see an organization dedicated to making our message resonate. In particular, I look forward to working as a development intern so that I can explore that field and assist in getting more people involved in Spark Freedom’s mission. After college, I see myself working in the liberty movement, possibly in development, in order to bring about a more free, just, and prosperous society.

Spark Freedom Interns: Meet Allie Harris!

My name is Allie Harris. I go to Miami University (the one in Ohio, not Florida). I’m double-majoring in political science and international studies with a concentration in international development. I’m also double minoring in French and business legal studies. Next spring semester, I’ll be studying abroad in Luxembourg for 5 months, and I can’t wait!

I am the co-chair of Miami’s College Republicans chapter. Guiding the organization through the crazy 2016 election season will be quite the challenge, I think. Actually, the RNC Convention this summer is taking place 20 minutes from my house. I’m looking forward to volunteering with the convention and being around the city during all the chaos.

I love reading biographies (specifically about our Founding Fathers) and historical nonfiction about America and influential people.

I’m so thrilled to spend the summer with Spark Freedom. I was looking for an internship where I would do more than follow someone around the office and make copies. I wanted a real, hands-on experience. The Spark Freedom staff has already entrusted me with completing big tasks. I’ve learned more in my few weeks of interning here than I have during an entire summer at other places.
When I’m not involved in politics, I enjoy being outside. I love hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, and sailing (although sailing on Lake Erie is not the same as sailing on the Chesapeake Bay, where I learned). I was a competitive figure skater in high school, but now I just skate for fun when I have time.

Lessons Learned from Mr. Clean: How to hold true to your voice in times of change

Launched in 1958, Mr. Clean maintained brand consistency in its TV commercials for most of the product’s life. This Spark Session looks into Mr. Clean’s Facebook personality, starting in 2014 and continuing through the present day, to find out what went wrong with its brand consistency. More importantly, we considered how to avoid making this mistake ourselves. Two things that must already be in place in order to maintain brand consistency:

  1. Clear accountability for oversight of brand consistency, supported by a team and a clear process.
  2. A short, clear articulation of the brand’s goal, target audience, copy strategy, and brand character, understood by everyone in your organization.

Full Webinar: YouTube

Slide deck: MrClean March 2016

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Show notes

Topics Covered:

  1. A review Mr. Clean’s brand character and brand story
  2. A review of Mr. Clean’s facebook personality at its highest – when it earned viral interactions – and why this worked.
  3. A look at the present-day Mr. Clean Facebook – and what it tells us.
  4. Lessons we can learn from Mr. Clean.

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Review Mr. Clean’s brand character and brand story

Successful marketing is not rocket science, it’s discipline. We encourage all clients to go through this process in marketing and communications: DEFINE>ALIGN>LAUNCH.

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Spark Freedom Process

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This means that all communications campaigns are built from the key decisions made in Step 1 of the process. One of our favorite tools is to develop a copy strategy that must be incorporated into every bit of clients’ work. Among other good things, this process maintains brand consistency. It’s especially helpful in cases when clients depend on several content providers and vendors. Today, I’d articulate Mr. Clean’s copy strategy like this: “We will persuade middle-class women between 20 and 45 that Mr. Clean makes tough jobs easy and can clean anything in your home.” To be successful on Facebook, you have to build your brand story from your copy strategy. In the case of Mr. Clean, this brand story is his story. For many of our client organizations, the brand story (or StoryArc, if you use the ArrowHead method) is usually the tale of the people you help. Here is an example of what Mr. Clean’s brand story might look like: Mr. Clean Profile Notice that his brand story supports the three most important elements of a quality brand story. It is emotional, differentiated, and credible. [md_blank_space height=”40px” class=”” id=””]

Looking back to when Mr. Clean’s Facebook personality was inviting viral interactions – and why this was good

The trick, as social media has increased in its ability to reach and persuade people, is to translate the brand story – in this case of Mr. Clean – to a new platform. And it seemed to be going very well for the Mr. Clean brand in 2014. Posts were made regularly, they were engaging, they supported the copy strategy. Mr. Clean’s page manager was great at tapping into current events and bringing the message back to the cleaner. Most importantly, the content was:

  1. Emotional
  2. Differentiated
  3. Credible

For a deeper analysis, watch our webinar here. [md_blank_space height=”40px” class=”” id=””]

A look at the present-day Mr. Clean Facebook – and what it tells us

Between February 2015 and March 2015, something changed with Mr. Clean’s Facebook presence. The sterile corporate shoe dropped. If I were to guess what happened, either the brand manager changed, the social media vendor or employee left, or, as part of P&G’s massive offloading of brands in 2015, accountability over the brand changed. Whatever the cause, the social nature of the Facebook outreach for Mr. Clean changed at its core. The brand story now focuses on the product’s credibility and not on the emotional connection with Mr. Clean’s cleaning power. His sense of humor is lost, and he is no longer tapping into current events. For a deeper analysis, watch our webinar here. [md_blank_space height=”40px” class=”” id=””]

Lessons we can learn from Mr. Clean

  1. A strong brand story and copy strategy can see you through the long haul – over 50 years!
  2. Each advertising or outreach medium requires a different approach to be successful, but the core brand story and copy strategy should never change, no matter the platform. The only thing that changes is how you package your copy strategy.
  3. Story has long been king in reaching people emotionally. As you build your organizational brand, consider what your story is. Determine how to frame your brand in terms of the value you bring to the people you help. 
  4. Staying true to your voice in times of change is easy if you know the two things that must be in place to develop your strong brand story: 1) clear accountability, and 2) clear articulation of the brand’s goal, target audience, and copy strategy.

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Warning signs that things are slipping

  • Employees or vendors complain that they do not understand what the organization does.
  • Products don’t launch in a timely manner.
  • Higher employee or vendor turnover.
  • The communications editorial calendar runs behind.
  • Significant drops in donations, or other means of support for your organization (event attendance, web traffic, etc.).

Not everyone has a large outreach or marketing budget to get their message out. But if you take the time to set up a clear copy strategy and clear accountability, you can expand your reach to your targets by being consistent, engaging them emotionally, and keeping your existing supporters loyal.

Full Webinar: YouTube

Slide deck: MrClean March 2016

Nicole Williams is President of Spark Freedom and a strategic marketing coach. Reach her at nicole@sparkfreedom.org with comments or if you are interested in setting up a coaching package for your organization.

Lasse’s Top 5 Takeaways From SXSW 2015

Another SXSW come and gone. Leaving Austin is always bittersweet, given how exciting it is to be around so many inspiring people and innovative ideas. I experienced a lot this year, and I could probably write endlessly about the things I saw and heard, but for brevity’s sake, here’s the cream of the crop – my Top 5 Takeaways from the 2015 South by Southwest Interactive Festival:

Great Sessions

The core of the SXSW Interactive experience is built around the panels, keynotes, workshops, and discussions you gain access to by buying a badge. These things can be very hit and miss, depending largely on the speaker, so it’s not uncommon for people to get up and leave mid-discussion if they aren’t getting the value they want out of it. There’s always something else to go see.

Evany Thomas at the Use Your Words session. Photo Credit

Evany Thomas at the Use Your Words session.
Photo Credit – @FashCommute

However, you always manage to find something worthwhile. The following are the sessions that kept me glued to my seat:

  1. Use Your Words: Optimizing Content For Growth – By far my favorite panel of SXSW 2015. Evany Thomas, brand writer and content strategist at Pinterest, was the best presenter I’ve seen and shared some insights about how small wording changes can result in huge growth. You can read more about it here.
  2. Advocates vs Agitators: the Social Influence – A panel that featured Chevrolet and Southwest Airline’s social media leads. They shared fascinating case studies about how they leveraged online conversation, positive and negative, to boost their brand.
  3. Bill Gurley and Malcolm Gladwell in Conversation – The author of The Tipping Point interviewed Silicon Valley venture capitalist, Bill Gurley. They covered everything from health care reform to the future of transportation.
  4. A Conversation with Senator Rand Paul – It was interesting to see Senator Paul approach the tech-oriented crowd at SXSW. Any time he mentioned the word “privacy,” which was often, he received thunderous applause.
  5. Society Is One Big Cult: The Science of Movements – A Manhattan marketer discussed how cults form using psychological manipulation and how those tricks translate over into societal movements. Bonus points for creative use of Stairway to Heaven as an illustration.

Amazing New Products

This year’s SXSW gave me my best show floor experience yet, which I owe in part to my coworker, Sarah. My usual convention show floor practice is to cover the entire area looking for things that interest me, then go back later and visit those booths. Sarah’s much more methodical, and stops at many booths to engage with the vendors, even if the product isn’t interesting at first. We discovered many new products, ideas, and tools thanks to her thirst for what’s new and exciting.

Here are the standouts from the show floor:

Roost – Push Notifications for your web browser

GigSalad – Need entertainment for an event? GigSalad connects you with high-quality, local talent

iqMedia – One of the most advanced digital listening tools I’ve ever seen

LinkReader – Taking QR codes where they should have been years ago


One of the best parts about SXSW is meeting new people at any of the numerous sessions, parties, meetups, booths, or Starbucks lines scattered throughout downtown Austin.

Shoutouts to a few of the awesome people I met this year:

Caleigh Ripp, Illinois Policy Institute
Jen Knoedl, JenKnoedl.com
Trina Garnett, IMP Media
Caroline Henley, Falcon Social
Joey Esquibel, GigSalad 


Any time you work in a specific industry, or a specific role within a company,  it can be easy to get tunnel vision on techniques, attitude, and methods. This year was refreshing and inspirational for me because it got me out of the bubble that I operate in day-to-day and encouraged me to look at our business, client relationships, services, and approach in new ways. There’s no one thing I can point to that caused that; rather it was the combination of panels, discussions over dinner, shared experiences at parties, and new relationships that forced me to think differently and decide to create new habits when I got home.


As usual, Austin food is amazing. Here’s what you have to check out the next time you are in town:

Gourdoughs – the single best doughnut, and possibly dessert, you will ever eat in your lifetime

Jackalope – Amazing burgers and beer, although our service was…interesting

Piranha – Great sushi located right next to the convention center


You can review our SXSW 2015 journey by heading over to www.sparkfreedom.org/sxsw_2015. Also, share your favorite moments with us by using the #SparkAtSXSW hashtag. You might like these SXSW posts as well:

Saturday at SXSW – Tech Ethics, Word Optimization, and Data Stories

When you’ve seen one man in a gold lamé jumpsuit…


Saturday at SXSW – Tech Ethics, Word Optimization, and Data Stories

What draws people to SXSW is the insane volume of interesting things to see, experience, and eat. There are lounges, booths, tech demos, and of course, sessions. The challenge comes when a session’s popularity is underrated and more people than can fit into a ballroom attempt to get in. I originally tried to attend Netflix Shares a Decade of A/B Test Learning and Designers and Content Creators: Make Love Not War, but both sessions were packed long before I showed up. I tried to wait it out and see if some spots would open up, but eventually gave up and went with Option C: Digital Shift: Tomorrow’s Relationships and Ideals.

Photo Mar 14, 9 45 15 AM (1)

Daniel Bluzer-Fry and Kristy Richards

Digital Shift: Tomorrow’s Relationships and Ideals

Daniel Bluzer-Fry and Kristy Richards of Australian-based The Lab Strategy shared their thoughts and feelings on how humans are reacting to a more technology-driven world. They made three observations:

  1. We are always connected,
  2. We’re separating ourselves from the physical world, and
  3. We can shape ourselves how we see fit in this digital world.

They urged caution as we advance forward, suggesting that technology may cause us to lose something even as we gain (heady stuff like “Will the democratization of creativity truly make us happier or will we stand to lose something by devaluing imperfection?“). They advocated for guardrails to be put in place to help guide the future development of technology. In a surprising twist, they claimed that governments are ill equipped to deal with the regulation of such fast-paced evolution and that the onus is on the companies themselves to establish those guidelines. All in all, it was a fairly nebulous topic lacking a clear outcome of what brands or organizations should do.

Use Your Words: Optimizing Content for Growth

My second session was much more on-point and struck a great balance between clear structure, case studies, and overall presentation. It was also one that our community voted on, so big kudos to all of you for picking a winner! That session featured Evany Thomas, brand writer at Pinterest. When she wasn’t chucking Blow Pops at the audience, she shared some key insights into how finding the right words helped her team at Pinterest blow up their signups and get the brand out.

How They Measure Growth

Evany shared the metrics Pinterest’s uses to measure their growth. They were deceptively straight-forward.

  1. Sign ups – who completes the log in process
  2. Retention – who continues to log in and share content
  3. Affection and appreciation – this was much more of an intangible. The company actually collects physical snail mail fan letters and hangs them on a special wall in their office.

How to optimize your words:

Four steps to using words to optimize your organization/campaign for growth.

  1. Name Your Thing – Make it Recognizable, Legal, Internationizable, and Meaningful
  2. Describe It Well –  Just as important as how you name your company, product, or campaign is how you describe it when people ask to learn more. Case in point, which is more recognizable?

    “The Happiest Place on Earth” (hint: Mouse Ears)


    How Alexander Graham Bell described the telephone.

  3. Get People Inside – Once people have been introduced to your idea, you can begin to optimize how they interact with it. Pinterest went through numerous iterations before landing on a final design.
    These were the calls to action that the team tested before landing on the final:

    “Sign up with Facebook”
    “Join with Facebook” – did 40% worse than “Sign up”
    “Join Pinterest w/ Facebook” – did worse
    “Continue” – 29% better
    “Come on in!” – 48% better
    “Continue with Facebook” – 57% better, 19% more signups

    Pinterest’s final version of their Facebook sign up button.

    When they moved this design over to mobile web, it resulted in 811% more signups

  4. Show Them Around – Even the best designed products can use a little explaining. Don’t hesitate to revisit the topic and give your audience a helping hand.

“A great name can’t fix a bad product. A great product can fix a bad name.” – Paola Norambuena

The Art and Science of Data-Driven Storytelling

My last session of the day was The Art and Science of Data-Driven Storytelling, another choice of our web voters. The focus of this discussion ended up being much more journalism-oriented than I expected, but I came away with some impressive tools that nonprofit can use to great advantage.

Politicos will remember the presenter, Ben Casselman, who works at the Nate Silver-backed data journalism organization 538, as the popular data-analyst who made his mark during the past two Presidential elections. The conversation focused mostly on how 538 finds, scrubs, and interprets data, and then writes about the stories that the data describes. Ben shared a few tools that he finds useful:

Finding Data: FOIA requests, census data, economic releases. There is also a ton of publicly-available data available at Data.gov.

Organizing Data:
Google Refine
Microsoft Excel

Finally, check out the IBM Watson – Personality Insights Demonstration. Just copy/paste in the most recent State of the Union speech and look at the results. You’ll get back some very interesting insights.

That was a wrap for my Saturday at SXSW. I also got eat some great food and meet some awesome people, but hey, that’s Austin. Check back again soon for the recap of Sunday’s SXSW activities.

Join Us for Twitter Analytics: October’s Spark Session

Have you heard about tomorrow’s webinar?

If  you use Twitter, you should definitely plan on joining us.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

1) Twitter Analytics Dashboard Walkthrough
2) Demographics Overview
3) Twitter Card Creation and What It Means
4) Twitter Ads – Ad Creation and Measurement

Determining your impact can be confusing. Let us help you learn how to use Twitter Analytics, how to interpret the data, and how you can make content decisions based on your analysis.

When: Wednesday, October 15
Time: 1 PM EST
Where: On our Spark Session page


Register to attend here.

Use Verbs to Increase Engagement


“When the weather is nice you should get out and hike the great outdoors.”


“Hike the great outdoors.”

Which one is the most effective? Sentences that start with verbs are more convincing and promote an action from your readers. With verbs, it is clear what you want your readers to do! In fact, verbs are the part of speech that generate the most shares on Twitter.

Give this a shot on social media and see what happens to your engagement and click throughs.

Connect With Your Target

Capture your target audience’s attention by articulating your ideas clearly and concisely. Avoid dreaded technical terms and use words like “review,” “why,” and “advice” instead.

You can start by writing down everything you think needs to be included the copy. Then remove words that don’t directly contribute to your core message.

Creating Shareable Content

Jonah Berger, author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On, identifies six keys (or STEPPS).

Social Currency: People share things that make them look good to others.
Triggers: The stimuli that prompt people to think about your product or campaign.
Emotion: People are more likely to share things that are emotionally arousing (with positive emotions being more viral than negative ones).
Public: People are more likely to participate if their participation can be readily made public (such as “I Voted” stickers and wrist bands for causes).
Practical Value: People are more likely to share practical pieces of information, so they can help their friends and families.
Stories: People are programmed to recognize, respond to and share compelling stories.

How will you use this to motivate your audience to share your content?