Category Archives: Blogging

Meet Christopher Jennings!

Christopher Jennings

Every once in awhile, we like to shake it up at Alter Endeavors and spotlight one of our incredible people and their accomplishments. It’s past time for us to brag on Christopher Jennings.

Christopher Jennings aka “Topher,” the Director of Website Operations at Alter Endeavors, just got back from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) National Conference in Los Angeles. That’s right, besides running the most complicated department at Alter Endeavors, Christopher S. Jennings is a man of many talents.

Christopher has worked at AE for a little over 3 years now and was our very first hire after Nick and Jamie (the owners). So, it should go without saying that Christopher means a lot to us —he’s like family. Not only does he head up the department of Web Operations at AE, but he’s also an illustrator and author for children’s publications. Like we said earlier, superbly talented.

Topher has illustrated dozens of published works for children (and he has even written a few of them too). Though he’s obviously extremely talented, he’s also incredibly versatile. He’s worked in publishing, gaming, editorial, advertising, entertainment, animation, commercial, apparel, apps and even drawn greeting cards for American Greetings. (Phew. What a list!)

It’s Topher’s focus on children’s books, and why they are important to him, that makes him extra incredible in our humble opinion. As a kid, reading didn’t come easy. His mother read him picture books to ease him into it. Picture books allowed him to learn to read while making sure not to discourage or dissuade him in the arduous process of learning how letters formed words. Huge props to Christopher’s mother, who says she still has Green Eggs and Ham memorized from all of those repeated readings. Although picture books helped Christopher read, their visuals also fostered Christopher’s love for the fun (but important) things, the light-hearted things, and how to visually interpret those things.

Christopher is the author of Hello, Texas! as well as the author and illustrator of the picture book Animal Band, both published by Sterling Publishing. He has drawn for published works for such companies as Penguin Group Books, Scholastic and Stone Arch Books (to name a few.) Christopher was chosen as the featured illustrator for SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) in September 2015. That year he was selected from volunteers around the country and given a grant—SCBWI flew Christopher up to New York, all expenses paid, for the annual conference. In October of 2016 Christopher took the reins as illustrator coordinator for the Austin chapter.

When asked what his favorite part of the creative process is, Christopher replied that “he loves the revision process.” Not only does this make him an exceptionally talented artist, this is why Alter Endeavors has built so many impressive websites over the past few years for some really important folks. What’s more, people love working with Christopher. He is kind, patient, understanding, experienced, and forward-thinking.

Not many super creative folks are able to be even half as organized and focused as Christopher, which has a lot to do with why he was made animation lead for the film A Scanner Darkly and why so many folks choose to work with Alter Endeavors. We are proud and thankful to have Topher as part of the Alter Endeavors core family. If you want to check out his awesome work, click here.

 

4 Tips for Recent College Grads

In March I submitted my resume to Alter Endeavors.  As a senior business major with a focus in marketing, I was looking for an entry level job in those fields. After the long process of applying for jobs and going to interviews, I accepted the Social Media Intern position here at Alter Endeavors.
Trust me, I know those last months before graduation can start to get stressful if you haven’t found a job, a place to live, etc. It can be terrifying not knowing what’s on the horizon, what to expect in interviews or where you’ll be living a year from now. We spend the first 20 years or so of our lives in a structured school system and then suddenly we are adults with jobs.
In my last few months before graduation and my first few months after, I’ve learned a few things I wish someone would’ve told me.

 

Here are 4 tips for recent college grads:

1. Ask questions

Throughout the interview process, it can be tricky learning about a company or the potential job you’re applying for. While it is important to learn as much about the company and their culture before your interview, sometimes you might not be able to find the answers to your questions on their website. This is where you need to be sure to speak up and not be afraid to ask questions. If you are well-prepared and knowledgeable about the company, they will be impressed with your questions. A company wants to see your interest in them as well as your drive to learn more about the company. Not only will you go home with a better idea of the job you are applying for, the interviewer will see you take initiative in learning about them and appreciate the effort you put into the process.

2. Be yourself

It can be hard going into an interview and feeling like you need to talk yourself up as much as possible. To a certain degree, you need to promote yourself, but don’t create a whole new persona. While commenting on your accomplishments is important and necessary in the interview process, it is also important that you get to know the company culture as well as the potential employer. At the end of the day, if you tell the interviewer you’re relaxed because their company is relaxed, but you prefer a well-structured day, then you’ll end up getting frustrated with your company. You need to find a company that fits best with you and vice versa, or someone will end up being unhappy with the relationship. So, be honest with yourself and your interviewer, and you will be more likely to find a great match for you.

3. Never stop learning

I know some of you don’t want to hear this. You’re thinking, “Are you serious? I just got out of school, I thought I was done!” But, constantly learning and looking for new information and ideas is important. For my job as a Social Media Intern at Alter Endeavors, keeping up with new practices and trends can make or break your success in marketing for a company. Online marketing is still relatively new, and it changes day by day. My boss is always sending us articles about new trends and the best social media strategies and practices so that we can stay on top of what is going on in the industry and change with it. Adapting to your industry is necessary, and the companies unwilling to do this tend to die out with the old practices.

4. Don’t be afraid to change

Lastly, we all know change can be hard. You get comfortable, and the idea of changing can be daunting. It may seem like too much work or too far out of your box, but sometimes that’s how the best ideas are thought of or created.  Working for a small company, I have learned that being able to adjust and wear many different hats is a necessity. While larger companies may have you specialize in one area, being open to change and being adaptable can benefit you when they may be trying to fill a more senior position. Over my years of playing soccer, I had multiple coaches tell me that for them, the best player isn’t the one with the most skill but the one who is coachable and willing to try new things. This ability to be innovative and unafraid of change can be the difference in your company’s long-term success.

If you work hard, ask questions, be yourself, keep learning, and adapt you’ll be okay.  Keep these tips in mind, save yourself the trouble of applying for jobs that aren’t a good fit for you and make a good impression on the jobs that are. For us recent college grads, after-college life can seem intimidating, but we’re more ready than we know.

Site Case Study: Steve H. Lawton

Steve H. Lawton

While all of our clients are different, it’s not every day that you encounter a person like Steve H. Lawton. An executive at Dell, Steve had a snow skiing accident that nearly ended his life. He came out of that experience with a powerful perspective on living. His was a site we knew we had to build.

A SPECIFIC PERSONALITY

Alter Endeavors builds our sites to engage the visitor. Conversions and usability are at the top of our list. After that, however, the site is about the person or business; who they are and how they want to be perceived.

Steve was starting his branding from scratch. Aside from the cover for his book, the Steve H. Lawton brand had no look. Part of our process is having the designer interview our clients. We do this so the designer understands the vision and personality behind the site. As Steve and his designer—also Steve, funnily enough—talked, it was clear this site was going to be special. It was going to be capital-b Big on personality.

THE MAN. THE MESSAGE. THE SITE.

When we began our engagement, Steve’s book Head First: A Crash Course in Positivity was being finalized and on its way to the printer. With that in mind, it was important to identify the purpose of the site. Does it begin and end with the book? Or is the site about Steve H. Lawton beyond the book?

Steve wanted a platform to continue to share his message. His blog is front and center. Prominent newsletter signup forms and calls to action ensure those who want to hear from him can easily sign up to do so. An RSS feed signup is also offered.

Steve needed a stage for his speaking efforts. Steve’s speaking page is a study in how to do it right. Testimonies and client logos build credibility. Potential clients can see the topics he speaks on, and watch Steve in action in his videos. Steve’s bio and print-ready photos are there to be downloaded and included in programs and on event sites.

While the site is a solid platform for the book, it has a life after; accommodating all of Steve’s efforts and his mission moving forward.

A QUIZ THAT PROMPTS

The message of positivity carries an introspective aspect. To foster that interaction, we worked with Steve to put together a quiz that engages his visitors. The results of the quiz get them thinking about positivity in their lives, furthering the impetus to buy his book. (They can also sign up for his mailing list when they take the quiz; or not, it’s up to them.)

A SITE THAT BELONGS TO STEVE

Building Steve’s site was not only a pleasure—he’s great to work with, we were sad to see him go—but also fed into Alter Endeavor’s mission of making this world a better place. Another one of our values is constructing sites that are unique in the marketplace. There’s no one like Steve. There’s no site quite like his either. (Just try and get that from one of those cookie-cutter templates we all see the ads for.*)

*Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

10 Tools Every Social Media Manager Needs

social media manager

As a Social Media Manager, I spend a lot of time online. While I do consider myself an early adopter of technology, I also believe in simplicity. If I were to investigate every possible Chrome extension or iPhone app that promised streamlined content creation or increased productivity… I’d never get any actual work done. I’m sharing some of the tools that I use to create content for my clients and make my life easier. If you’ve discovered something better, feel free to comment what it is and why it should be on my radar.


4 Websites Every Social Media Manager Needs

Canva allows me to feel like a graphic designer, without having to pay for a program or get too involved. Canva is my go-to for creating graphics for Facebook posts or new banner images for whatever platform(s) the client is on. The custom dimensions also come in handy specifically for Facebook ads. I’m able to use custom colors codes so that everything matches branding-wise. It’s straightforward, but not too basic.

Once you choose a social media management dashboard, you go all in. Every option has its perks and its pitfalls, but linking all of your accounts is a sign of commitment. Hootesuite has been around long enough to make adjustments in response to user feedback and tries to stay current with our needs as social media managers. While I could imagine some sort of calendar for content planning, our old-fashioned Google sheet does the trick and happens to be free.

As a digital marketing agency, we use Basecamp 3 to communicate the current status of projects or needs of our clients across departments. As for the social media management department, we create a Trello board for each of our clients and then create “lists” with “cards” to refer back to for blog or post ideas. Once the blog is written or the link posted, the card is archived. Simple, neat, and free.

Unfortunately, there are people out there who click on your social media links without liking the post, or worse, like the post without clicking the link. Bitly allows you to track how many people actually clicked your link, and when. This a more accurate report of how many people are engaging with your content and what time of day is best to post.

3 Chrome Extensions Every Social Media Manager Needs

Check your grammar in a way “Spell Check” never could. This is especially helpful when drafting blog posts because it catches any potential errors within WordPress. The downside is that it doesn’t function within Hootesuite, so be sure to give those drafts a thrice over before publishing.

If you’re still saving from a website within Pinterest, you’re doing it wrong. The extension speeds up the process of creating pins for new products or blog posts. Bonus tip, make sure you have the Pinterest pixel installed on your client’s website to track what content is most often being pinned.

This is a request rather than a tip. Evernote is a program I’ve downloaded and extension I’ve installed, but I have yet to utilize. Is it worth incorporating? What does it bring to the table? I need solutions, not more issues!

3 iPhone Apps Every Social Media Manager Needs

A photo editing app that makes you feel like a photographer rather than a social media manager— at least on Instagram. I have my designated packs for each client and I apply whichever filter that keeps the overall photo feed aesthetically pleasing and consistent. I can also copy the filter changes from one photo to another, rather than having to repeat the process of increasing brightness, etc. 

If you’ve ever wondered how Instagram accounts splice one image into several, this is the tool. Besides that, Planoly allows you to visualize what your Instagram feed will look like before posting the photo. Once you upload possible contenders, you can then move them around and schedule within the app once your order is decided upon. When the scheduled time arrives, it prompts you to open the app and copy over your caption, much like Hootesuite does for scheduled Instagram posts.

No, I don’t create client’s Facebook ads through the app. I’m the type of person that needs to sit down and see the ad on a computer screen before submitting. However, I have found that the app comes in handy when I’m on the go and need a reminder as to when the ad campaign ends or how much of the budget we’ve spent so far. I also like that it pushes a notification to my phone every morning with a summary of what was spent from our ad account the day before.


In this industry, it is a never-ending task to stay on the forefront of change. Some tools simplify the content creation and management process, but some are too costly for what they offer or have yet to work out the kinks. What tools could you not imagine your business without?

How Often Should You Blog?

How Often Should You Blog?

Content creators know the importance of consistently blogging, but how often should you blog? We strive to establish a routine in order to establish a relationship with our readers. Blogging in particular can be a tricky outlet to navigate. We know online users prefer high-quality photos and informative links; which can and should be a part of a well-rounded blog post. We also know that with an infinite number of platforms vying for a readers attention, 500+ word pieces are rarely read in full.

When brainstorming posts for Alter Endeavors, our aim is to offer relevant industry information. We are appealing to professionals who are looking to increase their knowledge on the subject of digital marketing and making them aware of our expertise in the industry. However, we’ve always been fans of incorporating some personality here and there. You can easily find the information you’re looking for in case studies full of bullet points and infographics, which while effective, lack the human touch.

There’s a particular balance required when using blogging as a marketing tool. From a SEO (search engine optimization) standpoint, blogging brings increased traffic to your website and new leads to your attention. In an article about “How Often Should You Blog” by HubSpot, the results were unsurprising. The more you post a month, the bigger the impact on traffic and leads.

Unfortunately, there aren’t statistics to show how much the industry professional retained about the subject matter or what the potential customer learned about your brand. Interestingly enough, HubSpot also had an article that addressed the quality versus quantity debate. They essentially used their own site as an experiment by increasing frequency and categorizing the types of posts they would typically post. The takeaway was this: high volume/low comprehensive posts (not as technical) increased new leads and overall hits, but also came with email readers hitting unsubscribe. At the end of the day, there is only so much content our readers can consume. Whereas the low volume/high comprehensive approach showed significantly lower traffic and insinuated the readers wanted more. HubSpot determined that for them, their benchmark period (the posting schedule they adhered to before the experiment) was best for them. While a high volume/low comprehensive approach did increase leads slightly, it didn’t justify the level of work being put in by the staff.

The brilliant thing about blogging is that we have the ability to make old posts new again, especially if we write about subjects without an expiration date. The line of thinking we use for our clients is simple—consistent and engaging. We determine the frequency that would be most effective and subject matter that is most relevant. According to our SEO strategist, Steve Joiner of Searchography, 300 words is the suggested minimum, but 500 or so words is better. Our blog writers then do the necessary research to include relevant keywords, but work to ensure that the brand’s voice is not lost in the process. Once the piece is presented to the client, he or she either approves or returns for any necessary edits. Once finalized, the SEO process begins. If the post has a clear subject and a convincing call to action, then it is easily optimized.

A blog post by Business 2 Community provided key suggestions to help you stay consistent on the blogging front:

  • Make note of all of your ideas <—When inspiration hits, make sure to make a record of it.
  • Every post doesn’t have to come in the K-size <— Get out of the 2,000 words or bust mindset. A 500 word post can be just as valuable to the reader.
  • Write, write write <— Practice makes perfect applies to practically everything in life. The only way to get out of a rut…is to just write!

The perfect balance is found when your reader knows when to expect content and also learns something about the industry, brand or product. Periodically analyzing your blogging schedule and content will ensure you, and your audience are getting the most out of your posts.