Author: michellepizzo

Digital content marketing and creative consulting including the launch of a new brand, product offering and 70+ page website Job Role: Content Marketing Consultant Industry: B2B SaaS for Sales, Marketing and Customer Service Teams Served since 2020 New Brand Launch Support Including Website Content Development, […]



End-to-end content marketing for an award-winning B2B data provider. Job Role: Director of Content Marketing Industry: AI / Data Science Led Since: 2019 At EverString, I’m grateful to have the opportunity to lead the strategic vision and hands-on implementation of all company content, messaging, communications, […]

City of San Mateo

City of San Mateo

Long-standing audience engagement strategy, implementation, & campaign optimization

Job Role: Marketing Contractor

Industry: Local Government

Served since 2015

Brand Management & Strategy

Serving a local government such as the City of San Mateo, it was important to ensure their branding stayed consistent across all online and print assets.

Leveraging a recently re-designed website, we replicated that branding throughout various materials, such as email headers, flyers, and banners.

The following is a snapshot of their pre-existing City Hall website, which we did not design, but used as a style guide for future materials.

NOTE: I did not design this website. I used it to inform the design of future marketing materials and assets.

Working alongside a graphic designer and with copy provided by City Hall, we created the following assets. Each campaign had unique objectives, but still remaining true to the overall brand for the City of San Mateo.

Examples of various marketing materials, branded cohesively, including a community-wide e-newsletter header image.

Social Media Community Engagement & Management

Social media was the first area we had the opportunity to engage with at San Mateo City Hall. It was a really fun project to take on, because they started with a considerably small audience and little engagement.

Through various enhancements, we reinvigorated their social profiles & were able to increase their organic likes by 5x year-over-year!

The new engagement strategy included:

  • Creating a schedule of posts
  • Collaborating across City Departments & Teams
  • On-brand, high quality photos & videos
  • Engaging themed posts, such as trivia, local history, holidays, etc.
  • Optimized Hashtag strategy
  • Better Mentions
  • Increased use of emojis and colloquial language

We garnered considerable, new attention and were able to create lasting engagement with a variety of audiences, including: constituents, neighboring city officials, local businesses.

Examples of social media posts and prominent mentions generated.

We also worked internally with City Hall Department Leaders to build consensus around strategy. We then rolled out new training resources and created a system to gather, edit, approve and publish exciting new content and vital updates to the San Mateo community.

Community Engagement & Copywriting

Throughout all the projects over the years of serving The City of San Mateo, copywriting and copyediting have become a consistent factor. Special care must be given to ensure content is accurate, appropriate, and accessible.

Regardless of communications channel, engaging with the community was a top priority. Through monitoring comments, shares and direct messages, we are responding with thoughtful, accurate information and creating a connection with the audience.

In order to build this trusting relationship with a city government’s social profile, it was vital to convey a human tone, and avoid an overly promotional nature. This is applicable across all materials, from official flyers, to social media posts and the responses to comments, questions or critiques.

Post for #NationalPetLoversDay that garnered considerable engagement

Through consistent monitoring and responding, all incoming comments and messages received prompt response with friendly follow up as needed, leveraging relationships with City Officials to gather the accurate answers, depending on the request.

In the PetLovers post from above, since we were asking commenters to “give up” an asset (the picture of their own pet), we felt our responses back needed to match that level of commitment. Therefore, instead of just “Liking” each comment (which is what will happen if a comment required lighter lifting), each commenter received a personal, human-sounding comment back, usually gushing about their adorable animal.

High-quality engagement generated between our brand and the audience.

Need some help?

Contact me here! I’m currently available for freelance, contract, part-time or full-time positions.

Clickbait Culture

Clickbait Culture

In a few short years, digital content standards have shifted dramatically. I recall back in the early 2000s, things were just starting to turn. At that time, there was still the expectation that most articles be fairly well-sourced, and thoroughly edited. But that swiftly changed. […]

What’s In A Logo?

What’s In A Logo?

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FOMO And The Modern Screenager

FOMO And The Modern Screenager

In 2019, it’s expected that Millennials will outnumber Baby Boomers, which means they are quickly becoming the most powerful consumer group around (Pew Research). Millennials also represent one of the most challenging consumer groups to understand, not least of which is their suseptability to FOMO: Fear of Missing Out.

As Marketers, it’s our duty to comprehensively understand any audience we target. When we do this right, we also learn about their most intimate needs, wants, hopes and fears.

A consistent fear for most Millennials is the fear of missing out (“FOMO”): A pervasive concern that others are having a positive experience or benefit without them.

Understanding the Generations

Before we jump down the FOMO rabbit hole… First, let’s cover some definitions. I have always struggled to remember all the different generation names, let alone the date ranges for each (I mean… who can, right?)

So I did what any of us do when we wonder something… I Googled it.

Here’s a great table from Career which defines each generation by name, and includes the respective age ranges (especially helpful when considering your buyer persona).

When comparing generations, we can see some stark contrasts… Especially with Millennials, who had a bulk of their childhood years take place before the Internet became mainstream.

They recall a life before technology ruled everything, yet they also came-of-age with smartphones and social media like second nature. Growing up in this unique instance in history, technology became a deeply engrained habit, with most Millennials feeling more comfortable with technology than without.

For more on the subject of human nature, and how it relates to Marketing, read my blog post about habit-formation.

Personal Brand Identities

Social media is a personal branding platform. These days, we often have multiple online profiles, and the combination of them all basically personifies us in “www” form. When we post positive things about ourselves, it feels good and we receive a feedback loop in the form of likes and comments from the people we care about most.

Then, of course there’s the concept of bragging rights. Millennials generally place a huge amount of value on events and memories, with notably less interest on physical items.

Socializing is often a high priority in a Millennial’s life. The photos and videos produced during these social encounters, becomes like currency, boosting their own online reputation and potentially triggering FOMO in others.

Instead of homeownership or fancy belongings, Millennials consider the social currency of the day (the thing that shows others how well you’re doing) is a memorable experience that, once posted, will garner a boatload of likes.

When viewing someone’s “highlight reels” online, it is common to draw comparisons to your own life. Most people avoid showing their low points. The constant barrage of braggadocious posts becomes overwhelming. Millennials are prime targets for feeling overwhelmed at being left out.

FOMO: Fear of Missing Out

We have all felt excluded, at one time or another. That is definitely NOT something unique to any generation. The important difference is one’s ability to recover from that feeling, and not let it consume their life.

Millennial’s are especially at risk of FOMO, having grown up with the since-failed parenting experiment deemed ‘Participation Trophies’. This approach suggested that all children should be rewarded, regardless of performance.

When kids grow up hearing constant praise independent of actual skill, this lowers the perceived standard of required effort. Doing so significantly disrupts the development of self-motivation. They don’t hone that internal desire to strive, and have trouble finding joy in working hard to achieve something.

Benjamin Sledge posted a great Medium article on the subject of Participation Trophies. He describes how the falsified feedback loop creates a dangerous combination of a “subconscious sense of entitlement” plus disruption in the development of resilience.

Rise of Short-Term Content

In terms of social media trends, we’re seeing a distinct rise in the popularity of temporary content (material that disappears after a certain expiration date/time). This Must-Act-Now approach creates a sense of urgency, and taps into the all-to-common FOMO (fear of missing out).

Instagram Stories and other limited content creates urgency and drives engagement.
Photo Source:

Instagram Stories are quickly becoming the most consumed content type on the platform (whether this is because of the internal algorithms, or just the inherent nature of what users want most, that’s still up for debate). This ephemeral style of storytelling is what some platforms, like Snapchat, are built on.

This method keeps users coming back for more. Habits become more deeply engrained with each additional view. Then of course, those habits are continuously reenforced in a viscous cycle.

For more on this subject, check out my other blog post: Humans are Hardwired to Form Habits

Marketing to Millennials

As mentioned in AdWeek’s recently published 5 Ways Marketers Can Successfully Leverage FOMO Amongst Millennials, there are some clear methods for tapping into this primal fear:

Popularity Rules

Displaying metrics, such as Likes, Views, and Comments creates a sense of popularity, and will entice others to join the conversation or purchase the same product. does a great job highlighting the popularity of their offerings, across various online assets:

Hotels-com-FOMO-Marketing-Examples does a great job showcasing demand in several places.

VIP Access

Special products, offers or time limits also creates a sense of exclusivity that will drive any FOMO’er to the shopping cart. But marketing teams should take caution, since being overly promotional can turn off a social media audience (And the more comfortable with technology, the more keen your bull**** meter).

Me First

We have a natural human tendency to want to win. When peers feel competitive, they are drawn to take action, especially when the achievement is associated with social status.

Keeping Up With Everyone

We all want to share our highlight reels, and we all want to feel included. Trends like the Ice Bucket Challenge, and #NoMakeUpSelfie capitalize on this social pressure, to garner new user generated content.

The #NoMakeupSelfie trend generated over 400,000 posts of user generated content on Instagram.

Micromoments Matter

Making sure there are touch points throughout a user’s path, that catches their attention with FOMO-themed messaging, and encourages an activity in order to feel included.

Examples that can capture more leads include offer expiration dates, exit intent offers and in-screen popups at precise “micro-moments” when FOMO may be heightened.

Some great examples of FOMO marketing tactics in action.

Build Brand Connections

Regardless of the approach, if Millennials are part of your target audience, leveraging tactics that trigger FOMO can help drive the behavior you’re after and create lasting connections with your brand.

Do you recall feeling FOMO recently? If so, consider how that brand leveraged the above tactics to trigger it. Comment below to tell us about it!

Featured Image by Ben White on Unsplash

Maverick Jack’s

Maverick Jack’s

Comprehensive, hyper-localized marketing for a popular Bay Area restaurant chain Job Role: Marketing Consultant Industry: Restaurant Served: 2016 – 2018 The relationship started by designing menus for Jack’s Prime, the chain’s first area restaurant. When it came time for the owner to launch his new […]



Expert digital marketing strategic & implementation services Job Role: Marketing Consultant Industry: e-Court Software Development Served: 2014 – 2019 Website Strategy, Development, Design & Optimization When I first engaged with TurboCourt, they were challenged with multiple logos, overlapping websites, different brand names, and inconsistent messaging. […]

The Gaming Appeal

The Gaming Appeal

Recently, we started incorporating trivia questions into our client’s social media strategy, and the posts are performing consistently well, boosting our engagement metrics. As wife to a self-proclaimed ‘gamer’, it got me thinking about why gaming is so appealing?

The popularity of gaming is nothing new, but the IoT (Internet of Things) takes playtime to a whole new level. Gaming is all around us. Online gaming, video games and virtual reality consoles are providing us with more access and a better user experience than ever before.

Below we explore what drives the desire to play and how marketing can leverage the psychology of gaming to drive engagement.

Motivated to Play

Any behavior or activity we perform requires a certain level of motivation. From a psychological perspective, there are 3 components to human motivation, and gaming satisfies them ALL:

  1. Desire to achieve – the drive inside us to advance and accomplish objectives
  2. Social connections – the need to connect with others and relate
  3. Need for autonomy – the ability to create and customize your environment

Source: Gamer Psychology

It’s clear to see why so many of us are motivated to play games. Gaming can/does meet all of the 3 motivational factors within our human psyche.

From a marketing perspective, we must understand these motivational components, in order to see why gaming is so attractive and how to leverage it to better engage our audience.

Our Drive to Achieve

Let’s face it. We all like to win. It starts from an early age in childhood. The desire to be first in line at school, or to win the board game.

People like to feel knowledgeable and skilled. We find comfort knowing we have the necessary abilities to accomplish a given task.

We risk feeling inferior when we can’t overcome a particular challenge. This can lead to anxiety, anger and even fear. However, on the flip side, if a game or toy is too easy, this lack of challenge will inherently reduce human interest.


In gaming, contests or trivia, use finesse to find the right mix of difficulty and approachability, based on your target audience. A game that’s too difficult could create a negative brand experience. Too easy and it won’t spark the ‘achievement’ motivation factor.

We are naturally inclined to feel competitive, and gaming ignites that by always presenting a new challenge, a new opportunity to succeed.

We Are Social Beings

Study after study continues to prove that as humans, we are naturally social beings and happiness is directly connected to our social relationships. That’s not to say we don’t enjoy our alone time to varying degrees, but generally speaking happiness is driven by our feeling of connectedness with those around us.

Connection comes in many different forms. Introverts may feel social for short times, and then retreat back into a solitary state to reenergize. Extroverts often become energized by being around others, or experiencing a connection.

Gaming connects people in a number of ways from face-to-face (F2F, aka: IRL “in real life”) to chatting via headset with someone across the globe, controlling players on the same field. There are even competitions and tournaments with massive followings all over the world.

Then of course there are mobile apps and online games galore! It’s no wonder gaming has become pervasive in our daily life. It directly supports basic human needs we all have.

Concerns arise when we begin to replace tech-free interactions with these virtual ones. To address this, some game developers, such as Pokemon Go, are exploring ways to encourage F2F and physical activity by requiring players to work together and move throughout their community to win.

We Crave Autonomy

Along with… or perhaps in opposition to the connections we need, humans also crave autonomy, or according to Merriam Webster’s Dictionary, “the quality or state of being self-governing”.

Video gaming fulfills this need, by offering a wide array of customization and control features, powered by machine-learning. Players can control an increasingly vast number of factors in their gaming experience, ranging from design and styling, to strategy, decision-making and other advanced brain functions.

But we must consider: where does personalizing the experience go too far? And what are we sacrificing to have all that in-game control? (‘big data’ anyone?) And more personally… what is it doing to our brains in the process?

Virtual reality game developers are leveraging AI to enable more and more customization features. Players are able to mentally transport themselves into a completely different, sometimes 100% self-manufactured, world.

All of these choices and behaviors are being cataloged and leveraged in various ways, not least of which is being fed back into the system itself, for future software upgrades.

Taken to an extreme, such extreme customization options could borderline on escaping reality, but that’s a blog post for another day. 😉

What it means for Marketing Teams

Gaming has become a popular past-time that spans generations. Even Baby Boomers who didn’t grow up with technology like we have now, are feeling drawn to digital gaming in their retirement years. It’s a great way for brands to build connections with their audience.

Gaming boosts engagement

When people play games together, camaraderie and connections instantly form. This makes gaming a great opportunity for brands to develop lasting relationships and boost competitive advantage.

When done right, incorporating gaming into your marketing strategy can engage your audience in a deeper, more human way.

Quick ways to game-ify your marketing:

If your marketing budget restricts you from developing your own gaming app or feature, then consider these quick, easy ways to incorporate the playful approach:

  1. Trivia questions
  2. Pop quizzes
  3. ‘Share & win’ giveaways (or ‘Post & win’ <– great for getting UGC)
  4. History (#didyouknow factoids about your team, company, city…)
  5. Polls or surveys
  6. Leaderboard scores
  7. Caption contests
  8. Name our next hashtag
  9. “First 10 commenters get…”
  10. Fill in the blank:

Depending on your audience, hopefully these ideas help get your brainstorming juices flowin’. If others come to mind, comment below. I’d love to hear from you!

Food for thought: What games do you personally enjoy the most? And subsequently, how strong is your connection with that brand or platform?

Featured Image by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Tobias Mortgage

Tobias Mortgage

Collaborating with a local mortgage broker to update materials and optimize digital marketing efforts. Job Role: Digital Marketing Consultant Industry: Real Estate Served: 2015-2016 Website Strategy & Development Collaborating with the business owner and a graphic designer, I helped manage the new website strategy, design […]