The Struggles with Being “You” in Your Business

“There is nothing more beautiful than seeing a person being themselves. Imagine going through your day being unapologetically you.”  – Steve Maraboli.

 

Easy enough, right?

 

A while back I wrote about how to be more “you” in your business. Now that you’ve found a way, I imagine you might be finding an element of struggle with it. Being yourself in your business is not an easy task. There are roadblocks you are going to come up on and unpleasant discussions will creep up fast. Despite any bad there may be in being yourself, nothing can trump the feeling that comes with knowing who you are, knowing you are being genuine, honest and authentic in your business. There are four struggles I see with being “you’ in your business –

Struggle #1 – Will I be taken seriously?

This is something all business professionals deal with. Depending on the industry you work it, if you’re too rigid, then you’re a <expletive>. If you’re too fun or out-going, you’re seen as a flake. What you need to do is look at who you are. Don’t force yourself to be someone you’re not – you will only end up miserable. Do keep in mind your workplace – you want to be taken seriously, so you still need to conduct yourself in a professional manner, but you can do that and still be yourself by –

  • Being honest – don’t EVER lie.
  • Have fun, but still be serious and get the work done.
  • Respect those in authority positions. Don’t treat your boss like he’s your drinking buddy (even if he/she is after hours).

 

Struggle #2 – Will it be seen as “bad marketing” and hurt my brand?

There are some individual brands (think: celebrities) that attempt to “be themselves” to the point you can see right through the publicity stunt. Being yourself will only attract the ones you want to work with and deter the ones you don’t want. If you are genuine, people will see that and work with you because of it. Rarely is being yourself seen as “bad marketing.”

 

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”  – Bernard M. Baruch

 

To keep being yourself and not have it backfire or hurt you, keep these things in mind –

  • Be tactful.
  • Be conscious of who you are and what you represent. Don’t ever waver from your core beliefs.
  • Watch your language. You can still be yourself without using cliches and foul language.

 

My friend Brooke Ballard of B Squared Media wrote a great post about when being yourself could be seen as “bad marketing.” I suggest you check it out.

 

Struggle #3 – Will people find me offensive?

This is something I struggle with personally. There are things I want to say or discuss publicly, but I won’t because I know I’ll offend people. Petty, yes, but you do not want to alienate your community. You can still be yourself and interject your thoughts and beliefs without offending people.

 

A typical cop-out is when someone says “I don’t mean to offend, but…” Almost always an offensive sentence follows. Don’t post that. Ever. I’ll be honest – when you are yourself, you will offend someone. It’s going to happen, but how you react says a lot about you as well. Don’t apologize for standing up for your beliefs (whether it’s political, religious, parenting-related, etc.), just recognize that sometimes people just have to agree to disagree. I’m not going to touch on offending someone by posting slurs and other slanderous statements. There simply is no place for that online or really, anywhere.

 

“Never complain, never explain. Resist the temptation to defend yourself or make excuses.”  – Brian Tracy

Struggle #4 – How do I keep from crossing the line of “too much”?

We’ve all seen the celebrities and athletes who share pictures that probably shouldn’t be shared, in the name of personal branding. Being online, there’s a temptation to reveal all. You shouldn’t, not because of bad business, but because of personal safety. It’s risky putting yourself out there – however rely on your instincts when it comes to being yourself. You’ll know what feels right and what doesn’t.

 

To keep from crossing the line, do the following –

  • Ask yourself if the post helps to further your business.
  • Ask yourself if your grandma would be okay with it.
  • Sense what your gut is telling you – are you leery about posting it? If you feel the slightest off about it, don’t post it.

 

It’s tricky to be yourself in your business. I see it as walking a tightrope – you have to be open, yet guarded. Open-minded but not abandoning your beliefs. I think I’m doing a fairly good job at it, how about you? What do you struggle with in being yourself in your business?

Why You Need to be Vigilant About Social Media and Your Kids

Why You Need to be Vigilant About Social Media and Your Kids

What would you do if you knew your teenage son or daughter was sending nude photos of themselves to teens of the opposite sex? What if those photos were posted to Snapchat or Instagram?

 

If you’re like me, you would be absolutely furious and enraged.

 

But this is happening each and every day in small towns, large cities, public schools, private schools, and yes, even Christian schools.

 

You think you raise your children right, teaching them right from wrong, but once they get a smartphone and social media in their hands… well, sometimes what you teach them fades into the background in favor of acceptance and validation.

 

Four years ago I wrote an article about how withholding social media from your children does not make you a bad parent. I thought it was time to revisit the topic of children/teens and social media.

 

My oldest daughter is 13. She has Snapchat and Instagram. However, we set the passwords and she has to leave her phone available for us to check it spontaneously whenever we want. That was the deal. I can log in to her social accounts on my phone and see what’s going on. So far, so good.

 

However not all parents are vigilant like that. They give their kids smartphones and let them open social media accounts and never take a second look. Many of the girls in my daughter’s seventh grade class have ‘Finstas’. Not familiar with Finstas? They are fake Instagram accounts where they hide their identities and post horrible, derogatory things about their classmates – or posts that are inappropriate for their public-facing accounts. They are selective in who they let follow them because of what they post. And their parents have no clue.

 

Snapchat isn’t any better. I will say the majority of what they do is send daily streak snaps to keep days-long streaks going with their friends. Many of these are a blank screen with the word ‘streaks’. However, what gets sent via group snaps and individual snaps cannot be seen by the general public. That is where a lot of this takes place.

 

Why is all of this happening? Why are kids acting like wild college kids on social media? To put it simply – they have parents that are not checking behind them. They are not being held accountable to their actions. Parents want them to fit in so badly, that they let them do what they want on social media with no recourse.

 

Do they realize that some of things they post can get them suspended from school? Or hurt their chances of getting into college? Or even a job?

 

No.

 

Why is that? Parents are not educating themselves and their kids about the dangers of social media. My daughters are out of luck there. With a mom who owns a digital marketing company and a dad that is a Prosecuting Attorney for the state… let’s just say their every move is watched.

 

According an article from the New York Times last year titled The Secret Social Media Lives of Teenagers, “Even though 86 percent of teens say they’ve received general advice around online use from their parents, researchers at Common Sense Media found that 30 percent of teens who are online believe their parents know “a little” or “nothing” about what social media apps and sites they use. And yet, teens still say that their parents have the biggest influence on determining what is appropriate and inappropriate online.”

 

If parents would take the time to educate themselves on social media and the potential danger it can bring, most of what’s going on with children and teens on social media wouldn’t be happening. Parents are not being vigilant enough. These are our precious children and we should protect – and educate – them as long as we can.

 

Being vigilant may look like we are being nosy or being a helicopter parent, but if we are not monitoring their social actions, no one is. Here are five reasons you need to vigilant:

 

  1. You are protecting them from strangers and others who are out there to prey on our sons and daughters. Even with all the internet-nanny programs and account restrictions, that still wouldn’t stop a predator from seeking out your child. If you want to know if this really happens, I can let you talk to my husband. He’s prosecuted many cases over the years where the under-age victim was lured via social media. Just because that Instagram account says they are a 15 year-old from a high school in the next town over, it doesn’t mean they really are.

 

  1. You are protecting them from cyber-bullying. Being a teenager is hard enough without the technology, they don’t need the burden of the online bullying to hurt their still-building self-esteem. Our kids need to find their self-esteem and validation from their parents, their church, and healthy friendships. Not social media.

 

  1. They post content without thinking. Some of this content may hurt them (or haunt them) on down the road and/or hurt a friend’s feelings. Children and teens (and even some 20-somethings) are not mature enough to understand the long-term ramifications of posting hurtful content and inappropriate pictures.

 

  1. Social media can wait – it’s not going away anytime soon. Kids are only kids for so long. Let them be that. Let 9 year-olds ride around on bikes. Let 12 year-old boys play baseball or football. Encourage your kids to be active and social – without an electronic device. Remember back to when you were their age.

 

  1. Not using social media to communicate at this age allows them to be taught the proper way to carry a conversation with others. I know teens (and college kids) who could use a lesson in that. With a generation that is texting the person next to them instead of talking or Snapchatting pictures instead of enjoying an event, the lesson of how to hold a proper conversation is being lost. Not to mention their writing. I cannot count the number of times I have told my daughter that “k” or “ik” (that’s “okay” and “I know”) is never an acceptable way to respond to a text message from me or anyone else.

 

A study from Common Sense Media found teenagers (ages 13-18) use an average of nine hours of entertainment media per day and that tweens (ages 8-12) use an average of six hours a day, not including time spent using media for school or homework.

 

The world is a scarier place now than when we were all kids in the 70’s, 80’s, or even the early 90’s. The amount of information and the immediacy of communication at their fingertips is outright frightening.

 

But if we as parents are vigilant about our children and their technology – checking their text messages, checking their social accounts (that means logging in, not looking at what’s public), we can help our children navigate this and make it a more positive experience.

 

What are your thoughts/experience with this?

 

Is Now the Time to Rethink Facebook?

Is Now the Time to Rethink Facebook?

I probably shouldn’t confess this in public, much less put it in writing, but I hate Facebook. If I didn’t have my business, I wouldn’t be on it.

 

Why, when I built a business around it, you ask?

 

Despite the fact everyone is on it and businesses can benefit from that, Facebook is a place full of fake news, people portraying lives they do not live, ridiculous fluff posts, oversharing that goes beyond the boundaries of TMI (too much information)… I could go on.

 

Facebook is a wonderful tool for businesses to take advantage of to reach their target audience – that’s what I enjoy using it for. Helping businesses connect with people.

 

However I am starting to rethink the whole premise of that in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica breach. It’s all over the news, so I am not going to rehash all the details here, but in a nutshell, an analytics company got their hands on data from over 50 million Facebook users without their knowledge or permission and used it to influence the 2016 US election.

 

Your information. My information. Your mom’s information. Your child’s information (if they are on Facebook). And it was all exploited to create highly-targeted ads to serve certain purposes.

 

So let’s see, in the past two years Facebook has been overrun by fake news, Russian trolls have run millions of dollars of ads to allegedly influence politics, people were allowed to run ads that targeted racist groups, and now a massive data breach.

 

As a marketer, we naturally encourage Facebook because that’s where the people are. Is it time for us to rethink that? Is it time to take a hard look at the marketing strategies we are putting in place for not only our businesses, but for our clients, and use a strategy that does not involve Facebook?

 

Blasphemous, I know, but I think the day is coming where we will have to consider social marketing options that do not include Facebook. I’m already exploring other options with my own clients.

 

Facebook use is down for the first time ever. In my honest opinion, it’s about time. Social media addiction is real and Facebook is the culprit.

 

When working with businesses, Facebook is always the first platform we look at and go to. Why? It’s the biggest and it’s because it is where everyone is. And it’s where the most data is available to run highly-targeted ads. Why is that? Let’s think on that a minute.

 

Think about all the information you put on your profile.

All the pages you like.

All the meaningless quizzes you click on and take.

 

All of that collects data about you. And that data goes back to Facebook to allow us to create those targeted ads.

 

Scary on the personal side, amazing on the business side. That’s how I describe it.

 

In light of the data breach, can you really trust a company that allows that to happen? A company that’s so focused on making money it has a real internal struggle going on. Sandy Paralikas, a former Facebook employee who worked there enforcing privacy and other rules was quoted in the New York Times as saying, “The people whose job is to protect the user always are fighting an uphill battle against the people whose job it is to make money for the company.

 

Really? Making more money is more important than protecting information. Internally, Facebook is a hot mess. My friend and mentor Mark Schaefer had a great suggestion on how they can clean it up – go private. Everything that has ever gone wrong with Facebook all started when they went public and started having shareholders to answer to. As much as I do not like Facebook, I think this may be the right – and smart – move. They need to right the ship or they will sink, and sink fast and hard.

 

On Wednesday, March 21, 2018, Mark Zuckerberg finally responded to the data breach. You can read his statement below.

 

And then later that same night (March 21), Zuckerberg went on-air on CNN and apologized for the breach, saying, “”This was a major breach of trust, and I’m really sorry that this happened,” Zuckerberg said. “We have a basic responsibility to protect peoples’ data.”

 

Is his response too little too late? Or just another Facebook bandaid?

 

Personal feelings aside, I put the best interests of my clients first and if it’s in their best interest to market on Facebook, then that’s what we do. The day may be coming when everyone may have to branch out and away from Facebook and we need to be ready.

 

In the meantime, if you are not already diversifying your social media marketing strategy and using other platforms, this is the time to start. Look at where else your target audience is and start working on your presence there. You should never solely rely on one platform.

 

Will this data breach affect your Facebook activity or any strategy for your business?

 

If you want another great read on this topic, check out Mike Alton’s post on The Social Media Hat.

Adapt Your Social Media Marketing or Fail

Adapt Your Social Media Marketing or Fail

Social media marketing is changing.

 

The way you post, what you post, who you target – the who, what, when, wheres – it’s all changing. If you’re not adapting how you use social media to market your business, you’re going to fail. And fail bad.

 

In the past year, here’s what we’ve seen:

 

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg folks.

 

In the beginning – way back in the early 2000’s – you could just post whatever you wanted on social media and people would see. Much like the movie Field of Dreams, where the main character was told, “if you build it, he will come.” And he built it, and he came. Now that was dealing with a baseball diamond, the Black Sox, and a dad, but the theory is the same. You could post on social media and people would see it, and theoretically, come to your page/store/website. There was no algorithm dictating who saw what.

 

Fast forward to 2018 and the landscape is vastly different. Everything is methodical. Everything is done purposefully. There is a science and a psychology behind social media marketing – and it’s changing.

 

People do not want to see sales pitches. They want to see content that matters and relates to them.

 

People do not want to see fluff (think of all of those stupid videos and gag-tastic memes/quotes/graphics in your feed). They want to see meat – content with substance.

 

People do not want to have their time wasted by a business posting meaningless “Share this to win a $25 gift card!” posts and their feed cluttered by 25 friends sharing it – which, by the way, is AGAINST FACEBOOK RULES TO DO. People want to see authentic content.

 

What are you posting online? What’s on your Facebook page right now? Instagram? Twitter? LinkedIn?

 

Put yourself in your follower’s shoes. Are you posting something that would make you stop and read it, or just scroll on by. Think about that for awhile and think about that when you post next.

 

Social media marketing is going through an evolution right now. It came on the scene, people exploited it, everyone became an “expert” on using it as a marketing tool (when very few are legitimately versed in it), and now as the tide is changing, everything is being sifted out. The fluff content is getting penalized on Facebook. The fake experts are being called out. Social media marketing is changing.

 

But how?

 

It’s all coming back to the nuts and bolts of what I call marketing 101. Relationship-building. And it’s not a one-way street. You have to be active and respond to everyone. Let me type that again – you have to be active and respond to everyone.

 

People have said they want meaningful, accurate, authentic, and informative content. Adapt your content as such. Stop the fluff. Post the content that will draw them in, make them act. Reach out like the human being you are and build a relationship through social media with your community. Use social media as the communication tool, like the telephone.

 

People want more personalized experiences, especially in retail (read more about it here). Use social media to tailor the experience they have with you to them. Feature customers. Congratulate customers.

 

AT&T way back in the day had an advertising phrase – “Reach out and touch someone.” Apply that to your social media marketing. Reach out to your followers and touch them. Create an emotional connection that will turn them into life-long customers. It’s all about the relationship.

 

Social media marketing is going to be like Darwin’s theory of evolution – the strongest will survive and those who adapt with outlive the rest.

 

So how are you going to adapt?

How to Determine Success in Your Social Media Marketing Efforts

How to Determine Success in Your Social Media Marketing Efforts

I’m going start with a statement you may not agreement with – your success when using social media for your business is not always going to translate into dollars and cents.

 

Yes, your return on your social media marketing will not always be money.

 

Let that sink in. If you think you are going to make thousands of dollars for your business by using social media to market it, you are wrong. The chances are very high that you won’t make anything – in terms of dollars and cents.

 

What you determine your return for using social media to market your business is is determined by what you define your ultimate end goal as being when you write your social media strategy. Your social media strategy should include WHY you are using social media for your business and WHAT YOUR END GOAL IS of those efforts.

 

Your end goal in using social media could be any of the following:

  • Increased brand awareness (this is the most popular reason businesses are using social media, BTW)
  • Building an online community
  • Generate Leads
  • Sales

 

Your success on social media will be determined on what that end goal is, compared to the results of your social media marketing efforts.

 

However, businesses are sorely lacking in actually measuring their social media marketing efforts. Many will post and never look back to analyze what worked and what didn’t, and what they can do better or different.

 

Measuring your social media efforts is different than measuring ROI on something tangible, say an expo event or a speaking engagement. When you look at ROI, you are looking at a return on your investment, and that almost always relates to money. Measuring success in social media marketing takes looking at many different factors and bringing them together like pieces of a puzzle. Some are easy to track, some are a bit harder.

 

Mark Schaefer wrote the book Social Media Explained a few years ago and in Chapter 6 he goes into explaining why you have to measure your social marketing efforts and activities. There were 4 points he made:

 

  • There is an implied value to everything.
  • If we are expending human effort, it should be justified.
  • If you’re not measuring, how do you know you are making progress?
  • There is no excuse not to measure.

 

I’d like to call your attention to numbers 3 & 4. First of all, I want to say AMEN to number 3. Seriously, if you’re not measuring what you are doing, how do you know if it is working at all? As for number 4, if you are given an excuse as to why you can’t measure what you are doing, well, that’s just a cop out.

 

Mark also points out in the book that not all ROI (success) is quantitative – some is qualitative. There are some elements you can measure but you can’t put a dollar value on it.

 

Let me share with you what I consider to be measures of success in social media marketing (and these are in no particular order).

 

Social Media Marketing Effort Benchmarks

  • Community Growth
    • Did you see an increase in the number of people in your community? Was there a decline? Why?
  • Engagement Levels
    • Did you provide quality content that inspired likes, comments, shares, retweets, pins, etc.? If so, you would measure that a positive, if not, figure out what didn’t work and try again.
  • Offer Redemptions
    • Did you post an offer for our community? How many people redeemed it? Did you receive any leads from it?
  • Contest Entries
    • Did your contest entries provide you with any leads or sales? Did it attribute to any community growth?
  • Clicks
    • How many people clicked through your content? It could have been a picture, link, ad, contest, etc. Did you see an increase in your click-thru rate over last month? NOTE: Make sure to check your Google Analytics as well on this one!
  • Overall Sales
    • How did you overall sales look compared to the amount of time you spent on social media marketing? Can you attribute any sales increases or decreases to your efforts?
  • Conversions (tracking pixels for ads)
    • Did you track any website conversions from LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook ads? If so, was there an increase or decrease over the past month. NOTE: Check your Google Analytics too.
  • Subscribers
    • Did you see an increase or decrease in your email or app subscriber base? Was any of that a result of your social media marketing efforts?

 

As you can see, more than just how much money you made can go into figuring out if your social media efforts were successful. What you want to look for are positive increases each month, no matter how small those increases are.

 

Using social media to market your business is ultimately about relationship-building, building that trust and loyalty with your fanbase. The sales will come from that, sometimes sooner rather than later. But remember, you have to have a purpose in every action you take on social media – and remember your end goal at the same time.

 

So please share with me, how do you measure success in your or your clients’ social media marketing efforts?

 

7 Social Media Questions I Always Get Asked, Answered

7 Social Media Questions I Always Get Asked, Answered

I get bombarded with questions about social media all the time. In Walmart. The school pick-up line. Church. Social media is what I’m known for.

 

Last month, a good friend of mine in the business did a round-up of the top social media questions she gets asked and posted them on her blog, so in the spirit of share, and share alike, I thought I would do the same. The timing is quite fitting. I recently led a workshop with my good friend Louise Pritchard of Pritchard Volk Consulting on Branding and Social Media Strategy for The Southern C Summit and many of these same questions came up again. They are common questions, which means that business owners are still learning how to effectively use social media in marketing their business.

 

Before I dig into these questions and give you my answers, let me preface it all with this. This is simply the advice I give based off of over 16 years of overall marketing (and advertising) experience, including almost 7 years of that working solely in social media and digital marketing. There is good advice and there is bad advice. I mean, really, really, really bad advice. There are social media consultants out there that prey on inexperienced business owners like ambulance-chasing attorneys prey on victims. They take advantage of that business owner’s inexperience in this arena and lead them to practices that are just wrong, and sometimes against the rules. My company, and myself, pride ourselves on being one of those who follow the rules to the very end, so know the advice we give comes from experience and research 🙂

 

So let’s take a look at the most popular social media questions asked, and the advice we give {for free!}:

 

What social media platforms should I be posting on?

Before you decide what platforms you are going to use, you have to answer three questions –

 

  • WHY am I using social media in the first place?
  • WHO am I targeting?
  • WHAT is my end goal?

 

Let me explain. You have to know why you are using social media to market your business online – everything you do has to come back to that. After you know why, you have to know who you are targeting. This is very, very important. You will only use the platform(s) that your target audience is using. Let me repeat that. You will only use the platform(s) your target audience is using. You will rarely, if ever, use every single one. Once you know your target audience, you will essentially answer the question, BUT, you have to know what your ultimate end goal is for using social media. That will also play a role in what platform(s) you are using.

 

Example: You are women’s retail boutique that wants to target women ages 30-45 who like trendy clothing. After looking into the demographics of the platforms, you’ll see that the majority of that audience are using Instagram first, then Facebook, followed by Pinterest. So you choose to start with Instagram and Facebook.

 

Here is what Buffer found in their State of Social 2018 that most businesses were using (and keep in mind, this is an overall average – you need to do what is best for your business and your target audience):

Source: Buffer

 

How much should I post on social media?

Posting on social media requires a careful balance. You do not want to post too much, but you don’t want to hardly post at all. There is research to support both. The amount you post is ultimately up to you. Based on my years of experience, this is my recommendation:

 

Facebook & LinkedIn Company Pages: Minimum 5 times/week

Instagram: Minimum Daily

Twitter: Minimum 3-5 tweets/day

Pinterest: Minimum 3 pins/day

 

Your posting frequency will be determined by your goal and “why” statement in your social media strategy. You want to make sure you are posting enough to satisfy your goal in why you are using social media.

 

People have said Facebook is dead and not worth posting on anymore, is that true?

Honestly, I so badly want to eye roll when people ask me this. With all of the fake news and viral Facebook doomsday posts that go around several times per year, no wonder people think this. Facebook is not dead. People of ALL AGES are still using this (including teenages and college kids!) and the daily active users count is growing (see chart below). There are over 3 BILLION people on Facebook. If you want to reach your target audience, you are going to have to do something on Facebook – and more than likely it’s in the form of a Facebook ad. As seen below, Facebook is still the leading platform of choice for social media marketing.

 

 

How much should I expect to spend on Facebook ads since that is the only way to be seen?

Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way – if you are going to use social media (and Facebook) to market your business, you are going to have to run Facebook ads. To make this point, when Buffer presented their State of Social 2018, they found that businesses that have invested in social media ads are more than twice as likely to report that social media marketing is “very effective”.

 

Source: Buffer

 

Back to the question on hand. Facebook ads can be run for a minimum of $1-$20 per day depending on what your objective is. You can get more detailed information in my Facebook ads primer here, but what I would suggest for most small businesses is to expect to spend $2-$3 per day minimum for brand awareness ads and $5 per day minimum for traffic ads. At those amounts, you will see quantifiable results.

 

How can I get more Instagram followers?

I feel like this is the $50 million question. Of course, there are (illegal) shortcuts such as buying followers and gaming the system, i.e. following people then immediately unfollowing them as soon as they follow back, however, I do NOT suggest either of those.

 

Growing your Instagram following is hard. And that is the 100% honest truth. You will fight tooth and nail for every single one of your followers, but they will be authentic, engaged followers. So how do you get them?

 

  1. Follow those accounts (both business and personal) of people you know and people that are relevant to your business and that interest you. Not everyone will follow back – and that is okay.
  2. Use hashtags in your posts and follow hashtags that are applicable to your business. A lot of posts and accounts are found from hashtags (and you can see in the insights on each post if people came to that post from a hashtag).
  3. Engage with people and hashtags! The more you engage with people and hashtags you follow (and don’t follow), the more exposure your account will get and over time, your account will grow.

 

Do not get tied up in the vanity number of how many are following you. In the age of people buying followers, it’s hard to know of the millions of Kim Kardashian’s how many are actual human beings. Focus on quality posts and engaging and things will be fine. You can start off by following and engaging with us on Instagram (shameless plug, I know!).

 

How do I manage my time doing my own social media and still run my business?

Time management is always a sticky subject. You could literally spend all day doing nothing but social media for your business. But that’s not why you have your business. Using social media to market it is just one teeny tiny part. This was a question that came up in my workshop and here are three tips I gave that will help:

  • Set aside a specific time to bulk create your content. This could be one day each month or a few hours at the start of the week. Use this time to create as much content as possible to spread out and use for as long as you can.
  • Schedule Posts as often as far out as you can. Set aside time each week to schedule your posts for that week or one day each month to schedule out standard posts for the month so you have something out there. Just keep in mind your ‘WHY’ statement from your strategy. You have to have purpose in everything you post. At ME Marketing, we work a month in advance for all of our clients.
  • If doing this yourself, set aside time each day to dedicate to nothing but your social media. Be diligent about this time. Use it to respond, post, engage. Be focused and purposeful. This could the first 45 minutes of the day or an hour mid-day.

 

What tools are out there to help me manage my social media?

There are many tools out there to help you manage your social media. The programs range from free to paid, based on the number of platforms you use and features you need. We are partners with Sprout Social, so that’s our go-to and first choice (and they offer a FREE 30-day trial!). These programs allow you to schedule posts, respond to posts, view analytics, monitor your reputation – and more. Other choices out there include Buffer, Hootsuite, and CoSchedule. Like I preface anything, you have to choose what works best for you and your business.

 

Of course, I get asked all sorts of questions, but these seven are the ones that have come up the most over the past year.

 

Social media is fluid. It changes all the time. What works today, may not work tomorrow. And isn’t working today, may work next week. If you are managing your business’ social media yourself, please make sure to educate yourself from reliable sources so you know that you are doing things right (see list below). If you need help, you are always welcome to contact us and let’s talk!

 

Here are some reliable, vetted sources that we suggest to follow for good advice, other than this blog of course 😉 :

 

We’re curious… what social media questions do you have?

4 Elements of Connecting with Others 2018

4 Elements of Connecting with Others

We are all in relationships with each other – we’ve all connected one way or another. It could be someone in your field you’ve met via LinkedIn or someone you admire you’ve been tweeting with.

 

In this age of texting, smartphones, social media, etc., I feel like we’ve lost the art of connecting. We become so easily engrossed in our devices that we forget how to really connect with people. Connecting with others is a big topic. You can find article after article about making friends, starting relationships and how to connect on a professional level. Connecting can happen online or in-person. No matter how you go about it, there are four elements of connecting we all need to keep in mind and not forget –

Be observant.

Watch the world around you. How are people interacting? Who is interacting with who? Sometimes it’s worth it to just sit and people watch. You can learn a lot about people when you just sit back and watch. Also, be observant of what YOU are doing. Are you spending so much time on your devices (smartphone, tablet, laptop) that you have no clue what is going on around you? People are watching you too.

 

Be intentional.

Everything you do should have a purpose and connecting with others is no different. Why are you connecting with that person? Is for professional gain? Maybe you find them interesting. Take a vested interest in the person – don’t connect just to name drop. Ask the other person about them, don’t tell them all about you.

 

When you are intentionally connecting, you need to avoid the bubble and break stereotypes. I know you’re thinking – whaaat? Let me explain.

 

We tend to surround ourselves with people like us – Republicans hang with other Republicans. Democrats hang with Democrats. Hot guys hang with gorgeous girls. When you intentionally connect with someone, you need to get away from those like you. Leave the comfort zone. It’s like in high school, leave the cheerleader table and hang out with the band nerds (we’re cool, by the way!).

 

Be authentic.

Authenticity is something that has almost completely gone away thanks to social media. So many people pose online as someone they aren’t. We’ve seen them – supermoms, single guys partying it up, those who display all the pricey things they own to appear as having more money than they do… you know someone like that. Lack of authenticity turns people away. I know social media pros preach about this and it’s true – the fakers can and will be found out thanks to sites like Google.

 

Be wise.

People online can be very misleading. It’s hard to mislead in person so this happens more online. Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s true. When you connect with someone you need to do your own background check on them. Google them. Look them up on LinkedIn. You get the picture.

 

Another element of being wise is to not compromise who you are just to fit in or connect with someone or even when you do opposite of what you say. Be mature about it – if you have any ounce of self-respect you won’t cave.

 

So there you have it – be observant. intentional. authentic. wise.

 

What are some important elements you see or do when connecting?

 

An Updated {Short} Beginner's Guide to Instagram Strategy

An Updated {Short} Beginner’s Guide to Instagram Strategy

About two years ago I wrote a short primer on beginning your Instagram strategy and since then Instagram has taken the world by storm. Today, I present to you and updated version of that post. If you want to read the original, for fun, you can here.

 

Before we get started, let’s look at the stats now:

  • 800 million monthly users
  • More than 800 million daily active users
  • 8 million business Instagram accounts
  • 72% of Instagram users have bought a product they saw on the platform
  • Over 50% over businesses are posting Instagram Stories

Source: http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/important-instagram-stats/

 

Sprout Social mentioned in one of their Instagram marketing guides, “As people join Instagram in droves, brands have a unique opportunity for engagement with their fans: Instagram posts generate a per-follower engagement rate of 4.21%, which is 58 times more engagement per follower than Facebook and 120 times more than Twitter.”

 

Before you jump headfirst into using this platform (or if you are already there but needing a bit of guidance), there are some basic elements to consider when crafting your plan for your business. Let’s take a look…

Why are You Using it?

Like anything you do for your business, you have to know why you are using it. Are you trying Instagram because you are tired of Facebook? Maybe you want to be your competition to the punch? Before taking on more than you can chew, make sure you have the time, energy and resources to dedicate to doing this right. Once you have, start crafting your Instagram strategy. To save time and not reinvent the wheel, I’m going to recommend you bookmark Sprout Social’s Instagram Strategy Guide (it’s linked at the end of the article).

Which Photos Will You Use?

Photos are the backbone of this platform – without them, Instagram simply wouldn’t exist. Choosing what graphic to post is very important. Here are some simple things to keep in mind:

 

  • Optimal photo size is 1080px x 1080px; for Stories, 1080px x 1920px
  • Will your photo be landscape or portrait?
  • Filter or no filter?
  • Does it match the message you are wanting to convey?
  • Is it appropriate?
  • If I’m sharing someone else’s content, do I have permission?
  • Photos with faces get 38% more likes.

 

Unfortunately still at this time, there is not a direct way to upload a photo via your computer. I’m sure one day we may have this option, but right now, there’s not. Here are the most common ways to post your photo to Instagram:

 

  • Take a photo on your smartphone or tablet and direct upload from the device.
  • Create a DropBox folder or a folder in Google Drive and upload the photos you’d like to use and sync it with your smartphone or tablet. You’d then download the image from the cloud onto your device and post from there.
  • Repost App. This is an app that allows you to share other people’s Instagram photos. When you open it, it brings up the feed of who you follow and you just tap the photo you want to share and it allows you to open it up in your Instagram account to post.

What About Hashtags?

Hashtags are very important when using this platform for your business. 70% of hashtags on Instagram are branded. Instagram posts with at least one hashtag have 12.6% more engagement than those without. Like Twitter, these allow you to be found when someone searches. Instagram’s guidelines on hashtags can be found here. Jenn Herman of Jenn’s Trends is one of the top Instagram strategy people I know. She wrote an article about using hashtags on Instagram and here’s what she says (and I suggest as well) –

  • Use relevant keyword hashtags
  • Don’t use too many hashtags
  • Use industry related hashtags
  • Keep your audience in mind
  • Don’t hijack hashtags (basically using a popular hashtag to butt in on a trend or conversation)

 

One of her best suggestions on using hashtags was to create a list of hashtags and save them on your mobile device, “On your mobile device, I recommend you create a notepad note (on whichever app you prefer) with your favorite/preferred hashtags. You can even create multiple lists if you have multiple types of content you share on Instagram. Set the list with your core hashtags and simply copy and paste it into your Instagram post caption to save you having to type them in each time. It’ll also make sure you don’t leave any out!”

How About Following People and Having Them Follow Me?

On Instagram, in your feed you will only see the posts from those you follow. If you click on eyeglass at the bottom, it pulls up the search where you see photos from people based on the people you follow. You can also search people and hashtags as well. To be found and get followers, it’s important for you to use hashtags (see above). Most people you follow will follow you back, however here are some tips when you follow people and getting people to follow you back:

 

  • Have your bio completely filled out and include a link to your website. Also, make sure you have a legit and professional-looking profile photo (read: no bikini pictures or topless (if you are a guy), no vulgar expressions, etc.).
  • Post relevant content. Your stream should not be a collection of selfies.
  • When you do follow someone and they follow you back, do not immediately unfollow them. This is my biggest pet peeve. I’ll have people follow me and I’ll follow them back if I like their content and 2 days later, I’m scrolling through my followers and see they are not following me anymore. Talk about rude. Beware of those who follow you who are following A LOT less than follow them.
  • Check out who is following your competitor and follow those people. Keep in mind to only follow quality people.
  • Comment on other people’s posts. If someone comments on mine and I’m not following them, more often than not, I’ll follow them. Of course, look at their bio and what they’ve posted first.
  • Use relevant hashtags.

Promoting Across the Web?

Of course you’ll want everyone to know you are on Instagram now. When you launch your account, make sure you have your Instagram link on your website. Also, post a status update with your link on your other social accounts. I have several I follow on different social media platforms and their Instagram posts are much different (for the better) than their Facebook updates. Here are some ideas to promote your Instagram account across the web:

 

  • Status update on your social platforms.
  • Link on your website.
  • Write a blog post about why you’re using it.
  • Share your Instagram photos to Twitter and Facebook.

How Often Do I Need to Post?

Like any other social media platform, you have to use it regularly to benefit from it. Posting once per week is not going to do it. Plan on posting 2-3 times per day. The more active you are, the more your account with grow. As of January 2018, you can now schedule and post directly to Instagram through the major social management programs, such as Sprout Social, Hootsuite, Buffer, etc. Another option is Schedugram. Of course, Instagram allows you to share your photos to other platforms, but if you do choose to go that route, I would only recommend sharing the photo to Facebook. Twitter only show the link and caption, not the image.

Tracking Analytics?

Last but not least, you need to be able to track and measure your Instagram efforts. Fortunately there are two options – Iconosquare and Sprout Social – to help! Both programs let you manage comments on your Instagram photos and gives you analytics on your accounts. Sprout’s Instagram services are included in their social management software while Iconosquare is a stand-alone program.

All of this can be applied to Stories as well. And videos.

 

Using Instagram can be A LOT of fun. It’s a great way to get a behind-the-scenes peek into the daily lives of business and individuals. If you use it the right way, you’ll see your presence grow.

 

What are you doing with your Instagram strategy?

 

Follow me on Instagram –

Personal Account – @mandyedwards0821

Business Account – @memarketingservices

 

Instagram Resources I Recommend:

18 Instagram Stats Every Marketer Should Know

Hashtags on Instagram

Sprout Social’s Instagram Strategy Guide

Schedugram

Jenn’s Trends (take a look at her Jenn’s Friends Program too!)

Sprout Social (Link takes you to a free 30-day trial and is my referral link).

 

Why You Need a Website That Delights Your Audience

Why You Need a Website That Delights Your Audience

Without a doubt, your most powerful marketing tool, hands down, is your business website.

 

And, as you are probably well aware, some websites are designed better than others.

 

Have you ever visited a website and been disappointed? Or worse, tried to visit a website that failed to load within a few seconds?

 

Of course you have. We all have. And, more likely than not, you have probably moved on.

 

Their loss…or maybe it’s your loss.

 

The simple truth is that every business needs a website that wows its visitors.

 

In a nutshell, your business website can either:

  1. Help you stand out from your competitors or
  2. Drive people directly to your competitors.

 

These days, savvy business owners must consider the fact that their audience seeks more than just a place to go online to purchase products and/or services. Instead, they crave a unique and highly visual online experience that entices and delights them.

 

And this is where good website design comes in.

Here are 3 good reasons why you need a business website that “wows” your visitors

1. You only have one chance to make a first impression – so make it count!

Website visitors often decide whether they want to do business with you within a fraction of a second, based on how they perceive your site. They may not even be aware they are judging you.

 

In her article for Design Shack, Carrie Cousins says the following about the importance of visually pleasing website design schemes:

The visuals that will grab the most attention the quickest include a strong image or illustration, sharp contrast or something unusual on the screen, and a phrase or wording that is memorable.

 

The better “first impression” you give, the more likely your visitors are to stay and/or return to your website. Good website design definitely makes a difference when it comes to attracting and retaining potential clients.

2. Your business website is a direct reflection of YOU

Along with that all-important first impression a website gives to its visitors, your website design also gives them an idea (perceived or realistic) of how you conduct business. For example, shoddy web design may inadvertently give your visitors the impression that your products and/or services are also inferior or low quality.

 

On the other hand, a well-designed business website can go a long way towards building trust. And trust is a big factor in sales. An organized website with a strong visual component creates a sense of legitimacy for you and your business.

 

As I mentioned above, your business’ website is also your most powerful marketing tool. Consider a good design as yet another way you can successfully stand out from your competition.

3. Your website is an essential component of your business branding

As well as being a valuable marketing tool, your business website also serves to promote your brand. Brand exposure is valuable for all businesses, of course. However, it’s especially important for new business owners and/or startups that need to establish a positive reputation from the get-go.

What are my options for building the best business website?

Now that you understand why you need a well-designed business website, you are ready for the next step: building one.

 

You’re going to find that there are dozens of website builder platforms and sites currently available.

 

Perhaps you’re strapped for time, or design isn’t your strong suit? Many startups and new entrepreneurs find that it’s easier to hire someone else who has the time and the talent.

 

Unless you personally know or have received a trusted referral for a web designer, consider us to help you with all of your web design needs without breaking the bank.

 

On the other hand, if you are more of a “do-it-yourself” type, you’ll find many affordable options as well.

 

There are some do-it-yourself options for building websites are:

  1. Wix
  2. SquareSpace
  3. GoDaddy

 

Regardless of who designs your business website, these are some of the primary design aspects you should consider when designing your business website:

  • Logo and branding
  • Simple typography that is easy to read
  • Defined color palette
  • Easy user interface tools and elements that work in intuitive ways
  • Navigation that moves users through the site
  • Strong images that showcase your brand
  • Concise and targeted copy
  • Easy to understand calls-to-action
  • Your brand story told in a way that connects with users
  • Modern design techniques and interface

Source: Design Shack

 

Along with a strong design, websites today must be mobile-friendly, aka responsive. Google is now penalizing sites that are not mobile-friendly, which means if you are not and your competitor is, they will rank ahead of you. Site speed is important too. Please be sure to ask anyone working on your website about responsiveness and site speed – any designer worth their money will answer those with no issue.

 

Are you in the process of designing or redesigning your business website? Do you agree that a well-designed website is critical for successful online marketing? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to leave a comment below.

 

If you are looking to have a new website rebuilt or are just starting and need one, visit our website design page and contact us to get started!

9 Ideas You Haven't Thought of for Your 2018 Marketing Strategy

9 Ideas You Haven’t Thought of for Your 2018 Marketing Strategy

It’s a new year and by now you should have completed your 2018 marketing strategy. If you’re ducking down in your chair because you haven’t, it’s okay, it’s not too late. If you have, great!

 

The marketing world is ever-evolving. Ten years ago, social was not a major component of the marketing plan and Facebook ads were not even an option. As the world changes, so does how we reach our customers. We are more mobile, more wired, in the technology-sense. When was the last time you went 24 hours without your smartphone? I honestly cannot remember myself.

 

Last year, social advertising took over, as did video. This year, those two will continue to dominate, but there are other creative ways to reach your customers – and stay in touch in with them as well. I’ve read article after article about the predictions and trends for 2018 and guys, what it comes down to is that businesses are going to have to get more creative – and more out of the box – as our digital world evolves. Before you throw your papers in the air and scream “it’s too much!”, it’s not. It’s not that hard. Really. I’ve put together nine ideas you probably have not thought of to incorporate into your strategy this year.

 

Install a chatbot to help with your Facebook page.

Facebook Messenger Chatbots are relatively easy to program and can help you respond to your messages while you are away or helping a customer. Facebook reported late last year they now see 100,000 monthly active bots on Messenger! These can help provide instant connections with customers, solving problems and helping with orders. It also alleviates the problem of the customer having to wait for a response when most expect a response within an hour.

 

Give LinkedIn another chance.

This is one I saw everywhere. The networking platform has undergone many changes since being bought by Microsoft. Included is an updated newsfeed and user interface. There’s not a lot of competition on the platform right now, and a weak algorithm, so it’s a perfect storm of opportunity. Plus there is a mindset change across professionals. They are tired of the nonsense in their other social feeds, so many are going back to LinkedIn.

 

Personalize the experience.

Personalization is something you will not stop hearing about. From emails to VIP exclusives, give your customers and clients a unique experience when shopping or working with you. 56% would rather buy from someone that recognizes them by name, and 58% from someone who offers recommendations based on past purchases. In the retail world, this is the big push as a lot of brick-and-mortar business is being lost to online stores. However, if you do this, make sure your personalization is genuine. Read more on that here.

 

Tell your story.

Customers and clients come to you for a reason – it could be for your work, a price-point, or something they saw. Let them get to know you by telling your story through your branding and marketing strategies. It’s what makes up the core of who your business is. Use your story throughout your marketing – social posts, blog posts, ads.

 

Have a plan for dark social.

If you haven’t heard of dark social, here’s what you need to know – it’s the conversations happening in private (think Facebook Messenger, SnapChat, Instagram DMs, WhatsApp, etc.). There is another world out there that you can’t reach entirely. Facebook is slowly rolling out Messenger Ads which will help, but make sure you know how to be a part of those conversations. My friend and mentor Mark Schaefer touched on this in his digital trends for 2018 post. The graph below that he shared showed how more people are going ‘dark’ –

Go with the group – Facebook Groups.

I’m not going to sugar-coat it. Facebook organic reach is down and it’s not going to come back up. You are going to have to run ads. You are going to have to get creative. You do still need your page though! Fortunately, Facebook now allows you to create groups through your Page – and here is where the potential starts. You can create a group for insider perks or for just general discussion. The engagement in these are much higher – but they do require more moderation and attention so make sure you have someone reliable manning them!

 

facebook group marketing strategy

 

Use text messages in your marketing.

One of the key reasons why SMS (text) marketing is so popular is the fact it is such an accessible and widespread way of contacting people. 98% of text messages are read within two minutes and more than 1 in 10 text exchanges in the U.S. are with businesses. This is an avenue that not a lot of businesses are using – and something you may want to consider! Here are two examples from businesses that I receive texts from below:

 

text marketing strategy

 

Survey your customers.

Always check in with your customers to see if there are areas you can improve, enhance, or even add! Your customers will (hopefully) give you honest feedback. Entice them for this information with a reward for a higher chance of engagement. Just be careful of Facebook’s updated Engagement Rules if you use a post on Facebook to do this.

 

Go LIVE!

Take advantage of the growth of video and go LIVE! Host a Q&A, broadcast from events, give a sneak peek of an upcoming product, or just take people behind the scenes of the business. Businesses are jumping on this – and 2017 saw a huge growth in this area so there are a lot of ideas out there! This is something that can be done on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

 

 

See? Any of these nine can be done no matter your level of marketing expertise 😉

 

No matter what you decide to do this year, challenge yourself to be creative and go outside the box. Forget about the competition and just do you. Focus on your customers and provide the absolute best you can! And if you need help, we’re here anytime!

 

Which of these nine are you going to try?

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