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?

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).

 

The Problem with Oversharing on Social Media

The Problem with Oversharing on Social Media

We all know ‘those’ people. They may be in our family. They may be in our circle of friends. They may even be some of your employees.

 

I’m talking about the ones who overshare on social media. You know, give you the minute-by-minute detail of their lives and those who post endless selfies.

 

Social media is a place to engage with each other and have fun – share memories, share good times and bad, share experiences. NOT share everything short of when you use the restroom.

 

Oversharing on social media has become a problem. People are using platforms as their online diaries, broadcasting their personal grievances and details of their children’s lives for the entire world to see. I am going to drop some truth on you right now. The world does not care what your Elf on the Shelf did every night. The world does not care what your kids got for Christmas or their birthday (aside from maybe your family). The world honestly does not care about every detail of your life. Harsh? Yes, but those most vested in your life and that do care will do so offline.

 

What happened to personal space and privacy?

 

Psychology Today addressed six reasons people overshare on social media a few years ago, however the reasons still remain the same today –

  • Anonymity – Some people can hide behind usernames and not use their real names.
  • Invisibility – “It can be easier to say things from behind a keyboard when the other person (or people) aren’t looking at the poster.”
  • Delayed Communication – You don’t have to deal with comments and messages immediately.
  • Filling in the other person – There’s no body language to read.
  • It’s not real – Much like the first two, people drop their inhibitions and become someone else.
  • Lack of authority – People may disassociate someone’s offline identity with their online identity, causing them to blurt out something they would never in real life, say, in front of an authority figure.

 

In another article, the Huffington Post looked at three other reasons people overshare, and these seem to be more in-line with what we actually see –

  • Boredom – People are bored so they feel the need to post to fill up their time.
  • Egocentricity – People think they are the center of the universe and the universe cares about what they are doing.
  • Low Self-Esteem – People are seeking attention and validation.

 

Facebook has provided a solution to those of us who are tired of these types of posts taking up space in our newsfeed. You can now snooze people for 30 days or unfollow them – all while keeping the Facebook friendship in place. The offending party will have no idea you are no longer seeing their posts.

 

People unfollow businesses for posting too much, so what happens if the oversharer is a business owner? This is where the territory gets tricky.

 

I have often written on this blog about you being an extension of your brand/company, no matter if you are the owner or an employee, and everything you do online reflects back on that brand/company. If you are oversharing every sordid detail of your life, and you own a business, how do you think that may affect your business?

 

Very rarely does oversharing positively affect your business. More often than not, it will harm it.

 

So there has to be a balance, right? It’s called common sense.

 

You cannot be too careful in this day and age, especially when it comes to children. Being married to a prosecuting attorney I could write an entire post on why you should not post about your children online (and yes, he does get mad when I post anything that just might give details away about our daughters).  

 

Post personal highlights, not the details.

 

It’s okay if you do not post every day. People are not going to forget about you.

 

If you have something sensitive going on in your family, don’t post about it. Not everyone in your family wants it out there online – trust me on this one.

 

If you are only posting for attention and validation – DO NOT POST IT. This is the root of the majority of social media posts – people wanting attention and people seeking validation because they are missing something in their lives. What’s missing? I can’t say – only they know.

 

We all know oversharers – you may even be one and not know it (most do not realize it). Everyone needs to think before they post, whether they post once a month or once a day.

 

What advice would you give to someone who is constantly oversharing?

An Online Etiquette Refresher for Business Owners and Entrepreneurs

An Online Etiquette Refresher for Business Owners and Entrepreneurs

As of 2016, 88% of American adults use the internet and 69% of online adults now use at least one social media site. Yet, probably more than a third of them act like a buffoon online – business owners and entrepreneurs included.

When you are a business owner or entrepreneur, what you do and say online can have positive and negative ramifications on your business. Yes, you can post freely, however when you are attached to a business or you are your business, the spotlight is on you more.

I decided to update and refresh some of my online etiquette rants and considering that state of the country (and world) right now, a little reminder doesn’t hurt, however this still has a business slant to it.

So, what do you (we) need to do?

Do not ignore people.

Much like how you wouldn’t want to be ignored in real life, don’t ignore someone online. If someone takes the time to respond to something you have out there – a tweet, a Facebook post, acknowledge it. People want to feel like they matter and ignoring them tells them they don’t. Same goes for blog comments. Even if it’s a simple thank you, you’ve acknowledged it. Something else to consider – I know we all cannot stand the generic LinkedIn messages, but if someone requests a connection with you and you do not want to accept it, it’s okay to respond and tell them why.

True story: About 5 years ago, there was a local restaurant here where I live that my husband and I wanted to eat at. I looked them up on Facebook to see their hours (they didn’t have a website – I know!) and saw they were open so we went. When we pulled up, they were closed and there was a different set of hours on their door. Needless to say we weren’t happy. Being the social media person I am, I went online and left a post on their Facebook page’s wall letting them know what happened and asked them to correct the hours on their page. 24 hours later – no response. 3 days later – no response. 4 days later I went back to their page and the post had been deleted. No apology or acknowledgement, it was deleted. Talk about being mad. Up until the day it closed (which was a couple years ago), we never set foot in that restaurant. We were potential customers that they lost out on.

Moral of the story: Respond! Had they responded with something, we would have gone back to try them out and become customers.

Do not steal other people’s work.

Seriously. Plagiarism happens every day on the web. I’ve had it happen to several of my blog posts and a couple of my graphics. Friends have had theirs stolen multiple times too. Google doesn’t like it and we don’t either. There are proper ways to go about reusing published content. Contact the author and ask about their republication policy (we all have them and they aren’t all the same). It adds value to the relationship when you ask first and it shows appreciation on both sides.

True Story: I have a client who is a high-end portrait photographer. She had a fellow peer in her industry have photos she (the peer) took and posted on another photographer’s website. This thief had a family see the pictures and hired them to do their photos. When they showed up, the photographer (the thief) was asking them to help her with her camera and posing – stuff she should have already known had she taken the pictures. The family quickly found out she didn’t take the photos she saw and found out who did and hired the original photographer (my client’s friend).

Moral of the story: When you steal, you will be found out and like pop! goes the weasel, pop! there goes your business.

Act your age.

I really shouldn’t have to actually type this out, but if you’re 35, 55 or even 25, act it. A lot of people try to use social media to make themselves bigger than they are and it comes back to get them (social media professionals included). Acting your age and showing your maturity will earn you respect and authority.

A good tip to keep in mind for yourself and your staff – if it would make your grandma blush, don’t post it.

This applies to content and language. There is absolutely no place for cursing online. Same applies to language that could offend someone (i.e. racial slurs, name-calling). Think of grandma – what would she say? We’re all adults here and we need to act like it (see above). Same applies especially to business owners – there is no place for an owner to respond with that type of language to a post on their business account. Trust me, you’ll end up like Amy’s Bakery in Arizona (read about it here).

Don’t assume.

This applies to just about everything. When you see something online don’t always assume it’s real or legit. There’s a lot of spam out there and do your friends a favor and check it out before sharing it, especially on your business account. We won’t even go into fake news. It’s everywhere and you have to really check your sources because social platforms and Google are wising up to this.

This also applies to tone. In writing it’s so hard to determine the tone of the writer from mere words. For example, I could type “That’s not funny.” and mean it as either a laughing “that’s not funny” making light of something or a harsh “that’s not funny” really getting onto someone. If there is something posted you do not understand, just ask. Ask for clarification. It will save hurt feelings or misunderstandings.

Try to keep things vanilla enough that your readers/fans will understand your tone. If it’s something that may be confusing, make a video and post it!

Selfies.

Okay, enough with the selfies. Personally, I cannot stand them. Professionally, I just don’t get it. If it’s a part of your personal brand to post 10+ selfies each day, fine. If selfies are something you want to do for your business, just make sure they relate to why you are using social media in the first place. You do not want to hurt your brand by over-posting these. And also be careful what types of selfies you post as well. We don’t want to see a bathroom stall.

Spell check! Please!!!

There is nothing more unprofessional than misspellings and incorrect grammar. Proof everything you write BEFORE hitting the post/tweet/publish button.

I know we will all make a type here and there, we’re human, it’s going to happen. It never hurts to have a second set of eyes look over something before it goes online. Not everything has an ‘edit’ button.

Ross Gellar from “Friends” points out a popular one… (sorry, had to!)

via GIPHY

To be honest, I could write another 3000 words about social media/online etiquette. How you (and you staff) act online says a lot about you – your character, your beliefs, even your business practices.

In a day where the negative spreads MUCH faster than the positive, we all have to be careful with what we do. say and publish online. The internet is world of mouth now. How well does your actions reflect on you as the business owner or entrepreneur? If it’s not what you want, it’s not too late to change. Take some time and look at what you are doing and write out some proactive steps to shape your actions the way you want them.

Now it’s your turn – what are best practices for social media etiquette that YOU would share?

 

Amateur v. Professional - Which One are You?

Amateur v. Professional – Which One are You?

Last week I came across an article from Farnam Street that asked the reader if they were an amateur or a professional. Well, we are all professionals, right? In the wise words of College GameDay legend Lee Corso – not so fast my friend.

 

In the article, differences between the two were pointed out. Some made you get a little defensive and hot under the collar, but nonetheless, it made the point.

 

Let’s take a look at seven of them…

 

Amateurs stop when they achieve something, like a goal. Professionals understand that the initial achievement is just the beginning, and have a process.

Goals are good to have, don’t get me wrong, but honestly, it doesn’t stop there. Goals should be seen as benchmarks along the way. Your career is a process, and the awards you achieve are goals along the way. You don’t end your career because of an award or a making a sales goal. You keep going.

 

Amateurs think they are good at everything. Professionals understand their circles of competence.

This is a rookie mistake we’ve all made at some point. We think we can take on everything and be the one source for our customers or clients, when in reality, we are not. One piece of business advice I received early on was to focus on what I was good at and outsource the rest.  Yes, I work in marketing. Yes, I could do a complete marketing package for a client, but I know where my strengths lay. One of my close friends is a CPA but she’s better on the audit side than the tax side – that’s her strength. Knowing your circles of competence, or strengths, will help set you apart and make you a better professional.

 

Amateurs see feedback and coaching as someone criticizing them as a person. Professionals know they have weak spots and seek out thoughtful criticism.

People do not like to have the negative pointed out, no matter how well it’s done. However, I’ve been on both sides of this one – early on in my career I didn’t want anyone telling me how to do something unless I asked because I saw it as criticizing me as a person. Now that I am older and wiser, I know my weaknesses and I do seek out advice from those whose opinions I highly value. This is a career (and personal) maturity journey.

 

Amateurs focus on identifying their weaknesses and improving them. Professionals focus on their strengths and on finding people who are strong where they are weak.

People want to be good at everything. That’s impossible. No one person can be good at everything apart from God. This is where the business advice I mentioned above comes into play – professionals will outsource what they are not as strong in to supplement. The sooner you realize this, the more time and energy you will save yourself.

 

Amateurs focus on tearing other people down. Professionals focus on making everyone better.

I came close to leaving this one out. I know “professionals” who make it a point to tear others down no matter how long they have been in business. And I know amateurs who claim to focus on making everyone better while their actions speak to the opposite. So be aware and be on guard at all times.

 

Amateurs blame others. Professionals accept responsibility.

This point comes from maturity – both in the person and your career. I understand fear – you may be scared to accept responsibility because of the consequences, but trust me, it’s always better to take that high road and be responsible. That’s what true leaders do.

 

Amateurs are scared — scared to be vulnerable and honest with themselves. Professionals feel like they are capable of handling almost anything.

The distinguishing factor here is confidence. It will come and go throughout your career. There are days I feel like I can conquer the world and there are days I feel like Chicken Little. As long as you are honest with yourself and know your strengths and take responsibility, it will be okay.

 

The article concludes by saying the main difference between the two boils down to two things: fear and reality. At any point in your career, no matter your age or how long you’ve been in your job, you will fall on either side of spectrum. If you read through to the article, you’ll see the other comparisons. There are some I fall on the amateur side, and some I fall on the professional side.

 

The goal should always be to be on the professional side more than amateur, and if you are on the amateur side, work on what you need to to move to the professional side. I know I am. Are you with me?

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on amateurs v. professionals. Share with me below in the comments! This was an intriguing article and I’m curious your reaction.

 

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