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?

 

17 Tips for Connecting on Social Media

17 Tips for Connecting on Social Media

One mantra I’ve adopted while working in social media is to connect with intent. I have to have a reason to connect with someone because I don’t believe in connecting for the sake of padding my numbers.

A few years ago Jennifer Hanford and I did a series of 101 posts on the subject of connecting. In this post we’ve compiled and updated them, giving you a list of great tips to use when making new connections on all of the major social media platforms.

 

Facebook

With over 1 billion people there, Facebook, of course, is the largest social network. You will have many connection opportunities that span the globe. Here are 6 tips to keep in mind.

 

When Connecting Personally…

  • When connecting with someone on a personal level, make sure you know them. I know this sounds silly, but it’s true! I get friend requests from people all the time that I have NO clue who they are…even if we live in the same town. For me, I have to be able to place how I know them – an online group, a conference, school, church, etc. If I can’t, then sorry, we won’t be connecting today.
  • See who your mutual friends are. There are some that I do know but do not agree with who they associate themselves with. People will not admit it openly, but everyone gets judged by the company they keep.
  • Are the only online to play Farmville or Frontierworld or Cooking World or some other silly Facebook game?? There are some who are only interested in the online gaming and only want to be friends so they can move up to the next level. Unless you don’t mind your newsfeed being filled with endless game requests and “so and so just beat level 1,002”, I wouldn’t accept. Unless it’s your mom. Then you have no choice.

 

When Connecting Professionally…

  • I reiterate points 1 & 2 from above – since there are over one billion people on Facebook, for your safety make sure you truly know them.
  • If you connect with someone, do not invite them to every.single.page you manage. Same goes for events. There are those out there who connect only to spam you with “Like this page” or “Like that page”. That’s screaming a one-way relationship.
  • If your competition is wanting to connect, it’s okay, but be forewarned. I always joke to keep your enemies close, but your competition closer. Yes, it may seem like a good idea to accept your competition’s request to connect, but unless you’ve activated some really detailed privacy setting, they will get to see what you are doing. You may see it as showing what all you can do, but they will see it as things they need to do better or one-up.

 

Instagram

When Instagram was created by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger and launched in October of 2010, the service brought a whole new meaning to online sharing. Instagram, as you know, is known for its photo and video sharing (and selfies and pictures of your dinner plates). There are many ways to connect with the millions now using this network.

Instagram is a great social media platform that provides people from all over the world to share their personal photos with friends and family, and it is a great place for users with common interests to connect and come together to share and discuss content. Here are 4 main ways to connect –

 

Connect through Photographs

You’ve heard the old saying: “a picture is worth a thousand words.” And that’s absolutely true.  It is easy to connect with others by capturing the world from your viewpoint. Images allow us to connect with one another on a different platform simply by displaying a message to one another. Whether the message be about your experience at a concert or your favorite food, Instagram allows for others to discover and understand the world through photographs.

 

Connect through Exploring

One of the easiest ways to connect with others on Instagram is on the ‘Explore’ tab. This feature consists of 15 most popular ‘liked’ images from all over the world. This allows you to venture out and view images you may not see on your normal feed. While also providing different content, exploring can connect you to other users. The great thing about the explore tab is that it is constantly changing. It updates the most popular 15 pictures every few minutes, allowing us to connect to even more people.

 

Connect through Hashtags

If you are looking to connect with new Instagram users, adding a hashtag to the picture you upload is a great way to do so. Displaying a specific hashtag connects you with more like-minded people. This feature allows you to share your photo to a wider audience who probably would not have seen the photo without it. If you are at an event, use that event’s hashtag to connect with others there.

 

Connect through Stories & Live

Now that Instagram has Instagram Stories, you can tell a story while being authentic. People will see the real you. If you’re account is public, anyone following you can see these and some may just pop up in the ‘Explore’ tab. And much like Facebook’s Live option, you can go live on Instagram as well and connect live to people.

 

Twitter

I opened my first Twitter account in the fall of 2010 for the intent purpose of following University of Georgia football. Never in a million years did I think I could actually make friends and connect with businesses. It’s now my favorite social media platform to use for business. It’s the platform I’ve gotten the most clients from too.

I’ve written two previous articles on Twitter following – 8 Reasons I Won’t Follow You on Twitter and 8 More Reasons I Won’t Follow You on Twitter – that really touched on some general, cosmetic points. However, here are some deeper connecting tips for Twitter that will make you a more seasoned and polished Twitter user.

 

Connect with like-minded people.

In any business, reputation management is very important. People will look and judge you on who you are surrounded by. By following like-minded people, you will find a community you can grow with and learn from.

 

Tweet people you want to get to know.

Even though that person you want to meet has 100,000 followers, if you don’t tweet them and let them know you are there, they may never find you. I’ve developed relationships on Twitter with people I normally would not have access to simply because I started tweeting (and retweeting) them and started a conversation. Anyone reputable on Twitter will not ignore someone who is trying to strike up a conversation. It may take them a day or so to respond but the serious ones will respond.

 

Give credit where credit is due.

Did you like a blog article and tweet it? Give the author credit in the tweet. Liked a tweet and agreed with it? Again, credit the author in the tweet. When you credit the author it’s mentioning them and they will take notice. Taking the time to give credit to the original author or the one who shared it on Twitter (you can use “h/t” for “hat tip to”) will show that you care and are purposeful in using Twitter.

 

LinkedIn

Making connections on LinkedIn will help you realize the power LinkedIn holds as a social platform where professionals interact and engage with others.

First things first, you never have to pay to make connections on LinkedIn. The free version provides you with the same connection and networking abilities as the paid version. Secondly, you do not need to be an “open networker” to connect with anyone you wish, but know that most users prefer to connect with meaning and intent on LinkedIn. Unfortunately, LinkedIn attracts a lot of spammers, but the platform does provide easy ways to report and ban them. If you do not mind occasional spam and want to connect with a large volume of people from all over the world though, you may consider joining open networker groups.

 

Here are some of the basics to get you started:

 

Put your best foot forward with your LinkedIn Profile

  • Your profile gives people their first impressions of you so make it count!
  • Make sure your profile is complete and current with a professional picture, employment information and relevant qualifications.
  • Always be honest with the information you provide, especially if you are seeking employment or potential clients.

 

Where to find your connections on LinkedIn

  • One of the first places to find new connections is on LinkedIn’s home page when you are signed in. There is an entire section called “People You May Know.” Based on information you have filled out for your profile, LinkedIn makes suggestions for you. Do not be too surprised when it shows you people you may not really know.
  • You can also find people with whom to connect through the advanced search function. This allows you to search for people by name, company, job title or location.
  • Another way to meet people is through joining and participating in LinkedIn groups. People typically join groups in order to network with like-minded people. With a group association, it becomes easy to connect since you most likely have common interests.
  • As you connect with people, you become “1st-level” connections with them. You are then able to view their connections; their 1st-level connections are now your 2nd-level connections. You can also see when your 1st-level connections make other new connections. As a result, you now have a larger network and more people with whom you can connect directly.

 

Mind your manners when connecting on LinkedIn

  • When you are ready to connect, make sure you are sending personalized invitations. Introduce yourself when sending invitations to people you have never met, and briefly explain why you would like to connect with them.
  • When you accept someone’s invitation to connect or they accept your invitation, it is good practice to respond and thank them personally.

 

When using social networks and connecting, the quality of your own personal experiences depend very much on your own level of involvement. The more time you spend on those platforms and engaging with others, the more connections you’ll make.

 

Speaking of connections, Jenn and I would like to invite you to connect with us! You can find Jenn on Twitter at @jennghanford and myself at @memktgservices.

 

Connections make the social world go ‘round. What are some connection tips you would add?

 

THIS is the Facebook Content Your Fans Want You to Post

THIS is the Facebook Content Your Fans Want You to Post

Let me ask you a question, and let’s be honest, how many times have you seen a business post on Facebook and you wished there had been an eye-roll button to click?

 

Don’t lie – there have been times we have all wanted to respond to a post that way. I’m going to be brutally honest – some businesses still just do not get it when it comes to what type of content to post to Facebook. Here is what I am seeing in my newsfeed, and see if any of these match what you are seeing too –

  • Misaligned posts that do not match the brand’s message
  • All sales pitches, aka broadcast messages
  • Posts with spelling and grammatical errors

 

Facebook, in May, released a guide for publishers that clued us into what Facebook values from it’s users. Here is what they found:

 

People on Facebook value meaningful, informative stories.

In their algorithm, Facebook looks at a user’s personal signals, such as “how close someone is to the person or page posting, stories they’d want to talk to their friends and family about, spend time reading, and videos they’d spend time watching.” Also taken into account is the post’s overall engagement. People value content that is informative as well. Think about what you take time to read or share, or even comment on. It is content you find meaningful and informative. You should put yourself in the your audience’s shoes and post the type of content they will spend time on, much like you would.

 

People on Facebook value accurate, authentic content.

With the wave of fake news on Facebook, accuracy is SO important more now than ever. Facebook users have told Facebook that authentic stories are the ones that resonate with them the most, so Facebook ranks those types of posts higher in the News Feed. Some tips from Facebook include:

  • Clear headlines – do not mislead the person viewing the headline.
  • Spam – “do not deliberately try and game the News Feed to get more distribution.”
  • Accurate Information – make sure what you are posting is true.

 

Around the same time as the Facebook release, Sprout Social released its Q2 Sprout Social Index. This edition of the quarterly social media insight report focused on what consumers are looking from from businesses on social media – and it echoed a lot of the Facebook release.

 

Every business wants to be ‘cool’ on social media – they want to relate to their fans, but there is a limit to that. According to the Sprout Social Index, social media users want brands to be honest online, you know, authentic. They also want you to be friendly and helpful, not snarky and sarcastic. You can leave that for your private personal channels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, where else do social media users want to see this honest behavior? Overwhelmingly Facebook. If anyone, professional or not, tells you Facebook is dead and you need to look elsewhere, run and run fast.

 

 

Let’s talk content – what TO and NOT TO post.

 

TO Post: Meaningful, informative stories.

This could include tips, articles – items that are relevant to your fans. What this is NOT is sales pitch after sales pitch or “look at what we do” post after post. I see so many businesses doing that and it’s annoying. Stop the constant self-promotion and build the relationship!

Example: You are a pediatrician office. The content that would be meaningful and informative to your fans would be articles that keep your fans informed on the latest research on vaccines or when your office will be having their annual flu clinic.

 

TO Post: Accurate, authentic content.

Example: You are a restaurant. The accurate, authentic content that would be relevant to your fans would be your updated menu and pricing and any specials you may have.

 

NOT TO Post: Political commentary.

According to the Sprout Index, “Seventy-one-percent of consumers surveyed think political commentary from brands is annoying.” In this day and time, the ground is too shaky to endeavor on posting this type of content. Unless that is your business, steer clear.

 

NOT TO Post: Making fun of customers.

You would think this is a given, but some businesses do it. As seen below, 88% of consumers find it annoying.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TO Post: Responses to questions.

It should be a given to respond to questions to that are asked, however you would be surprised how many go unresponded to (and I’ve had this happen to me!). According to Sprout Social, 68% of consumers want brands to participate in conversations they’re mentioned in, and 83% want brands to respond to them.

 

NOT TO Post: Slang.

You may think it’s cool to use the lingo of a particular generation, but most generations find it annoying. See the graph below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So what happens if a business is posting content that their fans find annoying or uninformative? They are unfollowed or marked as spam. I’ve done it. You’ve done it. Your mom probably has done it too. The problem is that many businesses just don’t care – or they do not know better to know how to correct what they are doing wrong.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a bright side. If you post the right type of content and you are engaging and responsive, your fans will respond. According to Sprout Social’s research, “it may be as easy as being present and providing value–answering a customer’s question on social prompts 49% of consumers to purchase, 45% are swayed by promotions and contests and 42% say they’d be converted by educational content.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tying this all up, if your business is posting meaningful, accurate content that shows you are honest and you are being engaging and responsive online, you are on the right track. Of course, all of this should relate back to your overall social media strategy.

 

What types of content have you seen on Facebook that has made you cringe or made you want to give that business a high-five? Share with us in the comments!

5 Elements to Being a Successful Business Owner

5 Elements to Being a Successful Business Owner

I want to be successful because I like to win. I’m not being arrogant, those who know me best know just how competitive I am. That competitiveness drives me to aim for success in whatever it is I’m doing.

 

Success, for you, could mean an important job title or it could mean a lot of zeros on a paycheck. Success could be staying with the same company for 10+ years or it could be simply doing something that makes you happy. It could even mean getting to a point in your life where you can just walk away from it all.

 

Regardless of what kind of success you are working towards, it doesn’t come easy. It requires blood (sometimes literally), sweat, and tears. It means staying up all night to finish a project. Missing some of your children’s activities. Putting off a large purchase. To modify a quote from one of my favorite TV shows, success comes at a price.  YOU determine the price by how YOU define success. It doesn’t always mean $$$.

 

I’ve owned this company for six years and have been successful with it. However, there is always something to learn and people to learn from. As business owners, we need to continually seek out ways to grow, both personally and professionally, draw from the experience of others – and learn from them.

 

Take a look at these statistics from Small Business Trends, published in November 2016, on the success of small businesses in America –

 

  • A bit more than 50 percent of small businesses fail in the first four years.
  • In fact, of all small businesses started in 2011 (when ME Marketing Services started):
    • 4 percent made it to the second year
    • 3 percent made it to the third year
    • 9 percent made it to the fourth year
    • 3 percent made it to the fifth year
  • Leading causes of small business failure:
    • Incompetence: 46 percent;
    • Unbalanced experience or lack of managerial experience: 30 percent;
    • Catchall category (includes neglect, fraud, and disaster): 13 percent; and
    • Lack of experiences in line of goods or services: 11 percent.

 

Success is a hard-fought battle that not everyone wins. Sometimes the success is just that you fought. Here are five brilliant observations I have learned from other business owners over the past few years that has helped me, and hopefully they will help you too.

 

5 Elements to Being a Successful Business Owner

 

1. You have to know your definition of success.

 

Like I mentioned above, success doesn’t always equal zeros on a paycheck. How successful you will be depends on how you define it. Here are some examples…

 

  • More time with your family
  • Being able to purchase a home (or even a second home at the beach)
  • Industry recognition or awards
  • Speaking engagements

 

Know your definition of success before you do anything else. This will also help you set your personal and professional goals in life.

 

2. What are 1 or 2 things you can do differently to set yourself apart?

 

It’s been said birds of a feather flock together. If that’s your case, how will be people know who you are? In a competitive business world, to be noticed you have to stand out. It could be from your hard work, your job title, or who you know.

 

Ask yourself – what is your “it” factor? You aren’t born with “it”, you have to develop it. What sets you apart from the other ‘birds’? To steal a line from a graphic floating around, be a Jackie Kennedy in a world of Kardashians.

 

3. Find a mentor and build a support system around yourself.

 

All successful people surround themselves with a good support system. Having a business coach or mentor is the first place to start. Surround yourself with people who want to help you succeed, not hold you back. This could be a spouse or partner, friends, family, co-workers. Whoever it is, be very selective in who you choose. They need to help set you up for success, not failure.

 

This person should also be someone who can give you honest, constructive feedback on what you may not be doing right. Surrounding yourself with “yes” men and women will not help you grow.

 

4. Set boundaries.

 

Knowing what you will and won’t do will help to define who you are and what your success is. Boundaries are important because not only will they help you stay focused, it will keep others from tempting you with things you have no business doing. This could range from business ethics to simply saying “no” to helping out at an event.

 

This is something to keep in mind every time a friend calls and says, “can I pick your brain about <enter your profession>.” Your time is money, don’t give it away for free.

 

5. Remember the Golden Rule.

 

I cannot stress how important this is. How you treat others says a lot about your character. Go into everything treating other people how you would want them to treat you. It may not work all the time, but you’ll be able to sleep at night. Being the competitive person I am, I will be the first to admit I struggle with this. I want to win every pitch I make. I want to win every project I bid. This includes being respectful of your competition as well.

 

One thing to ask is how can you serve others? By serving others, you’ll see your generosity come back to you. This can range from giving a college student an hour of your time to mentor them. It could help with your organization’s fundraiser. This could simply be showing compassion. Serving is a big part of my business – we donate money and time to many worthy causes in our area. It’s one of our cornerstones. We’ve been blessed over the years and it’s only right to pay it forward.

 

 

One of my favorite quotes on this topic is from Sir Winston Churchill – “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Success can be fleeting, so enjoy it while it lasts, and hopefully it will last a long time.

 

Do you think you have what it takes to be successful? What attributes do you think a successful person needs?

 

How to Ace Business Travel like a Pro

How to Ace Business Travel like a Pro

Whether you’re a solopreneur, work for a major corporation, or fall somewhere in between, there is always a good possibility that you’ll travel for business purposes. Although a lot of business is conducted virtually and online in our modern society, face-to-face meetings are often invaluable for developing and maintaining solid business relationships.

Business travel slowed in the U.S. during 2015 due to a variety of economic uncertainties. However, the percentage of people traveling, at least for domestic business travel in the U.S., has picked up somewhat in 2016 so far.

The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), which is the world’s premier business travel and meetings organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. area with operations on six continents, has been keeping tabs on multiple statistics which impact the rates of business travel. Most notable is the lower cost of airfare due to the plunge in oil prices earlier this year. As a result, the GBTA anticipates the overall increase in travel spend for 2016 to be around 3.7% in the U.S. They have forecasted an even more significant increase in global business travel spend over 2015.

The time and current economic situation are conducive for business travel. Get ready to pack up your laptop and/or tablet, appropriate business attire, and smartphones and travel like a pro.

Here are suggestions to make business travel less stressful and more efficient

There’s little doubt that business travel can feel overwhelming, especially when you are a new or infrequent traveler. Planning ahead will help you feel more prepared and less stressed.

In her article for U.S. News, Sienna Kossman shares a variety of useful tips for efficient and stress-free business travel. Her post provides a helpful, basic resource that you may find helpful as well. Consider these tips as you start planning your own trip.

Here are a few of Kossman’s pro tips for business travel:

  1. If you’re planning to be on the go regularly or need to be able to leave at a moment’s notice, make sure to keep essentials packed at all times. This includes toiletries and charging cables, for example.
  2. Remember to pack leisure clothing items. You probably won’t be in meetings for your entire trip so make sure you have comfortable clothes and shoes for sightseeing, going out on the town, etc.
  3. Avoid checking bags. You’ll save time and money when you pack what you need in a carry-on.
  4. Sign up for frequent traveler programs. These types of services will save you a lot of time and hassle since they allow pre-approved travelers to bypass traditional security checks.
  5. Make sure you have all the documents you need for travel (i.e., driver’s license, tickets, passport, etc.) and that you’re able to quickly access them. This will help further reduce the time you spend waiting in line at the airport.

As I mentioned above, all business travel involves planning ahead as much as possible. It can make all the difference between having an experience that is enjoyable or downright regrettable. There are two primary aspects of business travel which especially require diligent planning: packing and securing accommodations.

Here are recommendations for packing properly and finding affordable accommodations like a pro:

What to pack for business travel

Decide what absolutely needs to be packed, what can be left behind, and what can be bought when you arrive at your destination. Packing for a business trip is much different than for a family vacation. For business travel, efficiency is key.

TripCase, an itinerary management travel app, shares an excellent business trip packing checklist on their blog titled, “Packing List For A Stress-Free Business Trip.” As the author of this post points out,

Preparedness and planning are you(r) best weapons. With a well thought out, but simple plan of attack, it’s easy to avoid a large number of the plights and pitfalls that many travelers fall victim to.

The author recommends coming up with a handful of categories as a way of organizing your business travel packing:

Your attire

  • What is the dress code?
  • Will you need a versatile wardrobe?
  • How long are you going to be there?
  • What is the weather going to be like at your destination?
  • Have an extra outfit for each function at the ready, just in case.

Work-related items

  • Printed handouts
  • Business cards
  • Pens and a notebook
  • Laptop, mouse, and charger (or tablet(s) and charger)

Electronics and entertainment

  • Chargers
  • Power adaptors
  • Books for fun reading
  • Phone accessories

Choosing a place to stay

In some cases, the company you work for chooses where you’ll stay when you’re traveling for them. However, when you’re an entrepreneur or small business owner, for example, you are most likely responsible for your own accommodations. Ideally, you want to find a safe, comfortable place to relax at the end of the day without spending a small fortune.

For short stays, you can go online and easily find discounted corporate rates for business travelers, either using travel sites or through specific hotels’ websites.

Kristina Portillo, the founder of the Business Travel Life website, shares useful tips for accessing corporate hotel rates as a small business owner on her blog post, “How to Get Corporate Hotel Rates.”

Portillo’s tips include the following:

  • Do not make your reservation using the 800 number
  • Request a corporate rate if you are doing business with a local company
  • Ask for an unofficial corporate rate
  • Do not approach a busy check-in desk
  • Ask for a non-refundable rate

Some business trips require you to stay for an extended period of time. Fortunately, there are many affordable and comfortable extended stay options to choose from. Whether you’re seeking a simple place to stay with a small kitchen and real “dishes,” or a furnished home or apartment – or something in between – there are many different types of accommodations available.

Here are a few ideas for extended stay business travelers:

Although planning for business travel requires a good amount of time and patience, it will be completely worthwhile when you successfully arrive at your destination. You’ll have time to focus on your business needs and be more productive with your work, rather than worrying about lost luggage, unsatisfactory accommodations or botched reservations.

What are other tips do you have for efficient and stress-free business travel? I would love to hear your ideas and suggestions – please feel free to leave a comment below.

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