September 18, 2018

3 Ways Having a Social Media Strategy Will Save You Time


Guest post by Anita Kirkbride

Have you ever noticed how being overwhelmed by something tends to make it suck the time right out of your day? The more overwhelmed you feel, the longer it takes to get it done? All entrepreneurs get that feeling about something and many have learned tactics to deal with it and get things done more efficiently.

Ben Franklin famously said, “For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned,” and it has never been truer than for planning your social media marketing!

If your paralysis stems from social media, the best way to get moving is to create a social media strategy and plan out what you need to be doing. Here are three ways doing so will save you time:

Knowing what to post

Simply having a plan for what you need to post each day cuts the time you spend trying to figure that out. If you’ve ever stared blankly at your screen, wondering what to post on Facebook, you know what I mean. Taking the time to plan your content in advance means you cut out a lot of the noise that distracts you while trying to decide what to post. You know what you need to find/create and you can get right to it.

Knowing when and where to post

Part of the process of developing your social media strategy is determining on which networks you should focus your efforts. A little research time goes a long way. Asking your current, ideal customers which networks they hang out on regularly is one way to find out where you should be. There are also lots of great online sources of demographic information to help you if you’re new to social media. Taking the time to really understand your audience will save you from trying to create content for too many networks, wasting precious resources on the wrong ones, and understanding your audience better can help you optimize your posting schedule.

Committing to Content

There are numerous formats your social media content can take, from blogs to white papers, from photos to live videos. Trying to do everything contributes to that overwhelm feeling. Ask yourself which types of content you can honestly commit to making on a regular basis and add those to your plan. If you simply cannot create videos, there is no point in overwhelming yourself with a plan that includes a video every week. You’ll continue to procrastinate and get nothing done. Choose the types of content that work best for you and your audience and work your way up to the less comfortable ones later.

When making any kind of decision in business, eliminating the distracting ideas that simply won’t work, saves you time and helps you make better decisions. Absolutely spend some time brainstorming, researching and considering all the possibilities but then narrow it down to what you reasonably have the time, resources and capacity to commit to doing. Once you’ve done that, your social media marketing will come much easier, take less time and start to become routine.

Photo credit: Shari Tucker

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stupid simple social media program graphic

September 14, 2018

Are You Having a Conversation or Giving a Lecture?


Guest post by Frances Leary

Every business of every size needs a platform that gives it a voice. Social media is just that. It gives every organization, large and small, a voice to share its information, inspiration, products, and services with the world.

However, if businesses are only listening to their own voices, it’s like giving a sermon. People can only listen to a sermon for so long. Eventually, they don’t want to listen anymore.

Imagine this scenario:

You’ve been told you need to “be on social media.” So, you find some content to post and you use an automation tool to get it out there consistently. And then to yourself, you say, “Whew, that’s done. Now I don’t have to deal with social media for a while.”

The result?

There you are, standing behind your online lectern, giving an unending sermon to an audience of your very-soon-to-be-disengaged potential customers and clients. You just keep on talking. Eventually, they stop listening. It’s like giving a lecture to an empty auditorium.

People don’t engage on social media to be lectured. They engage on social media because they want to connect with people. And when it comes to business, people want to do business with people. They want to share thoughts and ideas and be inspired. They want to build relationships with organizations and leaders they trust.

They want to feel like they know who you really are. They want to feel heard and valued and understood.

However, if you’re only giving lectures then you’re not giving your customers and clients what they need.

If you don’t actually want to engage with the people – to have those conversations, to respond to comments and questions from your audience, to provide supportive customer engagement in order to foster those relationships – then what are you really doing on social media in the first place?

Business development is a two-way conversation. So is social media. So, step away from the lectern, and have the conversations.

Action: Look at your social media feeds and notice how much you’re posting and how much you are commenting on and engaging with others. If you’re mostly just posting your own content, make a point to scroll through your followers’ posts and comments. See what they’re up to, and allow yourself to absorb the potential for using social media to lift up those members of your audience and support them. Look for opportunities to engage with your community, and act.

Adapted from a chapter of 101 Ways to Use Social Media to Do Good by Frances Leary.

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Frances Leary is an award-winning entrepreneur, author, speaker, consultant, and president of online communications firm Wired Flare Inc., a certified B Corporation and two-time Best for the World Honoree in five categories. As an expert in digital storytelling and impact-driven communication, Frances has worked with organizations throughout North America to connect them with customers, partners and communities through compelling story. A digital shepherd, she offers training and consulting to empower impact-driven entrepreneurs and organizations to grow their triple bottom line. Frances speaks internationally, championing big ideas and empowering change, and she is the author of the newly released book, 101 Ways to Use Social Media to Do Good. Learn more about Frances at FrancesLeary.com 

September 10, 2018

How to Share Yourself Through Your Content


Are you a learner? Share your learning.

Are you a teacher? Share what you teach.

Are you an experimenter? Share what you discover.

Are you thoughtful? Share your conclusions.

Are you an artist? Share your art.

Are you a shopper? Share your style.

Are you a conversationalist? Share the latest news.

Are you a planner? Share your plans.

Are you a storyteller? Share your stories.

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September 5, 2018

Oh, The Embarrassment! (And The Engagement)


You know that feeling when you're talking to a group of people, quite passionate about the topic, and suddenly your brain resets? You have no idea what you were about to say. Total blank. Especially when it happens in front of a class or on a live broadcast, you feel an immediate flush of embarrassment and confusion. I know it well.

What to do? Own up and share your predicament. Everyone messes up at one time or another. What you'll discover is that people will rush to help you recover, to rescue you. (Dare I say Canadians are particularly good at this?) Suddenly, whatever you were talking about has become a shared experience, not just a discussion.

I was reminded of this embarrassment factor while watching a Facebook Live where my friend and colleague, Anita Kirkbride, momentarily lost her focus... and gracefully recovered. Later in the discussion, she talked about how the fear of embarrassment shouldn't keep us from doing our own social media marketing.

Embarrassment happens to everyone. And so it can be an engaging shared experience wherever it happens - online or off.

As an aside, if you're teaching a class when this happens, it turns out to be a great way to review the discussion up to that point. This I know from experience.

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September 1, 2018

Brainstorming by Email


Long ago and far away, when I worked for a multinational, sometimes I brainstormed with my team by email. I was working in Georgetown ON and had staff in Toronto, Regina and Abbotsford. Email was fairly new back then, and a welcome alternative to scheduling group conference calls across the time zones.

I could start with a discussion question sent to the customer service reps, asking them to add comments and send onto the production planners. The planners would give their input and send it on to the warehouse staff. Eventually, I'd get back an email that loosely mapped out a process. I've never used email so productively since.

Now, I don't have staff but I still have a team. And I'm usually brainstorming ideas, not processes. Here's the funny thing, I can sit by myself and scratch notes on paper... and get overwhelmed with ideas. So I start writing an email to my cohorts explaining and asking for feedback. And through that process, I often find clarity - without ever sending the email!

My trusted advisors work for me even when they don't realize it. And I've discovered a powerful way to use email - even when the email is never sent.

Many small business owners work alone. Having trusted advisors is critical but they aren't always available at, say 1am on a Saturday. I start a conversation anyway and often find answers - with their unknowing help - while they're sleeping.

Sometimes the act of writing an email - explaining my dilemma - is enough to get the creative juices flowing again. The next time you're feeling stuck in the middle of the night, give this a try.

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August 28, 2018

Who Are You Marketing To?


You know those workshops you go to where the instructor puts you on the spot right at the start by asking you to describe your target market? I'm one of those instructors. And I do it because a discussion about target markets is a critical first step to any marketing strategy and subsequent plans.

Invariably there is at least one person in every class who tells me they can sell to anyone. I know I'll get the chance to preach, "You might be able to sell to anyone but you can't market to everyone." Marketing is expensive - in time and money.

We need to find and develop content that is valuable (useful and/or interesting) to those specific people we want to have as customers. Once we've done that, we've got it made, right?

So, who are we marketing to?
  • potential customers
  • customers
Wait, there are more people we want to impact with our marketing:
  • colleagues
  • peers
  • influencers
  • referrers
  • vendors
  • partners
  • collaborators
Don't let me confuse you - I'm not saying you now need to have content that's valuable to all these people too. You'd be resonating with no one.

This is where your marketing content has a different purpose: credibility. And that's about how you market. Do you show up regularly? Can your content be trusted? Is your brand consistent in its look, messaging and frequency? Can these people tell you're an expert?

While I take time to create valuable content, the way I market has had the most impact on my business success. ALL of my new business comes to me through that second group of people, not from marketing to strangers. Don't ignore these people - some of them will be your biggest fans.

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Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder Newsletter August 28, 2018

August 24, 2018

Online Marketing Faux Pas


Online marketing provides an ample playground for errors, such as typos, broken links, and incorrect dates. We've gotten used to little boo-boos - they happen to everyone and we're mostly forgiving.

Then there are those biggies - the things that can cause a total disconnect with our brand, services and products. Here are some examples I see more often than you might think:

  • The marketing strategist whose LinkedIn profile page url is a series of letters and numbers
  • The sharing app that doesn't use their own tool in their blog posts to make them easy to share
  • The bulk email service provider that sends icky looking newsletters
  • The blogging trainer who doesn't post regularly
  • The social media experts with no social connecting links on their websites
  • The catchy call-to-action that takes you to a sign-up form that doesn't work
  • The website designer whose own website is 5 years old (and looks it)
  • The obvious typos on a homepage that are still there 6 months later
  • The things we sign up for but never get, and the things we get that we never signed up for
  • The big, bold text that says, "CALL NOW!", yet no one answers the phone

If we don't care about the messages we're sending with our marketing, it's highly likely no one else will either. If we get the big things right, we'll be forgiven for the little things that go wrong.

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August 19, 2018

Unique Content: Do You Have an Opinion?


The one truly unique type of content you can create contains your opinions. Certainly, there are other unique types of content that will work for some... but not for everyone. If you are an expert, an influencer, a salesperson... you have opinions.

Opinions make for great content because they're usually polarizing - they will resonate strongly with some and have the opposite effect on others. Not only is this a great way to make a more personal connection, it's also a great way to qualify your contacts and turn them into leads.

Interestingly, the word 'opinion' has such synonyms as view, belief, conviction, persuasion, sentiment, judgment, outlook, attitude; and can be defined as implying a conclusion thought out yet open to dispute. Yet the definition of the word 'opinionated' is firmly or unduly adhering to one's own opinion or to preconceived notions. It turns out we want to be 'opinioned' which is more open-minded and less rigid.

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August 14, 2018

3 Reasons Why Businesses Should Be Podcasting


(guest post by Mike Tanner)

To suggest that I’m a big fan of podcasts would be… a bit of an understatement.

In addition to being the host of 3.5 podcasts (it’s a long story), I provide podcasting consulting, speak on podcasting panels and once had a dream that I was the host of a potato chip podcast called “Chip Off The Old Block” (That podcast should be coming out in the fall.)

I started podcasting because I enjoyed it. But what I’ve discovered about podcasting as it relates to business has left me realizing that I made the absolute right decision when I decided to start broadcasting my thoughts on an audio medium.

So here are three reasons why businesses should be podcasting.

Passive Advertising

I am a big fan of social media advertising. The targeting options available on major platforms are outstanding and things like analytics and retargeting make it a no-brainer to use social to promote your business, whether that’s through the use of paid ads or just a solid social strategy.

But those are active channels.

People need to be paying attention (mostly) if they’re going to interact with your content in any beneficial manner.

And that’s one reason that podcasts are so unique. Here are some of the places and situations where I listen to podcasts:
  • Doing the dishes
  • Driving 
  • Playing video games
  • Writing
  • Working
  • Walking
The fact is, I’m not able to significantly interact with people’s tweets or snaps or status updates while I’m doing MOST of those things. However, podcasts circumvent this by giving us the ability to consume content while doing a myriad of other things and, while this can obviously mean a drop in attention, some attention is better than no attention.

Can you imagine if you could say to yourself “peruse these tweets at 1.5X speed” or “read this blog post at 2x speed.” Well, you can do that with podcasts because they’re consumed passively in whatever manner and at whatever speed you’d like.

Podcasts are More Popular than NFL Football

Ok. It’s true. You can make stats say anything you want them to. But hear me out.

In 2017, 48 million Americans listened to a podcast at least once a week. This number rose by 6 million compared to the previous year.

In 2017, 20 million Americans tuned in to watch Sunday Night Football each week.

So while it’s a bit of a stretch to suggest that podcasts are more popular than the NFL, the point is that a LOT of people are listening to podcasts… and that number is growing by a LOT each year.

As more and more people tune in to more and more podcasts, the opportunity for individuals to help fill niche markets with great information, and thus bolster their businesses visibility, are remarkable.

It’s Really Not That Hard

It’s not that launching a podcast is easy… except… well, it is.

Making a podcast sound great is another story, but it’s much easier to start a podcast than a YouTube channel or most other media platforms you might use.

Here’s what you need to start a podcast: a phone.

If you have a phone, you’re golden. You can get nice microphones. You can buy nice software. You can hire a producer. You CAN do lots of things. But when it comes down to it, you just need a phone. Once, I made an Instagram post about the idea of production quality as it relates to content creation. I said that:
“Gary Vaynerchuck could record a podcast on a speak-and-spell in an airplane washroom because the content would be golden.”
Three months later Gary V launched 'the airport sessions', a collection of podcasts with TERRIBLE audio quality that were absolute fire when it came to the content itself.

The point is not, “do a terrible job, who cares,” but rather you should not hold off on pushing play just because you had a little background noise.

Podcasts are easy and inexpensive to produce, growing in popularity and reach the consumer where they’re at. What more could you ask for in a content platform?

So what are you waiting for?

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August 9, 2018

Please Don't Use Email For This


Have you ever sent an email you regretted as soon as you hit Send? There can't be many who haven't felt that in their gut at some time or other, including me.

Facts are perfect for email communication; feelings are not. (Tweet This!)

This is particularly important when it comes to our business communication. While I haven't been completely successful in curbing this tendency, the thing that works best for me is to keep myself from hitting that Send button until the next day. Most often, a cooler head prevails and I end up deleting the draft instead of sending. But there's catharsis in the rant.

Rant privately (not on Facebook), then cool off. This is one time I'm asking you NOT to use email. Emails are not conversations.

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August 3, 2018

No Bricks Between Friends


Sometimes it's hard to give honest feedback, especially if it's negative. After all, the other person worked hard to create something and their feelings might be hurt. But the work is just not 'right', and may even be horribly wrong.

What do you do? Be honest, and give good direction about what you don't like and what you'd like to see instead. And what if you don't exactly know what you'd like instead? Be honest about that, too.

When discussing this with a new client recently, she said, "No bricks between friends." That saying came from her Irish grandmother, Annie, and the wisdom can certainly be applied to our business relationships, too.

Communication, by any of the many options available, takes time and costs money. But we are not saving time by withholding critical feedback. Here are two scenarios that might happen if we do:
  1. Later in the project, for example, a website, it becomes evident that the work is not pleasing. And later in the project, it will take much more time to make changes than at the start.
  2. With zero or little feedback, the project goes on to completion. But we aren't happy with the results, and may even tell other people that. And, before long, we might be looking to have the work done over again by someone else - also expensive.
These are not outcomes desired by either person in the relationship.

If you can't articulate your needs, a good independent contractor will help you do that by asking the right questions to draw out information and ideas. Time spent in honest communication early on will always lead to better results.

July 29, 2018

Summer Content Ideas - Loosen Up a Little


If there's any time of year to get more personal with your content, it's during the summer. The rules are relaxed and people have more time to read deeper. Here are a few ideas you can try:

  1. Create a roundup of summer reading appropriate for your fans. This could be books or articles you've read, or even favourite videos, such as TED Talks.
  2. Create your own summer "want to read" list and share it.
  3. Share your favourite BBQ recipe. (Yes, even if you're a business consultant.)
  4. Update your business bucket list and share.
  5. Share "what I'm doing", "where to find me" updates – and why those things are relevant to your readers.
  6. If you're busy learning over the summer, write a "What I Learned" article.
  7. Compare or contrast one of your favourite summer activities with some aspect of your business. (example)
  8. Experiment with the "Mom test" and share your results.
  9. Start a new business habit and share your progress and learnings.
  10. Research! Use a tool like Answer the Public or Google Trends to hone in on topics you haven't covered yet. Share your resulting list of topics as a post with a promise to write about these topics in the future.
  11. Have fun with colours. Create a digital mood board of your favourite summer colours along with an interesting theme.
  12. Preview something new that's starting in the fall with a teaser, such as a new program, product or service offering.
  13. Take on a photo project, such as a 30-day challenge, and blog the experience.
  14. Organize a meet-up with local experts in your industry and then post about it, before, during and after.

Share your favourite summer content idea in the comments.

originally published in Work Better, Not Harder newsletter July 26, 2018

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July 24, 2018

13 Simple, Direct ideas for Client Relationship Building


(guest post by Natasha Marchewka)

Do you need help with keeping in touch with past clients without "bugging them"? When working as an isolated freelancer or small business (and where building your business is all on you) there are ways to efficiently and effectively build, strengthen, and grow relationships.

Keeping in touch regularly can be a bit of a conundrum. You want to remind them you exist, but you need to find a balance of being seen and heard and not overdo it. So, you created a newsletter to email clients once a month. I think that's great - and important - and keeps you relevant, top-of-mind, and also keeps you on your toes. What else can you do to remind them you exist as they are distracted daily... and still forget you exist?

Here are some ideas. And, as an added bonus you'll have relevant content to share on your social media feeds!

Client Relationship Building Check-list:
  1. Visit your clients' websites and check if they added anything new, like a press release, newsletter, blog, or an additional social medium. This is the starting point for relevant communication.
  2. Subscribe to their feeds: YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Vimeo, etc. You may want to receive a notification when they post interesting content.
  3. Sign up for their newsletter or blog, if you haven't already, so you'll receive relevant info when they publish.
  4. Scan all their social feeds and share something noteworthy on your own social media. Keep shares engaging by adding your comments with your post.
  5. Check out their blog posts and share on your social media, if you are compelled to do so.
  6. Do they have a (recent) press release that is worth mentioning on one of your feeds? Congratulate them on something, tagging them and any relevant content.
  7. Google your client's contact name and congratulate them directly, by email or social media, on anything notable, keeping it simple and professionally appropriate.
  8. Go to your "notifications" in LinkedIn and reach out to clients who have something noteworthy, providing a personal comment.
  9. Make note of the anniversary of when you first worked together. Schedule in your online calendar with a reminder. Send them an Anniversary email each year.
  10. Email clients individually with an article or idea that reminded you of them.
  11. Mail a thank you card after you've worked together again.
  12. Send a general gratitude card anytime.
  13. Send an appropriate gift or card at year-end, at the New Year, or for a random holiday.

July 20, 2018

Does Your Mother Know What You Do? (Part 2)


It's hard to believe it's been over 4 years since I took my mother to her first (and only) business networking event and wrote about it here. I'm a big fan of the "Mom test" for simplifying our small business marketing messages but I didn't fully appreciate it until yesterday morning.

I was driving out Waverley Road taking the long, more scenic route to Bedford with my mom in the passenger seat. Because she's my biggest fan, I was telling her about some of the exciting new things going on with my business. Oh, she was making all the right noises and nodding, as moms will, but that's when it hit me - she really had no clue as to what I was talking about, much less about why it's interesting and valuable work.

I thought I passed the Mom test years ago when I explained I do newsletters and websites and generally help small business owners implement their marketing plans. She could, and does, tell people that. But since she's never used a computer, she has no context for what that might mean.

So yesterday I told my mom that I help my clients grow their professional reputation using the internet. Because my dad was a scientist, she understands the importance of a professional reputation, even if in a different context. I think I just passed the Mom test for real this time.

Whether it's with your mom, a sibling or a good friend, summer is a great time to experiment with the Mom test outside of your business world. I'd love to hear your revelations in the comment section below.

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July 16, 2018

Little Things Can Have a Big Impact on Your Business Success


Seth Godin's post today - We’re still clueless about lifetime value - got me thinking, as his posts usually do. (Take a minute to read it.)

I love his line, "Torrents are made of drips." He's referring to the long-term impact of small, seemingly inconsequential, actions - like when I have to call Netfirms three times before I get a resolution to a domain problem. That company will never get my referrals for website hosting, even though I get asked regularly for referrals to good website hosting companies. That's not business lost - it's business they'll never get... but could have.

Now think of the website hosting company that I do refer people to - SiteGround Hosting Ltd. (aff). I have sent them 8 referrals in the last 6 months. And I bet some of those people have gone on to refer SiteGround, or will. Those people will refer more people, and so on. By treating me well in every interaction I've had with them, they've earned my loyalty - and my desire to share with others.

How can you get even a couple of more people to refer your business? Is there something you can do right now to start a few drips leading to a torrent?

PS: This Siteground success story started a year ago on The Phone Lady's blog - read about it here.

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