Each month for the Out-Smarts podcast I talk with local small business people and ask them to share with us how they’ve used social media and the Internet to grow their business and to tell us their top 3 tips for business growth.
This month I had the pleasure of sitting down with business partner and colleague Michela Quilici of Q Consulting. Listen up!
The Art of Marketing is coming to Vancouver on March 19th. See industry thought leaders Seth Godin, John Jantsch, Mitch Joel.
Click on the image below and use the promo code SMARTS19 to save on your tickets.
If you write a regular blog then you’ve no doubt suffered from blog writers fatigue. It gets us all from time to time: you wake up one morning and you have no inspiration and can’t for the life of you think of what to write about. Here are a few ideas that you can use to get over this and get back at it:
1. Read, read, read – open the newspaper, read articles in magazines and on-line publications and books: you’re sure to find inspiration for a post. Try using Zyte or FlipBoard apps to source inspiring content.
2. Share the responsibility – get other members of staff, partners and even customers to contribute to your blog thus providing a fresh viewpoint for readers. But be careful with this, Google doesn’t like it when articles are reposted so fresh, new content is best.
3. Think outside the box – cover a topic that is peripheral to your business – one that you wouldn’t normally cover in a typical blog post but that is still relevant to your central subject. It might be a charity you are involved with, a cause that is close to your heart or local related news. Or instead of posting a written blog why not post a video or photo blog to shake things up.
4. Just do it – stop making excuses: you’ve started a blog and you see the benefit in terms of increased traffic – it takes discipline and commitment to have a successful blog so just quit the complaining and get it done – it’s worth it. Remember that quality is better than quantity so give yourself a break – one great post a month is better than 4 mediocre ones.
5. Take inspiration from every day experiences – Have you had an experience in your every day existence that strikes a cord? Share these experiences in your blog. It could be as simple as a positive customer service experience or a negative one that made your blood boil. Doing so lends a human aspect to you writing.
6. Ask your clients – this is my favorite one and one I use it often. If I am stuck for an idea for a blog post subject, I’ll ask clients and colleagues for suggestions. You will be amazed by the ideas a fresh mind can come up with. Conversely, use your blog as a forum to answer common questions your clients ask you.
7. Attended and event, trade-show, presentation or movie? – review it in your blog.
8. Been on vacation or on a business trip? – Use travel as an inspiration as it gives you the chance to review how things are done differently in other places and to share these new innovations with your community.
9. Learned something new? – if there have been new developments pertinent to an old blog post there’s no reason why you can’t write an new post based on a previous one giving your audience an update on developments.
10. Reward yourself! – if you’re having a day when you’d rather have teeth pulled than write a post, then give yourself and incentive and reward yourself when its done.
Join Mhairi at Small Business BC tomorrow to learn about the basics of social media for Small Business. Tuesday February 25, 12.30- 3.00pm.
Social Media and On-line Marketing Tactics
Just because you know what social media is, does not mean that you necessarily understand how to use it to grow and develop your business. This workshop focuses on understanding social media, what is it and how it’s connecting people.
- Learn how/if social media should be an important part of your marketing strategy.
- Understand what opportunities are available for you to leverage social media for business growth and prospecting.
This seminar is hosted at Small Business BC in Vancouver and delivered to other locations via live video conference and webinar. All webinar participants will also receive access to a recording for seven days after the live session.
Register now at the following locations:
Social media is so mainstream, you would think by now that we would have grasped how to use it properly. Instead businesses fall back on bad habits and focus on the old push model – pushing out content (the more the better) and hoping that some of it sticks (or that somebody (anybody?) notices). If you log into your Twitter dashboard right now, the chances are that the majority of the Tweets you see are links to articles written by someone else and in many cases the original article titles are still intact with no value add and there’s no mention of the originator. Little wonder then that 75% of our time spent on social media is wasted, all we are doing is rehashing other people’s content and poorly at that.
In 2014 if your small business isn’t having conversations in these networks then why bother?
Let me ask you this. Would you go to a networking event and stand in the corner of the room and shout ‘I’ve a great deal for you’ or ‘Have you read this bla bla bla?’ at the other attendees? Of course you wouldn’t so why is it that you think it is okay to do this on social media?
Successful social media participation is a lot like attending a networking event, you have to start conversations and interact in order to make the most of your time there.
Don’t be shy. Here are five quick tips to help you kickstart social media conversations.
1. Who is it you want to have conversations with? – Most likely your partners, clients, business contacts, people of influence in your community, other businesses you would like to have as clients, media types and service providers who can bring you business. Make sure you are following them on Twitter and have liked their business pages on Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest (this will depend on which networks you use). Make a list on Twitter if you like (to help you track them more easily).
2. Listen well – You’ve followed the right people, now what? Get into the habit of listening (watching) out for their updates and replying, responding and sharing when you have something positive of valuable to add. Do this daily and remember that this is about them not you. Be authentic.
3. Get social in real time – Rather than simply scheduling posts, get into the habit of using these tools in real time. When you post, take a few minutes to hang out and wait for responses so that you can have real time interactions with your connections. If you don’t have time to do this then monitor your feeds (most social apps facilitate this). Thank people who share your posts (if you do they will be more likely to do so again). Remember your manners.
4. Find ways to start and stimulate conversations – If you are linking to articles remember to include the @twitterfeed of the original source – that helps you build new relationships. Tell people what it is about the post that is interesting / adds value or you disagree with. Include a call to action. Share pertinent articles that you think will be of specific interest to your network and, even better, share directly with individuals in your network.
5. Integrate online and off – use social media as a tool to augment your in person business development. If you are attending conferences or events, look for your fellow attendees in advance and connect with them online so you can meet break the ice before meeting them in person. Get into the habit of connecting on social media with people you meet at networking events then go back to steps 2 and 3 in order to enhance your relationship with them.
How do you start and maintain your online conversations? What works for you? Let us know.
Other Out-Smarts Blog articles you might like:
The top 10 social media mistakes businesses make
Using social media to maintain and grow your network
10 Ways to Kickstart your Tweets
Listen to my latest podcast and learn about the 3 things I consider to be most important when building your online presence.
If you guest blog as a way to get more links to your website now is the time to reconsider your approach. Even if you guest blog for genuine reasons – to share your knowledge and encourage collaboration with wider audiences your guest blog days are numbered or at least your days of deriving benefit from a rank perspective from this approach are. Matt Cutt’s Google’s God of all things SEO and Head of Webspam tackled the issue head on in his blog today.
In his post he points out that whilst guest blogging started out as a respectable way to share knowledge and information, it was quickly hijacked as a means to get more links at the expense of quality content. Here’s an excerpt:
So stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy. In general I wouldn’t recommend accepting a guest blog post unless you are willing to vouch for someone personally or know them well. Likewise, I wouldn’t recommend relying on guest posting, guest blogging sites, or guest blogging SEO as a linkbuilding strategy. – Matt Cutts
So from here on in, don’t submit your blog posts to guest blogging sites, don’t post guest blogs on your own site unless you have a very solid relationship with the writer and don’t even bother responding to those emails that end up in your promotions tab or spam filter that offer free blog posts regardless of how desperate you might think you are for content. You are never that desperate.
Blogging should be a labour of love. There are no shortcuts to success and reposting subpar content that appears on lots of other pages certainly doesn’t help you stand out from the crowd anyway. Rather than looking for the shortcuts, focus instead on building quality content that is unique and that entices people to share with their networks.
The SEO industry is one that is plagued by snake oil types and it seems a shame that, once again, the acts of the unscrupulous have such impact. In the short term this will maybe clean things up a little but the sad thing is that in the longterm the spam merchants will find another way (likely through social media given the number of fake sharing I see going on there now too).
Social media can really level the playing field for small businesses. It gives us the ability to do more with less and yet many companies claim that social media isn’t working. The fact of the matter is that it’s not social media that’s at fault, it’s you. Here’s why:
1. You’re not listening – and you are not alone – 40% of brands using social media don’t respond to comments, questions, replies or retweets. Guaranteed that by doing so you are ignoring inquiries and opportunities that could bring you business. Get in the habit of monitoring your feeds regularly and respond frequently.
2. You’re rude to your fans/followers - fans are like exotic hot house plants, if you care and nurture them they will grow abundant and spread but if you ignore them they will simply die off. Nurtured fans can become your marketing dept on steroids. So why are you ignoring it when they retweet or share your content? A simple thank you is all it takes to keep them happy. Why would anyone retweet your content if you ignore them for it?
3. You’re a headless chicken scratching around doing what you can but with absolutely no direction. You started out with a blog, then added a Facebook page because everyone’s one there, then Twitter because you saw it on TV, and now Pinterest, Google+…. The fact of the matter is that it takes you so long to do your social media that you don’t have enough time to do what you do best and make money. There are thousands of social networks out there. You can’t be on all of them effectively and still make money for your business so choose 2 or 3 (max) and do them really well. Choose the ones that your target audience is most like to use.
4. Your branding sucks – sounds harsh, but it is true. Before you embark on building your social media presence it is important to make sure that you you’ve done your homework and that your brand is ready, and that isn’t just your logo (but that’s important too). You should understand what your company stands for, how it is perceived, how your offering is different. If you know this then you will be more likely to succeed online and off.
5. Your customer service stinks – another hard thing to hear but if your offline customer service stinks then it’s just going to be amplified online, rolling out the red carpet for trolls. Fix your processes and make sure your customer service rocks before you start.
6. You like the sound of your own voice – sorry to tell you but this isn’t about you, my friend, it is about your audience. Stop mouthing off about you and your business all the time. Eighty percent of your posts should be focused on adding value for your audience and twenty percent should be about you (not the other way round). And save the photos of your coffee (yawn).
7. Your social media stands alone. – your presence on social media needs to reflect your real world activities. If you are having an open house or event, Tweet about it. Closed on Monday, then post it on your Facebook page. Consider social media as a component of your overall marketing, communications and business plan.
8. You’re an old school communicator – many small businesses fail on social media because they take the old approach to communicating and talk at their audience rather than with their audience. This isn’t about you pushing out your message, it is about building conversations centered around your customers.
9. You don’t know what social media is and you don’t care. For you, social media is a passing fad and not worthy of your attention. People said the same thing about the Internet 15 years ago and the telephone 100 years ago. The fact of the matter is that if you want to do business with the next generation of clients, you will have to use social media to some extent. If you’re not on there then they will rule you out and you’re business will suffer.
10. You delegated to the person in your office who has a thousand Facebook friends. Just because someone knows how to use social media socially, doesn’t mean they can use it effectively for business. Make sure that whoever is doing your social media understands your business, goals, audience and what to say or not to say before they start.
To each and every one of you, thanks for following us this year. Have a lovely festive season and a great 2014.
Happy Holidays from Out-Smarts Marketing
This week being Holiday Greetings season, I’ve noticed how many businesses have taken the liberty of adding me to their newsletter list and all because I gave them my business card at a networking event. So it was interesting to read our client Paperclip Law
‘s blog post about current anti-spam laws and upcoming changes to the laws that govern email. Did you know that you are supposed to get explicit permission from subscribers when adding them to your list? Seems that most don’t. Here is the blog post in full.
This morning, the government unveiled some new anti-spam regulations anticipated to come into effect on July 1, 2014 so stay tuned for more updates as we learn more.
In the meantime, Bill C-28 which took effect in early 2012, is not new, but wanted to remind businesses about what they need to know.
It applies to all permission-based marketing like email, social media, text and other electronic messaging so here are some tips to stay on the right side of the law:
- Get explicit permission and make sure the recipient always has the option to unsubscribe or opt out.
- Let your contacts choose how frequently they want to hear from you when they join your list.
- Ask your recipients if they found the information useful? Was it too frequent? Remind recipients why you are emailing them.
- Monitor your inbox for unsubscribes and complaints and take action right away!
Note: Adapted from article published in CAmagazine November 2011 by Lisa Kember (Toronto regional development director for Constant Contact).