Mastering Social Media to Grow Your Small Business in Terrace and Kitimat

Next week, Mhairi will be heading up to Northern BC to present ‘Mastering Social Media to Grow Your Small Business” at the Terrace and District Chamber of Commerce on February 27th then on to the Kitimat Chamber the next night.  The Terrace event is full but there are still a few spots in Kitimat. Click on the link to register below.

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.

Learning Objectives:

  • 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.

Tickets: FREE
Light dinner included


Terrace and Kitimat businesses welcome!

It’s Time For a Digital Detox

This weekend at PowHERhouse speaker series in Sechelt, I spoke for 9 minutes about how important it is to take a digital detox. As a digital marketer I’ve learned this lesson the hard way (and take it from me, I am still learning). I was surprised by how many people came up to me after and thanked me for putting this in perspective for them too. My message seemed to resonate so I am sharing it with you here.

We now have access to more information than all previous generations combined. The ubiquity of digital technology can be a blessing and a curse. One the one hand we can connect with practically anyone in the world and find the answers to our questions in an instant but on the other our faces are stuck in our phones and we’re distracted by frivolities that don’t really matter.

I’m on a crusade to help people put digital technologies back in perspective and put us back in control.

  1. Turn it off! – do you really need to take your phone to bed and keep it on all night – what’s so important that it can’t wait till morning?Time for a Digital Detox
  2. Leave it behind – going out for a meal or a walk – leave your phone behind and focus on the people in front of you.
  3. Stay focused – know what is it that you want to use digital media for. Whether it be for growing your business or simply keeping in touch with your friends, bear your goals in mind when online.
  4. Be selective – about who you connect with (quality is better than quantity!), which tools you use (you can’t use them all well and grow a business too!) and when you use them (see 1 above!).
  5. Listen out for what matters to you – you don’t need to read every single post in your timeline or any of them even. If you are using social media for business hone in on replies, likes, comments and shares (RT’s).
  6. Keep this in mind when posting: If its not worth saying out loud its not worth saying online.
  7. Set some ground rules for you and your family. No phones at the dinner table is one of ours.
  8. Take a digital detox – schedule a block of time (not during sleep hours!) or better yest, a day, to turn of all devices and make some real world connections (with your family, nature, yourself…).

Leave a comment below and let us know when you digitally detox and how you feel when doing it.

Small Business: Here’s Why Your Social Media Isn’t Working

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.


Setting Social Media Goals and Measuring Your Success

Setting social media goals before you jump into building your online business presence is incredibly important, as is putting in place proper tools to measure your success. Below we offer some tips on goal setting and discuss our favorite monitoring tools.

Tips for Setting Social Media Goals

  1.  Start small. Nothing is more discouraging than setting an unreachable goal and then being surprised and disappointed when you don’t reach it. Not to mention, inflated social media expectations reduces your credibility and increases your risk, which we can all agree is something we don’t want.
  2. Set a realistic time period for reevaluation. It takes time to establish a great social media presence online, similar to how ‘overnight success stories’ don’t actually happen overnight. Give yourself a year to test out your social media strategy. At the end of the year, take some time to fully assess whether you’ve been participating in the right online communities, whether or not social media has positively impacted your business, and what areas you need to tweak to perform better in the following year.
  3. Monitor your progress regularly. Don’t wait until your one year trial period is up to take a look at how you’re doing and to tweak your strategy to better meet your goals. We recommend taking some time once a week to do an overview of what you’re doing well, and areas you could improve. Taking this time to evaluate your online presence will allow you to catch any issues quickly before they grow into bigger problems.

Measuring Your Success

There are hundreds of ways to monitor your success online. Here are a few of our favorite tools (bonus: all of them except Hootsuite are free to set-up and use):

Hootsuite: We love this social media dashboard, and we recently blogged about why you should be using it.


Facebook Insights: Facebook recently revamped their analytics and the new metrics are great for tracking how well your page is doing. Key traceable metrics include; understanding and analyzing trends regarding growth and demographics, consumption and creation of content, and information regarding the engagement and viral reach of specific posts.


Google Analytics: Installing analytics on your website is a critically important step, and one that many people skip. Without having tracking code installed on your website, it’s the equivalent of putting up a billboard downtown. You’re unaware of who many have seen it, and whether or not people are visiting your business as a result of your advertising. The same can be said for your website; there’s no point building one if you don’t have tracking installed to tell you how many people are visiting your site, what pages they view, how long they stay, etc. Google Analytics can do this and much more, including the ability to link to Adwords. We also love how easy it is to compare your progress month over month, or year over year.

google analytics

Google Alerts: Another great feature by Google, alerts send an email to your inbox with the latest internet content surrounding your area of interest. You choose the keywords you want to monitor, how often you want to receive the results, and what email address to send them to, and Google does the rest. Great keywords to set up Google Alerts with are your business name and your product names, that way you’ll know when people are talking about you online and can respond to them.

google alerts

Social Mention: A great social media search engine that searches the internet for user-generated content such as blogs, comments, bookmarks, events, news, videos, and more. The results are extensive and appear in real time. 

social mention

Twitter Counter: A great Twitter monitoring tool that let tracks how well your account is performing on an hourly, weekly, monthly, 3 month, or 6 month period.

twitter counter

We’ve only covered a few of the hundreds of listening and monitoring tools available for businesses. If you’d like to find out about how to specifically use these and other applications for your business, we’d be happy to set up a training or coaching session with you. Contact us for more information.


8 Reasons You Should Use Hootsuite

A social media dashboard is an essential tool for any digital marketer. We’re partial to Hootsuite, ‘the leading social media dashboard to manage and measure your social networks’, and a local Vancouver-based success story. Here’s why we’re head over heels for Hootsuite:

1. Schedule posts. This is probably right up there as one of our favourite Hootsuite features. Social media newsfeeds move quickly and what you post at 8 am might not be seen by the potential client that logs into Facebook or Twitter at 2 pm. Besides sitting at your computer posting constantly, how can you be sure your updates are appearing in front of important consumer eyes? You schedule your posts. Hootsuite makes this easy with their scheduler; you can schedule one post at a time, mass upload posts via CVS using the bulk message uploader, and see all your scheduled posts in the Publisher calendar.

hootsuite scheduler

2. Team management. If you’re more than a one man (or woman) show, you probably have multiple people managing your various social media accounts. Hootsuite is great for keeping track of who’s replied to comments, answered questions, posted to various accounts, and it also tracks what time everything was done – to better spread out your postings throughout the day or week. Another perk is that you can give multiple users access to your various social media accounts without having to reveal private information, such as passwords.

hootsuite team management

3. Analytics. Hootsuite has its own built-in metrics and analytics. We blogged about it last April when they revamped their offering. Check it out, there’s lots of analysing power built into the dashboard.

4. No logging into multiple accounts. Having everything in one place is a huge time saver. Without Hootsuite, we’d be logging in and out of social media accounts for clients all day long. We can imagine you feel the same way trying to manage your time with social media because let’s be honest, it can be a full-time job. We can testify to that too; it’s how we make our living! From your Hootsuite dashboard you can send, schedule, track, like, comment, reply, and view photos on multiple accounts on Facebook – personal and business timelines, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.

5. Hard to miss comments. This ties into number 4, sometimes things get lost in the shuffle when you’re logging in and out of multiple accounts. Using Hootsuite, you can see everything all in one place. It’s easy to see whether someone has commented on your Facebook post, or sent you a direct message on Twitter. It’s also easy to see if a team member has already replied, or whether you need to get on that right away.

6. In the cloud. There’s nothing to download with Hootsuite, it’s entirely online which is great for business owners and employees that are frequently out and about throughout the workday. You can log in, check the status of your social media accounts and post updates from anywhere with an internet connection.

7. Inexpensive. Hootsuite offers users an impressive package for the affordable price of $5.99 a month for the Pro version. For a smidge under $6, you can link unlimited social profiles, add 1 free team member, you get a free analytics report, Google Analytics and Facebook Insights integration and more. If you want to add additional team members, it’s $15 a month each – which is still an excellent deal.

8. Add RSS feeds. If you blog, you can add your feed and your posts will automatically be posted to your various social media accounts. You can add unlimited RSS feeds with the Pro version ($5.99 a month).

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, here’s an article on why you should not use Hootsuite.

We’ll let you be the judge – do you think Hootsuite is a reasonable investment for your business? If so, you can sign up here or give us a shout. We’re a Hootsuite Pro Partner and have been helping clients get the most out of Hootsuite for years – would love to help you too.

Avoid The Top 10 Social Media Mistakes Companies Make

A lot has changed the five or so years that Out-Smarts has been focused on social media marketing. For a start, most people now know what Facebook is, many are even using it for more than “being social”.  Studies show that 60% of all Canadians are using social media and 44% of small to medium-sized business decision makers use social media but are businesses using it the right way to build their online presence strategically? In many cases, they’re not. Here are the top 10 mistakes that companies make when using social media.10 Ten Social Media Mistakes

1. Not taking social media seriously

There are over 800 million people using Facebook, and over 200 million Twitter users –  not to mention, a similar number of folks on LinkedIn, and yet many businesses still dismiss social media as a flash in the pan.  Your business has the potential to take advantage of this massive online hub; ignoring it is a huge folly. You don’t have to start with a presence of your own if you’re not comfortable.  Using social media to listen to, and learn from, others in your industry can be a valuable research method, and it is also a great way to get a feel for how social media is used in your sector.

2. Ignore it and hope it will go away

Back in the early nineties when I sold Internet technologies, lots of companies weren’t convinced that the Internet would take off, so they ignored it and hoped it would go away. Many were left scrambling at the last minute to catch up online and some didn’t survive. A  hundred or so years ago many naysayers dismissed the phone. The same story is now replaying with regard to social media. Don’t stick your corporate head in the sand – social media isn’t going away and the sooner you accept that, the less risk to your business.

3. It’s only for small business

I’ve read a few articles recently that write off social media off as a tool that’s only useful for small to medium sized businesses. Many large, established businesses use this as an excuse because they have done things the traditional way for so long that they know no other way. However, pioneers like Whole Foods, Southwest Airlines and Ford are proving that social media can be a driving force for larger organisations too if it’s done right.

4. The Intern can do it

Many organisations get a young intern to maintain their social networks because this person has hundreds of Twitter followers, or is on Facebook all the time. However, just because you are familiar with using these tools socially doesn’t mean you know how to use them for business.  I am not saying an intern can’t do it, but you should make sure that they understand your goals, mission, audience, brand and such first so that they can represent you appropriately online.

5. Failing to consider company strategy

Point 4 leads me nicely to point 5 – not approaching social media from a strategic perspective. Only 8% of companies surveyed in a recent Forrester report are using social media in ways that tie in with their corporate objectives.  Again, companies often embark on using social media for the sake of using it rather than using it from a strategic perspective.  Before your company sets out on the social media path you should ask – who is your target audience, what is your message, which tools are right for your business given your brand and mission, and how can you use social media to augment your everyday activities. If you do that, your social media efforts are more likely to amount to something.

6. It’s all about you

In the old business world, marketing was all about corporations; all activities centred around the product and service, and not the consumer. Every message had to be vetted – which took time and meant the company was in control.  Many organisations take this approach to social media, and then wonder why they are spending lots of resources but have few results and little return to show for it. They aren’t succeeding because they need to re-engineer their approach. These days, it is not about you, but rather, it’s about your audience and every social touchpoint should reflect that. To be effective in social media you need to focus on your target audience, be able to move faster and to communicate in the moment before content gets outdated.

7. Blatant selling

This is the biggest faux pas you can make with social media. Never use social media to blatantly sell. It is okay to promote your offering, but in your face selling is off-putting. Here at Out-Smarts, we use the 80-20 rule – 80% of our posts are aimed at adding value, and only 20% are promotional.

8. Failing to set goals and objectives

As with any other business function, you should set goals and objectives before you start rather than haphazardly setting up your social shop  (as it were). What is it that you hope to achieve? You may want to build community with your target audience, extend your reach to new communities, use social media as a conduit to extend the reach of your content, drive traffic to your website, etc.  Whatever your goals are, you should document them, quantify them and make sure that they are achievable.

9. Failure to measure success

Many companies have no idea whether their social media presence is benefiting them or not, nor are they able to respond to what is being said about them online. Once you’ve determined your goals, you should put in place tools that allow you to measure your success and to listen effectively.  These might include free tools – for example; for web traffic analysis you can use Google Analytics, to measure your Facebook following use Insights, for Twitter use counters or paid tools like Radian6 that allow you to monitor and measure engagement.

10. Failing to take a holistic business approach.

Up until recently, many businesses have looked on social media as a stand alone approach rather than considering it as a way to complement and augment their entire marketing strategy.  2012 is going to be the year when the penny drops and companies realise that the best social media projects are those that complement their real world activities.

Shut Up and Listen

In December I read an article in the Vancouver Sun that inspired me. The article, called “How Social Media Have Globalized the Shopping Experience”, related how the writer, Gillian Shaw, simply had to Twitter about her choice for next car and lo and behold she got a response from a GM dealer offering her a test drive. Here’s an excerpt:

Gillian Shaw

My Social Media Experiment

So, I decided to try this out for myself to see whether organisations using social media are actually doing a good job of listening and responding to customers and prospects.


First stop Twitter where I decided I would use the tool to plan a ski trip. So I Twittered:


To date I haven’t had a response. I tried a different tact and sent a Tweet to Sun Peaks who were listening to direct messages and did, thankfully, respond:


A few days later I got stuck in an elevator: what a perfect opportunity to see if anyone was listening and could help me. So I posted my dilemma on Facebook and Twitter. Followers we’re listening – I got 2 responses from friends, both in Alberta, both in no position to help me escape!


On to Facebook, where I commented on the Marks & Spencer Page about my frustration with their delivery service (more often than not gifts for my family in the UK arrive broken or damaged):


Here was an opportunity for M&S to respond to my concern and to correct it in the public forum, to enhance their customer loyalty but again I had no response. Very disappointing – this year I will find a more reliable supplier and M&S just lost a loyal customer of 20 odd years because they weren’t listening or were choosing to ignore my comments.

Shut Up and Listen

Whilst I might not have the following of a journalist like Gillian Shaw, I do have over 2000 Twitter followers and am very active online – I really expected to get more response to my social media comments.

What is my point here? I have two:

1) Shut Up – First of all companies should realize that we are living in a new world, one where they can and should interact with their customers in these forums to build loyalty and improve customer service. Your audience expects this and not doing so puts you at risk of negative exposure. This is no longer a push to market model where companies bombard their audience with one way messages but a two way street where they can build loyal and valuable relationships with customers and prospects and enhance brand value. Shut up about yourself already and focus instead on your audience and providing value for them.

2) Listen – the first step any company should take when approaching social media is to implement effective listening strategies. Listen to what online communities have to say about your products or services, company, industry and competitors. By doing so you will not only get a feel for what is appropriate (very useful when building your social media strategy) but you will also identify sales opportunities, chances to improve customer service and to build loyalty so that customers keep coming back. Our article Are You Listening? talks about tools you can use to do this effectively.


I look forward to the day when companies stop talking about themselves and start listening to and fulfilling the needs of their audience on social media. There is a vast source of information and opportunity about your company and your market online just waiting for you to tap into it. What are you waiting for? Shut up and listen!