Social Media Marketing

How a simple framework can get you off the content treadmill

2017.12.04 Post #3 BLOG - Get off the content treadmill.jpg

If you could have $10K to spend on digital marketing for your business, how would you spend it?

A new website? Yep, I’d spend on that.
Content? Yep, I’d spend on that too.
What about graphics, branding materials, that type of thing?
CRM & email software?
What about a plan? Would anyone invest in a plan to pull all this stuff together?

Without a plan, without some sort of overarching framework or bird’s eye view of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, you can very quickly start feeling like content marketing is about feeding an insatiable beast. You know the feeling? Like you’re on the content treadmill, running your guts out, making content for the sake of making content instead of making it to meet a direct need and purpose.

When that’s going on, your content quality and effectiveness is slipping, which usually means more effort, less results. That’s because quality isn’t prescriptive. It’s not about the number of times you post in a day, or how long your blog posts are, or how many views your Facebook Lives get. It’s about how your audience experiences the value you offer and how your customers get further along on their journey with you as you show them how you can solve their problem.

A journey that has a depth of experience is one that we value more and while the same is true for content, that depth of experience is way more about connection and really becoming personal to people. It’s about relationships and about becoming known for that thing you do. So it does take time, but it also takes some planning and some focus.

So how does this framework make things better?

This framework is based on 3 principles;

  1. Start with the end in mind - understand the problem and provide a solution
  2. Design your content with your audience and customers, and their problem, in mind - create a pathway from problem to solution
  3. People connect with people, not brands and stuff - be real, show your personality

The tools and tactic you use therefore, become your strategy which is overlaid on top of the framework.

Starting with the end in mind.

The role of your content is to sell your products and services, which exist to solve a problem your customers are having. The reason you need to start here is because the content you produce needs to form a clear pathway to the sale of your goods and services. This is why your business exists, it’s the mission you’re on.

Starting with why, your mission, is at the heart of the framework and at the heart of all of your content. All roads lead to Rome, as they say, so from here, you have to get into your customer’s shoes and figure out the steps they’d need to take, the information gaps they’ll need to be filled and the experience they’ll love to have in order to get to Rome. That is, be ready to buy.

The next ring around your mission, or Rome, is flagship content. This is where you’re offering something that gives a taste, a sample of the product or service you sell. In other words, you want to give people a demo of how you’ll solve this problem they’re having. It could be a sample, or it could be a free version of your course, or a free workshop, ebook, video series, or a framework like this one. Whatever it is, it’s your chance to show that you know what you’re talking about - you understand the problem, you’ve got a solution and you’re someone they can trust.

Once you’ve got that flagship content created, it’s then a case of building out that pathway of getting people to experience it. That path is created by your content - content that forms the road to Rome and it involves all of the marketing fundamentals of branding, consistency, and personality.

Design your content with your audience and customers, and their problem, in mind

So you want to make it as easy as possible for people to understand what you do and the problem you solve. If they’re left to guess, they won’t, they’ll just find somebody else who spells it out for them better than you did.

Not only do you need to make your mission and that pathway to the solution for their problem easy to understand, but you need to make it easy to DO. This is where both the strategic creation of your content as well as linking it all together comes in. This is the architecture of the content - the logical links that actually make going on a journey with you possible for your audience and customers.

It’s about demonstrating that you understand the problem you solve deeply and that you have the solution. But it’s not just about talking about it, it’s about leading people on a journey where they experience it for themselves. It’s about anticipating the next step, the next question, the next problem and the next solution.

That journey is also a bit of a dance. When you solve one problem, it’s delightful, but it inevitably leads you to the next, doesn’t it? It’s rarely, if ever, the end of the story. Take a framework like this, for example - I explain the framework, you’re undoubtedly enlightened, go off to create your content and you realise you’re not entirely sure what your flagship content should be. Stuck again. So ideally I will have thought about that next step, anticipated the next sticking point, and have the next solution all ready for you.

And so by doing this, you’re deepening that experience and that relationship. It builds trust and it makes it very easy for people to continue on that path with you. If it’s easy and you’re anticipating and solving their problems as they come up, why wouldn’t they stick around with you?

People connect with people, not brands and stuff

This bit isn’t really a step in the framework, it’s an overarching principle that if overlooked can render all of your efforts completely useless. It doesn’t matter how good your product is, or how amazing your service is. You could have the perfect manifestation of this framework or any other framework, but if you’re not connecting with people like an actual person, you’re missing out on a much bigger bit of the pie.

This is so true because we also see evidence in the reverse. People doing their thing, genuinely connecting with others and shining their personality on those who find them without any plan or structure or framework, and they’re killing it. It’s because above all else, people want to connect with people. It’s just the way we are. So if that’s you, imagine what a bit of structure and intent could do!

To solve a problem well, make it interesting and attractive enough for anyone to pay attention to you in the first place, you’ve got to understand who you’re talking to and be able to connect with them in a way that’s on their level. That cuts through the noise and speaks straight to them. This will be an evolving process and nailing it won’t happen overnight, but if you have a bit of a plan and you’re committed to sticking with it, it will happen.

So before you go off and spend money on your marketing, take some time to understand and map out the bigger picture. It doesn’t have to be a full-blown marketing plan, but at least a bird’s eye view of where you want to go and how you’ll get there is better than pouring money into keeping the content treadmill running. Even a really simple plan of the steps a prospective customer might take from finding you to eventually buying your product or service using a framework like this is better than treadmill fuel. Content is a work in progress, it does take time, but the more structure you can give it, the more effective it will be.

Even this framework is in a process of evolution. There are more elements and 2 other frameworks I want to incorporate into one whilst still maintaining its simplicity - simple is not easy! You can download the framework in its current format here and also watch the video of me explaining it, then as it evolves and hopefully becomes more useful, I’ll let you know.

To read the article about how flagship content anchors your strategy, click here, and to read about how to create killer flagship content, click here. You can also read the article about content marketing being like building a reputation here.

If you’d like to receive these articles via a weekly email, as well as other content marketing tips, ideas and inspiration, please subscribe below - I’d love to stay in touch :)
 

Photo thanks to Scott Webb via Unsplash.

How to create killer flagship content

You and I both know that there are a million resources out there on how to create excellent flagship, or anchor content. Some of them are brilliant, some of them not so much. This is something you’re going to have to figure out by doing it. Pick and choose the bits you like, the bits you want to try, the things that resonate to get this thing done. But here’s the thing - for all that advice and all those resources, you still have to make it YOURS. Your voice, your style, your angle and your take on things - please, please, please start here first.

With more content being produced on a daily basis than we can poke a stick at, tuning into your own voice, values and unique style is fundamental. Sure, you can copy everyone else and you might even get some good traction, but even if you do, how sustainable is it if it’s not quite you? And how real are the relationships you’re forming from it?

Flagship content is killer when it provides real value to real people and in my opinion, that means it has to be real too. Think about how you want people to feel when they find it, inject it with the things that care about, use the words that you really use and bring them into your fold. When you start with that mindset, you’re already well on your way to creating stuff that people will actually genuinely really love.

You’re the art, sweetheart

There’s no shortage of resources to teach you the tactics. You can learn anything, anyone can. The tools, the tactics, the tricks really are, like never before, available to anyone. And none of it’s rocket science, once you get into it, is it?

But the art is the more difficult part, the unique part, the YOU part. Difficult, that is, for everyone but you. To you, it’s just, well, you and that’s the bit, believe it or not, that people crave. People want to connect with people, so it doesn’t matter if it’s a cheat sheet on how to use groups in your email marketing, or how to paint your toes without botching it - there will be almost as many resources on that thing as there are people in the world … but only you can do it your way.

Two similar *things*, two totally different *experiences*. That’s the magic. That’s the you. It’s the art of turning a ‘thing’ into an experience. Be good at what you do - be very good at what you do, then focus on the magic, the way people experience what you do in the way that only you can.

That’s how you stand out, that’s how you become different and that’s how what you do starts to really matter to the people you serve.

Know your audience and solve a real problem


Gah, really? This again? I’m tired of reading that so I’m going to have to come up with a new way of saying it because it does need to be said. It’s what’s at the heart of anything really good in terms of content, isn’t it?

But here’s the thing - it takes time. Knowing your audience, truly understanding their problem, the one you want to be known for solving, and creating that killer solution that they love TAKES TIME. It’s bit like building a reputation with your content - it’s a process that takes time and you can’t just skip to the good bits (you can read a whole article on this here: Relax, content marketing is like building a reputation - it takes time).

Content is about building relationships and relationships take time. There are probably plenty of people in your real life that you know very well. You know what motivates them, what they struggle with, what makes them happy and where they’re trying to go. But you did not learn all that in your first meeting. No. Most of the time, it took years of experiencing things with them to learn about them

And yep, it’s the same with your audience. You have to create experiences with them so you can learn about them and them about you. Now, I’m not saying that you have to wait years before you can understand your audience well enough to make something cool for them - don’t do that! Make something today! But what I am saying is that it’s an ongoing journey and what you understand and create today is not set in stone and is not the end of the road - it’s just a moment in time.

To know your audience, you’ve got to get amongst them


Because your audience is made up of real, actual people and so to know them, you have to get amongst them.
 
Getting to know people doesn’t happen on paper, or in check-boxes, or ‘know your audience’ infographics - it happens with conversations, by being real, by caring and sharing (sorry, but it’s true), and taking the time to listen.
 
It’s not something that you get to the end of either, that you get to be ‘done’ with, because it’s ongoing, as are the evolution of all relationships.
 
Meeting people where they are and building communities around common interests and values is nothing new, and yet we can all fall into the trap of trying to ‘create opportunities’ and make sales before we even really know who they are.
 
We need to get amongst our audiences, get to know them as people. Seek to understand them first and figure out how we fit in with them and how we can help, before we analyse how they fit in with us and what we’re selling.

If you’re not sure what to create for your flagship content, start small and start specific. What’s something one of your customers has been struggling with? What keeps coming up in your networking groups? What’s the tiny little pain in the ass thing that you hated so much you figured out a way to fix it?

Don’t try to solve all of the world’s problems, just start with one little thing and bring to it everything you know about that exact thing.

Learn by doing


You have to learn what works by doing it, by trying things. Producing great content is a choice and that’s because learning to do it well comes from doing it.

You can read all you like. You can study the best. You can emulate those who’ve gone before, and I would definitely suggest all of those, but most of all, you have to learn by *doing* it.

Do your best work, then take notice of how you can do it better. Take notice of what engages your audience. Take notice of what leaves them quiet.

Take notice and take action - neither of which can be achieved through theory alone. This kind of learning comes from getting out there and doing it and it’s best way to both continually improve your content and engage your people.

Watch, listen and DO. Standing out is not about being louder, nor about being everywhere all the time. It’s about getting better, improving every day. It’s about doing and that means you have to start.

Get good at asking the right questions


I was reading a discussion in a content marketing group today about asking the right questions to produce the right content.

Rightly so, the thrust of the thread was all about questions like, ‘What is the purpose of your content?’, ‘What action do you want people to take?’, ‘How does this piece fit in your sales funnel?’ …

However, it struck me that no one asked, ‘How do I want my audience to feel?’

The other questions are important, no doubt, but if you can’t connect through a feeling first, subsequent actions are unlikely, and that’s because humans feel first.

It’s the feeling that an image, or a video, or a blog post conjure up that gets people’s attention. It’s the feeling that make them want to know more, that plants a seed of interest, which grows into familiarity, of brand recognition, aspiration and eventually, trust and loyalty.

If you’re going to convey feeling, then you gotta feel it first. Trust your instinct, express yourself, talk about what you really care about and find images that match the way you feel. If you practice this, you’ll find your authentic voice, your brand will come alive and you’ll be standing out with authenticity, being super-visible to those who really matter.

The more feeling you can convey in your content, the more visibility you’ll be creating for your brand … that’s because people connect through their feelings and emotions. What you might think is the burning issue, the one you want to solve, might turn out to be not as much of an issue as the underlying cause, but you’ll only discover that by trying and by asking.

Give them what they WANT

This can be more tricky than it sounds. All too often we focus on producing content that we know our audience needs or can benefit from, rather than what they actually want. That’s because we’re thinking from our place of having learnt the lessons and earnt the expertise. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just that if we can’t say it or present it in a way that meets our people exactly where they are, then we’ll miss the target.

You don’t know what you don’t know until you know it.

We actually need to be educated about what we need before we know we need it. And that’s why jumping in with our expert solutions, as brilliant as they may be, can be met with crickets. Nada. Niente.

Listen first. Find and create ways and places to listen and learn. And when you understand where people are at and what they want, then and only then, can you give them what they need … all wrapped up and tied beautifully in what they want.

Make it all about THEM

This is relationships 101, right? How to win friends and influence people? Make it all about THEM.

And if you haven’t picked up on this yet, I’m a firm believer that content is all about relationships.

The reason you’re producing content is so that you can form relationships with people. Therefore, all of the same rules and best practices apply whether you’re doing it online or having an in-real-life conversation with someone.

The problem with online content is that we’re usually waaaay too aware that we’re talking to people en masse … and people ‘en masse’ don’t have names and faces. Kind of a generic blob, really.

But when you’re talking to a generic blob, the actual names and faces that make up that blob can kind of tell, right? You know, content that’s meh. Take it or leave it, remember it not.

Actually what people really want is content that’s all about them. You know those things you read, or view, and could swear to god that person got in your head and made that thing especially for you. It’s an awesome feeling and not something you can usually do by thinking of faceless blobs.

I challenge you to write, or record your next post thinking of one very specific person - talk to them, show them you understand, show them you’ve been listening. See how that goes and comment below. Do you already do this? How much better is your content when you have an actual person in mind?

Make yours better


If there’s stuff out there that people love and want, then by all means, go in and get a piece of that. But! Make yours better. This is not rocket science, is it? If it’s already out there and doing well, especially by several big-hitters, then you need to make yours better.

You know people want it and that it’s popular, so that’s a start, but make it stand out with more, better and YOU.

A good way to figure out how to do that, is to just ask yourself what’s missing from what’s already out there? How could it be better? What’s the thing that would make this awesome? And, more often than not, that’s just a great big slice of you.
Get to the point
This goes for your headline, the URL and the content itself. The clearer, more straightforward and to the point it is, the more easily people can understand it, remember it and share it.

If it’s a guide or an infographic, make it easy to grasp at a glance - not too cluttered or complicated.

The same goes for an article or report - use headings to break it up logically and make sure it flows. You need to make sure it's as easy to read as possible, especially if it’s an epic piece that goes into a lot of detail.

Link to more


Use links throughout your piece, where appropriate, to other work and resources that supports and augments this one. Think about the journey you want to lead your audience on and while flagship pieces should certainly stand alone in their depth and value, they also need give your audience somewhere to go.

Think about the information that precedes this piece, as well as what people what to know after they’ve absorbed this one. Don’t just leave it at that - show them how it fits in, the steps before and the steps after. (You can read more here on how flagship content anchors your strategy).


Flagship content is a work in progress - it evolves


Don’t let the need for perfection stop you from sharing your knowledge and getting something out there. I’m not for one minute suggesting that you should disregard quality altogether - I’m not, this is flagSHIP content after all, not flagSHIT content. However, don’t think of it as something static that has to be perfect once and for all. Think of it as something that you’ll add to and refine over time. Something that will increase in quality, value and usefulness as you learn more and more people engage with it.

The idea is to make it today to the best of your ability, but to add to it, tweak and refine it over time. This way, it stays current with ongoing evergreen appeal and allows you to promote revised editions without creating all-new content. So put the work in today, but with the mindset of creating something that will grow and evolve over time. Taking the first step is the only way you can get to the next step.

It won’t be for everyone … and that’s ok


Great content is subjective - not everyone is going to agree on whether the same piece of content is great or not, and that’s fine. The important thing is that your audience thinks it's great, and they are not everyone.

Content that your audience thinks is great will be stuff that’s useful (or educational), entertaining, or inspiring.

What’s considered useful will depend on who you’re talking to, as will entertaining and inspiring, but in broad terms, these are the that jobs great content does and why certain people really love certain stuff. In other words, why they find a connection with it.

And that’s what you’re after - a connection. Producing content, good content, is all about connection. Connection that forms the basis for relationships, which is why we’re all in business anyway.

In conclusion


Go and give it a go - think about what you can make that your audience will love and which will really help them out with something. Show your passion and your personality because at the end of the day, people connect with people. Don’t let perfection hold you back and know that this thing will evolve over time, as will you and your relationships.

At this point, after reading my own mammoth article, I’d also like to acknowledge and point you towards Chris Garrett’s own mammoth article (book, actually) on how to create killer flagship content. You can find it at http://www.chrisg.com/ and I’m very confident you’ll enjoy it - it’s very good. Thanks for the inspiration, Chris.

You can also download my flagship content framework right here. It's a simple visual PDF that shows how to start with your mission, create flagship pieces, align your other and link it all together to create that journey and experience for your audience. ... and it's kinda pretty so you can stick it up where you can see it when you're creating to keep you on track :)

 

If you’re feeling daunted, or inspired (!) about how to get more visibility for your brand through your content strategy, it’s ok - you know more than you think you do and it’s really not rocket science after all, honestly.

Getting a grip on your content marketing is as easier with a collaborative community to support you, and it just so happens that I know one …

https://www.facebook.com/groups/notrocketscience/

Flagship content anchors your strategy

 

Who’s ever fallen into the trap of running your guts out on the content/social media treadmill? You know, where you’re so hell-bent on showing up consistently and sticking to your schedule that you start to numb out a bit and lose the point. It’s hard to admit, but a case of quantity over quality, or letting cadence reign.

The treadmill happens when showing up takes priority over your value. You know, the ‘ole that’ll do, just get it out there. Obviously there’s a bit of that in every piece of content we produce - you absolutely do have to get to the point where it will be enough, or we’d never publish anything.

But I’m talking about when this ‘just punch it out’ approach is more chronic. Where your value slips as a result. This is not a good thing. It’s not just a waste of time, but it will damage your brand and your reputation over time.

Quality & consistency go hand in hand

Producing quality content consistently, on the other hand, has a cumulative effect. The deeper you go, the more value you offer, the more likely your audience will want to know more, so it makes sense to understand that context and provide them with the next logical step. You can create that context, provide the next logical step for your audience AND make it easier to produce better content consistently by creating and incorporating awesome flagship content pieces.

It’s not a new idea, but nonetheless, here’s my take on how to use flagship content in a framework that’s going to serve both you and your audience.

What does quality mean?

Quality, to me, means that it’s of value to the people you’re making it for and its presentation or delivery is of a standard that adds to their experience of that value.

Value and quality are similar, but I’m not sure that they’re the same.

It’s a bit like someone doing an awesome podcast interview, but the sound quality sucks and you can’t hear it properly. I might think the content is perfect, EXACTLY what I want to hear and therefore of high value. Except that I can’t hear it properly. My experience of the value is diminished because the overall quality isn’t there.

And what we value is an individual thing.

Does quality mean a 4,000 thousand word blog post, beautifully formatted and presented?

Yes, maybe it does.

Does it mean showing up on Facebook Live everyday, without fail, with a killer, super-actionable tip?

Yes, it could. If that’s of value to your people and that’s how they want to experience that value.

But it’s not about the length of the article, or the video production, or the amount of times you show up. It’s about the real value you provide and how your people experience that value.

Experience has depth

We humans love to ‘experience’ things, don’t we? Look at all the stuff we do in the name of ‘experience’! No wonder it’s a popular word.

But what makes a good experience? What makes an experience positive, something we remember, something we talk about and something we want more of?

Our good experiences are the ones with depth. Deep experiences can mean more to us than the actual thing itself because of their context. Even a simple, or seemingly mundane experience may be remembered and cherished because of the meaning we attach to it. It’s the context that gives an experience depth.

Context deepens the content experience too

Just like all the other things we experience in life, content is also experienced in layers - layers that build on each other.

So take that 4,000 word blog post, for example - that could be the most epic, most mind-blowing, dead-set value-packed, on-point thing ever written, but without context, it’s still not all it could be. It needs to fit in. It needs a path to it and it needs a path after it so that those layers of experience become part a journey that has a cumulative effect.

Content and context need an anchor

When you think about a journey, you generally think about getting somewhere, right? Even if that ‘somewhere’ is just enjoying the journey itself, the journey is anchored, it has a reason. And it’s the same for content.

Knowing how to solve the burning problem your people are experiencing is a good basis for giving your content an anchor, but making a specific piece of content that actually embodies that mission is even better. And the reason is simple; because then you can build a content journey around that mission that deepens your audience’s experience at every step of the way.

Start with why

When you start with your why, your mission, it’s easy to come up with flagship content ideas that will really be of value to your audience. They’re the pieces of content, whatever the format, that solve the problems they struggle with. It’s the stuff you do best, the foundation of everything you do, it’s your way, your voice, your style, your thing.

Flagship pieces are loved by your customers because they’re something that actually helps them with the problem you know all about.

Your why is the anchor.

Your flagship pieces express that why and provide the context.

And your internal links provide the journey.

Content that’s linked creates a journey

… the next logical step

If you’re taking the time to focus on your mission and create excellent flagship content, then you want to be thinking about how it fits into the bigger picture of your audience’s journey with you. Show them you understand by making it easy for them to take the next step.

When you create flagship content that’s based on your mission, it’s much easier to produce other content that supports and feeds those flagship pieces and expresses your value to your audience. Your concepts, your philosophies, your approach, the things you want to become known for are now easier to be clear about when they’re anchored and they have context.

Deepen that experience and show your audience you understand their journey by highlighting that context and showing them the next step. Logically and helpfully guide them to more, the next bit, more depth, another touchpoint, another piece of the problem solved.

Do this by linking your content, not only in the logical flow of subject matter between pieces, but by including actual links between each and every piece.

Ask yourself, what would they want to know next?

What questions come up from what I’ve just shared?

What other content does it relate to, or that I can create, to continue this path for them?

Better for you, better for your audience

This makes it easier for you to produce better content because you’re putting yourself in your audience’s shoes and walking the talk. You don’t have to recreate the wheel every time - you know your stuff and all the bits that give it context - hang onto that thread and over time and draw out every detail. This is how you make your content more specific and more valuable.

Which is also great for your audience, of course. Now they get to experience even deeper value as you guide them along their journey with you. A journey that’s logical and helpful - who doesn’t like that?

And just as an added bonus, it’s good for SEO too. Search engines love this kind of content architecture because it makes their job easier. Google loves great content just as much as your audience does and like your audience, it’s the links that make it easy to determine the relevance and authority in what you’re producing.

So it’s not exactly rocket science, but with a bit of thought and planning, you can make your content much better and much easier to produce. That’s good for you and good for your audience. After all, content is about human relationships, so when the why’s clear and it’s supported by a simple framework, beautiful things can happen.

Ready for more?

So now if you're all fired up and ready to jump into creating some of that amazing flagship content for yourself, hop over to How to create killer flagship content to learn how.

You can also download a PDF copy of the framework here so you can stick up and keep focused when you're creating for your audience - remember to start with your mission, align all of your content to that mission through flagship pieces and link it all together to create a journey.

 

I’m talking about this framework in the Like A Boss virtual summit that starts on 1 July.

The Like A Boss summit is designed to inspire, switch you up a notch and make all sorts of lights go off in your business head. It features 15+ bosses sharing their best knowledge nuggets in short, easily digestible video trainings.

When you sign up for the summit, you’ll not only see a video of me going into the detail of  everything you’ve just read here, but you’ll also be able to download the framework PDF so you can start applying it to your content today.

If you haven’t already, you can sign up for free here.

Connection is value

Recently I pulled right back from social media and took a break. I felt fried and like my well of creativity had completely dried up - I had nuthin. I don’t think the creativity actually went anywhere, or ceased to exist, it’s just that I think I got so tired that I couldn’t access it anymore. They say that you need to create space to be creative and I wasn’t really. I felt more like I was punching it out on a production line and it wasn’t feeling good.

This was pretty confronting on one hand because I’m a social media marketing person and well, that’s what I do so … But also on the other because I realised that I have a massive fear of not being of value. It might have been a vicious loop - I may have worked a bit too hard to create content constantly out of the fear of not being of value, but in the process, inhibited my ability to be creative and therefore, of value.

Anyway, it got me thinking all the same about creating value and this fear of not, and what value and creativity is anyway. Yep, it all got a bit deep and weird there that week and so I let it be. I thought the thoughts, and stopped striving, and I just pondered and took my time about things. I never really came to any major conclusion, or path-altering bolt of enlightenment, I think I was actually tired and needed a break, but here are the main thought packages;

Connection is the ultimate value

Humans need to connect with other humans, it’s just the way we are. Now that the internet and social media has been around for a while, our use of it is changing. Yes, it can be a noisy, superficial place, but it can also be the source and opportunity of great connection.

When we hear about ‘being of value’ and ‘value marketing’, we’re really hearing about tools and ways of doing things to achieve connection. But the connection is the real value. The free downloads and webinars and special offers and this and that, none of them mean anything unless there’s a connection and all of these things are trying to achieve that.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that at all, but the point is that if you can connect with people just by being yourself, saying hello and asking them how they’re going, then isn’t that value too? I say yes. I reckon that’s actually what we want and again, no problem with all the other stuff, but when you think about it, it’s all just stuff we use to get noticed and to help find the right fit.

The power of connection is when it’s real and personal

I’ve never been a big fan of customer avatars or personas. Yes, I understand fully the theory behind them and I can see they can be of immense value, but I’ve personally never felt motivated or connected to any of the ones I created, until I just copied real people. When there really was a connection and the person was real, then it made a difference. This is what I recommend my clients do when they develop personas for their business, but more to the point, connection is the important bit.

So coming back to value, I think that the real value is connection - it’s what we all crave. And that all the other stuff we call ‘value’ are the flags and streamers we use to get attention so we can have that connection. That’s not the say that there’s no value in the flags and streamers, nor that they don’t serve a purpose, they do. It’s just that we need to connect with real people on a basic human level before we need much of anything else and when we do, that’s how learn and understand for sure that our flags and streamers are the right ones to attract more real connections.

Ok, so that might have seemed like a bit of waff, I am feeling a wee bit more philosophical than usual, but I do believe it whether or not I’ve managed to express it very well. What it means for you and me is that I think we can relax a bit with the flags and streamers knowing that our true value is always and will always be in our ability to connect with other.

 

If that idea resonates with you and you’re keen to connect and enjoy a community that’s all about genuine connections and using social media for the forces of good, come over to the More Fabulous with Friends Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/morefabulouswithfriends/

Thanks for reading,

Andrea

Stuck for words?

Blink. Blink. Blink.

You blink at the screen and it’s blinking right back at you. You’ve just made an awesome image for Instagram, or found a really excellent piece you want to share on Facebook, or maybe it’s time to write your blog post for the week, but there’s nothing. Zip. You can’t for the life of you figure out what to say.

I know that at this point you could hardly care less about why it happens and that you really just want a quick and easy way to fix it, right? Well I do have a few quick and easy solutions actually, but that answer is really tied up in understanding why it happens anyway.

Quite simply, it happens because you’re disconnected from who you’re talking to. That means you’ve lost sight of who you’re writing for and that leads to overthinking it and writing stuff that doesn’t really resonate with anyone.

So if you’re wondering what topic to write about, the absolute best go-to tip ever is to think about real conversations you’ve had with people. Clients and customers are the best, but also peers, colleagues, friends and yes, people you interact with on social media. When a customer actually asked you how to do something, or a client told you about the thing they struggle with most, that’s the thing you want to write about ... and here are some reasons for that;

  1. It’s real - that question, that conversation was real, so you know that other people like them will also be wondering or struggling with the same thing. No need to guess or make assumptions.

  2. It’s easier to write, not only because you actually had that conversation, but because the person you’re ‘talking’ to is solid in your mind. Again, you don’t need to make it up.

  3. It’s of more value. Whatever you write, it should be of value to the person reading it. When you actually helped someone and saw it was valuable to them, then again, you don’t have to guess.

Sometimes thinking of topics and conversations and being of value is dead-easy. Those are the times when you’re most likely really connected to your audience, your people, the ones reading. It flows, it’s easy, it’s natural and it’s valuable.

But what about the times when you’re not feeling really connected? It happens, we get busy, we’re doing the work and not every conversation is an inspiration-bomb. What then?

Here are some tips to hack yourself back into being connected with your audience, or at least find something relevant to write about …

  • Think of the last, or most epic conversation you had with a client or customer - there’s gold in that

  • Scroll through the social media feed you’re most active on - look at the comments, what are people saying/asking/commenting

  • Check out the newsfeeds of the groups you’re in, your own and others - again, what are people asking and talking about?

  • Blogs and blog comments - your own and other people’s. What are people talking about, what’s your spin?

  • Look through your own social posts - if it was worth saying once, it’s probably worth saying again. Repurpose it - say it another way, add to it, update it

  • Think about your own story, something you struggled with, something you didn’t know, but have since learnt and share it - people connect with stories

  • And if you have a community, ask them what they want you to write about

I love to write and I’m a dead-set worshipper of developing and expressing brand stories, but I get stuck too … with my own writing, not yours. Yes, it’s a weird thing. I’m really good seeing your story and helping you with what to write and how to tell that story, but we all are. Most of the time we only get stuck because it’s ours.

And that’s why getting help and having a supportive community is gold beyond measure. People to bounce ideas off, to give feedback, to remind you of your value and of your voice. It’s also why Pepper Street Social is about to launch a community exactly such as this. AND it’s, of course, geared toward figuring out what the heck is up with social media. Oh! Get me in there now! I know, I’m making it, so if you want to be in it, fill in the form below and I’ll be sure to invite you when it goes live, which will be within the next couple of days. It’s going to be awesome.

Thanks as always for reading and I really hope to see you in that Facebook group soon,

Andrea

Because looking good makes your feel good

... and 16 other reasons a strong brand is so important on social media.

Now I’m assuming that you already know how important it is to build a strong brand on social media, right? Even if you couldn’t list all the reasons straight off the top of your head, I’m guessing you know enough to know it’s important. So then why would I write this blog post? Because we forget, and because we think we understand more than we actually do sometimes, and because branding on social media is really, really important and it needs to be said more than once.

A strong brand is a strong identity. A strong, recognisable personality, voice, image and mission. You recognise it when you see it, you know what it’s about and you know whether you like it or not. Furthermore, depending on how you feel about it, you pay attention, engage, interact and follow … or not. And choosing ‘not’ to is better than not being seen at all, which addresses the first reason a strong brand is so important on social;

  1. To stand out - sheer volume of users & a general overload of information mean we’ve all got really good at skimming. Brands that don’t stand out make it easy for us ignore them because we’re looking to block out what’s not relevant.
  2. Consistency - it’s hard to stand out if you’re not consistent, again, because of the sheer volume. You’ve got to be consistent in your look, your message as well as when and where you show up.
  3. Tell a story - part of the function of a strong brand is to tell your story so people know who you are, what you do and who you do it for, without having to spell it out every time. No one has time for that!
  4. Great brands are magnetic - have you noticed? Who in business doesn’t want a great big magnet working for them on social media?
  5. Your mission and purpose are clear - people aren’t generally attracted to fluff and ambiguity, so again, a strong brand makes it easy for people to work out if you’re for them … or not.
  6. Familiarity - people need to be familiar with you to be able to develop trust and loyalty. Simple but true.
  7. Professional appeal - a great brand contributes enormously to you being perceived as professional, credible and trustworthy.
  8. Meaningful connections - a strong brand means the connections you make on social are more likely to engage, support and invest in you, rather than just follow for the sake of it and contribute to your vanity metrics.
  9. Share-ability - great branding makes your content more shareable, for all of the reasons already mentioned and because people who share want to be associated with that goodness.
  10. Room to move - a strong brand gives you the room and the opportunity to grow and expand, but also to experiment and make mistakes.
  11. Form alliances, network and be noticed by thought leaders and professional peers in your field more easily and more meaningfully with a strong brand.
  12. Build your reputation more easily.
  13. Increase your sales.
  14. Boost traffic to your site and increase search results.
  15. Appeal to your competitor’s customers without having to stalk them - let them find and come to you.
  16. Cut your paid ads and marketing costs as your organic reach increases and your paid advertising is more effective.
  17. And because, let’s face it, you want to look good online, for all of these reasons as well as the fact that it’s a pride thing. Who wants to look half-baked, unprofessional, and dare I say it, dodgy? It feels good to look good and have your brand in alignment with who you are.

Enough said.

Social branding is something I dedicate whole months to help clients with in my one-on-one coaching programme and it’s also the main focus in the group coaching programme. It really helps to have someone outside of your business to take a look, help you get clear on your brand messaging and how that translates onto social media and into sales. If you’re interested in working with me either for group or one-on-one coaching, fill in your details here, and I’ll email you.

As always, thanks for reading. Comment below, or ask a question - I’d love to hear from you, or if you’d prefer, email me at andrea@pepperstreetsocial.com

Have a great day,

Andrea

The way you sell is the ultimate expression of your brand story

If I added up all the hours I’ve spent on creating social media content for Pepper Street Social, it’d equate to a fairly significant portion of my life, in all honesty. Is it necessary? Yes. Have I enjoyed it? Absolutely. Has it made a difference? You bet. But I’ve also had to learn some hard truths about social media and using it as an effective business marketing tool.

The truth is that I have spent whole days, strings of days in fact, creating content that’s thoughtful, on-brand and engaging. I’ve researched topics, written long, value-packed blogs, created killer images to match, posted good copy, laboured over graphics to get them just right, and at the end of the day, felt good that I’d done my job.

Now here’s where it might get a little confusing because I am a social media manager, so that IS my job, right? Wrong, actually.

For me, just like for you, social media is a tool I use to market my own business and clients’ businesses. It’s part of what I do, but it’s still not the purpose of my job. My job is to help clients build brand awareness, connect with their target market and make more sales … and social media is the primary tool I use to do that. Your job is selling what you sell - your coaching or consulting services, or the products you make - jewelry, cakes, accessories, coffee etc. Our jobs are to make stuff and sell it, and so, if our efforts on social media don’t contribute to that, then it’s not part of our job, it’s just a social media hobby.

Take these Facebook stats for example:

Pretty good, hey. Impressive? Maybe. But they’re not sales … and unless they contribute to sales, it’s tricky to figure out how relevant they really are.

Now I’m not talking about some formula where you divide your reach by engagement and then multiply it by the square root of your sales … I made that up, so don’t try it at home, ok? I’m just making a point. When you approach your social media with your focus on sales clear in your mind, the stats start to mean something.

These stats for example, are from the Pepper Street Social Facebook page and coincide with my posts this week about the group coaching programme. So now these numbers aren’t just nice because they’re heading up, they’re telling me something about people’s reaction to something I sell, something that’s directly connected to revenue.

There are two main reasons I’m saying this;

One: because most people don’t like to sell and push back on selling on social media. But there’s selling and then there’s selling.

When I say ‘sell’ & focus on ‘selling’, are you feeling all icky, imagining big red BUY NOW buttons, spammy Instagram accounts, and obnoxious web pop-ups? Thought so. But selling is about awareness, value and service and the process is a relationship building journey based on trust. Sound better? You bet.

When you think about it like that, selling is actually a pretty beautiful thing. It’s about allowing people to become aware of you, understand what you do, like what you do and trust you enough to buy from you. What you sell has value so you’re providing a service in letting people know about it and telling them how they can buy it, all the while, understanding that this takes time.

And two: because when you focus on what you sell, which is your job after all (as opposed to your social media hobby), your content is better and your business benefits.

Focused content is easier to produce and it serves a defined purpose for both your business and your customers. That means you can achieve real outcomes and actually sell something, which is your job.

So don’t just faff around on social media - that’s not your job. Selling your stuff is, so be clear about why you’re posting and use social media to sell it. That doesn’t mean shouting ‘BUY NOW’ in every post, but it does mean staying focused enough to let people know what they need to know and feel what they need to feel to like and trust you enough to eventually buy something from you. Find your own way of doing this and tell your own story. Selling is not separate to marketing - it’s an important part of it, so the way you sell, is all part of your brand and your relationship with your customers.

Selling without selling, which is still selling, but just in a way that both you and your customers feel good about, is something that stumps the best of us until we practice it enough to feel comfortable with it. A big part of it is branding though. When you’re clear about your brand story and the mission you’re on to provide value, it becomes a lot easier to sell in a way that feels authentic and nurtures relationships.

 

This is something I dedicate whole months to help clients with in my one-on-one coaching programme and it’s also a big focus in the group coaching programme. It really helps to have someone outside of your business to take a look and help you get clear on your brand messaging and how that translates into sales. If you’re interested in working with me either for group of one-on-one coaching, fill in your details here, and I’ll email you.

As always, thanks for reading. Comment below, or ask a question - I’d love to hear from you, or if you’d prefer, email me at  andrea@pepperstreetsocial.com 

Have a great day,

Andrea

What's the plan, Jan?

The thought of a marketing plan can be rather uninspiring, at best, and at worst, downright overwhelming. Unless you’re a marketing nerd, (and even they, if the truth be known, feel the same way, at least from time to time) chances are, those words are not met with unbridled joy and elation with the possibilities.

Don’t worry, I’m not here to sell you on how you should be elated by a marketing plan - I understand you won’t be, so don’t stop reading just yet. I would, however, like to try to simplify the concept of a marketing plan so that you can feel less ambivalent and more empowered to use it to fuel your business growth.

First of all, forget about the concept of a marketing plan as you know it, and just focus on the following core questions;

WHO do you serve?

  • This is about your target market - who are they?

  • Who are the people that you set out to serve the needs of?

  • Who are your customers, or who are you hoping to attract & serve?

HOW do you serve them?

  • This means the products and services that you provide for them

  • Break it down, be specific

  • You’ll notice that you may serve more than one target market with more than one product or service (Pepper Street Social does)

WHY do you do it?

  • In other words, why does your company exist?

  • Your answer to this helps people understand how you’re different to your competition

  • This is about what matters - your values, your vision, the things that motivate you, your dreams

In essence, this is what a marketing plan seeks to clarify. Of course, a fully-fledged strategic marketing plan goes into a lot more detail, dissecting your position in contrast with your competitors, for example, but at the end of the day, to simplify it enough, this is essentially what it’s about.

When you spend some time thinking about the answers to these questions, your mission and your message soon become a lot clearer. By understanding WHO you serve, HOW you serve them and WHY, you almost by default begin to express who YOU are, WHAT you sell and the services you provide, and WHY people should choose you over your competition. That’s the essence of a marketing plan.

Now if you’re still in a fog, just send me an email and we’ll set up a half hour call to nut this out - it’s amazing the clarity that come from a fresh set of eyes and ears. It’s andrea@pepperstreetsocial.com, or fill in the contact form on the Work page, or connect with me via one of my social accounts (Facebook & Instagram are my favourites). Also, if you’d like to relax knowing you’re in the loop with our latest marketing updates, insights and inspiration, subscribe to our list right here ...

Have a great day,

Andrea