Social media

Ideas on future proofing for NFPs.

2018.09.10 PSS blog image - Future proofing NFPs.png

I recently held a series of workshops to help community groups and not-for-profits with their communications and social media. Social media is an aspect of communications; not all communications involve digital or social media, but all digital and all social media IS communication. So when the brief was to talk about how not-for-profits and community groups could future-proof their organisations, I decided to come at it from a communications standpoint.

Why?

Because “future-proofing” is an incredibly broad term and it bothers me that its popularity also seems to somehow infer that there’s some kind of silver bullet, some bunch of tactics or singular approach that will ensure an organisation’s longevity. Actually, it’s a lot more vague and encompasses a lot of possible approaches and related tactics, and best practices, depending on which aspect of the organisation you’re looking at.

And if you’re a small NFP or community group, that’s not exactly helpful or even relevant.

Future-proofing really means being sustainable into the future, including;

Having a clear direction

Working towards that consistently

Adapting to change along the way

For some NFPs, that will entail many moving parts and many people including volunteers, overheads, working capital, funding, governance, financial management, tax exemption, affiliation, compliance etc. etc. But for others, it’s just you, your idea for change, and your network.

The thing both types of groups have in common though, which is critical to both in terms of sustainability into the future, is communication.

For NFPs and community groups to thrive, they need to be;

Connected to their community

Knowing what they do to help

Building connections between individuals and groups

Building connections between community needs and their ability to serve

Human - you can’t connect otherwise

Humans - humans form relationships, build trust, do business with humans, not logos, social media stats, or even businesses - humans connect with humans

Connect emotionally through stories & experiences

Clear on their purpose and be meaningful

Build momentum and increase impact by connecting people to something bigger than any of us are on our own

So if you’re going to achieve that and keep on achieving that so you can carry on delivering your services and message into the future, you need to be able to communicate clearly and consistently.

Future proofing elements.png

To do that, you’ll need to give some thought to 4 simple elements;

Vision & mission - when you’re clear on where you want to go and how you’re going to get there, it becomes much, much easier for other people to understand and connect with your cause or message. It’s hard to make connections if you’re not solid on why you do what you do because it makes it hard for people to see themselves in that picture.

NFPs and community groups generally exist because of their connection to their community, so being human isn’t hard work. Plus they’re usually pretty passionate about their purpose, their reason and can even explain it really well … but often there’s a lack of planning and structure so it’s hard to nail it consistently.

Planning doesn’t have to be complicated or overwhelming, in fact simple is usually better. It’s about creating enough of a plan to be useful and used without tripping yourself up in too much detail. A one-pager is perfect. Planning starts with knowing your vision and your mission.

Once you’ve got your vision and your plan, you’re going to need some tools to get the work done, store, share and collaborate on it. Having a plan makes deciphering all the options a lot clearer. Again, simplicity is key. Tools should make getting the job done easier, not harder.

And then, you need to evaluate your efforts. Yep, you guessed it - having the previous steps in place makes it so much easier to evaluate what you’ve done. Compare your work and achievements to your vision and your mission. Look at the plan and see what was executed, what was not, what worked and what didn’t. Your tools, systems and processes obviously make doing that a lot easier - without them, how will you find your work? How will you know what’s been done?

So, as you can see, there is a lot of depth you can go into with this idea of future-proofing, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. These 4 elements show you where to start and how things fit together so you can at least make some progress towards getting more organised, more consistent and more able to adapt to changes along the way.

Photo thanks to Debby Hudson via Unsplash.

Think bigger, bolder, braver ... and turn it into a system.

Much of marketing is about creating systems - systems of communication that are designed to achieve certain outcomes and drive business objectives. At the end of the day, a business itself is just a system that drives revenue and creates profit. I know we all get very passionate and emotional about the difference our businesses make and the people we serve ***you KNOW I’m ALL about THAT***, but essentially it’s a system that makes money. Marketing, therefore is a system within that system that nurtures relationships and drives behaviour that allows the system to produce revenue.

Anyway, with all that out of the way, the point I wanted to make is that for all of the potential ‘touchy-feeliness’ of marketing, creating systems around your messaging, your customer relationships and your promotions is really a very good idea.

Now if you’re starting to feel a bit ‘icky’ about words like ‘system’, ‘messaging’ & ‘customer relationships’, please hang in there. I never, ever endorse or encourage icky, spammy, salesy marketing - it’s just not necessary and it’s certainly not when I’m getting at here. But what I am getting at is that all that good marketing stuff of building community, helping others, being of service, providing value and having an authentic voice can all have it’s beauty and results magnified with a solid system.

Creating solid systems around solid marketing principles means you can;

  1. Scale - systems create efficiencies that allow you to serve many rather than a few

  2. Achieve greater consistency & reliability - key to brand awareness & visibility

  3. Apply a strategy that specifically meets your business goals & objectives

Creating systems is a lot about doing a bit more work up-front so that you can focus more time on tweaking and improving the ways you serve your customers. And that means paying attention to what you want each part of that system to achieve, what you want people to do next, and how you nurture the connection your have with your customers.

So with social media, for example, we try to find ways to stand out, to capture attention, and then, to keep that attention, we have to figure out how to nurture connection. Nurturing connection is about knowing and having the system in place to encourage the next step. That next step might be a visit to your website, or to sign up for a free download, subscribe to your newsletter, register interest in your upcoming workshops or events, or just leave a comment. Whatever it is, we know that whatever we’re asking for, or offering, will help turn that attention into a happy customer.

Think bigger, bolder and braver - getting attention isn’t worth much if you don’t know what to do with it. Figure out what you want to achieve with your marketing & social media activities and how you can serve the people whose attention you’ve earned. Ask yourself what the next step would need to be for that person to trust me enough to become a loyal customer - how can I serve them now, to achieve that later?

 

In the meantime, if you want to pick my brains on any of this, send me an email - 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). And, it has to be said, that if you’d like to get to know me better, plus also relax knowing you’re in the loop with our marketing updates, insights and inspiration, subscribe to the Pepper Street Social SNAP right here :)

Thanks for reading and have a great day,

Andrea

Content without action, what is it?

We all get caught up in the social media buzz for business to be in front of your audience, to produce quality content, to be consistent, grow your brand, right? And it’s all good, all true, but with all that focus on content and exposure and engagement, it can be easy to lose sight of the next step. Not your next step, your customers’ next step.

That next step is all about the ‘call to action’. In other words, what do you want them to do next? Now that they’ve seen that awesome graphic, read that excellent caption, liked and shared that brilliant blog post … now what?

Here’s the thing; the people that like what you’re doing, have taken the time to follow you and read what you’ve written, have clicked ‘Like’ or double-tapped to show their support, they’re often ready and primed to do more. They just need you to tell them what that ‘more’ is.

Sometimes it’s a call to action (‘CTA’, in case you’ve read that elsewhere and wondered what it stood for ;) that addresses interest that’s early on in the piece and therefore asks for a super-simple action. On Instagram, ‘Double-tap if you like this’, or ‘agree with this’, or on Facebook, ‘Hit Like if you agree’, or ‘How about sharing this with your friends if you think they’d agree’.

It sounds so incredibly simple that we could easily dismiss this, right? But don’t mistake simplicity for ineffective. I admittedly sometimes underrate the worth of this wisdom too, and yet when I’m scrolling through my feeds and I see a request for me to ‘Double-tap if you agree’, or something similar, I always feel compelled to do so … IF I agree. And often, when I see this request on posts I would ‘double-tap’ or ‘Like’ anyway, funnily enough, I feel compelled to then embellish that ‘like’ with a comment. Am I alone here? I don’t think so.

Then there are calls to action that address interest that’s further along and ask for a little more commitment, not much though. Something like, ‘Comment below’, and sharing with friends can take a moment more than simply ‘liking’, but if people are finding value in what you’re doing, then it’s really no big deal.

The thing about asking for comments and shares as your calls to action is that people like to be helpful and they like to share the knowledge they have as a way of being useful to others. It’s a fundamentally human trait and one of the basic reasons that social media has embedded itself so quickly in our lives. We like to help others and we like to use our knowledge to help others, so commenting and sharing facilitates this need pretty easily and pretty intuitively. Oh and you get engagement and exposure. Win - win.

More complicated calls to action meet our audience further down the line, where they’re ready to take more action and commit further. Therefore, these actions require more structure and planning on our behalf. Calls such as ‘Sign up to our newsletter’, or ‘Learn more’, or ‘Get your free …’ obviously require some additional set-up on our side so that our customers’ impetus goes somewhere. But I’m sure you can see that this how your content really becomes a tool for lead generation and sales in your business, and much more than a ‘nice to have’.

Content is lovely, content is enjoyable and engaging, but to make it worth the effort, make sure you tell your audience what you want them to do next. Social media is just a hobby unless it’s driving business objectives, so make sure your content is contributing to meeting those objectives by simply asking your audience to do what you want them to do next.

And here’s my call to action for you ... If you’ve read this blog post and you thought it contained some small value, how about commenting below to let me know you were here? And if you’re super-keen, would you mind sharing it with a friend? Plus, if you want a hand with setting up the other bits so you can call your audience to even more action, email me at andrea@pepperstreetsocial.com, or contact me via the form on my Work page … or just hit one of the social icons and connect with me that way.

 

Thanks for reading,

Andrea

 

 

 

Keep showing up

If you’ve read any of my blog or social posts, you’ll probably know by now that I rate quality and consistency pretty highly in terms of social media marketing & the associated production of content. Quality is half the battle, consistency is the second, but showing up is all about the balance between the two so that striving for perfection doesn’t jeopardise achieving either.

You know that feeling when you’re committed to writing or posting or creating in a reasonably scheduled way, and you’ve been doing well - you’ve stuck to what you said you’d do & delivered good quality on time. But then things get busy, it’s time to post and you’re staring at your screen thinking, “What on earth am I going to do?”.

So you stick with it, you get it done … but it’s not good enough. It’s not as good as your other work. It’s not perfect. You can’t post it, can’t ship it, can’t send it. Damn! Not only have you spent time producing something that you’re just not happy with, but now you don’t even want to use it, so your consistency, your schedule is interrupted.

This is where showing up with ‘enough’ is better than not showing up at all, and where good enough is better than nothing at all.

Now please don’t get me wrong - when I say ‘good enough’, I am in no way advocating using ‘good enough’ as an excuse for poor quality. I am not for one moment saying you should post any old rubbish or deliver substandard work EVER. But what I am advocating is that sometimes perfection has to take a backseat to doing enough NOW.

That’s because reaching perfection could take a couple of days, a week, a month … years! And will it be worth it? No, because you diminish the power of quality if it’s not delivered consistently.

Improvement takes time and it comes from doing the work, so in your quest to attain that perfection, that mastery, you have to be willing to practice consistency so that you get better at producing quality ON TIME. Ship the ‘good enough’ - your next will be better, and doing this is precisely how you’ll get better.

Showing up is a long game - consistency builds trust in your audience over time, and you’ll feel more comfortable and get better at the work you’re producing over that time. Showing up also means being in front of your audience on social media every day - if you’re not, then someone else will be. Google needs you to show up on a regular basis so you can stay relevant and be found in search queries - periods of silence just don’t rank.

And another thing - every time you show up, you’re adding to your body of work. If you posted on social every day, or wrote a blog post every week, or gave a presentation once a month, you would have 180 social posts, 24 blog posts, and 6 presentations not only done and dusted, but at your disposal to reuse & repurpose in any way you please. You’ve also got data on how those pieces performed, and you learnt about producing quality content on time with each and every one.

Don’t let perfectionism or creative block stop you from showing up. You’ll learn more from showing up under different circumstances than you will by not showing up at all. And your audience or customers don’t need you to be perfect - they mostly just want you to show up for them because they’re looking for someone to trust with their attention and their money. Be that person - show up for them … and it’s amazing how what they think is perfect differs from what you do anyway. Show up today, and tomorrow, and the next day … I just don’t want you to stop.


As always, if you want to chat about some simple things you can implement to get better at producing your content consistently, send me an email at andrea@pepperstreetsocial, or fill in the form on the Work page, or connect with me on one of my social accounts - I would love to hear from you and I don’t charge anything for having a chat :)

Stand out with quality & consistency over time

I guess it comes with the territory - the age of instantaneous results and the accompanying plethora of ‘life-hacks’ no one can escape, that when it comes to social media marketing, there’s an expectation that there must be an easy way. A quick tip. A super-charged growth hack. A secret formula. A magic pill. A silver bullet. A way to go viral.

But you know what? There’s not. Well, I mean there is, there are many. You can buy apps and bots and courses and coaching and followers and boosts and rockets and code and black hats and white hats and this and that and on and on … but at the end of the day, they’re all just trying to either circumvent, replicate, or speed up the staple truth; quality + consistency (over time) = visibility.

Visibility is critical to success, right? If no one knows about you, how can they do business with you? So it stands to reason therefore that since most of the world, it seems, has some sort of social media presence, it makes sense for your brand to be there too.

The thing about visibility is that it’s not a one-off thing. Being seen once isn’t enough to establish brand recognition and be ‘top-of-mind’ to your customers. You need three things (hacks aside);

  1. You need to be interesting to start with and the best way to be interesting is to lead with value - you need QUALITY content

  2. Then you need to show up CONSISTENTLY - once isn’t enough and neither is sporadic bursts - you need consistent frequency.

  3. You need to do this OVER TIME - solid businesses don’t just pop up, they grow over time; visibility and success take time

Things take a while to sink in, to register, to be noticed, especially on social media where we’re all bombarded with more information than we can handle. We’ve all become really good at tuning out ‘noise’ that doesn’t concern us, just so that we can make sense of the chaos before us. That’s part of the reason you have to keep at it, keep showing up, keep standing out with quality, consistently. Over time, you’ll gain traction as people become familiar with your message and recognise your brand.

The tyresales.com.au billboard on the freeway is a great example of what I’m getting at with visibility. Everyone on the freeway is in a vehicle with tyres. Granted, it may not be their own vehicle, but the majority will be in their own vehicle and will someday require new tyres. Every day they drive past the billboard taking no notice of it, but subconsciously, the message is getting through, and when it comes to the time that they need new tyres, it’s highly likely tyresales.com.au will come to mind.

Now social media has advantages over billboards, not the least being it’s much, much less expensive, much, much more targeted, and it’s interactive, which means you can actually build relationships through engagement. Something a billboard struggles with, but hopefully you see my point with visibility through consistency and something that happens over time.

So when you see a big brand or account on social media and feel that pang of green-tinged envy, don’t be fooled into thinking they got there overnight - it’s unlikely. You’re noticing them now, with all their polished content and thousands of followers because they’ve achieved visibility … over time. Have a look at their quality and consistency, and have a look to see how long they’ve been doing that. Visibility is about building a brand and that’s a long game, whichever way you look at it.

Whether you do the work yourself, or you get someone to help you, or a professional to do the whole lot for you, you have to accept the fact that it’ll take quality, consistency and time. That’s the hack, so let’s get to work.

I hope this has been useful, and I’m sorry if you were looking for a quick fix, for that silver bullet or shortcut - I’m not your girl for that :( However, if you’re in it for the long haul and need a hand to get your strategy in place and implement it consistently, then I can definitely help. Email me at andrea@pepperstreetsocial.com, fill in the form on the Work page, or connect with me via one of my social accounts - the links are just below.

Have a great day,

Andrea

What's the go with #hashtags?

Feeling a bit ‘in-the-dark’ about hashtags? Ever tried to tag someone using a hashtag and wondered why they never responded? Have you been adding the # to random words just because you think you ‘should’ be using them, but haven’t the foggiest idea about what they actually do? Great! Read on because although you’re certainly not alone, by the end of this post you’ll be able to happily cancel your subscription to the #HashtagNoIdeaclub (don’t be offended - I just made that up). Read on - it’s super-simple, promise.

What are hashtags?

They’re little search tools that help you find your tribe and help your tribe find you. That’s because a hashtags act as a kind of category label that people use to group their posts under certain themes or categories that other people are using to find stuff.

In other words, it's simply a way for people to find content and have their content found. A way of organising & categorising in an attempt to match what people are looking for with content that's relevant.

So on this blog post, I could use #hashtag (and I have), so that it'll show up when someone searches the hashtag #hashtag. It’s a way for someone to find content that’s specifically relevant to what they’re looking for, and a way for me to show up in those searches. In other words, by incorporating #hashtag in my post, I’m indicating that this content is relevant to hashtags and will show up in a search on that. See what I mean? Easy!

Although I’m sure you already get this bit, you create a hashtag by adding the # sign to the front of a word or a phrase. Please know however, that hashtags don’t contain spaces or special characters. So if it’s a phrase like #hashtagninja, placing a space between ‘hashtag’ & ‘ninja’ would create the hashtag #hashtag without the ‘ninja’ bit. Probably stating the obvious, but still …

And, although you can’t use special characters, you can use capitals. Using capitals can be a good way to make a phrase hashtag easier to read, for example, #HashtagNoIdeaClub … and this is not you, so don’t worry about that one.

How do they work?

I’ve pretty much covered that in the ‘what’ paragraph, but basically it’s a way of applying a label or keyword category to a piece of content (any content) as a way to be found in searches. Tapping on or clicking on a hashtagged word in a post or message, will show you other posts, Tweets, messages and content that includes that hashtag.

Hashtags operate in much the same way on all platforms, although they’ll be more useful on some depending on the ‘culture’ of that platform or network. For example, although hashtags started as a Twitter thing, Instagram is the network whose users utilise them the most. And, while you can use hashtags on Facebook, they haven’t really taken off on that platform, so results may be scanty. It’s worth having a snoop though - you never know what you’ll find.

Why should I use hashtags?

Depending on which platforms you’re most active on, and where you’re at in growing your business, there may be some good reasons to use hashtags. If you’re primarily on Facebook, then you can do a bit of research and see if it’s worth incorporating a few that are super-relevant to your industry or niche. Same with Twitter. You won’t need many (up to 3), just really relevant ones that serve the purpose of you being found in that category.

If you’re on Instagram, then you’ll most probably want to give bit of strategy to this and get your hashtags sorted. Instagram is a hashtaggy platform and using them makes a real difference to finding people and being found - this is critical if you’re trying to grow your following.

Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags in a single post and if you’re just starting out, or trying to grow your following, I would recommend using all 30. It’s a completely acceptable practice on Instagram and if you put your hashtags in the first comment, rather than the description of your post, you preserve the message you want to share without risking readers being side-tracked by hashtags, or appearing unnatural and spammy.

Go to one of Pepper Street Social’s Instagram posts (click here, or click on the Instagram icon anywhere on the PSS site), and you’ll see what I mean. I use all 30 allowed hashtags, but I put them in the comments section so they don’t interfere with my message.

 

How do I know which hashtags to use?

Do some simple research.

All you need to do is click on the search icon in Instagram, or Twitter, or Facebook, and type in the hashtag you’re interested in - see what comes up.

A good starting point is to find someone in your industry or niche and see what hashtags they’re using. Make a note of them and go search those hashtags.

In Instagram, when you go to ‘Search’ (on mobile), you can select the type of search you want to conduct i.e. you’ll see the options ‘Top’, ‘People’, Tags’ & ‘Places’.

If you click on ‘Tags’, and type a #hashtag in, Instagram will show you how many posts are using this tag. Cool hey. So after you’ve found some tags that are relevant to your business, pop them in the search to find out how popular they are - the more posts that hashtag appears in, the more people are using it and searching it, which means your reach is greater. See?

Yikes! This has gone a bit longer than I’m aiming for at the moment - I know you’re too busy to read massively long blog posts, so I apologise for that, but I do hope this one’s been particularly useful.


Go muck around with hashtags and if you’re on Instagram, use them well and you’ll see a difference in your engagement - it actually works. And if you need a hand with this stuff, send me a message (andrea@pepperstreetsocial.com, fill in the contact form below, or on my 'Work' page) - I’m about to release a brand new package where you can work with me for a month getting Instagram sorted and seeing results. It’s personally tailored coaching, but you do the work, so it’s super-affordable and an excellent investment … even if I do say so myself ;-)

 

 

Why little wins are key to big success

So you know it’s not always roses, this whole following your dream thing, right? You’ve found out already along the way that it takes a lot. A lot of everything, needless to list. And one of the things it takes the most of is the ‘stick-to-it-ness’ when the journey, mid-track, looks nothing like the destination you’ve dreamt about.

… And that’s why holding on is the most important thing. Because you have got to get to a win. Indeed, you need to recognise the wins you had today. THAT’S how you hold on. THAT’S how you keep going, and THAT’S you condition your mind for more of that.

Getting something right, getting the win, and yes, absolutely even the little things, is invaluable for 2 reasons;

1. Because you get that win and you get what flows directly from winning it. That is, the revenue from the sale, the accolades from a wonderful creation, the respect from colleagues for having pulled it off. Good stuff. Very good stuff.

But the real value is this;

2. Most of all, it’s the information the win gives you. The feedback on what works, what you can do and what you can do again - you’re learning. This is a GIFT.

When you get something right, it’s a bit like exercising. You create a positive feedback loop whereby the brain is not only exhilarated by the endorphins it releases in response, but you’ve lit up a pathway that can be used again and again. The muscles are strengthened, the receptors are electrified.

That pathway means you don’t have to keep bashing away at inventing the wheel - you’ve already done that. You now however have a prototype that works and can be endlessly adapted and built upon not only for improvement, but for different purposes.

Because here’s the thing; getting something right is completely transferable. So getting something right ‘here’, means you can transfer things from ‘that’ to ‘there’. It changes your brain a little, lights up a path that’s in alignment to where you need to go. It alters your thinking slightly and sets a bit better course. It’s positive, there’s adrenalin, and there’s momentum. All things that can be built on, expanded and magnified.

That’s why you’ve got to hang on for the wins and not give up, ever. The win itself is cool, granted, but what you learn when you win is priceless. It shows you the way, it encourages you and leads you on.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there’s nothing to be learnt from losing, or missing the mark, or meh. There is, LOADS of learnings. But primarily, missing the mark shows you what not to do. It highlights the path you don’t want to repeat, which is fine and valuable, but you’re still on your mission to find that positive feedback, the right path … see?

Oh and there’s a bonus. When you find things that work, that is, when you find a win, what you learn from that experience is completely transferable. It’s like training for a marathon - all the things you learn from pushing your mind and your body can be applied to starting a business, or starting a marketing campaign, or doubling your revenue. Different circumstances, different goals, but similar mindset.

What you learn from getting something spot-on, on-point and on-game on social media, for example, really can be transferred to all parts of your business. The immediate feedback allows you to see what works and what doesn’t, and when it does work, you have access to invaluable feedback, intelligence, that can be used endlessly.

Will this blog post be on-point? Will it hit the mark? Will it get the attention of those it was intended for? Maybe. Maybe not. But if it does, I’ll have positive feedback, I’ll have information and intelligence about what makes a win. I’ll have a path I can duplicate and keep testing rather than just knowing what doesn’t work.

And if it doesn’t appear to hit the mark? I’ve gained enough wins, enough positive feedback to know that if I keep at it, keep trying, keep applying what I know, the win will come. I know enough to know that’s true and that’s the gold of winning, the gold of getting something right.


So the moral of the story is really to not give up. That the wins, no matter how little or seemingly insignificant, are valuable positive feedback systems critical for your path. Every little win has within it something you can duplicate, something you can repeat, a pathway you can strengthen. And wins are a numbers game - the only way you’re bound to miss out is if you give up. Dont.

I hope that does hit something of a spot for you because I know it's true and it's awful to see people become disheartened and give up when they're so close to that little win that changes everything. As always, if you want to connect, Instagram and Facebook are my favourite places to hang ... you know, like online at least :)

Andrea Kelly - Pepper Street Social

10 social media tips for growing your business without the overwhelm

Is it really possible to use social media to grow your business without feeling completely overwhelmed, utterly exhausted and bewildered as to how anyone actually does it?

Yes, in fact it is possible - all you need to do is hire a social media manager …. KIDDING! Of course that IS an option and a very good one too however, there are lots of things you can do for yourself that’ll not only reduce the overwhelm, but increase the quality of what you produce, the efficiency with which you produce it AND make it a whole lot more fun.

1. Have a plan

Ok, go on, roll your eyes. I know it’s not exactly appealing for everyone, particularly the creative, spontaneous, intuitive types, but hey, it actually works. Like maps and recipes.

It doesn’t have to be fancy, that’s really not important, but what is important is that you know what you’re doing when you sit down to do it.

Grab a blank piece of paper, use the calendar on your phone, or use Evernote - whatever is easy for you. Then just make a list of WHEN, WHERE, WHAT. Start with a week and then push out to a month.

For example, you might post twice daily to Facebook and once to Instagram.

WHEN: Monday (time)    WHERE: Facebook    WHAT: Share an article

     Monday                         Facebook                   Inspirational quote

     Monday                         Instagram                   Inspirational quote

… then Tuesday and so on.

This simple practice will help you feel more organised, less reactive and be much more efficient with your content creation. What’s more, planning content means your topics and posts are more likely to flow and have relevance to each other - that continuity is important. Plus, the further out you’re planned, the more time you have for searching, researching and creating your content rather than it being a last-minute job. And that means better quality.

Get those ideas out of your head and into a plan.

 

2. Block content creation time

Once you’ve got at least a rough plan, you can block out time in your calendar to create the pieces according to the plan. Consistency and repetition makes habits so PLAN + CALENDAR = GOOD HABIT.

The beauty of having the plan in conjunction with time in your calendar is that when you sit down for that time, you don’t waste a chunk of it trying to decide what to make, write or do. Which is why just 10 minutes can be highly productive … and 10 minutes is doable, isn’t it?

Your plan says to do this, your calendar says you’ve got 10 minutes. Sit down, stay out of rabbit holes, get the job done - BOOM. Repeat.

 

3. Use scheduling tools

No need to be on the treadmill constantly. You’ve got your plan and you’ve got your calendar. In addition to creating, part of the time in your calendar needs to include scheduling - it’s the next step and it completes the job. Create the content then schedule it to be posted at the time and place (WHERE and WHEN) on your plan. Done.

If you don’t already use a scheduler, both HootSuite and Buffer offer free versions and I would highly recommend both for getting started.

 

4. Choose one or two networks and go deep.

You don’t have to be everywhere. That’d be great, but only if your resources, primarily time and energy, allow you to be everywhere well. Better to show up in one or two places with quality and consistency rather than spreading yourself too thin and being patchy.

Going deep means listening, learning and serving your audience really well. Doing this will reduce your overwhelm, increase your knowledge and confidence, and enable you to cultivate better relationships with your people.

 

5. Re-purpose your content.

Yes, it’s ok to re-use your content and you should! If you’ve put time and effort into creating something of great value, you absolutely should get the most out of it.

This is especially true for longer form content like blog posts, but the same goes for other forms too. You can share the same content to other networks, making sure you tweak the language, image size etc so it fits, and you can say the same thing in a different way on the original network. It’s ok to post the same content more than once - just give it some time, change it up, add new comments, and edit or change the image.

 

6. Be spontaneous

Spontaneity on social media is important - when you’re inspired, create! Inspired action is worth 10X grind action and both are necessary.

When you get an idea, you can either create and post on the spot like an added bonus, or you can pop it into your planner as a way of remembering the idea for later. Either way, you win. Of course, with your scheduling tools in the mix too, you can create the content and schedule it for later, which means you capture the inspiration and get a bit of work done in advance all in one shot. That’s content in the bank.

 

7. Keep it real - be human.

You don’t have to be ‘all that’. You don’t have to get it right all the time, just keep going. Let your personality shine through and be you. At the end of the day, social media is about real people and real relationships. Don’t stress, just engage.

 

8. Do less and do it better.

Quality trumps quantity and if you have to choose, choose quality. Cranking out the volume won’t win the marathon and will most definitely contribute to your overwhelm. As above, you are not a machine, you are a human being trying to connect and engage with other human beings to form relationships. Relax, you’ve got this.

 

9. Curate other people’s content

Coming up with original content all the time can be very time-consuming and overwhelming, so it’s good idea to share other people’s content too. When you do this though, make sure you’re thinking about the value you can give to your audience by adding your own voice to what you share. Rather than just sharing a link, or an image, add your own comments, perspective or opinion - start the conversation. You’ve also got the opportunity to connect with the original author, or creator, by tagging or mentioning them. Again, it’s about people, not churn.

 

10. Get help

Last, but not necessarily least, getting help might be the best option for where you’re at. Find a social media manager, or a virtual assistant - someone you can trust. Develop a plan with them and get the stressful stuff off your plate. You don’t have to outsource the whole kit and kaboodle, but getting help with some of it can be a really good idea and invaluable to your business, not to mention your own headspace.

You might still want to create your own content, but just get someone to take care of the scheduling and posting. Or maybe you need help with the content, but are happy with the scheduling and account management. Whatever the case, finding someone to work with can take things to a whole new level, even with just a couple of hours a week.

Social media can seem like an insatiable beast sometimes, but it’s a beast that can totally be tamed. Keep the overwhelm at bay and you’ll not only feel better, but what you produce and the connections that come from it will be better too.

As always, I hope this has been helpful, but if you want to know more, connect with me in the comments, or on Instagram or Facebook.

Andrea - Pepper Street Social

A picture speaks a thousand words - A beginner's guide to feeling the love on Instagram

If you’re just starting out on Instagram, you might be wondering what all the fuss is about, or that it’s not as easy as it looks. Maybe you just don’t really get it yet, or maybe you thought you ‘got it’, only to realise nothing much is happening … crickets.

Don’t be disheartened and don’t give up yet. Read on - I’m going to explain a few things about Instagram and give you some tips and tools to get you back on track in the least amount of time so that you feel more confident and equipped for Instagram … and I’ll try to keep it pretty succinct because I know you’re busy. Let’s go.

Is Instagram really worth it? Isn’t it just another social media network?

Yes, Instagram is worth it because of the things that make it different from the other networks and these differences make it a great place to be. For one, Instagram is almost purely visual - it’s all about the photos and people really care about that. How many times have you heard about how important images are for engagement and sharing on social media? And here’s a network that’s devoted to images. There’s not a lot of other distracting clutter to sift through, just images and the emotions we get to feel when we see those images. It’s clean, uncomplicated and very appealing for users.

Secondly, there’s no links in Instagram, except for the one you’re allowed in your bio. This also contributes to Instagram’s appealing user experience because it’s less spammy. No links helps to keep it just about the photos rather than selling and promoting all the time.

And thirdly, Instagram was made for mobile, literally. So apart from including images in your social media posts, what’s the next big rule? Mobile, mobile, mobile - people use social media on the go. And Instagram’s perfect because it’s so clean and uncluttered without links and distractions.

So when you think about it, all the golden rules of social media that we’re trying to remember and apply on the other networks, are native to Instagram. It’s visual, it’s not spammy, and it’s perfect for mobile. Instagram, by its very nature, has taken excellent care of their users’ experience and that’s why people love it so much … and that’s why it’s worth it.

Know your community and give them what they want … consistently.

Instagram is like flicking through a photo album, so it makes sense to be personal. Let your community know who you are - give them something to get to know, let your personality show through. People love looking at photos of food and coffee, for example, and people don’t seem to get sick of looking at this stuff (I know I don’t!), but the photos that are really magnetic are the ones that tell a story and show personality. They’re the ones with owners and employees in them, the behind the scenes shots of the food being made, the ones with real customers having a lovely time and looking like they’re in their second home.

Your goal is to connect with your audience and you have to show you’re a real person to do that. Show them you understand their needs, desires, fears, aspirations, and simple joys in life. This also means posting images and messages that resonate with them apart from just the thing you do or sell.

For example, if you’re a local coffee shop, you might consider posting things about your local community, like events, news, other local businesses and of course your local customers (if they’re cool with that!). If you sell natural skincare products, on the other hand, you might consider offering related educational pieces like the benefits of certain plants, or eating certain superfoods, or just drinking plenty of water. Of course, there will be times when you want to promote a new product, host a giveaway or competition, or communicate a special offer, but don’t do this all the time, only sometimes ... like 20% of the time. Your primary goal is to make your audience feel entertained, inspired, and kind of like they’re a part of what you’re doing.

And if you’re a bit hazy about what it is your audience wants, have a look at what your competitors and peers are posting, start following them and join in on the conversation. Then go ahead and try some of what they’re doing in your own way. By seeing what others are doing and trying things out yourself, you’ll learn a tonne and get the hang of it quickly.

And consistency?

Yep, it actually matters and makes a difference. You know that it’s not just what we say, but how we say and do things too. Being consistent in your posting means that your audience has a reliable chance of getting to know you because you keep showing up for them. It’s about trust and reliability. When people like what you do and they can see that you’re reliable in the way you do it, not just in a timely way like every day, but also in the quality of your posts and the value you bring, they’ll start to anticipate your next offering … and this is key to growing your following and your business.

And don’t freak out! It doesn’t have to be 20 posts a day, it can be just one, a few times a week, whatever you can manage in regularity AND quality. But whatever it is, be consistent - it’s worth it.

Ask for engagement

You can post your beautiful images and just let your audience enjoy them, which is totally fine, but, engagement is also important to create and nurture relationships with that audience. That’s why it’s also totally fine to ask for engagement, in a nice way and not all the time, right? Asking your audience to comment not only gives you the opportunity to learn about them, but it's a way of encouraging a sense of community around your brand or business.

There are lots of ways to ask for engagement from a simple “Double-tap if you agree”, which is another way for users to switch the ‘Like’ heart on for your post. Questions are also a good way to get people to engage, for example, “Which do you prefer? Comment below”. Or invite your audience to tag someone, for example, a beautiful coffee photo posted first thing in the morning could ask the audience to tag a friend who needs coffee this morning.

Get creative, try some things out, see what others are doing and see what works for you. You don’t need to ask for engagement every time, but doing it sometimes could give you some surprising results, just by asking for it.

Use hashtags

Using hashtags indicate user sub-groups and allow your posts to be found by people searching for specific things. They can indicate things such a location, specific interests, promotions, and even brands themselves. Hashtags make it easy for people to find what they’re looking for, and is therefore one the main ways people who are not following you are able to discover you.

To work out which hashtags to use, play around in the search field to see what comes up and what hashtags people are using in your industry, field or location. Some will be obvious, like #coffee for a coffee shop, but others less so. Once you’ve found the ones you’d like to use, make a list of them and add them to each of your posts. Your hashtags should be added to a comment though, and not into the description section of your post. They’ll work in exactly the same way, but they’ll just make your post and its description look cleaner and less cluttered … and less spammy.

What makes a good Instagram image?

There are just 3 rules for the images you choose for Instagram;

  1. They need to tell a story

  2. Or arouse an emotion

  3. Make sure it’s the right size!

Beautiful places, amazing food, great coffee, family, laughter, friendship, community, health, energy, love …. Look at the photo - how does it make you feel? Would this resonate with your audience? Is this beautiful, breathtaking, or inspiring? Would your audience feel the same? Would this be something they’d share with their friends?

Adding text to your images is another way to tell a story and elicit those emotions. You certainly don’t have to do this, but you will have noticed how many of the very popular posts have text incorporated, especially with quotes. People love to see beautiful images, but they also love that dose of inspiration and motivation.

Where to get awesome images:

Use your own photos by all means - using your own photos can really bring in that personal and unique aspect to your business or brand and I would definitely encourage you to do this for sure. The following article has a few easy to implement pointers on taking your own photos for Instagram with your phone, but if you’re keen on improving your own photography, there are tonnes of other resources available too; http://www.popphoto.com/how-to/2014/09/8-tips-improving-your-instagram-photography

But you’ll probably want to use other people’s photos as well, at least from time to time, so here are some links to my favourite free stock photo resources to get you started;

https://picjumbo.com/

https://www.pexels.com/

https://www.flickr.com/commons

https://pixabay.com/

To make sure your images are the right size:

A picture speaks a thousand words so choose images that do, and take the time to make sure they won’t be cropped and ruined when you upload them. Have you ever found the perfect photo or quote for Instagram, maybe added some text, posted it excitedly, even remembered your hashtags, only to find it’s got a bit missing? Disheartening, isn’t it? Especially if you lost part of that great quote …

The ideal size for Instagram images is 1080 x 1080 pixels and can be scaled to 612 x 612. But the really important thing to understand is that Instagram requires square images, so if your image is rectangular, it will be cropped when you post it to Instagram, hence losing bits sometimes.

If you’re working on your desktop, PicMonkey is an easy web based tool to change the size of your photo, and it allows you to do lots of other things too, like adding effects, text and overlays. It’s not available as a mobile app as yet, but I believe it will be soon.

Go to http://www.picmonkey.com/ , select edit and choose your photo. Then you can either use the ‘resize’ or ‘crop’ options in the editor. If your photo is rectangular, it’ll be easier to use the crop tool because you’re going to have to chop some off to make it square. When you drag the cropping parameters, you’ll see the actual photo dimensions changing - you know you’ve got a square when the numbers of both sides are the same e.g. 1080 x 1080. Once you’ve saved the size, you can go ahead and overlay text and all sorts of things before saving your final masterpiece.

If you’re working straight from your phone, you can’t go past Word Swag. It’s available on both iOS and Android and while it’s not free (I think it’s around $5), it’s well worth the investment. Word Swag will make your photos square, perfect for Instagram, it allows you to add text, overlays and design templates right from your mobile AND it even allows you to choose stock images from Pixabay, which is built into the app. Wow.

 

I’m sure there are some great free mobile apps that people love too (please comment if you have any), and I’ve used a few, but find they’re all restrictive or unreliable in one way or another. Honestly, if you’re too busy to muck around with photo editing, but you want to give Instagram a decent shot, Word Swag is easy to use, reliable and perfect if you’re not too tech savvy with zero time on your hands.

So there’s a lot of Insta-information there - I hope enough and at the same time, not too much! The best thing I can encourage you to do is go ahead and try things, see what works for you on Instagram and see what apps, tools and resources work for you in getting your images ready to post.

Now go be creative and Instagram it up!

Oh and one other thing - if we’re not connected on Instagram, hit the Instagram button and say hello over there. I’d love to see what you’re doing on Instagram and to hear whether this article’s been helpful.

Andrea

Pepperstreetsocial.com

 

7 things a great social media manager does to grow your business

What exactly does a social media manager actually do?

Running a business is a more than a full-time job, especially in the beginning when so much is front-end loaded, and so many things are being set up for the first time. There are lots of things to get your head around and make time for, and the learning curve is steep and long. Marketing your business through social media is one of a plethora of things on your mind.

Social media makes sense and you want to get onboard, but how does anyone find the time to manage social media accounts on top of everything else, and how do you know where to start anyway? Social media management sounds like it could be a solution, but what is it exactly, and what are you paying a social media manager to do?

Here’s a list of 7 things a great social media manager does for you and your business;

1. Marketing strategy

Social media can be a lot of fun, but at the end of the day, you’re spending your business time and resources on social media to get business results. Anyone can post on social media, but it takes a marketing professional to design and implement a social media marketing strategy, analyse the data and tweak the plan to achieve the best results.

A marketing professional understands fundamental marketing principles, like branding and positioning, and can apply them to a social media strategy designed to achieve your specific business goals. This should never be a one-size-fits-all approach. Your social media manager should be taking the time to dive deep not only into what you want to achieve for your business, but what your values are, what you want to be known for, what matters to you and your business the most. These underlying values are what makes your brand and your marketing strategy stand out.

There’s a lot of data that comes with social media and while your social media manager should have the analytical skills to decipher that data and extract insights and knowledge, a true marketing professional will always put people and relationships first. There are things, like genuine goodwill and generosity that are difficult to extract data on, or pin a definite return on investment, but these are business and marketing non-negotiables that a professional will honour and which, over time, you will see reflected in your bottom line.

Marketing is a science, an art, a profession, and a discipline that can mean the difference between a mediocre business and one that booms. Find a social media manager that has a marketing background, experience and qualifications - your success is worth it.

 

2. Content creation

Content is any form of information on the internet, so it includes social media updates, images, video, blogs, e-books, podcasts etc. Marketing and social media run on content - messages and information that you want to share with others to grow your business.

Content serves many purposes for a business like gaining exposure and awareness about your brand or business, engaging & interacting with your audience and customers, promoting your products or services, gaining feedback from the market or industry and so on. That’s why in addition to being a capable marketing strategist and analyst, your social media manager needs to be good at creating content.

This involves skills like the ability to write and communicate to a very high standard, copywriting, design and imagery. Not only does your social media manager need these skills to produce  excellent content, but that content needs to be created as a piece in your overall strategy. It needs to make sense in the bigger marketing picture and contribute to achieving the goals that strategy was designed to achieve.

Furthermore, each piece of content needs to be adapted for each network. Not only are the technical requirements for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, for example, all different, but each network has a different tone and ‘vibe’, which means that what works on one, may not work on another. One message, or piece of content therefore is adapted both technically, as in size of images, character limitations and use of links, as well as communicatively, that is, saying the same thing in a way that better suits each network’s audience.

Your social media manager should be excellent at producing high quality written content that matches your strategy and which looks amazing on social media. Attention to detail and creativity in producing amazing images to accompany brilliant copy absolutely has to be of the highest standard. Don’t let your brand down with poor content.

 

3. Community building and communications management

Facilitating connection between others and with your brand or business to build a community is one of the key goals of social media marketing. People don’t have relationships with businesses or brands, they have relationships with other people, collections of which we call communities.

Communities are created when people find they have something in common because we gravitate to people that are like ourselves. They’re important in business because it’s a way of scaling relationships, if you like. Relationships can foster loyalty and word of mouth in ways that are invaluable to growing your business, and this happens when people don’t just engage with the company, but start engaging with each other.

Community building takes time and requires someone who is an excellent communicator and facilitator, someone who is good at connecting with people and who is good at connecting others and someone who can set the tone and promote the values of the community through their interactions.

 

4. Project management

There’s a lot going on when you’re managing social media accounts, especially for multiple clients, as social media managers do. It’s imperative therefore that your social media manager is an excellent project manager.

You want them to be following an implementation plan and using scheduling tools to ensure your content is posted consistently when and where it should be. They should be working on creating and scheduling content well in advance so there’s never any last minute scramble and compromise on quality. You should have access to the implementation plan so that you know what’s being posted and when - there shouldn’t be any surprises, except for maybe some nice little bonuses and of course results that exceed your expectations :)

The other important aspect of project management is your social media manager’s ability to understand and respond to the changing needs of your business. That is, in addition to implementing the strategic plan, they also need to be adaptable and flexible to things that change. These are not always negative things and can include things like an upcoming event, or the unexpected response to a product, or piece of content. You want your social media manager to be able to minimise any negative impacts as well as identifying and maximising opportunities for your business.

 

5. Customer service management

This is similar to community building, but I think it deserves a category of its own because customer service is so important. Even if you have your own customer service reps, your social media manager is often going to be in the position of seeing questions and comments on your social media accounts before anyone else, therefore it’s really beneficial for them to respond quickly and accurately.

Your social media manager becomes the voice of your business in many ways so making sure they are very familiar with your business, its products, services, processes and employees, means they have the opportunity to be an extra set of eyes and ears in the trenches. Understanding questions and comments in the context of the business, and being able to respond is another way of promoting your brand, fostering community and encouraging loyalty and word of mouth, as well as learning first-hand about customer sentiment.

A good social media manager understands that looking after your customers and potential customers is key to achieving results for your business.

 

6. A dedication to ongoing learning and keeping a finger on the pulse

Social media is a hungry beast. Not only does it need to be fed quality content often, but it changes constantly. Keeping up with changes to network features, algorithms, and new tools, as well as knowing what’s working in your industry and what’s the latest thing people are talking about is a daunting task, and it’s part of the reason you have a social media manager.

A professional who’s dedicated to constant and ongoing learning means that your business benefits without personal effort on your behalf. Your social media manager will keep their finger on the pulse and constantly incorporate network changes and new learnings to your content and the management of your accounts.

Your social media manager lives in and can navigate the social media jungle so you don’t have to. Living in the jungle will have taught them how to keep up, survive and thrive. They’ll be able to spot new opportunities and understand the pulse of your industry not only on a local, but a global level. They’ll know where to looks for news, compelling information and movements that will keep your brand relevant and captivating.

 

7. Your own social media business coach

Last, but certainly not least is the role your social media manager plays in being your coach.

Life gets busy, business gets even busier. We get excited, enthusiastic, and want to move forward, take action NOW. And we also become overwhelmed and disorientated, finding it hard to make a decision, overthinking things and feeling stuck.

A really great social media manager is one that can help you to exercise patience when it’s needed and identify the best next step if you get stuck. They can become a sounding board for your ideas and a right-hand-man for turning those ideas into actions.

The key to utilising fully utilising the resources of your social media manager is in your relationship with them. The best social media managers prioritise their relationship with you because they know how important this is in the success of you both.

Your social media manager should make you feel like you’re a priority, and like they’re excited to be working with you. You should get the impression that they’re as excited about growing your business as you are, and that they’re willing to put in just as much effort. Find a social media manager who you click with because your relationship with them can make all the difference.

What do you think? Have I covered everything, or are there things you think are important that aren’t on this list? I’d love to hear your comments, after all, my journey is one of learning if nothing else.

 

Relax, you’ve got this.

Andrea Kelly, Pepper Street Social

 

 

Foundation for greatness - 3 social media marketing fundamentals

So you’ve had this great idea for a business for some time now. It’s probably been percolating away in your head forever until you just couldn’t ignore it anymore and you decided now’s the time to make it happen. You’ve bought your domain name, set up your social accounts, maybe even got a great logo and a custom email address … now what?

 

At this point, two responses are common;

You’re either stunned like a rabbit in the headlights (do rabbits actually get stunned by headlights? Just that we don’t have deer here …), frozen on the spot, too scared to move, petrified of posting the wrong thing, and what on earth would you say anyway.

 

Or, you’re so excited you spend every waking moment on social media posting everything from pictures of your dog (not an entirely bad idea - people do love dog posts), to your logo, what you made for dinner, your logo, 20 thousand articles links, related or not, your logo, your product, your logo, and your logo.

 

Either way, overwhelm starts to set in and heaven forbid anyone mention the words “social media strategy” and you’re likely to explode, or crawl quietly into a hole. Ridiculously stunned, completely petrified, or ridiculously enthusiastic, to the point of being a danger to yourself and others - can you relate?

 

The good news is that strategy, when you’re starting out on social media, can be really very simple - just 3 goals to keep in mind and be moving towards achieving;

 

  1. Being visible - in other words, getting out there.

  2. Building relationships - you might have a great logo, but your business isn’t your logo, people want to connect with you.

  3. Learn by doing and asking. You don’t have to have it all figured out before you start and you don’t have to guess - try things out, see what works, ask about what people want, how much they want to pay - listen.

 

When you’re starting out on social media for your business, it can be daunting, that’s a given, but it doesn’t have to be harder than it needs to be. Whether you’re going it alone and wearing 20 hats on any given day, or you’ve got a team and looking to scale as quickly as possible, these social media goals are timeless and will continue to underpin your strategy as it grows and becomes more sophisticated. That’s why it’s a really good idea to start simply and nail these fundamentals before things get more complicated.

 

Being visible means getting out there. People have to be able to see you and be able to find you. Simply having a great logo and your social accounts all set up is not enough. That’s because people aren’t looking for profiles - they’re in their feeds looking at content. I hate to state the obvious, but this is why we post, pin, tweet, snap and share - so people see it.

 

Initially, this can be quite confronting for some people, the deers (or rabbits), but there’s no way around it. You need to put yourself out there and show people what it is you’re doing and who you are. Of course you don’t want to be salesy, sleasy or just too in-your-face (the dangerously excited ones), but people need to know who you are and what you do in order for them to even consider doing business with you.

 

For both the deers and the dangerously excited alike, the comfort, voice and rhythm of social media takes practice. Don’t lose sight of that. Feeling comfortable with this stuff and knowing what you’re doing will come with persistence and time, and you will get there.

 

Be visible by;

  • Choosing one or two platforms to get started with, you don’t have to be on every one, and then take some time to make sure you have your profile and bio details filled in completely and correctly. Do a Google search for each platform you’re active on and fill in all of the fields.

  • Consistency matters - post at least daily. You may want to post more often, but particularly if you’re not super-comfortable with getting out there that much, posting every day is a daily step forward in practicing and gaining confidence in getting out there.

  • Invite your friends that are active on your chosen platform(s) to follow you - they’ll be keen to support you and it’s all just more practice for you in getting out there.

  • Use the search function on your chosen platform(s) to find other businesses like yours and follow them. Follow them as yourself and as your business - you can learn from what they’re doing and expose them to your brand at the same time.

  • Use images (obvious for Instagram and Pinterest), but images on other platforms make your posts more visible and engaging.

  • Show yourself - don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through. The people who do well on social media stand out because their personality, or their brand personality shows through.

 

Building relationships - forget about ‘being a business’, just focus on relationships.

A business is a collection of relationships … and we human beings like to have relationships with other human beings. It’s how we do everything, including business. Whatever you do, don’t be afraid to treat people the way you would in real life (assuming you’re not a sociopath of course) because in fact, this is the very thing that helps you stand out on social media and will make your business a success. Lots of businesses get that wrong and don’t put the effort they should into the relationships that sustain them.

 

Building relationships means using the same rules of engagement as you would in the real world. It means being respectful, saying hello, acknowledging people when they’ve taken the time to acknowledge you with a comment, or a follow. It means introducing yourself, being real, being you. It means being helpful and interested rather than interesting. It means seeking out the person behind the posts and it means being a real person behind your posts.

 

There is a lot of value you can offer people right now, just by being helpful, so be helpful. You don’t have to have your 5-year strategy and full-product or service line fully figured out to be insanely helpful to someone today. By listening and learning and offering your help wherever you can, gives you the opportunity to start building relationships, which are the foundation of your business and all of your marketing and social media efforts. Relationships take time to seed, nourish and flourish so don’t wait to get started. You have everything you need to start building your business relationships right now.

 

Start building relationships by;

  • Always respond to people who have taken the time to comment on your posts

  • Be authentic - don’t say things that aren’t true to make yourself look better

  • Be helpful - be of value to people by being helpful

  • Thank and acknowledge people who have tagged you or shared your posts

Learn by doing and asking.

The best way to learn anything is by doing it. By jumping in and getting active and consistent on social media, you’ll learn a tonne about the platform itself, you’ll learn about yourself and start to find your voice, and maybe most importantly, you’ll learn about the people you interact with - the people who are interested in what you do.

 

Through posting consistently you can be seen and found - you’re visible. Then you start building relationships by being a decent, helpful person. Then through those relationships you have an amazing opportunity to learn about the people who are interested in you, your product or your service. In marketing terms, these people are called your target audience, or target market.

 

The reason a relationship with these people on social media is gold, is because they can give you insights that enable you to better communicate and position your offerings. That means instead of making assumptions about a product you think they might want, at a price you think they’d be happy to pay, you can actually ask them. Imagine being able to do that. Now are you beginning to see why  being visible, building relationships and learning from those relationships is a killer strategy?

 

Yes, it is simple, but it’s fundamental, evergreen, this is how-it-really-works stuff. And it actually does work. But, like all good and worthwhile things in life, it takes time, patience and effort. It’s not going to happen overnight and there’s a lot to learn and tweak along the way - both reasons to get started sooner than later.

 

Don’t wait until you feel like you’re qualified and confident enough - you just need to jump in now. Share what you know because that in itself provides enormous value to the person who knows a fraction of what you do, so that means you can help them right now. Post consistently, try things out, be real and learn. That’s all you need to do to keep it simple and set a solid foundation for future greatness.

 

Relax, you’ve got this.


Written by Andrea Kelly, with lots of encouragement and enthusiasm for the deers and the dangerously excited alike.

4 Reasons Why Social Media is Worth the Effort for Small Business

Still wondering why your business should be on social?

Is it really worth the effort?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone … and here’s a really ‘back to basics’ explanation of why social media’s just a new format for doing what we’ve always done, and therefore, absolutely something to understand and invest in.

 

 

Social media is not going away. It’s not a fad, or a phase, or an optional add-on for business. Whether we as business owners like it or not, social media plays an enormous part in how we do business. Understanding why that’s the case is less about understanding technology and more about understanding human behaviour and how technology has given us the freedom to get back to basics. Here’s why ...

 

We’re still doing what we’ve always done, it’s just that social media is a new WAY of doing it.

 

The internet is now a very interactive place, on a scale we’ve never experienced before at any time in history. We may be forgiven for taking that fact for granted thanks to the plethora of social media formats we interact with, and have come to rely on, on a daily, if not, hourly basis. Coupled with the devices that allow us to so easily incorporate that reliance into daily life, like smartphones and tablets, plus the ability to connect over some kind of network, WIFI or cellular, at almost any place, certainly at any time, and it’s really no wonder that we’re all spending so much time online.

 

Humans love to connect, love to interact, love to talk to other human beings and now that we can, we do. The way we conduct life has definitely changed, but these things, these tools that are different, more modern, newer conductors for what we’ve always done. Nothing’s actually changed that much, it’s just that the tools with which we do it have. Just like the printing press, the telephone and the ATM.

 

And if we’re all spending so much time online, because we now have the tools and networks and structures to support what we’ve always been doing anyway, then it stands to reason that businesses would be spending time online too. After all, a business is people. It’s made up of people talking to and doing things, exchanging things with other people. And besides, you have to go to where the customers are. Businesses have always done that too, haven’t they? If people are reading the local newspaper, then it’s a good idea to meet them there, to be in that paper, to be the stuff they’re reading. If they’re listening to local radio, then that could work too. Chances are they’re watching tv too, so …

 

Social media has levelled the playing field for marketing.

 

Before social media, we had what we now refer to as ‘traditional’ ways of marketing on ‘traditional’ platforms or channels, like TV, radio, print media, billboards etc. to communicate to our customers. Of course we still use them today, but these are very expensive channels, AND return on investment has always been notoriously hard to track. They’re easily ignored too and cost an awful lot to use, research and report on … and that’s why the companies with the biggest budgets dominated and made the biggest gains.

 

Fast forward to the happy days we live in now and the playing field is much, much flatter. Not only are the cost barriers almost non-existent for social marketing, but because the power’s been returned to the consumer, the little guys often have an advantage. That’s because people want to connect with people. They want the brands they’re loyal to to be authentic, to care, to have a real voice and a real person behind them … just like in the old days when local business, word of mouth marketing and customer loyalty were the bread and butter of local business.

 

We’re all online, everyone’s online, and that means the way to stand out, to find your loyal customers, to keep them coming back, to grow your brand, to spread the word, is by using social media to create and nurture relationships. Just like the local butcher used to do. Your advantage is that the big guys can find this hard to do.

 

 

Social media has changed the way consumers make decisions.

 

Having the online world so accessible means that we’re all spending much more time there, and as a result, it’s changed the way consumers consume information, build relationships and make their purchase decisions. People want more, they expect more and more is available.

 

A person looking to purchase goods or services are far more likely to listen to the things their friends and associates say about a brand than what it’s saying about itself. That’s nothing new, it has always been, it’s just that now, the consumer has a louder voice, many voices and those voices become the part of a brand collective.

 

Once, a happy customer might tell their friends about your service at a BBQ, recommend you to the local school or other associations, and benefit from your repeat business. Now endorsements can be seen by interactions with the brand online, and seen by many. Your customers may never meet you in the flesh, but you can cultivate a relationship with them by your interaction online … and other potential customers can see and engage in this interaction too. Gold.

 

Social media has turned every business into a local business with global possibilities.

 

Back in the old days it was all about local, all about relationships, building loyalty in your customers and networking within your community. Then the creep of globalisation meant the little locals were threatened, indeed consumed by the big players. The local butcher on the corner struggled as his customers could choose between 4 big name supermarkets in close proximity … that offered home delivery and the buying power of a giant.

 

Now, thanks to social media, the consumer has the tools to catch up, and their preferences are being reflected in the marketplace. They now have a voice again and their power has been returned. They want good service, they want to be loyal, they want relationships with those they do business with. That’s why what worked in the past, creating and nurturing relationships with your customers, is still working today.


Humans need relationships - it’s how we’re wired, and we create and nurture them through connection and communication. People embraced social media because communication and relationships are natural to us, they makes us happy. Social media is just a new way of doing what we’ve always done - connecting, communicating and building relationships. Just like rock painting, the printing press, and the telephone were all new once and the pinnacle of human advancement.

Companies of all industries and all sizes now have to work very hard at connecting with their customers, nurturing those relationships and making them happy … because if you don’t, your competitors will. Just like rock painting, printing and the telephone, social media is here to stay, and that change has already happened.

Was this article helpful? Is there something else you'd really like to know? Your comments here and via my social buttons really help me to write about the things you want to read, so let me know!

Thanks for your time,

Andrea Kelly, Pepper Street Social

How social media can build a small business brand - part 2

Yesterday I posted part 1 of this article, (http://www.andreakelly.org/andreakelly/2015/3/25/how-social-media-can-build-a-small-business-brand-part-1) about how traditional brand building principles fit in with a contemporary social media marketing plan. I looked at how the first 2 steps of brand building, identity and meaning, play out in a social media setting. I mentioned that these brand building blocks fit so well with social media that it’s incredible to think we ever managed to build brands without it.

 

Today I continue that exploration into response and relationships, and I’m pretty sure that straight away it’s pretty obvious that these 2 steps also fit perfectly with social media and probably even better than the first 2. Social media is social and it’s interactive - perfect for eliciting and encouraging response and building relationships.

 

So following on from identity and meaning ...

 

3. Next is response - judgements and feelings about your brand

When a customer or client puts your brand identity together in their mind with your brand meaning, they form brand judgements and feelings, and naturally we want them to be positive.

There are four broad categories of brand judgement - they are;

Brand quality - influenced by how well you perform in relation to competitors, your professionalism, image, customer value and satisfaction.

Brand credibility - influenced by perceived expertise, trustworthiness and likability, that is, competent, dependable and interesting or fun.

Brand consideration - how much does your target consider your brand to be a good fit for them. It is possible to believe a brand to be of high quality, dependable, competent and interesting, but still not a good fit for a prospective client or customer - this is where your personality and going the extra distance comes in so that word-of-mouth gets your over the line.

Brand superiority - do your customers and clients believe that your brand offers them advantages that other brands can’t or don’t deliver? If your products don’t stand out, or if they are commodity type products, then you can still achieve this belief in superiority through your customers' overall experience with your brand. Again, your personality and going out of your way to make your customers’ experience exceed their expectations can be your ticket to brand superiority.

 

Incorporating these categories into your social media strategy capitalises on social media’s interactive and relationship building qualities. Using your personality to deliver content that fosters the formation of favourable responses from your audience is perfect for the social platform. Compare achieving the above via traditional marketing and advertising channels to the now ubiquitous social platforms we have available to us today. Just makes you want to throw your hands up in the air and say ‘YEAH’, doesn’t it?!

 

4. Finally is relationships - creating brand resonance

This is all about the relationship your customers and clients have with you and your brand, and how ‘in sync’ they feel with what the brand represents. This is where engagement, loyaltybrand advocation and a sense of community happens.

 

Engagement happens when customers and clients are willing to spend time, energy and money on the brand in a way that goes above and beyond the exchange of goods and services. Engagement is a fundamental characteristic of a mutually beneficial relationship and can be expressed through comments on your blog or social media channels, participation in competitions and other promotional activities, attend events hosted by your brand and tell their friends and colleagues about how good you do what you do.

 

Loyalty means your customers and clients will be back for more products and services from you rather than searching the market to satisfy their needs. Loyalty not only produces repeat business, but it increases the frequency, as well as the quantity purchased, feeds engagement, community and evangelism.

 

Brand advocation is where your happy clients and customers become evangelists for your brand. When humans are happy, it’s just in our nature to share it. Word-of-mouth has always been and will always be the most powerful form of marketing because we trust our friends more than we trust companies, brands, and well, marketing.

 

Community is important to people because we’re human - identifying with others is what we do. When a brand creates a community around their values, customers and clients can express an affiliation with others they perceive to share similar values. And when a community is created, the strength, reach and influence of that community greatly exceeds that of the individuals of which it is comprised.

 

Social media as a marketing platform offers itself so well to these principles that I wonder how we ever achieved these outcomes without it. Of course it was done, but there were so many more barriers to entry for the small business owner. The expense, the media and agency gatekeepers, the mass marketing channels and the disempowerment of small business to name a few.

 

Luckily you and I now live in a new era. Traditional marketing principles still stand, but we have better, more accessible ways of implementing them and have greater potential to achieve better results. Social media plays a massive role in that change and in the opportunity that now exists to take traditional marketing and make it better, do work that’s more meaningful, reach more people and change more lives.

 

Your brand, coupled with sound marketing principles incorporated into a contemporary social media strategy, can be a part of this brave new world.

I hope you enjoyed this, thanks for reading, and if you have any comments, I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.

Thank you,

Andrea

Photo credit: View from the top of the Rock, New York, by Dimitry B. via Flickr

How social media can build a small business brand - part 1

The concept of building a brand can often be overwhelming and confusing for small business owners. You wouldn’t be alone if you thought your brand was your logo, period. And that brand building meant incorporating that logo into more stuff. The truth is that you wouldn’t be completely wrong either - brand certainly does incorporate logos and images, but it also reaches far beyond these expressions of brand, making branding both a powerful and daunting concept.

 

My goal for my clients is always to break down the jargon of marketing and explain things in ways that are easy to understand, relate to, and most of all apply. I love to be able to show them that when you do break it down, marketing doesn’t have to be a confusing and intimidating bunch of corporate academic voodoo, but in fact, should be fairly common sense. The reason for that is that marketing is about people and relationships, always was, always will be. It can get a bit fancy as it moves more towards applied psychology, but even still, at the end of the day, it’s just about people, their behaviour and their relationships.

 

This got me thinking when a client of mine wanted to know about the science behind a social media marketing strategy. She hasn't used a great deal of social media in her business and although she’s committed to implementing a strategy to grow her brand, she was really keen to know why and how it works, and what she’d actually be achieving. Most of all, she recognised that a social strategy was a sizeable commitment and wanted to be sure it was able to deliver results based on traditional marketing principles. A very good question.

 

… and the answer turned out to be rather long, so I’ve split it into 2 parts. In this post, I’ll cover the first 2 steps, identity and meaning, and then tomorrow, I’ll cover response and relationships...

 

Traditional marketing principles commonly teach that there are several steps involved in building a brand, and that each step builds on succeeding at the preceding level. Let’s strip out the jargon, explain them in plain English and see how those steps play out in a social media marketing strategy;

 

1. The first step is identity - who are you and what do you do?

This is all about establishing an awareness of the brand, where you want to help your customers, potential and existing, to understand what you do.

You want them to know what product or services category the brand operates in, and which products and services are sold under that brand. In other words, you want to establish an awareness about what products and services your brand represents without people having to read much or to go to too much trouble to find out. If they don't already know what you do, you want to make it pretty obvious for them, and if they do know what you do, then you want represent than consistently so they're not confused by the brand.

 

In order to establish your brand identity, you need to get it in front of a lot of people and educate them on what it is you do. Social media not only gives you access to the masses, but because of its interactive nature, enables you to educate them about your brand through conversations and images. Through social conversations and sharing valuable content, you teach your audience to associate your brand with the products and services you provide, which in turn, serve their needs.

 

2. Then comes meaning - how well do you meet needs?

This is where you want to influence the different types of associations your target market links to your brand. That is, the meaning they attach to your brand beyond what you say you do. This is primarily achieved through the performance of your products and/or services, and imagery. So you want your products and services to have been developed in response to what your target market wants and needs, and you want to deliver those products and services in a way that exceeds their expectations. That way your customers and clients not only know what products and services your provide, but they know how good they are. Your brand now represents what you do as well as how well you do it - there’s a quality and performance aspect.

 

And what do customers whose expectations have been exceeded do next? They begin to form beliefs about your brand, they pay closer attention to what you do and say and they start to tell others. Wouldn’t you like a tool to help you influence, capture and share these responses? An active social media presence means you can.

 

This is also where you can use imagery, as mentioned above, to influence the more abstract aspects of the brand. If your product or services are the tangible things that exceed customers’ expectations, then imagery helps to imbed those associated meanings. Images in the context of social media can be used to encourage favourable associations between your brand and the values of your audience. For example, your brand might use images to form strong associations with environmentally friendly practises, recyclable packaging, a small carbon footprint and sustainable living. Or, for another industry, it might be the creation of wealth, financial security, family and shared experiences, travel and attainment.

 

Remember that a picture speaks a thousand words and think about the feelings and associations you want your audience to conjure in response to the images you use in conjunction with your brand. It's well documented that social media posts that contain images elicit more engagement, that is, more likes, shares, retweets, pins and comments. Now isn't that a happy coincidence?

 

So you can already start to see how these traditional branding principles transfer perfectly to the world of social media. Access to an audience of millions means it’s almost a given that your particular target market is also well represented and accessible. Social media loves images and stories - it’s how we’ve chosen to use this medium to create and foster relationships and makes establishing your brand identity and meaning a whole lot easier than it used to be.

 

In tomorrow’s blog post, I’ll continue with steps 3 and 4 in building a brand; response and relationships. It’s exciting to think that traditional tried and true marketing science can not only be successfully applied to a modern tool, but applied in a way that has the potential to produce better results.

Thanks for reading, see you tomorrow,

Andrea

Photo credit: View from the top of the Rock, New York, by Dimitry B. via Flickr

Go pro - plan your social media content for better quality and engagement

Ok so it may seem a little counter intuitive to plan out your social media content. I mean after all, we want authenticity, we want your real personality to shine through and we want to respond and engage with our audience. Spontaneity kind of comes to mind in that context, right? So why does planning your social content contribute to achieving all that and more?

Here’s why;

Consistency

If content is king, then consistency is queen. You need to achieve consistency both in terms of the content itself and in terms of when and where you post.

Yes, consistency is an absolute priority. The way you write, the kinds of things you post and share, your tone, images and themes need to be consistent with who you are and with your brand. Consistency of message deepens brand awareness and consistency in when and where you show up with that message is critical in your audience learning to trust and engage with you. Quite simply, a plan takes care of what you’re posting and when you’re posting it so your audience can rely on you.

 

Quality

Planning as a form of quality control means that you have the opportunity and are more likely to create content ahead of time. This means that instead of either just trying to pump something out to a deadline without proper attention to quality and detail, or going the other way and posting periodically and haphazardly, you can properly create and review drafts in advance of when you want to post it. It also means that because you know that post or group of themed posts is coming up, you can start researching your piece in more depth to make sure it’s accurate and highly relevant.

 

Flexibility

Planning gives you more flexibility, not less. By following a plan and seeing how you put things together, you’re also able to respond and tweak them much more easily. For example, you may have scheduled 2 inspirational quotes per week, but have noticed that they get a lot of likes, comments and shares. You can then easily review your plan and change inspirational quotes up to a daily post. This is much harder to do without a plan as the blueprint.

 

Themes

This is related to consistency and quality in that having a plan enables you to see the overall flow of your content so you can make sure it has flow and makes logical sense. A plan will show you that spending a week talking about and sharing content on a particular topic is the perfect pre-cursor for a related, more in-depth discussion the following week. It also helps you plan the right proportions of different types of content within the context of an overarching topic. This not only allows you to get into the groove of that theme and produce better work, but it’s more logical and enjoyable for your audience to consume.

 

Efficiency

When you plan, you can batch. That means that instead of spending time all over the place preparing and posting your content, you can create a whole heap of posts in one sitting so then all there is to do is post them. This is good for time efficiency, but it’s also good for getting in the zone and being consistent with your tone and your theme. When you can sit down and create a whole week’s worth of posts, you can often achieve a really good flow, which not only makes it more enjoyable, but often allows you to create better quality work. Plus, if you batch your posts, you can also then use a content scheduler to publish them at whatever time you choose. Many platforms, like Facebook, have this function built-in, but you can also use additional products to post across platforms … but that’s another topic for another day!

 

Curation

You’ll often find that you want to link to someone else’s work, or share examples from others about your topic and planning allows you to do a better job of it. You can spend proper time researching and curating supporting articles and other sharable content to support your own ahead of time rather than flying by the seat of your pants and scrambling to find a piece, any piece, that supports your theme.

 

Engagement

By using planning to leverage the above benefits, you’ll not only see more engagement from your audience, but you’ll have more time to spend engaging with them and responding to their comments.

 

Your content plan can be as fancy or as simple as you’d like it to be or have time to make it, but the main thing is that it gives you that bird’s eye view to create and share content that’s valuable to your audience, consistently. Take some time to map out just one week’s worth of content today - give it a go and see what a difference it makes and how it ups your game.

How serving your audience on social media earns trust and engagement

Approaching your social media activities in a way that seeks to serve rather than broadcast, share rather than sell and give rather than gain is what fosters connection, trust and engagement. People are using the internet, and social media in particular, to seek out their tribes, to find the places they belong, have the conversations they want to have, learn about the things that interest them and support the causes that mean something to them. For the most part, we’re ‘over’ being sold to and have learnt to tune out. We’re hard-wired to connect and belong and we’re using that instinct to filter out the noise. Being of value to your audience through serving them is not a ‘nice to have’, it’s the currency of the day.

So how exactly can you serve your audience?
Here are a few suggestions to get your own ideas flowing;

Educate
It doesn’t matter which industry you’re in, there's always an opportunity to educate your audience about the things you know about. It doesn’t have to be, and probably shouldn’t be specifically about your product, but informative pieces relevant to an industry and related to your products and business can be very valuable and engaging.

Here’s a great example of an engaging educative post ...

Ask their opinion
There are lots of different ways you can serve your audience and the better you know them, the better you can serve them. But did you know that getting to know them is a form of serving them? Not only do people love to share their thoughts and opinions, but their answers will make it easier for you to serve them better in the future. Win, win.

Pat Flynn does this really well in this example ...

Industry news
Sharing news about the industry you’re in can also be a great way to foster engagement if a broader context is of value to your audience. A good example of this is for tech companies where broader trends are useful to keep up with, but again, it can work for all industries.

Customer stories
Making your audience the hero and showcasing your customers’ own stories could possibly be one the best ways to serve them. Remember, we’re all trying to find our tribes and feel like we belong. By telling your customers’ stories, you deepen your own brand story. Everyone wants to matter.

Inspire
Inspirational quotes are big on social media and the reason for this that again, people are seeking connection and belonging, and relevant quotes taps into that … and quotes go really well with beautiful images. Images rock on social media, we love them. Choose quotes that are relevant to your theme, to your customers’ journey and which are in alignment to your brand message.

Be personal
Offer a few personal posts that show your personality and remind your audience that you’re a real person. It’s often been said that people get the most engagement from their audience from their personal posts. It’s up to you how you do this, so just have a go and see what happens, see how you feel. Have fun, but stay professional and appropriate, of course!

Downloads, gifts and useful stuff
A great way to serve your audience is to give them things that you know they’ll find useful. Depending on your business, they could be things like templates and checklists to help them with something, maybe a how-to video, a free sample. Give without a hook, give what you know they’ll love.

There are so many things you can do to serve your audience, so I guess this is a good time to remind you not to be overwhelmed - you don’t have to do it all. The most important thing is that you nurture the mindset of serving your audience through social media, find some things you feel comfortable with and which fit your brand and your business, and do them well. Remember that it doesn’t have to be perfect and it should always be something you’re listening to and responding to. If you notice something’s working, or not working, increase or decrease it, make it better, ask the question - serve them! Being of value to your audience means making them the hero by educating them, inspiring them and listening to them.

Thank you for reading, and now that you’re ready to serve, your next step is to create a plan. Why? I’ll tell you all about that in tomorrow’s post.

Take care, serve hard.
Andrea

Resource credit: Thank you to Amy Porterfield for the images and guidance from her article, "Top 20 high engagement Facebook posts". You can download that article from http://www.amyporterfield.com/2015/02/48-2015-facebook-engagement/

Photo credit: PicMonkey.com

 

Top 7 social media tips for small business

As a small business owner you’re definitely aware of social media (duh) and probably know that ignoring it is no longer an option as far as your business goes, right? You might even be dead-keen to sink your teeth in, get started and use it to take your business to the next level. I mean, isn’t that what everyone’s doing???

But that’s about where you get stuck, probably overwhelmed. Where exactly do you start? Which platform? All of them? Be everywhere? All the time? And what will I write? What will I post? How often? And how will I find the time? I mean after all, you do have an actual business to run. Is social really worth it and how do you get started?

I understand where you’re coming from - it can be overwhelming and seem much easier not to do it at all, or give it a half-hearted go only to find it was more work than it was worth. But I really believe it doesn’t have to be that complicated and I do think it’s worth getting started. Social media is not optional - it’s a way of life now and certainly an integral part of any modern sustainable business. It doesn’t have to take over your life, or your business, but neither should it be left to chance and poor planning.

Here are 7 top tips to get you started in the right direction and build the foundation for something that can grow into a massive asset.

#1 - Choose one or two platforms and start there

Keep it simple. Sure, Pat Flynn is known for the ‘Be everywhere’ approach and there’s definitely a lot we can learn and implement from this perspective, but if you’re just starting out, it’s way better to keep it simple and get good at it. If you’re good at it and you want to be everywhere, then go forth and dominate, but just make sure you’re doing it well first, that’s all.

Starting with a platform that your feel comfortable with and which you may already be on is a good strategy. It’s going to cut down your learning curve a bit and make it more enjoyable. If you’re familiar with a platform, you may also already have followers or friends there who can support you instantly. It’ll also be a comfortable place to start practicing your content creation and engagement.

For most people, the obvious choice is going to be Facebook. Most people have a personal profile, know how it works and have a list of friends they can invite over to their business page straight away. But if your thing is Twitter, or Instagram, or Pinterest, then start there. Focus on just 1 or 2 and commit to doing a great job.

#2 - Be social! Seek to serve rather than broadcast, share rather than sell and give rather than gain.

The whole point of social media is to be social. It’s about relationships, sharing, engaging, connecting and inspiring. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because you’re doing this for your business that you need to be clinical. Sure, be professional, but not clinical or robotic - this will result in a massive fail. That’s because social media, and indeed all business, is all about people. Your business, your products, your marketing, plans and revenue can’t exist, connect or have any meaning without people. And people are social beings - we love to connect and engage with other people about the things we care about. Approaching your social media this way, in a way that seeks to serve rather than broadcast, share rather than sell and give rather than gain is what fosters connection, trust and engagement. Just like in *real* life.

#3 - What’s the story you want to tell?

Being social and connecting with others is all about communicating and connecting through the stories we tell. We see ourselves reflected in others’ stories and we find connection in sharing our own. This is where your brand’s story is really important. What is it? What do you care about? Why are you doing what you’re doing? What’s your mission, your values, your vision?

Getting really clear about what your business and your brand stands for is the key to the story you’re going tell. Do you want to change the world? Is this a passion or a hobby that you’re just in love with and can’t stop? Why do your customers care? What is it that they value, that they see reflected in your brand, in your mission?

Knowing your story and sharing it is the whole point.

#4 - Create a plan and be consistent

Once you’ve had a good think about the key elements of your brand story and how you’re going to tell it, plan it out. It doesn’t have to be fancy and it’s not rocket science, but sketching out a map will help you to focus and be consistent. Consistency is really important because it strengthens your presence and your message - higgledy-piggledy dilutes it because people can’t make sense of it or rely on it. Remember these are real people and real relationships so all of the normal rules apply.

First, think about the kind of content that you could use to tell your story. 
For example, part of your story might be to educate your audience, so you might identify educative posts as something you want in the mix. Others might include industry news, inspirational quotes, sharable and downloadable content to help your audience with something, how-to videos etc.

Next, think about how often you can consistently post quality content that your audience will love. Twice a day? 6 times a day? 5 times a week? Whatever it is, at this stage, the priority is quality and consistency. Then map out a week so you know exactly when you’ll be posting.

Now add the type of post to each one. So in the first step you may have identified educative posts, industry news, quotes and sharable downloads - now you apply these to the plan to show what type of content each of your posts will focus on.

Once you have this basic plan, you can go ahead and create the content and post it.

#5 - Respond - remember the whole point is to be social, so make sure you respond!

Monitor your comments, like and respond to them. Don’t think that posting the content is all you need to do and ignore the people who give you their support - be interested in them, what they have to say and let them know.

#6 - Be authentic - don’t try to be something or someone you’re not.

No matter how good the content, or how compelling your story is, people can sniff out a fake. You don’t have to reveal everything about every part of your business and life, but you do have to be real enough that people have something to connect with. Genuinely caring about your audience is the best way to be authentic and tell a story that matters.

#7 - Have fun!

Again, social is social and people connect with people. Don’t get too hung up about getting everything perfect because it’s not as important as getting it real and having fun doing it. Use these tips, including the planning step, to make your social media something you love doing because when you love doing something, it shines through. Let it.

I hope these tips have been both helpful and inspirational. You can really do a great job on social and build your brand and audience, as well as enrich lives all at the same time. Make it simple enough that you can do it well and actually enjoy doing it, and you’ll be brilliant.

Watch out for tomorrow’s blog post too - that’s all about how engage your audience through serving them and includes some really cool examples of engaging posts.

Thanks for reading, see you tomorrow,
Andrea

Brand ideals: no longer a touchy-feely "option"

I was talking to a good friend of mine today, about all sorts of things, it’d been a while, but our conversation eventually came around to social media. She LOVES social media and even admitted to what sounds like a slight addiction and ‘sneakily checking her phone behind the cereal box’ … you know who you are my friend, but I don’t stand in judgement and neither will I tell a soul, promise. The truth is actually she’s definitely not alone and I’m sure many could, and would, relate if they were as candid and honest as my friend.

 

The really interesting thing to me about the magnetism of social media were her reasons. She said she was drawn to the multitudes of interesting people doing good and interesting things in the world. People who stand for things that matter, people who are starting movements, people who are making a difference in their own and other people’s lives in many different ways. She described how inspired she felt to see the stories of these people in her news feeds and how she felt that social media gave her a way of surrounding herself with people who inspired and lifted her with the missions they’re on and the stories they tell. How it’s given ordinary people a vehicle for their voice, their message, and in doing so have allowed others to connect, identify and resonate with, and in, their own voices.

 

Of course there’s a lot of opportunity to see just as much negativity no doubt, but our current ability to choose who to read, who to follow and what, and who, you wish to be influenced by is unprecedented. And that’s a really important point - with the opening of communication channels, greater accessibility and connectivity, I believe people are, collectively, becoming a lot more aware of the many different voices, opinions and view points that the world is made up of. Awareness is core to identifying our own ideals and we’re naturally drawn to people and organisations that reflect those ideals back to us. When my friend feels inspired by the people she wants to surround herself with, via social media, or in person, or any in other way, she’s feeling like that because she resonates with the ideals they’re espousing and she therefore feels connected to them. She feels connected to them because they’re acting as a conduit, in a way, and a mirror for her own ideals.

 

Once upon a time, but not all that long ago, marketing students were taught the 4 P’s of marketing - I was, and actually I wouldn’t mind betting that even if you’ve never studied marketing formally, you’ve probably come across the 4 P’s in one form or another. Price, product, placement and promotion. So if I were to turn this story into one about marketing and branding, as I always do, then where exactly do you think ideals would feature amongst those 4 pillars?

 

Tricky huh. I guess you could argue that all 4 must cohesively and consistently communicate a brand's ideals, but it’s still pretty, well, you know, clinical maybe, isn’t it? Perhaps that’s because ideals would be better accounted for in the 5th P - People. The one they don’t teach you in business school. However, without people there is no business because every business is about relationships with people. People connecting with one another for some shared reason. Possibly, and more commonly now, as my friend describes, over shared ideals. If this is the way people are communicating and connecting with one another, then how can business be separate, different, play with another set of rules, when business IS people?

 

When you think of it like that, ideals become really important. Not just to have brand ideals, that is, for your business to be on a mission to bring higher order benefits, beliefs and values to the world, but to be able to communicate those ideals in a way that people that understand and connect with. We accept that the best performing brands in the world have strong brand ideals, a bigger purpose or mission, but part of their mission is also to meaningfully communicate those ideals in everything they do. The more consistent they are in delivering that message, the stronger the message is and the greater the connection.

 

The 4 P’s is, or was, all about mass marketing, but it’s different now. Mass marketing was about things and stuff and volume and the masses, but now we’re more about connection marketing. It’s about how we feel, how we connect and how we tell and identify with a story. Brand ideals are no longer a ‘touchy-feely’ option and neither is the crafting of a solid brand story and brilliant strategy to communicate that story.  Brand story is the key to communicating ideals in a way that reflects what people are already genuinely feeling and caring about. It’s more than product, price, placement and promotion - it’s about people, our need to connect and have our values reflected back to us. 

Disclaimer and note: For the picky ones amongst you, me being one myself, please note that I realise the image more accurately represents brand attributes than ideals, but hey, I was pushed for time and I think you'll get my gist :-) Forgive?

Photo credit: Image by johnhain via pixabay

Connecting on Facebook isn't real connection

Ok so we've all heard it a million times, connecting with people via social media isn't 'real' connection, right? Well, yes that is right, we probably have all heard that before, but is it right? Are social media connections false connections? I would say yes, of course they’re false if they’re false. Unless the connection is ... real. 

 

Whether it's via Facebook, or in a supermarket, over dinner, via email, a game of golf, a telephone call, or text messages, whether the connection between people is real or not has less to do with the medium through which it's conducted and more to do with authentic engagement.

 

For a start, you can't connect with Facebook because Facebook's not a person. We connect with other people. It's a big part of what makes us human. Nothing new. And we 've always needed avenues to facilitate connection, which before technology even existed were all physical, face-to-face interactions, then encompassed written interactions, and eventually telephone interactions. 

 

So without technology you could pretty much talk directly to someone, or write to them, but does that mean that all interactions were 'real'? Real in the sense that they were genuine, authentic and honest engagement between two or more people. Not necessarily. I mean you can be as fake in real life as you can be over the phone, or in a letter, or email, or on Facebook, can't you? You can be dismissive, pompous, guarded, rude and pretentious on the phone, or over a meal, or a game of golf, and you don't even need a selfie to back it up. It's just that sometimes that's the way we are. We're human.

 

But the truth is that since technology has advanced to the point of endowing us with a plethora of tools and vehicles for connection, we're spoilt for choice. Connection is everywhere, on everything, available always and never switches off if you let it. We've got all the stuff we had before; there's still golf and phones (for talking), and letters and supermarkets and dinners and emails and all that, it's just that there's a whole lot more on top.

 

So you see, it's not that social media, or any other conduit for that matter, is not conducive to 'real' connection, it's just that we're still adapting to so many opportunities for connection being available. What this does is makes us 'connect', or be engaged in some form of social conduit constantly, because remember all the old ones still exist, but we've just got technology on top.

 

Always 'on' means we're not always engaging genuinely and authentically and when that happens, you don't have a 'real' connection. 'Real' connection doesn't have to be face to face, it doesn't have to be voice to voice or even one to one, it just has to achieve connection where two or more people are authentically engaged. You can achieve that on Facebook, just like you can achieve it over the phone or at the supermarket or by writing a book.

 

Social media is just another tool for human connection. Whether that connection is real or not depends on the humans participating in that engagement, not the conduit. Sure, we've never before been more overwhelmed and possibly overburdened by the opportunities for connection, but the quality of the connection itself still comes down to how human beings engage and communicate with one another.

 

You can make real and genuine connections on social media. It's all in the way you use it. For some people it's one of the only way they can make connections with people. Take people who are geographically isolated. Situationally isolated by illness or disability, either their own or otherwise. People who are shy or introverted. Who feel overwhelmed by physical interactions with others. So because they connect with others via social media, their connections aren't real? Ridiculous. I'm sure the the same was said about telephone conversations when they were first invented too, and you know what? Some people still believe it. And that's because your preference for connection is a matter of opinion, but the quality or the 'realness' of that connection depends on you and who you're connecting with, not the medium. Always has, always will.