Small business marketing

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 (, 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 ;-)



Stuck for what to post? Educate. Share what you know.

We all get stuck for what to post from time to time. Maybe it’s a blog post, maybe it’s a an email article, or maybe it’s just a plain old social media post … that you don’t want to be either plain or old, but the ideas just aren’t flowing.

Allow me to suggest you create a post that educates your audience on an aspect of what you do, or of the industry, or niche, that you’re in. Sharing knowledge can be very valuable, interesting and entertaining to your tribe, plus it helps establish you as an expert, which nurtures trust.

Some businesses are blessed with what seems to be endless opportunities for interesting content, while others constantly struggle to find an even remotely interesting angle to what they do. But either way, content that educates your audience is definitely something you want to include consistently in your content mix.

Take a florist, for example. To me, florists are surely one of those businesses that are have endless opportunities to create beautiful and engaging content. The images alone are drool-worthy, not to mention the scope for ideas, what’s in season, new trends, colours, special occasions, etc. Sure, but they also have to be careful not to blend in with every other florist too, right?

Knowledge sharing posts that educate an audience are a great way to keep a florist’s content mix from looking the same as every other florist out there, and this could apply to your business too. Once or twice a week, post something that’s designed purely to help your audience. Make it easy to understand and something that real value can be found in.

For example, a 3-step process to make your flowers stay fresher and last longer … and explain *why* each of these steps are important. There must be tonnes of useful information and ‘hacks’ a florist could offer their audience and in doing so, they’re not just looking pretty, but providing value and being of service. How can you do the same?

Educative posts are brilliant for all business-types, but those that tend to be less exciting, let’s say, can really stand out and set themselves apart by offering value in this way. Take a plumber, or an electrician, for example - there are plenty of creative ways to build a brand in these fields and offering useful knowledge is certainly one of them.

Think about ways you can share your special knowledge with your audience and when you do, remember that the goal is to be of value and for the content to be useful. It’s not going to be of any use to anyone if it’s too complicated for a layperson to get their head around, if it’s full of industry-specific jargon that makes no sense to anyone other than other plumbers/accountants/lawyers/florists etc, and if it’s too long to be consumed quickly. Get into your customer’s shoes (or head) and ask yourself how this would be useful to them, and how will they get the most out of this?

  • Be of value & make it useful

  • Keep it simple

  • Don’t use jargon

  • Explain why

  • Make it easy to consume

TIP: A short video demonstrating a simple procedure might be easier for someone to grasp than a 4-page instructional PDF … and video just happens to be a lot more engaging, so that’s a win for you and them.

So add some education and knowledge sharing into your content mix. You know stuff that is incredibly useful to your audience, so share it. They’ll get great value out of it and you’ll earn their trust as someone who knows what they’re on about and is willing to share it.


Thank you for reading - I hope you found a bit of inspiration in that. If you'd like some help with your social media, please email me at for a free 30-minute consult/chat/lightbulb session, or connect with me on social media (buttons below) - I'd love to help you out with what I know.

Have a great day,

Andrea Kelly

Are your sandwiches really better than your competitor’s?

Maybe they are, maybe they’re not. It’s subjective anyway - what one person thinks is the ‘best’, will leave another begging to differ. And that’s why the experience you offer your customers is just as important as the product or service itself.


Brad’s been going to the same coffee shop in his lunch break for years. They know him by name, they know exactly how he likes his BLT, and that he doesn’t like his coffee too hot. Brad, on the other hand, tells anyone who listens how these guys have the BEST sandwiches and coffee in town, hands down. As far as he’s concerned, it’s the best and there’s no reason to even consider alternatives.


If the truth be known, there are probably 15 other cafes & coffee shops in a 1km radius that have sandwiches that are at least as good, if not better, and the same goes for coffee. But that’s irrelevant to Brad. You see whether he’s aware of it or not, part of the reason he’s so convinced that *these* sandwiches & coffee are the best is because of the way he experiences *these* sandwiches & coffee.


He’s familiar with the staff, their friendliness, and the way they do what they do. He feels like he’s a part of it, like it’s personal, and they remember his name. That’s given him a feeling of trust, which he’s reciprocated with his loyalty, not to mention his conviction in converting the unconverted to his way of thinking.


Don’t ever listen to anyone who tells you trust can’t drive revenue. The truth is that it does and in a world of fairly homogenous products and services, it’s one of the only things that can.


So the moral of the story is that we all pour our heart and soul into the things we produce, whether they’re products or services, to make them the best. And so we should - it’s never a good strategy to sell people rubbish. But be realistic. You coffee is probably not that much better that the guy up the road. Another accountant could probably get just as good a tax return for you. My social media services are absolutely available elsewhere.

Our ‘stuff’, at the end of the day, isn’t that different, but the way our customers experience it can be. Remember names, remember details, follow-up & go the extra mile in ways that matter. Make your customers feel like you really care and like Brad, they’ll reward you with their loyalty. Loyalty is hard to compete with.

Thank you for reading - I hope you found a kernel of inspiration in that. If you'd like some help with your social media, please email me at for a free 30-minute consult/chat/lightbulb session, or connect with me on social media (buttons below).

Have a great day,

Andrea Kelly



Facebook page mini-audit checklist

Whether you’ve just set up your brand new Facebook business page, or you’ve had your page for a while now, it’s a good idea to make sure it’s set up properly and functioning as optimally as possible. Use this checklist like a mini-audit and rest assured that you’re giving all your hard work the best opportunity to be seen and to flourish.

1. Does your page have it’s vanity URL, or is it using a yukky generic one with lots of numbers and other garbage on the end?

Yes, this is just a vanity thing, but it’s nice to have a Facebook URL that’s clean so it’s easy for people to find you and also because it looks much more professional when you use the link in other places like email or other social networks.

If you’ve got the ugly URL thing happening, go to to change it and claim your business name.

2. Have a really great cover photo.

Take some time and get this right.
First of all, the size for a cover photo is 851 pixels wide by 315 pixels tall. Now you also need to remember that your profile pic sits on top of your cover so plan for this and make sure it’s not covering something important. Also, your cover image will be cropped a bit on mobile devices, so allow for this. Pepper Street Social’s Facebook cover is cropped on mobile and as I still haven’t fixed it, it’s a good example of what I’m talking about. So to avoid this, keep text and images inside 144px from the left and the right of the cover.


Image courtesy of

Use imagery that represents your brand, is interesting to look at and good quality. It’s a good idea to use images that are the same or similar to ones on your website - you want your brand consistently respresented so that people can easily recognise it.

Also, did you know you can add a description and other text to your cover photo? Use this section to include your tagline and links to website and other social networks so that when people hover over the photo, more about you without any effort on their behalf.

3. Make sure your profile picture is the right size and legible.
It should be 180 x 180px and it will display at 160 x 160.

4. Fill in your About tab well.

Here is an opportunity to describe what you do so be clear and concise and not vague or waffly. You can also use links in here so you should add a link to your website and your other social network profile links.

5. Using keywords in all descriptive sections allows Google to find you more easily.

Fill in all of the other areas such as Mission etc, don’t leave them blank. You should write good copy that is enjoyable to read, but in which you have incorporated keywords relevant to your industry, product or service.

6. Is there consistency in the timing of your posts?
In other words, don't post 20 things in 20 minutes & then disappear for 3 weeks. However much or however little you can handle on a daily basis, do it well & do it consistently. It makes a massive difference. (Using a content calendar, it needn’t be complex or fancy, can help a lot with planning and consistency).

7. Are your posts quality content?

In other words, don't post crap, put *some* effort in - this is your brand. It's important. Be mindful.

Photos and videos do really well on Facebook because they’re visually appealing … as long as they’re, well, visually appealing. Again, take some time to find images that are good quality and interesting. Photos and video seem to get more likes, comments and shares, but simple text posts might get better reach. Either way, it should all the be best quality you’re capable of producing.

8. Does the page have personality?

Too often business pages make the mistake of being too ‘businessy’, too salesy and show too much of their product. Don’t do this - it’s boring!

Put yourself into what you do. YOU are unique: you're both interesting and hard to duplicate whereas, hate to say, but your products & services are not. Without personality, they're just stuff. YOU make your stuff stand out.

Mix it up and try things out - find ways of expressing personality that are consistent with your brand. Have fun, show people you’re a real person or people - that’s much more engaging that just talking about your stuff all the time.

9. Does the page allow fans to message you?

Not sure about this? Well it’s a personal choice, but there’s a lot to be said for allowing people to connect with you privately. If that’s not an available option, they just might not engage at all … and they’ll likely find someone else doing what you do who allows them to do that. Customers who engage personally are more likely to become long-term customers.

You can switch messages on in page settings.

9. Does your page respond to your fans?
When people take the time to comment or ask questions on your page, there’s no excuse for not replying - please make sure you do. The ability to interact is the whole point of social media - it’s social, not a billboard!

10. Tag other pages
This is a good way to expose your brand and build awareness within your industry. Tag people and other pages in context with what you’re posting and talking about. You might want to highlight their page and share some of their content with your fans as a way of networking and building relationships

You can tag someone or a page by using the @ before their name or the name of their page and Facebook will make it a live link. If the page is not recognised by using the @ symbol, you may need to Like that page personally and as your page first. Also, make sure you enable people and other pages to tag your page in Settings.

11. Pin your best and most timely posts to the top
Clicking on the grey arrow in the top right of your post shows some options including Pin Post. This option just pins that post to the top of the newsfeed so that anyone visiting your page will see that post first without having to scroll through the feed.

12. Does your page use milestones?
Milestones are another way to show the personality and ‘realness’ of your brand and business by taking your fans on the journey with you. You can use milestones to mark opening your doors for business for the first time, for hosting events, winning awards - the list goes on. You can really engage your audience in your milestone sharing them to your personal timeline and asking your fans to do the same. People visiting your page can see Milestones in the About section.

13. Update your Featured Likes

When you Like other pages as your business page, Facebook will choose at random which of these will be displayed on your page under the ‘Like by this Page’ section. This is good for networking and showing your place in your industry, and you can also choose which ones are featured. Do this in Settings under ‘People and Other Pages’.

This is not a comprehensive list by any means, but I hope it gives you a quick run-down of things to check when you're getting started or when you haven't checked for a while.

If you'd like to know more, please comment here, or connect with me on Facebook or Instagram. Can't find something or get something to work? Let me know - I'd be so happy to help.

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;

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;

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 , 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.



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

Tell me again, why exactly is defining your target/audience so critical?

It’s critical because it’s deep and the deeper you can go, the better at providing a service or making a product that not only solves a real problem, but in doing so enables you to make deeper human connections that lead to a sense of identification and belonging, and foster genuine loyalty.

It’s incredibly easy to mistake defining your target market purely as a business function. The thing is, it is a business function and an incredibly, undeniably critical one, but one nonetheless that’s based on human behaviour and emotion. After all, there is no business, no such thing without human behaviour. For all the ideas, products and services in the world, none of them make a business without human behaviour. And human behaviour is governed by relationships and emotion.

The reason it’s so common not to give proper gravity to defining and understanding your market or audience is because business and commerce have become bigger, or seem more important than the underlying drivers. ‘Business’ in that regard has become very corporate, clinical and technical, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be both intimidating and confusing. In small business, we often develop a mindset and expectations that our business is just a smaller version of those big businesses, those corporate players. In some ways that’s true, but one of the dangers of that kind of thinking is that we can overlook the fundamental realities, like actual relationships with customers, for the ticking of boxes on a business plan template.

On this I’m speaking from experience. With a formal education in business and marketing, you would think that I’d know better than to skim over this point, but I did exactly that. I was so keen to get started on doing the work and building my business, that I wrote a few things down, ticked the box, so to speak, and moved on to the ‘real’ stuff. And then it wasn’t long before I got stuck, became lost and confused and had to come back to this fundamental step. The one advantage I had was that I knew what the problem was. Many people won’t and they’l flounder around trying one thing after another, wasting time and energy trying to figure out why nothing seems to be working and why they’re feeling so miffed.

So let me try to explain it this way;

1. All business direction, marketing, branding, positioning and communication is a form of human connection.

Whether it’s a commodity, like selling gravel to construction companies, or a customised consulting service,  the reason customers and clients choose to do business with you is because they perceive your business/product/service to be a good match for whatever their problem is. That is, they’ve made a connection between what they need and what you have to offer.

2. All human connection is a product of the way we feel.

That seems pretty easy to understand for a customised consulting service say, where how we connect or gel with that consultant has a massive impact on how likely we are to engage their services, but the same principle applies to commodity-type products. We have tangible needs that have to be satisfied, like price and speed of delivery, but we also rely on our perceptions for how well we believe our needs are met and the satisfaction of quality. You can tick all the boxes for a great product or service, but if a customer perceives your business to be disorganised and unreliable, then it’s through those eyes their final decision will be made - the way they feel.

3. The way we feel about a brand/product/service is determined by the way we experience it.

Talk is cheap and what you say, especially about yourself, isn’t enough. You can say your gravel is the cheapest, and it might be. You can say it’s the best quality, and it might be. You can say you achieve fast and reliable deliver every time, and you might, but if your website is a mess and the person who answers the phone in the office sounds like they’d rather be anywhere else, but there, it’s highly likely that potential customer will never find out.

And that’s for a commodity - think again about the consultancy or any sort of personalised service. The sakes are even higher because that potential client is looking not only for their needs to be met, but they want their values to be matched. They’re making a judgement call and they want to feel good about making the decision to work with you, to buy your product. It’s not a check-the-box situation, they want more - they want to feel like you’re the perfect solution and they’ll make that judgement according to the way they experience your brand/product/service. They’ll be looking for evidence of your values in everything you do, in every touch-point with you and your brand. They want a certain kind of experience and you need to know what that is is you’ve any hope of providing it.

4. Our experience is determined by how well a brand/product/service matches our world view and the things that matter to us.

Our world view is like the filter through which we judge and value things according to how well they appear to match our own values and the value we place on the needs we want to satisfy. Gravel might just be gravel, but does that mean you don’t have to worry about values, just because it’s ‘just gravel’? No, because there are plenty of other places to get gravel. After all, it’s just gravel. But if you understand why your customer needs the gravel and that it’s important that he can trust in your delivery efficiency because that’s what he’s promised his clients, then you have a chance to make a difference. It’s not up to you to decide what gravel means to him, it’s up to you to understand his world view and how gravel fits in.

To deliver the kind of experience your customers want, you have to understand how they think, what they value and how they want to feel. Yes, they want your product or service to do certain things and match certain criteria, but they also want to feel a certain way as a result of engaging with that particular brad/product/service. You have to understand what they value and why they value it so that you can communicate an understanding of, a match between you, your brand and their world view.

 And when you think of it like that, it’s pretty clear that it’s not a check-box on a business plan template, right? Or rather that there’s a lot more to it than a mere check-box would suggest. Yes, it’s deep and yes, it can definitely seem daunting. And absolutely yes, it can be very tempting to skim over, but can you see how important it is not to skim? Can you see how important it is to take the time to go deep?


The more you know about your ideal client or customer’s world view, their values, their preferences, their desires, the more you understand about how they want to experience your kind of product or service, the more you know about how they feel, the greater connection you’ll be able to make with them. Connection is the aim, not because it’s a business function, but because it’s what we humans seek, it’s how we’re wired. And we’ve figured out along the way that without that connection there is no business, and seeing there’s no connection school or degrees, only business school and degrees, we gave it a business term and put it under the heading of ‘marketing’. I’m not knocking that at all, it makes sense, but if you’re going to make it work, then you have to understand that it’s a human thing first, and a business plan heading or check-box second.


I hope that makes some sense to you. It really bugs me when really smart small business owners, who are really good at what they do, second-guess themselves about what they know to be true because of intimidating business and marketing jargon. It makes me weep to see these bright sparks waste hours cranking out some meaningless business mumbo-jumbo trying to smarten up their act, become more ‘professional’, when the real answers, with the real feeling and the real knowledge of what they actually do and who their actual people are is so much more valuable. Business, commerce and marketing are just frameworks to explain, test and implement commercial outcomes, and we need them, they’re fascinating and very useful, don’t get me wrong, but underneath all of the terms and the systems and concepts is, first of all, human connection.


Back yourself and what you know to be true. Serve your people better than anyone and have a brilliant day.


Content marketing mantra: Produce high quality content that's meaningful to your audience - an unwanted epiphany

This is like the foundational tenet that we hear so much, so often, that we run the risk of taking if for grated that we actually know what it means and are delivering it. It came as a shock to me personally when I realised that actually the truth is that I hadn’t been doing this so well. Not well at all in fact.


It’s not the first time this has happened in my life around something I really care about. One of my most significant ‘growing up’ lessons (and just to be clear, this did not occur in adolescence - I was already well and truly a "grown-up", at least in age) was realising the difference between logically understanding a concept, a life truth, a principle, and actually doing it. For me, it was all about accountability. I knew what accountability meant logically, and if fact, I loved it. It made so much sense to me, really resonated, and I’m sure I preached to more than one other person more than once about all I understood about accountability. But then one day when my Iife had reached rock bottom, I realised that for all my understanding and resonance with the principle, I’d done bugger-all of it myself. Understanding is only one half of the equation.


I think this is a common pitfall and a reason people get stuck in so many areas of life. Some principles or high-level concepts are so familiar to us, so drummed in, so ubiquitous to us that we actually confuse our knowledge and understanding of them with actual implementation. It’s kind of like a marriage, or family that we see every day. We know we love them, we know this so confidently and unquestioningly that we may forget to explicitly communicate that, or worse still, treat them in a way that communicates the opposite message.


In the same vein, how many times have you heard that the first step to content marketing is to produce work, or content, that’s top quality? That it needs to be of a high standard to stand out from the crowd, from all the other content. That not only does it need to be high quality, but something that your audience really wants, loves, needs. That it’s actually useful to them and solves a problem for them. You hear it all.the.time. right?


Well I can only truly speak for myself, but I know that not only have I heard that so much, I also really, really care about it and believe it underpins connection, authenticity, brand and all marketing. I love that stuff, it’s my thing … But I had begun to take that I knew what it meant for granted so much that I believed I was doing it and was therefore ready to move on to the next thing. I’d begun to see quality as a check box. Tick, yep, done that, got that, what next?


Ok so for a start, any lesson that’s worth learning tends to be an ongoing practice, not a one-off check box. Take getting fit as an example. Clearly understanding the importance of exercising is not the same as sticking to a fitness regime. Sure, you have to understand its benefits first in order to be motivated and committed to doing the work, but understanding is not enough. You then have to do the work - you have to go for that run, Crossfit, yoga, whatever it is. But then there’s more - you have to keep doing it. You have to incorporate that principle of fitness into your life not just in resonating thoughts, but in action.


Producing high quality content therefore is not a point you get to and from which you move to another stage. Sure, once you’re producing high quality content, you have options and things you can do with it, but high quality is not a static thing - it’s something you have to continually strive for. Something you have to practice on an ongoing basis and, I don’t think it’s unfair to say, something that you have to keep improving on.


I didn’t know that I’d got off track and I certainly didn’t expect an epiphany in this form, but I got it just the same. I realised, sadly and painfully enough, that I had ticked the check box for quality and moved on to tactics. I hate this! I bellow on about it all the time to other people - DON’T DO THIS!!! Especially in marketing - I’m passionate about this: unless you have found your reason, your why, and are producing work of a high standard that people actually care about, then all of your marketing efforts will come off as tacky, slimy tactics that will get you nowhere.


What I didn’t realise is that quality and tactics can both be represented on a sliding scale, from really, really poor, to really, really good. And that even though I wasn’t all the way down the poor end on either, I wasn’t as far as I could be towards the truly excellent end. Which is actually fine, but what’s not fine is that I subconsciously ticked the box and therefore wasn’t going to move. My blog posts were ok, they were getting some attention and I wasn’t embarrassed about them. My website was/is ok - I mean I have one, it’s up, which is better than nothing, but I wasn’t proud of it, am not proud of it. It can be a LOT better. But because I checked the box, I had begun to see the ‘just ship it’ principle as a tactic. I believed I had enough quality to just publish and that publishing regularly, shipping it, and pushing for exposure was the focus.


‘Just ship it’ isn’t a bad principle, nor the most sinister tactic if that’s how you’re using it. There’s a lot worse you can do on the crappy tactics scale, trust me! But because I thought I’d got the quality thing down alright, I was putting a higher emphasis on a lower principle. The quality will do, just get it out there. And when you do that, you always have to come back and take stock and re-callibrate.


Quality and making stuff that actually helps people has to be part of your process. For quality, you have to have a target you’re striving for, something you want to get to one day, and you have to find ways to take steps towards achieving that or becoming that TODAY. And tomorrow, and the next day. It’s the accountability thing again - you actually have to DO it, not just understand it. And making stuff that actually helps people is a part of that quality. Quality’s not just how well you write, or how lovely your layout and images are - sure, they’re important, no doubt and I for one am, at least from today(!), committed to constantly improving these aspects, but a big piece of quality is how well you serve people. If your audience just wants a beautiful reading experience, then understand that and aim to nail it. If they want things they can take away and put into action right away, well you have to do that too. Sometimes they want both, but knowing that is key to producing quality.


Making stuff and writing about things that are interesting and which actually help people isn’t really for you to decide either. I’m interested in marketing, could talk all day about it, but I know that the people I really want to help and connect with and make something useful for don’t like marketing. No they don’t. They find it overwhelming, they find it sleazy and frankly they’d rather have nothing to do with it. What they care about is being a doula and helping women birth naturally and mother gently, or making natural skincare products that don’t harm their families or the environment, or selling enough of their dreamcatchers so they can justify doing it all day long because they love it so much. Marketing to them is a necessary evil and I want to be the one who can show them that they can do it effectively in a way that feels right to them - sans sleaze! Whether or not I can pull that off depends on how well I understand them and the effort I put into producing things that represent real value and real quality to them.


Significant pieces in my epiphany:

1. Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield

This book arrived in the post on Tuesday.

It’s been on my ‘to read’ list for ages, but my husband recently ordered it for me and it arrived Tuesday.

I read it that night. It confirmed a lot of what my soul already knew.

2. On Wednesday I read a Content Marketing Institute article about growing the Canva blog.

I don’t usually pay too much attention to articles like these because I find that they can often be more overwhelming than helpful, but not this one.

Again, it seemed to tap into something I was already thinking about and was particularly piqued after reading ‘Turning Pro’ the night before.

It put rock solid fundamentals before any sort of tactic. I found it confronting, but undeniable.

Read the article here.

3. After reading this article, I went to the Canva blog - I wanted to see what he was talking about.

I regularly use Canva, but I’d never read their blog. Now I know I’ll never miss one.

There’s a line in the CM Institute’s article that asks, ‘What do you want your blog to be when it grows up?'

This is it. I want my blog to be like the Canva blog - excellent quality, far and away better than the usual, it’s long, long form writing, there’s lots if images - it’s beautiful in every way, not just superficially.

Have a look at the Canva Design School blog here.

4. Ice to the Brim

On Thursday I went to this site and completely fell in love with it.

This is what I want my website to be when it grows up.

It’s beautiful, it’s purposeful, it’s personal, in fact it oozes personality and it makes me feel like I’m at home - I want that at JamTree.

Go see what I'm talking about and meet Chase Reeves here.

5. Fizzle’s 9 Stages of Small Business

I’m going to use this as a roadmap to go back and spend the time to get these steps right.

My foundation wasn’t sure enough so I had to have an epiphany about that, but it’s ok because now I can do it properly.

If you haven't heard of Fizzle, I highly recommend you change that here.


Today came the culmination of an unwanted epiphany that started on Tuesday, so today I draw a line in the sand and share with you the places I want to go and the things that I am going to do differently to get there. I don’t know if this post will represent any of the quality and usefulness I’ve been talking about, but if nothing else, I’ve shared a point in the road I’m on and I hope that in some small way, it gives you the courage to reconsider, reevaluate and perhaps take comfort in the fact that just because your road is wiggly and windy with a few wrong turns, you can still learn and you can still turn it into a positive. Keep moving forward, keep striving for quality, keep seeking to understand both yourself and those you want to serve.

I don't know how useful or high-quality this post really was today, but I promise you this - I am on a mission to walk the talk and learn everything I can so that I can be the producer of quality, helpful content that helps you do the thing you love.

Take care,


Photo credit: 'You Can't Depend on Your Eyes' by Brian Talbot via Flickr

Content marketing overwhelm: a 5-step plan to get you moving right now

Content marketing overwhelm a 5-step plan.jpg

Yesterday I wrote about entrepreneurial overwhelm and how caring greatly about the thing you want to create has a habit of also getting you stuck. In that post I said that one of the very best thing you can do to get through that overwhelm and stuckness is to create a simple plan of one or two things you can do every day to give you some wins and get you moving in the right direction. And that’s true, it’s good advice, but I thought about it afterwards and I thought I could do better. I could be more specific.


A lot of what makes the people I talk to feel overwhelmed in their business is marketing, and right now, that’s often content marketing.

It’s often the same story - I know I should be doing something more, but I don’t know what.

I know I should be on social media, but I mean, how, and what am I going to say?

I’ve heard of content marketing and that sounds good too, but I don’t really understand what it is or how I’m supposed to find the time to fit it in.

My friend’s done some stuff with Facebook ads so maybe I should do that, but I’m not sure how.

I’ve heard the best thing I can do is to start a blog, but I hate writing and what would I write about anyway?


Well there’s no doubt about it - there are a million and one marketing things you can do and most of them are apparently accessible, and free and with very few barriers to entry. But we know that, right? What we don’t know is where to start, which one to choose and what is the best use of our meagre time?


The truth is that there is no 'one size fits all' answer. There is no one best thing because that will depend on you, your business, where you’re at, the time you’ve got and what you enjoy. However the closest answer to the one right answer is that you just choose something and commit to it. Movement gains momentum, staying still cannot. So you’re going to choose one thing and you’re going to make a little plan and execute that one thing every day for 2 weeks.


The goal here is that you do something and start moving.

The goal is not to see a massive spike in sales or engagement - it’s possible, but not likely and not the point just yet anyway.

The goal is to stop being stuck, start where you’re at and take some small steps that you can build on.


1. Choose 1 aspect of content marketing that you’re going to focus on.

This will vary from business to business depending on where you’re at and how long you’ve been doing this.

If you’re just starting out in business, or have been in business for a while, but are just starting out on your journey of content marketing discovery, I like to suggest starting with Facebook. The reason is that most businesses have a Facebook page already, and if not, they’re very easy and manageable to set up. Facebook is also a platform that most people are familiar with, which means we cut down on the learning required and can get straight into the practice of creating and posting content regularly.

If your platform of choice is Pinterest, or Instagram, or Twitter, or perhaps you already have a blog, then that’s fine too - follow these steps with what’s familiar and works for you.


Example: Facebook business page


2. Decide how often you can realistically post per day, or per week CONSISTENTLY.

The critical part of this step is consistency. 

The reason consistency is key is because small consistent wins over time always beats big unsustainable spikes of spectacular work with nothing in-between.

You want to train yourself to be consistent and in order to do that, you need to make your goals sustainable.

Forget about the 'Twitter expert' recommending 20 Tweets per day, or the 'blogging expert’ prescribing a 1000-word post 7-days a week. If you can manage one blog post per week with certainty, then commit to that. If you can post twice to your Facebook page 5-days a week, then do that. But choose something you know you can achieve because you want to experience ticking the boxes and knowing you hit your target, not feeling like you failed for no other reason than your target was unrealistic. If you’re not sure, start small and change it up later.


Example: Post to my Facebook business page twice a day, five days a week.


3. Decide on what that content will look like and what you can reasonably expect to deliver.

Again, this is about being sure to set targets that are achievable so that you get your wins on the board.

So, using the example from the previous step, let’s say you’ve decided that posting to your Facebook business page twice a day per week is manageable for you. You know you’d like each post to feature a beautiful, sharable image. That sounds like a great idea, as long as it’s realistic and doesn’t jeopardise your posting goal. As much as it’s a great idea and as much as we all love great images, if your images are taking 2+ hours to create, then this can quickly become unsustainable.

The same goes with blog posts - your goal might be 2 per week, but if your style is very long and each post takes you at least 5 hours to write, then that too, for all your good intentions, has a high probability of failing.

If you have the time, then great, go for it, but all I’m saying is to be realistic and at this stage, our primary objective is to set targets that we can deliver. Get your rose-coloured glasses off and be realistic - you can change it up later.


Example: 10 Facebook posts per week - a mixture of quotes with images (2), shared content and my own comments.


4. Make a simple plan

Your plan will tell you what to do and when to do it.

Once you’ve created a simple plan, you don’t have to worry about ‘what' and ‘when' decisions anymore - you only need to execute, tick the boxes, accumulate the wins.

Your plan should be very simple because you don’t want to get caught up in making and maintaining a schedule - you just need it to tell you what to do and when to do it.

I have attached a sample plan here for you to download and get started with if you want to, or you can make your own.

This one uses the Facebook example, but you can change it for blogging, or any other kind of content creation via any other platform.

I have included a ‘Theme’ column - some people like to use this to focus their content on a particular theme. It also includes the date for each post, the ‘Topic’ and ‘Type’ of post, as well as the ‘Format’ or details about the post, and of course when it will be posted. Mine shows the times each post will be scheduled in Facebook, but again, you can do this with blogs or other platforms too.


5. Execute and review

Once you’ve made your plan, you’re all set to create and post the content.

Remember, this is not a full-blown content marketing plan - it’s a little bite to get you moving and start chewing.

Stick with it for a few weeks, see how you go and tweak it if necessary - the goal is to WIN, so if it’s too much and you’re not winning, cut it back.

Make some time at the end of the week to review how you went and to update the plan for the next week.


From here you can grow, but you can’t grow anything if you don’t start.

Give it a go, good luck, and if you need a hand, send me a comment - I’d love to help.



P.S. If you are posting to your business Facebook page, did you know you can schedule your posts in advance?

That means you could spend a block of time creating and loading all of your content for the week to automatically post at times you choose.

Here’s how to do it ...

To schedule a post:

Start creating your post at the top of your Page's Timeline

Click  next to ‘Post’

Select ‘Schedule Post’

Choose the date and time you want the post to be published

Click ‘Schedule’


To backdate a post:

Start creating your post at the top of your Page's Timeline

Click  next to Post

Select Backdate Post

Choose the date and time in the past that you want the post to be published

Click ‘Backdate’

When you backdate a post, the post will be published immediately and appear in the past on your Page's Timeline. You can also choose to hide the post from News Feed.

Photo credit: 'The Art of Social Media' by mkhmarketing via Flickr


Treat your customers like they’re ALL your ideal customers

The whole point of identifying who your ideal customer is, is so that you can gear everything towards delighting them. Delighting them starts with understanding what matters to them, what they’re looking for, what their problems and challenges are and what makes them smile. You have to get into their skin so that you can figure out ways to make them feel like your whole business is made just for them.

We also do this because we know that where there’s one, there’s usually more. Unless your instincts and research have been shockingly off-kilter, this ideal customer is going to be representative of traits and preferences shared by many of your customers. In fact, part of what makes them ideal is the fact that there’s lots of them, enough anyway that serving them is profitable.

The thing is that they all look, sound and act differently so you won’t always be able to tell who the ideal customer actually is. But you know that’s not the point, right? The point is that you treat all of your customers like they're your ideal customer - going out of your way to make them feel special, oozing pride in what you do and making sure they leave feeling better for having chosen to do business with you.

Knowing your ideal customer gives you a framework for delivering the very best products, service and experience for all of your customers. Your goal should be to use it to do the very best job you can for every single one of them because every single one of them has a million other options. Your competition is just a click away. Most businesses are no longer constrained by geographical borders, so if you’re not making your customers feel special and like you deserve to have their attention, then someone else will.

Targeting your ideal customer is probably something you already do instinctively, but it’s worth being more intentional and focused about because;

1. It's a practical thing that you can only know by trying.

Because target marketing, that is, defining and targeting your ideal target market is not an academic thing - it only means something if you implement it and test it out. One thing about business, both big and small business, is that it’s a constant process of iteration - of testing and tweaking to see what works, what lands. It’s an ongoing process.

Identifying your ideal customer or client isn’t something you land on and that’s it. It’s a constant process of trying, testing and of iteration and as I said above, you only learn these things by doing them. It can’t be a purely academic process - that won’t give you enough of what you need, in the same way that demographics aren’t enough. It’s only by putting things into action that learnings are uncovered and the next step is revealed. You really have to embrace that this is a journey, not just a final destination.

2. Its subtle.

Just because you dont land the right message or approach or promotion to your target market, does not mean the market is wrong. Don’t throw your hands up in the air and assume that either this whole ‘target marketing’ is rubbish OR that you just got yours wrong and have to go back and do the whole thing again.

Maybe you just have to tweak the message, the way you say things. Think of your kids - a good parallel example. How many times do you have to tell them, 1. to keep their room tidy and 2. why it matters? A gazillion, right? So does that mean your kids are the wrong target for your energies? Of course not. Does that mean that the message isnt worth sharing or teaching? No way. It means you have to stick with it and tweak the way you say it, when you say and how you say it.

And also, this brings me to the 3rd point ...

3. Repetition and consistency of message is a brand and marketing fundamental … for a reason.

Well it is and for a good reason; its how we humans learn. No matter how smart we are, no matter how tailored, relevant and personally compelling the message is, we need to hear it multiple times and often in multiple ways for it to finally sink in. It’s just the way we are, and remember that for all the jargon and all the fancy terms, marketing is all about human psychology.

It’s for that reason that I can draw parallels between marketing messages to our target markets and trying to get our kids to hear our reasons and abide by our wisdom. It’s also for that reason that you know and understand more than you think you do about marketing, your target market and targeting that market. Marketing is not all that different to what everyday business people call ‘common sense’. Really.

4. Ask them!

If you already have customers or clients, ask them what they think. People love to give their opinion because it makes us feel like we matter and that were being listened to, so ask. Ask them how you’re going. Ask if there’s anything they’d like you to be doing differently, or better. Ask them about an idea you have, see how it lands with them. Be real, be genuine and be brave. You don’t have to take onboard everything that is offered in return, but you might just stumble on some valuable insights that make a difference to how you think and what you do. If nothing else, people are often delighted just to be asked.


5. Ive already said this, but it deserves to be said again - you already know this, trust your instincts.

Ive been reading a lot of articles out there on the web about marketing for small business and I have to say that even as someone who loves marketing and can happily geek out on this stuff for hours on end, it’s all pretty dry, boring, corporate and academic. I guess for many it’s disconcerting to mention ‘instinct’ and ‘gut feel’, to give permission to trust your heart and that some of the best decisions come from the soul, but if you’re anything like me, this is just as important as the science, theory and statistics.

Heart and soul and instincts matter because business and marketing is about human relationships. While figuring out your target market, market segmentation, differentiation and ideal customer may seem foreign and daunting, you’ve been a human all your life and actually you’re very good at figuring this stuff out because you’ve been doing it since you were born. Start with what you already know and use the academic stuff to focus and systematise for business.

You know more about marketing than you think you do. Think about who your ideal customer is and work out ways to delight them. Try it out, see what works, ask the question and build on what you learn. Your goal is to make them feel like they really matter and achieving this is the way to make your business matter to them.

Thanks as always for reading and please, if something resonates with you or makes you question something, I'd love to hear from you.

Have a great day,


Photo credit: "Welcome" by Ramesh NG via Flickr

Why it makes sense for small businesses to target a niche they’re part of.

I’m developing a marketing plan for a friend and client at the moment, which is a lot of work, but honestly something I really love and have great fun doing. The best thing about diving in and doing the work for real, rather than just philosophising and talking about it, is the things you learn, the light-bulb moments. Figuring out what makes sense for him and developing a bespoke plan that works with his strengths and values, and connects him to his market, is my favourite thing.

A big part of my focus when I do this work is defining and analysing the target market; identifying the positives and the negatives, and developing an avatar that represents the common thoughts, feelings, values and aspirations of this group. He had indicated who the majority of his clients were in terms of their demographics and on exploring this, I found a lot of great reasons this was a good market to focus his appeal and communications on. But there was one reason that stood out head and shoulders above them all - he was part of this niche himself.

Bang! My client IS one of these people! So not only do they exist, which we already knew, and not only are they a viable niche for other compelling reasons, but he knows exactly how they think, the challenges they face, the things they care about, the pressures they live with, and the things they value and are striving for. Market research right there at your finger tips, on tap, real time.

The whole point of defining your target market and drilling down into as much detail about their psychographics (the things they care about) as possible is to communicate in a way that appeals to them, in language they use, in places and ways they’re already in and are used to. If you have something that could really be useful to a group of people, you need to know who they are, where they are, how they speak, what they care about and what compels them so that you can earn their attention and get them to listen to you. This usually takes a lot of research and dedication indeed - it’s hard to understand people who are not like us, especially when you’re talking in terms of statistics and demographics. But on a human level, we’re very adept at understanding each other and gravitating towards those we perceive as being similar to us, as understanding us. That’s why it makes a lot of sense for small businesses to target niche markets that they too belong to.

1. It’s easier to understand a niche you’re part of.
This means it will be much easier find your voice and serve them better … because you know what they’re all about. Like my client, he has market research on tap because he’s part of that group and therefore also has access to friends who are too. Gold.

2. You’ll enjoy your marketing a lot more.
If you’re part of that group and your focus is on serving their needs ridiculously well, then you’ll probably enjoy it a lot more and it will feel a lot less like work. Marketing is less likely to be icky and burdensome and your work itself is more enjoyable spent with people you identify with in a way that goes beyond a business decision.

3. Small businesses have limited resources; time, money and energy.
Honing your target to one that you’re part of and understand intimately is less of a drain on your precious resources because your message, your products, your customer service are all going to be much more efficient.

4. Focusing on a niche you know doesn't have to exclude or alienate others
… but your focus on this one group means you’ll do a better job for them specifically and this is what you’ll become known for. Clients who don’t fall into this group may also be attracted to you, and your products and services will probably serve them just fine, it’s just that you’re not wasting time and energy trying to change your message to appeal to all sorts of groups. Remember that trying to appeal to everyone dilutes your brand and awareness, and leaves you appealing to no one.

5. You’ll do better work.
When you really ‘get’ who you’re trying to help, communicate with, make something for, it makes the work you do much less of a struggle, much less forced. And when there’s less struggle and more flow, you produce better stuff, serve better and stand out more.

And I have also found this to be true personally - I’m definitely part of my niche. When I first began to explore my marketing philosophy and who I wanted to work with, I resisted the small business pocket. I had great aspirations for writing and developing my own brand and I wanted to work with my heroes and role models, except it was difficult to work out exactly what I could offer them, so I settled on trying to be like them. But then I came to realise that although those aspirations still stand, it takes years and years to build a thing like that - there is no switch that circumvents time and hard work.

That’s when I discovered that I was in many ways my own avatar - I was part of my own niche and that’s where it made most sense for me to be. Not only because I’m part of it, but because I have friends who are part of it too and I care about the challenges they face and the dreams they have. I know them personally and I have them on hand to ask and to serve. I also love them and the courage it takes to go after a dream, beat your own path, make something that’s truly your own, and put something you really care about out there into the world and run the risk of it being rejected and failing … or embraced and loved.

You don’t have to serve a niche you’re a part of, but if you’re in business for yourself and you haven’t really targeted a niche and honed your offerings just for them, then I hope you’ll consider one you already know something about. The better you can understand, communicate and serve, the better your work will be and the more you’ll stand out.

Photo credit: "Caitriona Jennings (Rathfarnam AC) won the Flora Women's Mini-Marathon" by William Murphy via Flickr

But I'm a small business - why do I have to worry about my target market?

Maybe you’ve heard it before, maybe you’ve even thought or said it yourself - why do small businesses need to worry about target markets? Isn’t that something the big corporates do? My target market is anyone who needs widgets (insert coffee, art supplies, financial services, musical instruments, skincare products, whatever it is you do), and my widgets are the best, so I can help anyone. Meerp. Buwmp bouw. Not quite.


Ok so let’s just get this straight. Target marketing is not just some fancy marketing voodoo for the big corporates that some suited team of marketing consultants present to boardrooms in flow charts and info graphics. Targeting your market, or in other words, targeting your ideal customer is really important for small businesses too and I’m about to tell you why without the jargon and corporate speak.

Serve your customers better than your competitors do

So when you’re in business, you’re trying to deliver your customers something that they need or want. Chances are that you’re not the only place they can get that product or service either - it’s likely you have competition and your customer has other options. In order to compete therefore, you’ll be aiming at serving your customers' needs better than your competition does. Simple, right? Well it is, but this is where all sorts of marketing terminology usually steps in with a whole slew of jargon, statistics and graphics that basically try to convey this simple truth: if you’re going to serve your customers better than your competitors do, then the more you know about them, the better the chance you’ll have of achieving that.

Understand them

What happens when you start to drill down into the details of who your existing customers really are and who your ideal future customers should be? Well most likely you’ll find  you’re not actually serving the whole widget market. You’ll find that your customers have things in common; needs, preferences, values, problems. It’s in this detail, in this level of paying attention that you find what to hone in on. What makes them tick and how you can do things to better meet their needs. Now you can really start to see how you can blow their minds by doing a better job of being who they need you to be for them because you understand them.

How do they want to feel?

Now you’re a widget company that services the pink widget market. Sure, others who are not part of the pink widget market might also be satisfied with your product, but you know that the pink widget market needs pink widgets, they need them within 24 hours of ordering, they value and rely on great customer service and they’re happy to tell their friends about your widgets on Facebook. With this information you can start planning and prioritising your business practices and systems to make sure these pink widget customers feel the way they want to feel.

Serving well is how you stand out

This has never before been more critical for small business and never so achievable. The advent of Web 2.0 and the evolution of the digital world, the advancement of the smartphone and hand-held devices coupled with the interactive nature of web property, particularly the social platforms, means that we are all far more technologically connected than at any other point in time. It also naturally means that business no longer needs to rely on their face-to-face and in-person relationships, nor are they constrained by their geographical location in relation to their clients.The flow-on effect of this for small business is that although they have access to a greater number of potential clients, so do their competitors, and potential clients also have access to unlimited information pertaining to your particular industry. Therefore it’s never been more critical for a small business to know who they’re serving and serve them extremely well.

Make them feel like they matter

Have you ever heard that saying that if your try to serve everyone, you end up not serving anyone? It’s true because now that we all have so much accessibility to so many products and services, the way we choose who we’ll do business with and give our attention to are those who make us feel like we matter. Brands with personality, great products that feel like they were made just for us, backed up by great customer service and the feeling that we’re understood and cared for. This is how we choose and it’s how small businesses can stand out and compete with the bigger brands who, for all their resources, may just be struggling to reverse engineer that human element, that human desire to feel like we matter.

It's not for everyone, but it's better to those who count

Find out what your target market wants and go out of your way to over-deliver that with spunk, personality and care in a way that resonates with them. You’ll only be able to do this if you take the time to find out who they are and what they care about. It goes beyond you and your product and service, and spreads into a whole context for how you and the thing you do exists within their lives and their stories.

This is target marketing

This is how you will stand out. This is how you will be chosen and spoken about. This is how you will gain loyalty from the people you serve and how you will iterate and improve your business well into the future independent of what your competitors do. This is how you create a brand that sticks and stands the test of time - pick your thing and do it extremely well, the best. And the key to achieving this is in understanding your ideal customer so well that you can see the world through their eyes.


So no, it’s not just a corporate marketing buzz-word, it’s the fundamental key to small businesses standing out in a crowded world where trust and attention are our scarcest business resources. Small businesses have limited resources - don’t waste them. Take your time to identify and understand your ideal customers and focus everything on caring just for them.

I hope you enjoyed this article and have some extra oomph to go out and get really clear about the people you serve. Tomorrow I'll be talking about the advantages of being part of the niche you serve as a way of understanding them better and therefore better meeting their needs.

Catch you tomorrow,


Photo credit: "Gift" by asenat29 via Flickr 

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

Yesterday I posted part 1 of this article, ( 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,


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,


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

Why Facebook's a great place to start for a small business social media strategy

Whether you’re just starting out in business, or have been in business for a while and are just starting out on your social media marketing journey, Facebook is a great place to start.

From a social media perspective, Facebook is still the big daddy of social media - almost everyone you know and do business with has an account, and if not, then they’re at least going to be aware of Facebook. Not only does that mean it’s an easy place to start in terms of a platform you’re already somewhat familiar with, but you’re also likely to have a list of friends who can support you instantly. That coupled with Facebook’s massive user reach, means you have an incredible opportunity to achieve greater exposure for your business and reach more of your target market.

When you’re starting out in business, or wanting to grow your existing business, then your main objectives are going to be increasing your brand exposure, your brand awareness and, naturally, increasing your sales as a result.

Increasing your overall business exposure means that more people are seeing your brand and being exposed to your business. It’s why big brands advertise and use mass media tools like billboards - they want eyes on their brands. The more eyes on their brand, the more they can increase awareness and the more likely they are to reach their target.

Increasing your brand awareness means that your brand is being recognised by potential customers and clients AND that they make the correct associations about what it is you do and what you stand for. You need exposure to build awareness, but exposure alone is useless if there’s no awareness. No good having all that exposure if people think you’re a pet shop, when actually you’re a vet.

Facebook is a tool for achieving these goals by capitalising on their enormous audience, reach and utility in a way that’s in alignment with your brand and business vision, without an enormous advertising budget. And because Facebook is interactive, instead of just broadcasting a message, you can engage and interact with your audience - something billboards have never quite got the hang of. In every day terms, Facebook is a smarter billboard that lets you not only get your message out to a huge audience, but enables you to build a community as well. It’s been said that content is the new advertising and certainly in terms of social media, the interactive component is key. Now you can promote your business, look after your clients and customers, build your community, and increase your revenue, in a more efficient, scalable and wider-reaching way.

Engagement is key because that’s what’s going to build your community and building a community around your brand is where the exposure and awareness gets real and when people actually want to interact and be a part of what you do. Building a thriving community has always been important in business because it’s how we achieve loyalty (repeat customers) and brand advocates (our word-of-mouth brand evangelists). People expect more from the people and brands they give their loyalty to and in return, their advocacy of those brands will be greatly amplified due to our social media connectivity. That means that just as your brand is able to achieve greater exposure through social media, so can the word-of-mouth of the people who love what you do.

***I really need an info graphic right about here to illustrate the amplification effect that social media has on brand exposure, brand awareness and word-of-mouth advocates … I’ll get onto that and post it separately in the next couple of days***

A solid Facebook marketing plan is a great place to start, but don’t be fooled - it’s a long-term investment that requires a decent commitment of time and energy to reap sustainable results in the future. If you’re expecting thousands of likes and follows in a matter of weeks with little more effort than what’s required to set up the page itself, you’ve been mislead. Building a loyal and thriving community takes time and there are very few shortcuts that deliver any meaningful outcomes.

Black hat tactics such as buying likes and followers are not sustainable, they don’t deliver good business outcomes and can be extremely damaging to your brand in the long run. It’s human nature, or rather, our collective social media training reflects our human nature to view the number of likes and followers a page, business or person as an indication of popularity, authority and success. Of course likes and followers are one form of social proof, but what does it really mean? The truth is that having thousands of likes and follows probably will influence people’s perception of your brand or business online, but does that justify paying for fake ones? Maybe it does, maybe not. That’s your call, but just remember that at the end of the day it’s your real relationships with real people that make your business a success or not. You can’t engage fake likes, you can’t have a relationship with them, they won’t tell their friends about you and they certainly won’t buy your products or services.

Building a genuine, thriving community that will increase the exposure, brand awareness and loyalty around your business is only made possible by leading with generosity, nurturing your community and delivering outstanding value to your existing and potential clients and customers. The tools have changed and a greater reach may be easier to achieve, but people haven’t changed. The reason a successful Facebook presence takes time to cultivate and to see real results that convert to revenue is because it’s about people and relationships - those things, the real deal, take time, just like as they do in *real* life. Facebook is an amazing tool that can give you access to many people, but how you treat them and cultivate your relationships with them is up to you and that’s always been the same.

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,