#socialmediamarketing

Connection is value

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

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

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

Connection is the ultimate value

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Thanks for reading,

Andrea

What's the plan, Jan?

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

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

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

WHO do you serve?

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

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

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

HOW do you serve them?

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

  • Break it down, be specific

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

WHY do you do it?

  • In other words, why does your company exist?

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great day,

Andrea

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

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

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

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

Creating solid systems around solid marketing principles means you can;

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

In the meantime, if you want to pick my brains on any of this, send me an email - andrea@pepperstreetsocial.com, or fill in the contact form on the Work page, or connect with me via one of my social accounts (Facebook & Instagram are my favourites). And, it has to be said, that if you’d like to get to know me better, plus also relax knowing you’re in the loop with our marketing updates, insights and inspiration, subscribe to the Pepper Street Social SNAP right here :)

Thanks for reading and have a great day,

Andrea

How DO you grow your email list then?

In the last blog post, I gave you a bit of a rundown on why email is *still* a critical feature of any decent marketing strategy (if you haven’t read that yet, you can find it here: http://pepperstreetsocial.com/blog/2016/9/13/the-moneys-in-the-list-still). And so, as promised, today I’m going to give you a rundown on ways to grow that list.


Just to recap from the last post, email’s still really important for reasons like it’s personal, the people receiving your emails are warm prospects, you’re in control and you own the list etc., but obviously you have to have a list to use it. Using social media to grow your list is a bit like fishing in the big sea. You go out to where all the fish are, you catch your fill and you bring them home to prepare them … to eat. Ok, probably not a great analogy. We’re not ‘eating’ anyone, ok? But, the point is, we use social media networks because that’s where the people are.

In essence, we’re going to where the people are, this is often social media networks, but might also be conferences and events, collaborations, traditional media etc, and giving them an incentive to sign up for the email list, so we can get to know them better. Once they’re on that list, we nurture that relationship from ‘knowing’ about us, to ‘liking’ and ‘trusting’ us enough to buy a service or product from us. That email communication is then integral to keeping that relationship warm and encouraging repeat business and loyal customers.

And here are some ways you can do that;

  1. Content offers - where you provide free content that adds value to your subscriber’s life by solving a problem they have. It could be in the form of information or education, like a downloadable report or guide, webinars or videos, or it could be a discount or special offer. They exchange their email address in order to receive the offer.

  2. Non-content offers - this is similar to the above, except there’s no immediate content, just the offer of joining the mailing list to receive valuable information on a regular basis. Pepper Street Social SNAP’s sign-up is currently like this.

  3. Short sign-up forms - similar to the above, but you can put these short forms at various points on your website, social networks and other digital products. We use a short sign-up form on our Homepage and at the bottom of every blog post.

  4. Long forms - again, similar to the short forms, but they ask for more information. Information that’s of value to you in qualifying and segmenting your leads, and this value is usually repaid by offering a more highly valued piece of content in return. Long forms can be incorporated into landing pages & pop-ups.

  5. Contact sign-up forms - if you have a contact sign-up form, where you’re inviting people to enter their details so you can contact them, you can also put their email on your list. But to be sure they want to receive emails other than the initial contact, it’s best practice to either include a radio button allowing them to include this option, or ask them to confirm their subscription when you email them.

  6. Set up a Twitter card through the Twitter ad page and you can collect email addresses on that network

  7. Use sign-up forms on LinkedIn

  8. Add a an email sign-up tab to your Facebook page - super easy

  9. Use Facebook ads to target your audience and drive them to a landing page where you can use one of the above methods to offer them something in exchange for signing up to your email list

Whichever methods you use, the idea is to provide value. This is about creating and nurturing relationships, so tricking people to sign up, or not delivering what you say you will, isn’t a great idea. Always be respectful of people’s time, attention, and of course, privacy, and you’ll soon have a long list of loyal customers who look forward to seeing you in their inbox.

In the meantime, if you want to pick my brains on any of this, send me an email - andrea@pepperstreetsocial.com, or fill in the contact form on the Work page, or connect with me via one of my social accounts (Facebook & Instagram are my favourites). And, it has to be said, if you’d like to relax knowing you’re in the loop with our own marketing updates, insights and inspiration, subscribe to our list right here :)

Have a great day,

Andrea

Content without action, what is it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Thanks for reading,

Andrea

 

 

 

Keep showing up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Make content for people to love, not for consumers to consume

If I asked you how your business stands out from your competitors, you’ll probably tell me about the things that are easy to explain, the tangible things. You might say that you have the newest, most modern equipment, or technology, or that your location is the best, your coffee’s the best, that your products really help people etc. And you’re probably right, and while these features are no doubt important, they’re not the only reason people do business with you.

There are a whole heap of other reasons that people choose you over your competition that have nothing to do with the ‘what’ of your business and everything to do with the ‘why’. These are the emotions that really drive customer’s decisions and keep them coming back. Reasons like trust and the way they feel when they experience what you sell.

It’s the same with the content you produce. Building relationships & earning trust are two of the main outcomes of producing great content. That’s because it’s a way for people to get a ‘feel’ for what it’s like to do business with you before they actually make that decision (and indeed content is often used to make that decision), and to continue to nurture those relationships for the long term.

Content builds relationships. Relationships are built on trust. Trust drives revenue.

People aren't going to do business with you if they don't trust you, right? But how can you earn their trust before they buy from you? It's not enough just to be seen, you really have to find ways of expressing what it means to do business with you *before* they make that decision. This is one of the main reasons we produce content for our businesses.

So with that in mind, you can see how important it is to appeal to your audience’s emotions when you’re making your content. Just listing off the features of your product or service isn’t going to cut it for long. To stand out and build relationships based on trust, you have to produce content that people love. Invoke the emotions you want people to feel when they do business with you. Things like excitement, comfort, trust, inspired, warm, cool, fun, happy, accepted, wealthy, clever, smart, capable, hero-like, generous, cultured … whatever’s unique to your business and your customers. Think of ways to express those feelings, not highlight more ‘stuff’.

Great content is subjective - not everyone is going to agree on whether the same piece of content is great or not, and not everyone will feel the same emotions when they experience it either, that’s fine. The important thing is that your audience thinks it’s great for their own reasons, and they come to see you as giving them ‘that’ feeling.  That is, they begin to feel familiar in associating that feeling with your brand.

Producing content that people love is an amazing opportunity to stand out and grow your business through the rewards that come from trust. Think about this when you’re checking ‘content’ off your task list and take a bit of time to think about how you want your customers and potential customers to feel because of it. Remember that trust drives revenue and emotions are key to earning it.

 

I hope YOU loved THIS piece of content and that it gave you some inspiration maybe about how to approach your content a bit differently. And hey, as always, if you need a hand getting your head around content, or coming up with a strategy and schedule, send me an email (andrea@pepperstreetsocial.com), or fill out the form on the work page and I’ll contact you, or connect with me on social - just click your button of choice.

Thanks for reading and have a great day,

Andrea

Stand out with quality & consistency over time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great day,

Andrea

What's the go with #hashtags?

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

What are hashtags?

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

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

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

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

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

How do they work?

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

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

Why should I use hashtags?

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

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

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

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

 

How do I know which hashtags to use?

Do some simple research.

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

 

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 andrea@pepperstreetsocial.com 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

Find Your Tribe

At the end of the day, social media marketing is about finding the people for whom your products and services are a great fit. It means not only being seen by people who need or want for your stuff, but it means showing up in a way that appeals to them, speaking in the way they want to be spoken to, and about forming a relationship. It’s all about interaction and the establishment of trust.

Relationships and trust in business have always been cornerstones of success, but with so much information available online, they’ve also become a filtering tool to help us make decisions. One of the reasons social media marketing is so powerful is because most people will trust a recommendation from a friend, and the interactive nature of social media makes those kinds of recommendations so easy, it’s become part of our social behaviour.

The concept of finding your tribe is all about leading with value and generosity, and being known for more than just what you sell. The goal is to establish genuine relationships and for people to not only trust you enough to buy from you, but to also care enough to tell their friends and to become loyal and true advocates for what you do. Therefore, it’s not about mass marketing and trying to appeal to everyone, but quite the opposite.

Pre-internet, particularly pre-social media, marketing was predominantly mass marketing. It was all about reaching as many people as possible in the hope that enough of them would buy your stuff over your competitor’s. It was more about short term sales, less about the lifetime value of the relationship you have with your customers and not the way any savvy business owner should approach their marketing today.

Savvy business owners approach their marketing with a Tribe mentality. They set out to find the people they can best serve and they ask themselves questions like, how can I make a difference? How can I help my tribe? How can I lead them? How can I give them value? How can I reach out and help them solve their problems? But most of all, what do they value and how can I connect on that?


Those answers will be different for every business and that’s precisely why there is a unique tribe for every business, and precisely how and why you can stand out even with a boring, commodity-type business in a sea of competition. It’s because when you find the people you really want to serve and design everything you do around serving them better than anyone else, your marketing will no longer feel like marketing. To you it’ll feel like purpose and to your tribe, it’ll feel like a gift. Imagine the feeling of standing out like that.

Thank you for reading - I really hope you've found some value in this. If you have something you'd like to share, I'd love it if you'd comment below, or if you want to have a chat about content for your Tribe, email me at andrea@pepperstreetsocial.com, or click here to fill in the contact form on my Work page. I'd love to hear from you.

Andrea

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 andrea@pepperstreetsocial.com 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 https://www.facebook.com/username 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 http://andrewhubbard.co/complete-2016-guide-facebook-image-sizes/

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
 

Why little wins are key to big success

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

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

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

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

But the real value is this;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Andrea Kelly - Pepper Street Social

10 social media tips for growing your business without the overwhelm

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

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

1. Have a plan

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

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

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

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

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

     Monday                         Facebook                   Inspirational quote

     Monday                         Instagram                   Inspirational quote

… then Tuesday and so on.

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

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

 

2. Block content creation time

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

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

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

 

3. Use scheduling tools

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

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

 

4. Choose one or two networks and go deep.

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

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

 

5. Re-purpose your content.

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

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

 

6. Be spontaneous

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

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

 

7. Keep it real - be human.

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

 

8. Do less and do it better.

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

 

9. Curate other people’s content

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

 

10. Get help

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

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

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

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

Andrea - Pepper Street Social

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And consistency?

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

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

Ask for engagement

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

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

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

Use hashtags

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

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

What makes a good Instagram image?

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

  1. They need to tell a story

  2. Or arouse an emotion

  3. Make sure it’s the right size!

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

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

Where to get awesome images:

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

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

https://picjumbo.com/

https://www.pexels.com/

https://www.flickr.com/commons

https://pixabay.com/

To make sure your images are the right size:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Now go be creative and Instagram it up!

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

Andrea

Pepperstreetsocial.com

 

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