Please Don’t Share Suckiness, Quality Matters

failThe biggest problem I have with social sharing is the suckiness I see on a daily basis. Nothing irritates me more than clicking on a link and seeing something that is rehashed content and/or something that offers no value <- these two things equal ‘suckiness’.

If you are on social and your goal is get people to follow you because you are a resource, then a priority should be sharing outstanding information. In my opinion you can never be a resource unless you share information that is unique and educational/helpful to others.

So, below are my thoughts on what is required if you are hoping to share the best of the best information.

Be Ready, Time is Needed for Quality

Part of my job is to find articles that are relevant to followers and also to share articles that will be helpful in some way. I do this for my own branding and also for social accounts I am paid to run. A large amount of time is spent on this task because I have to be focused on each of the following:

Truth and Facts

Is the article accurate? If one thing is inaccurate in an article then the article cannot be shared. Why? It is a bad reflection on myself or the company I represent! If you are sharing an article you are essentially saying the facts/advice is good, so if this information is incorrect you could be contributing to the growth of an inaccurate belief.

To ensure that an article is accurate it requires that you read everything! You must read the entire article with a critical eye. If you are unsure about any aspect of the article you need to research or ask someone that knows a lot about the topic. Yes, this takes a lot of time, but it also makes you a credible resource.

Eliminating the Bad

If content is badly written or hard to read due to grammar or website design we are not sending our followers there. How can someone be a quality resource when they are sending followers to read something of bad quality? If something is hard for you to read then it will be hard for others. #Eliminate

Find the Unique

different / uniqueThere are so many articles out there today that essentially say the same thing. The headlines might be different, but the points given are the same. Who wants to read the same thing over and over again?

While there are many articles that have the same three or four bits of advice, you will only know this if you are an active reader. You can’t eliminate rehashed articles unless you read, a lot! If you just read titles and scan headlines you will never know if the meat of the article is rehashed/spun content.

Again, time is needed and being an active reader is required if you are hoping to share quality content via social. You need to read a lot to find quality articles that offer unique information and perspectives that are factual.

Helpful / Educational

There is no reason to share an article unless it has something truly helpful to offer the reader. Remember when I said I was looking for articles that were “relevant to followers”? The only way to know if an article is helpful to your followers is to know who your followers are and what they are looking for. Understanding these things is critical for research and conversational purposes.

Know your audiences and then find what can be helpful and educational to them.

As an example, let’s say I know my followers are focused on social media marketing. I could share “5 Ways to Be Great at Social” (I am sure they have heard those tips before) or I could share something truly unique, helpful and educational like “The Big List of IFTTT Recipes: 34 Hacks for Hardcore Social Media Productivity“. Which sounds more appealing? Which is more helpful? Even if some of the followers are still in the 101 stage the IFTTT article would be far more helpful and educational.

 Good Social Sharing Takes a Lot of Effort

If you want to get into the social sharing game you have to understand that a big time commitment is needed. It is not easy to find truly great content. Part of your job will be to read everything you can and explore blogs you have never heard of before. If you are sharing for a company please give this article to your boss so he/she can understand the time and effort required.

To be a great resource you have to find quality articles that are unique, factual, helpful and relevant to the audiences that you want to follow you.

 

Please Join Us Wednesday, May 14th for Basic Formatting in Google Spreadsheets

If you would like to watch please RSVP here. On Wednesday May 14th at 3PM EST we will have our second Google Hangout with Tori Cushing.

101 weds ad 300x500 May14thShe will be showing viewers some basic formatting techniques in Google Spreadsheets. This is a 101-style tutorial that will be good for anyone that wants to learn the basics.

Watch our Google Spreadsheets hangout to learn how to:

  • Add filters to a data set
  • Add in a chart
  • Formatting the chart
  • Edit the legend, axis, and title
  • Make a combination chart
  • Change cell color with conditional formatting

We will also have a Q&A period after the tutorial is done.

Check out our first Hangout and Tori’s previous posts on this topic:

We plan on having bi-weekly hangouts and our goal is to focus on tutorial-style hangouts. There will always be something to learn.

You Are Not Worried Enough about Perceptions and Assumptions

change-perceptions-stop-assumptions
Google defines:

  • Judging as “to form an opinion or conclusion about”.
  • Assumptions as “a thing that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof”.
  • Perceptions as “a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression.”

Keep these words and definitions in mind.

Humans Judge

This is a fact you cannot ignore and how people judge and/or stereotype is based on several factors, including social norms, past experiences, self-worth, desires and needs.

Humans also evaluate and categorize everything they encounter; it is just the way the brain works. Examples:

  • Good or bad?
  • Fun or boring?
  • Ugly or pretty?
  • Helpful or harmful?
  • Desirable or disgusting?

So, as a marketer if you know that the human brain is going to automatically judge / stereotype / categorize you need to take this into account when planning websites, marketing strategies, sales techniques, social media and content marketing. What negative judgments can you combat with words and images?

Be thinking about how your audiences begin to understand/perceive your product or service and then be ready to influence their judgments and assumptions.

Perception is Everything

confusedWhen people see something or are approached by someone the brain automatically starts categorizing and deciding if the item or person is desirable to them or not.

Just think about you being in a store and looking at an item, how many different categories go through your head? What makes you decide to look closer or walk away?

Whenever you are doing any form or marketing or design you have to be focused on perception:

  • How does someone begin to understand your product/service?
  • How they will interpret what you are trying to get across?
  • What MENTAL IMPRESSION do you want to leave them with?!
  • What perceptions will make your product or service desirable.

SOCIAL MEDIA FOLKS and Marketers – learn about positive and negative connotations!

The words you use are quickly perceived and judged and assumptions are made. Your brand can be seen as caring, helpful or rude based on words alone! Check out these exercises to understand how simple words can hurt or help your brand and/or the work you provide.

Personas and Perceptions

Really examine your customer personas to determine what words, designs or images could be perceived in a positive or negative manner. Which way do you want to influence people? Depending on your message you could want either a positive or negative perception.

Examples:

1). You have a great product that is perfect for young families, but all your display ads show an image of an older couple. The words on the ad don’t match the image. What is the viewer going to think?

The image alone has already defeated you. Your product is for old people.

2). You are a plumber and your local competitors suck at their job; you do it right. What negative image could you combine with words like “Choosing the Wrong Plumber Can Lead to Disaster!”?

Negative image and words, but often businesses that do this are perceived as trustworthy by many because people actually believe the company that warns them of a potential problem actually cares! Perceptions turn into assumptions.

Assumptions – They Can Kill Sales

The assumption definition above said “a thing that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof”. Potential customers make assumptions all the time, and so do business owners!

If you know that people will quickly make assumptions, based on their perceptions, you can plan ahead to avoid the assumptions that will kill your sales/conversions!

Examples:

1). You build beautiful, custom entertainment centers and wall units. Your website shows images from beautiful homes, restaurants and more. It is clear your work is outstanding, but what assumptions might be made? How about an assumption that you are not affordable?

The truth is many people can get some custom work done for the same price or cheaper than going out and buying furniture. Who knew that? Not me! I bought the furniture! Tell people custom building is truly affordable – smash the assumption.

2). A business owner has a website, but they don’t feel it is worth investing in a newer look because the current one is working just fine. A comparison of analytical data versus sales from the web shows your site is not really converting. Possible assumptions made?

Here is the feedback I have gotten from web users: 

  • The site is old and they don’t have the money to get a new one, therefore they must not be good at what they do.
  • They don’t care about how their company looks online, so will they even care about the service they provide me?
  • They like to service old people. (shocked by this one)
  • Can’t find the normal features I am used to so will go to a site that has them.

The best way to squash these assumptions is to invest in a better website. Another option, find a way with images, words and features to influence perceptions (before assumptions are made). I think in the long run a new website is the smarter and cheaper way to go.

Marketers – Focus on Influencing Perceptions and Changing Assumptions!

Every design you make, every image you choose and every word you write needs to take the possible perceptions and assumptions that might be made, by each persona, into account.

The goal is to come across as positive as possible to influence sales. What perceptions and possible assumptions can you change from the start?

The Top 3 Reasons Your Content Marketing Plan Will Fail

Content marketing is the marketing phrase du jour. With a few brands and businesses touting it’s success, and a growing number of and “experts” doing so much content marketing ABOUT content marketing, there’s a lot of talk about it being an effective and relatively easy way to gain customers, improve your search engine rankings and win more business.

All of those great results can certainly happen. And they do for some who do it right. But, content marketing efforts can, and often do, fail to live up to expectations.

So, before you set out to create a content marketing plan, it’s important to face a few realities of the challenge in front of you. Whether you are a mom and pop shop or a large publicly traded organization, you’ll need to consider the same elements when creating a successful content marketing plan and/or program.

Here are few ways you’ll be sure to fail:

1. Your content isn’t good.

shutterstock_143823979

This may seem really obvious, but it’s harder than you might think to actually produce GOOD content. Look at the stats about the OVERWHELMING amount of content being produced and posted on the Internet every minute of every day.

 Now stop. Think about that.

What are you going to do to stand out amidst all that noise? Are you going to add to it, or will you be heard?

Don’t be fooled into thinking that you can just start blogging and it’ll work. You’ll have to be dedicated to spending the time to produce content that is useful, interesting, unique, and, well, GOOD.

The number one problem I’ve had when speaking to various businesses and clients about content marketing programs is helping them understand the amount of time, money and energy it takes to produce good content. Just because it’s easy to post something to a blog, doesn’t mean the effort it takes to make that post worthwhile is easy.

Set realistic expectations about the cost and effort involved in hiring someone, or a team of people, who have the skills and work ethic to make things happen. Also, if you do hire someone, know that you usually get what you pay for. Good writers, especially ones who understand your business and industry, are hard to come by. Expect to pay them accordingly.

If you’re hoping to execute your content marketing plan on your own, be ready to dedicate energy, time and resources to make that happen.

So, what’s the bottom line? Be creative, be unique and work your ass off to produce something that’s worthwhile.

2. You’re not focused and/or don’t know your audience

audience

Maybe you already have a good handle on how to produce good content. But now you’ve go to find the right audience for it. I work at an advertising and marketing agency with several big name clients. One of the first things our strategists do with new clients is sit down with them and really hammer out who their target audience/customer is. It’s amazing how many people fail to take this important step, or look at this from an objective perspective.

Your target audience is who will be attracted to your brand and those you wish to attract to your brand. When defining this, do more than think in broad strokes (like, marketers at B2B companies).

Think about what makes your target audience tick. Who is she/he? What problems do they have? Can you help solve any of those problems? What can you offer that target audience (besides your products or services)?

I recently read an article by Bryan Kramer that says you should forget about segmenting marketing into B2B and B2C, but think of all marketing efforts as H2H (human to human).

Think about it. Companies don’t make decisions, people do. Think about how to connect with humans and make an emotional connection with your target audience and you’ve won more than half the battle.

Before you start mapping out your content plan think about who your target audience is and what type of content will best connect with them. How can your knowledge help them? Do they need tutorials? Step by step guides? Aspirational or humorous content?

Also make sure your content is focused and precise. You’ll want to find your niche – that magic sweet spot of content that appeals to your audience, you are knowledgeable about, and help sells your product or services to them. You’re better off being THE expert/resource on a narrow topic than one of many voices on several topics.

3. It’s all about you

shutterstock_175965323

If you’ve done any reading about how to approach and conquer a content marketing plan, you’ve probably heard the advice that focusing too heavily on yourself (or your products and services) will not work. Successful content marketing works when it has something to offer readers. If it reads like marketing material (even if it is), it is unlikely that you will gain readership.

Marketing consultant, author and speaker Jay Baer wrote a blog post (which later became a book), about how helping others can be the most successful type of marketing. Baer writes: “Sell something, and you make a customer. Help someone, and you make a customer for life.”

Essentially, Baer says that by becoming a resource to a potential customer base, you can eventually convert some of those people into customers. He tells a great anecdote about Geek Squad, which I’ll excerpt here:

 “I was at a conference a couple years ago where Robert Stephen, the founder of Geek Squad, was speaking. He showcased their YouTube channel, which has hundreds of instructional videos on how to set your DVR, swap out a hard drive, and tasks of that nature.

Someone asked him a great question: “Let me get this straight Robert. You’re in the business of fixing things?” “yes” he nodded. “But yet, you have all these videos showing people how to fix things themselves. How does that make business sense?” “Well, our best customers are the people that think they can do it themselves. But even if they can, someday they’ll be over their head, and who will they call for help? We’re betting it’s the company whose logo they looked at for 8 minutes when we gave them free video help.”

 Remember that you can still talk about your industry, and when relevant, how your company/product/services fits into the larger picture, but don’t be fooled into thinking posting press release like blog posts will be effective.

101 Wednesday Recap: Creating Charts and Tables in Excel

Like most of the Internet marketing population, you may have some trouble using Excel. I get it. All those cells and options are very intimidating to a beginner. That is the main reason why we started 101 Wednesdays. We want to basically take your hand and walk you through some basics of some intimidating things. (Stuff like, Excel, Google Analytics, or Google Spreadsheets.)

Watch this week’s video to learn how to:

  • Create a table
  • Insert a chart
  • Get rid of gridlines
  • Format your table
  • Filter items in a table
  • Customize the color of your table and chart
  • Change the axis options in your chart
  • Add in chart titles
  • Overview of Google Spreadsheets

Want more Excel?

We plan on having bi-weekly hangouts and our goal is to focus on tutorial-style hangouts. There will always be something to learn. If you have any questions please feel free to ask in the comments below.

 

The Myth Of Overnight Success Is Alive And Well In Content Marketing

The Myth Of Overnight Success Is Alive And Well In Content MarketingAs a small business consultant, there was no bigger thorn in my side than business owners who expected overnight success. Even if they pretended to disavow such notions, their egos wouldn’t let it go.

“We’ve been blogging for three months,” said the owner of an eye wear company I advised. “Why aren’t we seeing any movement? I’m in Google Analytics all day, every day, and I’m seeing no activity.”

After talking myself out of saying something smart-alecky [“Maybe, if you worked on promoting the business instead of watching a screen, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”], I always brought them back to words I’d spoken early on, usually during our first or second conversation.

“Content marketing takes time. You do realize that? It won’t happen tomorrow, tonight or next week. We’re laying the groundwork for successes that will materialize months and months down the road.”

They always agreed; they always came back with the same, tired message: “When can I expect to see something? All I see is stuff (i.e., money) going out. I need to see something coming in.”

I still sigh loudly when thinking of such conversations.

How Bad You Want It Has Little Impact On How Fast It Happens

BlameSadly, even today, those interactions continue, with clients large and small.

They nod approvingly when I highlight how content, SEO and social media are part of the long game. Their behavior in the weeks following these talks says otherwise.

Some blame it on the “I-want-it-now” culture. I do not.

I genuinely think it arises from the belief that we are somehow special, different, and our idea is deserving of overnight success.

As someone who worked in product design for more than a decade, having logged time on ideas ranging from fishing lures to social-sharing apps, I can say with confidence that no client has ever thought their idea was less significant than the competition’s.

I cannot tell you how happy I was to see Rand Fishkin of Moz cover this topic in a recent Whiteboard Friday, “The Greatest Misconception in Content Marketing.”

I had a visceral reaction to the video, for my mouth dropped open and I applauded throughout while sitting in my office.

Three points he made stood out for their simplicity and their veracity:

  1. If content marketing was easy, everyone would be doing it, and it likely wouldn’t be much of a viable idea, concept.
  2. What might seem like slow progress should be viewed as foundation building.
  3. Even if you have a great idea, gaining traction and growing the business takes time.

Meaningful Work for Clients

I’ve learned the best way to keep clients motivated and focused on what matters is to give them relevant, meaningful tasks to work on, allowing them to “see” tangible progress early on. Typically, I have them do the following:

1). Commit to social media. It might seem like a small thing, but watching their fans and followers grow on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, Pinterest and Google+ can be a euphoric experience for new business owners.

Also, identifying, building and engaging with their audience is a form or measurable growth that pays huge dividends down the road. Maybe most important, however, is they get to uncover what messaging works best for each platform, setting them up for persona development across each platform.

2). Get offline. Digital marketers love to quote statistics, including the one about 8 out of 10 purchases “beginning” online. For most small and midsize businesses, however, owning the local space has to be a priority first, and a large part of that battle is waged by pressing the flesh, meeting with local vendors, prospects and city officials, including the mayor, city council members and members of the local chamber of commerce.

By being a well-connected business owner, you are privy to information most folks are not, and some of that information can be hugely beneficial. (For example, one small business I worked with leased space in what seemed like a moribund shopping mall, only because she was made aware that the city was negotiating with a major grocery retailer as the anchor for the location.)

3). Awaken the inner PR person. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard “I’m not a natural promoter.” Good. You can grow into it. As the owner/founder/CEO, you are in the best position to carry the message of your brand. No one can do that better than you. Therefore, excusing away this responsibility to “I’m not good at it” is unacceptable. Remember, many of today’s most successful businesses first gained popularity because of the visibility, pro-activeness of their owners. (Look no further than Buffer as a great example.)

PR: You can start small:

  • Send a letter to the business page editor of your local paper
  • Join a local business club or organization
  • Ask to write a column for a regional trade publication
  • Agree to sponsor a local event or charity
  • Offer to speak at a Meetup in your area

As you can see, once the notion of overnight success has been successfully quashed, there is plenty of real, meaningful and impactful work to occupy your time.