Get to Know Canva

Get To KnowI’m sure you have been on Instagram or Facebook and seen those beautiful images with quotes on them. Maybe you received an email promotion or invite with a cool looking graphic and wondered how someone designed it? Are they a designer? Are they paying for a designer? Chances are they are using Canva.

Canva is an online design site that helps you design everything from social media graphics to presentations to menus. The best part is that Canva is free to use. The site offers templates, layouts and editing features to make great looking designs. Some layouts and photos have a small fee, but there are many designs that can be made for free. You can also use your own images to personalize your graphics. In addition to their website, they have an app for the iPad which is really easy to use.

Why use Canva? Not every business can afford to use a professional designer and Canva gives you a great DIY alternative. Even if you work with a professional designer for overall branding and “the big stuff”, Canva gives you a great tool for making blog and other social media graphics. We know graphics catch the eye of people scanning through their social feeds, so having something that looks great and complements your message is important to cutting through the noise.

Canva is really easy to use and they supply so many tutorials and a design school that allow you to get up and running quickly and making great looking graphics. If you haven’t already given Canva a try, join the almost 9 million users that have.

When is the Best Time to Send my Email Newsletter?

There are a lot of reports on the Internet that will tell you the best time to send you email newsletter, but I want to caution you before you blindly follow those reports. Why? Because everyone else that read that report will be sending their emails at that time, plus you don’t know that it is the best time for your target audience. I don’t know about you, but when I get a lot of promotional emails or email newsletters all at once, I feel overwhelmed and delete them without reading. I’m sure the research works for companies, but my goal with my email newsletter is to not go with the flow.

My email newsletter gets delivered every Sunday evening at 7:00 pm, and I selected that timing for a specific reason. I wanted my email newsletter to arrive at the beginning of the week when people are making plans for the week, feeling motivated, and are up for trying new things. Most of my readers are business owners or head up one-person marketing departments, so they are often checking their inboxes on Sunday evening in order to prep for a new week. My goal is give them some information that will make their week a little easier or offer some inspiration. Is it the perfect time? I don’t know, but it is working for me. Get to know your audience and see what may make sense for you. Try different times and days, track your open rates, and see what is working the best. Once you find that day and time stay consistent so your audience knows when to expect your email.

Keep an eye out for trends affecting your target audience. A report came out last week talking about how online spending increases Friday nights after a person have had a few drinks. If this is your target audience, consider sending out a promo on Friday evening to get them spending those dollars at your store.

Don’t just follow the flow because of someone’s reports. Spend some time getting to know your target audience and what makes the most sense for you and them.

Put Social Back into Social Media

There was a time when Twitter was my absolute favorite social media tool. There was always a conversation to join, a question to answer, or an answer to my question. It had a real sense of community and I miss it. Now when I look at Twitter, I see automated posts from other social tools such as Facebook and Instagram. I also see a lot of programmed posts from tools like Buffer. It has become a newsfeed much more than a community. Where is the social part of social media?

Companies are one of the biggest culprits of pushing content with no interaction and I believe that if you increase your interaction with your tribe, you can break through the noise on all these social networks. I see so many brands on Instagram that have a ton of followers, but follow no one. They are just posting and not interested in interaction. I often discover new companies to follow, because they find me based on who I follow and interact with. I am more inclined to follow them back if it is a topic that interests me.

Yes, content marketing is very important, but engagement with your tribe that is tied to your content is where the conversations take place allowing you to nurture your community. Ask questions relating to your content and how you can help them. There are things you can do beyond engaging with your tribe about your content. Share content from other tribe members, provide advice or answer questions even when it has nothing to do with your area of expertise. Be useful.

Follow back your followers. You don’t have to follow them all, use the same requirements you use when you choose to follow someone on your personal accounts. If you are on Instagram, go through your feed, and like or comment on some pictures. Don’t be afraid to start conversations with those you follow. You don’t have to be business all the time, show your personality.

The content is what is going to attract new members to your tribe, the conversation is what is going to nurture and keep them engaged. Get out there and be more social.

Are We Asking the Right Questions?

One of the most asked questions I get as a social media professional is how to get more followers. I mean we all want more people to hear our messages, right? But, what if we are asking the for the wrong thing? Do we really want more followers? Or do we want more engaged followers that have a high likelihood of becoming paying customers? I know that’s what I want. I would rather have a small group that is engaged and active with me than some obscene number of followers that never even notice my message.

In 2008, Seth Godin wrote a book called Tribes where he talks about groups of people (tribes) that have a shared interest.  Based on this concept, I say we worry less about follower numbers and more on building and nurturing our tribes. By nurturing our tribes we can create brand ambassadors and customers which sounds a whole lot better than a like or comment. Let’s face it, a like doesn’t pay our bills.

So if we begin to look at our followers as a tribe, do we change how we think of them? I think we do. I think we care a little more about them and begin to provide them with products and information that makes their lives better in one way or another. We want to provide value to our tribe, not just try to pull value from it. I think this is the reason I hate the term “email blast” so much. Your email subscribers are your closest tribe members, so why would you ever blast anything at them? They have invited you into their busy inbox and you need to honor that with useful information and resources.

The same goes for social media. Numbers don’t mean anything if they are not an engaged tribe. Work on creating great content, sharing other people’s content, answering questions and helping out. You will see your follower numbers increase along with your engagement and conversions. I’m not saying this is a quick or easy process, but it is more effective in the long run. I have heard the stories of buying social media followers. Your follower list is inflated, but no one is paying attention to anything you say. You may as well have zero followers. Do the numbers look impressive? Maybe to some, but others will dig a little deeper to see what type of engagement you get. Consumers are savvy and will know when you have purchased those followers.

Does this mean you shouldn’t purchase Facebook advertising or other methods to increase followers? No, I boost Facebook posts when I feel I am providing good value to a targeted group that may not be familiar with me yet. I like to think of it as an introduction. Be sure to make the best first impression possible and bring these new people into your tribe.

Let’s stop worrying about followers and think how we can build our tribe and best serve that tribe.

How can I help you? Fill out my contact form and let me know.

How to use Hashtags to Your Advantage

If you are around my age, you know the # symbol as the pound sign on the phone or a way to abbreviate the word number. Now it is has become synonymous with the word hashtag and is part of everyday life on social media. I like to look at hashtags as a way to categorize posts making it easier for people with similar interests to find you and your information. Let’s get to know hashtags a little more.

A little history

The first hashtag (#barcamp) appeared in a tweet from Chris Messina, and then they were used during the 2009-2010 Iranian election protests to make it easier to track the activities for Twitter users. On July 2, 2009, Twitter began to hyperlink hashtags used in tweets allowing users to click on the hashtag to see all tweets that contain that tag. This made it easier to track conversations around an event or topic. The word hashtag was added into the Oxford English Dictionary in June 2014.

Why use hashtags?

By using existing hashtags you can become part of conversations that are already taking place, and therefore can help you gain new and relevant followers. People search on hashtags to find the type of content that interests them. Your post will show up in that stream and if they like your post, they may look at the rest of your content and follow you. The key here is relevant followers. Do not use a hashtag just to try and get attention. You will be viewed as spam if you try to hijack a hashtag with irrelevant content.

Where to use them

Hashtags are currently supported by the following sites:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Google+
  • Tumblr
  • Pinterest – they are not searchable, but help for keyword searches in descriptions.
  • YouTube – in the comments
  • Vine
  • Flickr
  • Periscope

You will want to do further research on the best way to use hashtags for each tool you use as part of your social media strategy.

How to use hashtags

You can use popular tags like #tbt for Throwback Thursday, but know that the popularity of these may make your post a needle in a haystack, but I still think they are a good to participate for a few reasons. One they give you easy content ideas, two your followers will enjoy them, and three you may pick up new followers. You can also search for more industry-specific hashtags such as #solorpreneur or #salestip. Take some time to research tags for your industry and the types of content that are shared on these tags. If they make sense for your business, include them in your posts.

Don’t overdue the number of hashtags you use. For most sites, you want to keep your hashtag use between 1 and 3. Instagram is definitely an exception due to the fact that interactions can increase with post including 11+ hashtags. Please don’t feel pressure to use that many. Remember to keep it relevant and if you are adding that many to your Instagram post, consider adding it as a comment so it is not a distraction to the content in your post.

You can also create your own tags for various reasons including events and campaigns, but we will leave that conversation to another day.

There Is No Magic Formula

I was sitting here preparing to talk on a panel to a group of small business owners, and as I reviewed the questions we were given I noticed that a lot of my initial responses were “Depends”. The more I thought about it that seems to be my response to a lot of marketing-related questions I get from people. They ask me if they should use this tool or that tool. Sometimes they ask what they should be posting. Almost always my initial response is Depends. I’m not trying to stall or be difficult, just honest in the fact that there is no magic formula that works for every business out there.

Believe me, if I knew a secret formula that could be successfully applied to every business, I would have probably retired by now. Seriously though, every business is unique and so should their approach to marketing and social media. Yes, there are best practices that everyone should follow, but each business needs to evaluate some things internally before truly deciding what to tackle.

Target Audience

Your target audience has a lot to do with determining what tools you will use and the strategy on how to best use them. You need to understand your target audience’s needs, wants, and where they spend their time online and off. Finding out where they spend their time allows you to understand where you should spend your time connecting with them. Go where the fish are, don’t try to lure them to a different location. Connect where they are comfortable and most likely to be open to your message.

Your Resources

In addition to understanding your audience, you have to understand your resources with regards to time, money and talent. If you have limited time, spend it on the one tool that will provide the biggest impact based on your goals. If you have limited money, you will want to use tools that are less expensive or free. As for talent, if you aren’t comfortable in front of a video camera, don’t choose a tool that requires video. Do what makes the most of your resources and your comfort level with technology.

Your Goals

When looking at the tools you will use, you also need to consider your marketing and business goals. What do you want to get out of your marketing efforts? Brand awareness? Conversions? Provide better customer service? Different tools lend themselves to helping you achieve different goals. Your goals may be very different from your competition, so your tools and strategy will be different too.

So the next time you ask me a question and I respond with “Depends”, please don’t be offended. It is simply my way to begin that conversation that allows you to make the best and correct decision for your business.

The New Rules of Marketing & PR

NewRulesBookIn 2008, I picked up a book that changed the way I looked at marketing and led me down the path to helping businesses use social media to market their products and services. That book was The New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott. I was contacted a month or so ago asking if I wanted to review the newest edition of the book and interview David. Given the fact that his book is one of the reasons I wrote my own book and do the work I do today, I jumped at the chance. I wanted to get his point of view on the current landscape for the small business owner.

Beth: Many small business owners have a limited amount of time. On what would you recommend they focus that time?

David: Many small business owners naturally feel drawn to prattle on and on about their products and services.  But I have news for you. Nobody cares about your products and services (except you). Yes, you read that right.
What people do care about are themselves and how you can solve their problems. People also like to be entertained and to share in something remarkable.

The most important thing is to try not to talk so much about what you company does and instead focus on the problems that your buyers face. In order to have people talk about you and your ideas, you must resist the urge to hype your products and services. Instead, create something interesting that will be talked about online. When you get people talking on the Web, people will line up to learn more and to buy what you have to offer.

Most online marketing is nothing more than an alternative channel for the PR department or product marketers to spew their “messages” and “product vision.” Yuck. To paraphrase Yoda from Star Wars, “You must unlearn what you have learned.” It is so difficult for people to get out of the marketing habits they’ve developed over the years.

By focusing on buyers, you pay attention to what’s important to your potential customers, not what’s important to you.

Beth: What has been the most significant change in the social media from when you wrote the first edition to now?

David: No question — the rise of real time is most significant change in the way humans communicate in our entire history.  In the past 20 years, information has become essentially free and two-way. The big picture ramifications are huge. One thousand years from now, the only two things that will be remembered in the history of the time period we are living right now will be the first lunar landing of Apollo 11 on July 20, 1969 and the development of real-time communications instantly connecting every human on earth with every other human on earth. Now any person with an internet or mobile phone connection can communicate in real time with virtually any other human on the planet. Talk about a revolution.

When people can communicate in real-time with one another, it has fundamental ramifications for humanity.
A handful of people in Egypt can create a Facebook group that generates support from millions of ordinary citizens and brings down a government.

Anybody can do independent research on the web and choose what to believe about the products and services they consume. Gone are the days when you could plan out your marketing and public relations programs well in advance and release them on your timetable. It’s a real-time world now, and if you’re not engaged, then you’re on your way to marketplace irrelevance. What counts today is speed and agility.

Even now, nearly 20 years into the revolution, many organizations still aren’t communicating in real-time on the web.

Beth: Do you currently have a favorite tool or technology? If so, what is it and why?

David: I’ve been very interested in Periscope, a relatively new social tool. Periscope allows real-time video streaming from your smart phone.
Periscope turns anyone with a smartphone into a citizen journalist. And for businessws, the app opens up the possibility of sharing all kinds of life events that can serve as content to reach your buyers. A live operation at a hospital, a tour of a home for sale, a peek backstage at a rock concert, a manager’s pep talk before the big game, or a product design meeting at a company – all become shareable in an exciting and intimate way.

We’re in a new world where you can share interesting events with the world and this has important ramifications for businesses of all kinds. Live streaming is a new way to share content and many people love watching streams.

Beth: What is the biggest reason for a small business to run now and buy your book?

David: The rules have changed. If you are following the old rules, you are not reaching your buyers effectively.

Huge thanks to David for taking time out of his very busy schedule to answer these questions for me. If you have not read the book, I highly suggest you check it out. David was nice enough to send me a copy to review and I decided I would love to give it to one of my email newsletter subscribers. I will randomly select a subscriber on February 3. If you are not a subscriber, you can sign up now. The content I create for my weekly newsletter is never published anywhere else, so you don’t want to miss out.

Uncover Your Niche

There is a lot of talk out there that you should have a niche for your business. They tell you why, but they rarely tell you how to begin to uncover your niche. I have put together a 30 minute session that takes you through the process of uncovering your niche. The best part? It’s free.

The topics I cover are:

  • The benefits of having a niche.
  • Different types of niches.
  • Pitfalls to avoid when creating your niche.
  • How to use the 4 Ps of Marketing to define your niche.

At the end of the session, you will be able to understand what makes you truly standout from your competition, and therefore will have the foundation for your niche. What are you waiting for? It’s part of the Marketing Roadhouse free member library, so sign in and get started. Not a member yet? Sign up now.

2016 Marketing Survey

Happy New Year! For the past couple of years I have selected 3 words to guide my year, both personally and professionally. One of my words this year is growth, both your growth and mine. I want to help you grow your business. To do that, I want to know how I can best serve you this year. I created a quick 5 question survey to get a feel for the types of content and training I can provide throughout the year. It should only take a few minutes, and I really appreciate your participation.

Content Marketing Buckets

As a service based company, I struggle with creating content for my email newsletters, blogs and social media accounts. It’s not that I have nothing to say, it’s that I often don’t know what to say and often feel like I am disorganized in my approach. When in the process of relaunching Marketing Roadhouse, I decided that I would take the approach that I use with my clients – creating content buckets.

My mission here at Marketing Roadhouse is to help businesses tell their story to the world through the use of content and community. That mission alone allowed me to create 2 different buckets: community and content. As you can probably guess, this post fits into my content bucket, as did last’s weeks post. I then took it one step further and added “home base” to my list of buckets because community quickly became too large to manage. I like to look at community as a combination of outreach (social media) and your home base (website, email marketing, and blog). My fourth and last bucket is for business topics which are usually reserved for my email newsletter.

Maybe your business mission doesn’t provide you with an obvious set of content buckets. If this is the case, take a look at your list of products or service offerings. One of your goals in content marketing is to share your expertise and position yourself as a resource in the areas of the products or services that you offer. Your content buckets, should support this goal. Look at your website or promotional materials to see what product categories or services you market to your target audiences. Can you create four or five buckets that your future content will fit into? If you look at the Work With Me section of my site, you will see that my buckets closely align with my services. It all works together.

You can create buckets from other marketing touchpoints or SEO goals, but the methods I have mentioned here are the easiest to execute. Write those bucket names on a piece of paper and see what topics and ideas you can come up for each bucket. I bet you will come up with a lot more than you were expecting. This method can be very effective to keeping you organized and on point with your marketing message.