Do people know what they can buy from you?

"Don't be too salesy." 

"Give your audience value."

"It's not all about you, it's about them."

whatcanibuy.jpg

These are the messages that you hear over and over about your content and they are true. You don't want to sound like a sales pitch, but you also have to make sure that you don't end up being the opposite (this is something we've struggled with ourselves).

While you don't want to constantly sell things to your audience, you also have to make sure that you're making it clear to your audience what they can buy when they're ready.

What do you sell?

How easy is it to find things that people can buy on your website? What are the things you want people to buy? Make sure that you have a list of several options that you can promote to people in your blog, on Facebook, in your newsletter, etc.  Keep in mind that the easier you make things for people the better. Whenever possible, instead of telling someone to get in touch to buy something, have a "buy now" button next to the product because people don't like taking extra steps.

For a long time we simply told people we could help them with social media and waited for them to decide how. It turns out it really helps to have tangible products that people can buy (like the newsletter course or the Simple Start program.)

How often should you promote your products?

You need to be careful about ONLY trying to sell things. What you want is a blend of valuable content (this should be the majority of your content) without forgetting to promote yourself too. While giving specific numbers for this kind of thing can be hard because it depends on your audience (as with everything) and what you're selling, a safe zone would be that 10-25% of your content can be purely self promotional. This doesn't mean that 25% of the time you're specifically trying to sell them something (though it could), but it could mean linking to newsletter sign ups, asking your audience for input or linking to your testimonials page.

Nobody engages

When you post links to your content that's for sale, people aren't going to be inclined to 'like' or comment or even share that content. That makes analytics particularly important. I had a client who was convinced that she shouldn't be posting links to her products, but when we went into her Facebook insights, the posts with the products were among the most clicked on content she had. While she was worrying that people weren't interested and that she was bothering them, her audience were rushing over to her website to find out more. Check your numbers to see how your audience is reacting to your content.

Give it a try

This week, promote some of your products on some of your social channels and let us know how it goes. You may be surprised at how easily people will buy something when simply given the opportunity.

The what, who, when, where & why of Facebook

Facebook is easily the most controversial major social network. Seemingly constant changes to Facebook's user interface, its functionality, and the algorithm that controls what we all see have led marketers and users alike to feel nearly constant frustration with the service.

So, if it’s so bad, why do we keep logging in? What keeps us coming back to this Web site that inspires such frustration?

Our friends. Our business. Our interests.

Yes - even if we see each of them less and less. The thing is, I doubt we'd like it if the algorithm wasn't prioritizing our newsfeed. And Facebook is still the largest and most-used social network on the Internet, which makes it relevant and important to your business.

What is Facebook?

Believe it or not, I meet people regularly who don't have Facebook accounts. They have their reasons, but if you're not on Facebook yet, it's hard to know what you're missing. Facebook is the quintessential social network. It started out as a two-way connection - reciprocity required. I send you a friend request, you accept or don't accept. One choice means I have access to your content and you have access to mine. Declining my request means we don't. 

"Friendship" is still the primary focus of the network, though they have since added Pages, Groups, Interest Lists, and Followers - all of which are not reciprocal connections.

Who should use Facebook?

From a personal perspective, I think that anyone who wants to connect with other people can get value out of Facebook. The idea that social media makes us less social doesn't have to be the reality - and it isn't for most. From a business or entity perspective, Facebook is a valuable marketing tool. There are over 1.3 billion active accounts on Facebook. It would be a rare business that can't find its audience in a pool of people that size.

When (and how) should I post?

Post at least daily, but not too often. The frequency your audience will respond to is potentially different from my audience and likely based on what kind of business you run. Media outlets can get away with posting numerous articles every day. A small business might post only once per day. For the majority of businesses, a maximum of 2-4 times a day is a good guideline. Facebook users will “unlike” your page if you annoy them. I know I have.

Be sure to share a mix of content - status updates, links, videos, photos - so that you get a better idea of what works best. The algorithm changes, so maintaining a mix ensures you won't get caught up in some of the silly (and fleeting) trends that don't work in the first place. 

Where should you post?

Over the years, Facebook has done a lot of work to improve its mobile app - from splitting out Messenger and Groups to improve loading time, to adding more and more of the browser app's functionality, such as editing, comment replies, and more. The list of actions you can only do in the web browser is getting shorter and shorter all the time. So, where should you post? Pretty much wherever you want.

Why should you be on Facebook?

I really like Facebook. The potential for collaboration, connection, information consumption are all pretty much endless. I've created and found support networks, small and large, through Facebook. I use Groups for my work with Lara on WWC, as well as part of the delivery of our programs. A lot of the issues people have with Facebook tend to be rooted in unrealistic expectations. Your audience has never all been guaranteed to see your content - not in newspapers, on television, on your website, on Twitter, or any other medium that you contribute to - not even when Facebook didn't have ads was 100% your audience guaranteed to see your content.

Developing a presence on Facebook can bring good things in the form of better relationships personally and professionally. It can also have an impact on the bottom line for businesses. However, no one should have a presence unless it makes sense to achieve business goals and they have the resources to be consistent. 

What would you add to the 5 Ws of Facebook?

How to schedule posts on Facebook

To be successful on Facebook you need to be posting content on a consistent basis. We recommend that you post something at least one or two times a day. The best way to take the stress out of posting regular content online is to have a plan, create a lot of content at once and schedule it. This means that on a daily basis all you need to do is monitor how things are going on your Facebook page instead of wasting time trying to figure out what to say.

But how do you do that?

Good question. Facebook keeps changing the "how" part and they don't make it obvious, so today I'm going to walk you through how to schedule posts and how to update them or edit them if you need to change anything later.

Schedule

Start by creating your content. Then select the "Post" button from the bottom right and then select "Schedule Post" from the drop down menu.

Once you've selected "Schedule Post" a window will pop up. You then select the date by clicking on the calendar icon and then typing in the time. This is a great way to experiment with what time works best for your audience by trying different times of day, from early morning to later into the evening.

Hit "Schedule" and you're done - it's that simple.

What if I need to change my post?

Sometimes things change and we need to be able to edit our content. If that happens it's easy to go into your scheduled content and either change the time it will go live, edit the text or delete it entirely.

To find your scheduled content you will see the following right under the status update box. Click on "See posts" to open up the content.

From here, you select what you want to change by selecting the arrow in the top right corner of the post in question.

And that's it.  Try it out and let us know in the comments if you schedule posts.

Beyond planning: The importance of strategic planning

plan-to-succeed

The longer we run our business, the more emphasis and priority Lara and I put on planning. And I don't mean just laying out a plan for what we want to do. Every year, we take a more strategic approach to setting goals, developing products, and creating content. It's making us better at what we do, better at helping our clients, and understanding our clients' needs. 

We have started having 3-4 planning days per year to set priorities, plan timelines, discuss ideas, etc. It's time we spend away from doing any work for clients or product development. However, it's absolutely critical to the short- and long-term progress and success of our business.

So much of what we do as business owners applies to planning and using social media in a strategic way. Imagine, if you will, a person who has what they feel is a fabulous idea for a business. Remember the jump to conclusions mat from Office Space? (Warning: there's a little four-letter language in this clip.)

Starting a business without clear goals, research into marketability of products and services, or realistic view of what's involved can lead to a rude awakening. I think every business owner has experienced this to some degree - whether a product or service completely bombs or they have to rethink their entire business model. That's usually when you come to the fork in the road and you have to decide which new direction to take.

Strategy is just as important to social media success

We make every effort to simplify social media for our clients. It's not rocket science. We know this. However, between using the actual tools and crafting messages with a strategic focus and tying it all in to your business objectives, the process can get overwhelming. Small business don't need a 100-page strategy document, but they do need to start with identifying goals, audiences, and key messages. Once they know the what and the why, then they can move on to tactics (the how). The "how" is pretty easy once you've established "what" and "why".

Answer these questions for your business

  • Why do we use <insert social network>?
  • Is our presence effective?
  • Are we using it to our advantage?
  • Have we gained any customers through that channel?

They aren't easy questions, but it's worth reflecting. This is the time of year that we all start looking at a fresh start in the New Year. We all want to be more organized, focused, productive. 

You can do all of those things, but it starts with a plan. I'm personally terrible at setting goals for our business in the areas that I am responsible for - Lara is pushing me and reminding me to be better (or just do it). I know the importance. I know why I struggle with it. I'm working on a solution that works for me and our business because without setting those goals, even knowing my audience and key messages, I'm holding myself and my business back from being the best we can be.

That's my area of struggle with planning. What is yours? What are you going to do about it to make 2015 even better than 2014?


Webinar - Get Results in 2015 using Social Media with a Plan!

Lara and I are going to talk about planning tips, advice, and resources during our December 9th webinar. Sign up here!


Do you struggle with staying focused in your day-to-day use of social channels? That can derail your plans for social media AND other areas of your business. Our Daily Social Media Checklist can help.

Just enter your email address and we'll send you this free tool to help you focus your efforts. You'll also receive weekly emails from Lara and I with valuable tips and information about how to grow your business using social media. 

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Watching YouTubers doing it right

I may have a bit of an obsession with YouTube. It's a hobby and I love it, and I can chalk it all up as business research now that I'm writing this blog post!

In the year or so that I've found a lot of the big name YouTubers (those are the ones who make substantial livings off their YouTube fame) time and time again I've seen that most of them are doing a lot of what we advise our clients to do and slowly but surely it has turned into Internet fame.

I'm not promising internet fame here, but let's pull out the important pieces:

Great content

Good YouTubers figure out what their audiences want and they provide it. It also needs to be in line with what they want at the same time for it to be successful and for them to want to keep doing it.

Music covers are one my favourite things to watch on YouTube. High quality covers of recent popular songs are gold for a musician making videos (I make no apologies for loving Taylor Swift's new song. I even like the original!).

I could post examples of great YouTube content all day from comedy to musicians to cooking shows, but that would be too distracting so I'll just share one more. I made this meal and it was amazing and now I can't get enough of all the Sorted Food videos.

 

Consistent schedule

Most YouTubers have a schedule they stick to. Grace Helbig of It's Grace made a video Monday through Friday for years and has only recently gone down to three videos a week.  

Hank and John Green (the vlogbrothers) post a video every Tuesday and Friday.

Fans expect the content and if they go to the channel on those days and there aren't videos they are disappointed.

It's not fast

A lot of these people have had YouTube channels for years. It's take awhile to get to the point where they now make enough money to make YouTube (and all that it's brought them) their career, but slow and steady wins the race.

Opportunities come knocking

While a lot of YouTubers make money on their content alone, they also make money from advertising and from companies, such as Patreon and Subbable that have popped up to help content creators find ways to make money online. For example, Walk off the Earth gets a dollar from me every time they make a new video through Patreon. In addition to this, there are also lots of opportunities that pop up as a result of their internet success, including:

Book deals:

Opportunities to be on Broadway and Tours

TV show deals

Consistent quality content aimed at your audience is what helps grow your reputation online. Whether you're creating content to help business owners learn to use social media or you're just out to entertain, it always come back to quality content.

Leave a comment and let me know if you've seen anyone online slowly grow to huge success with the delivery of consistent valuable content. And also let me know if you have any favourite YouTube channels because I'm always looking to check out more!

Tools to create appealing images

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the components of a blog post. One of the 7 critical pieces is a featured image. A good graphic serves a few purposes:

  • Your blog post graphic can help compel readers to click through from social networks when there's a thumbnail preview showing. 
  • The featured image can double as a shareable image when you promote your post on various networks.
  • It breaks up the page and assists with readability.
  • When the graphic lends support to your post and adds visual appeal, you help readers connect with your message and purpose.

Beyond featured graphics on your blog posts, images are used all over the place, because humans are visual. We like imagery. It helps us relate to and process information.

With all this pressure to have images at the ready, some businesses are searching for tools they can use to create graphics on the fly without having to hire someone. Today, I'm going to tell you about two tools I use all the time that I really love.

Canva

Canva.com hasn't been around for very long - maybe 6 months or a year. I can't remember how I found out about it, but I'm so glad I did. If you ever used Picnik (the image editor that Google bought and shut down), Canva is better. It started out as a browser-based tool and they've just recently released an iPad app, so you can make images on the go quickly and easily. Here are some of the images I've created using Canva:

Each of these shareable images was created with a stock photo, which I purchased from Canva for $1. Three eye-catching, meaningful images and they cost me $3 and a little bit of time. There are many, many free backgrounds, shapes, symbols and images that you can use as well. 

I use Canva exclusively for web graphics so far, but you can also create documents for printing as well. Canva even provides pre-sized templates for all the current optimal sizes for graphics on social networks, such as Facebook, Google+ and Twitter cover images, as well as timeline graphics. 

The image I sent to Lara and our amazing VA, Tracy Noble. :)

There are some functions (like using any font I want) that keep me using Adobe design tools more than these tools, but that tends to be for graphics that I want clearly branded. Fortunately, Canva gives you lots of options for changing colours to complement your branding and they have some very nice fonts to use as well.

Wordswag

I stumbled upon Wordswag a few weeks ago by complete accident. It's only available on iOS, but for $2.99 you get forever free access to a really cool tool. I've talked to quite a few people since I found Wordswag and almost all of them bought it right away and love it as well - so you won't be disappointed! I've honestly never had so much fun designing quick images.

Just to give you an idea, I decided to see how many different versions of the same image I could create in about 5 minutes time I didn't really race through, but I still managed to get 8 done! 

The variety is pretty impressive and since you can use your own photos and images, there's no need to feel like your text graphics look like everyone else's. Here's a video intro to Wordswag so you can see how it works:

The really wonderful thing about both of these apps is that you can make images right on your phone or iPad and then upload them to any social network, including Instagram. 

Bonus Tool - OUTSOURCE!

Lara and I are big believers in outsourcing work that isn't our genius. (That's one reason why we have that fabulous VA I mentioned earlier - we'd be lost without Tracy.) 

I'm very excited to announce today that Wellman Wilson is now officially offering design services. We recognize that creating images can be stressful and time-consuming if that's not what you enjoy or feel is a strength. We can help save you time and stress - allowing you to do more of the things that are your genius work!

Do you have a favourite tool for creating images? Tell us in the comments! (Especially if you have suggestions for Android users.)

How speaking can help you build online relationships

Social media for business isn’t always about making connections online. It’s also about making connections in person and then bringing those relationships online so you can nurture them far more frequently than you could if you had to wait until you saw that person again.

A great way to get in front of new people is to offer to speak at events. I do this a fair amount around Ottawa and it has not only been a great way to grow my network, it’s also been a great way to grow my mailing list.

Today I’m going to share a few tips on what I’ve done with in-person networking and speaking opportunities that you can use for yourself. 

Offer to share your expertise

Knowing what value you bring to your audience is key whenever you’re marketing yourself and your business. Come up with a few topics that are in line with your key messages that would be of value to others and offer to share them with the group. This often means a quick 10-15 minute talk, not a full hour or longer.

Some of the main topics that I suggest for myself include:

  • Is social media important for business?
  • Do I need to send email newsletters?
  • How to create a simple plan to simplify use of social media for your business

If you aren’t B2B (business to business) this may feel like more of a struggle, but it's doable, especially if you do the work to find the right event.

  • Share personal stories of success that incorporate what you do. This way you’re sharing a lot about your business while also providing them with value.
  • Find events that make more sense to your group. 

Do you teach “mom and me yoga”? Reach out to  some breastfeeding groups, early years centres, pre-natal workshop leaders, etc. and offer to do a 10 minute talk on how to relax, find calm and maybe go through a few simple poses on your own.

Do you clean houses? Find an event that helps promote work life balance and share tips on how to stay on top of cleaning without feeling overwhelmed.

Do you sell shoes? Find some women’s events and offer to talk about the latest fashion in boots or how to transition shoes when fashion changes.

Tips for speaking

If you don’t do much speaking the idea of getting up in front of a group of people and talking about something, even for ten minutes, might feel really scary. Here are a few tips to help:

  • Make basic notes (bullet points) so that you don’t end up reading a speech instead of talking to the crowd.
  • Have a hand out that you can refer to and look at. It becomes a prop and something to help you stay on track when you lose focus.
  • Find someone friendly in the crowd to look at whenever you feel overwhelmed or nervous. There’s always at least one friendly face in the crowd.

How to then get online

One of the biggest reasons you're doing this is so that you can start connecting with the people you're meeting online so, here are a few things to do during and after the event to do that:

  • Tell people what you do and carry around a paper newsletter sign up sheet and ask them to sign up to keep getting more free valuable content from you on a regular basis.
  • Connect with the people you meet within a day or two on Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter. Let them know it was nice to meet them and that you'd love to keep in touch.

Leave a comment letting me know what kinds of events you've found speaking opportunities at and how well you do at bringing your in-person networking contacts online after the events.

Join us tonight for a Twitter chat about email newsletters from 8-9pm using the hashtag #wwcnewsletters. Twitter chats are a great way to learn a lot in a short period of time AND meet some great people to stay connected to online!

Building relationships online - an interview with Rebecca Stanisic

I've been trying to do a lot more video this year and this week I tried a new type - the interview video!  

Rebecca Stanisic, from A Little Bit of Momsense and RebeccaStanisic.com agreed to let me ask her about how she has successfully built relationships online.

Rebecca started online with a personal blog and has since not only successfully monetized her blog, she also acts as a brand ambassador for several companies and helps other companies manage their social media.

As someone I have personally witnessed have so much success building relationships online, she was the perfect person to sit down and chat with.

If you enjoyed this video, make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel and to like the video, as well as leave a comment here or on the video! Let us know what you have found works well for building relationships online.

Benefits of customers telling your story

Who doesn't want this?

Who doesn't want this?

Last week, Lara wrote about how you can invite your customers to tell their story. Taking this step may be slightly anxiety-inducing if you’re worried about what people will say. However, when your business is delivering high-quality and meeting the needs of clients and customers, the risk is minimal.

Customers who support your business and have a relationship with you or your organization will be happy to spend some time making recommendations. And, though some pretty sensationally bad customer service situations get a lot of attention, those instances truly are the exception to the rule. Even most complaints don’t make it onto the Internet.

There are two really good reasons to ask your clients and customers to talk about you:

  1. If they feel strongly enough to say something - positive or negative - they are more likely to talk about you with or without a prompt.
  2. Ask and you shall receive. It’s not always top of mind to relay a positive experience with a business. By asking, you’ve brought it to mind in the context of the positive.

THREE BENEFITS OF ASKING

I recently liked my chiropractor’s Facebook Page (Dr. Surbjit Herr). Within a day or two, I received an email from his assistant thanking me for liking the page and asking me to post a review. (Very smart tactic…hint, hint.) So I did! It was actually a very easy step, because I’ve been talking about Dr. Herr to anyone who will listen for nearly a year. However, I hadn’t thought to post anything online, so I’m really glad his assistant asked.

How many of your customers might have a similar story?

You will get access to your customers’ and clients’ network of friends, family, and associates.

We all know and influence different people. When I post about the experience I’ve had with Dr. Herr, my network will see it and (since I’ve been actively encouraging a few friends to go to him anyway) someone may finally take the plunge because of comments I’ve made in such a public place.

You’ll find out (sometimes surprising) things that are important to your clients and customers.

Every business puts a certain effort into delivering service in the way that they feel will be well-received by patrons. However, some of the little touches can mean a whole lot. For example, Dr. Herr ends each of my son’s adjustments by telling him to close his eyes. While Brandon’s eyes are closed, Dr. Herr gets a bottle of bubbles and gets ready. Brandon covers his eyes with a huge smile on his face and waits for Dr. Herr to tell him to open his eyes. He gets such a kick out of popping the bubbles and he plays along with the “surprise” even though he knows it’s coming. The trust and affection my son openly shows Dr. Herr makes me feel good about taking him for treatment.

When your clients and customers are willing to talk about you, it increases your credibility to those who don’t yet know you.

It’s easy to go to a grocery store and hand over money for things you need. The trust required is small. However, maybe your business (like mine) requires trust in a concept that invites skepticism. Or, perhaps your business (like Dr. Herr’s) requires a level of personal interaction and information that may be uncomfortable for some. Seeing the testimonials of others who have had a positive experience can help overcome doubt and uncertainty.

YOUR TURN!

I challenge you to talk about one great experience with a business. Tell us in the comments who they are (share links if you can!) and why the experience you had was so positive - or post an online review for that business and then share the link with us. Then go and ask at least 5 of your own customers or clients to do the same for you!

Invite your customers to tell your story

There is little more powerful than someone else telling people what you do, or that you’re good at it. That’s why testimonials are so important. But there are many other ways that you can get your customers to help tell your story, both to their friends, and to yours. Today I’ll run through three ways that you can get your audience talking about you, creating powerful content, and taking some of the pressure of creating content off of you!

1) Create opportunity and reason to check in

Whether people are using Foursquare, Facebook, or Instagram, you want them to check in to your location and let their friends know they’re there, and you want to make it as easy as possible for them.

The first thing you need to do is make sure that you’re set up on all of the different apps so that when they try to check in, you appear. If I’m out and want to share my location with a picture, and the location pops up for me to tag, I do it. If the location doesn’t show up, I don’t. This is easy to do on Facebook (by putting in your address and making sure your page is listed as a place), and adding your location to Foursquare makes it available both there and on Instagram as well. On top of making it easy for people to check in, be sure to encourage them to do so - either by asking them to check in, or…

2) Have contests

Contests are a great way to get people to share content for you. Put up signs in your location or promote them online to get people to share photos, stories or quotes that have to do with your business. Create a hashtag that then ties all the entries together and that leads people back to your site or business.

Here are examples of the types of contests you can run:

Ask people to Tweet or Facebook their favourite thing that you sell. Let them know to tag you or use a specific hashtag, like this company did:

The contest will encourage people to post photos like this:

or this one:

Ask a social media question for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card with a hashtag that corresponds to your business (i.e., #AskWellmanWilson)

3) Ask for their story

People like sharing their story and are often willing to do it as long as you ask. There are many ways to do this:

  • Ask them to write a sentence or two describing what they like about your company or your product.
  • Ask for a guest post that details their experience with you or your product.
  • Send them a questionnaire they can fill out and then post their answers as an interview.

Being the voice of your business and telling the story of your brand is made easier when you invite your clients and customers to join in. Our next blog post will give you some of the benefits that encouraging your customers to tell your story can bring.

What are some other creative ways you’ve seen businesses invite their customers and clients to tell their story?

Is your content inclusive?

The language you use to communicate with your audience says a lot about your business. If you’re using language your audience is unfamiliar with then you are less likely to have your message heard, or if it is heard it may be misunderstood. Your online content is sometimes your audience’s first impression of who you are as a business and the last thing you want to do is leave them feeling excluded or confused.

So, how do you make sure that you are creating inclusive content?

Use plain language

When you use plain language more people understand what you’re saying. This means your message will not only be heard more often, but that it is more easily sharable between your current and potential audience.  Think about some of the greatest brand slogans, such as Nike’s “Just Do It” – it’s easy to remember, easy to type and easily associated with the brand. 

Use conversational language

Whether you’re creating content for your website, blog or social networks, keep the language conversational. This means avoiding convoluted terminology and using words that you would hear in every day conversation. If it isn’t a word you would feel comfortable using all the time, don’t use it, and the same goes for a word that you don’t know the definition of – if you have to look up the definition, don’t use it in your content.

The best thing about conversational language is that it is more likely to generate a conversation between you and your audience, which could result in great things for you and your business!

Write more like you would speak than in what would be considered a “professional” way. A great way to practice doing this is to draft your post orally and record it and then listen to it and transcribe it. This will give you a great starting point for conversational sounding content.

Don’t think of it as “dumbing down”

The following video from the Government of Digital Service in the UK explains it best:

The term “dumbing down” is offensive and just because your audience doesn’t necessarily want to read complex content doesn’t make them dumb (as the term implies). It simply means that your wording is confusing or it takes more effort to read when people want to be able to skim.

Using complicated language excludes people from learning about what it is you have to offer, which could result in loss of sales or revenue.

Think of your content as an extension of yourself.  If you were in a room surrounded by your ideal audience would you want them to feel welcome or excluded? Use language everyone can understand and relate to and you will better the chances of one-time visitors becoming a part of your loyal audience.

Leave us a comment and let us know what you think.  Do you prefer content written simply and in a conversational tone or does it feel too simplified for you?

Facebook account cloning: what it is and how to prevent it

Have you ever received a Facebook friend request from someone you are already friends with? If so, don’t accept it! Chances are your friend’s account was cloned and the cloned account wants to get a hold of your information. Accepting a friend request from a cloned account leaves you vulnerable to spam and often reveals personal details that could be used in identity theft. So, how do you avoid having your Facebook account cloned?

Check your privacy settings

Is your profile picture able to be viewed by your friends or by everyone? You can easily tell this by looking on the top right hand side of your opened profile picture – if you see a tiny icon of the world, this means your profile picture can be viewed in a larger format by the general public and in turn can be downloaded easily (and therefore re-used by someone else) – making it easier for someone to clone your account. Make sure your current and past profile pictures as well as all photos and photo albums you have uploaded and created are always set to “friends” and are never made available to the public.

Hide your friends list

It’s fun to scroll through the friends lists of other people, especially when looking to connect with past colleagues and school mates, but by leaving the list open to the public, or even just your friends you are leaving them at risk. If someone clones your account, the first thing they are going to do is try and befriend people on your friends list in an attempt to get ahold of their information as well.

Don’t accept friend requests from strangers

Consider this not talking to strangers online. If you do not who someone is, don’t accept their friend request or create a rule  - only accept a friend request if you have two or more mutual friends in common (Facebook typically shares this information with you at the time of the request).

Don’t accept requests from people you are already friends with

If you are already friends with someone, don’t accept a second friend request from them and be sure to report the cloned account to the original account owner as well as to Facebook. If you are unsure if you are friends with that person, double check your friends list. If you’re still unsure send a message to the original account owner asking them if this is them or not, but when in doubt don’t accept the friend request.

Don’t overshare

If you are heading out on vacation don’t post it as a status on Facebook and then have that status open to the public. At the very least make it only viewable to friends you wholeheartedly trust. You can do this by creating lists and only selecting those lists to share with. 

As with all social media it’s important to remember that whatever you post online is “out there” and even though you may think it is protected it doesn’t take much for complete strangers to access that information. The best thing to do is to take all necessary precautions when posting online and be mindful of what you are sharing and who you are sharing it with.

Five reasons you should start sending a newsletter

I’m a huge fan of newsletters (no surprise to you if you follow my content :) ). Newsletters are a great way to stay in touch with people in a reliable and regular way. Today I’m going to break down five reasons I think you should be sending a regular newsletter to your audience. 

1)   Who doesn’t check their email?

Almost everyone checks their email daily, if not 500 times a day (I admit nothing!). People check their email far more reliably and more often than they do any other social network so getting into their inbox means they are much more likely to see the information you want to share with them.

2)   They asked for it

People have a tendency to think of email as bothersome, but remember that if you have someone’s email address it’s because they gave it to you (if they didn’t, you need to make sure you make a few changes.) 

If you convinced someone that they want to receive email from you, they probably want to hear what you have to say and it’s not remotely a bother to them.

3)   You know they saw it

Advertising on social networks, or any other kind of advertising, will never guarantee that your audience will see your message. Facebook algorithms, and whether or not they’ve logged in to potentially see the message at all is a big unknown.

When you are sending someone an email they are almost guaranteed to have seen that you sent them something. That doesn’t mean they’ll open it, or read it (this is why subject lines are SO important), but it does mean that they saw something from you. This is much more reliable than any other way of getting in touch with your audience.

4)   You can measure the success

Newsletter tools have amazing ways to measure the success of what you’re sending. You can see who opened the emails and what they clicked on, you can run tests to see if you have more opens based on the time of day that you send or based who you’ve sent the email from (we’ve played around a lot with sending emails from “Wellman Wilson Consulting” vs. “Lara and Karen”). Metrics let you know if what you’re doing is working, something you always need to pay attention to in order to make sure that the efforts you’re putting into online marketing is worth it.

5)   It works

I can’t say this as confidently for any other online marketing tool. When I talk to people about the success of their newsletter, especially if it’s sent with regularity, everyone tells me it impacts not only relationship building, but also sales. An email newsletter gets results and that has to be the biggest reason of all to have one. 

Do you want to start an email newsletter but you’re not sure where to start? Join us for a free webinar on Tuesday, September 16th at noon EST. In this one-hour webinar we’re going to be covering the basics of why you need a newsletter, what you need to consider when starting a newsletter, what you should be saying, and answering all your newsletter questions. 

Sign Up Today!

 

Throwback Thursday - why it's fun for businesses too

Every Thursday I love going through my social network feeds and seeing old photos of my friends for Throwback Thursday/#TBT (Throwback Thursday is when people share old photos, primarily on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram). I know I’m not alone because the likes and comments on these posts are all super high. So, what is it about Throwback Thursday that people like so much?

Who are you?

People want to know about you.  They want to get to know you.  They want to feel like they’re talking to a human being who they can connect with. 

That photo of you and your sister at the beach in 1986, or the photo of you at your high school graduation, it gives people a glimpse of you that touches an emotional point in them. Those old photos help make you seem more human to them, which makes them feel more connected to you.

It’s the story

All of this comes back to the idea that people love a story and Throwback Thursday is giving people another glimpse at your story. Who you are, how you became the person you are and how that relates to the people you deal with in your audience is always key.

Should YOU be sharing old photos?

If there are photos of you that you feel comfortable sharing and that you can relate back to your business, either because it has a direct link or because it lets you share a story that your audience will relate to, it’s a great idea to share the photo. I have shared a lot of Throwback Thursday photos on my personal Facebook timeline, but I am now inspired to share some here with you.

Take a look at this photo from 2010 of a gang of friends in a “Losing it in Ottawa” group (the first project Karen and I started together) taking part in Run for the Cure. We’ve done a lot of fun things together!

 

 

Or this photo, of my husband and I before we were married. It was taken for an article in Glue Magazine about couples who met online, proving I’ve been making online connections for a long time!

 

Or this one of me taking part in a workshop to learn how to make videos on my phone, which reminds me, I need to start doing that again!

 

 

These little glimpses into my world will hopefully make you feel like you know me a little bit better, and that’s what I’m always looking to have happen in my online communications. I want to build relationships with people so that when the time comes, you think of me if you’re ready to take the next step and learn more about online marketing. Spend some time and think of how you can do the same with YOUR audience.

Then leave me a comment and let me know if you share Throwback Thursday photos personally or for your business, and if you do, share a link - I’d love to come and see them!

Is the #ALSIceBucketChallenge a case of slacktivism?

If you’re online you have surely seen people pouring ice water on their heads over the last couple of weeks. It’s one of the most viral trends I have ever witnessed and that alone makes it worth talking about.

What is the #ALSicebucketchallenge

Simply put, the ice bucket challenge is a challenge where people pour a bucket of ice water over their head and then challenge three friends to do the same within 24 hours.  If they don’t pour the ice water over their heads they need to donate $100 to XYZ charity. Friends of Pete Frates turned the ice bucket challenge into an ALS cause. Check out this video if you want to find out more about how it happened.  

Is this slacktivism?

The challenge states that you don’t have to donate if you pour ice water over your head. That means that you’re getting OUT of donating by doing this. Because of this, and the fact that there are definitely many people who are taking part in the challenge and not donating, many have started complaining about this challenge, suggesting that this challenge was a case of slacktivism - making it seem like you’re doing something for a charity without doing anything at all.

However, it quickly became clear to me that this was more than just slacktivism because slacktivism doesn’t raise money.  Since July 2014 millions of dollars have been raised for ALS. The numbers are so big and growing so fast that I can’t even keep up with them.

When I looked on Friday night ALS Canada was about to hit three million dollars in donations. On Tuesday afternoon, they were over eight million dollars. Pouring ice water on your head HAS helped - enormously.

Isn’t it a waste of water?

I admit, this argument bothers me. Especially here in Canada, we have no lack of fresh water. Do other people lack it? Yes, of course. But we can’t send the bucket of ice water to the people who need it, so, in my opinion, using it to help a different cause is a great thing to do. In places where they have less water (like California) people are being discouraged to take the challenge.

My favourite response with regards to water is from Matt Damon who I think does a great job of making serious issues fun with his organization water.org. He did the ice bucket challenge by using water from the toilets in his house. His toilet water is cleaner than a lot of drinking water is in other countries, making the clean water message come through without sounding bitter, all while doing the ALS challenge.

What made this so successful?

This is one of the most successful fundraising campaigns ever, and the reason for that is because it wasn’t started by a charity, it was started by people. People decided to do this and they challenged their friends. They combined this with something that is fun to watch (videos of people dousing themselves in ice water are funny) and easy to do (we all have access to water and ice). It’s a story, it’s personal, and it doesn’t feel like it’s driven by someone just asking for money.

I doubt this will be reproducible for ALS, but for now, they are getting more money in donations than they ever have before and if they can keep even a small percentage of their new donors engaged to give again in the future, this is a HUGE win for them.

What I would love to see is the world getting behind causes like this on a regular basis. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if influencers with as much of an audience as Mark Zuckerberg and Will Smith got behind a charity on a yearly basis? I have no idea what the next funny challenge will be or if we’ll ever see something like this again, but it has been fascinating to witness and speaks volumes about the amazing potential that the internet and social media has for doing good.

My turn!

I could hardly write a post about this without doing it myself so I took the challenge on with two of my kids. We also made a donation. Here’s the video!

Your turn! Leave a comment and let me know if you’ve done the ice bucket challenge, if you’ve donated to ALS and if you think this is a worthwhile cause.

The Value of Recommendations and Endorsements on LinkedIn

There are a lot of great features on LinkedIn.  It’s a great way to connect and network, to find great information and it’s a great way to get social proof on whether someone is worth working with.

Because of that last point I think the recommendations and endorsements are really key.

Recommendations

Recommendations are the equivalent of testimonials on LinkedIn.  They are given by people who have taken the time to write out why they have liked working with you, working for you, or having hired you.

3 tips for getting and using recommendations

1)   Ask for them.  LinkedIn makes this easy, but make sure to tell people what you’re looking for, and only ask people who could easily give you a testimonial (don’t ask people who have never worked with you!)

2)   Ask people who have given you recommendations if you can use them in other marketing materials and on your web site.

3)   Give recommendations to others.  This is not only a nice thing to do, it will often encourage the recipient to do the same for you.  

Here are a few of my recommendations.  They’re really nice to have :)

Endorsements

Endorsements are a way to tell people what you do and prove that people know what you do.  You set up a list of skills and people will click if they agree that you do that.

It is important not to think that these are testimonials.  Most of the people who endorse you haven’t even worked with you.  Instead it is a way to know if what you’re putting out into the world is what you want.  The important thing is to take it all with a grain of salt.  People will likely endorse you for things they’ve never seen you do, or for things you don’t even do.  Take it as an overall measure of what you’re projecting to the world.  

For example, if you are a mortgage broker and you are being endorsed for planning events then you need to figure out how to put more information about your ability to help with mortgages.  If you have skills that you wish weren’t there at all (maybe someone added them or you’ve changed your focus) you can edit them.

 

Challenge

1) Make a list of 3 people you could write a recommendation for.  What are the key points that you would share in a testimonial about them.  Go write them now!

2) Go to LinkedIn and endorse 5 people.

Leave us a comment here or on Facebook to let us know you did it!

Social Capital Conference: Four years of fabulous

Saying goodbye with a smile.As some of you may know, Lara and I announced a couple weeks ago that this year would be our last organizing the Social Capital Conference. As two of the founders - and since Lara had the idea in the first place - I’m sure you can imagine that it was a difficult decision. It’s something we’ve been talking about for two years, in fact. We could see that long ago that we’d have to do something that far back. 

The conference was born out of a need for an opportunity to learn more about social media without having to travel far and wide to do it. We wanted to focus on learning and partnered with uOttawa and then Algonquin to support that focus. It worked. Year after year, we’ve had such amazing feedback on the sessions and the vibe of the conference. We’ve even had people fly in from both ends of the country to attend! It has been wonderful to be in the position of helping people learn more, inspiring people to progress to new levels, and bring them together to make connections. (If you’re not meeting people in person that you connect with online, you’re really missing out - I promise.)

This year, we’ve been seeing a lot of growth in our business and it was as clear as it could be that it was time to step away from Social Capital. We made the decision and we have no regrets or second thoughts. Our final conference was a success that we’re very proud of - we’re leaving this chapter of our work on a definite high note. 

I must admit that I was nervous going into this year’s conference. The growth we’ve experienced in our business made it harder to give the conference the attention it deserves and needs. It has been a fabulous problem to have, but it was still a problem. It was also the catalyst for finally letting go. We managed to pull off the day successfully and I hope that our divided focus wasn’t too painfully obvious. 

The speakers I got to see (Ariadni Athanassiadis, Mel Coulson, and Jenna Jacobson) were all really good. I learned more about Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation and other intellectual property concerns in social media from Ariadni - and had a chance to whine a wee bit about how frustrating it all is. Mel was so funny and engaging and gave amazing examples of great content and advice for creating great content. (Also, because she’s a professional writer, I was just wee bit nervous that she sat in on my writer’s block session! But I learned after it was over that she’s a very good live tweeter.) Jenna Jacobson, our closing kenote (sadly, logistics caused me to miss Trefor Munn-Venn’s in the morning…sigh) gave such a fun and informative overview of what “social capital” really is. I was excited about her presentation and she did a great job. I also think I want to get a PhD in information just like her. Because the things she’s studying sound incredibly fascinating (and also very cool)!

The networking is always my favourite part of the conference. Unfortunately, I get pulled in roughly a million different directions, so I miss out on a lot of the time for networking throughout the day. Maybe next year - if someone else takes it over - I’ll get to spend more time talking with all the amazing people who come.

To everyone who has supported us these last four years in any way - thank you, thank you, thank you. It’s been such an amazing experience for me and I’ve learned so much from the various speakers we’ve had as well as all the attendees who’ve come each year to learn with us.

Using social media for good

We have all read or experienced the negative side of social media: the bullying, the trolls and the negative publicity, but in recent months we have noticed the good side of social media. In particular, organizations such as Kindness Canada and Thank You Ninjas have shown us a more compassionate side. It’s easy for people to hide behind a computer screen and criticize companies or individuals, but what about the good things those same companies or individuals have done?

Compliment don’t complain

When we are angry at a department store or airline, it is easy to take to our social networks with our hundreds or thousands of followers and complain about them, but how often do you do that when a company goes out of their way to do something great? For every complaint that you tweet, why not send out two compliments? 

Become a part of the social media good

Submit a story to Kindness Canada. They promote kindness by asking their audience to submit something kind they did or that they know someone else did. By sharing stories of kindness they hope to inspire others to be kind. How nice. 

You could also send an anonymous “thank you” postcard to someone using Thank You Ninjas. It can be for something as small as holding a door open or as large as a kind paramedic who helped you out during a car accident. Thank You Ninjas believe that the more thank yous people send the better the world will be. They even list ideas on their website as to how people can secretly thank someone: http://thankyouninjas.com/be-a-ninja/

Think before you tweet

Before hitting “tweet” or hitting enter on that Facebook status, ask yourself if what you are sending out to the world is nice. Ask yourself if there is anyone that might be hurt by the message. If so, you might want to think twice about hitting that button.

Instead of using social media to broadcast a negative experience, use it to promote something good as well. Share the good things in life and respond to others who do the same. We all know there are bad things going on in the world and on social media, but there is a lot of good too.

If you are attending this year’s Social Capital Conference, you can start participating in social media for good by helping the Thank You Ninjas secretly thank people throughout the day. For more information on that check out the SoCap blog post about hem: http://socialcapitalconference.com/become-a-thank-you-ninja-at-social-capital-2014/

Do you know of any other social media accounts or websites that are designed to do good in the world? Leave a comment below and let us know.

What do I think? I think you should be more specific.

Most of you probably know that engagement is the key to social media success, but engagement is not, I repeat NOT following up a blog post, or social media post by asking your audience, “what do you think?” What do I think about what? The weather, my lunch, the colour of my shirt? Asking your audience what they think is one of the broadest questions you could possibly ask.

Be Specific

If you want to avoid silence, ask a specific question that directly relates to whatever it is you are posting. For example, if you posted a third party link regarding Canada’s Anti Spam Legislation, ask your audience what is one way the new CASL law will affect their marketing efforts or ask what one thing they hope CASL will do for marketers? By asking questions that directly relates to specific content, you better your chances of getting comments and creating genuine conversation.

Be Network Appropriate

Obviously, you can’t post an introductory paragraph before asking a question on Twitter, but you can on Facebook! If you are looking to engage on Twitter, try asking a question relating to a timely event, perhaps something everyone knows about. For example, if you are nearing a national holiday, such as Canada Day, ask your audience what their favourite Canada Day activity is. You could also tell them (in brief) what you’re doing to celebrate. On Facebook and Google+ you could include a link to Canada Day activities, ask what events they have attended in the past and also suggest activities no one may have thought of before – or ask your audience for suggestions. 

Be Prepared to Answer

When you do ask a question on social media that generates answers, reply! A lot of people on Twitter get frustrated when someone poses a question and they answer within seconds of the post publishing and their answers are followed up with… nothing. This tells your audience that your questions are not genuine and that your posts are scheduled. A good question will get an answer, so be prepared to answer in a timely fashion with more questions or information to keep the conversation going.

The key to engaging with your audience is to demonstrate that the questions you are asking serve a purpose. Why are you asking a question? What do you want to know? By asking a direct question regarding a specific subject you are telling your audience that you genuinely care about what they have to say and want to hear from them. If your question is too open-ended, you won’t get many responses because people won’t know how to answer. The more specific your questions are, the more answers you will receive.

What is one type of question you always answer? What’s the worst question you have ever seen asked on social media?