Do as I say...

"Keep your business blog updated to keep your website content dynamic and keep people coming back for new, original and high-quality content." That's what I tell my clients all the time. Thankfully, they listen. And that's why I've been so busy in the past several years! 

However, in a case of "do as I say, not as I do," I have not kept my own blog updated. 

do as i say

I FINALLY updated my website and I'm back to blogging. Pay no attention to the dates above the posts on the "Words Matter" blog, they're dates of import, not dates the posts were originally written. I did a little editing out of posts that were no longer relevant, but kept some that may now look a little dated. 

I'll be updating this space with great information about content and social media marketing and management, so stay tuned! 

Did I nail my 2013 predictions?

My first post of 2013 was a bunch of my educated predictions about content and social media. So, did I nail my predictions last year?!

social media predictions

FROM 2013: MOBILE
Whatever you’re producing, make it work on a mobile device. A recent study by Google found that 72 percent of consumers want websites to be mobile-friendly and that 96 percent of respondents have visited a site that does not play well with their mobile device. In 2012, there was an 80 percent increase in the number of email opens on mobile devices, according to a study by Litmus.

Any piece of content you have or produce had better be mobile device-friendly this year. If it’s not, count on losing at least half of your readers/viewers by next year.

UPDATE: Nailed it. The focus is going to be even more on mobile this year.

FROM 2013: UNIQUE AND AWESOME
Giving people an easy way to share content, like a handy “tweet” or Facebook “post” button, is always a great idea. Asking people to share your content is so over. Your job is to create something that is so amazing people will be compelled to share it and will do so on their own. There’s a lot of content clutter out there, you aren’t going to be able to “Please RT” your way out of it any longer.

UPDATE: Nailed it. The secret’s out and everyone is producing content. Lots of it is bad, some of it is good and about 1 percent is excellent. There’s even more content out there now, so you’d better create something amazing to get you noticed.

content marketing predictions

FROM 2013: RECYCLING
If you’ve got valuable information, make it work for you. Repurpose your content across many different formats so you reach the largest audience possible. Create a Slideshare presentation, a video, a podcast, a blog post and expand it into an exclusive article. You just got five separate impact points out of one basic set of information. And you’re going to where your audience is, not forcing them into one format you’ve chosen for them.

UPDATE: Nailed it. Don’t make your audience work hard to find you, bring your content to them in its many forms. Keep repurposing, but don’t duplicate. Enhance your content as you find new venues for it (i.e. this blog post).

FROM 2013: ONLY YOU
If your organization doesn’t have custom data, go out and gather some. When you’ve got exclusive facts, figures, measurements and knowledge that no one else possesses, you can create completely original content everyone will want. Of course, the information has to be valuable, but when you know your niche and you know your audience, you’ll easily be able to serve up the information they crave.

UPDATE: Nailed it. 2013 was the year of “big data.” Giving your audience exclusive information they can’t find anywhere else is more important every day as our fields of vision become cluttered with endless information.

FROM 2013: ALL EYES
While tools like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck are very useful for social media monitoring, if last year taught us anything it was that there is no substitute for human eyes and attention. Automated promotional tweets in the middle of a stream during a national news event (or worse, a tragedy) are simply not acceptable. More and more Twitter users are calling them out and it looks bad for your brand. Two words: Pay attention.

UPDATE: Nailed it. Home Depot’s agency tweeted an image many felt was racist and that image was retweeted thousands of times before it was removed. British grocery chain Tesco left its auto tweet function on while shoppers freaked out about a horse meat scandal, but all was well at Tesco. All was well at Tesco. All was well at Tesco. You get the point. These disasters continue to happen. All eyes on deck.

new year predictions

FROM 2013: EASY
Human beings are programmed by evolution to expend the least amount of energy to get the greatest reward. In order to succeed in getting people to read, respond to and interact with your content, you need to make that as easy as possible. Don’t make people click away to get to what you need them to see and don’t make them jump through hoops. Catering to the laziest nature of human beings is almost always a successful strategy.

Update: Nailed it. This is timeless advice. If you need someone to do something, make it so, so easy they can’t say no.

2013 Side note: This is why Instagram should have played nice with Twitter instead of pulling their service. People now have to click away from Twitter to see Instagram photos. Many, including me, simply won’t do it and Instagram will lose market share.

instagram

Update: FAIL! Instagram is thriving while Facebook (Instagram’s owner) is on the decline. Be careful what you wish for with your IPOs, when you try to monetize every single thing social media users have come to rely on and enjoy, they will find a new thing to rely on and enjoy. Change is hard, but it’s not impossible. Heads up, Facebook.


9 content marketing and social media upgrades you'll see in 2014

I am immersed in the worlds of content marketing and social media every single day. The only recent exception was when we spent Christmas Eve on a rural sheep farm where I unplugged because I had to. Confession: I’m so enmeshed in these worlds that sometimes I even dream in hashtags and tweets.

From everything I’ve seen in 2013 and everything I’ve read on the subjects (and my RSS feed runneth over), I put together my top nine picks for the upgrades you’ll likely see in content marketing and social media in 2014.

CONTENT

Mobile, Mobile, Mobile

Ninety one percent of all people on the planet have a mobile phone and 50 percent of mobile phone owners use mobile as their primary Internet source. Every minute your content is not mobile-friendly is time you’re losing audience and money. Mobile was important in 2013, mobile will be even more important in 2014.

mobile website minneapolis

Disrupt the Disruptions

Disruptive marketing (and disruptive advertising and disruptive innovation, etc.) has been buzzing for years, but with so many disruptions and distractions, the focus is now on disrupting the disruptions. Tablet devices (like the iPad) and 3-D printing have recently been considered big disruptions, but now the advertisers, marketers and innovators need to figure out how to startle us to attention in new and ever more ingenious ways. Let’s get to work.

Creativity is King

Everywhere you looked in 2013 you saw the phrase, “Content is king.” Repurposing content, curating content and similar concepts were very popular and remain beneficial. However, if you really want to get eyes on your content and add value, you have to be original and creative. Everyone is now creating content, so simply putting “stuff” out there is no longer enough. 2014 will be the year to really make your content stand out, so put your thinking cap on (and find a pro or a team to help — it’s not a one person job).

Be Everywhere

You must have a website, you should have a blog, but if you want to get found by your target audience, youneed to be everywhere. Be online, be offline, be on every relevant social channel and be original in every space. Sound like a lot of work? It is. That will be another thing to look for in 2014 — that all this work is paying off.

content marketing

What’s In It For Me?

In every single piece of content you put out into the universe you must focus on what’s in it for your audience. Without a clear payoff, no one really cares what you think. Whether they admit it or not, everyone really wants to know, “What’s in it for me?” In 2014, if the reward isn’t obvious, it’s oh so easy to quickly move on to your competitors.

SOCIAL MEDIA

facebook business page

Facebook On The Decline

There have been whispers, there have been studies, but in 2014, Facebook’s user base will likely start to noticeably decline. Why? Most users understand that when they use a free service they have to put with a certain amount of annoyance (ads, information collection, etc.). However, ever since their IPO, Facebook has really been piling this stuff on and users are starting to lose trust and interest. Too many parents are on Facebook for younger audiences to spend much time there. Facebook changed its algorithms and if businesses and nonprofit organizations want people to actually see what they’re posting, they now need to pay to play. The decline will be gradual, but it will pick up speed in 2014. Where will people go?

Emergence Of New Social Channels

New social channels are emerging all the time — some catch on, some don’t. Snapchat was big in 2013. Who knows what will come along in 2014!? But as businesses become increasingly alienated by Facebook forcing them into paid ads and with fewer Facebook users viewing those ads, the market is ripe for social spaces to fill that gap.

ABOR

Which, of course, stands for: Always Be Online and Responsive. Our attention spans have become much shorter. When people ask a question or complain online, they expect a rapid response. In 2014, you will need to act quickly and make things happen. There’s no time to be running every tweet past the legal department, so have a policy in place and know that flexibility will be required. Then be out there and be monitoring. Or be sorry.

social media community

“Communitizing” Communities

Very few businesses have a homogeneous target audience. Your ideal customers probably span industries and interests. 2014 is the time to specifically test, address and cater to each niche to experience deeper, more meaningful connections. If you’re a car company, your racing aficionados are separate from the parents interested in a reliable, affordable family vehicle. Yes you should have a company voice (and yes, this is a simplistic analogy), but you need to have unique communications within each segment. And in 2014, this means taking things offline as well.

There you have it, my educated predictions for what we’ll see in content marketing and social media in 2014. Let me know what you’d like to see happen in those spaces as we ring in the new year!

How will the latest Google update affect you?

So Google has updated its SEO/content recognition algorithm again. What does this mean for your business?

Probably nothing.

google update

1) Stop stressing about it.

2) As long as you’re doing content right, you can ignore the onslaught of blog posts that advise you to change all your strategy and tactics.

How to do content right:

Produce consistent, high-quality, original content relevant to your business and you’re going to be just fine.

google algorithm

Not sure if your content is high-quality or relevant? Need help? 
Let me know: Lynne (at) SocialVisibilityConsulting.com. I’ll talk you through it.

Which social media space should you be in?

One of the questions I’m asked most frequently is, “What social media space should I be in?” Unless you hire a social media community manager (and feel free to contact me about that!) the average business, regardless of size, doesn’t have much time to spend building, growing and engaging on social media. So choose your social media space wisely and make your time there count.

Here’s a cheat sheet that can help:

FACEBOOK

should i have a business facebook account

You should probably be on Facebook and make the world’s most popular social network a part of your content strategy. Why?

* 67 percent of all U.S. Internet users are on Facebook
* 83 percent of adults ages 18-29 are on Facebook, but the fastest growing age bracket is ages 45-54
* Facebook is currently the most popular social media app on smartphones

But likes don’t necessarily lead to business. Facebook is most popular with B2C companies (like personal care products, clothing, restaurants, etc.), but B2B companies (such as technology companies) can use it successfully as well. Use Facebook as a place to connect with your target audience(s) and to share images and information virtually without limits (no 140 characters max, for example). It’s a great place to engage users through contests as well as to humanize your brand/business with exclusive content.

Have a purpose for each post and multiple goals you’d like each post to achieve (X number of likes, a certain number of click-throughs to a blog post, etc.) Relevant visuals perform well, but relevant is the key word here. If it’s not relevant and you’re just pulling it out of thin air for the express purpose of having something, anything, to post to Facebook, don’t bother. And remember, as Facebook continues to expand its advertising efforts, its influence is fading among users.

Bottom line: Be there, use it, engage, but don’t put all your eggs in the Facebook basket and be realistic with your expectations.

Twitter

should my business be on twitter

If you’re ready to build and/or be part of an online community, Twitter is a great place to be. Why?

* Twitter has 231 million active users monthly and 100 million daily active users
* Nearly 30 percent of U.S. Internet users ages 15-34 use Twitter
* And 75 percent of users access Twitter on a mobile device

Want your audience to take you with them? Be on Twitter. You must have content to push out on Twitter. It doesn’t all have to be original content — it’s perfectly acceptable to curate the content of others as long as you’re crediting where it came from. But that makes much less of an impact and certainly doesn’t drive people to your business or website. Every social network has a different purpose and different audiences so automatically cross posting between networks (like auto posting your Twitter updates to Facebook, for example) is pointless. It’s a waste of time and annoys people.

Twitter is for asking questions, sharing information and building communities around businesses, brands, causes, etc.

Bottom line: Twitter’s not for everyone. Explore, follow and determine if you can give it the proper amount of time (at least an hour or two per day, typically) to build, grow and engage a community. If you can’t participate properly, at least keep an eye on it to listen in and learn.

LinkedIn

linkedin for business

If you are a professional human being, just be on LinkedIn. Why?

* More than 225 million people use LinkedIn
* The most active users are ages 35-54, college educated with higher income levels
* Unlike many other social networks, a higher percentage of men use LinkedIn than women

LinkedIn is all about professional growth, virtual networking and targeted content sharing through groups. If you’re looking for B2B connections, being active on LinkedIn can help (LinkedIn is by far the biggest referer to my blog posts). It’s also a great place to search for employees or a new job.

Bottom line: Be on LinkedIn and at the very least, check in weekly. Join groups, engage, contribute and help others and you’ll get much more out of the network. It’s primarily for building businesses, not so much for selling consumer goods.

Pinterest

business pinterest account

If you have a very visual brand/business that especially caters to women, Pinterest is the place for you.  Why?

* Pinterest has 70 million users and each visit to the site lasts nearly 15 minutes
* 80 percent of Pinterest users are woman
* Nearly 20 percent of users have an annual income of more than $75,000

If you’re a high-end, aspirational business, you want your product/service to be “Pinspiration” for someone. Your content must be very visual and original. The most popular Pinterest boards and brands include food, crafts, home/design, fashion, gardens, etc.

Bottom line: If you’re not a consumer-facing brand or your brand/products fall outside of what’s most popular on Pinterest, you can probably skip this social network. It like won’t yield the engagement or results you desire for the time you’ll end up putting into it.

Tumblr

should my business be on tumblr

If your target market skews younger and you have a story to tell, Tumblr might just be the place for you. Why?

* 13 percent of 18-29 year olds use Tumblr with a nearly equal split between male and female
* Tumblr’s users are clustered at the lower end of the income scale (not unusual when you’re young) and the very high-end
* Tumblr achieves about 13 billion views worldwide per month and has a lot of casual (rather than regular) users. But the average time spent on the site is 32 minutes per visit

Tumblr is also a highly visual social network where liking and reblogging (typically verbatim) are shows of approval. Because users tend to be young, it’s a great place to build brand and business loyalty. Use Tumblr to tell stories and to target niche audiences. I’m very proud of my work on the General Mills History Tumblr and so far, it’s been a big hit.

Bottom line: If your content strategy includes compelling storytelling, can be broken into unique niches and skews toward younger audiences, Tumblr could be a great place for you.

Instagram

should my business be on instagram

If you’ve got a very visual brand/product/service and your target market is a moving target, Instagram is worth participating in. Why?

* 43 percent of cell phone users ages 18-29 are on Instagram and it’s an even split between men and women
* Nearly a quarter of users are on Instagram multiple times daily

Instagram is first and foremost a visual medium. If you’re location-based (restaurants, landmark, etc.) or are marketing something that outta be in pictures, Instagram is a great and unique social network.

Instagram is more status-based (“I am here,” and “Look at me wearing this”) than product based. Just taking a photo of a product isn’t going to engage anyone. Keep it creative and unique and use relevant hashtags and you’ll have a good chance at garnering likes (which are more prevalent than shares on the network). Instagram plays nice with Facebook, but it does not play nice with Twitter, so you may need to keep that in mind while developing your content strategy.

Bottom line: If you’ve got exiting things to look at (or new and exciting ways to look at something typically mundane) and you’re looking to be a pioneer where there aren’t many companies, Instagram is a great place.

G+

should my business be on google plus

Bottom line: If you have Gmail, you already have a G+ account. Everyone has a G+ account. No one seems to actually be doing anything with it.


If you’re pushing out original content on other social networks, post it to Google Plus for the search engine value. That’s it.

Hope this was helpful. As always, your business is unique and social media strategy should be tailored to your business goals and the needs of your target audience. Please feel free to contact me with questions about which social media space you should be in — Lynne (at) SocialVisibilityConsulting.com. And if your social media efforts don’t seem to be cutting it, a social media audit can save the day and provide invaluable feedback and direction.


Your website is home base

Home base is not just for baseball fields or playing tag. Whether or not your business has a brick and mortar location, your website is your face to the world — the first stop for people to discover you or drop by.  Unfortunately, even today, too many businesses believe that a static placeholder page or a website that hasn’t been touched in years is fine. These people are wrong. They’re hurting their business and they’re making the Internet suck.

Why is it important to have a functional and well-designed home base?

website home page

* You’d like people to know who you are and what you do

That’s kind of the point of being in business, right? I mean, if no one knows who you are or what you do, your business isn’t exactly going to be a screaming success.  Your home page is like the receptionist of your business. If you found an intriguing business, walked into the office and asked the receptionist, “What is this business? What do you do here?” And he or she said, “Back in 1992, Bob and Shelley realized that people were living without help in their small businesses so they decided to start this business to help small business owners with administrative and bookkeeping…” You already turned around and walked out the door when the words, “Back in 1992…” were spoken. Blah, blah, blah, too much information, didn’t answer the question and I have no idea what’s in it for me.

On the other hand, if you’d asked the receptionist and he or she said, “ABC Office provides affordable, professional administrative and bookkeeping to small business owners. We’re good at organization and numbers, so you can be good at your business.” You’d know right away if ABC Office was something that solved a problem for you and you’d want to know more.

* You’d like people to *care* who you are and what you do

It’s not enough that people know who you are and what you do. Yes, that information is vital, but you need to let potential customers know what’s in it for them. A clear presentation of your value proposition will let them know you understand their problem and you can make that problem go away with your product or service. Absolutely make your “About Us” page an amazing, compelling story, but if you can’t clearly tell people how you’ll help them, they won’t really care about who you are.

* You’d like people to try or buy or contact you (or take some other action that helps you make money)

Home base is action-oriented. When you’re playing baseball, your goal is to cross home base. When you’re in a game of tag, you run to home base to be safe from “it.” You need your website to provide clear calls to action using the tone and wording that will resonate with your audience. If you have a nonprofit organization and your goal is to get people to donate, you should give them every opportunity to donate without being too salesy or too emotionally manipulative. If that organization’s website just presents a long story about the inspiration behind the organization, no one is going to make it to the “donate now” button at the bottom of the page.

website seo

* You’d like people to find you in the first place

If you’ve hidden home base, no one is ever going to get that home run. And if home base hasn’t been touched in 15 years and is covered with branches and spiders, no one wants to touch the thing. Same deal with your website. If your site hasn’t been updated in years, people will think you’re out of business. When you’ve got quality website content, you can organically incorporate keywords that will help search engines find you (which, in turn, will help humans find you). Keeping a blog is an easy way to keep your website updated, share your stories and expertise and make your site keyword-rich to help get you a higher search rank.

Take care of your website. Make sure your home base is functional, useful for your current and future customers and helps your business. Not sure how your site stacks up? Need suggestions to improve your home base? Contact me at Lynne (at) SocialVisibilityConsulting.com. I’m here to help.

The social media manager is NOT dead

Growth in positions with the title “social media manager” might be on the decline, but if you’re part of an organization with a big investment in the social sphere, you should most certainly have one or more dedicated social media managers, no matter what title you give them.

Ryan Holmes, CEO of HootSuite, recently wrote an article for Fortune declaring, “The social media manager is dead. Long live social media.” In it, he cited the fact that the “social media manager” job title is on its way out and that there is a fundamental change in the way social media is used within organizations. He’s right on both counts, but if you’ve invested in the social space and are seeing huge growth and a return on that investment through increased interactions, leads, sales, visits, etc. you should certainly have at least one person, if not a team, (on staff or a third-party) overseeing your social media efforts.

social media manager

Why?

1) Social media is everyone’s responsibility
Yes it is and every business should have a social media policy they use to train every single employee. But who’s steering that ship? Who’s leading by example? Who’s keeping an eye on compliance and consistency? And who’s going to do damage control if an employee goofs?

I’m 100 percent on board with sharing knowledge with everyone, but every zoo needs a keeper and if you haven’t been on social media lately, it’s a freakin’ jungle out there. This oversight could fall onto a marketing manager’s to-do list, of course, but it depends on where and how often your business is in that social space. It’s a time suck and can easily be a full-time, round the clock job.

2) Social media is part of the broader business strategy
Yes, and it absolutely should be. Social media is not just marketing or customer service or sales, it’s part of all of those things and more. But wouldn’t it be great if all those separate, often disparate, departments had a person or team responsible for setting the voice and tone and leading the conversation? Someone who could help communicate between departments to avoid overlap and make sure no opportunity is missed? Oh wait…that might be a social media manager.

3) Concentrating authority doesn’t make sense
Sometimes having one person in charge of all or most social media for an organization makes sense. That needs to be evaluated on a case by case basis. In some instances, concentrating social media authority does not, in fact, make sense. In the event that multiple people have their hands in your company’s social media, see points one and two above.

Change the title, expand the responsibilities, but don’t sound the death knell for the social media manager yet. In fact, the need to monitor, protect, expand on and capitalize on your organization’s social media investment is greater than ever and you should have someone dedicated to looking out for you in the great social media universe.

Save the Internet, hire a writer

I’m serious — if you’re launching a business website, hire a writer and the Internet will suck less.

A friend of mine recently launched a new business and shared the brand spankin’ new website all over social media. I was really excited to check it out. This person is brilliant, a real change maker and a true innovator. The website is beautifully designed and I’m a relatively intelligent person, but after scouring the site I can’t figure out what it is, exactly, that this new business does. I think it’s safe to say that’s not a screaming success of a business launch. And what a missed opportunity! I’m (obviously) a big advocate for having content marketing and social media strategies. But if you don’t have the budget for that then, at the very least, work with a writer on your website content.

hire a writer

Here’s why working with a writer can help your business and make the Internet a better place:

I write so you can stay immersed in your business

You’re busy with your business. It should be that way! You do what you do everyday and you probably think about it every other second of everyday. You’re immersed in your industry and the day-to-day operation, sales, marketing and more. A writer can bring a much-needed third-party perspective to the mix and ask critical questions to reveal information necessary for your target audience. Just a few strategic questions can help you get crystal clear on who you are and what your message needs to be. You do your business, your writer will help communicate your story and let your audience know what’s in it for them.

I write to help you discover

I ask a question, you tell me a story. You think it’s a throwaway bit of conversation, I just found an amazing information nugget to build into a page (or blog post) that positions you as an industry expert. You hear your own thoughts and hear yourself speak all the time, your writer can help you pull out the platinum information and edit the rest.

I write because you’re in a complicated industry

Healthcare, finance, engineering, tech … all very complex industries and it’s often extremely frustrating to explain what you do to your audience in the industry, not to mention “outsiders.” Many writers have experience in taking intricate, elaborate subjects and distilling them down to an easier-to-understand (and marketable) essence.

I write so people can find you

Every page and element of your website content should be optimized so you show up in searches and people can easily find you. Are you optimizing your content?

I write so your audience takes action

Your website isn’t just FYI, right? Presumably, if you’ve taken the time to create a website, you’d like your target audience to do something once they’ve found you. Whether it’s contacting you, trying a product, making a purchase or something equally important to your sales funnel or bottom line, your website copy should be action-oriented.

I could go on, but ultimately I’d like you to take this action: Don’t waste a golden opportunity — hire a writer to make sure your website is working for you. Contact me at Lynne (at) SocialVisibilityConsulting.com or use this resource (one of many available) to find a writer that meets your needs.

how to hire a writer


Use your words: Five reasons you should be speaking on stage

Call me crazy, but I love public speaking. Love it. It’s good for me, it’s good for my business and I hope it’s good for the people to whom I’m speaking. I know it can be intimidating, but here are five really compelling reasons that you, too, should be speaking on stage.

All eyes on you
You’re in the spotlight, your business, your brand, your message, your voice. You’ve got a captive audience and, as long as you’re communicating effectively, you’ve got a pretty sweet deal going on.

Instant in
You’re in front of a room full of people, most of whom are just friends you haven’t met yet. And you’ve instantly got something in common because they know something about you and you just spent a whole bunch of time giving them an open for a conversation. Invaluable and practically endless networking and connection potential.

ignite minneapolis

Makes you the topic of conversation and gives you something to talk about
Drum up excitement for the event ahead of time, encourage people to live Tweet your presentation, give them a hashtag or use the predetermined event hashtag, write a blog post about your experience, capitalize on any media coverage and more. Not only are you providing content, you’re creating it at the same time.

Learning
When you’re speaking at an event, you likely have the opportunity to hear others speak as well. It’s a golden opportunity to learn from them — the knowledge they’re sharing and even their speaking style. Absorb away.

It’s fun
I may be in the minority, but I love public speaking no matter what the size of the group. I’ve taught small classes and spoken in front of full theaters. I’m not an actress and am terrible at remembering lines, but when I craft a presentation about a topic I’m passionate about and can work off a rough outline, I love to share my knowledge and spark conversations. The energy  and potential in a room fuels me.

Take, for example, my recent presentation at Ignite Minneapolis. This was a strict format which presented another layer of challenge — exactly 20 slides, five minutes. It’s a breathless run through of the philosophy I attempt to live and do business by every day. Let me know what you think! And remember that I’m available for, open to and delighted to entertain speaking opportunities (I don’t typically speak as quickly as I had to in this video).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WswwwCYRUAU

 

Build, grow and engage your Twitter community

Twitter is a crazy beast. People use it for so many different reasons — keeping in touch with friends, political organizing, reading the latest news, sharing selfies taken in bathroom mirrors, for example. But Twitter is also a fantastic business tool, if you work to build, grow and engage your community. So…how does one go about doing that?

build twitter audience

Build

* Have a strategy — know what you want to use Twitter for. Do you want to drive sales, build your reputation as a thought leader, connect with customers? Having a clear purpose on Twitter can help you build and connect with the people who can help you accomplish your goals.

* Start following people, but don’t blindly follow anyone and everyone. Follow your ideal customers, follow their followers, follow your competitors, follow people with whom you share interests and missions, follow people in your local area, follow influencers in your industry, follow some of their followers, follow people who can help you meet your business goals. Never mas follow people (no more than 100 people per day, if that) or Twitter will think you’re a spam robot (a ‘bot).

* Be yourself, but try to stay in line with your mission. If you’re choosing to use one Twitter account for business and pleasure, be careful about engaging with hot topics, politics, controversial pop culture, etc. I maintain separate business and personal accounts for this very reason. Remember, being yourself includes having a clear photo of yourself — not an egg, not your dog.

grow twitter audience

Grow

* Participate, don’t be a passive observer or a lurker. Ask questions, take part in conversations, answer questions. You can be self-promotional occasionally, but only a small percentage of the time. Above all, be useful.

* Use hashtags (such as #socialmedia) to connect your tweets to specific topics or discussions.  Don’t overdo it, one or two appropriate hashtags per tweet and don’t hashtag every single tweet.

* If someone posts content you find useful, actively converse with them. Share the content. Ask others to share your content as well.

* IMPORTANT: Create high-quality, useful, original content to share and be shared.

* Add your Twitter account information to other social media pages as well as to your email signature and your e-newsletter, business card, etc. Let people know you’re active on the network.

* Promote select tweets using Twitter ads. You can specifically target industries, geographic regions, demographics and effectively drive traffic from Twitter to your website or blog for just a few dollars each month.

* Blogs, websites and other social media outlets are great tools to help you grow your Twitter following. Run a Twitter contest and ask people to retweet a follow you then retweet a phrase or link for a chance to win a prize.

twitter conversation

Engage

* Check in to Twitter a few times per day. Don’t tweet (or reply) then walk away for hours. You wouldn’t do that in a face-to-face conversation, don’t do it online. 

* Take it off Twitter– if you’ve got a community of people with similar interests or you find yourself having frequent conversations with certain twitter users, meet up in person (if local) or host a G+ Hangout on the topic you have in common or to solve a common problem. 

* Host online “Tweetups” with short hashtags specific to the topic (#XYZMktg, for example). Take on the position of expert in your industry and answer questions or invite industry experts (and participants) to ask and answer questions. 

* When at events, use the event-specific hashtag to ask questions and engage event participants as well as those who aren’t on site, but are participating online.

* Take it up a notch and give people something they can’t get anywhere else — be unique and always remember, “What is in it for your audience? What’s the payoff for them?”

Not sure if or how Twitter fits into your social media plans? Contact me at Lynne (at) SocialVisibilityConsulting.com and I’ll help you come up with a strategy (I can even tweet for you). Happy tweeting and feel free to follow me @SocialViz

How to win at Pinterest

It’s no secret that I love social media. For staying in touch with friends and family, I use Facebook. For keeping track of the weird and fleeting meme-worthy world, I use Tumblr.  To build community and find news, I use Twitter. But Pinterest…oh, Pinterest is my guilty pleasure. I use it as a wish list, for gift ideas, for DIY inspiration, for day dreaming about what I’ll do when I win the lottery and, most importantly, to organize thousands of recipes (which we actually cook from). I also manage Pinterest accounts for clients and it can be very important as part of an overall social media strategy, but it’s not for every business or brand.

So, how do you win at Pinterest?

* First, make sure it’s appropriate for your company/brand/product. Pinterest is growing in leaps and bounds, currently there are more than 70 million users and the average length of stay on the site is more than 14 minutes per person. BUT, the most popular brands and companies on Pinterest are still primarily B2C and the audience is overwhelmingly female.

* If you’re a B2B company and have determined that your target audience is on Pinterest, you cancreatively capitalize on what you’ve got to build interest and drive engagement. Create boards inspired by your company mission or mascot(s), create group boards and allow employees and customers to pin what inspires them. Express business concepts visually, use infographics. Even tools you use everyday can inspire a board a la Photoshop Fails.

pinterest success

Know what your audience wants and inspire them by giving them what they want. If you’re part of an education-related company, for example, create classroom idea and back to school boards for teachers,

Make it easy to pin, buy and share. If your company sells a product and you pin something product-related, make it easy for a “pinspired” user to buy with just a click. Add a Pin It button to your website next to products, images, infographics, etc. to make it easy for people to pin your content directly from the source. Add links to other social networks, where appropriate, to make your content easy to share across other social media.

Be strategic. Segment your audience, segment your boards and selectively pin the best of the best. Don’t just randomly pin everything in sight. Get inspired, be inspirational, but don’t stray too far away from your business goals and purpose.

* Pinterest is a visual medium, so if you’re pinning original content, it MUST have a strong and compelling visual component. Pin descriptions count too — keep them brief and tell people why the content is relevant to them.

Timing isn’t everything on Pinterest. So many users are on the site at so many times for so many different reasons (you’ll often find me pinning at 1:00 am from my e-reader when I can’t sleep). Pin throughout the day and you’ll have a better chance of your pins being found. Timeless pins do better on Pinterest as they have a lot longer lifespan than a tweet or Facebook post.

Be social, reward fans. Promote your presence on Pinterest across your other social channels like your Facebook page, Twitter posts and through email marketing. Do not, however, post or tweet everything you pin. That’s annoying and obtrusive. Reward and engage fans by pinning their content as well. A “Blogger Creations Inspired By XYZ Baking Mix,” for example. Follow your top pinners, respond when people comment on your boards and leave non-self-promotional comments on the boards of others.

Still not sure if Pinterest fits into your social media plans, contact me at Lynne (at) SocialVisibilityConsulting.com and I’ll help you figure it out. In the meantime, happy pinning and feel free to follow me on Pinterest – where nearly zero percent of what I pin is business-related.

How to write your brand story

Every brand has a story, but it’s up to you to make it interesting, authentic and relevant to your audience. Don’t miss this opportunity to connect with your audience and help control perception and conversation surrounding your brand, here’s how to write your brand story.

1. In everything you do, keep your eye on the prize and focus on what’s in it for the audience. If you’re just telling your story to tell your story, no one will care.

2. Start with the idea
This can be the idea behind your company, your brand, your signature product or just about any idea, but you need to have a central “story line” to follow.

Apple’s iPhone 5 “FaceTime” commercial, for example, starts off with the idea to feature a signature capability of their signature product — FaceTime. It’s a story built on stories simply showing how people of all ages all over the world and in all situations use the iPhone and FaceTime to enhance life’s moments and connect. That’s a pretty powerful idea.

brand story

3. Add characters
You can’t have a story without characters. Jack Daniel, for example, was a real (and mysterious) person. Since not much is known about him, the Jack Daniel’s whiskey brand has given him a personality to help tell their brand story and to sell whiskey. You may feel like an old timey American legend while you’re sipping some Jack Daniel’s whiskey or you may prefer to live like “the most dangerous man in the world” and drink a Dos Equis. Your character should be authentic. A character in an ad campaign is different from the character(s) driving your brand story.

4. Show emotion
No one wants to have to see or read a dry, boring, clipped and concise story of how your brand came to be. “Sarah and John talked, they had a great idea for Product W, so they decided to become business partners, manufacture and sell Product W. Today, it’s a very popular product.” Technically, that is a brand story, but it’s not an interesting story. But when you reveal that Sarah and John had been childhood friends and actually talked about the idea behind Product W on the playground when they were 10 years old, the story becomes more interesting. Peel back another layer and tell loyal Product W users that while Sarah and John were building their business they also fell in love and got married and the story becomes more intriguing. Love, heartbreak, triumph, anger — emotions are very compelling in brand stories.

how to write your brand story

5. Set the scene
Where did it all begin? What were the problems or challenges to be overcome? What was the turning point when the brand successfully broke through? How were the problems and challenges resolved? Provide colorful details and describe the story in a way that makes your audience feel like they lived the history and can be a part of the future.

6. Bring it up to the present and set a vision for the future
Your brand story is evolving and is a snapshot in time, but bring your audience at least up to the present. If you have a clear vision for where you’d like to go in the future, lay it out there and give your audience ways to get there together.

Remember that the most important thing to weave into every step is what’s in it for your audience. After that, be clear, be consistent and let your brand voice shine through. If this sounds like a lot of work, you don't know where to start or if you get stuck along the way, I'm here to help!

A week in the life...

I wear a lot of hats: Business owner, writer, editor, content strategist, social media strategist, social media tactician, social media junkie, devourer of words and information and so much more. Some of the clients I write for don’t realize I work in social media. Some of the clients I manage social media for don’t realize I can also contribute to their blogs. So I decided to lay it all out there, give you a glimpse into Social Visibility Consulting and share a week in the life of a writer, content strategist and social media specialist. I hope it’s as interesting for you as it is for me.

social media schedule

Monday:

* Plot out and record planned Tumblr posts for the week for a client.
* Throughout the day, tweet new link(s), respond to fan tweets and questions and work with customer service to resolve issues posted on Twitter for client.
* Update client Pinterest pages.
* Finish rush copy editing project and send to client.
* Post news article to LinkedIn for client.
* Post to Instagram for client
* Write “Words Matter” blog post for SVC.
* Post “Words Matter” blog post and promote in LinkedIn groups.
* Check client blog for comments to moderate.
* Check engagement numbers for clients and personal social media.
* Schedule Tumblr posts for client.
* Late night read through RSS feed blog posts and take notes on great ideas.

Tuesday:

* Compile new blog post ideas and send to Olive and Company.
* Promote “Words Matter” blog post on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and G+.
* Throughout the day, tweet new (links), respond to fan tweets and questions and work with customer service to resolve issues posted on Twitter for client.
* Post information on G+ for client.
* Final read through web copy project and send to client.
* Check client blog for comments to moderate.
* Check engagement numbers for clients and personal social media.
* Sign up to attend August networking event.
* Late night read through RSS feed blog posts and take notes on great ideas.

Wednesday:

* Throughout the day, tweet new (links), respond to fan tweets and questions and work with customer service to resolve issues posted on Twitter for client.
* Check client blog for comments to moderate.
* Check engagement numbers for clients and personal social media.
* Explore speaking opportunities.
* Post to Instagram for client
* Write and publish post for personal blog.
* Late night read through RSS feed blog posts and take notes on great ideas.

social media schedule

Thursday:

* On-site meeting with client to drum up some fun and awesome new content.
* Throughout the day, tweet new (links), respond to fan tweets and questions and work with customer service to resolve issues posted on Twitter for client.
* Post information on G+ for client.
* Update client Pinterest pages.
* Final read through web copy project and send to client.
* Check client blog for comments to moderate.
* Check engagement numbers for clients and personal social media.
* Promote personal blog post across social media channels.
* Late night read through RSS feed blog posts and take notes on great ideas.

Friday: 
* Write a blog post for a client and publish it on their blog. This post was a culmination of several days of work tracking down sources and photos. What an utterly charming event in outstate Minnesota!
* Help a writer friend out by looking over/lightly editing a piece he’s working on.
* Throughout the day, tweet new (links), respond to fan tweets and questions and work with customer service to resolve issues posted on Twitter for client.
* Post information on G+ for client.
* Update client Pinterest pages.
* Final read through web copy project and send to client.
* Check client blog for comments to moderate.
* Check engagement numbers for clients and personal social media.
* Write e-newsletter content for Gifts for Seniors, a local nonprofit organization for whom I have the privilege of serving on the board of directors.

Add to this any projects or issues that come up during any point of the day or the week and you’ve got a week in the life of me and Social Visibility Consulting. I’m always ready to write your website, help you strategize and write your blog(s) and work with you to launch and/or grow your social media program(s). Contact me. I really love what I do and it shows. Become part of the life and times of SVC. And now here’s a photo of a sea lion winking and smiling because it makes me happy. Almost as happy as words make me.

What donuts teach us about social media

I recently returned from a trip to Portland, Oregon, my first time in that fair city. I visited museums and landmarks, hiked in the magical hills, contemplated bountiful gardens and ate some seriously amazing food, but I skipped one of the first things I’d put on my “must see” list: I did not go to Voodoo Doughnut.
Even after being chided by someone who said, “Going to Portland and NOT going to Voodoo Doughnut is like NOT going to Powell’s.” I did, for the record, visit Powell’s City of Books. It is huge, overwhelming and I could happily live there and read for the rest of my life.

Why did I not go to Voodoo Doughnut, one of the most notorious treat shops in Portland?
After talking to local friends, they made it very clear that Voodoo Doughnut had a great gimmick, but that’s all it was. If we were looking for adequate donuts shaped like a blunt or crusted with Fruit Loops and we wanted to stand in line for an hour to get those donuts, go for it. But if we wanted a really good donut that we couldn’t get anywhere else, we should go to Blue Star Donuts. Like Voodoo Doughnuts, the shop closes when they’re sold out of product. But unlike Voodoo Doughnuts, there are no goofy shapes, the flavors are top-notch, super creative and change regularly and there is often (and shockingly) no line to get into Blue Star Donuts.

And here is why Blue Star Donuts has my undying allegiance –

donuts social media

They make their donuts using French brioche dough, fill them with gorgeous creams and top them with things like luxurious Valrhona chocolate ganache with little chocolate “crack” balls, blueberry basil Bourbon glaze and salted caramel with chunks of hazelnuts. I got teary when we finished because I didn’t want those donuts to end.

No offense intended to Voodoo Doughnuts or the people who love them, I think they’ve got a great gimmick on their hands. It’s paid off for awhile and it will pay off for awhile longer. But gimmicks can get old quickly, especially when a new gimmick comes along and the original notoriety fades away. And when your gimmick is no longer in the spotlight, the pressure is on to come up with another, then another, then another.

So, what can donuts teach us about social media?

Be original

Be authentic

Craft carefully

Quality over quantity

Every successful social media gimmick (Chipotle’s faux Twitter “hack,” for example) spawns countless imitators with varying degrees of success. That’s not original nor is it authentic. It is, however, forgettable.

doughnuts social media

When you’re ready to ditch the social media gimmicks and build your authentic, carefully crafted and original voice, let me know. I can help. In the meantime, I’m going to my happy place to think about those amazing donuts.


Social media strategies for vacation

I was on vacation recently, but depending on how/where you follow me on social media, you may or may not have known that. I strongly believe in vacations and, though I work for myself and taking a “real” vacation usually isn’t completely possible, I try to live it up as much as possible with the following social media vacation strategies:

Plan ahead

I knew I needed to publish a post on my personal blog while I was away, so I wrote it before I left and saved it as a draft. Through the wonder of tools like Hootsuite, you too can plan ahead for nearly every content outlet, if necessary, with very little effort. However, while I endorse planning ahead for things like blog posts, I do not recommend auto Tweeting, Facebooking, G+ing (yeah, I know that’s not a verb), etc. while you are away. Why? You schedule a marketing tweet for Wednesday afternoon and promptly forget about it. While you are enjoying a hike in the mountains, a notable politician or celebrity passes away. In the middle of the well wishes and outpouring of grief, up pops your marketing tweet. Fail. If you can’t plan ahead and get someone else to take over your social media accounts, I highly recommend the next strategy.

social media vacation

Radio silence

It’s okay to be off social media for a while. Really, it is! If no one else will be taking over social media duties while you’re on vacation, prepare your adoring public by tweeting and posting that you’ll be away from social media from DATE to DATE and that any questions or concerns people have will be addressed upon your return. In the event there is a true emergency, odds are good you’ll get a screaming freak out phone call from someone at the office. Should that happen, you can either instruct others how to handle the crisis on social media or hop on your social channels and handle it yourself. Odds are good that nothing will happen in your absence.

Please and thank you

While I was on vacation, I used my personal Twitter account primarily to let restaurants/museums know we were coming and to call them out for a great meal/exhibit after we’d enjoyed ourselves. I try to call out great customer service in a timely manner and businesses (particularly small, local businesses) appreciate this. Please and thank you has the added bonus of letting people follow along with your adventures and providing you with a log of what you’ve done that day (events can become jumbled after days of walking and flying and visiting).

All business

I did have to take care of some client business while I was traveling, so I planned ahead and made sure I could do a bit of work based on my vacation timeline. We were on the west coast so I just stuck to the central time zone, got up “early” and worked in the morning and had someone else cover the afternoon, so I had plenty of time to explore and enjoy. I also didn’t allow myself to use that time to check any personal accounts — it was time for business and nothing else.

social media

Device-free zone

Vacations are meant to be enjoyed and experienced in the moment, not live tweeted or instantly Instagrammed. When you’re not working (or taking a breather at the end of the day catching up with Facebook), declare the rest of your vacation a device-free zone. And STICK WITH IT! Take pictures, but share them later (at the end of the vacation or, if you must, at the end of the day). Stay in contact if you need to, but not when you’re supposed to be relaxing and having fun.

Americans don’t get much vacation and it’s *really difficult* to take a vacation when you’re self-employed. Don’t let social media be a leash or choke your awesome trip — a few simple strategies can help you blend social media and vacation and keep your sanity. Happy travels!

Does your business SERIOUSLY not have a blog yet?

If you play any part of any business in any industry, you can’t possibly have missed the fact that there’s a lot of content out there. Websites, articles, case studies, white papers, blogs, podcasts, infographics, photos, videos and more. At its worst, it’s just low-value curated pieces or thinly veiled rip-offs of someone else’s hard work. At its best, it’s high-value information that provides knowledge and helps readers/users solve problems. The simplest, most basic way to be part of the content parade is to have a blog.

“But,” you may ask, “If there’s so much information out there already, what could my business possibly add? And what do we have to say that would make anyone pay attention?”

business blog

What your business could possibly add:

* Your knowledge. When you provide your in-depth knowledge to current or potential customers, you build trust. They also want to give something back to you, typically in the form of their business.

* Your thought leadership. Why are you the best at what you do? When you explore that question and share the answers, others will start seeing you as an expert.

* Your message. If you don’t control the message, someone else will. So get out there and be proactive.

* Your interpretation. This is especially important in complex industries, businesses or with complicated topics. When you break something that was previously confusing into information that’s usable in the “real world,” it does a great service for your audience. And they show their appreciation.

* Your presence. Current and potential customers are everywhere — your website, email, social media channels like Facebook, G+, Twitter and LinkedIn, YouTube, iTunes and more. You should be there too.

best business blog

Why people will pay attention:

* You give them a reason and ample opportunity to share across multiple social channels.

* You know your target audience and you know why people do business with you. You can turn that knowledge into valuable content to address their “pain points.” Potential customers see this, say, “Me too!” and take action.

* You’re engaging with your audience. Don’t just create content to blast people with your chosen message, engage with your target audience to find out what they want/need to know and solicit feedback on the solutions you’re offering. When you’re responsive in creating content, people also get the message that you have great service.

Need more reasons your business should have a blog?

According to Demand Metric:

* 60 percent of people are inspired to seek out a product after reading content about it

* 82 percent of consumers feel more positive about a company after reading custom content

* 90 percent of consumers find custom content useful

* On average, companies with blogs produce 67 percent more leads per month

It’s not always easy to get started with your business blog, there’s a lot to consider. What your focus should be, who should write and edit each post, plotting out your editorial calendar and more. But it’s important for your business, your reputation and your marketing so if you don’t know how to get started, hire someone. It’s a worthwhile investment. Contact me at Lynne (at) SocialVisibilityConsulting.com for more information and for ideas on how to get started with a blog for your business already!

Know your audience -- content edition

Any good comedian will tell you it’s crucial to know your audience. This concept was painfully demonstrated recently when the defense attorney in a notoriously contentious murder trial told a knock-knock joke as part of his opening statements. As you may have anticipated, it did not go over well. In a text-book demonstration of “know your audience,” I could just have you watch that video, drop the mic and walk away. But what does this have to do with your business, your website and your content? 

Whatever your business, you know it pays to know as much about your customer as possible. There are entire niche industries of research into who your customers are and what their habits are. If you’re even thinking about having a baby, your mailbox will suddenly have diaper coupons inside. How does Target know? Research. Lots of it.

know your audience

Since you’re already doing business, it’s likely you have a target audience in mind. When it comes to who you appeal to, at the very least, you should have a general idea of the following:

* Age range
* Gender
* Income level or business budget
* Education level
* Marital and family status

Ready to go deeper? Find out:

* Values
* How well are they informed? Where does their information come from?
* Are they early adopters or do they wait to jump on board a trend?

Here’s where content starts to fit in — build a profile (or multiple profiles) of your ideal consumers. If you’re selling take-and-bake pizza, for example, your typical consumer might:
* Be a woman in her late 20′s to early 30′s
* Middle income with a part-time job or is a stay-at-home-mom
* Married or divorced with the bulk of the custody of two to three children
* Values family, fun, brand names and good value (clips coupons)
* Gets most of her news from the early morning local newscast and occasionally from a 24-hour news channel, subscribes to the Sunday newspaper. Checks out celebrity gossip websites and mainstream news pages like the local newspaper or Yahoo News
* Most often will wait until several close friends endorse a product before purchasing it herself, will be an early adopter if she’s got a coupon or if the item is on sale

Give your typical consumer a name — Stephanie — and you’ve got a customer profile. This is content for internal use only, you don’t need to disclose this info to competitors.

target audience

Now that you’ve got Stephanie’s profile, you can build your website content (and other collateral copy) to fit her needs. It’s important to let visitors know who you are, but it’s equally important that you address their “pain points” and frustrations and how you can help.

In Stephanie’s case, she’s pressed for time, she loves her kids and wants to serve them a good meal that makes them happy, but she doesn’t have hours to spend in the kitchen. Your content should hit these points! She doesn’t really care much who you are and what you do, she wants to know what’s in it for her. And don’t we all?

“New Take-and-Bake Pizza from Pizza Planet! We make it, you bake it. A fresh, fast family favorite that’s ready in just 20 minutes. “

Now you’ve got Stephanie’s attention. Knowing your audience, and speaking directly to their, “So what? What’s in it for me?” thought process will give you far more effective content that converts visitors into paying customers. Much more effective than a home page that begins, “Since 1992 Pizza Planet has served the area’s favorite pizza…” Buzzer, time’s up … Stephanie is movin’ on. Don’t let that happen to you. Tell your story effectively and thoughtfully and give your audience a way to take immediate action and you’ll have a winner of a website.

You website content is losing you money

Your business has 99 problems, but website content isn’t one of them, right? Wrong. In fact, your website content can be a very high cost problem for your business.

Here’s why you may actively be throwing money straight into the trash:

Your website content hasn’t been updated in months (or years)
I see that copyright from 2009 and nothing has changed since I last visited your site. It sure looks to me like you’re out of business. Moving on. Dollars lost.

Your website content isn’t optimized for search
I typed in a few keywords and your competitor came up tops in a Google search. You’re halfway down the page, so I clicked over to your competitor’s site instead. Dollars lost.

cost of website

Your website content doesn’t speak to your audience
I’m a potential customer, but your website content is so generic it’s clear you don’t know who I am or what I need you to do for me. If your copy doesn’t accurately reflect who you are and what you do, I can imagine how horrific it will be to work with you. Moving on. Dollars lost.

* I can’t figure out what you want me to do
There is no call to action nor is there an obvious way for me to take action. I’m not going to waste time trying to figure out how to do business with you, I’ll find someone who makes it easy for me. Moving on. Dollars lost.

I just gave you four examples of how your website content is costing you big time. The good news? You can change that.

Know your audience and what you can do for them. Get educated on the keywords used to search for your business and organically incorporate them into website copy. Keep your website content updated consistently so you appear higher in search results and you’re more useful to your audience. Be clear on the action(s) you want visitors to take and make it easy for them to do so.

Need to make this happen ASAP? Contact me at Lynne (at) SocialVisibilityConsulting.com for a content audit and to receive in-depth information on the state of your website content.

Desperation is a great motivator -- content edition

We’ve all been desperate.
Desperate for just one more hour in the day to finish the work we started.
Desperate for extra cash burning a hole in our pockets so we can upgrade to first class on the flight and not have to sit next to this guy who’s clearly had too much to drink.
Desperate to see the sun after what feels like 900 straight days of rain (amIright, Minnesota?!?).
Desperation can be a big turnoff, but it can also be a great motivator. Especially when it comes to website design and content.

Seriously, bear with me here. You’re a designer creating a website for a business. You might work in-house, they might be a one-time client. You’ve created a beautiful design, the core client team agrees the design is beautiful, but the whole project is on hold because someone, somewhere is still trying to figure out what content is going to populate the site and where that content is going to come from. There’s argument, content is assigned, it falls to the bottom of someone’s to-do list and six months later that gorgeous new website that could be generating new business, impressing current customers and fostering engagement is withering away. Or, possibly worse, someone gets tired of dealing with it and issues the decree to, “Just use the content from the old website and make it fit with the new site.” As the designer, the gorgeous new site you worked so hard to produce is now paired with garbage content — destined to live on the ninth page of a  Google search.

bad websites

This is often when my phone starts to ring and it’s where you can turn that desperation into motivation. And this is where I can help you turn that frown upside down.

Your problem? Beautiful design, no one knows what content should go where.
My solution: Ideally, your website design team would include a content specialist from the beginning, but as that doesn’t always happen, a content specialist can spend some time with the site map and help determine what you’ve got, what you need and where on the website it should (and shouldn’t) go.

Your problem? Content? What content? 
My solution: A writer (copywriter, web writer, content specialist, brand journalist, etc.) asks the right questions to determine what content is going to resonate with the target audience and get them to take action as well as help the website rank best in search.

Your problem? The team loves the website, but just wants to use content from the old website.
My solution: If the previous content is well written and fits nicely into the new website, go for it. Since that almost never happens, it’s time to explain that it’s pointless to have a new website design without fresh content and a strategy to keep it dynamic. A new website has one-time PR value (if that). Well thought-out content keeps people coming back for more.

Web designers, make your job easier and work with a content strategist or a writer from the very beginning! You can create in tandem and have stunning visuals with evolving content that helps get the site found, rank highly in search and keeps people visiting to see what’s next. If that doesn’t happen from the very beginning, make your job easier and bring in a writer when you need one (even if you think it’s too late). It’s never too late to implement effective words that perfectly complement your exquisite website.

Desperate for help? Need more tips? Feel free to contact me at any time with questions and for additional resources. Lynne (at) SocialVisibilityConsulting.com.

I presented at Ignite Minneapolis ... and survived

Way back in the end of March, 2013, I saw a social media post trumpeting that Ignite Minneapolis was accepting applications for presentations at its May 29 event. The only rules? You’re limited to 5 minutes, you can’t promote yourself and you have to inspire the audience, but make it quick.

When I rang in 2013, I also rang in a new perspective inspired largely by John Sweeney of the Brave New Workshop.  He wrote the book (literally) on how to apply  improv “philosophy” to business. I interviewed Mr. Sweeney in 2008 for a piece I did for the Mpls St. Paul Business Journal and he sent me what was to become his book “Innovation at the Speed of Laughter: 8 Secrets to World Class Idea Generation.” I re-read it, made myself of list of the key points that inspired me and posted it next to my computer. I look at it and try to live and do business by those “rules” every single day.

Inspired myself, I decided to throw my proverbial hat into the ring to speak at Ignite Minneapolis. On a whim, I submitted the topic “Yes, first. How improv ‘philosophy’ will change your life.” A month later, I received notice that I’d be speaking. After my initial, “YAY!” I immediately said, “Oh crap! Now I have to actually get on stage in front of people and give this presentation … that I have yet to create.”

So I spent a week creating my presentation, then I watched a few YouTube videos from last year’s Ignite presentations. Then I scrapped my presentation and started over. I practiced for weeks. At first, it was once every day then, in the two weeks leading up to the event, it was twice a day, every day. You see, when you present at Ignite you get exactly 20 slides and each slide is visible for 15 seconds, then it auto advances — whether you’re ready for it or not. I intended to be ready for it.

Tickets went on sale and promptly sold out in 10 minutes. Then, before I knew it, the event that had seemed so far away had suddenly arrived and I was to take the stage at the historic Heights Theater in a spotlight in front of a packed house.

ignite minneapolis

Here's what I learned from my Ignite Minneapolis experience:

* Be prepared. Know your slides and presentation backward and forward. Practice so often you see that presentation in your sleep. If, however, you’re not going to be prepared, go big and be hilariously under prepared like the gentleman who spoke on “Energy Vampires.”

* I wasn’t nervous, but I was definitely anxious. I wanted to go first, but quickly realized that was not the spot I actually coveted. I spoke after intermission, after about six other post-intermission speakers. The event is popular for many reasons, but one of them is free beer from local brewery Surly. After intermission, the crowd had plenty of that free beer and my presentation likely seemed more hilarious.

* I needed my slides as prompts, but just a glance at them. I tried to speak to the audience as much as possible and not come off too over-rehearsed (even though I probably was). You can judge for yourself whether I was successful here when the YouTube video is posted.

* I should have purchased a bottle of water because in the moments leading up to my presentation I got very, very thirsty and had a terrifying vision of coughing helplessly (and annoyingly) for five minutes on stage.

* I should have attributed the sources of the images I included in my presentation. That was the biggest missed opportunity. Dear Internet: If I used your image and didn’t attribute it to you, I’m so, so sorry. It didn’t occur to me until it was too late!

* Five minutes go by really quickly, but at the same time it’s only five minutes of your life.

* It was awesome, I had so much fun and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

I’ll post the photos and video when they become available, but in the meantime, enjoy the presentation in its most basic form. I hope improv “philosophy” inspires you as much as it has inspired me!