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Addressing the Elephant in the Room: Terms and Conditions Apply

It’s taken me a minute to sit down and write this week’s blog and for a while I wasn’t sure what was going on in my head – it’s not that I’m short on ideas, my sudoku puzzles show that I’ve been thinking quite a bit but the act of sitting down and formulating these ideas into a workable concept seemed a bit out of reach for me. And that’s when it hit me – I’m avoiding the elephant in the room.

 

That Giant Elephant that Everyone KNOWS exists, but few address it head on

 

My friends, it is the official beginning of the holiday season and every single thing we do seems to remind of us this fact.

 

Need to grab some milk? Gotta walk by the holiday section first because it’s right out front for everyone to see.

 

Heading to work? Every billboard and radio ad is trying to sell you on their holiday cheer.

 

Scrolling through social media? Everyone and their damn brother is talking about what they are thankful for.

 

We “Should” Be Happy

 

It’s a near constant reminder that this time of year, is supposed to be the “happiest” time of the year, yet in reality many of us find ourselves in a scarcity mindset where we overbook and overextend our time and finances to show others how much we care.

 

By January, we’re exhausted and usually a bit more in debt than we had been previously and not exactly setting ourselves up for success in the New Year and then wonder why our resolutions are so difficult to stick to.

 

This, like mentioned in the previous blog, sets up a vicious cycle where we are physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. And this is when digital can become dangerous.

 

Let’s talk about those Wish Ads

 

Remember how it only takes ONE second for the algorithm to register your attention? Because of how much or how little we share on Facebook, the ads we are shown can be HIGHLY individualized.

 

This becomes dangerous in the hands of advertisers because ads are created to address two functions: build the brand awareness and address/answer a “pain point”

 

A large yellow M and certain chime reminds young and old that there’s a place to go when we’re hungry

 

But ads aren’t just to remind us of a place we can go when we’re hungry. That may be how they function, but not how they work.

 

For ads to work, they need to utilize our emotions while fulfilling their function. This is why ads are longer – in 5, 10, 15, 30, 60 second integrals and sometimes longer on streaming channels – to give them time to engage our emotions.

 

Ads are meant to capture, maintain, and engage our minds

 

The more we hear, see, and recognize a brand, the more we establish and emotional connection to it by the pain point solution offered. This is where two digital giants of the modern age reign supreme: Google and Facebook.

 

As the top used search engine and the top used social media platform, these two know a good thing when they have it – a space where we both research future purchases and where we ask friends and family for their recommendations, all from the convenience of one portable device that 85% of Americans own.

This is why we feel like our phones are “listening” to us – because they kinda ARE

 

It just isn’t in the way we always think. And that’s when the creepy feeling starts setting in.

 

As a marketer, I enjoy “playing” with my Google algorithm, asking it to “find the REAL me” like it’s a digital version of the game show, To Tell The Truth. But Facebook, damn. There are times I feel like just posting that I bought the damn thing in an effort to stop seeing those ads.

 

Like an algorithm “reset” for ads

 

And what’s wonderful, given time, ANYONE can do this – without having to share on Facebook that we purchased the damn thing UNLESS WE WANT TO.

 

Take a moment and feel that power, that feeling of control. Envision it, think about what that could look like – because like any planted seed, it takes time to grow.

 

Now to begin, there are some things we need to know going in:

 

  1. Not all ads are created equal

Some ads are what I call the “Spaghetti at a Wall” type and can encompass anything from low-rate insurance to pay-day loans. These are typically found on websites and are listed as “sponsored content” and can be found either cleverly concealed within the text itself or at the bottom of the page. Spaghetti ads frequently use “bait and switch” tactics to get you to click on the “articles” which are nothing but more ads.

 

Next up are the “Low Hanging Fruit” – goods and services just about anyone needs. This includes insurance, banking, clothing, food, service utilities, housing, etc. These are ads you’ll see again and again and can be so familiar that the brands may poke fun at one another on Twitter (and elsewhere).

 

Finally, there are the “Sticky Ads” – those that when you stop to think about it, make you go hmmm. These are the ones to be on the look out for. There’s a digital link somewhere and is frequently tied to a “real life” interaction.

 

  1. Yes, your phone is listening to you, but often not in the way you think

Ads are a reflection of what we search for, who we communicate with, and any of our shared connections – be it financial distress, basic human needs, or something more tangible or emotional.

 

The Spaghetti ads, if treated as anything, should be for a good laugh at their attempt.

 

Low Hanging Fruit can also be humorous at times but all in all, they are fairly easy to block out unless it’s during the Superbowl.

 

Sticky ads are sticky because of the convenience of our phones and the software and hardware built into them to function. Every time we have our Wifi, Mobile Data, GPS, or Bluetooth on, our phones are sending and receiving signals. Now, consider how many of us have the voice command system on – Siri or Google (and BTW, Facebook has one too).

 

And all that is before we start searching for the “best” whatever, comparing two different products, or searching for somewhere to eat nearby. All before a conscious emotional connection can created.

 

  1. The idiom of “what has been seen, cannot be unseen” will take on greater meaning

This phrase is as old as the internet because in the early days, there was quite simply, a lot of shit that could be seen. And not always, ideal shit at the ideal time. So, once it was seen, it didn’t need to be seen again. Period. Done. Still in the memory bank and doesn’t need to be revisited.

 

As you begin to start to look at the different types of ads, you’ll start to notice some consistencies outside of the branding, consistencies that associate the ads to the 3 types: Spaghetti, Low Hanging Fruit, and Sticky.

 

Your brain will start to automatically process these without you needing to think about it and categorize them based on what is already known. Which allows the thinking brain time to find these digital connections that make the sticky ads so sticky.

 

  1. We are continually being sold to and sold

This last bit of knowledge is the double-edged sword of convenience in digital. People go to great lengths to have an ad-free experience when online and only then come up with less ads getting through. Most of us don’t have the time to devote to this experience, and for some of us, it’s a price we’ll happily pay for said convenience – in the “devil you know” kind of way.

 

But remember, the devil’s we “know” and how much they know about us. When you stop to think about it, it’s quite a lot and for some, that’s quite scary.

 

Now, I find the scary things are a whole lot less scary once we take the time to learn about them. Like how a haunted house is a whole lot less scary once you see the mechanics that go into making it. You might come out with more questions, but you’ll definitely come out seeing things differently than you did before.

 

Going Forward: Start Looking At Your Ads

 

So, this week, I want you to do something that is going to feel strange and counterintuitive – but I guarantee you isn’t – I want you to start looking at the ads you see when your on your phone. Start recognizing where they fall – Spaghetti, Low Hanging Fruit, or Sticky and begin to categorize your Sticky ads.

 

By categorizing your Sticky ads, your brain will be able to process them faster and you will begin to see more intentional ad placement for you.

 

Now, if this has made your skin crawl just a bit more than you thought, you can take this a step further by asking yourself if the Sticky ads are based on demographic information (age/race/sex/location) or if it is related to a search, an online chat, or an in-person conversation. If it is the latter, be sure to fully close out of running apps on your phone. Hitting the home button is not enough.

 

Know that the idiom of what has been seen cannot be unseen has ruled the internet for so long for a reason. The lessons to be learned are not always pleasant, but it’s best we go in eyes wide open.

Let’s Get Started: Breaking Down the Digital Divide

To begin our journey through the digital divide, we must first look at how we are using and consuming digital media. As I discussed in the previous blog, we have quite a mess on our hands – with negativity spreading rampant on social media, leading to all kinds of concerns from mental health (in the form of anxiety and depression) to real world violence – what we have is a problem.
 
Right now, our problem looks like either a large on-going math equation that has yet to be solved, or a hoarder’s house that may become condemned if it isn’t cleaned out – choose your gross.
 
And if you have the distinct pleasure of needing to use social media for work or business, that gross scale multiplies like rabbits in spring. Is it any wonder why, we as business owners, simply do not want to devote our time to this succubus?
 

And that, my friends, is where we become stuck.

 
Our personal feelings toward these platforms and media bleeds over into our professional voice, whether we realize it or not.
 
Those who are less comfortable with their own news feed, their own friends list, their own experience on social media will inherently be less comfortable in finding their voice in the same platform in a professional setting – be it a professional or business Page.
 
Leading to inconsistent posting and lack of overall awareness.
 
Which then leads to a lack of following and lack of engagement.
 
Which ultimately leads to a scarcity mindset within the digital sphere, leaving business owners “fighting” the algorithm and struggling with where and how to best invest marketing dollars.
 

It’s a vicious cycle.

 
Much like how my anxiety, when not in check, will lead to depression, which then fuels my anxiety, this issue can also seem to be cyclonic in nature – almost like a tornado of shit, destroying everything in its path. But what is a tornado other than extreme energy brought about by significant shifts in pressure?
 
I think I speak for everyone when I say that 2020 was the epitome of significant shifts in pressure, as I have yet to find anyone who isn’t suffering from pandemic fatigue in one way or another. Our energy is depleted because we’ve been so wrapped up in these shit tornadoes, that all we see around us is more of the same.
 
Exhausted seems to light of a term for the way we’re feeling, not only individually but collectively as well. We’ve worked in ways and conditions none of us ever expected. We struggle with an overarching fear because so much has changed so quickly, we’re now afraid to become “too comfortable” in our own surroundings.
 
So, we shut down. Physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted, we just don’t have the energy to do anything but shut down.
 

And this is where digital can become dangerous.

 
Because an algorithm’s base function is to show you more of what you consume, to keep you coming back for more, even when your own satisfaction may be diminished, so it can “learn” more about you. The more the algorithm “knows” about you, the more “tailored” your unique experience is.
 
This becomes a dangerous area with those who are uncomfortable with the platform and sharing information as it leads into two distinct forms of extremism: Ghost-like behavior and Soapbox behavior. Whether you are engaging primarily in reactions, gifs, and avatars or treating your profile page as your own personal soapbox, you are creating a vacuous state for your algorithm.
 
As it cannot learn more about you, your experience will be much more simplified and based on known information: your gender, location, age (all of which is given to start an account) and anything that has captured your attention for ONE second or longer.

 

ONE second is all it takes and then you’re inundated with Wish ads.

 
But it’s more than just those kooky ads that make you stop and look, it’s also political and spiritual posts. It’s posts that touch our core values and beliefs. And while some are from real-live people with honest and pure intents, not all are.
 
Some are cleverly created ads meant to fool the eye, leading to more of that product or service to be seen and then purchased. While others are significantly more dangerous, especially when personal profiles and bots are involved.
 
Bots are nothing more than fake profiles. The account is set up to look like a person but isn’t. While most of us have heard, or maybe even know someone who has set up a fake account, the bot’s function is to interact with the algorithm and find other profiles to extort information from – Real profiles, from Real people.
 
Creating a chain of bots, all interacting with the algorithm as real people can spread like a virus within those who are uncomfortable with the platform because, so little is known about them as individuals. And from here, it spreads out into those networks, where even if only 10% of an individual’s friends list picks up that bot as a friend, it grows exponentially to the next network, and the next. All feeding one person’s ill intent.
 
And like the shit tornado this tends to be, this then feeds into our professional and businesses pages as rarely is the person of ill intent located in or near our own backyards. Then rather than a local awareness, our pages are now shown on a global scale and potentially outside of your sales radius.
 

And we’re back to where the vicious cycle began.

 
Stuck. Frustrated. And above all, tired. So, freakin’ tired.
 
But we must start somewhere, so let’s start with what we know. Whether tackling an algebraic equation or pile of shit, we all start with what we know, so let’s start there.
 

Look for the Good Shit.

 
This week, I want you to begin a review of your friend’s list. See who gives you the most joy when you are on and spend some time on their profile. Most people have a Top 10 that they really want to spend time with and keep in touch with.
 
Find your Top 10 and engage with them. Comment on a post, share something to their profile that is important to the two of you, or just hit them up with a message. Really make it a point to connect with them and watch your Newsfeed and notifications start to change – because it will.
 
It’s important to find the pleasure first, because what we need to do is to clean up after this shit tornado. To find the lessons that need to be learned and grow from them. We are going to grow through what we’ve gone through, but first, let’s focus on the positive shit.
 
Go spend time with those who give you happiness and communicate with them. It’ll start to feed your algorithm the good shit you want to see from the people you want to see it from.
 

You’ll begin to take away the power of the bots and they’ll naturally start to drop off.

 
And if this gets your OCD tingling, or would like to take a more definitive step toward eliminating bots from your friends list, I suggest taking the Spot The Troll quiz and reviewing your entire friend’s list to see if anyone fits the profile of a bot and then drop them like they’re hot.
 
Know that little shifts and changes make for significant long-term changes. These lines of division weren’t created overnight but the more aware we become and the more we focus on real-life connections, the more positive and beneficial the experience will be overall for everyone.

I’ve Been Quiet: Here’s Why

It’s taken me a while to write this. In fact, I started and stopped several times before scrapping and starting over completely. This is partly because I have so many things running through my mind, so many wonderful things that I cannot wait to share, yet I struggled with how to share these with the current social media campaign. The campaign, in my mind, seemed to be regimented, but still valuable. I was stuck wanting to continue to provide valuable content, yet my posts were becoming exceedingly long – a bit too long to read on social media in my personal opinion.

 

These posts, it seemed in my mind, to take on more of a blog feel to them, just broken up into segments throughout the week. But I hadn’t written a blog in over a year. They have just been sitting on my WordPress site with nothing uploaded or transitioned to the Wix site that went live a year ago this month. Where to even begin with such an undertaking inherently meant that I needed to address these two significant issues – I have a WordPress site with old, outdated branding that matches all of the print material I have yet to update, and a Wix site with the new branding, and a distinctly different feel from the older, more widely known version.

 

While each of these sites hold value to the business in varying capacities and spoke to similar audiences, the voice was inconsistent across different digital platforms and in real life encounters – those outdated business cards have a different email address and website from what is on social media. Which then brought in another layer to this ongoing pile of shit that I knew needed to be addressed, but it’s difficult to address these things when you’re busier than you’ve ever been.

 

Symbiotic Marketing is currently working on more websites than we have ever had, our social media approach has shifted to a more coaching than management approach, as businesses and organizations have found the importance of speaking to a specific local audience with resounding success for clients, and for the first time ever, the business has been financially able to support not only my own family but also organizations that are important to me personally.

 

To be a primary sponsor for both Pride Franklin County’s Taste of Pride and the Franklin County Literacy Council’s Puzzlemania is simply a dream come true. But there’s more than just the ability to support my family and support those organizations with whom I personally believe in. There’s also the intangible things that bring purpose to what Symbiotic Marketing is doing and keeps me moving forward every single day.

 

These include seeing my clients excitement as a project comes together, whether in person, Zoom, or over social media fills my heart with such joy that I can barely put it into words. And watching my clients grow and become more comfortable with their own voice through the power of social media and be able to then extend that into other digital areas fills me with such pride that it’s difficult to stop me from smiling all day long. Because through this process, their business is growing with them. They are learning and understanding not only the value of digital, but also how all these pieces fit together with the real world around them.

 

And that, my friends, is my ultimate goal – to be able to show others how and where digital and the real life collide and what we can do about it.

 

I am OVER hearing about how the algorithm negatively affects us, like we are pawns in an elaborate game of chess. It is such complete and utter BULLSHIT that we, by the shear means of communication, are now relegated and controlled by these devices – and it isn’t our fault. So few of us know what we’re really doing when we use them because no one taught us.

 

And how could anyone? We’ve been legit holding on by the seat of our pants just trying to keep up with how quickly technology is progressing – if you would have told me 20 years ago that all that music I was downloading on Napster would be readily available ON MY PHONE any time I wanted, I would have made some smart remark about crack. Sitting high and mighty with my T1 line and 2G phone that could text (oh my!), I digress and firmly date myself but I believe a point was made for those with whom I want to speak to. There’s no way any of us could have seen this coming, yet we’re here and it’s time we do something about it.

 

That’s where my personal experience comes in. I was there when Blackberry’s were the THING because they were the ONLY THING. I went through the Palms, Windows, and then Android and Apple devices because I was not only one of those loathsome cell phone salespeople, I was also a repair technician. And I was good at what I did. Until the shift to Android/Apple user, I managed the top performing service center and top performing store in upgrade sales for my region. I was the second to last manager left go before all the stores closed a year later. I was top in my field because I knew the importance of showing others how to use their phones and how I could help them make the most of their phones and plans.

 

It hurt when I was left go. Not only because it was 2011 and the job market was bleak for someone with my qualifications, but because I had built and maintained relationships with small, local business owners for over six years. I looked forward to seeing certain characters coming through my doors because I knew there was going to be a story and it would always be great. All the while, I would be someone that they could come in and talk to, not only about their phones, but their businesses and lives. I learned a lot from them and to be suddenly taken away from all that hurt a lot.

 

Grieving the loss of these relationships was incredibly difficult, and through this, I took a rather convoluted journey of experience that has lead to just such a wealth of knowledge into the intricacies of running, maintaining, and working in a small business and non-profit areas that is both extensive and often shocking even to those who know me well. Through this process, I grieved not only the loss of that particular position, but other positions as well as several of the small businesses I worked with, closed, or moved out of the area. One of which, I started a month after opening and stayed on until the very last shift. I still consider those that I worked with there family, because that’s what we had.

 

I tell you this because I want you to know where I’m coming from. I want you to know that I’ve been there, and when I started Symbiotic Marketing, I did so with eyes wide open and created it to be a voice for the voiceless. To stand up with the small business owner and show others the power we have in our local communities. And in that, we need to break down some of these barriers that has lead to our ignorance of just how powerful we, as individuals and business owners can be in the digital space. Because right there, is some POWERFUL SHIT.

 

That’s the feel-good shit that keeps you up at night in all the right ways.

 

That’s the GODDAMN I LOVE WHAT I DO moment.

 

That’s the THIS RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW moment.

 

Because dammit, after what we’ve all been through, don’t we deserve MORE of these moments? And the freaking time to ENJOY and celebrate these moments?

 

I’m all in. But here’s the thing, this is going to take some time. So, over the next few months, you can expect to see and hear a new voice from Symbiotic Marketing that reflects not only my own personal experiences and knowledge, but also the expertise of Isaac Gudgeon whose innate understanding of marketing and visual story telling is simply incredible. While I am realigning with my strengths, Isaac will be showcasing his with not only the digital aspects but also the print aspects that need to be addressed for Symbiotic Marketing as well as our current client load.

 

With that in mind, starting today, you can expect a weekly blog that is written to help you break down this digital divide that has left us ignorant and feeling used, abused, and unheard – because all that is BULLSHIT. And we don’t need that shit where we communicate. It distracts and takes away from all the good shit out there.

 

I’m telling you this, because sometimes what I have to say is going to piss you off. I’m going to touch a nerve and I want you to know that is a part of the grieving process. That is a place that has yet to heal. Treat it as a broken bone, only you know when it’s time to work through the pain. Seek help if you need it, you wouldn’t walk around with a broken leg, please don’t do it with your emotions. That shit builds up in the body and comes out in all sorts of unhealthy ways, and frequently in ways most would not expect.

 

In my last social media post, I shared an old meme – What has been seen cannot be unseen. This is my goal for the blog going forward. It is meant to make you think about how we relate to digital in the world around us. It’s proven to be some powerful-ass-shit, so what would it mean if we could take back some control over what we see and how we see it? What would it look like to have a social media feed that complements your real life and another that complements your professional life? What would it look like to be able to use digital media as an extension to real life rather than an intrusion?

 

Think on that a bit. And know that we are working on addressing our own marketing issues, but like anything of value, it takes time. I’m going big or going home, and I work from home. Let’s do this thing.

WE’RE BACK! And Accepting New Clients!

WE’RE BACK! And Accepting New Clients!

It has been 10 weeks since I’ve sat down to write a blog, and it’s crazy to think that much time has passed! I have had the pleasure of speaking with so many individuals, organizations, and businesses through the COVID-19 season, keeping up with the weekly writing simply became too much for my plate.

With this, I cannot express how grateful I am to have been granted this opportunity to speak to so many people in such a short period of time. I hope that the insight and direction I was able to provide brought clarity to your questions and helped you brave through the storm.

This has been an incredible time for growth for every individual I have spoken with. But with that, I heard time and time again of the entrepreneur’s struggle with Facebook. What’s more, is that most entrepreneurs feel that they are alone in this struggle between personal profiles and business pages. Let me shout this from the roof tops: YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

I have heard this from every single type of business owner you can imagine, from marketing individuals (yes, us!) to store owners who operate successful business pages. The disconnect is incredible and what’s more, it is having significant effects on our mental health.

Who hasn’t taken a break from Facebook?

This year, this has been compounded by a multitude of factors, but one fact remains. Facebook is where people go for local information. New groups and pages sprung up between February and April with a wealth of activity and engagement. These pages are continuing to reach significant numbers in the local area.

This information is then being shared from these pages to individual profiles. The spread is real, and individual voices are carrying farther than ever before. Yet, I am seeing on my newsfeed that business owners are struggling with how to manage it all. Scheduling tools help with business profiles, but we all have our own personal pages too. It’s a lot, and I’m seeing more and more business owners going dark on Facebook.

I get it. The negativity is overwhelming. The comments and conversations can flow and grow without us even realizing it. We need to get away for a bit. And that’s okay! But entrepreneurs cannot and should not be completely silent on Facebook. Think of your profile as a networking opportunity, it is your spotlight to show how great you are in every single area of your life.

You should get something from your time spent online!

That is why, starting today, Symbiotic Marketing is not only officially accepting new clients, but also offering a new service to help you find your voice on Facebook, Facebook Coaching for Entrepreneurs. This service is geared for the professional in each and every one of us rather than our businesses. While each session is custom tailored to your specific needs and goals, you can expect the following areas to be discussed:

  • How to build your brand without losing your identity
  • How to best use your algorithm for maximize social capital potential
  • How best to confront negativity on your newsfeed
  • What to say on your profile and remain professional
  • Ways to increase your social capital with Groups
  • When to transition your profile to a page
  • Creating personal goals for engagement
  • Finding an identity on Facebook and why you should have one
  • How to find who you are speaking to when you post
  • Effectively using your audience for increased social wealth
  • Speaking to your target audience from your profile
  • And more!

We are very excited about where we are going as a company in 2020, as this is only the beginning of some really cool things coming to Symbiotic Marketing. We’ve spent the last three years showing you what we can do, now we are ready to begin to teach you our ways. One thing is clear, no matter what business you own, the entrepreneur must put themselves first.

Your business may be amazing and do wonderful things, but where would it be without you?

Ladies and gentlemen, we MUST put ourselves first to be able to do the things we love. It was not an easy decision for me to take a break from writing. I love to write and I love to communicate with you! But I have to put my own needs first.

In February, I told a group of women that when the airbags are deployed, we have to put ours on first to be able to help others. I had no idea how true those words would ring in my ears just a few short weeks later. Yes, I shut down paid operations for you, because I could not bring myself to charge for services during the crisis we were facing.

But during that time, I learned a great deal about myself. I found that I have to take care of myself first to be able to care for you. I went dark on Facebook but not because I needed to get away from negativity, but because I was working.

Working on me, working on finding myself and my joy.

While little was shown publicly, those that I worked with have worked hard but the results have been incredible. Individuals have been able to show themselves as leaders in our community simply by posting on Facebook.  As entrepreneurs, we cannot be silent any longer. The winds of change have come.

You should know the percentage of your friends list you are speaking to when you post. You should know your personal reach and engagement figures. You should know who you are speaking to and who you are not. You should be comfortable using your own Facebook. The choice is yours.

Roy Rochlin/Getty Images
Building a Community During COVID-19

Building a Community During COVID-19

My son’s school, like many others, has sent home enrichment projects for him to complete during his time off (if he and we want) and being the parents we are, have encouraged him to keep his mind active. He’s already excitedly picked out what he wants to do and what topics he wants to focus on and the one he is most excited about this week is building a community.

When it came to this week’s blog post, I was not sure what I wanted to write about, or even if I was going to be able to write about anything. But then I thought about my son’s enrichment project, and what he is working on. It’s perfect for what many of us are finding right now. That our sense of community, the people we interact with and engage with, are still available, although our means of communication has changed.

Communicating Virtually

This week has been filled with Zoom meetings, video chats, messages, and more on social media. We are reaching out and using it more than ever before because that is our primary source of communication with our community. We’re checking Facebook for community updates, where to find eggs, and to keep in touch with our loved ones.

I have looked at pictures from camera rolls – landscapes, flowers, general pictures sharing our lives with one another. I have had friends post unpopular opinions and watched as others commented and laughed. And I am watching as my community, comes together, works together, and is helping one another through what may very well be one of the most difficult times we can imagine. It’s really quite beautiful.

But how do we transition this movement into our business pages? Because that is the ultimate goal from all of this, to stay in business even though how we do business has changed significantly. In a Zoom meeting this week, we discussed how we can support one another personally through this time by focusing on what we are grateful for and what our gifts are. This simple shift in perception can change your audience’s interaction with you on social media quickly during this time and may set you apart when business resumes “normal” operations.

Be Gracious

To begin, ask yourself what you are grateful for. This may be difficult for some, especially if you are stuck in what I call the boot loop of doom. This is when everything sucks, nothing is working the way you want it to, and everything that happens is complicating things further and you are left feeling frustrated, angry, lost, and hurt. Maybe you are crying or have lashed out on someone in your home and now feel bad. It happens. It happens to the best of us. And let’s be honest, we’ve had a lot of shit thrown at us in a short period of time.

Find something you are grateful for, something you are appreciative to have. At a time when many of us are looking at what we have lost, look for what you have gained. Small businesses are starting to gain the appreciation that we have been asking for. Yes, we are in a sucky situation where we may not be sure how to make ends meet and if we can keep employees on, but we have options available to us now that have never been before because we ARE the backbone to our communities. We ARE the support for our economy. We ARE important and everyone is becoming acutely aware, even if they aren’t sure what to do or how to help.

Be Giving

This is where your gifts are important. As a business owner, you have a special gift – your business. You are knowledgeable about your business. You know what you provide, and hopefully who your target audience is. Ask yourself, what can you give to your audience that may help them right now because every single of one us is struggling right now. We are all looking for a bit of solace in the chaos. What can you give? How can you help? What is your gift?

For us, our gift is understanding marketing and social media and how that applies to small businesses. This is why we are hosting an AMA on our page. This is why we are offering to help small business owners without charge for marketing assistance. Because this is our gift to share with our community. From sharing this gift, we have been able to maintain a sense of “normalcy,” continue doing what we love, and most importantly, build on our sense of community.

Speak to Your Community

It’s still there, that sense of community, even though we are farther apart because we have technology with our use of social media. We are inherently social people and we need to communicate with one another, and where can we go when we cannot openly and freely meet with people? We go online. We’re going to social media. We’re sharing and connecting and learning it isn’t all bad.

So, go out there, share your gifts with your community, show them you care, and show them that this isn’t going to stop you. You are a small business owner. You are made of tougher stuff than this. Share your gifts and share your gratitude. I am sure it will come back to you in ways you never expected possible.

Speaking to Your Audience During COVID-19

I struggled on what to write this week. If I should write this week, and if I did, what would I write about? Because I’m sure, like you, my mind has been thinking about all of the things. But in opening Symbiotic Marketing up as a resource to all businesses and all individuals during this time has been a blessing to me. While many are struggling to find their footing and are looking to the only platform we have now – digital – and this is something Symbiotic Marketing was built on and uses daily. I’m saying we are blessed because we have the background and we have the knowledge, but by opening up our services to everyone, I have been able to continue doing what I love and that gives me great peace.

So, with that being said, this week’s blog is going to be focused on speaking to your audience right now on digital platforms, specifically your website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn pages. I will touch on some things and give you some ideas of what you can do. If you need help, reach out. Because while we are all scrambling, we can also pull our resources together and help each other out. I am going to try to be concise and to the point, but as we all know, that may or may not happen. If you need clarity, please ask because your audience is acting very differently right now and needs to be treated differently.

Restrict All Sales Speak

It may be tempting to drive traffic to your digital outlets when talking to your audience online right now – that’s what they were put in place for! But here’s the thing. Like you, many people aren’t working right now and don’t know when they can expect to return to work. For anyone living paycheck to paycheck, this is an incredibly trying time and the stimulus cannot come fast enough.

While some may be “lucky,” my family included in this lot, to have someone who is considered essential and life sustaining and with this pandemic.  Our finances are more secure, but at what cost? Our family members are out working every day with people who may or may not have this illness and may or may not bring it home.

And the overarching fear that we all have, no one knows how long this is going to last or what toll this is going to take on our health care system. The stories are scary. Trying to remain informed is scary. We aren’t sure who or what we can trust right now. Our very sense of security has been shaken. This is why toilet paper and food are being rationed. And this is why any attempt at sales will fall flat right now.

Drop The Pretenses

The fear is too great right now. Too consuming. In addition to this, many are feeling frustrated. Frustrated because they can’t work or because they must work. Frustrated by the closed stores and lack of supplies. Frustrated because we just don’t know. We need a sense of order for our society to function properly and that has clearly been upset.

We need something we can control to bring back a sense of normalcy. And right now, there’s just a whole lot that is out of our control. As business owners, we always have something that we can be doing. But individuals, they may not have that luxury (if you want to call it that). As a small business owner, you have resources available that you use to operate your business. Think about how you can transition what you do into how you can help someone. And this does not mean instructional how-to things, you also can help someone emotionally by bringing a sense of togetherness and community.  Think outside of the box. Again, if you need help, reach out.

With this, you need to drop the pretenses that everything is okay. Because it’s not. Whatever your personal thoughts on this matter may be, empty shelves at the grocery store say otherwise. It’s okay to talk about COVID-19 because it is relevant. It is on people’s minds. But your page is not the place to spread the fear and frustration. Focus on positivity, long-term vision, and helpful information. Now is the time to build your brand and you will have to let down some pretenses to do it.

Speaking to Your Audience During COVID-19

Website

It is imperative that your website be clean and easy to use right now. It must drive any traffic you have coming in, to their purpose for being there. While it is a personal choice to make any adjustments to your website in light of COVID-19, know that if they are coming, there is a reason for it and clear direction is necessary.

As this is an ever-changing event, it is your socials that will be of key importance. Take the time now to make any adjustments you want to your website, but the main focus should be on reaching your audience where they are right now, and that is all over social media. Currently, audiences are making adjustments on all of the platforms but their main intention, their main source of use, has remained the same. With that, let’s dig deeper into social media.

Facebook

Facebook has traditionally been “all the things” about life, literally, ALL THE THINGS. But it has maintained its focus on connecting people, getting to know one another, and communicating. While some have already used the platform to bring people together for a common good – look at all the new groups forming and informative pages. You must take the time to evaluate and reach your audience on this platform now if you are on it.

This can be done many ways based on your specific business and your options are really limitless. Status updates, shares, photos, videos, Facebook live videos, YouTube videos, Zoom meetings shared to Facebook Live. In these, everyone knows that most people are working from home right now and with that comes certain, shall we say, unexpected complications?

Everyone I have had a video chat with this week has had the opportunity to meet Sir Barnabas AKA “Barney,” my pug poodle mix. And it’s okay! Because that is life right now. A few weeks ago, this would have really bothered me but now, we’re all in this boat together. It’s okay. And know that while everyone is getting a sneak peek into what it’s like in your home, you are getting a sneak peek into what it’s like in their homes too. No one has their shit together. Drop the pretense and embrace the chaos.

Instagram

Like Facebook, Instagram is dropping some of the pretenses. Things do not need to be as polished, but it does need to remain positive and informative. Everyone is struggling right now so anything upbeat, helpful, and true insight on what you are doing to help yourself are all things being discussed on this platform.

How this transitions into what you can discuss on Instagram about your business, is just that – helpful, positive, and let people in. We are social creatures and need socialization to survive. This is where you can dig more into your why, what you do in your business, and why you do it and go personal. This is the time you can make a really deep connection with your audience.

Twitter

Twitter has remained news and opinion focused. If you use this platform, try to stay news focused, informative, up to date, and pay close attention to trending hashtags and how they may be used to support your brand. This platform may be very time-consuming right now and can easily start to affect your mental health. Be careful of the amount of time spent on this and any other platform. If you are starting to feel tired, negative, irritable, frustrated, hopeless, angry, or any other negative emotion, it’s time to hop off and do something less stressful. Bake some cookies, Netflix and chill, anything that can give you a sense of peace.

LinkedIn

Rather predictably, as businesses nationwide started to close and transition over to virtual platforms, LinkedIn’s audience behavior took quite a hit. Thankfully, with the small business loans and grants that are being offered, this audience is finding their feet again. Again, helpful and informative are what this audience is looking for. We’ve had a lot of shit thrown at us in a short period of time, so make it easily digestible.

Just Be Real

While this is a broad overview, the sentiment remains the same. We’re all in this together and no one knows what to expect. This is a time when the full power of what social media is and what it can do for us as individuals and us as business owners can be realized. The way we work may very likely be forever changed from this. At Symbiotic Marketing, we were already set up to be primarily virtual, we were set up to work from our homes remotely and we have resources we use to make this work for us. But many of you are struggling because you do not have this in place. Let us help you.

Our proverbial masks are being taken down. There’s no where to hide. And why would you? You are a business owner. You are born to stand out. You are born to make a difference. You’ve got this. Throw your cape over your shoulder and just be real. That’s all anyone is looking for right now.

Special COVID-19 Announcement

Special COVID-19 Announcement

I have been struggling writing this week’s blog. Not because what I had intended to discuss is difficult but because, right now, life is difficult. I’m struggling. And no, it most certainly is not similar in any way to some of the very difficult decisions my fellow business owners are being forced to make. But to pretend that everything is okay and write in such a way is something that I cannot do.

I simply cannot pretend that everything is okay, because it’s not. While my daily routine has not changed that significantly, my mindset has. And that has me struggling. I have not felt a depression this deep in a long time, but I am fighting it. I am fighting it because you are fighting. Because we all have something worth fighting for.

Ladies and gentlemen, your time to step up and show your community how much you care is here. It is your time to shine and each of you, in your individual ways are doing it. Those of us who can, are continuing to work from home, providing the services we need to keep things moving. Those of us who are needed on the front lines are out there, ensuring our quality of life. And those of you who have closed and will be closing during this time, you are helping lessen the curve.

So many of you are showing your community how much you care, and I am overwhelmed with love for you and for the wonderful community I live in. When I find myself pulling in and allowing the fear take over, I look at you and know that I am not alone. Because we are not. And I believe each of us on social media right now knows this to be true. Let’s be honest. It’s where we are.

Even if we have neglected our business pages, we are still on social media because it is how we can communicate right now. And I am seeing some very beautiful things. Just an incredible use of technology, I am in awe of what some of you are doing to bring some sunshine into our lives.

We are communicating more than ever and with this, we have the opportunity to help in so many simple ways that can make a huge impact. And with this, I am hoping that I may be able to give back to you the support you have given me.

Starting today and until further notice, the Symbiotic Marketing Facebook Page will host an AMA (Ask Me Anything). Come and ask your questions, from social media marketing and websites, to marketing in general. I will PM you with questions so I can fully understand your question and any details needed and then help you with find a resolution to your specific issue. Pick my brain. In addition to this, I will be addressing as many questions as I can in a general format to assist others who may also have a similar question. These will be specific posts because at times, answers can get lengthy.

I know you may be feeling very uncertain right now and probably downright scared, but I want you to know that you inspire me every day. I am incredibly honored to be a part of this wonderful group of crazy small business owners. Because we are crazy. And you are my people.

I sincerely love you all and we’ll come out of this better for having gone through it together. I firmly believe this.

See you on the other side, Ray.

What, How, When? Social media etiquette explained

If I have learned anything in life, it is that at times, it is going to be hard. Some of the most beneficial lessons we can learn come from a hard place and sometimes, it’s that hard pill that we need to swallow. And, this may be a hard pill for some to swallow. But it needs to be said. Ladies and gentlemen, I need to discuss social media etiquette.

I get it. It’s hard knowing how to get people to look, actually LOOK at what you are doing. Knowing that you have less than a second to capture someone’s attention is beyond daunting! Add in trying to increase your page following, because more must certainly be better, and it’s easy to become so frustrated and overwhelmed you aren’t sure what to do. And that’s just your business page.

As a business owner, you inherently will have two accounts on Facebook and potentially two on LinkedIn. What to post, where to post, and how to share are all important because they affect your brand awareness. Likewise, who you are friends with and who you follow on your personal page affects your brand. Whether we like it or not, as the owner of the business, we are the face of the business. How you interact with those you follow, and how they interact with you says a lot about you and how you run your business. With that, let’s get into those hard truths.

1. For the love of all that is holy, leave dirty laundry offline.

This may seem like a given, but dirty laundry presents itself, even when we do our best to filter it. This may be someone shooting off on your page, responding to a comment in an ugly way, or even a negative review.

If it is something directly related to your business, respond in a respectful way (even though you may feel very differently) and offer to take the complaint offline. Period. “I am sorry you have experienced this. I will call you to discuss how we may be able to resolve this issue.” Keep it respectful and professional and most importantly, take it offline.

If it is related to you personally, you should remain respectful in your response but take the conversation to a more private space if necessary. Something as simple as responding, “I’ll PM you,” lets those who can see that conversation know that you have boundaries of what you will accept publicly and what you will not.

We all have that one relative who just won’t stop. Redirect to a more private area and save some face. Know that no matter what, some dirty laundry is going to come out at some point. How you handle it matters because nothing just “goes away” in digital.

This is not to say that you should not have opinions and show them online but keep it in check and don’t go overboard. When you start to feel emotions coming up, get offline, regroup and then come back to address it. When you are frustrated and angry, the socials are not the place to be until you can respond in a logical manner.

2. Be aware of who you are friends with and who you follow.

This is such an easy one to fall into. The more people on your personal page, will transfer to more people on your business page, right? Not necessarily. And, it may actually hurt your brand. Here’s the hard truth, people create fake accounts to snoop. We all know someone who has done it or have heard of someone who has done it. But it is more than that, especially this year.

There are things called “bots.” These are NOT people but look like people online. They often have posts shared to their newfeeds and are tagged in the posts. They rarely post themselves, and when they do, it is primarily directed toward an overall theme. If someone looks highly stereotypical in the type of posts shared to them or they themselves share and do not post anything personal – no status update, it is most likely a bot.

We are going to see an increase of bots this year because it is an election year. These are “individuals” who post highly politicized posts and posts associated with those values. The issue with these is twofold. First, by friending a bot, allows it to work like a virus and send requests to all your friends. Others will be more likely to accept it because you have, so it must be legit, but it isn’t. This discredits your integrity. Bots happen on business pages. They shouldn’t happen to personal pages.

Secondly, who you interact with says a lot about you. While you should have a diverse list of friends, it should be reflective of who you are personally. In accepting a request from a bot opens you up to more bots sending requests. This is why people make Facebook sweeps and clean their friends lists. They want to see from the people they care about (this comes back to the algorithm) and if you are someone who falls victim to bots frequently (we can see who our “mutual” friends are…) you may become unfollowed and you would not know.

A good rule of thumb to follow, if you think you may have received a request from a bot, do not accept it right away. Look at their newsfeed and something seems “off” let it sit for a few days. It won’t go away, but it will give you time to think about whether or not accepting this request will be beneficial for you. Come back to it later and if it still doesn’t seem right, it’s probably because it isn’t a person.

3. Be careful with emojis.

Oh, emojis. Aren’t they fun…? Here’s the thing. Emojis are meant to enhance and complement text. They are meant to show the emotion behind the words typed. This is an issue that many of us have faced. How to transfer tone and emotion through text alone is difficult, because while we (the one who is typing) is trying to be effective in communication, emotions don’t always transfer through. What’s worse, is the reader (the person who is responding) to what was written, may respond in a very different manner than what was expected.

I am sure I am not the only one who has written an email that I thought was very clear and concise and to the point, to have it received differently than I expected. We first tried to combat this with self-created emojis – colon, dash, closed parenthesis for a smiley face or carrot, 3 for a heart. But this has transformed over the years into the emojis we know today.

Now we have hundreds of emojis to choose from. Literally, anything and everything we can think of, including poo. Even more so, we at times, choose to not respond with any text, but rather just an emoji to show our emotion. This completely acceptable depending on the situation. Other times, we intermix emojis with our text, and that is acceptable as well, but only in small doses. This is important, because when we are online, we are looking to read what has been written. This is the expectation.

When you mix emojis throughout your text, or use them incorrectly, it not only makes what you are saying difficult to read and more likely to be dismissed, it also reeks of dirty sales. This is a ploy that has been used by many multi-level marketers (MLM) to help sell their products. If you are an MLM and don’t mind being associated as such, go for it. Just be aware that your posts are difficult to read and may not be read. If you are not, you should stop NOW.

The issue with this, is that by presenting yourself as an MLM through your use of emojis, you are presenting yourself and your business that you are not professional and that you may not be in it for the long haul. Let’s be honest, we have all met someone who has joined the MLM bandwagon, sold the product for a bit, and moved onto another. This is not saying that all MLMs are bad, because they aren’t. But the expectation has been set, lots of emojis throughout a lot of text sends a message that you may not want.

This is what too many emojis reads like.

4. Business should start with business and transfer to personal.

This one also seems to be a given, but it’s so easy to share from your personal to your business page – what can be the harm? This comes down to a fundamental issue. You are the face of your business, but your business needs to stand on its own. You are more than just your business and that’s how people know you. The goal of branding is that people know your business first, that is your brand awareness, and you secondly. The brand you build is the business you will have.

This is incredibly important. If you do not focus on your brand, you will be perceived as mixing business with pleasure. That is not to say that you cannot find pleasure in your business, hell, you should! Why else would you be doing it? But with that, you should start with your business first, and then share to personal. With this, you should also be speaking to two very distinct audiences and using two distinct voices, your professional voice and your personal voice.

What I mean is this, every week, I publish this blog and share it to my socials. I start with the business pages first, because I am building on that brand. I want all the work I have put into building the brand to be associated with it. I also write to the specific page audience in a professional tone. Then I share it to my personal page, using a personal tone.

Additionally, if you are sharing information about your business to other pages (such as groups), see if you can join the group from your business page. Some, not all, allow users to be able to do this. Not only does it continue to build on your brand and brand awareness – because you will be again addressing the audience in a professional tone, but you will also be free of spamming your friends and followers. Here’s the hard truth, if you only share from your personal page to these groups, any friends who are also members of the same group you shared to, see that you posted to that page. Now, consider how many groups there are devoted to things happening in the area and how many of your friends may be following those pages as well. It adds up quickly. And if your friends and followers see you are personally posting about your business to these other pages, especially in rapid succession, it looks like spam.

 

5. Posting, Commenting, Sharing

Professional Voice on Personal Page

While it may be tempting to share every post from your business page to your personal page and simply adjust your tone for the audience, you want to be careful of overwhelming your friends. The truth of the matter is that you are a different person in the eyes of different people. Yes, you are a business owner and that is a large part of your life. But you are also a friend, a colleague, a family member and these are your friends and followers on your socials. They follow you because they want to see all of your aspects. Not just one. No one likes to go to dinner with someone who only talks about one subject, and that what social media is, a place to catch up and connect with loved ones. Don’t be that person.

Remember, you are speaking to two very different audiences on your business page and your personal page. What you post on your business page should be specific to building your brand and increasing your brand awareness. It needs to be different from what you share on your personal page because again, you are building a brand that should stand on its own. Let me say this again – The brand you build is the business you will have.

With this, share highlights of your business page to your personal page. Treat them as you would sprinkles. Sprinkles are great on any sweet treat, but you wouldn’t want them in your salad or on your burger. So, be picky and choosing what you share to your personal page from your business. By sharing the exciting stuff, people will be more likely to see what you have going on. Use this to drive them to your page if they aren’t already there. And if they are, then they are working for you every time they engage with your post.

Here’s the truth, every time one of your friends likes, comments, shares your post that you shared from your business page, it widens the overall reach of your initial post. This is how friends and family support your business online whether they are aware of it or not. Increasing your reach organically in this way increases the likelihood of an increase in your page audience and more importantly, a quality increase in this audience.

These are individuals who are interested in what you are doing, the more you can direct them to your business page, with highlights of what you have, the more likely they will be to interact with your page going forward. You want them there, give them a reason to go there.

Professional Voice on Business Page

As a business page, you can follow other businesses as your page. By following other businesses as your page, you are building on your brand awareness through their brand awareness. No small business owner succeeds in isolation. There’s a reason why we have our own community and this needs to be reflected online as well as in person.

Liking a page as your page and then sharing highlights from their page, not only shows that you care about your community, but also increases your overall page reach. Sharing events is an excellent way of increasing your page reach because they inherently can increase engagement through more options.

One may like, comment, or share but also mark interested or going, all of which are engagement and are weighted differently within the algorithm. Remember, these are the figures you want. Sprinkle in other’s stories within your own and your page will begin to show the diversity your personal page should already have and from this, begin to stand on its own.

In addition to this, you will want to post specifics about your own business. That is the point of having the page to begin with! In posting about your business, you will want to be sure that you are posting frequently enough that you are not overwhelming your audience with what you have to offer. Having specials, events, and sales are great, but be sure you do not undercut your brand to be able to do so. Your business encompasses more than sales, share about what you do but also why you do it. Give helpful tips that you have learned. Discuss topics that would interest your visitors and they will likely come back for more.

Personal Voice on Personal Page

This is where things can get sticky for many, especially right now. Not only are we in an election year, when tensions rise, but we are also facing a global health concern. Tensions are high and emotions are all over the place. Every SINGLE one of us has an opinion and right now, it’s hard to keep that opinion to ourselves because these topics are forefront on everyone’s minds.

Here’s the hard pill to swallow. If you choose to discuss these topics, do so knowing going in that you are setting up for a debate. You will need to be prepared because if you do this, you need to be firm in your stance yet open for discussion. You need to be ready to admit when you are wrong, because that may happen. You will also want to be aware of trolls because you will be opening yourself up to them. Let me be quite firm, DO NOT ENGAGE WITH TROLLS. YOU WILL NOT WIN.

Your safest bet is to take a middle ground or keep your opinion to yourself. Because in addition to this, you need to pay attention. People will be ready for an argument and sometimes, some rather unexpected results may happen. Try to put out fires when they are small and respond to each comment individually if possible. Fires spread quickly when emotions are high, and a small fire now can lead to pretty significant repercussions down the road.

These topics aside, what should you post on your personal page? Everything you feel you would want to share on your personal page, just be aware that portions will be reflected on your business. This returns to how you present your business in a positive light, if your business page is on point but your personal page says there’s something wrong, there’s something wrong.

Here’s the thing, we all have those not so great moments in life. And some need to be shared, but not all. Personally, since starting this business, I have seen a great deal of loss in my personal life, which I have shared in some capacity on my personal socials. I did this because this information needed to be shared. But not all information needs to be shared. Often, during these periods of loss, I was struggling with other stressors, both personal and business related. This information was not shared, because it was not necessary.

Friends and family will respect that you are going through a lot but do not need to know everything on your plate. Although your emotions may be all over the place, it does not need to show publicly. In these times of difficulty, it may be best to take some time off from digital. People will understand and accept that you may need to “go dark” for a bit to regroup.

Or, you may choose to regroup publicly, and find posts that speak to you in a positive way. You may see on my Facebook page, that during some of the times of loss, I posted a lot of motivational and uplifting memes and posts. These were as much for me as they were for my friends and family. There isn’t a one size fits all option, but both are acceptable. Just be aware that if you go dark, you will want to put a time limit on it because people will want to know you are okay.

Outside of this, post anything that speaks to you on a personal level. Share photos from your life, tag your friends and family, share status updates about what you are doing, share other’s posts that are meaningful to you. Tell people about you, who you are and what interests you. If they like you, they’ll want to know more about you and how they can support you.

 

For more small business marketing insight, check out our previous blogs and come back next week when I will discuss what we mean by brand awareness and how to use it effectively in your business no matter how small you are.

 

Presentation Is EVERYTHING (Conclusion): Bringing It All Back Together

Websites. That glorious thing that we all know we need because it drives traffic directly to our business. It’s how we show we are officially in business as a business today. We know we need one because we know that’s where the people are – online. We also know that it’s a part of our sales funnel and how it collaborates with social media. But like every other post in this series, we are going to go deeper into what your website says about your business and how you may present it in a positive light.

While there are a lot of choices for platform builders, the two main components we discuss with clients are budget and visuals. Depending on the platform you choose, the overall time spent on visuals and layout can change drastically based on your budget. With that, a lower cost platform to operate, is going to require more time devoted to layout and visuals than one with a higher annual fee. No matter which platform you choose, what you have is really a blank slate to build on. So, let’s start with that and then dig deeper.

What Does Your Website Need To Say?

There’s a phrase tossed around in marketing circles, “Facts tell, stories sell.” Your website should tell a story, who you are and what you do. And like many stories, your website should have several “chapters.” A home page is an introductory chapter, it should give visitor’s an overview of your business. But more than that, it should tell a story. Start with who you are and what you do but also think about why your visitor should care. Because the more they care, the longer they stay.

This is what is known as your “bounce rate,” how long someone stays on your site before moving onto another site. Ideally, you want your bounce rate to be low. This means your visitor spent some time on your site looking around before leaving. The longer they are there, the warmer that visitor is in your sales funnel. But we’re not looking at individual people who visit and why. Nor should your website be focused on one type of audience in your sales funnel.

Your website should speak to cold to hot audiences. As such, you will want to speak to both at the same time but in very different ways. Your hot audience needs a clear and direct path to what they are looking for. Give them clear direction to find what they are looking for because they are in the decision-making process. Whereas, your cold audience, those who may have found you through a search engine such as Google, they need a bit more. This is where your home page, and what you say on it matters.

Start with the facts, who you are. This includes any representation of your business, such as your logo and any visual representations that reflect your business, such as the restaurant may show a close up of a foot-long. With this, tell your audience a little bit about your business. What you do and why you do it. Think of this as your “elevator speech.” If they are interested, they will keep scrolling.

Tell A Story

From here, the story should go more in depth. Give more details about what the site is selling. If your company sells goods, highlight the products but be careful to not overwhelm the viewer. Remember, if they are interested, they will keep going. Selling a service, will be a bit different. Rather than showcasing goods, you will want to showcase the finer details of what you offer.

How this differs from your “elevator speech” is important. From our own website, the first paragraph is telling the visitor who we are, a small business marketing agency. The second goes into greater detail, specifically the services we offer, how and why. Remember, you are telling a story so build on what is already known and go into details as you progress.

Determining what to add to from this point is up to you. If you have testimonials you would like to share, you may do so. But remember to keep them concise. Pick and choose those that are well written and showcase your business is the most positive light. Not all testimonials are going to be useful to the visitor so if you are looking to add this, be sure to find ones that highlight specifics about your business.

And most importantly, make sure the transition time between the testimonials allows enough time for the viewer to read it. While it is tempting to have a lot of movement on the site, remember, people are here for information. They need to be able to read.

Don’t Forget A Conclusion

All homepages need a conclusion. People need to know when they have reached the end. Then if they choose to investigate your other chapters, they may do so. But creating a conclusion to your page and doing so in a positive light can be more difficult than expected.

Many small businesses do this by creating a contact box, a link to socials, contact information, or a combination of all three. While some may consider this the conclusion, it is imperative that your site include a footer with a copyright. To go without it, not only sets you and your business up for any kind of infringement from the information on your page, it also suggests ignorance and oversight. Neither of which present your business in a positive light.

Writing Your “Chapters”

As websites tell a story, your pages are your chapters. There are some key pages that should be on your website no matter how large your business is: Home, About, and Contact. As we have already discussed what should be included on the home page and contact is self-explanatory, let’s dig into the About page.

Your about page should not only tell visitors about your business but also about yourself. Include an introductory paragraph about yourself, give a little background and what brought you to where you are today. Then discuss your business and dig into your why. This is important because the visitor was already interested by your home page and clicked on your About page to learn more about you and your business. They are asking to learn more, what can you tell them and how can you make them care?

More importantly, why should you care. This may seem like a little thing, but in fact it can make a huge difference in moving a visitor along in your sales funnel. Think about the last time you wanted to know more information about something, and you received a response that didn’t really answer your question.

I love my child and genuinely want to hear about his day, but “it was pretty good” doesn’t really answer my question. Now while I may probe with deeper questions, such as asking how his math test went, your visitors are not going to do that. They may check out your socials, but then you are asking them to move away from your site. If they are already this far, they are interested. Don’t lose them this far in.

Your other chapters are highly based upon your business. You may have items for sale that can be grouped together into different types, or you may offer a variety of services. Creating pages for these items allows you to go into greater details of the specifics of what you are selling. Be aware that each different type of item should have a different page but like items should remain together. Such as, a restaurant may serve both hot and cold subs as well as sides. You can create one menu page, and separate submenus for each type of food offered to showcase the specific items for sale, the hot subs, cold subs, and side order items. Your menu should be easy to navigate and easy to read. This applies to both the example restaurant’s menu and your website’s menu. The easier it is to navigate, the more convenient it is to use. And, as you remember, we’re all about convenience.

Creating Stunning Visuals

We all know that websites are more than just text. There are visual components as well, and that includes more than just photos and videos. While photos and videos may be placed through the site as needed, the overall theme, color scheme, and sizing matters. So, let’s break these three things down and see how we can use them to present the text and structure started in a positive light.

The theme is the overall layout of your site. Where is your menu bar? Along the top? Or along the sides? Does it have text or symbols? Your theme should be appropriate for your specific type of business. While symbols are a great way to have your site look more app like, which many of us are familiar with and know how to use, does it align with your specific business or your audience’s expectations?

Remember, we are looking to ease a frustration. Think about your target audience, what would they be more likely to be comfortable with using? When in doubt, simple and straightforward fair better long term that what is trending.

The theme also often includes a color scheme that may be used. While ideally, you will want to utilize colors within your logo for consistency, you will also want to be careful of how colors relate to each other.

There are what is known as complementary colors. These are colors opposite of each other on the color wheel: blue-orange, red-green, and yellow-purple. When used together sparingly, these combinations make a stunning statement because they draw the eye in. However, when used together in a larger capacity, such as the overall color scheme of your website, they can be overwhelming and painful on the eyes to read. No one wants to use a website that is headache inducing from the color scheme chosen, when in doubt, use what the theme suggests.

Sizing includes all aspects of visual sizes. This includes not only how large your photos are on your site, but also how this relates to your text, the font and font size. Font should be easy to read and should stand out from your other visual components. Your text should not be overshadowed by graphics, but rather, they should flow together and complement each other. You should also be aware of color scheme for your text. If it is hard to read because of the hues chosen, the size and style of the font chosen, won’t matter.

Font and font size should only change based on the portion of the page you are working on. Such as, a title should have a larger font size than a paragraph. However, you will want to keep these different types of text consistent throughout your site. Including the menu bar. It may not seem like a big deal, but to have text sizing different in the menu bar presents that portion of the menu is less important or more important than other pages. Your whole menu is important.

In thinking about sizing, also consider the size of your buttons, how people navigate through your site. Disproportionately large buttons drive the eye away from the text – the information that visitors came to find. Whereas disproportionately small buttons may be hard to find or make the site difficult to navigate. While click through buttons highly depend on the size site you have and how it operates, there are also other buttons to consider such as, your social media icons. *

*Note: As websites are meant for both hot and cold audiences, like your social media accounts, and it is not only acceptable but expected to have both highlighted on each, it is imperative that if you link your socials to your website that they are updated frequently. Linking your site to unused socials shows inexperience and ignorance of all digital media and can present as the owner being overwhelmed.

Bringing It All Back Together

With the visuals and text in place, and both are clear, easy to read and navigate, your site is ready for eyes (assuming you have checked visuals on both desktop and mobile views and ensured everything is operational). But how do we get the visitors to our website other than from our social media accounts? This is where SEO (Search Engine Optimization) comes in. While this can be a very in-depth process as you grow, when you are first starting out, it is quite simple.

Each builder offers SEO capabilities, whether inherently built in or a plugin to be installed. Taking time to adjust your SEO settings allows search engines, such as Google, to narrow down a topic and sites related to that topic. As we know from our own personal use, the more detailed we can be with a search, the more accurate the results are. But what if we are just looking for something, or someone who can help with a project we need completed? This is where SEO comes in.

With SEO, businesses are able to use “keywords” that describe their business that helps search engines show your website to those people who are looking for your goods or service. This returns to what you do. In finding keywords for your site, be as specific as possible. Think about what your potential customers are looking for and how you provide a solution. Ideally, you want one word or phrase as your keyword. Depending on the platform you use, you may use multiple keywords per page on your site. Be specific and purposeful. Think about what people may search for.

Additionally, you may also have the ability to add a description to your specific pages on your site. This is the information shown to the person using the search engine. When using descriptions, be clear and concise as possible, this is your first impression, and may be the difference between someone going to your site over another.

Presenting Your Business In A Positive Light

No matter where you are at in your business or how long you have been in business, presentation matters. What’s more, even if you have fallen victim to some of the pit falls along the way, you can change the perception you are giving to others.

Think about yourself, your interactions, and what you are saying. Think about your audience and what they are saying. Get to know these people, because they are pretty cool people to know, yourself included. Remember, to get a little, you need to give a little, relationships go two ways.

From this, you can change the way you are communicating with others and present your business in a more positive light. Because as we now know, how you present yourself and your business matters. What you say and how you say it, from personal interactions such as networking events, to your businesses’ front facing details, and yes, even digital communities – presentation matters. It is attached to every other portion of your business. Presentation is EVERYTHING.

 

If you enjoyed this series, please check out our other blogs and check back next week for Social Media Etiquette. I will discuss those little things on your socials that matter, why they matter and how to use these platforms effectively.

Presentation is EVERYTHING (Part 3): Building A Sense Of Community

Oh, the struggles of understanding digital media, especially social media. There are so many things to learn and terms that seem to intertwine with other terms, it can be overwhelming to know where to begin, let alone how! And yet, you know you need to use it and it adds to the frustrations you already have, some of which were discussed in the first two blogs in this series: Presentation is Everything and It’s All About Convenience.  So, let’s start simple and build on what we already know.

Where to Begin?

To know where to begin, you need to first know which platforms you should use to reach your people, your target audience. Knowing who and where they are will help narrow down the platforms you need to think about. While we advocate that every business owner should be on Facebook (research shows that about 7 in 10 U.S. Adults use Facebook), there are other platforms that can be just as powerful, if not more so when used correctly. But do you need to use them? That depends on whether or not your people are there.

With Instagram and YouTube showing great success, especially for influencers, these platforms seem to be an easy way to find easy money, if only we knew how to do it…and then there’s all the others, Snap Chat, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter – it’s a lot to consider. But is that where your people are? Instagram and Snap Chat are popular in younger age groups, 18-24 and Twitter users also, tend to be younger, and have higher education and incomes. So, if your business gears toward older adults, you need not consider these platforms.

If your target audience includes a younger demographic, then you need to consider how you will speak to that audience because each platform has a different means of communicating with others and needs to be respected. Not only will you present your business in a poor light with your inexperience with the platform, but you will also feel all of the frustration from the time spent for little return.

Speaking to The Audience: Facebook

To understand how to effectively communicate with people on these platforms, we need to know how they work. Let’s start with the big one, Facebook. People use this platform more than any other to keep in touch with friends and family and be in the know locally. It is highly centered around the idea of digital communities. Photos, videos, memes, events, updates, and shares (both personal updates and friends) are all centered around creating a sense of community digitally. This is why you can tag individuals, places, and even check in at events.

Groups are becoming more and more popular on this platform as well, which again builds on this sense of community. Facebook speaks to all the aspects of life, from the not so great moments to celebrations, it’s all there and discussed openly and frequently within these communities. In speaking with this community, you will want to have a clear idea of both who you want to speak to and where they are located. Other than that, your options are fairly open, just be sure to follow the 80/20 Rule and focus on your brand first.

Speaking to The Audience: Instagram and Snap Chat

Instagram also has a sense of community. However, this platform is focused on visual components – photos and videos with supportive text. As visuals are the key component of this platform, “stories” are very effective. Stories are a compilation of visual information that support your brand. While this may sound a bit complex, in reality, it is quite easy.

Let’s say you have an event coming up or something you want to promote. Creating a story can help boost interest by sharing photos with text and emojis that show for a 24-hour period. In creating a story, you can build excitement, but you are also using a key factor in how this platform is used, you are engaging with your community.

Because the communities on this platform can be so diverse, hashtags are used to associate with other pages as well as other communities on that platform. Such as if you have a restaurant in downtown Chambersburg, you may use #chambersburgpa to reach others who may also be interested in that community. This helps build your brand recognition within that community and builds on your own brand awareness, all in the same locale. Remember, it’s not just who your people are, it’s also where they are.

As hashtags are used heavily on this platform, it is acceptable to use up to 30 different hashtags! That can be just a little overwhelming. Determining which hashtags to use that support your brand may take some time. It comes down to some good, old fashioned research. Search for different hashtags, and see what is posted to them, does it support your brand? If so, make note of it and use it for future posts. You can also see what hashtags other businesses like yours are using and use it for your own business.

To keep posts clean, you can put your top hashtags (those that relate most with your business) in the post itself (up to 10) and any additional in the comments. Lump them together in packages of 10. This keeps everything clean and is less overwhelming for the follower to decipher.

Instagram is known for being a bit perfection forward and positive. Things posted on this platform should be uplifting or showing at your best. Presentation matters here. With this, you will also want to be aware of who you are following. Who your business follows says as much, if not more, about your brand than what you post. So be sure who you follow on this platform also supports the brand you want to build.

Snap Chat also shows stories for a 24-hour period but is used in a very different way from Instagram. Snap Chat is much more of a slice of life, it’s moments during your day and often funny. Let your silly side show and share moments of your day. People on this platform are looking for real, not glossed over like Instagram.

This platform can also be used to promote events and specials, but you should use it for more than that to keep your audience engaged. Share moments in your day with photos and videos with supportive text, emojis, and stickers, or have some fun with it and use a snap filter to become a pretty princess, a puppy dog, or even a scary monster, the possibilities are really endless. Snap Chat offers a great deal of filters that you can add to your post including based on your location – where you took the picture. Again, like Instagram, this can help build your brand awareness within your community both physically and digitally.

Speaking to The Audience: Twitter

Twitter, like Instagram, also uses hashtags but in a very different way. Yes, they are still searchable, but on Twitter they “trend.” This means, those who are using that platform are discussing a particular topic. This platform is much less focused on community, although that aspect is still there. Rather it focuses on discussing something that is on people’s minds.

Twitter is very news-focused and because of this, the majority of tweets come from a small portion of the users. With this platform, you will want to address things that are current and keep your audience up to date. You will also want to be aware of who you follow, because like Instagram, this says a lot about your brand.

This platform is known for being clear and concise in messages. Previously, you were limited to 120 characters in a post, including hashtags. This has now been increased to 240 characters, but the expectation remains, you should say what you need to say.

Supportive photos and videos are used on this platform, but it is focused on text – what you are saying. Conversation is key on this platform and with that, you will need to “talk” to or “talk about” others to your followers. This can include a shout out to another business in your area for a job well done or posting an update about something someone else has going on that supports your brand.

While this sounds a bit muddy, it really isn’t. It all comes back to what we do. Business owners know other business owners. We’re the ones who are asked, “Do you know someone who…” because yes, we probably do, and we probably know several! So following businesses on your account, especially those that relate to your brand and support what you do, and either retweeting (sharing) their posts, or tagging them in a post not only helps build their brand but also your own. It also starts a conversation, which is what Twitter is all about.

Speaking to The Audience: LinkedIn

We should all know what LinkedIn is used for, it’s where the business people are! But how we communicate with business owners is very different from how we speak to the general public. Treat this platform much like you would a networking meeting with a lot of people you know.

Tell them about what you have going on in your business, share posts or links that relate to your business, and if you own a business, create a page for it. This solidifies yourself and your business on this platform, it gives validity to what you are doing. It shows you mean business. Post business specific topics on your business page and share these to your personal page.

In addition to this, you will also want to maintain the sense of community. LinkedIn recently added different reactions to posts, which helps build on the sense of community the other platforms use and it is becoming much less of a sales dumping ground. So, post things specific to you or your business, celebrate others’ successes, comment on their posts. It’s the little things that matter.

LinkedIn also recently started using hashtags, which as we know, has worked for other social media outlets as a means of searching for information and communities. While there is no limit on the number of hashtags you can use on LinkedIn, you want to be aware of the community you are speaking to. Business owners don’t have time to go around looking up hashtags to determine if it fits the brand and on LinkedIn. Nor do we want to see a lot of hashtags in a post. It looks spammy and we all know how spam filters work. Keep hashtags concise and no more than 5.

Speaking to Your Audience In A Positive Light

Now that you know who is where and how to start a conversation with them, you need to know a bit more about who you are specifically talking to so that you can present yourself and your business in a positive light. From here, it is quite simple. Each platform, including YouTube, offers insights on your specific audience. These are the people who currently like or follow your page. And you can know a lot about them by looking at your insights. You can see their age and location, both of which are key in speaking to them.

Think about this, we all have a variety of people in our lives, from young to old. But we speak to them very differently, even when we’re talking about the same thing. Sometimes it’s simplifying the language to something they would understand, but often, we do this because of our relationships with those around us. Generally speaking, we talk differently to those within our age group than we do other age groups. But more than that, different age groups have different frustrations.

The frustrations experienced by a 25-year-old man may be very different from that of a 40-year-old woman. Whereas one may be looking for options to finance a first home, the other may be looking to refinance a current mortgage. While one business can speak to both these individuals, how you speak to them should be reflected in who you are as a business and how you speak to that age group.

Let’s return to the restaurant. A restaurant can service one frustration felt by many different ages, hunger. Sometimes choices are made based on convenience, what’s quick and easy. But often, decisions on where to eat are a bit more. Something as simple as deciding where to eat can be downright difficult! But as you have found, being concise and clear in what you say, who you say it to, and how you say it, can make all the difference.

So, with this information, start with who you have. Look at your audience, who is already on your page. How old are they? Where are they? How would you speak to them in person? Sometimes it helps if you can think about a specific group of people you know personally, try to be as diverse as possible. Once you have that group, think about their frustrations and how you have a solution for one of their frustrations. Now post about it – sell that 4.99 foot-long! But also, be sure to understand the community you are speaking to. What are their expectations for your communication? Do they want text or visuals? Do they like hashtags or not so much?

In addition to this, you should also be aware of how close your current audience is to that of your target audience. If there’s a discrepancy, you will want to focus your branding on speaking to both audiences while speaking to each individual audience. Yes, you can sell a foot-long to a lot of people, billboards do just that but you will also want to speak to your current audience. Post something later in the week that will play on a frustration – too tired to cook, need something fast and easy because the kid has practice, haven’t gone grocery shopping – and use it to promote the deal on your foot-longs.

But it’s just a little more than that. Because you must be more than just that on social media. These are digital communities. And you need to be a part of that community, an active part of that community, to have it work for you and build your brand. To do this, you are going to have to give a little bit of yourself, tell a little bit more about what you do and why you do it. You’ll want to be aware of who you are speaking to and how they communicate. You will want to meet their expectations and when you do, that’s when things start happening. And that’s when it’s time to get excited, because it will start to reflect in all other areas of your business.

This, like everything else, takes time. And in that time, you still have a lot to do. Come back next week when I am going to finish this series by discussing how you can present your business in a positive light in your digital presence – we’re talking websites and SEO!

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