Tag: entrepreneurship

There’s Too Much Internet in MY Real Life

Our journey through the digital divide has taken us through the realm of individual accounts and your Top Ten, and then through the ads we see and Pages we engage with and things we can do to help those organization and businesses during what is typically a really difficult time of year for them. Now, we are heading into the point where the Internet and the Real Life collide – Groups.

 

In real life, we create our own groups of people we communicate with – friends, family, co-workers, other business owners, the list can go on and on. Likewise, in the digital space, the list can be expansively never-ending.

 

Facebook has Groups for just about anyone and on any topic – such as the infamous Colony of Ants or the Aldi Red Bag Chicken “that’s so good, it has its own Facebook Group” have breached the digital space and moved into Real Life through our conversations about these two distinct yet very different Groups.

 

Groups are the water cooler chats in the 21st century; and while some Groups may be punny or fun, not all are. Some are meant to be informative – such as the local Community and Neighborhood Groups.

 

Not all Groups are created equally

 

As I tell our clients, not all Facebook Groups are created equally. That is why you will see some with more members, more activity, and more drama than others – and for better or worse, these are QUALITY groups because they attain what the algorithm is looking for most – that sweet, sweet engagement.

 

Just like how your Top 10 is defined by your engagement with others, and the Pages and Organizations you see on your Newsfeed is based on your engagement with them, Groups are equally determined by engagement. The only difference is the number of people who regularly engage with the Group and your personal engagement within the Group.

 

In a Group setting, we have the ability to speak to more people. Which can be incredibly effective if you are new to an area or looking for something specific in an area. But, often, we as individuals will do things in a group setting that we wouldn’t do by ourselves or in real life.

 

This can explain why at times, Facebook Groups can be a bit more drama filled, or individuals will say things in a Group setting that they would not feel comfortable doing so on their own personal Page. While this may be the case, we must remember that in the digital space, these things can become dangerous.

Data Privacy? What’s that?

 

Facebook has long been a source of controversy when it comes to data privacy, and the stickiness of the ads we see on our Newsfeed is HIGHLY indicative of just how much information is known about us as individuals.

 

I don’t mind telling you that sometimes, Facebook hits the mark closer than anyone else and it can give even me, the creeps at times.

 

Now, that is not all together a bad thing. If we’re receiving information that is important to us or make more educated decisions on the area we live in or making a large investment – these things can be downright helpful.

 

However, frequently, we do not understand how all this information is coming to us, nor do we understand the intricacies of Facebook Groups and in the digital space, where it’s the little things that make a big difference.

 

Groups Help Us Connect With Our Community

 

There are two significantly different types of Groups: Private and Public. Private Groups are those that can only be seen by those on Facebook, those who have been invited to and accepted the Group invitation and any applicable Rules associated with the Group Page. Public Groups are just that, including open to anyone who is not on Facebook.

 

While Private Groups offer a bit of added security, it should be understood that when communicating within that Group, you may be communicating with those you do not know in real life but share a mutual connection in the form of a shared topic of interest. Conversations are typically thematically driven, based on the type of Group you are in.

 

Public Groups are typically community based and include such Groups as the “What’s Going On/What’s Happening In” Pages. In these Groups, you will find events, local news, and individuals looking to learn more about the area, looking for recommendations, or posting about lost/found items.

 

Finding “Quality” Groups

 

Now, I hear you, some of these local groups, make you shake your head in wonder sometimes. They can be just a hot mess of comments and side conversations that when taken into context of the original post, may have very little, if anything in common.

 

While this seems like it is a hot cluster mess, and in some regards, it can be, it’s important to remember what feeds the algorithm – that sweet, sweet engagement. So even though, at times these things seem like a dumpster fire, they are actually working quite effectively because people are communicating with one another.

 

These Groups give a greater sense of what is like to live in a particular town or area, which is vitally important to not only those looking to relocate to an area, but also to those who live in the area. Having these Groups that are active in the local community builds on our sense of community by keeping us connected on one device that the majority of us own, and on the same platform that a whole lot of us use every day.

 

The Shear Convenience of It

 

With Facebook recently taking over as the Top Social Media platform by average monthly users (overtaking YouTube), it is evident that while our engagement of this platform has dropped off in the last few years, our usage has only increased. With more people using the platform and less engagement feeding the algorithm, Facebook has recently implemented new techniques to get us to engage with that which we engage with most – Groups.

 

Not only has Facebook added a direct button to the Groups in which you personally belong to between the Home and Notifications buttons, the social media giant has also added badges and “Community Awards” to increase engagement on Group Pages – the latter of which has been found on a local community Group Page within the last month.

 

Our local usage of not only this platform, but others, is evident in the quality of the Groups and the availability of algorithmically driven “enhancements” meant to increase our already high rate of activity on these very Pages.

 

Local Groups Are POWERFUL

 

The ability for information shared on our local Group Pages to expand outside of our region is a key step in marketing a business, organization, or event in this area. Even more than this, what we consider to be small town, local events – such as the fountain being damaged – has reached national news sources and this wasn’t the first time an event in this area has captured national attention.

 

This is directly related to how much time we spend on our devices and online, specifically on social media. Now, this is not necessarily a negative thing, as through this, we ARE more connected to those we care about and our local community. We ARE more engaged with one another.

 

Which means, whether we like it or not, we’re going to come to a place where disagreements happen, boundaries are pushed, and at times, mob-like behavior occurs. Shit gets said that wouldn’t be said in real life.

 

And then we get all hot and bothered over something said on the internet like it’s SRS business. Where it bleeds and festers into other areas of our lives. Leaving us questioning not only ourselves, but other’s motives over SHIT said on the Internet.

 

It Is SRS Business ‘Yo

 

Here’s where shit gets exceptionally real:

 

Not only are Public Groups visible and readily available to anyone, even those not on Facebook which means we are inherently going to be speaking to an unknown audience – take a moment and think on that – Private Groups can be exponentially more dangerous, simply due to our usage.

 

Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal published a series of articles titled, The Facebook Files where in one article specifically found that the adjustment made to the algorithm in 2018 made the platform a more divisive and angrier place to be. Which, if you haven’t checked my linked articles – was about the same time Facebook saw a distinct drop in engagement rates.

 

Fun times, right?

 

Hold onto your hats, cuz true to form, Facebook has fun little ways of distracting our attention when they’ve done something that has caused some unwanted attention.

 

Within A WEEK of these articles publishing, Facebook launched the Community Awards (feel free to open those links now but come back cuz we aren’t done yet).

 

And this is NOT the FIRST TIME Facebook has launched something new when they are in hot water.

 

But Wait! There’s More!

 

That is without touching “Meta” – which is a WHOLE other ball of wax where if we don’t get this shit under control, we’re in for an even worse wild ride than we’ve already been through.  I don’t know about you, but I’m about f-ing done.

 

So, here’s what I want you to do this week. Take a look at the Groups you belong to, start with those that pop up in your Newsfeed and notifications. If they are local, check to see if they are “quality” local groups and look at the privacy settings – it’ll be right by the name of the group. If it is Public, go forth eyes wide open and personal shit sealed (don’t give out your phone number plz!).

 

If it is Private – Look over the Page carefully, especially if it is a political, spiritual, or religious and look for any inconsistencies or “bleed” over from these specific categories, or any “us vs. them” derogatory type posts. These are usually topics that have little if any, bleed between in a traditional setting. Think about how these things work in real life, that’s how they should work online too.

 

As such, thematic Private Groups tend to stick to their theme and are usually primarily for entertainment and have little bleed over. Look for these inconsistencies.

 

Those Pages that do have a “bleed” be it political, spiritual, or religious and a high engagement rate on these types of posts are exceptionally dangerous. As they not only fuel lines of division and have crossed the barrier into real life, they also feed the algorithm as a positive reinforcement – meaning that you will then begin to see more and more of that type of posting, creating more division, more anger, and more isolation on your social media feed which will then begin to affect your real life perceptions as well.

 

Pretty Sweet Deal, Huh?

 

Which is the LAST thing we need after the year plus we’ve had and coming into the “happiest” time of the year, which for many – it’s not; and it’s time we stop pretending.

 

It’s time we stop pretending. Period.

 

This shit has the ability to cross into our real lives.

 

And we carry it around with us every where we go with our handy, dandy little tracking device.

 

That holy shit, for many of us, we’re closer to than our best friends.

 

Think about the shit it knows….

 

So, here’s the deal, now that I’ve hopefully taken the wool down from your eyes a bit, you’ve found that you have a *bit* more control than most would have you think. From now until the end of the year, I am offering free copies of my thesis, “You’re Doing It Wrong: Using Facebook for Personal Profit and Pleasure” for anyone wishing to get a “head start” onto where this blog is headed.

 

I will personally print these out and deliver or mail them to you. During this time, you are free to ask me as many questions as you would like.

 

Please be aware of two things: Symbiotic Marketing will be closed from December 24-January 2. This is my personal time to be with family, if I respond, please respect my time.

 

Secondly, after December 31, 2021, a change in fee structure for new clients will take effect in reflection of inclusion of PR and Training services.

 

Your business and what you do with it is an investment. It’s time it’s treated as such.

Eyes Wide Open: Starting to Take Back Some of Your Personal Power on Social Media

Last week, I wrote about ads, and mentioned that not all ads seen are on social media, but those that are on social media can be a bit “stickier” than others. This week, in our journey through the digital divide, I wanted to come back and discuss this a bit more because in the land of social media, these things take on new life.

 

Ads can be just about anywhere, and today, many of us choose to pay a little extra so we don’t have to watch or listen to them. The shear fact that over a relatively short period of time, we’ve gone from doing things during commercial breaks to paying for less commercial breaks tells me that we are so inundated with ads, we’re exhausted by them.

A Land of Light and Sound With No One Seeing or Listening

 

For a small business owner, the thought of creating something that can compete in this landscape is daunting to say the least. It looks downright bleak. Desolate.

 

So, we attack the devil we know – social media. And try to learn how to work the algorithm while finding our own voice. Which is rarely a smooth or easy process.

 

And for those who are uncomfortable in this setting, it’s often written off for other avenues – such as print or radio rather than working in collaboration with. This then, leaves a distinct disconnect in conversational traffic and often a disruption in the business functions – i.e. the shear act of doing business can be exponentially more difficult simply due to a lack of digital presence- website or otherwise.

Stuck in a Scarcity Mindset

 

This time of year is a particularly difficult time for many small businesses as we struggle for a small piece of the holiday spending pie.

 

This time of year may very well set the business for success or failure in the New Year as spending drops significantly in the first few months of every new year.

 

Every sale, matters. Every interaction, matters. Every person who walks through the door, matters more than any of us fully realize. And after the last year plus, these things matter even more.

 

Adding fuel to this fire is the shear fact that to advertise in any capacity during this time of year, inherently means a higher cost – not only financially but energetically too.

Discounting Ourselves

 

We’ve been trained as individuals to be on the “lookout” for the best deals this time of year. From Black Friday to Cyber Monday, and all the pop-up events that happen through December 24th are meant to do one thing – drive spending, typically through the “art of the deal.”

 

Now this is not all together a bad thing if your spending is going back into someone or something you feel passionate about. I’ve spent some serious dough on something that I have wanted without blinking an eye.

 

But as a business owner, I can tell you that I have fallen into the discount trap more often than I’d care to remember. Discounting in the business owner’s mind means discounting our goods or services but at the end of the day, what we’re really doing is discounting our VALUE.

 

From skimping out on business necessities, discounting merchandise, to discounting our own time – we are DISCOUNTING our own value.

 

Which stinks and makes us feel like shit.

Small Businesses ARE the Backbone to Every Community

 

While those of you who read this blog may be wondering what kind of tangent I have gone off on, I want you to know the realities of the battle for your attention every small business owner faces.

 

Things like billboards, radio ads, and even some digital and print marketing ad campaigns are simply outside of the budget. That is why we are almost relegated to a website and social media presence, and even then, these are not always easy to attain or maintain.

 

This is why you will inherently see less ads from small businesses and when you do, they appear to be of lower quality or mass produced – because at times, this is what can be afforded.

Now that doesn’t make the ad spend right – I’m looking directly at you small business owners. Spend your money wisely and intentionally. Treat it as the investment it is.

 

So, what we have when we’re online, especially on social media, is a great mixture of corporate (like Wal-Mart/Wish/Amazon) and large to medium-sized, fairly well-known local entities (like WellSpan/Orrstown Bank/Martin’s Potato Rolls) popping up either as Low Hanging Fruit or Sticky ads, depending on your usage.

 

Stand Out Against the Noise

 

Now, here we have the small business owner. Trying to find their footing in what could be a most precarious time no matter how you slice it. With as much knowledge of how to use social media, or really any form of digital media, as you, my dear reader.

 

To say that we don’t know what we’re doing is an understatement. Because as you will learn through our journey into the digital world, unraveling one string leads to another knot. This journey, however, is very similar to other journeys many others have taken.

 

There’s a reason why so many small business owners compare their business to their child. Because to a very real extent, it is. We’re literally following along by the seat of our pants and hoping that the decisions we’ve made are wise. And if not, our child/business will tell us by shitting the bed (not always metaphorically speaking) in and around the age of 3. We, like most parents, hope to have that shit under control by age 5.

 

Rely on Your Tribe

 

I tell you all this, dear reader, because YOU have a very important and integral role in not only what you see, but also in how well you can help these businesses achieve truly free advertising on their end, that builds and extends the local community experience as a whole.

 

That’s some pretty cool shit right there. Especially when you can do this by doing something you’re already doing any way.

 

Feel those feels because that’s some powerful shit right there.

 

Think BIG

 

There’s a reason behind all this local growth. The capacity for a Page to hit over 100K in Franklin County alone is not difficult. The capacity for that Page to then speak to a greater, larger overall audience is then that much easier to accomplish when proper steps are in place.

 

Think about what that could mean for the small local, non-profit organizations who’s mission it is to raise funds to support our community.

 

Think about what it could mean for voter turnout in our local elections.

Think about what it could mean to the small business owners in our community if more people knew about their goods and services.

 

That’s some pretty big shit.

 

And You, you as an individual, have the power to start making these changes happen. All by scrolling on social media and doing what you do.

 

It Really IS That Simple

 

Two weeks ago, I asked you to start looking at your Newsfeed for your Top 10. [I’d love to hear how that’s going for you btw – hit me up on socials and let me know] This week, I want you to do the same for local organizations and businesses that are important to you.

 

Search their social feeds and see what they’ve posted recently. Throw a like, a comment, or a share up there – just be sure to not share too much – no one wants a Spammy Cathy. And even though these things are weighted differently, you can do a lot with just a few likes and reactions. Trust your gut.

 

Now, here’s the sweet part for you – the more you do this, the more you will see from these organizations and businesses.

 

Ever miss out on hearing about an event until it was too late? Not. No. Mor’.

 

And that’s not only powerful shit, but some pretty sweet shit too.

 

Now go out there and help the local guy out. We need it and a few likes and hearts can show our Pages to others who may not know about us that need us.

 

It’s all about those connections. And my dears, that is what social media is all about. Creating and maintaining those sweet, sweet connections that you love to see.

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.

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!

Presentation Is EVERYTHING (Part 2): It’s All About Convenience

Last week, I wrote on how we, as business owners, present ourselves and through that, our business in a positive light and what that may entail. It’s more than we expect and requires us to take a deep and personal look into our own behaviors. This week we will tackle how to present our business processes and through that, our digital and advertising efforts in a positive light and more importantly, why this matters.

As you will recall from last week, presentation is EVERYTHING because it sets not only our own expectations but also our clients and customers expectations for doing business with us. With so much of our lives being lived digitally – let’s be honest, most of us have a tiny computer in our pocket that we happen to call our phone which ironically, we rarely use for that purpose – the two, business production and digital presentation need to be tied together. But first, let’s discuss what I mean by business production and processes.

Business Production and Processes

Business production is focused on what you make. From handmade goods to services you provide, it all falls under what your business produces. For restaurants, this would be the food served, the type and presentation style tells people what to expect from eating at that restaurant. But there’s more to it because any restaurant owner will tell you that the atmosphere matters just as much as what is being served. You can be selling high end, farm to table meals but if your interior design looks to be that of a diner, then that is how you will be perceived.

This, then is your business processes. It is the support system in which you present your goods and services, or business production and tells people what to expect when working with you. Yes, the atmosphere you create, says a lot about your business. Let’s start with a big one that most of us consider in the creation of the business but may not have top priority as we grow.

When is your business open? Hours of operation are key to the success of any business and highly depend on the type of business you are in. Are your hours of operation clearly listed, digitally and physically if you have a physical location? Do you adhere to these hours of operation or do you make exceptions? And if you do make exceptions, are you clear in those or are you presenting that your hours of operation are merely suggestions?

Having clear and defined hours of operation for your business is not only important to maintain your own sanity, but also tells customers what to expect from your business. Certain types of businesses are expected to operate during specific hours, or “banking hours.” Whereas, others may have a very different set of expected operating hours. Having hours of operation that fit your specific business type may be rather straight forward. Say you operate a spa – your hours of operation tell customers a lot about what to expect from their experience with you. But it’s more than that. You are setting an expectation.

Setting Expectations

Let’s consider the expectations you set from your hours of operation. If you are in a situation where there are culturally accepted “normal” hours of operation, such as Symbiotic Marketing, our hours are already set by what is already accepted and expected. Businesses who work with other businesses typically operate under “banking hours,” Monday through Friday 8-5 or 9-5. This is why many networking events take place early morning, lunch time, and in the evenings. However, as many business owners will tell you, their hours of operation are very different!

While this may be because our personal “business” hours most definitely fall outside the “normal” hours of operation, because it does. But also, because not all businesses can operate successfully withing “banking hours.” For those, creating hours of operation and expectations for such are much more stringent but also flexible, which leads to another Catch-22 which is again, tied to frustrations.

Are You Setting Frustrations?

Any business owner will tell you that setting hours of operation can be a frustration. When you set that expectation, you are telling potential and current clients that you are working during those times. But then the kid gets sick. The car needs an unexpected repair. You have a doctor’s appointment. These things happen, and when they do, they interfere with your “working” hours. So, you make adjustments and work outside of your hours of operation to get things done. All the while, you are becoming more frustrated because honestly, how much longer can you keep this up? We’ve all been there.

What’s more important, is the customer’s perception and their possible frustrations that are being set by your hours of operation. This comes down to knowing your target audience, who you want to reach with your business. Who you are servicing with your business should be closely tied to your hours. Retail stores in a downtown environment have a very different set of expected hours than those in a strip mall. When you adjust your hours to be more restrictive or flexible than the expected hours of your location, it can make you appear to be difficult to work with. However, if you own a specialty service, you have the flexibility of creating more specific, non-traditional hours. And in doing so, sets the expectation that what you have to offer may be more of a luxury item.

In either case, you are setting expectations related to frustrations. People tend to do business with those that operate within the expected norms not only within the industry but also the location it serves. If you fall outside of those norms, you are presenting to your customers that you may be frustrating to work with or buy from or that an outside frustration can affect the continued use of your business.

Let’s return to the restaurant for a moment. I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t love a good meal and sometimes, that’s expensive. When our budgets allow, we are more likely to eat out and eat at nicer restaurants. However, when things are tight, we’re more likely to cook at home. It isn’t something we like to do, it’s something we feel we need to do. This not only affects the restaurants we eat at, but all other goods and services outside of what we see as our “real needs.” As budgets shrink, we tighten belts, and this is when items that are considered to be “luxury” are cut. We, at Symbiotic Marketing, have felt this as much as you. That’s when tough decisions are made. But here’s that Catch-22, as we become more frustrated, our “needs” either shrink or grow.

When Frustrations Grow

When our frustrations grow, we often look to convenience first. How can I make this frustration go away? There’s a reason why we can now buy a car online and pick it up from a vending machine and why we can now do all of our grocery shopping online and have it dropped off at our door or we can pick it up on our way home. We’re busy people! For our little frustrations, finding a quick and convenient way of addressing it, is key. Maybe it’s popping through the drive through for dinner because you just don’t want to cook. Or it’s having cat litter delivered to your home because lugging it from the store, to the car, and into the house is just too much work.

But what do we do when those frustrations are larger, because the need is larger? Or even worse, what do we do when we are frustrated, and we don’t even know why because it’s somehow all tied together? For a business owner, it is all tied together. Your budget is directly tied to your finances. Your marketing is directly tied to your budget. Your sales and client load is directly tied to your marketing. And the result of your sales and client load is your finances. It can be a vicious cycle.

So, how do you speak to the customers and clients who are in the cycle of frustration? Whether their frustration is one from convenience, such as not having the time to maintain a yard or from some other outside frustration, such as looking for assistance with financial concerns, you need to be where the people are – specifically, your target audience.

Be Where Your People Are

According to Pew Research, 96% of Americans own a cellphone of some kind, and 81% own a smartphone. No matter how much time is actually devoted to being online or playing a game, it is clear how quickly and easily technology has integrated our lives.

Having lived in and remember the time before the internet (weren’t those the days), I am fascinated by easily certain transitions from what could be considered analog to digital are accepted and then expected. What I mean is that we used to meet people face to face or over the phone. That was how we communicated directly with each other. Today, we are much less likely to speak to one another on the phone but rather through text and messenger platforms. And now we can respond to these texts by a watch we wear on our wrist.

This speaks to our convenience frustration. We want things to be at our fingertips and we want it now! But it is more than just communication we want – we also want all of the things. We go to the internet for advice, recommendations, quotes, and most of all, for information. At a time when you can literally look up anything from Andy Rooney videos to communities devoted to cats, people are there. And they are consuming all of it.

There’s a reason why major companies advertise online and on specific platforms. Ever wonder why there are ads that play before a YouTube video? Because that is where the people are. While it can be easier for a larger company to spend the money on a larger campaign to reach more people, smaller businesses do not have this luxury. We need to be more specific, more targeted in our approach because we are pulling on a much smaller audience.

Knowing Your Audience

Having a clear view of who your audience is, is only part of the picture. You also need to know where they are, physically and digitally from you to be able to reach them. Physically, the determination is rather simple – how far are you or your client willing to travel for your goods or service. Digitally, it gets a little murky – for many, it’s about as clear as mud.

Your digital presence says a lot about you as a company and sets expectations for what it may be like to work with you. While there are some clear expectations for businesses, such as it is acceptable when you are small to start off with a social media account and grow into a website. Which platforms and how to use the accounts effectively is where many small business owners start to become lost.

To add to this frustration, how to reach those audiences, which we all know are there! Our frustration grows, because we know this ties to other aspects of our business, and this is when decisions are made. Do we dismiss this audience because we don’t know how to reach them or, do we dig deeper? Come back next week, when I will discuss how to go deeper into digital, specifically social media and how you can work to find your target audience and present your business to them in a positive light.

Presentation Is EVERYTHING: Presenting Your Business In a Positive Light

In the art world, presentation is everything. From how a culinary delicacy is plated to the atmosphere in a museum, it matters because it is part of the experience. Even more than this, it sets your expectations. If you are presented with a crock of soup that is clean and topped with a puff pastry as opposed to a Styrofoam cup of the same soup, you will expect not only a different experience in eating this soup, but that same soup may also taste better because of how it is presented.

Or say, you want to stop and see a museum. You act differently in a museum that has a lot of white space and lighted art on the walls than you would in one that has a lot to see and may have more lighting spread throughout. Because your expectations of what the museum is offering – high end art or informative and educational pieces depends on proper presentation.

Presentation is EVERYTHING

Whether we like it or not, as business owners, we are a part of the art world. How we present ourselves, and through us, our business matters. It is everything and includes every aspect of our business. While the size of or age of your business may be reflected in your presentation, it is important to present yourself and your business in the way you envision it could be.

It does not matter if you are just starting out with a Facebook page with friends and family following and a few business cards in your pocket or if you have been in business for several years and are known for what you do. How you present yourself in public, from meeting with clients to networking, to how you present your business production – what you make, and how you present yourself digitally – website, social media, search engines – and in advertising matters.

How Are You Presenting Your Business?

Think a bit on how you present your business. It’s harder to do than you would think. Often, we rely on telling what we do and through that, what we are good at. While this is a part of the presentation, it is only a small part. Think about how you interact with your clients, how you answer the phone or respond to email. Do you state your business name when you answer a call? Do you have a signature in your email? These little things matter in your presentation. It shows that you are committed to your business. But let’s take it a step further. Did you know that a smile can be heard over the phone? It’s true. Emotions can show through on how we interact with and communicate with others. And often, the two most recognized emotions, are happiness and frustration. Both of which, small business owners have in spades.

As small business owners, we know that our highs can be fleeting, and our frustrations can be many. But is that how we want to present ourselves and our business? Absolutely not! Who wants to do business with someone who does not like what they are doing? But often, if we look at how we present ourselves, this is just what we are doing.

What Are You “Saying?”

When business owners gather, either in small groups or in a networking setting, we talk about our businesses. Sometimes these conversations are more directed toward the business aspects, what we do and how we do it. However, when we are in a more comfortable setting, with other business owners we know well, our conversations are deeper. We talk more about specifics of our business; from specials we are offering to frustrations we have or lessons we have learned along the way. We look for help and offer help, all which stem from our frustrations.

Many business owners are focused on how to have Uncle Sam take less from their hard-earned money. For many, the money saved over time through retirement funds or traditional savings techniques have funded the creation of our businesses, which has already been taxed for us to access it. Then, in paying ourselves for the work in our businesses, we are taxed again. This is a huge frustration! So we become creative in how we pay ourselves and operate our business and we share what has worked with other business owners.

Be Careful of the Catch-22

However, there is a Catch-22 in sharing our frustrations and it can be seen in how we present them. Let’s address the tax issue again, because it is directly related to a fundamental issue many business owners have, finances. Operating a business means that you have two budgets to focus on, your personal budget and your business’s budget. Both of which need to be operationally sound for you to live. You need to know that what you have coming into the business will be enough to support you, and your family if you have one. Additionally, you need to know that what you are paying yourself is not only enough for you to survive, but also enough left over for other expenses – such as those yearly taxes. It is not only frustrating; it can also be overwhelming.

In this state, and in a comfortable atmosphere, we are more likely to indulge ourselves and discuss these frustrations. But it is in the presentation that matters. In a comfortable setting with people you know, how do you respond when asked how your business is going? Do you say, “Living the dream…” or some equivalent? Or are you straighter to the point, “I don’t know how much longer I can do this.”? Because both present the same way, they show that you are frustrated and overwhelmed. They also show that you may not continue with this chosen path. This can have a ripple effect. Not only are you presenting this to other business owners, you are also presenting this to those who you do not know, those who may have been a referral to your business.

Other business owners are often the ones who are asked if they “know someone who…” because we are so in touch with other businesses. We not only know who is around, but also who is coming and who is leaving, or may be perceived as leaving. If you present yourself to other business owners in this light, they will be less likely to tell others about you.

Changing Your Presentation

This is not to say that business owners cannot discuss frustrations with other business owners. Because, often in this, we are asking for help. When asking, be as specific as possible such as, “My business is making more money this year than expected, and I am afraid I will have to owe at tax time and won’t have the funds to cover.” This says more, than “I’m worried about my finances” and gives others the opportunity to help. This also presents in a more positive light. This is an experience many business owners can relate to. They most likely have been through this themselves or know someone who has. Because this is familiar, it is often associated with the beginning of a successful business. And as we know, successful businesses are referred businesses, which is directly related to growth in business.

You can be incredibly good at what you do, and let’s be honest, we wouldn’t be in business if we weren’t. But if you present that you are struggling, struggling in personal matters or business matters and are not clear and concise on your needs, it will be reflected in your business.

Professional Growth and Personal Growth

Often business owners focus on professional growth, what they need to make their business successful, and less so on personal growth. Personal growth, whether we want it to or not, is continuously happening, and happens at a much faster rate once we decide to start a business. We need to become intimately acquainted with ourselves to be able to present our business well. This means we need to address not only the things we do well but the things we aren’t and finding solutions to those problems.

To do this, we need to look deeper, much like how our conversations in a comfortable setting go deeper, and we need to be concise in what we are looking for. If finances are an issue, consider looking at your budgets – both personal and business – and break them down. Where, why, and how was money spent? Really look at if it was necessary.

Often, we think things are necessities when in reality, we may be compensating for a frustration. In business, this may be a turning point when you decide that this frustration is holding you back and you delegate it to another. However, when addressing frustrations of a personal matter, there isn’t anyone you can delegate it to. You can seek help, but ultimately, you must be the one who takes action to make the change.

Presenting Publicly in a Positive Light

How you present yourself and through that, your business is key in public perception. It tells people what to expect when working with you. It also tells people what to expect from your business, not only what you do but the strength and longevity of your business through your personal interactions. Reflect on what you are saying and how you are saying it and ask yourself, is this how I want my business to be perceived? If you find that you have been presenting yourself and your business in a less than positive light in a public setting, only you can take action to change that. In addition to changing your interactions, you will also need to double down on the other aspects of your presentation – digital presentation and advertising in order to shift perception and continue to grow your awareness.

Check back next week for part two of Presenting Your Business In A Positive Light where we will go into detail of how to review and change your business’s perception in digital and advertising platforms. And for specific tips on things you can do now to build your brand and networking, check out our previous blogs: Branding – Why is it important?, and Networking and Your Business.

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