Tag: growth

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.

Making It In Business

Starting a business is scary and exciting at the same time. For me, I needed the push to start to dream. Now, coming up on my third birthday, I have had many come to me and tell me that I’ve made it. I did it. I really started my own business. But honestly, I did not feel I had “made it” yet.

In my mind, making it meant that I had reached more of my goals and I still felt so far away. I asked myself why? Why do these people think I’ve made it? I struggled with this feeling and some days, still struggle to understand. Days like this, I like to look back and reflect on my personal growth over the past two years. By seeing where I was then and where I am now is shocking to me. I will not say that time has not been without challenges. In fact, I have faced more challenges than I every anticipated, much less planned for. Through those challenges, I have found strength that I did not know I possessed, but more importantly, I found support and love.

One of the more difficult challenges I found was to be rather simple, but complex at the same time. Acknowledging that I needed and finding help. The acknowledgement was simple for me. I knew I was not the best at my bookkeeping and as workload grew, I would place more focus on work that needed to be done and not as much on making sure my books were in order, much less a budget in place. When I found Kim, who was knowledgeable with Quickbooks and was willing to assist me with my bookkeeping habits, I felt a weight lifted. I felt that I was finally going to get my things in order and take a headache off my plate.

Having the ability to spend more time on what I enjoy most, I continued to work on building the business, planning and setting goals. I found like minded business owners who were willing to be contracted as needed for different jobs that I needed help with that allowed me to expand services and include more of what business owners needed. This spring, I found Jenna who was interested in learning more about the business and took a chance on working with a very young small business that felt like it was just getting off the ground. She is such an integral part of the business now; I would not be where I am today without her. With her assistance, I have been able to expand our marketing and build our brand awareness. More importantly, her assistance has helped me grow as an individual.

As business owners, we tend not to discuss our personal growth, but it is deeply tied to running a business. We are continually learning, often on the fly but it can be purposeful as well, such as attending personal or professional development seminars. This growth comes not from setting and reaching goals, but from learning more about ourselves and what we value. Growth is the foundation of “making it” because others see the difference in you when you focus on yourself and improving your physical and mental health. Your physical health keeps your body performing the tasks of running your business and your mental health allows you to see what others see in you – an incredibly brave and courageous person. Even if you aren’t feeling brave and courageous, you are.

Anyone who chooses to go into business for themselves is incredibly brave and courageous. If you aren’t feeling it, take a look back at where you were six months ago, a year ago, how ever long you need to go back to see the growth you have achieved since starting your business because it’s there. That growth shows you are making it. I know, because I am making it too.

Pushing Outside of the Comfort Zone

I am not the best at talking about myself and I haven’t figured out why quite yet, but I know it’s an issue many small business owners struggle with. We have a tendency to diminish ourselves while promoting our businesses. This is one of the most counterintuitive things we can do because why we are in business for ourselves and why we are so passionate about what we do is closely tied with ourselves! You decided to start your own business for a reason. I know this because I started my business for a reason and it’s that reason that keeps me going. That passion deep inside me has and continues to keep me working even when times are tough and when I don’t know the answers. But yet, I still don’t like to talk about myself.

A dear friend of mine says that when we break out of our comfort zone, we are able to grow. I have grown as my business has grown, but I’m much happier talking about what my business is now doing and what we are working on. We have really exciting stuff happening at Symbiotic Marketing and I get ridiculously excited with each project, each goal achieved, each and every single business we assist. Seriously, incredibly, redonkulously excited.

That’s me, hiking in Colorado, one of my favorite places to visit!

Yet, I dismiss my own hand in this excitement. I tell myself that I’m just doing what I enjoy, because I really do enjoy every single minute of what I’m doing. I woke up this morning and decided I’m done waffling, I’m done thinking it over, I’m going to do this. I’ve known for months that I wanted to start a blog for Symbiotic Marketing, but oh gheez, where to start, what to write about, what if no one wants to read it, what if, what if, what if…fluttered around my head. Those months of thinking and wondering…hell, questioning myself, I’ve come to realize that I respond well to questions.

With this, I encourage you to ask your questions, about Symbiotic Marketing, about marketing in general, about sales, about the things that keep you up at night (because they probably keep me up at night too). I will be posting about two questions that I’ve responded to recently via social media: how our rate plans are put together and my diverse background. These two are in draft stages, so please look out for them and please ask your questions!

 

Stephanie

July 6, 2019

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