Writing (& More) for Small Businesses Delivers Big Opportunities

I’ve always loved to write.

While most kids were playing with blocks or dolls, I was publishing magazines or newspapers with feature articles, ads, sports box scores and all.

In college, I majored in Journalism and Mass Communication, but I took every writing class I could—business writing, media writing, creative writing, copywriting. I wanted to be well versed in nearly any writing discipline, so I could pursue numerous avenues in my career.

I Jumped at Every Opportunity to Write

As I started my career, I jumped at the opportunity to handle any writing opportunity. While I was pursuing my love of writing, I was also gaining more attention at work and building my portfolio (unknowingly at first).

Before long I was ghost writing for my manager and members of our executive team. As I continued to write, I developed a reputation throughout our company (a $350 million company with around 115 employees) as a go-to writer and editor. Eventually, I was published under my own byline in our company newsletter, which was a thrill.

You Can Pick Up a Lot By Asking Questions and Listening

As my career progressed, I started to think about my future. What did I want out of my career? A corner office and impressive title? Or something else?

I worked at the corporate headquarters of a franchising company, so my job involved interacting with and supporting small business owners around North America.

Every day, I was learning more about running a business, even subconsciously. I’m naturally curious, so I would ask questions while communicating with our franchise owners. People like to talk, especially about themselves, their businesses, and their accomplishments, so you can pick up a lot by paying attention, asking questions and listening.

Guess Who Some of My First Clients Were?

While I was helping our owners, I noticed some of them were looking for affordable marketing and writing services beyond what our company offered. They knew they needed help in these areas but couldn’t afford to hire large marketing agencies.

After nine years of honing my skills and building a professional network in corporate America, I left that company and struck out on my own. Guess who some of my first clients were? The same people I had been helping.

Starting My Own Business Seemed Like a Crazy Dream

While it was a long road, the idea to start my own business came during an aha moment 15 years in the making. (I realized I wanted to write for a living while I was in high school, although I couldn’t see myself—a country kid from an unincorporated village—as a writer.)

One day at work, I realized that so many small business owners don’t know how to market themselves and couldn’t afford traditional agency fees. With my diverse background in marketing, I could start a business offering professional marketing services and experience at affordable rates.

I could give brands a voice via marketing, writing and social media services, so business owners could focus on the reason they’re in business, and not struggle with marketing decisions, writing copy and developing social media strategies.

After I realized I could start my own business, it still seemed like a crazy dream. But I did start thinking about it a lot. The next day, I began thinking about business names and what would make my business unique. The more I thought about it and talked about it, the more it became a real possibility.

At a company event, I finally made the decision: I had to go out on my own. A year later, I left and never looked back. On May 15, 2012, Clearly Conveyed Communications (CCC) was born.

You Learn a Lot About Running a Business When You Jump Out On Your Own

When I started my business, I never dreamed of today—eight years down the road. I was just trying to get through each day. Eight years later, I’m still trying to get through each day, but I can’t imagine doing anything else.

You learn so much about running a business when you jump out on your own. (I know I did!) As much as I researched and planned (and you should research and plan), at some point you have to jump in and learn as you go. (Here’s some lessons we’ve learned over the years.)

To get started, I focused on the professional network I had spent the previous nine years building. I reached out to contacts I had made and relationships I had built over time to let them know I was in business. Not only were these people potential customers, but they were also connectors.

In addition, I worked out an extensive transition plan with my former employer. It helped them maintain their services as we hired and trained my replacement, and they were my first paying client. It was nice to have income as I was building my business and looking for more clients.

I Didn’t Foresee that Businesses Would Want to Outsource Their Social Media Management

While I planned on starting a marketing company that focused heavily on writing services, I didn’t foresee the interest in businesses outsourcing their social media management. I started receiving so much interest in this area that I added a new page to my website.

Today, social media management and content creation is a significant part of my business. In turn, they’ve led to additional writing opportunities.

Offering an array of services as a marketing company allows me to present a full-service front to my audience.

The inaugural Tweetup we organized for the firefighters.

For example: We partnered with a fellow marketing company, owned by a volunteer firefighter, to handle FDIC’s (Fire Department Instructors Conference) social media for six years. (See picture above.) We developed a year round social media presence for them, so firefighters could connect, learn and train virtually, too.

A Trend in Content Marketing: Long-Form Content

While my company creates a variety of content, we’ve noticed a trend in content marketing for long-form content, and we’ve jumped on it. It seems counterintuitive to our short attention spans and the constant state of information overload we live in today. However, quality long-form content performs well online, draws traffic and gives you a lot of content to repurpose.

The key is to make it readable (and skimmable) with appropriate visuals, short paragraphs and different sections, or headings. White space and proper formatting are your friends on screen.

SEO is important, but remember to write for people, not search engines, because they’re the ones actually reading it. You can still include keywords and appropriate tags and code while making your writing readable—by humans.

While we enjoy creating long-form content, CCC pursues all types of project-based work and programs. For example, we love writing all the copy for a new website or managing a company’s entire social media presence (as opposed to only creating content). These projects and programs pay more, so we can devote the time and resources to producing our best work. They’re also easier to schedule in advance, so we can utilize our time as effectively as possible.

Putting Our Clients First Helps Us Grow Our Business

Having said that, we will take on small programs, including minor content editing and distribution, or some one-off projects, to make more contacts and build more relationships.

Doing good work for people and helping them with their needs, however minor, can result in referrals.

We’ve been fortunate to be referred several times, resulting in new customers and opportunities.

That’s why we always put current clients first. It may seem better to focus more on business development, because small business owners usually don’t have the resources to wait for new customers.

However, we’ve found that by putting current clients first, we’re their first call—for any marketing activity. As we continue to help them with their needs, they continue to come back and refer us to their clients, business associates and friends.

In fact, we work with some businesses through our clients. They can expand the services they offer without hiring full-time employees or making a significant investment.

For example, a company who sells branded merchandise and printing services can add writing, social media and additional marketing services to their service offering to truly become a full-service marketing agency. As long as we work closely together, it’s a win for all three companies—CCC, our client and our client’s client.

Marketing: What to Consider Before Expanding Social Media Platforms

How do we market our marketing and writing services? We practice what we preach—although sometimes we’re a little slow to take our own advice.

We always advise clients to consider their resources before jumping into social media. It takes time and dedication to build an active, engaged community on a social platform. You don’t need to be on every social platform available or jump on the latest trend.

While social platforms all have their own strengths, they tend to copy each other. Has a new platform grabbed your attention? What features do you like? Wait a minute, and they may appear on a platform where you already have an engaged community.

For example, Snapchat become a darling in the social media world, and then Instagram (and later Facebook) added ephemeral content, or Stories. TikTok has exploded in popularity over the past year, but Instagram has recently announced that it’s rolling out a new TikTok-like feature, Reels, to new markets and expanding its capabilities.

This feature isn’t available in the U.S. yet, but we’ll probably see it eventually. There may be reasons you want to expand to new social platforms, but think about it first and make sure you have a strategy.

When CCC started, we jumped on numerous social media platforms and overextended our resources. Slowly, we reassessed and cut back to where we are today. That has allowed us to focus more on original content creation and distribution for ourselves instead of mainly curation.

Curation is important, because it introduces you to new people and delivers a wider range of voices to your social media communities. However, original content will help you stand out and bring on new clients.

Why Writers Should Have a Blog

If you’re a writer, you probably have a blog, or at least you should. Your blog serves as a place to showcase your writing, and it can lead to partnerships or business opportunities.

Try to set up a consistent publishing schedule based on when the most readers are stopping by your blog. While it’s important to be active, only commit to what you can do. If you’re on your own and spend a lot of time on client work, then you may only be able to publish once a week or twice a month. Don’t try to publish too often for the sake of publishing; your content will likely suffer.

House your blog on your website. It will be easy for your readers to learn more about your services, and your fresh blog content will help optimize your site’s search performance. While I’m not a big fan of consistently removing content (which is a trend today), updating older content helps boost your blog’s performance. Fix any broken links or missing videos you come across, and add any relevant, new information on the post topic to inform your readers.

Don’t Publish Your Content and Wait for People to Find It

Producing quality blog content can be time-consuming, but there’s even more work ahead after you publish. Distributing your content is important, so it’s seen by a larger number of potential readers.

Don’t publish content and wait for people to find it. You have to actively and consistently promote your content, because there’s such an overload of content today.

Don’t just blast your content across various social platforms in one format at the same time. Share each article in a format best suited for each platform. Repurpose your content so you get as much mileage as possible out of it.

Write a long-form article? Share bite-sized tidbits on Twitter, each time driving more traffic back to your article.

Record a video sharing highlights of the article, and post it on your LinkedIn profile or Page.

Share your article as a link preview post to your Facebook Page or group.

Share behind-the-scenes content while you’re writing to tease a new blog article in your Stories and to let your audience know when it will publish.

Content is king, but distribution is queen—and she rules the roost.

Meet Your Readers Where They Are

Some readers will prefer to read your content on these distribution channels instead of subscribing to your blog. We’re living in the age of assistance, so you need to meet people in the moment—where they are.

Building active, engaged communities on social media takes time, but these communities are full of potential readers and people who will share your work.

Use your social presences to interact with your audience and request their feedback. Instagram Stories has numerous stickers you can use to interact, while Twitter offers polls and the ability to have conversations with people around the world.

Facebook Groups have become increasingly popular, as you can offer a smaller part of your community first access to your projects, advice in a specific area (i.e. non-fiction writing tips) or a community of peers for fellow writers to bounce ideas off of. Depending on how you utilize Facebook Groups, you may be able to monetize them.

While CCC receives most of our work through referrals, social media and content creation are crucial in our marketing efforts. Even when you are referred for an opportunity, people will often look you up online first.

Do you have a strong presence on LinkedIn? Is your website up-to-date? What comes up when people Google you? Make sure you have a strong digital presence, so people actually contact you when you are referred to them.

What To Do When Your Writing Business Slows Down

If business has slowed down, spend more time creating and distributing content. Be even more active in your social media communities and work on growing them. Genuinely engaging with others will help you grow your community and may lead to new opportunities.

One of our larger clients watched our social efforts for some time before reaching out to us. Everything you do online is visible, so make sure you’re being your best self. Setting aside 10-15 minutes per day on a platform, including reading and commenting on other blogs, will help you make new connections and grow your communities.

We’ve had success utilizing these tactics, even though they take time. Social media is a long-term game; don’t expect success overnight. Instead of trying to create content that will go viral, focus on building and delivering value to your audience one day at a time.

This year, we’ve focused on creating more original content and distributing it more. By cutting back our overall social presence, we have more time to focus on our current communities and how we can help them.

By doing so, we’ve landed a few new, smaller clients. We’re excited to continue helping them, so we can grow these accounts into larger ones. You never know where an account or new opportunity might lead.

How Writers Can Expand Their Services

Speaking of opportunities, expanding your services or collaborating with fellow writers, editors and marketing agencies (or even fellow small or local businesses) can help you grow your business as well.

Are there additional services you can offer that make sense with your current business? Or maybe you already offer them, but people don’t realize that you do. If you see a trend in your industry or notice interest in a particular service, highlight it on your website and social channels.

Working with other companies who complement your services can help you land larger clients and opportunities. If you write copy for the web, look for a designer to partner with so you can offer complete website solutions.

Or look for companies that you can refer your clients to for related services, so they always come to you first. Building relationships with fellow business professionals and owners will make them more comfortable referring business to you, too.

This has been a stressful and trying year, so we hope everyone is pulling through it as well as you can. It may be the time to try a new idea, launch a related service or partner with another company. We wish everyone the best of luck moving forward in 2020 and beyond.

* * *

A version of this post was first published on WriterCEO.com. Thank you to Colleen M. Story for sharing our writing and marketing tips!

How to Attract Customers to Your Brand with Inbound Marketing

How to Attract Customers to Your Brand with Inbound Marketing

How does inbound marketing work? Watch a coneflower.

On a recent visit to the Akron Art Museum and its beautiful garden, I stopped to watch some butterflies flying around a coneflower. Coneflowers attract butterflies with their sweet nectar, so people love to plant them in their gardens. Plus, they don’t require much attention, withstand colder temperatures and can be divided every few years to attract even more butterflies to your garden.

So, let’s compare this process to your inbound marketing efforts. You can attract butterflies (your target audience) to your coneflower (product or service) with sweet nectar (compelling content). While your inbound marketing efforts do require attention, they’re worth the effort—and help is available. Plus, these efforts can help you withstand a cold spell in your business and can be replicated to help you grow your business.

Inbound: Not Your Father’s Marketing

Create and share content your target audience wants. Are you a lawn care company? Share lawn maintenance tips, including seasonal activities people should be doing throughout the year (i.e. applying fertilizer, weeding). Help people care for their lawnmower and other yard maintenance tools. When they’re ready to buy, they’ll turn to you—because you’ve built trust by giving them the information they need when they needed it.

When you do mention your products or services, educate your target audience on how you’ll improve their lives. Go beyond listing features to share benefits your customers will receive from your product or service. What pain point(s) does it address? How will it make their lives better?

How to Connect with Customers in the Age of Assistance

How can Inbound help me?

No matter what you do for a living, you’re probably looking for customers. That’s where Inbound marketing comes in. It helps you attract the right customers, not more empty leads. The Inbound methodology turns strangers into promoters or evangelists for your brand. It takes time but produces results.

The Inbound Methodology: Attract, Convert, Close & Delight

Ready to see how Inbound marketing can help you? Let’s talk. As an Inbound Certified company, we’re positioned to help you navigate the ins and outs of the Buyer’s Journey.

Your Inbound Certified Guide,
Jaime

 

How to Connect with Customers in the Age of Assistance

We’re living in the age of assistance. What does that mean for marketers?

Marketing tips in the age of assistance
Customers have more options than ever before today, thanks to technology. Therefore, each buyer’s journey is unique and customers are looking for valuable content to educate themselves before making a purchase.

“Focus on the user and all else will follow.”

Your marketing strategy needs to be focused on your customer or prospect. Where do they look for information? How do they like to shop? How do they like to interact with brands?

If people need help, they usually start with Google. (While the search giant reaches 93% of US consumers, note that your customer base or target audience may use Bing or another search engine. It’s important to know where your customers go.) We’re busy, distracted and always on the go, so people are searching on mobile, including reviews, for information to make decisions in the moment.

Consider this example… Jon is working at home when he hears water running. The problem is that he’s not running any water. After heading upstairs, he realizes that his toilet is overflowing. He lives in an older home, so there’s no shut-off for the toilet; he needs to turn off his water at the main shut-off. Quickly, he Googles shut off water main and finds a YouTube video showing him how to locate his main water valve and shut it off. Jon follows the directions and shuts off his water before suffering any damage. Who does he call to fix the toilet? The local plumbing company who provided the video, of course.

Note that this local company gave Jon the information he needed first. He didn’t have to dig through their website or sit through a sales pitch beforehand. Educating consumers before you ask for a purchase or deliver a call-to-action (CTA) drives business.

 

Meet People in the Moment

People are living in the moment today, so they rarely plan in advance. Jon probably should have known where his main water shut-off valve was, but he had recently moved in and hadn’t gotten around to finding it yet. He’s not alone.

Mobile searches for today, tomorrow or now are up 900%. Our phones are never out of reach, so it’s always convenient to find the information we need—in a traffic jam, at the doctor’s office or at your kid’s ballet recital.

How can you meet your customers or prospects in the moment?

Start where they start: Google yourself.

Google yourself, your category and your business. Do you like what you see?

 

Google yourself, your category and your business (in incognito mode, if you prefer). Do you like what you see? Are you providing valuable content to help your customers and prospects educate themselves and move along the buyer’s journey? Or are you only asking for the buy? Be a part of the conversation along the entire journey, so consumers can get to know your company and form an emotional connection with you. If you just show up at the end when consumers are ready to buy, they’re likely to go with another company who has been there all along the way.

While we’re on this subject, does your business have a Google My Business listing? If not, set one up. This free resource helps you connect with customers across Google Search and Maps, boosting your SEO efforts. Remember to include a phone number too. It allows people to quickly call you, which could be the difference between you getting an opportunity or your competitor.

While Google My Business is an important starting point, don’t stop there. Tracking how your customers first found you is important, but so is measuring every moment that matters to your business. Each buyer’s journey is unique today, so you need to track every interaction with your customer and map out their individual customer journey.

Your customer may have found your company through Google, but then she visited your website, read a few blog articles to learn more about a subject that interested her and connected with you on your Facebook Page. After those steps, she contacted you to discuss a project. If she hadn’t made all of those steps, she may not have ever contacted you to do business. That’s why it’s so important to measure every interaction or touch point with your customers, so you understand how they want to be communicated with and helped along their unique buyer’s journey.

 

Make an Emotional Connection

People are looking for more from brands and businesses today. They don’t want to just buy stuff; they want to support companies who have similar values to theirs and are good corporate citizens.

Tell your brand’s story: how you got started, why you’re in business and the faces behind the brand name. Talk about your charitable efforts and community involvement, so customers can see your values in action. They want to know where their hard-earned dollars are going and what kind of company they’re supporting. Tell your founder’s story and shine the spotlight on your employees with behind-the-scenes content, including how your product is made, a day in the life or following employees outside the office.

Creating an emotional connection with your audience is crucial to your marketing and sales efforts.

 

While customers want to get to know your business or brand, they also want to be entertained. Most people make decisions emotionally and then look for rational reasons to support their decisions—especially when we’re making so many decisions today in the moment.

So, your content needs to educate, entertain and connect with your customer on an emotional level. In fact, advertising campaigns are twice as likely to perform well if they contain emotional content instead of rational content. Buyers consuming your content want to feel a connection with your brand—not think about how your brand will help them.

In 2019, we average a 3-second attention span online, so you need to grab a viewer’s attention quickly. Create joy or surprise right away to keep viewers engaged with your content. Consumers get distracted every 10 minutes, on average, and take three minutes to refocus, so you’ll need to keep them engaged the entire time they’re consuming your content. If you lose them, they may jump to something else and never come back.

3 Key Principles in the Age of Assistance

  1. Be There—Connect with the right people during key moments of intent.
  2. Be Valuable—Give consumers the information they need where they are.
  3. Be Quick—Automatically act on intent. Consumers expect quick responses today!

As marketing professionals, how can you deliver on these three key principles?

  1. Know Your Audience—Go beyond demographics to target consumers effectively. Detailed buyer personas are important!
  2. Know Your Brand’s Story—Tell your story, so your audience can understand your values and connect with your business on an emotional level.
  3. Conceptualize the Space—Understand the marketing domains your customers are operating in so well that you know the best ways to connect and communicate with them in those areas.
  4. Self-Educate—Marketing knowledge is constantly updating today, so you need to always be learning.

Understanding your customers (beyond simple demographics) is so important today, because you need to meet them where they are when they need you. What data do you have on your customers (that you’re protecting)? How can you leverage that data to better serve them (not to sell to them)?

Knowing how your customers first heard of you is no longer enough. Go beyond the first click to measure every interaction or touch point with your buyer. It will change your understanding of how each customer wants to be communicated with and helped along the way.

Follow your customers across social media platforms (however they use them) to email and messaging services to brick and mortar locations. We’re living in the age of assistance where micro-moments and individual interactions matter for your business. How are you making the most of every single one?

Questions? Comments? Leave your feedback We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Are you struggling to connect with your customers in the age of assistance? Let’s discuss how we can help you with your marketing efforts!

Let’s connect,
Jaime

Social Media Summer Round-Up: New Features You Need To Know

Social media platforms are constantly evolving, so it’s important to keep up on the latest features and understand how to use them for your brand or business. Enjoy our summer round-up with a cool drink in-hand!

Social Media Summer Round-Up: New Features You Need To Know

Is your brand utilizing the new features on your favorite social media platforms?

Instagram

Stories continue to explode in popularity, as they’re expected to outpace Feeds as the primary mechanism of content creation by the end of this year. So, Instagram continues to add features to Stories to increase interactivity and fuel their growth, including Interactive Stories Ads, a donation sticker and the new ‘Join Chat’ sticker. We love the interactivity of Instagram Stories, which allow accounts you tag to share your Story in their Stories. For example, we tagged an influencer we quoted in one of our blog articles, and in turn, he tagged other influencers quoted in the post. Engagement galore!

Another area of focus on the platform is Explore, which more than 50% of accounts use every month. Instagram bills Explore as its Discovery Destination, and it offers a prime opportunity for brands to connect with potential new customers. As the company continues investing in this area of the platform, it will begin rolling out ads to help brands connect with people and vice versa. Would your brand be interested in running an ad in Explore?

Instagram introduced Checkout this spring, another feature designed to bring people and brands together. This quick and secure technology includes product stickers in Stories, product tags in the Feed and a shopping destination in Explore. We’ve enjoyed using this feature to make it even easier for people to shop our clients’ products and get more information without leaving the app.

Finally, Instagram is still all in on IGTV, despite its slow start. Incorporating horizontal video should help increase use, both from a creation and consumption standpoint. Don’t replace your YouTube channel with IGTV; use it to grow your community on Instagram. It has been shown to increase engagement with existing followers, especially since IGTV videos now appear in the Feed. We’re finally posting an IGTV video this week after thinking about how best to use IGTV to help achieve our objectives on the platform. The shift to include horizontal video will help us use this growing area of the platform more for clients as well. Does your business utilize IGTV? What other features or capabilities would you like to see added?

The State of Instagram Marketing 2019

LinkedIn

The largest professional networking platform has been busy adding new features for business pages, which are much more robust than they used to be. Based on feedback from page admins, LinkedIn has introduced custom call-to-action (CTA) buttons to help drive leads and measure the results. This is an overdue feature, and we’re excited about the analytics (housed in your home dashboard) to see which buttons are generating traffic and which are not.

The platform has focused on upping engagement in the past year plus, and they’re not done. Now, page admins can associate up to three hashtags with your page (via the communities feature in the admin center). This change allows pages to engage directly with members’ posts which contain these hashtags (without using any time-consuming “hacks”).

LinkedIn Changes its Algorithm to Surface More Personalized Content

Further targeting increased engagement, LinkedIn has updated its algorithm to deliver more personalized content to your feed that aligns with your professional interests, not necessarily viral content. You may be seeing more posts from people you’re not connected with, especially if you have connections, groups, hashtags you follow, employers/clients or interests in common. This change could help you connect and develop relationships with new business contacts and potential customers.

Finally, the professional platform has added three new objectives to Campaign Manager to help marketers achieve their more complex business goals: brand awareness, website conversions and job applicants. These changes are the latest updates to LinkedIn’s integration with Google Campaign Manager in October of 2018.

20 LinkedIn Tips to Help Boost Engagement

 

Twitter

The micro-blogging platform made a splash this month when it introduced a new website for desktop. At this point, you can still choose to use Legacy Twitter, or the current layout, which we have chosen to do. The new layout seems a little busy to us, like walking into Times Square with all of the lights, signs and digital billboards. What do you think of the new design? (A poll we ran on Twitter split 50/50 between the two layouts.)

Twitter also updated its search results by adding context to help guide you to the results you’re looking for. For example, a search result will now show you if it’s trending or if an account has any followers in common with you. This tweak is part of a larger algorithm change that is geared toward showing you more content from users you’re not connected with, but may be interested in. Note that activity from your brand account(s) may show up in relevant searches, so keep that in mind as you engage with other users’ tweets.

On the other hand, Twitter is looking to give you more control over conversations you start. The platform is testing the ability to hide replies to your Tweets with users in Canada, although users will still be able to view the replies and engage with them. Would you like this feature to be rolled out globally?

Finally, the company has introduced a new creative team called “Twitter ArtHouse” that will help brands produce video content on their platform. Research shows that video content optimized for Twitter drives 33% more emotional engagement than non-optimized spots, and users spend 24% more time with Creator ads, so this could be a boost for brands to ensure their contact is seen and engaged with. Twitter has recently increased efforts to better monetize creator content in order to draw advertisers, along with Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.

How Twitter Bridges the Gap Between Brands and their Audiences

 

Facebook

The beleaguered social platform has been in the news for the wrong reasons lately, but it continues to outpace all other social platforms with one billion users logging in every month. Due to continued criticism, the company has announced it will create a new, independent content review board. The tech giant is trying to convince the government it is a tech company, not a publisher, to avoid regulation. Should Facebook be responsible for the media published on its platform?

In other news, Facebook has added a ‘Top Fans’ targeting option on posts to drive more community engagement and create a stronger connection with your most ardent supporters. Currently, it’s only available to Pages with 10,000 followers, and you can control it in your Page settings.

Facebook's wallet app, Calibra, will handle payments for its cryptocurrency launching in 2020.

The social giant made waves earlier this year when it jumped into the cryptocurrency game with Libra. Facebook’s digital currency is supposed to be easier to use than other options, like Bitcoin, and the company has partnered with industry leaders, including Uber and Spotify, to help increase its popularity. It will be interesting to see if this takes off when it launches in the first half of 2020 and whether it will be a valid payment method for businesses. Would you be willing to accept Libra for your products or services?

Finally, Facebook has added new, free training modules to its Facebook Blueprint education platform. The platform is designed to help small businesses and page admins improve their digital marketing skills and understanding of how to best utilize the platform. Facebook Blueprint also offers Instagram insight as well as Facebook Ads certification courses.

10 Expert Tips to Improve Your Facebook Video Marketing

New Feature Feedback

What new feature are you most excited about? Which platforms deliver the best results for your business? Which platform or feature would you like more in-depth analysis or tips on? What questions do you have about your social media marketing efforts?

Leave your thoughts or questions in the comments, contact us to discuss your needs or connect with us on social to stay in touch. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

Let’s get social on SMM,
Jaime

 

Vlog: Why You Still Need a Website Today

You're invited to the CCC blog!

I recorded this video the day after a massive Facebook and Instagram outage, but its message is relevant whenever you’re watching it. Social media is a powerful marketing tool for your business, but you still need a website today.

Your website is the hub of all your digital marketing activities.

Your website is your home on the internet, your front door to customers and prospects everywhere. It helps visitors learn more about your company and how you can help them. They can find your website via search engines, social media platforms, advertising campaigns and even offline marketing efforts.

A well-designed, updated website improves your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts and works with social media to enhance your online presence and give your business credibility.

Link Building to Success: Optimize Your Website

So, does your business or brand have a website? If so, drop it in the comments, so we (and our readers) can check it out! If not, let us know why you don’t feel that you need one.

What questions do you have about your website or websites in general?

A reluctant Vlogger,
Jaime

3 Big (Affordable) Marketing Ideas For Your Small Business

A San Francisco sunset captured by a drone

As a small business owner or entrepreneur, you have BIG ideas for your business. But do you have the budget to match?

A San Francisco sunset captured by a drone

Don’t let a tight budget keep you from marketing your business and showing your tremendous products or services to potential new customers. These three tips will help you market your business in a big way without blowing the budget.

Think Big on a Short-Term Scale

Would you love to shoot drone footage of your landscape projects? Rent a drone for a day and capture footage for your website, blog and social channels. If you’re interested in high-priced equipment or technology, see if you can rent it. You’ll stay on budget and test the equipment, so you’ll know what you want if you can buy one in the future.

You can also rent big-ticket items for occasional needs to keep capital free for other purchases. Looking for designer clothing for a photo shoot? Rent styles that fit your project if you don’t plan on using them regularly. There’s no need to buy them to use one or two times.

Along with renting big ticket or low use items, barter goods and services with fellow small business owners or professionals. Perhaps a graphic designer will design a marketing piece for you in exchange for you writing copy for her website. If you go this route, be honest about the value of your services, so it’s a win-win for both parties involved. You don’t want to damage your reputation by shortchanging a fellow small business owner or business professional and losing potential business.

Modify Stock Solutions to Fit Your Needs

Stock photos and other tools draw a bad rap, but they are lifesavers to small business owners everywhere. Search sites such as Pixabay or Creative Commons to find photos you can legally use in your marketing efforts. (Note any citations required and follow any stipulations mandated by the photo owner.) Then, modify these photos to fit your needs with tools such as Canva or PicMonkey. Canva offers free and low cost stock photos as well.

You can use PowerPoint to remove backgrounds from images (if you have permission to do so), add text to images and add filters. Create a visual for a specific social platform by changing your slide size to the preferred size of the platform, and then save your design as an image file (JPEG or PNG) to share. Screenshots are another visual option, depending on what you’re trying to show.

Don’t forget about social platforms when editing photos! Most platforms offer an array of filters, stickers, text options and more to add personality to your photos and make them stand out. Keep your brand in mind when modifying photos or editing visuals. Does it fit your brand image? Do you stick with a certain aesthetic on social? Have fun and show your brand’s personality, but don’t use a filter, sticker or other edit that doesn’t fit your brand.

Build a WordPress site (or pay someone to build you one) instead of having a custom website designed from scratch. WordPress offers hundreds of themes, both free and paid, that allow you to find a look that fits your business. You can customize your site extensively, even if you don’t know how to code. Build a beautiful, user-friendly site on a much smaller budget that will serve your customers and potential new customers well.

Do It Yourself But Don’t Hurt Your Brand

With the internet, there is more information and tools at your fingertips then ever before. You can handle a lot of tasks for your business yourself, but be honest about your capabilities. Don’t try to DIY something that ends up looking cheap or unprofessional and hurts your brand.

Take photos of interesting sights when you’re out and about to use for future content. It’s nice to be able to use your own photos and not have to worry about finding stock photos like we mentioned earlier. If something captures your eye, take a photo. You never know what will be a good fit for a future blog article or social post.

Can’t afford a professional video crew or photographer? Ask a friend with a steady hand to film a short video of you talking about your business or take some pictures of you in action. The cameras on most smartphones today are high tech, so you can still look professional while staying in budget.

While we’re on the subject of creating content, there are a number of free, online tools to help you create a variety of content types. Create GIFs, convert videos to GIFs and edit images with EZGIF.com. Find out what colors are on a website or in an image with Color Combos or ImageColorPicker.com. View vector art, find free fonts and much more at PRISM. Create videos with Adobe Spark or Animoto.

Know Your Tools, Capabilities and Limitations

We’re not trying to dissuade you from hiring a professional. At some point, you’ll come across a situation or project where you need professional skills and expertise. However, we understand that budgets can be tight for small businesses and startups. It may make sense to handle as much as you can internally for now until you can afford to outsource tasks and free up your time to focus on why you’re in business.

If that time has come for you or you’ve hit your limits with your marketing efforts, let’s talk. We offer professional services and experience at affordable rates, so that time may come sooner than you think. Have a question or looking for a specific tool? Ready to recommend another affordable tool? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

A small business owner thinking big (on a budget),
Jaime

Let’s connect! Say hello on social, share your favorite affordable business tools or ask us a marketing question on the platforms below.

Vlog: This Underutilized Idea Will Help Make Your Marketing Memorable 

What does memorable marketing look like? This piece from FedEx.

The shipping company utilizes its new eCom Label Solutions to promote the benefits of its new eCom Label Solutions. That may sound obvious, but it’s not.

Using your new product or service to promote your new product or service is an innovative and underutilized idea in the marketing world.

Watch our first vlog, and let us know what you think in the comments.

Cheers!

The CCC Team

How To Earn Your ’15 Minutes’ In Business With Style & Grace

“In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”

-Andy Warhol (or not)

People often ask me what the hardest part of leaving the corporate world and starting my own business was. It was learning to promote myself, which may come as a surprise. Granted, I should have been doing that in the corporate world, but that’s always been an area of weakness for me.

Posing for a picture at a client conference

I’d rather run the show from behind the scenes, but I’ve had to learn to be more visible while running my business.

In the past, the old adage was to keep your head down and work hard. Today, that will get you nowhere. You need to work hard and let others know what you’re doing, in a positive way. How can you do that?

4 Ways To Earn Your ’15 Minutes’ In Business With Style & Grace 

  • Use social media to build your brand. Take advantage of social platforms’ tools, such as adding projects on LinkedIn and showcasing happy customers and successful projects on Facebook and Instagram. (Use platforms that your customers are on so you can tag them in relevant posts.) Prospects want to see and hear about work that you’ve done and happy customers are your best brand ambassadors.

Photos with faces get 38% more likes and 32% more comments on Instagram.*

  • Give credit where credit is due. If you collaborate on a project, give credit to others who contributed. When adding projects on LinkedIn, you can tag multiple people as contributors. Colleagues, customers and business partners will appreciate the recognition.
  • Be grateful. Remember to thank and recognize people who help you along the way. Whether someone acted as a sounding board, contributed to your business plan or came through in the clutch during a last minute project, let them know how much they are appreciated. Small gestures and kind words can go a long way.

Related: Stop Saying Thank You on Social Media & Say Something Meaningful!

  • Let others tell your story. When you follow the first three suggestions, people will be happy to spread the word about your work. Most human beings enjoy helping others, especially when they view others as deserving. Make sure you’re deserving and continue the cycle by thanking those who take the time to promote your brand (and reciprocating when you can). You never know when a casual mention will turn into your big break.

Related: How to Self-Promote Without Being a Jerk (on my reading list!)

On the topic of humble self-promotion, I’m excited that the CCC portfolio page is live! Feel free to browse some of our work, and let us know if you would like to discuss a project. (Perhaps how to build your brand on social media?) 🙂

*Source: Georgia Institute of Technology & Yahoo Labs

Your reluctant self-promoter (and introverted business owner),
Jaime

Let’s chat (on self-promotion, building a brand or otherwise): 
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Trick Out Your Tweets: Tips to Stand Out on Twitter

Tips to Help You Stand Out on Twitter

Do you tweet? (Or as someone once asked me, “Are you on that Tweeter thing?”) Does it feel like you’re accomplishing anything? Or, at the end of the day, are you just confused what the buzz is about? (When Twitter went public, it was kind of a big deal. As in, it created 1,600 new millionaires big deal.)

Twitter bird

What’s all this buzz over a little bird?

Whether you’re tweeting  for personal or professional reasons, the following tips should help you stand out from the crowd.

Join the conversation! You may notice that CCC is always asking you to join the conversation. What exactly does that mean? Talk to people! Respond to tweets that interest you. Retweet them to share them with your followers. Favorite them for later reference. Thank others for retweeting you, or return the favor if it makes sense. Search hashtags that interest you or your company and jump into discussions that you can add value to (not necessarily with a sales pitch though).

Social media is all about getting social, so talk to people as much as possible. Try not to just broadcast information all day long. People are social creatures; they want to interact with you. I’ve connected with so many people just by thanking them for a retweet and asking a question or commenting on something in their profile. Profiles are dynamite for conversation fodder, which is why it’s so important to have a good one. Profile and cover pictures are another fantastic icebreaker.

What’s in a social media profile? Everything

Forget the rules — Everywhere you look, someone is laying down the law about something on Twitter, or social media in general. Tweet every hour. Don’t tweet more than 5 times per day. Automate. Don’t automate. Schedule. Don’t schedule. Don’t self-promote. You have to self-promote. Respond to people immediately. Unplug once in a while. Send direct messages. People hate DMs.

No Photo on Twitter Profile

Include a picture on your Twitter profile. Don’t be a silhouette!


Honestly, it all boils down to common sense.
Would you contact someone 30 times a day? Probably not, so don’t do it on Twitter. Would you say that to someone’s face? Probably not, so don’t say it on Twitter. The problem with rules is that you can become paralyzed by them. Pay attention, treat (or tweet) people with respect and you’ll be fine. Plus, you’ll start to find your style and settle in. One good rule to follow? Give people a heads up when you’re going to live tweet an event or webinar, participate in a Twitter chat or tweet a lot more than normal. (h/t @kathyyoho)

Be Yourself. Stay true to your self (or brand voice), and do what’s comfortable to you. Let your personality show. People shouldn’t be surprised when they meet you in real life, because you’re really different from your Twitter persona. It’s difficult to keep up a fake persona anywhere online, so don’t waste your time. Plus, when people find out who you really are (positive or negative difference), it can be unsettling and hard to trust you. Would you want to work with, hire someone or recommend someone who’s put up a false front? Neither do other people.

Automation also falls into this category. To automate or not to automate? If you’re going to automate tweets, make sure that you trust the source completely. It’s not that a blog or site is likely to post offensive content (although that happens); they may blog about a topic sometimes that you don’t want to share. Also, if you schedule, it’s imperative that you or someone you trust has access to modify or delete these tweets before they go out. Some brands have gotten into hot water due to pre-scheduled tweets that went out as scheduled when they were no longer appropriate.

Treat (or tweet) others with respect. Don’t say something to someone (or even retweet something) that you wouldn’t say to their face. Remember, everything that happens online affects your life. You can delete a tweet, but you can never really delete a tweet. It’s stored somewhere. That doesn’t mean that you have to avoid sarcasm or never joke around. Just make sure that people understand the situation. If you’re pissed off about something, venting on Twitter isn’t a good idea.

Thou shalt not destroy your reputation online.

Also, don’t smother famous people or standouts on a particular platform. Feel free to follow and engage with anyone (that’s why they’re on Twitter), but don’t ask special favors of or get upset with people if they don’t agree with you or respond immediately. We’re all human; sometimes we miss tweets or are busy in real life. Think about it. Would you want to engage with people when you have 500,000 followers if all they do is ask you to RT them, donate to a cause or recommend them to someone? No, you wouldn’t. So remember to treat others as you’d want to be treated on Twitter and elsewhere. Life usually works out when you do.

Join the Conversation

How do you use Twitter—personally, professionally or both?

What tips would you add to stand out on Twitter?

What other advice would you share about using Twitter effectively?

Tweeting since ’09,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about Twitter, your marketing efforts or otherwise):

Have you found your social media voice?

empty spotlight

I’ve written about various aspects of social media before, including the importance of profiles, and especially, the profile picture. (Seriously, why does anyone want to be a silhouette?) These are essential aspects of the social media game, but I was getting ahead of myself. What comes before completing your profile?

empty spotlight

Find your voice before jumping into social media!
Image: Danielle Buma (CCL by 2.0)

Your voice. You have to find your voice and decide what type of image you’ll project. That comes first, because your voice will help determine the rest of your strategy and where you go from there.

So how do you find your voice?

  • What is your company’s mission? Reason for being? To put it simply, why are you in business?
  • Look at your offline marketing efforts. What type of image do you portray with your collateral, logo, tagline, etc.?
  • What type of customer experience do you offer? (Hint: ask your customers!)

These questions will help you find your voice and determine what type of personality your company has. Are you a new company? Fantastic! You still have time to figure these out. Change the questions above to a future tense… What type of image will you portray? What type of customer experience will you offer? Don’t get overwhelmed by everything involved with getting set up; just take one step at a time.

Try to focus on essential services that you do well and think about bringing in help for the others. That may be social media, that may be accounting. That’s one thing I wish I would have done differently. You may be Superman (or Wonder Woman), but you can’t do everything by yourself.

Put time and thought into finding your voice, because everything else flows from there. It’ll make your social media efforts a little easier down the road.

Find Your Voice

What type of voice powers your social media efforts?

Have you changed your social media voice at any point? Why?

What social media account best portrays your voice? Feel free to leave URLs, handles, etc. in the comments.

Any other thoughts about your social media voice? Drop them in the comments or reach out on a network below.

If you have any questions regarding social media or would like to discuss your efforts, please let me know.

Cheers,
Jaime

Let’s connect to continue the social media conversation: 
https://www.facebook.com/ClearlyConveyedCommunications/ https://twitter.com/jaimeshine https://instagram.com/jaimeshine https://www.pinterest.com/jaimeshine/ https://www.linkedin.com/in/jaimeshine/