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!

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

 

How to Create Content that Works [Twitter Chat Recap]

Creating Content that Works Twitter Chat

Recently, I joined the #VCBuzz Twitter chat to drive a conversation on Creating Content that Works. What an insightful discussion!


“Creating content just for the sake of creating content is the strategy that is doomed to failure. “

ViralContentBee, #VCBuzz Twitter Chat

The 45-minute discussion on content creation and content marketing sizzled with smart advice from a variety of digital marketing professionals.

Gail Gardner, founder of GrowMap.com, delivered outstanding advice right off the bat. Always focus on creating quality content tailored to your target audience’s interests. You should only produce enough content that allows you to maintain a high level of quality and personalization. Remember, quality beats quantity every time.

Gail also mentions interacting with other content. This is so important! You’ll build relationships with fellow professionals in your field and drive engagement on your own content when you share it. Remember to share outside content at least 80% of the time and your own content only 20% of the time. Adhering to this best practice will help you curate a mix of view points on topics relevant to your audience and keep your feed fresh.

“Promoting your content is just as important as creating it. You need a content distribution plan as part of your overall content marketing strategy. “

What are your business goals in 2019?

Aligning Your Content Marketing to Your Business Goals

Meanwhile, Goldie Chan, a LinkedIn Top Voice and personal branding strategist, brought up a great point: your content marketing efforts should be aligned with your business goals. How do you measure its effectiveness? Engagement, engagement, engagement. Keep in mind your engagement should reflect the types of Calls-to-Action (CTAs) you extend to your audience. Do you want visitors to click through to a landing page to claim a special offer? Or do you want readers to message you on Facebook to schedule a free demo? In the first example, your goal should be to drive interested traffic to your landing page while the second would be to move prospects and customers into the privacy of Messenger.

Eventually, we moved into the future of content marketing. Where are we heading?

The Future of Content Marketing

Chat participants gave insightful answers based on their experiences and expertise, including Lisa Shomo, a marketing professional who specializes in customer marketing, growth and retention.

Review the entire Creating Content that Works chat, and join future #VCBuzz marketing Twitter chats on Tuesdays at Noon EST.

Tweet Us (Or Leave Your Feedback in the Comments)

How do you measure your content marketing efforts? What metrics are important to your brand or business?

What are your favorite examples of content marketing that achieved results?

Where do you see content marketing heading in the future?

CCC’s Chief Content Marketing Officer,
Jaime

Marketers: Don’t Forget About Desktop

Mobile offices, mobile apps, Mobilegeddon: The age of mobile has arrived. We can tap into Wi-Fi at 35,000 feet and conduct business from almost anywhere in the world.

Desktops (and laptops) are still worth paying attention to, marketers.

Desktop access to the Internet has risen 37% over the past four years. Source: comScore

But don’t forget about desktop, marketers. It hasn’t gone the way of 8 tracks and parachute pants just yet — and is still worth your attention.

While browsing trends in social media marketing for 2015, one in particular caught our eye. While mobile access to the Internet has quadrupled over the past four years, desktop access has also risen 37%.^

“Mobile’s new domination of social media activity did not sap numbers and minutes from desktop digital time, however. Instead, digital time seeped into Americans’ off-hours, as they brought their smartphones and tablets to television time, waiting rooms, Starbucks’ lines and bed.”  –Social Media Examiner

Despite its impressive growth, mobile is still not the primary device used to access the top digital properties either, including Facebook.

Furthermore, Instagram recently released web profiles, making it easier to browse and share images on the Web. Despite being the fastest growing social network in 2014*, Instagram still heard loud and clear from users who wanted a better desktop experience. So the popular platform, launched in 2010 as a mobile app, expanded its web presence to make its users happy.

So yes, we live in the age of mobile but the desktop era hasn’t gone the way of dinosaurs just yet. Keep your customers happy (and prospects interested) by spreading your presence across the mobile/desktop divide.

(Irony: We just realized that we’re writing this as a movie about dinosaurs is breaking box office records around the world!)

Mobile/Desktop Feedback

Have you cut into your desktop/laptop time with mobile? Or cut into other activities with mobile?

How do you access social media (approx. mobile/desktop %)?

Are you surprised that mobile is not cutting into desktop’s overall numbers yet?

Sources: ^comScore | *Pew Research Center | Social Media Examiner

Blogging on a desktop,
Jaime

Let’s chat (on mobile, desktop or otherwise): 
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