5 Circles: Should I be using social media marketing?

socialmedia

Alright friends – here we are for another post in the 5 Circles Series. This time, we’re going to be talking about social media.

You’re probably thinking one thing right now. This is a blog about marketing and business, in the digital age, primarily for bootstrappers and high-ROI seekers. Social media is probably high on the recommended marketing tactics list, right?

This post has a hard-hat on, because it is going to catch a lot of [email protected]

This isn’t about the conventional wisdom, or the same ideas being spewed out by every other blog out there. That seems to be a trend here on this blog, actually. The fact is, this might be a pretty big revelation in social media for those of you who have been trying to avoid playing the social media game (and those of you who have been forcing it, even though you don’t like it.)

Should you be using social media?

Marketing Circle: Social

Along with email marketing and networking, social media is the primary social medium that businesses use to share their messages. Many, many people get stuck in social media, spending hours each day “managing” their platforms, pages, and feeds, sending messages, sharing content, and more. The ROI they receive on this time is typically pretty dismal, but because it is conventional wisdom that you’re not a “real” business without a social media presence, they continue.

Best-Fit Archetype: Communicator

If you love the idea of networking, but can’t stomach face to face interaction, then social media may be for you. No in person interaction required, you can hide behind your screen (and no, you don’t have to get over this completely and take over the stage if you want to be successful), and you can still engage with people. Experts are prone to blast their messages out on social media, rather than engaging in conversations, and so the strategy recommended below is likely a better fit for anyone in the Expert archetype.

Secondary Archetype: Supporter/Facilitator

You love connecting people, so being helpful-by-association is one of the ways you use to build trust. Connecting people on social media is a fantastic way for you to show off this skill – just be careful that it doesn’t start consuming all of your time.

How does it work?

The conventional school of thought is that you must be on social media (actively) with your own branded pages and 16+ more things to manage, right? Just look at the expensive conferences and courses offering to show people how to build an entire business on something like Twitter. Twitter – to build your entire business. When you put it that way, it kind of sounds insane doesn’t it?

Guess what – you already are on social media. Your ideal prospects and customers are already sharing and discovering your content on Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. – whether you actively use them or not. Even if you don’t have any social media accounts or pages, even if you don’t have share buttons integrated into your website, you already are using social media.

Let’s introduce you to a new concept. One that social media experts (those selling their courses!) are going to hate, and you are going to love. 

It is very simple.

Instead of forcing yourself into being active on social media all day, every day, optimize your content for social sharing.

This means using “click to tweet” links in your posts, like the link above. It means creating “pinnable” images for your content. It means using widgets and other tools to allow readers to share your content on social platforms, providing short links, and uploading your video and audio content to social sharing sites like YouTube and SoundCloud.

It means writing epic headlines that will get clicks and providing all of the necessary tools to allow others to share your content on social media.

Then you can sit back, relax, focus on creating “epic content”, and check in on Facebook and Twitter when you feel like it. You no longer have to get lost in Facebook Groups and Twitter Feeds, spending hours every day answering questions on Quora and LinkedIn, or organizing your contacts into “Circles” on Google+.

Because social media platforms don’t make money off of small advertisers, or small businesses that just post content without paying to promote their posts. They make money when people stay on their site for longer – and they are masters at making sure that happens.

If you have a business to run, the last thing you want to do is actively choose to spend time doing something that is intended to suck you in and waste your time.

So there you have it.

That is it for today. No best practices, no real warnings, just a social media strategy that you can use in your business – even if you hate social media – to capitalize on the huge amounts of traffic those networks can send.

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

5 Circles: Should I be using email marketing?

emailmarketing

This is going to be fun! This week on the 5 Circles Series we’re going to be discussing email marketing. Email can be used both B2B and B2C, it can generate sales, create brand awareness, build relationships, share ideas, inspire people, and grow your business.

But should you be using it?

The short answer: yes.

The long answer: yyyyyyyeeeeeeeeessssssssss. (That was longer, wasn’t it?)

Seriously though, there is literally no reason not to use email marketing in your business. Every email you send is a form of marketing, if you’re smart enough to include business info in your signature! So let’s get down to it:

Should you use email marketing?

Marketing Circle: Social

You’ve heard about Twitter. You know about Facebook. The value of networking with people is unsurpassed. I have personally helped brands to grow their following using all of those mediums. But do you know which tool in the social arsenal worked the best – out of every possible method? Email. If you do nothing else from the social circle, make email your focus – you will *not* regret it.

Best-fit Archetype: Communicator

Do you love writing? Is creating new content one of your favourite parts of running your business? Have people told you that you have a knack for communicating your ideas in a way that reads, and flows, very well? Then you are likely a communicator – the archetype of most writers, bloggers, and media moguls. Sharing information (yours, or someone else’s) is your favourite past-time, and email marketing is an amazing way to share your information with your newest raving fans!

Secondary Archetype: Expert

If you love being the centre of attention, then email marketing might be the right fit for you. Experts are well suited to informative newsletters that position them as the source of must-read information on the topic at hand. Be sure to use other mediums (video, images, audio) in your email marketing if writing isn’t your forte!

How does it work?

Essentially, you create an “opt-in” or “landing” page – a place where people who are interested in your business can gain more information in exchange for their email address. Offering free, helpful information is a great way to get people to subscribe. If your brand is well-known and trusted, offering a discount can be effective as well.

Once they subscribe to your email list, you have the ability to send them information, special offers, new content, and anything else your heart desires. If you use ecommerce in any way, or have online response mechanisms (like appointment scheduling, for example) email marketing is likely to drive a high percentage of your sales.

Best Practices:

  1. Let people opt-in! I see so many companies, especially product companies in FMCG/CPG sectors (but some service-business owners, bloggers and online entrepreneurs as well) hiding their opt-in form. Put it in your header, put it in your sidebar, put it in your footer, include a link in your content, do a popup – make sure that if someone lands on your site and wants to be on your newsletter, they can. I’ve seen 4 blogs this week alone that expected you to follow them on Twitter for their latest posts. << Don’t do that.
  2. … But don’t force it. Yes, email marketing is likely to be one of the biggest drivers of your business moving forward if you utilize ecommerce or have an online response mechanism in place – but because the costs involved in email marketing services (I use Mailchimp) increase pretty much with every subscriber you have, you really want a responsive, engaged list of subscribers… Not a huge list of people who could care less about your existence. Engagement doesn’t only come from the content of your newsletter, it also comes from the sources of your subscribers. Make sure that everyone who subscribes to your list really wants to hear from you.
  3. Offer something of value in exchange for their info. Seriously, nobody wants your “newsletter” (or at least, they don’t know yet that they want your newsletter.) They want the answer to their prayers, the solution to their problems, the “more, better, faster” to their “less, worse, and slow”. Offer them something they can’t resist – something you would/should charge for – for free, in exchange for their information.
  4. Segment your lists. Don’t send the same offers to someone who is a loyal buyer of your products that a brand new, wet behind the ears subscriber gets! Your most loyal people get your best insights and info, and get the opportunity to move up to higher and higher levels of investment in your products and services. It’s called a sales funnel, and it works.
  5. Give a [email protected]That number, from 0 to infinity, staring back at you from inside your email marketing dashboard is not a magic machine that spits out more and more money the bigger it gets. That number is the number of people who have bothered to give you time and attention out of their valuable day. Maybe they’re reading your email instead of playing with their kids, doing their chores, finishing work for a client, I’ve even gotten responses from people who thanked me for my inspirational messages while attending a funeral (not kidding.)
    You don’t know what those 10, 300, 6,000, 250k people are doing today, but they’re not digits and email addresses – they are people. Write to them, share with them, and treat them and their time with respect. Earn their respect. That is how you generate money from email marketing – use it to build relationships with people whom you can help.
  6. Write epic sh!t. << Enough said.  (Thank you, Corbett.)

Warnings:

  1. Stop using Feedburner. I know, they’ve improved their features and you can now X, Y, and Z. That doesn’t matter. Stop using Feedburner/blitz/deliveryguy/razzledazzle/whatever today. Be professional, use branded email marketing that comes from your own email address with your own spiffy signup form and confirmation emails. Nobody is impressed by your Feedburner follower count more than they would be impressed by your newsletter subscriber count, and with the RSS-to-Email capabilities (Google it) that exist today, you’d be crazy to put all of your eggs in the soon-to-die Feedburner basket.
  2. Don’t beat your subscribers over the head with offers, unless that is what they signed up for (which is really only true if you’re Groupon. And you’re not Groupon [probably. If you are, hi Groupon!]) They signed up for value, deliver them value – and if you can add to that value with well-placed, timely offers of additional help and support (aka your products and services) then do so. Train your subscribers to expect regular content and offers, and lots of value. They’ll love you for it.
  3. Ignore everything on this list (except the Feedburner thing. Seriously guys…) Don’t do email marketing the way anyone says you “should”. Some people say to email daily, others say monthly. Some people say you should include 10+ images, others say none. Do it your way, test, track, monitor, and improve – and who knows, you might actually end up learning what your ideal clients and customers really want along the way!

So there you have it. Is email marketing right for you? If the sky is blue and bears are you-kn0w-what-ting in the woods, then yes. Do email marketing. Build a database of people who want to hear from you, who find you valuable, and want to learn more about what you can do for them. You will not regret it!

Want to use this article on your site? Go ahead! Just include this byline at the end:

An ex-corporate marketing maven gone rogue, Cheryl Woodhouse is a Business Growth Mentor and Certified Master Law of Attraction Practitioner who helps small business owners to use their business growth as a tool to design their ideal life – one that includes plenty of profit. She has the uncanny ability to pinpoint the perfect business model for your goals, using your unique skills and abilities as a guide to create a strong foundation for your success. She then uses her mad skills in marketing to eliminate the overwhelm and frustration in your business, guiding you to choose 5 highly profitable core activities, and ditching the rest. You can find out more about your ideal marketing methods on her blog at CherylWoodhouse.com

How to Write for Your Small Business Blog

If we at BuzzCrate consistently tell our clients one thing, it is this:

Online marketing, of any type, starts with a blog.

There is no question about this, no argument, no debate, and no change of heart. A blog is the very core of any digital media marketing campaign – period. Why? Well, for starters, blogs are…

  1. Cost effective. Who needs display ads when your blog could get more targeted views for the ongoing cost of hosting and a domain name?
  2. Great for search engine optimization, especially if they integrate into your company website. Search engines love relevant, helpful content. The more relevant and helpful your content is, the higher you will rank. Blogs consistently outrank static websites for some very competitive keywords.
  3. Outperforming email in many cases, and can often be used with email. Rather than designing an email newsletter, create a blog post. You’ll receive search engine and social media traffic, you can syndicate the post out to your email list and receive that traffic, and you may pick up some new customers who aren’t on your email list as a bonus!
  4. Easily syndicated to other social sites, like Facebook and Twitter. You can simply use a service like NetworkedBlogs to automatically publish your new blog posts through your pages, accounts, and profiles. Gone are the days of “just the click of a mouse!” Today, services like these don’t even need a click. They do it for you behind the scenes.
  5. Actually read by current and potential customers alike. How many people come visit you from your newspaper ad? How many clients do you think contact us because of our blog? We’ve tried traditional advertising – blogging gets us the most eyes to our important information.
  6. One of the highest ROI things you can do online. Even if you don’t have a website, have a blog. Out of every online marketing activity, blogging has been consistently ranked as the marketing activity with the best return on investment. Compare that to television advertising, and the point quickly becomes clear.

So with these benefits, you would assume that everyone we talk to wants to get their new blog up and running, and just dying to jump in. Unfortunately, many small business owners and managers have heard misinformation over the years from well-intentioned people, and so they are afraid of starting a blog for one or two key reasons.

Either they think…

  1. It is too time consuming, or…
  2. It takes too much effort, or…
  3. It is too expensive, or…
  4. all the above.

Of course, none of the above is true.

As far as cost concerns, you can get a complete blog platform, custom designed and connected to all of your social media, for less than the cost of an average newspaper ad in a small city.

Time and effort are about how much you are willing to put in. If you publish an email newsletter, simply syndicate your blog content to your email subscribers and shift your time focus from email to blog. If not, you will likely need to pull an hour or two each week from somewhere else – but the returns are well worth the effort.

So how do you find the time to blog?

Here are 7 tips to help you keep your business blog management going, without sacrificing everything else!

  1. Plan your blogs. Sit down once every month and come up with 4-10 different topics you can write about. Use the “Editorial Calendar” plugin you were provided with your blog (or install the plugin if you are not a client of ours) to schedule these posts throughout the month at semi-regular intervals. You can write them now, or set a date on your calendar to write the posts before they are published. Scheduling time to do this takes a lot of the pressure, confusion, and difficulty away!
  2. Ask for help. If you are stuck on topics, ask your staff what questions they are often asked. Contact us and request some keyword research to find what your potential customers are looking for. Don’t just claim “writers’ blog” and walk away, ask someone in the know to help you!
  3. Schedule your blogging. Plan to spend an hour or two each week writing and researching new blog posts and topics, and keeping up on social media.
  4. Allow your staff to help. If you have an employee who is especially good with words, have them write a blog post or two. Maybe even have them take over the blog and social media for you. These tasks, even when dedicating staff to them, will take no more than 10 hours each week for a very effective campaign!
  5. Invite guest posters. Do you partner with any other local businesses? Ask them to write content for your blog! They can answer questions that some of your common customers may have, and in exchange they receive a link to their site, promoting their business. Win-win for everyone!
  6. Don’t be afraid. The number one reason that blogs go without updates is because the blog owner is afraid of how long it will take to get things up to date. Don’t do this to yourself! Blog updates are not time-consuming. Even a slow typist can complete a short post within an hour!
  7. Get things set up properly the first time. Don’t use a blogspot.com or wordpress.com blog, because you are not in control of those spaces. Get a blog set up with your own website and hosting, have it installed by a professional if you are uncertain of how to do it yourself, and have your design done professionally to match your site. That small investment in your blog today will pay dividends for years to come!

So there you have it – in one post, we have told you why you need a blog, and how to actually keep it up to date and make it work for you. What are your favourite ways to manage your time for social media and blogging? Share with us in the comments, or send us a tweet @buzzcrate and we’ll feature them here!

Take heart, mom bloggers…

Just a 3am note because I wanted to share something I’m giggling about right now.

One day, you’re going to be merrily blogging along, and you’re going to start getting emails via your contact form about SEO services or marketing services or some random service. Usually the email will be written in horrible English. Around the same time, you may start to see an increase in spam comments, spam user registrations, and trolls (people who post hurtful, rude, baseless comments on your site like “ur gay” or “thats dumb” in order to antagonize you).

First, install plugins to combat spam… There are probably a million of them. I like invisible defender because it protects all forms, you might like others.

Two, giggle. Happily.

Getting spam in comments and forms, and having trolls on your site means that you’re getting attention. You’re worth spamming. And in a world with a billion blogs that nobody even reads, being worth spamming is something!

It has always been at the cusp of success for every site I’ve ever worked with. We’ve had to develop anti-spam measures right on the edge of a major community forming around the blog.

So if you’re just starting to get spammed, and thinking “sure, I get spam, but real people won’t comment…” – wait for it! It isn’t far off 😉

Blogger vs. WordPress

In the news you can use category, we have the Blogger vs. WordPress debate. For many new bloggers (and businesses just getting started in blogging), this is actually a big issue. One may be easier to set up, another might not look as professional, the other may look so daunting that no one in the company even wants to consider it – but they know they should.

It is one of the trickiest parts of getting started with a blog (choosing a platform) and the decision shouldn’t be taken lightly. Of course, there are some other options… A blog add-on for Joomla or other open source CMS, TypePad, or any one of other “alternative” blogging platforms.

But for the sake of simplicity (and that these 3 choices are the most advanced and should be, in our opinion, the only options), we’re going to discuss 3 platforms today :

Blogger.com vs. WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org

To really compare the three, we need to break each one down. We need to describe each one, explain the pros and cons of each option, and then give our final verdict. We’ll try to keep this short (because, being passionate bloggers, we know this could get long) BUT since we have already been where you are, and we have already compared the options, we feel it necessary for you to have this information.

So, without further adieu…

Blogger.com

Blogger.com (also known as blogspot.com) is owned by Google, and as such, many believe it will get them faster search engine rankings. While this is completely untrue (far too many people have created useless spam blogs on Blogger for Google to give them any special treatment anymore), the myth does persist.

Blogger is also free and, like many other things in life, you get what you pay for. You can “dress up” your blogger blog by paying for a domain name (like www.my-blogger-blog.com) but if you’re going to invest $10/year, why not take that bit of extra money and get yourself a proper “self-hosted” blog?

But, we digress, many (and we mean many) companies and people start using blogger because “at least its something”, and so it is best if we discuss the pros and cons.

Pros :

  • It’s fast. You can literally have a Blogger blog up and running in under 10 minutes, and have your first post online just as quickly. If time is of the essence, blogger can help.
  • It’s easy. If you can use Facebook, you can use Blogger. No need to hire development experts or get the company nerd to install anything, just sign up, pick a design, and start writing.
  • It’s cheap. Actually, it’s free (unless, as we said above, you buy your own domain name.) This is a big draw for a lot of people.

Cons :

  • It’s fast. Meaning, there are so few options to customize a Blogger blog that it takes no time at all to make yours look pretty much like everyone elses.
  • It’s easy. Almost too easy. See the above about the “cracker-box” style design.
  • It’s cheap – and you kind of get what you pay for. Unfortunately, a “myblog.blogspot.com” domain name doesn’t look as professional as “mywebsite.com”. Their free, basic designs also aren’t as nice as free designs for some of the other options.
  • Unlike one of our other options, this blog has to be linked to from your website. This means visitors (that you worked so hard to actually *get* to your website) are now leaving. On purpose. Because you asked them to. And chances are, they aren’t coming back.
  • The optional blogger navigation bar (across the top of every Blogger blog, unless you disable it) virtually *begs* people to leave your blog. Even worse, if people aren’t that tech-savvy and the site they navigate to next is offensive, they could blame YOU and it could tarnish YOUR reputation.
  • It is hard to move from a blogger blog to your own custom, self-hosted blog at a later date – so if you ever change your mind, chances are you’ll lose traction with your readers (as well as losing blog subscribers, your website address, your design, and possibly your content unless you pay someone to convert and import it for you.)

All in all, we believe that for personal bloggers who don’t want much to do with the technical side and don’t want to invest money in their blog, AND they don’t care too much about the flexibility of the design – in other words, if it is just for you to get your thoughts out into the world – then blogger is a great platform.

It is, however, not a platform we recommend for businesses, professionals, or organizations.

WordPress.com

A slightly better option than blogger, although still imperfect. WordPress.com is like blogger, in that it will let you have a “myblog.wordpress.com” domain name and not have to worry about hosting. Again, you can still buy a “mywebsite.com” domain name for under $10/year and point it towards your wordpress.com blog, but if you’re going to invest… You see where this is going.

Superior to blogger in many ways. WordPress is what you call “open source” – that means that programmers and web developers can create plugins, themes, and add-ons, and make them available for WordPress users. They make many of them available for *free*.

On to the pros and cons…

Pros :

  • It’s fast, like blogger. 10 minutes and you’re setup.
  • It’s easier than blogger (at least, we think so.) If you can use MS Word, you can create some pretty neat looking blog posts.
  • It’s cheap. Well, free, just like Blogger. Again, unless you want to buy a domain name.
  • It’s easy to migrate to your own site one day, if you choose, because WordPress.com and WordPress.org use the same platform.
  • It has literally hundreds of themes and plugins available to customize your blog, so yours doesn’t have to look like everyone elses.
  • The search engine optimization benefits to WordPress are huge compared to any minor favouritism on Blogger or other platforms (we don’t want to seem like we’re picking on Blogger here!)
  • The walk-through and step by step instructions provided by WordPress are second to none (in other words, if you’re scared… WordPress is the way to go. They’ll show you how to get set up in 10 simple (yes, actually simple!) steps!)

Cons:

  • The same problem as Blogger.com – you get what you pay for. It being free, it isn’t as customizable as other options.
  • Easy to switch, yes, but it is easier not to have to switch at all.
  • You never own your URL, so if you cancel your account, someone could point it to *anything* and damage your credibility.
  • Not as customizable as WordPress.org
  • The search engine benefits are lesser than a WordPress.org blog.
  • You won’t look as professional with a “myblog.wordpress.com” domain name, unless you go buy a domain name and forward it to your blog.
  • And again, when visitors go to your blog – they have to leave your website.

We think WordPress.com is far better than Blogger.com as an option, and if your blogging budget is a big fat $0, then this may be the best option for you. But if you’re willing to invest under $100/year, you could use something like…

WordPress.org

This is a self-hosted solution. That means you get a web hosting account (from someone like Namecheap.com) and a domain name (again from someone like Namecheap.com), install WordPress software yourself (see? Self – hosted!), customize it to your heart’s content, and watch it roll.

This site, along with many of our other web properties (like DoYouDroid.com) and client sites (like SmootherTransitions.ca) are run on self-hosted versions of WordPress. It is what we would recommend in almost every single case. And it can be so much more than a blog…

With a WordPress.org installation, you can run not only a blog, but add-on a regular business website, contact form, online store, map to your location, portfolio/client list, and anything else you think you would want online.

Make it interact with Facebook, Twitter, and any other social media automatically… Add a dash of graphic design style, a touch of security features, and a pinch of flexibility – and you have self-hosted WordPress.

Without delaying it anymore, let us take a look at the pros and cons of WordPress.org…

Pros:

  • You can build an entire website with it, not just a blog. The blog will be integrated seamlessly, and visitors never have to leave your site.
  • With all plugins and extensions available, you can add anything from a mailing list to a paid members area to an online store to your blog with just a few clicks.
  • Another benefit of the plugins available is the interactivity with other web services – in less than 10 minutes, connect your blog with Facebook, Twitter, Google, FourSquare, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr, and a lot more (including mailing list servers like MailChimp and payment processors like PayPal!)
  • You can customize it beyond your wildest dreams. Start with one of the tens of thousands of free or paid themes available, change a few lines of code with the help of some nerds like us, and VOILA – instant custom website. Some themes are so flexible, making the site look completely custom is as simple as changing a few options – no coding required!
  • You can do whatever you want with your own website – from selling advertising to installing programs to track website visitors (including where they came from, how long they were on your site, and what they looked at.)
  • The only limit to wordpress.org is your own skill (or your budget, if you outsource your blog development!)

Cons:

  • It isn’t free. This is a minor drawback, since your biggest cost is going to be around $60-$80/year for hosting and $10/year for a domain name. If you’re not willing to spend under $100/year on your blogging strategy, you might want to look at whether you really want to blog or not.
  • And if you want advanced customization and don’t have the in-house resources, you’ll need to hire someone like us to help! Although of course, this help is also not free.
  • It is a bit more difficult to implement. Sure, if you have a hosting account with Fantastico (which most hosting accounts have) it takes less than 5 minutes and just a few clicks. If you don’t, or you don’t know how to use it you can install WordPress in just a few clicks, following a tutorial online (like this one we wrote for a client site!)
  • It can be a bit daunting if you don’t know what you’re doing, which can scare some people away from even trying.

Our professional opinion is, if you’re going to use a blog for business purposes, it is worth doing right. Whether you use our tools to teach yourself WordPress, hire us or another organization to coach you, or hire us or another organization to create it for you, WordPress.org – the self-hosted version – is really the best option for your business.

Join the conversation!
Let us know what you think of our comparison in the comments below!