The Verdict on 4 Top Rules of Communication

communication rules
Some rules are in place for a reason. Others are made to be broken.

Regardless of your industry, chances are good that you’re called on to communicate, be it in speaking or writing. Especially now, in the age of social, it seems that everyone has become a writer. That certainly doesn’t mean everyone knows how to write – or communicate – clearly – and in the best way possible. So, here are four of the top rules. Some have stood the test of time, others have had to change with the times. I’ve given them a verdict of “Follow It” or “Break It” so that you’ll know next time you’re faced with communicating, whether that’s online, via social platforms, in front of a live audience or in a blog post, which ones are worth following and which ones are worth throwing out.

Rule #1            Write What You Know

This is a common rule among writers. One of the first things we learned in college. Write what you know. The theory behind it is that you are more passionate about the things that are important to you, so it stands to reason that you’ll write with more passion, more knowledge and confidence.

The Verdict:     BREAK IT

The internet has opened countless doors to experts and research that just weren’t available when this rule was made. Now… if you don’t know about it? Find out about it. Google it, ask followers and contacts for help, learn, grow, and become an expert. Just like a great singer can wow us with the phonebook, a great writer can make any topic worth reading about.

Rule #2            Keep It Simple

There are more than a million words in the English language. It’s no wonder then, that there are so many different ways to say the same thing! But communication shouldn’t be a chore. If you can say it in five words, don’t use 10. And always, always choose the shorter, simpler word. It doesn’t make you sound smarter to say that you plan to “initiative a scholarly extrapolation.” Just tell them you’re going to make an educated guess.

The Verdict:     FOLLOW IT

As Albert Einstein famously said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Have you ever sat through a meeting or presentation with someone who just loves big words? It becomes exhausting just too listen, doesn’t it?  As C.S. Lewis said, “Don’t say ‘infinitely’ when you mean ‘very'; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.” A simple word will get your point across just fine. It does not make you look smarter to use big words, but only like you are trying really, really hard.


Rule #3            Write Specifically for Each Audience

Social media has opened the floodgates on communication, giving people the opportunity to share their thoughts with the world. Make it a point to know what type of demographic fits each platform and tailor your message for each specific audience.

mouse_hand
The Verdict:     FOLLOW IT

One size messages do not fit all. We must be sure that we are communicating to each of our audiences specifically.

Especially in social, each platform has different demographics and will respond differently to your posts and tweets. For every blog post, write 10-15 different tweets and posts, covering each demographic you want to reach. Test humorous headlines, serious ones, questions, and leading statements and track which ones work best for each audience.

Rule #4            Keep Blog Posts Short

Who made this rule? And what constitutes long, anyway? I’ve written very short blog posts (under 200 words) and much longer posts (1,000+ words) both with success, and sometimes without. But their length had little to no bearing on that success. What matters is the quality of the content. If you’ve got a well thought out, well written article, then it’s as long as it needs to be – however many words that turns out to be.

The Verdict:     BREAK IT

But do so carefully! Always break up longer posts (anything longer than 600 words) with subheads, numbered or bulleted lists. This makes it easier for readers to digest, so that they can skim your article and take away the most important information if they’re short on time. Including relevant visuals such as graphs or charts that explain the copy will also help.

As with any rule, it doesn’t hurt to understand why it was made in the first place, but then determine if the ruling makes sense for you. Sometimes they’re worth following. Other times? Breaking the rule can open a door and make communicating a little easier, and isn’t that what it’s all about?

 

Blogs, feature articles, presentations and infographs are ideal for sharing content, positioning yourself as a thought leader in your industry and increasing awareness about your company, but they are time consuming. If your goal is to increase content creation, create a new blog presence, or improve the one you’ve got, I’d love to help. Let’s connect and create something fantastic!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The True ROI of Social Media

“I’m going to ask you the same question I ask all of you social people.”

Uh-oh. I knew what was coming. Three little letters. I played dumb. “I have no answer!” I cried, horrified. She smiled.

We were at a business lunch, having been introduced over a mutual friend and business associate, and had easily decided that the three of us make a formidable team. Aaron (with his many connections, strong client base and background in graphic design) and I (with my marketing agency background, many years as a copywriter, and social media addiction) had worked together on a few projects in the past. And both being right brainers had come up with some awesome fun ideas but just couldn’t seem to take them from concept board… to board room. Enter Alli (of the left-brain, MBA-clutching, society), a driven, data loving, go-getter.

Three professionals with a shared affinity for whiskey. Done.

But I digress. She had a question to ask of me.

“How do you measure the ROI of social media?” And before I could answer, she followed that up with: “Because no one I’ve asked has really been able to answer that question.”

No pressure Alli. Uh, pass the whiskey.

But even as I attempted to answer her question with some mix of intelligence, I could feel myself getting sidetracked, because there is no neatly wrapped 30-second answer to this question. This isn’t television, folks. Where we simply add up the Nielsen data and decide where to place our :30 spot.

So, Alli, let me try to clear up my answer for you. Because after all, I’m a far better writer than speaker. I think more clearly, here, on “paper.” And in case anyone else has every wondered the same…

WHY

Just like with any marketing campaign, the first thing I ask any client is: Why? Why do you want to run this campaign? What is your primary objective? The WHY is vital. If you don’t know the WHY, you can’t determine the HOW. And you won’t be able to determine measurements for success. There are many reasons a company might want to have a social media presence:

  • To build brand awareness
  • To introduce a new product
  • To reach a larger audience
  • To give personality to a “dry” brand
  • To provide a way for customers to reach you 24/7 (customer service)
  • To engage with your core customers in real time (build a relationship)
  • To provide helpful information about industry related topics (to become a thought leader in the industry)
  • To provide a portal for contest/sweepstakes/promotion entry
  • To help your brand appeal to a different demographic

SOCIAL PLATFORMS 101

The one thing you’ll notice that is not on this list is: Because everyone else has one. Not good enough. True, the numbers are staggering. And chances are excellent that whatever demographic you’re trying to reach, they are on some social media platform. But creating a Facebook page just because everyone else has one isn’t going to do you much good. What’s a “like” do, anyway? Not much if you don’t know what to do with it once you’ve got. Just like a cold call lead won’t do you any good if you don’t follow up with it. Knowing which social platform your company should be active on is also very important. Leverage New Media designed this Social-infographic to help you determine which is best suited for you.

MEASURING THE ROI OF SOCIAL MEDIA

Now that you know your WHY, and you know on which platform(s) you need to be active, you can determine how to measure your ROI. You’ll want to select the right tools to help you measure. I highly recommend using a dashboard tool like Sprout Social. But here’s the thing. The true value of a social media community is often undervalued. Companies want to measure for an immediate ROI, when what they should be looking for is the value of their social community. How do they find this? In a nutshell, Elasticity’s Brian Cross once explained it to me (okay a room full of professionals I happened to be among) this way: Take a closer look at your social community:

  • How many followers are customers?
  • How many of them can be converted to customers?
  • How many can be moved to higher tiers (additional or more expensive products, higher levels of service, etc.)?
  • What is the length of your relationship?
  • How much is a typical sale worth?

hands_hearts

I would add to that the following: Beyond your community strength, look at your leadership standing in your industry. Are you asked to speak at industry events? Does your company name or hashtag trend? Have your sales increased since you became serious about investing in social media? How do you rank in Google searches compared to your competitors? Does your target audience know your brand name where they didn’t before? Are your customers satisfied with your level of service? Do you come highly recommended among your core demographic? Are online reviews favorable?

Yes, Left Brainers, You Can Look at “Real Statistics,” Too.DownloadPDF

Some of these measurements for success might include some of the following:

  • Newsletter sign-ups
  • Online purchases
  • PDF downloads
  • Filling out a contact form
  • Social interactions
  • Video views
  • Blog post shares
  • Quote requests

These are all things that can be traced to sales or pre-purchase behaviors. But don’t forget that your social community followers are your Brand Advocates. They are your tribe… Your unpaid advertisers and promoters. Remember the sales funnel? Your consumers’ Purchase Consideration phase consists of online research and social influence. They are getting recommendations from the influencers. No longer does your brand tell consumers what to buy. It’s consumers that tell others consumers (peers) what your brand stands for. So it pays to put dollars behind your social media community.

It’s All Social.

TODAY

And remember… Your marketing efforts must be integrated across all channels. Your customers are everywhere – on mobile devices, online, at retail and on social platforms. You must be there as well. The lines are surely getting crossed, muddled and blurred. Soon enough, we will no longer have social media, mass media and print media. We’ll just have media. And it will all be social, in one way or another.

Take a look at what you see every day.

On TV, The Today Show has The Orange Room, with what’s trending on Twitter. On the Voice, Tweets from the four judges pop up on the screen after each performance or steal.

In magazines, like More, you can hold your phone over bar codes on some ads for more information, to watch videos, find out pricing, check sizing, even purchase an item or entire outfit right then and there.

Offline has gone online, and online has gone off, as we shop, live, eat, talk and play. Certainly we have some acclimating to do. We’ve got to find a balance at work and especially at home. But the future is clear, especially in business. Those who don’t understand the social landscape will surely be left behind. 

The problem is that many businesses are beginning to understand this – but what they don’t understand is what to do once they arrive. They stand in the corner at the party, not sure how to mingle. Or they are the obnoxious insurance salesman always trying to sell their wares, pushing their business card into everyone’s hand, rather than just shaking hands and getting to know people. The social aspect really is lost on some.

Agencies in particular tend to be impatient. Small B2B companies tend to not understand why they need to build relationships – they want to see sales right away – they want to know where the “ROI” is right now. Social media is not a fast sell. It is a building of relationships. The sales funnel has certainly changed. Businesses must understand that

 – in both the Consideration and Post-Purchase phases, where your brand ambassadors live. It’s been studied and proven that your customers on social channels are worth much more to you than those who simply purchase in store or online. Those who follow you, and engage with you via social channels are much more invested in your product and brand. They are your brand ambassadors. They are the ones who will provide recommendations, share your product information, give glowing reviews, and tell your story for you. They are worth your time. Social is money well spent. Build up your social community and you are building your future sales funnel.

And remember, too, that it’s ever evolving. As more strategies and tools are developed, we’ll have new ways of capturing analytics and will be able to dive deeper into how well our communities are working towards our WHY. 

Discovering your WHY can be difficult. I’d love to help you figure it out and then lay out a plan for getting there. Let’s put our heads together and create something fantastic!  Reach me directly at beth@bethmwood.com or 314.540.0705.

 

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How To Write A Winning Award Entry

award entry

google images

From the red carpets to the spray tans, there’s no mistaking that this is awards season. The recent Golden Globes ceremony kicked off the celebration of this year’s most talented on screens both large and small. And while Hollywood is in full on party mode, they aren’t the only ones working on their acceptance speeches.

Less glamorous industries also lay claim to an award season all their own. I know, because I’ve been getting the emails. Maybe you have too. In the marketing industry, it’s that time again. Time to register for the 2015 PRO Awards, the 32nd Annual REGGIE Awards and The Ex Awards, among others.

According to Event Marketer Magazine “Agencies that win industry awards receive 32 percent more RFPs than those that don’t.”

Reason enough to consider entering. Although there are those companies (and people) that say they don’t care about awards. And others who counter that those are the companies that have never won. Listen, recognition feels good. Whether you’re five or fifty, it’s nice to be noticed for a job well done. But just like the lottery, you can’t win if you don’t play. The good news is, your chances of winning these awards are much better than the odds of picking the Powerball numbers.

I’ve filled out three awards entries in the past four years. IThey were for a REGGIE, a PRO award and, most recently, a MARCOM. We won a Gold REGGIE in 2010, an Honorable Mention in the 2011 PRO awards and a Gold MARCOM in 2014. So, I can tell you from experience that the way you fill out the entry form will have a great impact on whether or not you win. There is a formula, and you can increase your odds of winning by learning how to write a strong award entry.

I hear many companies admit that award entries get passed down to the intern or the administrative assistant. This is a big mistake.

Think of it as you would when writing copy for an ad campaign. You wouldn’t hand that assignment off to the intern, right? You give it to your most senior copywriter, who considers the audience and the call to action, and then crafts a compelling, well-told story.

Your award entry deserves the same respect. Get to the heart of the matter. The judges want to know WHY it’s important. What makes it tick. You’ll need to know the statistics and results, of course: the CTR, bounce rate, number of attendees, etc. And be sure to include the right  post-promotion analytics, too. A follow up survey of our event tour in 2011 told us that 95% of our event attendees had never purchased that shoe brand before, but would now absolutely consider purchasing them in the future. That’s a successful promotion. And a statistic worth noting.

But it’s not just the numbers. Tell them how the program came to be. What led you to create the campaign in the first place? Just like a great article, start with a hook to grab your judges’ attention. The opening line of our GOLD REGGIE winner was this: Women Love Shoes. Hard to argue with that.

What’s compelling about the story? What makes it stand out?

My award entry for the 2014 MARCOMs explained that the white paper I’d written for my client in the RTE cereal category addressed an industry-wide problem – consumers were leaving the category. The report addressed the issues and offered solutions for not only retailers but our competitors as well, so that we might work together to bring consumers back to center store.

If you’ve got your eye on a coveted award in your industry, be sure you’re prepared to write a compelling entry. And if you’d like some help telling your campaign’s story to increase your chances of taking home Platinum or Gold, shoot me an email at: beth@bethmwood.com. I’d love to help. Who knows… maybe I’ll be writing your acceptance speech!

2014 MARCOM_c

 

 

 

 

 

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Thanks and Giving

As I cleaned my house from top to bottom yesterday, I finally made room for a little holiday spirit.

Not Christmas, mind you. I’m not quite there yet. One holiday at a time, please. I’m speaking of Thanksgiving. Of being grateful and giving back. It is this spirit that has allowed me to flourish in a brand new business. The idea that what you send out comes back to you.

It’s really the whole spirit of blogs and social media, isn’t it? The sharing of information? Sure, each of us has a motive to earn a living – it is America, after all. We have that right (be thankful for it!), and each of us needs to pay for that turkey on our dining room table.

But still, here are a few ways to get into the spirit of Thanksgiving:

  • Pay for the car behind you in line (at Starbucks, or wherever you are)
  • Send a note – a real, handwritten note – to your clients. It’s a lost art, but it speaks volumes about how much you value them, the time you put into that professional relationship, and the things that are important to you.
  • Share a bit of wisdom, a recipe… something. Your blog is a great place to do this. But you can also offer to speak to a class of college students or invite a student interested in your industry to shadow you for a day.
  • Offer your time. Carve (see what I did there?) out a few hours and help out at a shelter or other local organization.

A few things for which this solopreneur is thankful:

  • A flexible schedule
  • Clients who don’t work over the holidays
  • Great colleagues, clients and vendors
  • Long-lasting business relationships
  • Family and friends who understand my creative neuroses
  • Being awarded a 2014 Gold MarCom award!

In the spirit of sharing, here’s a recipe I make every year. Kids love to help with this one, it’s perfect for Thanksgiving, and tastes great:

BiscuitsSweet Potato Biscuits

Ingredients:

2 1/2  cups flour

4 tsp. sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. baking soda

2 Tbsp. milk

2 Tbsp. melted butter

8 Tbsp. cold butter, cut into small pieces

1 cup cooked, mashed & cooled sweet potatoes

Brown sugar & pecan halves

Directions:

Heat oven to 450. Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda in large bowl. Work in butter with fingers.

Stir in sweet potatoes and add milk a little at a time, until dough can be gathered in a ball.

Place dough on floured surface and knead 10 times. Pat into one and a half inch thick circles and use the rim of a drinking glass to cut into rounds.

Brush tops with melted butter, sprinkle on brown sugar and press a pecan half into each top.

Bake approx. 10 minutes (makes 18 biscuits).

Serve and enjoy!

May each and every one of you remember to take some time on this day to be thankful for all that you do have. And as you set out steaming platters of turkey, stuffing, gravy and green bean casserole, may you also remember to set out a great, big empty bowl right at the entrance to your dining room (or wherever you eat). Let it be a gathering place for everyone’s smart phone. Really. Turn ’em off, drop ’em in, and sit around that table like you used to back in the day. Look up and around at each other. And make this Thanksgiving a truly social holiday!

What are you most thankful for this holiday season?

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The Real Joy of Doing Good Work

handsYears ago I realized something. I realized that I was happy at work. I enjoyed going in every morning. And that there were certain clients I truly looked forward to speaking with, working with, those for whom I enjoyed getting things done. I’d look forward to bringing them success. When I started freelancing, I used to tell my then-husband I could do this stuff for free for some of these people – they were just so… joyful! They loved what I was doing for them! They were so kind – they had so much energy! They were grateful – kind. It made me want to work harder. He thought I was crazy. Still does.

But I digress.

Ten years later, I still find joy in making my clients happy. The joy of sending an invoice or getting paid is nowhere near the joy of getting a phone call or an email of thanks or a note saying how pleased they are with my work. That is my joy. That is my fulfillment. And that, my friends, is what fires me up to do it again and again and again.

I realize many people might say that happiness does not a bill pay, but I politely disagree. Because when clients are happy, they happily pay me. And when I’m happy doing the work, I work happy. And I don’t mind working longer, better, more frequently. It’s a cycle that bears repeating.

I was having lunch with an old friend the other day who was telling me that she has turned worked down when she feels she’s working for someone who doesn’t share the same values as herself. I started to disagree when I realized I probably do the same thing.

Since August 2013, I have been on my own, freelancing full time. After just a few months I started to feel like a fraud. I woke up one morning and after several emails and a few phone calls, I was embarrassed because I realized that all I’d done that day was talk with friends. Sure I’d picked up two new projects, offered some advice, set up a few new business meetings and finished a writing assignment, but so what? Those were all just projects for friends! That wasn’t “real” work! I was just faking it! I wasn’t a real business person. I felt like a failure. Even my kids knew it. They’d see calls come in on my iPhone and I’d remind them to please be quiet while I took a client call. “Mom I thought that was your friend? Is ‘client’ another word for ‘friend’?” they’d ask in all innocence. I said as much to a freelance friend of mine. “Do you get paid for any of that ‘fake’ work?” he asked me. “Well, sure, but still…” I trailed off, feeling foolish.

Then, a few weeks ago, in the middle of a Twitter Chat (#sshour), my new Twitter friend Josh McCormack tweeted “My kids think client is another word for friend.” And just like that, I was validated. These “friends” I was working with and for weren’t old high school buddies. They weren’t college roommates or childhood pals. These were professionals I’d met in the working world. I’d only begun calling them friends after we’d started working together. They were clients first, but had quickly become people I respected and admired. They were people I genuinely cared about.

It’s happening in social media too. The people I engage with most frequently I have yet to meet in real life. But I find that their words feel genuine. The conversations are meaningful, and the interactions are always welcome. These people have become “friends.”

 And I’ve come to realize that not only is that okay. I had the right idea all along. Do good work for good people. Be the kind of person people want to work with. You’ll be more highly recommended to others. You’ll feel better about yourself.

And that is one hell of a way to earn a living.

Speaking of doing good work for good people, I’m honored to have very recently been awarded a 2014 Gold MarCom award in the copywriting/white paper category for my work with the awesome folks at Post Foods. If you’re looking for someone to write great content for your website, blog, social platforms or marketing collateral, shoot me an email at beth@bethmwood.com. Let’s create something fantastic!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Social Media Don’ts

We all start somewhere. And since I learn something new every single day, especially in the social space, it stands to reason that after six years of blogging, tweeting and posting I may have learned a thing or two from my own mistakes.

Here are four Social Media Don’ts I happened upon recently:

1. The Professional (LinkedIn) Pick UPHEYGIRL2

This happened. I can not fathom why there are still people out there who think that this is even remotely okay. There are countless dating websites out there, folks. But there are very few social platforms (and only one this big) dedicated solely to business networking. Please, please don’t muddy it by trying to pick up a professional during working hours with a connection request and a cheesy pick up line. Please. Just. Don’t.

2. The Social Media Pro… who isn’t

Whose only tweets are check ins from Foursquare. Yep, came across this one last Wednesday. From a user who has been “giving social media presentations for years.” The only tweets going back for months on his business (not personal) profile are weekly check-ins at airports, bars, restaurants and baseball parks. What does this tell me about his social media presentations? That they’re not worth the price of admission. And please don’t give me that “I don’t have time to do it right with my own small start-up, I’m busy making sure the company I work for is doing it right.” Bullshit. There – I called it. If you are out there speaking about social media in front of audiences filled with people and your own small business has a Twitter profile, then you’d better be active. And by active, I don’t mean tweeting your location, or a picture of the subway sandwich you had for lunch. That, or take it down.

3. Those “The Latest XYZ Social News Is Out!” Tweets

Maybe I’m the only person left on Twitter who doesn’t “get” it, but back in the day I created one of those paper.li accounts. It automatically pulled in topics from people I followed. The problem was, it only pulled info. from about three “thought leaders.” So my “newspaper” was filled with 15-20 articles, from the same three people. Lots of great blogs and articles were left out. Maybe I just couldn’t figure out how to build it correctly, but it felt to me like the easy – or lazy – way out. It also auto tweets for you, including twitter handles of these few “thought leaders.” Great. The first few times I was included in one of these, I immediately retweeted it. Then, I started paying more attention. I clicked the link and searched for the article. Here’s what I found: Two or three times out of 10, the article was someone else’s, and the only reason I was listed was because I happened to be the person who retweeted it. The rest of the time? I couldn’t even find the article. I’d spend five minutes digging and then just give up. What a waste of my time! My advice? If you’re going to include an article I’ve written in your newsletter, fantastic! Don’t get me wrong, I’m honored to be included. But, when you do mention me in a tweet, please let me know where to find the article.

Does anyone else feel this way, or is it just me? Maybe I’m on my own with this one. I’d love to hear your take. If I’m wrong, please educate me!

4. cricketsThe Sound of Silence

The purpose of Retweeting other people’s tweets/links is to share great content. That said, one of the things I love about the social space is that it’s so polite. Pleases, Thank Yous and You’re Welcomes are par for the course around here. So it goes without saying (or it should) that when someone takes the time to share your content, you, in turn, should take the time to thank them. When you don’t, it gets noticed. I don’t care if you have 600,000 followers or 600.

 Those two little words go a long way. It’s also extremely important to respond to your followers when they pose a question or leave a relevant comment. When I get nothin’ but crickets from a twitter account I have to wonder who – if anyone – is on the other side. This does not bode well for you or your business.

What Social Media Don’ts drive you crazy? Any that happen to you on a regular basis? Remember that while you may have been tweeting for years, there are always those who are new to a social space. Follow the Do’s and learn from the Don’ts so that others can learn from you.

Navigating the Do’s and Don’ts of social media can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to your small business. Having some help might not be a bad idea. Let’s connect and create something fantastic! beth@bethmwood.com

 

 

 

 

 

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Business Lessons from the Lake House

More than twenty years in business has taught me a thing or two. Some of those things I learned back in my very first job – in a pizza restaurant of all places. Others, I learned in college, or early on in my marketing career. But even with all the experiences I’ve learned along the way, I continue to learn things about myself, my career, and even life, in the most unlikely of places. This past summer, I was taking some time off from work at our family lake house. And sure enough, a few things stuck with me that I knew would serve me well once I returned to my trusty MacBook Air come Monday morning. Four business lessons I learned from my favorite place to relax and unwind… our family lake house:

  1. Slow Down. I noticed it during a business luncheon a few weeks back. As our LAKEHOUSE LESSONSillustrious speaker was making his way through a really interesting presentation on social media (really, is there anything else that draws a crowd these days…?), the tweets were flying so fast and furious, you could all but here the whoosh of the tweets being sent through cyber space, as each of us raced to post first. Because really, if you’re not first, then you end up retweeting instead of being retweeted (the horror!). Typos were made. Statements were misquoted. Thoughts were lost. And two-way engagement was missed. Hell, even a funny joke or two was lost because everyone was looking down rather than up. I get that we’re all trying to get in on the social engagement game. But isn’t part of the point of paying to attend these conferences the fact that we’re in on something that other people don’t get to be? Isn’t that the point of the Intellectual Property we’re gaining – and you’re not? I suppose maybe the point is that we’re gaining it so that we can share it with you, and then we look like thought leaders, no? But if we’re so quick to shoot out the thoughts, what’s happening here? We’re taking a photo, editing it on the fly and posting it to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Have we even stopped to enjoy the moment as we took the photo? The moments before the photo was taken? Are our senses so dumbed down that we don’t feel, smell, taste, touch? That all we do is see? It’s become a game of one-upmanship. I just want to slow down. Out on the lake, it’s not easy to bring the iPhone, although we did. I guess I was falling into it, because as I was perfecting my headstand (and I actually did!), we did capture it on video and share it on Facebook. But here’s the thing: I enjoyed about four hours of sunshine before those 10 seconds of video were shot. So maybe it’s not all bad.
  1. Pay Attention. To the little things. At the lake house, we hand wash the dishes. Not
    Lakehouse Lessons

    See her through the window?

    because we have to — there’s a state-of-the-art dishwasher right next to the double sink. But the pace is so slow that we enjoy lazy conversation over our meals and rather than ending them abruptly, we pour another glass of wine and continue talking as we clear the plates, fill the sink with soapy water and wash the dishes, all of us pitching in, laughing and enjoying each other’s company. It’s just… awesome. On one particularly humid morning after breakfast, we noticed this mama deer out the window over the sink. Had we been bent over the dishwasher, we might have missed her. Several years ago, I was working on a new product launch for a client. Coming up with the idea was proving difficult until something one of the sales managers said during a lunch stuck with me. That simple thought turned into a national mobile tour and earned our agency a Gold Reggie – the highest honor in the world of Promotion Marketing.

  1. Enjoy the Process. The drive to our lake house is only an hour, door to door. The Lakehouse lessonsfirst few years, every time I made the drive, I’d set the odometer and check the clock, trying to beat my time, even by a minute or two. I was so concerned with proving that I could make it out there in under 60 minutes, that I missed the conversations, the music and the scenery along the drive. It’s the same in business. We’re always in such a hurry, waiting for the next phase. You know you’ve said it… “I can’t wait until (fill in the blank)” whether it’s a client who signs a retainer, or you move to a larger office, or you get that big promotion or that flashy title. Just like life, every day that passes you by is a chance to learn, to grow and to prove your worth. Don’t miss it waiting for the next big thing. Besides, all of that learning will give you a ton of content worth writing about in your own blog!
  2. Let Go of What You Can’t Control. Things don’t always go as plan – that’s a given, right? Getting bent out of shape or worrying about it is not going to do you any good. lakehouse lessonsWe once planned an entire weekend at the lake house with out of town friends who’d never been there. We couldn’t wait to spend the entire weekend on the water kayaking, swimming and floating in the sun. Our plans were soaked when we woke up to thunderstorms Saturday morning. Instead we made do with card games, hikes in the rain, old movies, and great conversation. And on Sunday we were rewarded with a full day of sunshine. Plan, prepare to the best of your abilities and put a contingency plan in place, just in case. A rain date, if you will. Practice your presentation without any visual aids – just in case you lose power, or your PowerPoint fails at the last minute. If you’re well prepared in advance, you’ll be confident regardless of the circumstances.

Do any of these ring true for you? I’d love to hear your story! Reach out to me at: beth@bethmwood.com

My background lies in marketing, writing, blogging and social media. Whether your background is the same as mine or these skills might come in handy for your business… Let’s connect and create something fantastic! 

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Help Me Help You: How to Give Your Social Strategist a Fighting Chance

social strategist

Jerry Maguire

One of the best scenes from the movie Jerry Maguire is when Tom Cruise’s character is trying to convince Cuba Gooding’s character to focus on the love of the game. You can watch the :30 clip here: “Help Me Help You”

There are few things more frustrating than being hired to change the world, and then not being given the tools, the resources or the access to said world in order to change it.

Listen, “doing social media” isn’t going to make you an overnight millionaire. It’s not going to make you a millionaire, period. Not without hard work, discipline and a great product (or service). But what it will do is help you reach the masses. It will help your brand be heard in a world beyond your small corner of it. Beyond your brick and mortar store or your URL address. Social media will help potential customers get to know you, your brand, your brand’s personality, its style, what it stands for and believes in. And it will give you the opportunity to help your potential customers – help them answer questions, find products, solve problems, fix things, feel better and share impactful, relevant information. Not to shabby, right?

But in order to do that, you’ve got to do your part. Just because you hire someone to handle it for you doesn’t mean you can turn it off in your mind. You are the brain, the passion, behind your brand. You understand your customers needs, the reason for your product, better than anyone else, so you must be willing to share that – what we call your Intellectual Property – with us.

Eight things you can do as a small business to give your Social Strategist a fighting chance:

  1. Listen to your customers. What are customers saying about your brand/products/services?
  2. Keep up to speed. What’s trending in your industry? What’s relevant right now – today?
  3. Give feedback – immediately! If we send you ideas – get back to us within a few hours at most – not a few days or weeks. Social media doesn’t wait that long.
  4. Ask questions. For every “social media guru” out there who wants to impress you with their vast knowledge, and keep you in the dark so that they can continue to take your money and never make you the wiser – there are those of us who truly do want you to learn the how and why of what we do so that you can step in little by little over time and take over the reigns of your social media presence (if that’s what you choose to do). There will always be new avenues to explore and new social platforms to develop. But asking questions about what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and how we’re getting it done just shows us that you’re invested in your business and in us. Ask away!
  5. Share your best practices. Just as we’re showing you the how and why of what we do, we need and want to understand your industry better. Tell us about your best practices – what makes you stand apart in your category? What’s different about your customers? What’s exiting about the field to you?
  6. Share your objectives. Sometimes these will change. And that’s absolutely okay. In fact, that means you’re meeting your objectives and moving on to greater challenges. Bravo! Sit down with your Social Strategist and come up with some new objectives. Devise a new plan and talk about how you want to reach those goals.
  7. Speak up. Whether you’re pleased with the results or disappointed, nothing can change unless you have the courage to discuss it.
  8. Put us in the loop. Social media MUST be a part of your Marketing strategy. Loop us in on meetings with your marketing team, just as you would (hopefully) bring in whoever heads up Sales. If you’re going to run a promotion on a product or service, for example, everyone from customer service to sales and social media must know about it, so that we can all shout it from the rooftops and talk the same talk to customers.

Don’t get me wrong… your Social Strategist should be a star in her own right – with experience, drive and know-how. But she needs your support to make magic! If you haven’t hired a Social Strategist (Social Media Manager…or whatever title you decide to give it) yet, some tips on what to look for: http://blog.bethmwood.com/hiring-a-social-media-strategist/.

 

 

 

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Customer Service Holds the Key to Business Success

CustomerServiceWhere is Customer Service?

Back when I began my career in my marketing, my first job was with a furniture manufacturing company. The corporate office was set up like this: The “Executive Offices” consisted of the Marketing department, Sales, HR and Accounting. That was the front of the building. The “back” of the building consisted of shipping & receiving, the manufacturing plant and, oh yeah, customer service. To my 21 year-old mind, Customer Service looked unimportant. And I wonder now if that’s the way the company felt, too. It sure looked like it.

Things have certainly changed since the early 90s. But one thing the C/S dept. has always known better than most was how to listen to their customers.

Oil and Water

When I moved to the agency side of the industry just a few years later, I began sitting in meetings with clients (we typically met with a brand’s marketing department). The recurring problem among most of our clients was that the marketing and sales departments disagreed. They had different agendas, different objectives, and different ideas of how to make their business succeed. I learned quickly how to bring the two departments together, listen to both sides, encourage collaboration, and create programs that met shared objectives.

 Social platforms allow every department the opportunity to listen to what’s being said, shared and asked.

Content is King

These days, when I meet with clients to discuss building a social media presence, and creating a blog for their brand, one of the first things we talk about is how to create content for that blog. My first recommendation is always to talk to the customer service department. What questions do customers call in with? What complaints do they have? What are they most interested in? Who are they?

We’ve got to put Customer Service higher up on the priority list. And not just customer service as a verb, but as a noun. The department – the people who work in C/S should know how important they are. Some best practices for getting the most out of it:

  1. Make a note of common questions and problems your customer service department handles. These are the topics you should be writing about on your blog and sharing via social channels! This is where your SEO comes from! This is what your customers are typing in Google’s search engine!

Customer Service

  1. Keep a white board where customer service folks can write down words and phrases they hear over and over. These are your KEYWORDS folks!
  1. Hold weekly brainstorm sessions. Bring together your C/S folks, your marketing dept., even your accounting department, to discuss issues, concerns and ideas.

Customer Service holds the key in today’s business environment.

Several years ago, I wrote a blog post about how the idea of a Community Manager was evolving into that of a Communications Executive. I stand by that idea. Just a couple years later, those titles are changing again. But regardless of what you call it… Digital Marketing, Social Media, Engagement marketing… it’s all the same. It’s a brand speaking – and more importantly, listening – with one voice across all channels.

And because every department, each person, has the potential to listen – and speak to your customers every day, here’s another very important Best Practice: Hire Well. The one thing every employee should have in common is the desire to see the company succeed, the ability to work towards a shared goal – the goal of making customers happy. We are in an age of transparency. Inside sales, outside sales, customer service, marketing, creative… Every person you hire will have different qualifications for her specific position or department, but one thing they must have in common is the ability to listen, to respond kindly, and to have a PMA (positive mental attitude). Are they engaged? Excited even?

Your company can’t afford to have a disengaged customer service rep, to share content customers aren’t interested in, or suffer bad reviews. Your audience is vast, they’re highly engaged and their listening. They can’t wait to talk about you – good or bad. Which side do you want to be on?

Tapping into your customer service department’s knowledge base is one of the best ways to find blog topics and learn which keywords and hashtags to use on your social platforms. Your blog should be the go-to resource for your customers (and potential customers). Not sure how to get started? Let’s connect and create something fantastic!

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7 Social Media Time Sucks to Avoid

Social media can be a time suck. Really. But if you clean up your act a bit, and focus on what’s important, social can actually save you time and bring in new business. So claim your independence from all that’s holding you back! You know, like this stuff:

competition-business-concept-running-businesspeople-32363161

  1. Worrying too much about the competition. Don’t spend so much time lurking around other people’s social media profiles to see if you’re missing something, doing it “right,” or staying on trend. The only way to stand apart and be heard above all the noise is to be unique. 
  2. Your iPhone 24/7. You’ve got to take some time off. Really! As a writer, I Peacecan spend weeks on a project, but after awhile, I can’t really see what I’ve written… I’ve looked at the same words, the same paragraphs so many times that I start to miss grammatical errors and poorly constructed sentences. Sometimes the best thing to do is close the document and walk away from the computer. It’s okay to do that with your phone, too. Walk away. Look up at the clouds, look into someone’s eyes, pay attention! You never know what great stuff you’ll find for your next blog post, article, etc.
  3. Chasing potential clients who just won’t make the commitment. ChasingYou’ve created presentations, revised proposals, and submitted estimates more times than you care to count. But even after months of hoping and countless hours you’ll never get back or paid for, they still haven’t signed on the dotted line. Let ‘em go! Put your heart and head into your existing clients, new potential clients and building your business in other ways. If they want to work with you, you’ll get the signature when they’re ready. Until then, put it out of your mind.
  4. Being chained to analytics. Are your eyes crossing from staring at Google hands-chained-together-16670543reports or graphs of retweets and mentions? Can you recite your influence and engagement levels in your sleep? Step away from the analytics! Not forever, mind you. But, don’t be so caught up in what they say – especially if you’re just starting out. Instead, immerse yourself in the engagement! Start conversations, share great content, write even better content, say “hello” to new followers – just enjoy the social space and when you do check your analytics again, you just might be surprised at the rise in all those numbers.
  5. Social Shortcuts. You know the stuff: hitting “Retweet” on good content maze-shortcut-28793656rather than taking the time to add a word or two to the front of the tweet (for more on how to do this, read How to Be a Social Media Rockstar in Minutes). Or clicking the “connect” button on LinkedIn instead of sending a personalized email letting someone know that you’d like to connect – and why. These shortcuts might help you get things done faster, but you’re missing great opportunities to connect on a more meaningful level.
  6. Ignoring accounts that don’t have a huge following. I know a lot of folks whose MO is to only follow back or engage with high profile twitter accounts. They believe that engaging with anyone else will only make them look less important. DON’T BE ONE OF THESE SOCIALIZERS! The people and brands with smaller followings may just be your greatest assets. They are the ones who’ll engage the most, share your content and make time for conversations.

     Be humble, respectful and generous. It beats arrogance every time.

  7. Hashtagitis. Hashtags can be very beneficial in helping others find your d-hashtag-rendering-white-room-34095213content. But putting hashtags in front of every other word of your tweet makes them hard to read, and makes you look either A) like you don’t know what you’re doing, or B) desperate. Be selective about which hashtag(s) you use, and remember that one or two is quite enough. Any more than three, and you’re pushing it.

Whether you’re guilty of a few of these or not, it’s not too late for you to claim your independence from these social media time sucks. Start now! Smart social is where it’s at.

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