Shedding Light on Social Media Marketing: It’s Not As Scary As It Appears

Halloween is coming and aside from it just being a holiday to get us all to buy giant bags of our favorite candy and pretend we are going to give it all away to the trick-or-treaters, it is time to “celebrate” all things CREEPY. When you are new to social media marketing for your business, it can be as daunting and scary as stepping up to one of the scary haunted houses. But like even the scariest of haunted houses, once you turn the lights on, you see how things work and the creepy factor goes away…a little bit. So why don't we turn the lights on and explore some of these “scarier” social media tools that can help you with your social media  marketing…as you eat another tiny box of Milk Duds. Learning social media practices as well as engaging in the sites can produce terror, especially the fear of your time being sucked into the ground with zombies. But they aren’t as frightful as you might think.

  • Facebook is Not Frankenstein

“He’s Alive!” Dr. Frankenstein cried as his monster moved after lightning brought him to life. Facebook is definitely alive and well and more popular than ever. Heck, even the young people are said to be sneaking back on. But it doesn’t have to be scary. The sight has over 1.5 BILLION users and 750 million active users who on average, share more than 30 billion pieces of content per month. If that many people engage in Facebook, it can’t be that terrifying. And getting used to Facebook just takes a little practice and consistency (like going house to house begging those poor adults for candy). Articles like “How to Use Facebook” can easily be googled and walk you through the process, and if you are needing to set up a Business Page on Facebook, we created a guidebook that walks you through that entire process. (Download: Getting Started with Facebook Business Pages) Once you are a part of the community, pretend you are having a dinner and invite a few friends into your living room. Just a few. Soon you will invite more and your fears will be alleviated. So put down the torches, villagers, and give it a try.

  • Twitter will not suck you dry like Dracula

Twitter was launched in 2006 and tweets have been flying through the digital air ever since. Folks may find Twitter scary because of the sheer number of tweets that are sent every single day (500 million tweets per day are sent out), but it is a communication tool that can benefit you professionally, even if you are not a constant user. Like Dracula, Twitter has sunk its teeth into our society with its influence in how we communicate as well as what we use to communicate. Hashtags are “IN” and the pound sign is out (we're still not sure how and when that happened). But unlike Dracula, Twitter does not have to suck the life out of you.  In “Ten Questions you were too Scared to ask about Twitter” Chris Robley takes the fear away by explaining how to use Twitter step by step. No need to carry a wooden steak when you sign up. Twitter can be advantageous and fun.

social media isn't so scary

  • Pinterest is not a scary ghost, but more like Casper.

Imagine a haunted house you’ve been dared to enter. You are told ghosts are living there so you are naturally frightened to cross the threshold. But you’ve also been told that inside that house, a wealth of creative ideas are awaiting your perusal. Do you go? Pinterest is a great place to visit. People may fear they will get lost and not know what’s real because of the litany of craft ideas, creative quotes and scrumptious recipes. But be warned…it is somewhat of a Hotel California. You can logon anytime you'd like….but you can never leave! It is a friendly and beautiful place filled with amazing photos and lots of shiny objects. For businesses, there are wonderful opportunities to sell your products with the new “Buyable Pins” on Pinterest.

You can pin ideas or pictures to your own boards to keep suggestions fresh. And although, Pinterest is known for crafts and party ideas, your business can benefit from it also. Tech boards are a plenty and provide learning tools for your company. And of course, the fear of the unknown can be taken away by reading articles like “How to Use Pinterest for Beginners.” Jump on there this week and you will sure to be delighted by all the treats and fun Halloween items to buy or just “Pin.”

  • Streaming Video will NOT turn you into a zombie.

Now the thought of being on video can certainly send chills down the bravest spine, it doesn't have to be as scary as you make it out to be in your mind. First, realize that people actually see you every day already. They hear your voice and see your face, so get past the frightful thought of not liking how you look on HD video (alright….that IS a frightful thought for any of us over 45) or how you sound on audio. It's what you look like and sound like, so realize that boat has sailed already and turn on the video camera.

Secondly, streaming video is as hot as a witch's caldron! Trust me, it's H-O-T, HOT! From Periscope and Meerkat (which we are betting will soon be buried in the graveyard soon, along with Google+ and Ello) to the new sweetheart tool, BLAB. The trend is in producing your own show and streaming it live to your social media audience. Blab is our favorite since it feels more like a call-in radio show, allowing listeners (or viewers in this case) to jump in and ask questions or interact via chat in the sidebar. It's not as crazy to keep up with as a TweetChat, and it is more than just you being a talking head. To take the scariness away, trying joining in one as a participant, or viewer, then as your courage builds, you can jump in one of the “hot seats” to ask a question of make a comment, then before you know it, you will have your own army of Blabbers slaying zombies out there. We do a weekly Blab, focused on savvy business people doing cool things in their marketing.

So this Halloween, get your gigantic 7-pound bag of candy, and get comfy on the couch with your computer. Delve into the world of social media and conquer those fears. There’s no secret “trick” to learning and it will be a “treat” in the end.

 

Robbie Iobst blogger for SocialKNXRobbie Iobst is on the blogging team at SocialKNX and still hates haunted houses!

How Busy Entrepreneurs Can Make Time for Blogging

 

Whether you're a speaker, realtor, freelancer, or Chief Hooligan of your small business, you know that blogging is one of those activities that you need to add to your to-do list. Yes, really! (If you're still on the fence, have a look at these stats  — scroll down to “Blogging Stats”).

Are you still kicking and screaming because you have no time to blog? It's okay — there is hope. There are things you can do to speed up the process and make it a little easier to knock out those posts on a regular basis. So, take a deep breath, put your pen to paper — or fingers to keyboard — and follow the steps below so you can make time for blogging.

How to Come Up With Ideas Quickly

For both new and seasoned bloggers, coming up with new topics can be a challenge. Oftentimes, it can be the longest part of the process when your brain cramps and all your ideas seem to have dried up.

If you're new to blogging, you might not be sure where to start, and if you've been blogging for a while, you might be bored with topics you've already written about. So, is it surprising when you end up down a rabbit hole called “What do I write about?!”

How can you quickly come up with a topic you think would be helpful to your readers? Fortunately, there are a few ways you can regularly find new topics (and subtopics) to come up with, no matter how long you've been blogging.

1. Ask Your Peeps

Let your clients and potential clients give you the topics. If you’re trying to create content that your audience loves, it's that same audience that can give you ideas for new content. When prospects and clients ask you questions, jot them down.

Keep your thoughtful answers in a place that you can refer back to because, one day, you can likely turn those conversations into blog posts.

Of course, you don't have to name names, but you can share experiences and your answers to demonstrate your expertise and knowledge.

[Tweet “When trying to create content that your audience loves, that same audience that can give you ideas. “]

So, fire up Evernote and create a notebook called “Blogging Ideas” to store any ideas that come to you. Oh, and if you are so inclined, throw in a quick outline. That way, when it's time to begin writing, you won't have to start from scratch.

BTW, you really can ask your peeps. Jump on to Twitter or seek the counsel of your LinkedIn groups and Google+ communities. Ask them what's on their minds. What do they want to know more about? What questions have been coming up for them? You might be surprised by the number of responses that you'll get.

You could also create a Google form with a handful of short questions that they can complete. Share the link in your groups where appropriate and you might find that you have the makings for an entire post … or at least the beginnings of one.

If you have trouble coming up with titles for your posts, check out the Hubspot Blog Topic Generator or Portent's Content Idea Generator for a little assistance.

2. Set Up Google Alerts

Google Alerts is a free service that will send you e-mail notifications whenever it finds new results for a topic or keyword you're interested in.

Google Alerts can help you:

  • Get a constant stream of ideas. For example, you could get alerted each time specific news stories or topics hit the Internet.
  • Look out for breaking industry news. Use Google Alerts to monitor your industry for breaking news you can immediately share with your audience. If you're able to publish breaking news quickly, you might end up getting more traffic to your blog and be seen as a credible source for important, relevant, and timely information.

3. Look Through Your Pocket (or Evernote)

So, earlier I mentioned that you can throw reader or client questions in Evernote for safekeeping until you're ready for them. Well, as you come across articles and news you're interested in, particularly as they relate to your chosen field, it's also a good idea to put them in Instapaper, Pocket, or Evernote.

I used to keep specific types of articles in Pocket for a weekly post I wrote in the past. I would throw any article that contained related content about productivity and time management into Pocket and then tag them with a specific keyword so that I could call them up quickly and easily.

Then, each week I would sort through the various articles in Pocket, select one, and craft a post around it. Once I used an article, I deleted it from Pocket (short-term storage). But, if I wanted to keep it, I would throw it into Evernote (long-term repository).

This is just one way you can use Pocket and Evernote, but certainly think through a process that would work for you. Just be sure that you have a specific spot to keep all the relevant articles you want to refer back to.

4. Read … Then Read Some More

read to get better at blogging

Read often to get blog post ideas!

Reading high quality articles and blog posts that other people write can often be inspiring and help you see a variety of perspectives.

Use other people's content to help you come up with ideas of your own, or even counter arguments to pieces you read.

 

RELATED: 10 Blogging Tips for New Bloggers and Social Media Marketers

 

How to Save Time When Blogging

So, maybe you do know what you want to write about. Maybe you have your topic picked out but you're having a hard time stringing coherent thoughts together. Does that mean you shouldn't write? Of course not.

… because there are some strategies you can use to get things going. Some are obvious, like writing when you're feeling alert. For me, a cup of coffee is essential when I'm writing in the early morning hours. You might need to exercise first or complete a pre-writing routine to get started.

Once you're ready to begin, you might want to …

1. Use a Template

One of the best ways to reduce the time you need to write your posts is to use a template. Anyone who's ever used a canned response knows it's a time saver, especially when you're responding to the same questions frequently.

Well, templates work in a similar way. They're not pre-written like canned responses are, but they can help you gather your thoughts and act as guide for you to follow. Templates can help you prepare the main portions of your post, like figuring out your keywords, the main concepts you want to convey, and the supporting data or statistics you plan to share.

And, the best part is that you can fill out one section and then come back to it at a later point. The structure of the template will help you to pick up where you leave off.

2. Write First, Then …

blogging

Resist the urge to edit while you're writing!

… fill in the rest. You know, things like adding in images and supporting data. Instead, use placeholders (e.g., “Insert graphic XYZ here”) to remind you where to put quotes, stats, images, charts, etc. so that you can continue with writing.

If you start focusing on the other stuff, you'll get off track and probably waste the few precious minutes you have.

And, do resist the urge to edit!

Editing before you've finished writing is another sort of never ending rabbit hole. I implore you — resist it at all costs! The time for editing is not while you're in the process of writing. Revising your post is best reserved for when your post is finished. Otherwise, editing becomes a distraction that makes writing more complicated and time-consuming.

So, write first and polish later.

3. Use a Timer

Only have five minutes? 15 minutes? No problem! Set a timer for a specific time frame and start writing. Write something. Anything. Just write. Get it out of your head and come back and write some more. You could end up writing for much longer or you could just use the time you have to get some thoughts down or to create an outline.

If you have more time, consider using a Pomodoro app, like Focus Booster, so you can spend more quality time with your post. Just get in the habit of writing every day. Commit to a certain number of minutes, number of words, or even number of paragraphs. Just write.

And, use a timer to keep you on track.

4. Outsource

Okay, if you really haven't been able to carve out a regular schedule for publishing your posts, it might be time to consider delegating that task to your virtual assistant or someone on Fiverr (or even us here at SocialKNX!) so that you can develop a regular blogging routine.

You could outsource blogging just to get started or to supplement what you're already doing. Keep in mind that you can also incorporate guest blog posts or find regular contributors to join your blog.

RELATED: 8 Blogging Lessons from a Distracted Blog Reader

Connect With Deb on Twitter: @DAllisonLee 

Use Graphics to Rekindle Your Love For Social Media

Have you fallen out of love with social media? Does it seem drab and boring these days?

The good news is that you can rekindle your love for your favorite social sites!

So, here's what you need to do:

  1. You still need to whisper sweet nothings, you know, engage!
  2. Of course, paying attention to what your followers need is important, too, so be sure to continue to share valuable content.
  3. It probably wouldn't hurt to be a bit clever or funny at times.

And, sometimes you'll need to change things up a bit. Sure, you can broadcast important marketing data or small business tips. But, wouldn't it be nicer if you showed how much you care? One simple way to do this is by sharing visual content.

Why Visuals Matter

By now, you've probably heard that including visuals in your blog posts can boost the value and credibility of your content. This is true even when the included graphics have nothing do with the content you share. Crazy, right?

And, when you share images on social media, your followers will throw themselves at your feet. Well, maybe they won't, but they will be curious to see your graphics and start interacting with you in ways that you will definitely love.

Here are a few (tweetable) statistics that explain what I mean:

Twitter

You have probably seen some tweets with URLs that look like this:

http://pic.twitter.com/YPs52Q4igl

This is an image link that lets your tweeps know that there's a photo present in your tweet. As it turns out, tweets with those links get way more engagement than tweets without them.

[Tweet “Tweets with images receive 18% more clicks, 89% more favorites, and 150% more retweets.”] [Source: Hubspot]

Facebook

According to SocialBakers.com, “photos still get all the action” on Facebook. Basically, posts with images received more interactions than those without photos. You're probably not surprised to learn that when you post pictures on Facebook, they get more clicks, likes, and comments than text-based updates.

[Tweet “Facebook updates with pictures get 53% more likes, 104% more comments, and 84% more click-throughs.”] [Source: FastCompany.com]

LinkedIn

Did you think that sharing images was only for the Twitter and Facebook? Think again. Posting images on LinkedIn company pages has been shown to dramatically increase comments.

[Tweet “Posting images on LinkedIn company pages show 98% higher comment rate.”] [Source: Buffer]

 

What Types of Graphic Content Can You Use?

So, we agree that a great way to keep your relationship with your social media peeps exciting is to include visuals in your status updates. Sure, you can use stock photos, but you should probably add a bit of sparkle and pizazz to them ahead of time. More on how to do that later.

Social Media Image Sizes

Click to enlarge

Now that you're ready to mix things up a bit on social, don't forget to optimize your images for each network. Check out this handy dandy cheat sheet with the image dimensions for the most popular social sites. Or, you can use this simplified version created by Dustin Stout (over there on the right).

And, that's not all you can do to keep things interesting. Instead of sharing images only, consider using a plethora of visual goodness to keep your followers interested and coming back for more.

So, share content like:

  • Graphic Quotes
  • Memes
  • Infographics
  • GIFs
  • Short videos

Okay, now on to the tools you need.

 

RELATED: Stop Using These Crappy Images On Your Social Media Posts

Tools to Create Great Graphic Content

I'd love to tell you that there's an app to help you make rockin' graphics that will wow your social media peeps.

But, there isn't.

There are MANY apps for that!

And, that's good news because you'll likely never run out of tools you can use to make cool visuals. Today, I'll focus on three popular types of visuals — and the tools you can use — to spruce up your social media posts.

1. Visual: Graphics With Overlays

Tools: Canva, Picmonkey

When you have photograph or image that you'd like include with a social media update, you'll probably want to add your own unique message or put your stamp on it before you share it.

This is where Canva and Picmonkey come in. Both are web-based applications (though Canva now has an iPad app). Both are super easy to use and don't require design or technical knowledge for you to create an awesome graphic. Here's one I created recently using Canva …

show your website some love

I created this graphic for this blog post using Canva. This image can be easily optimized and used on social media to promote the post.

Canva offers templates for a variety uses (including social media) and you can now share your designs with other Canva users (sounds like it's turning into its own social network!). Picmonkey also has several templates (check out the collages), lets you start a design from scratch, or simply edit what you already have.

Before jumping into the next topic, I have to mention A Beautiful Mess app (iOS & Android). The girls on the SocialKNX team swear by it, so I'm going to have to give it a whirl. It's next on my list! If you use it, let me know what you love about it.

2. Visual: Graphic Quotes

Tools: Quozio, Pinwords

A graphic quote is basically a quote that's dressed up in a cute, fun, or fancy way. One simple tool you can use to make one yourself is Quozio. Simply enter your quote, who said it, …

Socail Media Loves Graphics

 

… choose your style, and then share with your social media peeps.

 

Social Media Loves Graphics

 

Pinwords is just as easy, too. Upload a picture to use as the background for your quote, or select one of the four backgrounds provided before sharing on your social sites.

Social media loves graphics

3. Visual: Infographics

Tools: Canva, Piktochart, Easely

Infographics share complicated information in an easy way which makes the data quick to consume. They can be a nice complement to blog posts, but they are also great to post on social media. You might choose to share a snippet of your infographic on social to drive readers back to the full post.

Did you know that you can create infographics with Canva? Again, ease of use is a huge time saver and you get all the tools you need to mock up a fantastic graphic. Here's one (with fictional stats) I created in just under 12 minutes. Granted, it's only part of an infographic, but it does give you an idea of how long it might take to create one that's fully fleshed out.

Note: This is important. I know you know this, but you really should use real data and statistics (not made up ones like I used).

Social Media Loves Graphics

Of course, there are other visuals you can create to rekindle that spark you once had with your favorite social sites. Consider creating MEMEs (imgflip can help), GIFs (check out imgflip and quickmeme), and videos (try Vine).

And, speaking of videos, did you know that you can now share and watch videos using the Twitter mobile app? Your heart skipped a beat when you read that, didn't it?

Check out this Twitter video from Doogie Howser himself (pre-Oscars) and then bask in the glow of a love renewed with social media. Start making plans of your own. Think about how you can wow your social media peeps with creative and clever visuals.

Use some of the tools I mentioned today and then come back and leave a comment with how things worked out for you. Or, give me a shout out on Twitter (@DAllisonLee).

Okay, now off you go …

 

 

Kickstart My Heart: 1 Simple Way to Show Your Website Some Love

 

February is the month of love and Valentine's Day is just a few, short days away. Couples make special plans, reminisce about old times, and perhaps make plans for new adventures together. This time of year is often a time to reflect and nurture the important relationships in our lives.

Think all this lovey-dovey activity is just for your personal relationships? Not at all! Why not use this as a time to also show your website some love? If you're a business owner, you should be actively engaged with your site. Afterall, it's one of the main partnerships you have.

You probably visit your site every day. Maybe you check your visitor stats. Or, upload fresh content regularly to keep your other partner (i.e., Google) happy.

You have been showering your site with attention, haven't you? Or, are you letting your relationship languish? Don't! Instead, show your website some love by doing one simple thing — an audit.

show your website some love

Show your website some love!

 

Why do a Website Audit?

An audit is a great way to take the pulse of your website. Taking a look under your virtual hood will help you:

  • Get a snapshot of what's working
  • Identify problems (especially ones you were not aware of)
  • Create goals for improvement and work toward them
  • Improve the user experience (which can also improve engagement)
  • Create a plan for regular testing and auditing

Knowing the strengths and weak points of your website will also help you figure your site is still meeting your expectations and current needs. Just because it made you happy when you first started out together, things may have changed. This will be especially true if your business model or services have evolved or changed drastically.

How Much Time is Needed to do an Audit?

The length of time you will need to review your website will vary based on the size of your site (e.g., number of pages), the type of audit that you're conducting, as well as the complexity of any issues you find. The amount of time you will need will also be impacted by whether you do it yourself or hire an outside agency to do it for you.

That said, consider setting a deadline for completion as well as a timeline for the parts of your site that will be audited first.

Sample Timeline

  • You may decide to focus on finding and fixing security issues across 24-48 hours (or sooner).
  • And, then follow up by allotting 2-4 days to review and update your main website pages (like About, Contact, Services, etc.).
  • For the next step, you might use the next 7-10 days to optimize your most popular posts (use Google Analytics to help with this).

It's also possible that you might work on several tasks at the same time. You could have one set of team members doing the content audit while another team simultaneously focuses on red flags or issues that might result in penalties.

No matter how you choose to approach your audit, be sure to create a written plan of attack (an app like Trello or Evernote can help) and estimate how long you'll need. Be sure to include specific action steps needed to complete each phase of your audit.

3 Parts of Your Website to Audit First

As with any relationship that might need a bit of tender loving care, you may not know where to begin. There are several types of audits that you can conduct, so take some time to consider where you'd like to put your focus first.

In addition to assuring that your site is secure, here are three areas you can start taking a closer look at:

1. Content

One of the key features of your site is the content. Does your content speak to the people who visit website or does it turn them off? As you look at your blog posts, landing pages, and marketing copy, ask yourself these questions (and more):

  • Does my website have valuable posts or just crappy posts? Are they stale and outdated? Or, fresh and juicy?
  • What criteria will I use to update or remove content altogether?
  • Am I using the right keywords?
  • Is my copy written for humans?
  • Do I have broken links?
  • Does my site have a lot of text and very few images?
  • Have I included internal and external links (where appropriate)?
  • Duplicate content anywhere?

RELATED: You Are A Writer: Now Start Blogging

2. Navigation

Have you given your website a test drive lately? How easy is it to navigate and find information? Is it too confusing  and filled with a myriad of links? If your site isn't organized and easy to get around, it won't help you captivate your audience and keep them coming back for more. In fact, they will likely get frustrated and end up searching elsewhere. Two words: No bueno.

You'll need to do a bit of investigating to see where your site visitors fall out of love with your site. Use the Google Analytics tool, In-Page Analytics, to determine if your layout is optimal and driving traffic to the places you want users to go.

You can also use a heat map tool (like Crazy Egg) to see see which links get the most clicks and how far down your web page people scroll. If your visitors aren't converting, the heat map will help you figure out why. You'll see where people get stuck and click away from your site.

But, the good news is that you can generate a bit of heat of your own — with great content and improved navigation — to draw them back in!

3. Speed

Did you know that 40 percent of people will leave a web page if it takes longer than three seconds to load? Three seconds! (Source) Clearly, expectations are high and no one seems likes waiting around for something special to happen. It's no surprise then that Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) have become popular recently.

If the pages on your website take too long to load, you may not get another chance to capture the attention of those website visitors who bounce. This is because they just might never return. Slow loading times are also likely to reduce your conversions and cause your beloved website to rank lower in the SERPs.

Not sure which of your web pages open slowly? Use tools like Page Speed by Google or Quick Sprout's Website Analyzer to see how quickly your site is loading. After analyzing your site, both applications will give you a speed score (X out of 100), offer suggestions for ways you can improve how quickly your web pages open, and provide you with a user experience score.

Google Page Speed Insights

Google Page Speed Insights

Quick Sprout goes a bit further and gives you an SEO (letter) score and social media impact summary, and lets you see how your site compares to three of your competitors.

Quick Sprout Website Analyzer

Quick Sprout Website Analyzer (Image Source: QuickSprout)

 

RELATED: Show Your Brand Some LOVE Using Social Media – Even if the Brand is You

These are just three areas of your website to check out. To get a more detailed explanation of how to do a website audit, have a look at this step-by-step tutorial from the folks over at Moz. This audit checklist will also come in handy.

So, let this be a reminder to spend some quality time with your website. If it hasn't been top of mind lately or if you just haven't gotten around to giving it well deserved attention, there's still time! Kickstart your relationship now and show your website some love by doing an audit.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!