How to Better Understand and Connect with Customers in a Digital World

How to Better Understand and Connect with Customers in a Digital World

How to Better Understand and Connect with Customers in a Digital World

“How to Better Understand and Connect with Customers in a Digital World” is co-authored by Sharon Hurley Hall and Christina Strickland”

With the majority of adult Internet users spending time on social media sites, it’s no surprise that social media is such an important way to get your audience’s attention and connect with those in need of your products and services. But if there is one thing many businesses have learned the hard way, it’s that talking at your audience simply doesn’t work. That sort of strategy (or lack thereof) results in your message becoming a part of the online background noise.

How to Understand Customers in a Digital World

To make the most of social media and really reach your audience, you need to do three things: understand who your audience is, understand what your audience wants, and develop ways to connect with your audience. Sound like a tough job? No worries! Here are some tips to help you get the job done.

1. Use Google Analytics

Install analytics software. Most people use Google Analytics, but there are other options too. Using Google Analytics, check out your social media statistics. Go to Acquisition – Social to find out which social networks are bringing traffic to your site, how users finding you via social media navigate through your site and much more. This information alone will help you focus your social media strategy.

2. Check Social Analytics

Next, look at the analytics provided by all the social media sites where you are active. Twitter Analytics, Facebook Insights, and Pinterest Analytics all provide information on your social audience. The depth of this information depends on the site, but you can usually see where your audience members are located, what their backgrounds and interests are, and which social media updates made them respond and share. Once you know that, it’s easy to use this information to decide on engaging social media content.

3. Identify Your Followers

If you want a holistic picture of your social media audience, then you’ll need an external dashboard tool. There are dozens to choose from at various price points. See if the data you collect matches your existing customer personas. If there’s a mismatch, then it’s time to revisit your marketing strategy. If there isn’t, then congratulations! That means you’re probably getting it right.

4. Find Their Influencers

One important thing to understand is who influences your social audience because you can also target those influencers for greater reach when you want to share your content and message. A good tool for finding influencers is Klear (formerly Twtrland) which allows you to see who your followers listen to. You can also find social media influencers with a Buzzsumo Pro account.

5. Listen to Your Fans

Use social listening software to find out when your fans and followers mention your brand and what they say about you. You can also discover what their hot button topics are and weave those into your social media strategy. Use tools like Buzzsumo to find hot content and Klout to find shareable content on the topics that interest them.

6. Pay Attention to Mobile Stats Too

Did you know that more than half of all Facebook users only access the site from mobile devices? Keep an eye on mobile analytics on all sites, so you don’t miss the moment when most of your customers go mobile too. That’s bound to happen at some point, which means that your social strategy will have to include mobile-friendly content.

7. CRM Your Inbox

Rapportive, which puts a mini-CRM tool right in your inbox, is a very helpful tool that is owned by LinkedIn. When you install the browser extension, you can immediately see whether the person who has emailed you is connected to you on LinkedIn, a snapshot of recent roles and – if they also use Rapportive – any social media accounts they have connected to their profile.

Once you have that information, it’s easy to visit those other sites and find out more about your prospect’s online activity. That means you can follow them on social media and have conversations on the topics that interest them.

8. Create Lists Wisely

If you want to go direct to the source, then use the features built into Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to connect with customers and prospects in a useful way.

If you want to keep your home stream uncluttered on Facebook, interest lists let you keep tabs on people and pages you like, without having to like them. Full instructions are on the “interest lists” page.

You can do something similar on Twitter by setting up themed lists. In addition to setting up lists of customers and prospects, I suggest you set up lists of people tweeting about the topics that interest your customers and prospects. That gives you content to share with them and deepens the connection. For best results, keep your lists short. That also goes for Google+, where you can set up circles in the same way.

When you’ve set up your lists or circles, check in a couple of times a week to join the conversation and find items to share.

9. Use LinkedIn

Whatever business you are in, there’s a fair chance that your customers, prospects and potential partners will be on LinkedIn. You should be too, because that’s where they’ll look for you. Take the time to fill out your profile properly. That means including a profile photo, a cover photo, your most recent jobs and some portfolio items. Then scope out relevant groups, but not too many, because you need time to participate in them. This really works for getting the attention of prospective customers and bringing business your way. It is surprisingly easy it is to build relationships through group discussions.

Use the data you gather and the tools at your disposal to understand what your audience members are saying, what they need, and what really drives them. Then, use this information to develop strategies and content that speak to their interests, make a connection, and encourage engagement.

6 Crucial Tactics to Improve Your Facebook Advertising Efforts

6 Crucial Tactics to Improve Your Facebook Advertising Efforts

6 Crucial Tactics to Improve Your Facebook Advertising EffortsFacebook is an excellent place to post ads for your brand. Why, you ask? Though most advertising questions don’t have a simple answer, this one definitely does. Essentially, just about everyone is on Facebook in some capacity or another, so advertising there means more and better chances to reach your audience. Just what do we mean by everyone? Well, upwards of 70 percent of adults spend time on this platform. With well-targeted ads and a good strategy, you can reach a significant portion of your audience, whether you’re targeting a B2C or B2B audience.

Of course, the fact that everyone is on Facebook is really just the tip of the iceberg. There’s also the fact that Facebook really makes it easy to hone in on a particular audience based on locations, demographics, interests, behaviors, and connections. And once you target a particular audience, there is so much you can use Facebook ads for, including boosting likes and engagement and increasing website clicks and conversions. You can do all of this on the budget you set AND use Facebook’s tools to track your progress, so you can easily optimize your ad campaigns.

6 Tips to Improve Facebook Advertising Results

But how do you create an ad that does more than simply look pretty? Here are 6 crucial tactics for successful Facebook advertising:

  1. Keep it short and sweet. Too much text just doesn’t fly in Facebook ads. And besides that, short and sweet wins the race when it comes to promo. No one wants to read a whole book about what you’re offering. Get to the point, and make sure you have a hook to draw them in. Facebook truncates overly long ad text, but even if that wasn’t the case, keeping it short is still a good idea. According to a recent study, ads with 40 characters or less of text get over 80 percent more engagement than longer ads.

Takeaway tip: Make a few catchy ads and try them all out. Figure out which ad texts perform the best and use the same approach with future ads. Be sure to consider different audience groups when you test your ad. One ad may underperform with one age or buying group but soar with another.

  1. Don’t overpower your image with too much on-image text. First of all, Facebook frowns on using more than 20 percent of your ad space on text. Besides that, you might think that adding the maximum allowed text to your image is an easy way to get around tactic number 1, which is all about keeping it short and sweet. Trust us, more text here won’t help you. If your ad includes too much text, it’s likely to have a much lower reach. Or worse, it might not run at all.

           Use the following dimensions for creating your ads:  

           Recommended News Feed image size:  1,200 x 900 pixels

           News Feed image ratio:  4:3

           Right column image size:  254 x 133 pixels

           Right column image ratio:  1.9:

Takeaway tip: Facebook has a handy tool that makes it easy to check if you’ve overdone it on text. Check it out here.

  1. Make it eye-catching. You’ve heard it a million times. A picture is worth a thousand words, and that still rings true on Facebook. For starters, posting an ad that is just all text simply won’t work on Facebook anyway, but even if you could go text crazy on this social media site, you wouldn’t want to. An image catches the eye and makes your viewer want to read your offer and learn more. Make it a good, high-resolution image every time.

Takeaway tip: Make sure your image is easy to understand at a glance, and hone in on the important stuff by taking the time to crop your image.

  1. Create a custom call to action (CTA) button through the ads manager. If you’ve created an effective Facebook ad, your viewers should get the gist of what you want to do, but that doesn’t mean they’ll just automatically do it. Having a call to action button encourages them to take that next step by clicking to perform the action you want. Often, in advertising, you need to tell your audience, and then tell them again (and again) before they actually take action. Custom CTAs can significantly increase your click-through rate. Keep in mind that you won’t have the option of creating a custom call to action button for a boosted or promoted post, but this is an option for website click, website conversion and offer claim ads.

Takeaway tip: When Facebook says it will allow you to customize your CTA button, this really means choosing from a selection of buttons the social media platform has on offer. Select the button that best matches your ad. Choices range from Shop Now, Book Now and Learn More to Watch Now, Donate Now, and Contact Us.

  1. Show more than one image. If a photo is worth a thousand words, how much more, then, are multiple images worth? Using the Facebook carousel format for your ad, you can show not only multiple images but also multiple headlines and calls to action. It works like this: Your audience member sees your awesome ad but doesn’t have to stop there. With just a swipe of his finger or a click of arrows, he can scroll through up to 10 images with accompanying links, headlines, and calls to action. How is that for bang for your bucks?

Takeaway tip: Use the carousel format for your Facebook ad when you want to showcase several offerings, share details that would be otherwise difficult to share with a single image, or use your images to do what you should always try to do—tell a story.

  1. Put Facebook to work for you. Sooner or later, you may run out of ideas for whom to target next. In that case, try this handy trick. Acting as yourself, go ahead and like one of your page’s updates in your home stream. The result? Facebook will recommend pages for you based on the content you’ve liked. Look at the pages it suggests. Since it believes you will be interested in those suggested pages based on liking your own content, it makes sense that fans of those suggested pages will also like your content. Go ahead and target those fans.

Takeaway tip: Make sure you like your page update on your home stream and NOT on your brand’s page.

With Facebook, you can really focus on your unique audience, reaching the demographics most likely to be interested in your products and services. Use the above tips to create the best possible ad, and put this social media giant to work for you.

8 Simple Ways to Breathe New Life Into Your Content Marketing

8 Simple Ways to Breathe New Life Into Your Content Marketing

8 Simple Ways to Breathe New Life Into Your Content Marketing

8 Simple Ways to Breathe New Life Into Your Content Marketing was authored by Sharon Hurley Hall and Christina Strickland.

If you’ve been at content marketing for any length of time, you’ve discovered that it’s all too easy to become comfortable or even complacent. You know what you’re doing, you’re no longer a newbie, and things are running like clockwork, but are you doing all you can do? Could doing a bit more improve your results?

Yes, you are putting effort into producing compelling content, but there is always room for improvement. Why should you bother? Well, the bottom line is that even small improvements can prevent your audience from growing bored and losing interest while also providing your current followers with a reason to keep coming back for more. And you want new visitors, right? Taking the time to refresh and reinvigorate your content also encourages sharing and helps to draw new visitors in your direction.

8 Content Marketing Ideas for Brands

Take the smart approach to your content marketing efforts. Here are 8 tips to help inspire you:

  1. Manage Your Content

People have to see your content several times before you become top-of-mind, so be sure to fine-tune the actual pieces of content you will produce and work out when they should appear. To do that, you’ll need an editorial calendar and a content management system. The editorial calendar tells you what’s happening when on which platform and who is responsible for producing it. The content management system gets everything scheduled and ensures you have SEO information and images to go along with the content. Sometimes, both work together.

Two options you can use are Crackerjack Marketing’s free editorial calendar template or CoSchedule, an affordable paid option that integrates with WordPress.

  1. Vary Your Content

Often, people become really good at creating text content. The problem is, however, that such content may provide information an audience can use but become a bit dry after a while. Readers may become bored with the same old content style, and mixing things up a bit can refresh their interest. How can you mix things up? Here are some suggestions for varying your content:

  • Add photos–This can help boost readership, sharing and engagement.
  • Create and post slideshows.
  • Create and post video content.
  • Include infographics.
  • Add relevant memes to lighten the mood and capture interest.

Most businesses include blog posts (a proven lead magnet) and social media posts, at minimum. They may also include eBooks, webinars, slideshows and infographics. Learn more about the benefits of these content types in our two-part series on 7 Types of Content to Include in Your Strategy and Why.

  1. Get Inside Your Audience’s Head

It is all too easy to forget whom you are trying to reach with your content. Too frequently, business people/content producers get caught up in what interests them and focus too much of their content on that. When you’re trying to connect with customers, however, it is critical to make your content relevant and interesting for them. This means identifying your target audience, learning how you can reach its members, and then providing content that speaks to its needs. Incorporate how-to and question-and-answer content whenever possible. This type of content is not only helpful for your audience but also highly shareable.

  1. Work With Guest Bloggers

Your audience gets used to your voice and trusts in your expertise and unique perspective. While that is a good thing, you can shake things up a little by inviting thought leaders to guest post on your blog. This provides your audience with a fresh perspective and can translate into more sharing and exposure for both your blog and your guest blogger.

  1. Focus on Your Formatting

Sometimes it’s the little things that make all the difference. While what you have to say is the meat and potatoes of your content, your formatting is the presentation. And many people will pass up even the most hearty content if the presentation is just sloppy. Make your content clear, easy to read and attractive by using the following formatting elements:

  • Subheadings
  • Bulleted lists
  • Relatively short blocks of text
  • Fonts that do not detract from your text but do highlight concepts
  1. Listen to Your Audience

Use analytics tools to figure out who’s already visiting your site and blog and what content they find most interesting. That will help you craft new content to keep them coming back, and hopefully, sharing with others. Many analytics tools also include demographic reports, so you can get fine detail on your target audience. Add social analytics tools and social listening tools to this, and you will get a well-rounded picture of your customers and their interests.

7.    Make Sharing Easy

According to Pew Internet, over 76% of online adults use social networking sites, 64% of American adults have a smartphone and more than 45% own tablets. Your strategy must include content optimized for social sharing from mobile devices. Consider:

  • creating a mobile first website and blog design to make sure all visitors can navigate content easily
  • switching your email newsletter to a mobile first design
  • increasing your activity on the key social sites where your potential customers hang out (this could be LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest or somewhere else depending on your industry)

8. Revisit Your Strategy

Revisit and refine your strategy periodically. This means doing three things:

  • setting realistic goals
  • planning how to execute them
  • deciding how to measure them

Note that your goals have to be realistic. If your business plan has flaws, content marketing isn’t the bandage, and there’s no absolute guarantee of direct sales. What it can do is get more attention for your business and increase conversions, so that you can turn leads into sales.

Isn’t it great when you don’t have to guess at what to do next? Use these 8 smart tips to give your content marketing a boost. Then be sure to come back and share your results with us.

Building and Protecting Your Brand Voice on Social Media

Building and Protecting Your Brand Voice on Social Media

Building and Protecting Your Brand Voice on Social Media

“Building and Protecting Your Brand Voice on Social Media” was co-authored by Stephanie Schwab and Christina Strickland


Every brand needs a strong brand voice. What is brand voice, you ask? Essentially, it’s the tone and style you use when communicating with your audience. Your brand voice not only tells your audience who you are and what you have to offer, but also proves critical in engaging your audience members and motivating them. Your brand voice gives your audience a feel for your brand’s personality, and since the explosion and rapid growth of social media marketing, it’s become more important than ever before.

This Was Then

Years ago, before social media marketing gave us another highly effective way of reaching audiences, businesses broadcast mass marketing messages to consumers through radio, television and magazine ads. Consumers far and wide received the same generic message. That brief message was delivered in a 30 second spot or a half-page ad. Essentially, marketers used a handful of words to reach everyone.

It’s understandable that with those constraints, it was incredibly hard to show personality. Of course, there were ways to make it happen. If you had a large marketing budget to fund a high-end ad agency and lots of media spend, you could make an attempt at telling a story with consistent characters, celebrities, or rarely, a real person from the company (like Dave Thomas from Wendy’s).

The fact of the matter is that many brands simply didn’t have the budget to show personality, but showing personality is critical. Why? Well, think about it. Great brands stand for something, don’t they? You know what to expect when you walk into a McDonald’s, when you buy a Harley Davidson motorcycle, or when you call a customer service representative at Zappos. And when you’re talking to a representative of a brand on Facebook, via Twitter, or watching them in a video, you expect that person to speak with the brand’s voice.

Do you expect the NPR Twitter feed to sound snarky? Of course not! And as for the Gap Facebook page? If their posts came off sounding snooty and intellectual, you’d wonder if you’d somehow clicked into The Twilight Zone.

This Is Now

Today, businesses put lots of different people to work engaging on behalf of their brands on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms, and more often than not, via a blog too. These people are checking in regularly, answering questions, sharing inside stories, personally recognizing individual customers, inspiring their audiences and becoming an integral part of the community they serve. This differs greatly from the radio spots and display ads of yesterday. Each one of these representatives must use their specific brand’s voice every single day.

As an entrepreneur who started a business based on your own passion and interest in your product, service or company, your brand voice is probably part of the natural way you talk to your consumers. It’s easy for you to talk and write in your brand voice. With social media as such an important part of your marketing strategy, however, you need others in your organization to engage with your audience using that same brand voice and do so not only convincingly but also consistently.

Build Your Brand Voice

Every tweet, every Facebook status and every blog post says something about your brand. Everything you post sends a message about who you are, what you care about and how much you care about your fans or followers.

  • Define your brand voice. Your team can’t use it if they don’t know what it is. Is your brand voice bold, inspiring, humble snarky, playful, sassy, loud, or honest? Clearly define your unique brand voice so that your team can speak and write with it.
  • Take a look at the competition and their brand voices. Differentiate your brand voice enough that you stand out from the competition.
  • Listen to your audience members. How do they speak and write? Make sure your brand voice is a good match for them. You don’t want to speak in a highly formal voice if your audience is very casual or playful.
  • Document the words, phrases and tone that you expect your brand voice to sound like. Your team will be much more effective if you provide them with guidelines and examples to follow.
  • Guide your team in writing tweets, social media posts, and blog posts in your unique voice. This will take some work on your part at first, but eventually, your team will begin to think in your brand voice, and writing in it will become second nature. Keep a close eye on their work until you’re fully comfortable that they’re speaking and writing in the right voice for your brand.

Protect Your Brand Voice

It’s critical to both recognize that your brand voice isn’t static and protect your brand voice at the same time. Your brand voice isn’t meant to be perfect and stay exactly the same over the years. It will, and should, evolve with your audience and changes in your goals and strategies. That’s okay and to be expected. What’s not okay is a team that goes off the rails and fails to communicate using your brand voice.

Address and correct mistakes consistently. It’s never a good idea to leave your brand voice in the hands of others without close oversight. People make mistakes, and if you don’t offer constructive feedback, they will continue to make them. Remember, your reputation, and ultimately, your success is at stake, so it’s up to you to keep your team on track.

Establish a Brand Character

For as much as you’re paying attention to brand voice, you’ll also want to project the right brand character, which is an image your audience will have of you based on your brand voice and the way you use social media.

So what’s your brand character and are you moving in the right direction? You can learn a lot from looking through your past updates in each of your social media channels. It doesn’t take long to notice that a pattern begins to develop based on your timing, tone of voice and types of content. Each of these combined together becomes your brand’s character.

Unfortunately, some characters are bound to miss the mark in social media:

The Magician

This character has an amazing disappearing act! He’ll post, maybe even a few days or months in a row, and then ‘poof! He’s gone! You never know when he’ll reappear, but he does at some point.

The Infomercial Guy

You’ve got to buy my stuff! Seriously, have you seen all the great things my stuff can do? You can’t live without my stuff! While those may not be his exact words, that’s the message. His updates are constantly self-promotional and non-stop!

The Motor Mouth

She’s constantly talking and most of the time it’s far off-topic. She’ll tell you what she had for lunch, what the weather is like outside and what her plans are for each moment of the day. Her updates are not well balanced with her brand’s identity.

The Radio Announcer

It’s a one-way conversation with this character. He loves to send out tweets, Facebook updates and blog posts, but don’t expect him to respond. He’s not out for conversation; he only wants to make sure you get his message!

The Right Brand Character

We’ve given you brand characters to avoid, and now, we’ll share the right brand character. This character almost always hits the target, delivering the right message, at the right time. We call her The Mindful Maven.

The Mindful Maven

Her messages are consistent, clear and well-balanced. You’ll find her sending updates about her brand, yes, but not nearly as often as sharing other content she thinks will be interesting and relevant to the fans that follow her brand. And while she’s not detailing out every moment of her day, she wants to chat with you too. You’ll find her responding to comments, answering questions and joining in the conversation.

As you start to create your brand’s identity in the social media space, be sure that your character most closely matches that of Mindful Maven. You should have your own unique personality, but you want to make sure you’re hitting that sweet spot every time!

Building and protecting your brand voice is a critical but ongoing process. Use the advice above to create the right voice for your brand and engage, motivate, and inspire your audience.

The Essential Guide for Startups Using Social media

The Essential Guide for Startups Using Social Media

The Essential Guide for Startups Using Social media

In years gone by, it was enough to create some business cards and set up a website, but today you need so much more. Today, your prospects are ever more social online, and your audience will expect to not only see you but also interact with you via social media. Too many startups view social media as an afterthought rather than an essential part of succeeding in business. They soon discover just how critical it is for encouraging interest, building a reputation and developing lasting relationships with potential customers Fortunately, you have this essential guide to help you start off on the right foot.

Choose the Right Startup Name

Choosing a name is one of the hardest tasks a new business will ever undertake. It’s easy to come up with names when you’re just dreaming of starting a business, but when it’s time to get started, nothing seems to feel quite right anymore. Why? Well, because there’s so much riding on this name. It has to be just right for your endeavor, and it has to be both catchy and memorable. It has to make an impression, reveal something about your company and inspire people to remember you. And as if that’s not enough, the name has to be available for use. Naming your business exactly the same name as another business can be a recipe for disaster.

Okay, breathe. Yes, it can be difficult, but you can do this. Go ahead and start with these great tips for naming your startup:

Get to brainstorming

Brainstorming is the first step in choosing the right startup name. This part is easy. Jot down a list of words that describe your startup. Don’t think too hard about this or even take it too seriously. The time for that will come later. For now, you just want a basic list with which to work. If you run out of words that fit, head on over to, and type in the words you’ve already jotted down. Add some synonyms for the words you brainstormed to generate an even longer list.

Review what you brainstormed

Start crossing the words you absolutely hate off your list. Next, review the list again and get rid of the ones you only like just a little. You should be left with the words that best describe your company. Play around with these words to see if you can use them to come up with a catchy startup name. For example, you might end up with the right name by combining two or three words on your list, or you might build your company name by making one word out of two, such as in Facebook and Firefox.

Consider how the name you’ve dreamed up sounds

Does the name you’re considering easily roll off the tongue? Does it include words that rhyme, such as in HotSpot? Is it fun to say? Does it evoke the types of feelings you want it to? Your name doesn’t have to rhyme or strike a fantastically melodious chord, but it should be easy to say. If it’s fun to say, that’s a definite bonus. Try different word combinations by saying them aloud several times before you choose, and have some friends try them out too.

***Hint: You will also need to choose a domain name, and it can really help to work on figuring out a business name and a domain name at the same time. Be sure to scroll down to the Choose the Right Domain Name section (next!) for tips.

Check on availability

There’s nothing worse than getting your heart set on the perfect startup name and then discovering that it’s already taken. Before you get too attached to that magnificent moniker, do an online search and make sure it’s not already taken. NameChk can help you with your search. Look for your desired name in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office database as well.

Opt for creative and different

Some companies choose names that don’t mean anything or at least aren’t commonly used (Think Kodak and Google!). Others choose a word from a foreign language or select words for impact rather than meaning. This type of approach can really work for you as long as the name you choose will fit your brand image. In fact, a creative made-up or out-of-the-ordinary name can help you stand out in a sea of competition.

Choose the Right Domain Name Too

You probably thought you were finished after you chose a brilliant business name. Sorry! There’s still work to do. The right domain name is just as important as the perfect business name. Today, your prospects expect you to not only show up online but also prove easy to find. If your business name sets off fireworks, but your domain name is too obscure, difficult to spell, or impossible to remember, it could hurt you on the Internet.

Here are some tips for choosing the best domain name for your business:

Choose a domain name that is as close to your new business name as you can get
You may not be able to get, but maybe you can get Try different permutations of your business name, or add your location or another descriptor.

If at all possible, go for a .com domain

.com domains are still the most common and most used for business, at least here in the U.S. If you’re trying to match your existing business name, you can consider a .net, .co, .info or .us domain, but be aware that most people will still type in your domain name with a .com on it. Take some time to check and see who will be the beneficiary of all the traffic meant for you that ends up going elsewhere. If it’s your #1 competitor – don’t do it. Find something else with a .com domain.

Make it memorable, but not too long

One and two word domains are nearly impossible to get these days, unless you buy them from someone else (often through a broker like So you may need to go to three words or more, but try to keep it as short as possible while being descriptive and memorable.

Spell it out

When you’re considering a new domain name, say it out loud a few times and try it out on other people. You’ll often tell people your domain in person or over the phone. If it’s a true pain to spell or explain, you’ll get really frustrated when people don’t get it. So instead of or, try to get Or even better, That’s far more descriptive and easier to convey all around.

Don’t rush it

This is an incredibly important decision. Don’t rush it, and don’t just grab the first domain that’s available. Check out tools like to play around with and try a bunch of different options. Try the multiple choices or word combinations functions.

Go with a reputable registrar

When you’re ready to buy your domain, use a reputable domain registrar, such as enom or Namecheap.

Make Social Media a Priority

Recognize that social media isn’t a mere add-on. It can be a critical component of getting noticed, meeting goals, and enjoying continuing success. Make it a part of your plans from the very beginning.

Develop a social media strategy

It’s perfectly fine to post willy nilly on your personal social media account. When it comes to your startup, however, it’s critical to start with a strategy that will help you meet your goals. Every post, share, and comment should fit that strategy and the image you want to project.

Set up social media accounts

Where do your prospects spend time? Find out and make sure you’re there too. Many startups begin with at least Facebook (over 1 billion users around the world) and Twitter (over 300 million monthly users around the world), but if a large segment of your audience is on Instagram, you want to make sure they can find you there. If your start up is B2B, you’ll definitely want to have a presence on LinkedIn while Facebook and Twitter are top choices for marketing to consumers.

Do create a company blog too, as this can prove your most engaging platform of all. With your blog, you have the opportunity to develop a strong brand personality via blog posts and videos.

Of course, this is a lot to accomplish all at once. Consider starting with one platform and developing that until you feel confident that you can manage and continue to grow that presence even after adding another platform into the mix.

Craft an amazing profile

Many startups set up social media accounts in haste, creating barebones profiles and generic avatars, thinking they’ll set up better profiles later. Don’t do this. You only get one time to make a great first impression. Your audience has other options, and when they find you online, you want them to feel sure that connecting with you is a good one. Start out with an attractive, eye-catching avatar that perfectly represents your startup, and create a profile that entices your audience to check you out.

Create an editorial calendar

Create an editorial calendar before you begin posting to your social media accounts, and update it regularly – either weekly, monthly or quarterly. Planning out your editorial content in advance takes away the “I don’t have time to write today” problem that most people have and makes publishing content as easy as queuing it up and clicking a button.

Develop social media that informs, explains, and answers questions before they’re asked

At first, you may not receive a lot of questions and comments. That’s okay! You’re brand new! However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t answer those unasked questions. Put yourself in the shoes of your average prospect and customer, determine what you would want to know in their place, and then create content that provides that information.

Avoid posting dry, dull content or being overly promotional

It doesn’t work to sell, sell, sell to your audience via social media. Instead, work on providing content that tells your story and helps make your audience members’ lives easier and more interesting. Be sure to make it engaging enough that people will want to consume it and pass it along.

Provide customer service via social media

Take advantage of social media to provide great customer service to your customers. Respond to their questions and concerns, offer real help when needed, and use your customers’ suggestions and comments to make your products and services better. Being responsive in this way can really give your startup a boost, encourage loyalty from your new customers, and show prospects that you’re a business they can trust.

Listen, interact and react

Devote time each day to monitoring your social media accounts, checking in at least a couple of times per day on each of your social media platforms. Tools like Hootsuite, Social Mention, and Talkwalker can help you monitor what others are saying about your brand.

Respond to comments, answer questions, share posts, and follow others. Being social helps you gain more exposure and encourages your audience to engage with you.

Use this guide to make real headway with social media for your startup. We’ve provided the basics you need to achieve success. Don’t be afraid to experiment as well, however. Creativity (within the bounds of a solid strategy) can win points on social media.


Ways to Generate Blog Post Ideas

Surefire Ways to Generate Blog Post Ideas

“Surefire Ways to Generate Blog Post Ideas” was co-authored by Stephanie Schwab and Christina Strickland.

Ways to Generate Blog Post Ideas

Sometimes the hardest thing about having a blog is figuring out what to post on it each week. Maybe you started with a bank of grand ideas, but as you used them up, your blog started to feel, well, a lot less fresh. Perhaps you’ve struggled for ideas since the very beginning. The good news is you can stop liberally applying your forehead to your desk.

Here are some of the best ways to generate blog post ideas:

Answer Questions

No matter what your business, it’s likely that you get a ton of questions each week. And the questions you get represent more than the inquiries of a mere few. They are questions hundreds or thousands of other people have about your products and services. These questions provide an easy way to learn what your customers want to know, so you can provide them with information they need. And since you get all of these questions anyway, why not translate them into blog posts?


  1. Answer each question with a brief (or longer) post. You can even put the posts into a Q&A format (put the question at the top, then answer it below).
  2. Get your whole organization involved. Ask everyone in your organization to keep a record of the questions they get.
  3. Pay attention to the questions that come up repeatedly, but don’t ignore those that come up only once. If many people are asking the same question, you can be certain there’s an audience for the answer. So, then, why not just scrap those rare questions? Well, for every person who asks a question, there are many more out there who wonder the same thing.


Ask Your Own Questions

When it comes to creating good blog content, you really don’t have to reinvent the wheel, and neither do you need ESP. Stop guessing about what your readers want to read, and just ask them. This is another reason social media is so great. You can use that social contact to ask your followers what they are interested in reading.

What should you ask? Start with the following:

  • What they want to read about next
  • What their burning questions are
  • What they want to read more or less of
  • What they think of your recent content


  1. Ask your readers what they’re interested in via the comments. This is the easiest way to get answers.
  2. Create polls. Many people enjoy participating in them, and they are a good way to gauge interest.
  3. Learn from the answers you receive. You will absolutely get blog ideas from asking these sorts of questions, but you may also get something else priceless–feedback! The answers you receive provide insight into what you’ve been doing right and where you’ve been falling short.

Read Your Existing Comments

Haven’t asked for feedback yet? You may already have a source of ideas at your fingertips. Your readers’ comments can give you great insight into what interests them and what they want to read. Notice which blogs and posts generate the most comments, and then read each comment. Often, readers will present a point of view that leads you to your next post.


  1. Don’t rely on your readers to know you want comments. Encourage comments and sharing on every post.
  2. If you have some posts that do not get any comments, this doesn’t necessarily mean the topic was way off base. Still, it is revealing if most of your posts do get comments and you have a few with absolutely nothing.

Look for Industry News

Where do your readers go for relevant news about your industry? Why not become a reliable source of the news they seek? By updating your readers on your industry and the products and services you sell, you ensure that you have a ready source of blog topics and give your readers yet another reason to read your content.


  1. Keep your readers interested by writing blog posts about changes and improvements not only in your industry but also within your company.
  2. Create behind-the-scenes posts as well. Most people love to read about the goings on at the companies they patronize, and many like to read about the people making it all happen.

Teach Them Something

Some of the best blog posts are those that teach the reader how to do something. These are really useful posts that people tend to save and refer to again and again, sharing them with others as well. Write how-to posts, or create photo and video tutorials, that teach your audience how to use your products or services.


  1. Produce life hack posts that demonstrate how your products or services can make your readers’ lives easier, better, and/or more fun.
  2. Produce posts that share how real customers have used/benefited from your products and services (skip the blatant promotion, however). Think more human interest story than an advertisement.

Leverage Expertise

Chances are you have employees that are pretty much experts on some topics. Are those topics relevant to your audience? If yes, get them to writing. Having your employees (or you) cover these topics demonstrates that you are a leader in your industry.


  1. Ensure that these posts tackle specific issues and are truly useful. This is not a big chance for the expert to blab about how much he or she knows.
  2. Avoid talking down to your audience or bad mouthing others in the industry. This will only turn your readers off.

Use Tools

You have a bunch of engagement-monitoring tools at your disposal, right?  Well, they’re not just there to look pretty. Use them to drum up blog ideas! All of those shares, likes, retweets, and favorites do more than just say you did a good job. They give you important insight into the type of content that really excites your audience. Use all of this engagement information to figure out which types of content to produce more of and which types you might want to pass up next time.

Which types of tools should you use? Go ahead and try these on for size:

  • Monitoring tools provided by social media sites
  • Site analytic tools
  • URL-shortening services


  1. Be sure to analyze your click-throughs as well.
  2. Evaluate click-throughs that lead not only to your site but also to content on third-party sites.


With the above advice to hand, coming up with good ideas for your blog needn’t be an exercise in frustration. Just remember to mix up the types of blog posts you publish as too much of even a good thing can get, well, boring. How do you get new post ideas? Share your tips and tricks!



How to Market Your Brand Using Live Video


They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so what does that mean for live video broadcasting via tools like Periscope, Meerkat, Snapchat, Facebook Live, and Blab? I’m going to say live video is worth a million words. Why? Well, as far as content marketing is concerned, we all know how important it is to educate and inform your audience in a way that is also entertaining. We also know how important it is to reach your customers where they spend time and encourage them to connect with your brand. Live video makes this easy.

How to Use Live Video for Marketing

Whether you use Periscope, Facebook Live, or Meerkat, live video allows you to share your brand in real-time. It makes it easier than ever before to provide your audience with a face-to-face experience, even if you’re halfway around the world. It allows you to tell stories, share, support, and teach where and when your audience needs it, offering an undeniably personal appeal and boosting engagement in a way static content never could.

Without question, live video is a big thing in content marketing, and it’s becoming ever more present with each passing month. Audiences are seeing more and more live content from brands, and they will expect you to offer it too. The last thing you’d ever want is to be left behind when your competition is offering loads of great live content, and you’re stuck in the social media dark ages.

Here are some solid ways to use live video as part of your content marketing strategy.

Provide Question and Answer Sessions

Some of the most useful written content answers an audience’s frequently asked questions. And though these written FAQs do come in handy, they can sometimes feel rather dry. Or even worse, it can be hard to make them stand out in the sea of written content out there. Enter the live video, and you have a way to grab your audience’s attention and keep it by providing those all-important answers in real-time. Better yet, live video allows you the opportunity to learn your audience members’ concerns and find out what interests them.

Tips: Do respond to viewers by name. Do answer questions that provide value for your audience. Don’t waste your time with trolls. Ignore and move on.

Let Your Audience Tune-in to Live Events

Is there an upcoming event of interest to your audience? Are you planning to soak it all in and then blog about it for your audience members who couldn’t be there? Why not just take them with you? When you share live events, your audience feels more connected to you and your brand. But that’s not the only benefit. You can also become their go-to person for announcements and news. They don’t have to be there because they know you’ll provide the scoop—live!

Tip: Move about and be sure to capture the most exciting moments and happenings. Your audience will be excited to tune in next time if they know your live video will tell a story and provide something unique and fresh.

Take Them Behind the Scenes

Who doesn’t love a look behind the scene? Use live video to enhance your brand’s story, showing your audience the unique way you do things, what your employees are up to, and even how you manufacture your product or provide your key services. Out in the community making a difference? Show and tell through live video!

Tips: Give your audience insight into things they wouldn’t normally see, and be responsive while doing it. Take the time to read and respond to comments while you’re live. Doing so makes for a much more personal experience.

How-Tos and Training

Is there something your audience needs to learn how to do? Can you teach them how to use your product or even show them other ways to make their lives easier, better, and more productive? Get busy showing them how to do it—live!

Tips: Inject a little personality. Seeing is believing, but there’s little worse than dry, boring accounts of how to get a job done. Keep it peppy and fun; crack jokes. Your audience will thank you for making learning fun.


We talk a lot about providing that personal touch, and that’s because it truly is critical. Go ahead and interview key employees and let your audience see the faces and personalities behind the names. But don’t stop there. Interview your customers as well. Think of it as live testimonials for your brand. And don’t be afraid to branch out to interviewing industry experts as well.

Tips: Avoid asking the same tired questions your audience sees in every interview. Work on a unique angle, and research to find out just what your audience really wants to know.

Customer Support

So you already offer customer support by email and by phone? Maybe you even allow customers to reach out via chat as well. Give them that super-personal touch by allowing them to see you while you offer that top-notch support.

Tips: Set specific office hours for providing live customer support each week. Record sessions (respecting privacy, of course) to help other customers with the same issues.

How Are Brands Broadcasting Live Video?

In the past, Periscope was the way to go with live video for brands, but now you have a wealth of options to choose from, including the following:

Periscope: If you want a mobile app that allows you to stream around the world at any time, take a look at this one. Periscope has handy tools for sharing and engaging with your audience.

Meerkat: This app allows you to stream live from your mobile device. Head to Google Play or iTunes to grab it.

Snapchat: This app can be a good choice for quick, live video messages. It’s especially popular with Millennials and marketers marketing to other marketers.

Blab: Think of this one like Periscope—only for groups. Four people can go live at once with this one.

Facebook Live: For most brands, Facebook is an important social media tool. Now you can engage your audience anywhere in the world—live! Your videos are posted to your page for followers who couldn’t catch you live to catch you later.

Give live video a spin, incorporating it into your content marketing mix to grab attention and boost engagement. And be sure to announce when you plan to broadcast. While you can broadcast spontaneously, and there may be situations in which you want to, you’ll have more viewers if you generate some buzz first. Additionally, it can really help to save your broadcasts, when possible, and embed them into blog posts later!

What Brands Should Do on Instagram

21 Things Your Competitors Do on Instagram that You Don’t

What Brands Should Do on Instagram

Instagram has grown by leaps and bounds since its inception. What started off just trying to gain a foothold in the social media arena now has an incredible 400 Million+ people who are active on it monthly, and over three quarters of those users are in the United States. This is an important place to be if you’re serious about your brand. But the competition is fierce! There are many brands that have nailed it on Instagram.

This is both good news and bad news for you. The bad news is that, yes, like I just said, the competition is fierce. The good news is, you’re reading this blog post and we’re going to tell you exactly what they’ve done to become so popular.

Your Instagram Profile

It’s critical that you take your profile seriously. This is absolutely the wrong thing to approach halfway. Your profile gives your audience a snapshot of your brand–who you are, what your brand is all about, and why they should give you a second thought. Make it count.

  1. Choose a Killer Avatar

Take the time to choose an avatar that is not only eye-catching, memorable, and pleasing to the eye on desktop and mobile devices but also a spot-on representation of your brand. You can use your logo if it fits these requirements (and it definitely should), but some brands make featured products work for them on Instagram, even getting a sales boost out of the deal.

  1. Complete Bio

Take the time to craft a bio that will keep your audience’s attention and do a great job of accurately reflecting your brand. Instagram gives you only 150 characters in which to capture interest, so your bio really needs to pack a punch. Check out How to Write Good Instagram Bios to Make an Impression and 16 of the Best Brands on Instagram Right Now to gain insight on what really works.

  1. Public Profile

Be sure to set your profile to public. If you’re saying “Duh!” right now, just know that a significant number of people do forget this oh-so-important step. It’s absolutely fine to stay in stealth mode with your personal account, if that does it for you, but your brand account needs to see the light of day.


As with many things in life, proceeding without a plan is a lot like planning to fail. To build your following and keep your audience interested, you need a solid strategy for giving your audience members what they want. Skip the photos of your dog (unless you’re brand is all about pets) and your plate. Your audience just doesn’t care. Don’t try to get away with blatant marketing either. It just won’t fly here and could actually work against your efforts to build a following.

  1. Deliver on Your Promise

You wrote a short but dynamic bio that gave people a reason to follow you. Now it’s time to

deliver the goods. Your Instagram content should entertain, inform, and tell the story of your brand. Without question, every post should be useful, and each one should contribute to your brand’s story, providing insight into what you’re all about.

  1. Tell Your Story

Everything you post should tell your audience something about your brand. What’s your story? What makes your brand unique? What’s your special flavor? Determine this first, and then make sure each posts fits into your story or helps you elaborate on it.

  1. Use an Editorial Calendar

Create an editorial calendar, so you can keep track of what you plan to post and when. Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily have to post multiple times a day or even every day. You don’t want to bombard your followers’ feeds with your brand every second of every day, and it will, of course, take time to create the kind of quality, creative content we’re talking about here. Trying to post constantly could not only prove annoying for your followers but also result in low-quality, boring, or irrelevant images that turn your followers off in an entirely different way.

So just how often should you post? We don’t have that answer for your unique brand, but your audience sure does. Start with considering your audience and how often its members are likely to use Instagram as well as the type of content that will really grab your audience’s attention. Then, from there, consider not only how long it will take you to produce that content but also how often you can reasonably do so. With these times to hand, you may choose to post once per week or a few times a week.

  1. Be Consistent

While you don’t want to bombard your followers with your brand, all the time, consistency is key. When you do decide on a schedule, though, stick to it. Your audience will learn to expect content from you on a regular basis, and you don’t want to let them down.


Post photos that are not only visually appealing but also sure to draw some laughs, provide inspiration, and/or just ensure a whole lot of fun while at the same time providing insight into your brand. Don’t try to get away with blatant marketing either. It just won’t fly here and could actually work against your efforts to build a following.

  1. Display Your Products

When you display your products on Instagram, your customers can window-shop without ever setting foot in the mall. Don’t overdo it by posting all of your products, but do go ahead and use it as a mobile display.

Here are some ideas for displaying your products on Instagram:

  •   Post products that are part of a collection.
  •   Post sale items.
  •   Post holiday offerings.
  •   Showcase your newest products, or share items that don’t typically get a lot of attention yet offer high value.
  1. Behind the Scenes

People love to see the reality behind a brand. Use Instagram to provide behind-the-scenes photos of the manufacturing process or to show off the equipment you use to make their lives easier. You can even show off photos of you hard at work planning to make your business better or preparing to deliver the top-notch service they expect.

  1. Demonstrate

You can tell your audience over and over again what you can do or how great your products are, but nothing beats a little show and tell. Audiences more readily believe what they can see with their own eyes. Post images that show how your product works or that demonstrate lesser-known uses for it. Provide before-and-after images to show how well your service works. Share images of people actually wearing or using your product. User-generated content can come in very handy here as well.

  1. Make it People Orientated

Social media is all about engagement, and how better to encourage your audience to feel connected to your brand than by showing off the people that make it tick. Showcase your staff at work in the office, breakroom hijinks, training sessions, and meetings and demonstrations. Post images of corporate events, workplace parties, and staff ballgames. Do your employees really deck out their cubicles? Share photos of these spaces via Instagram. This is your chance to show a little personality.

  1. Inspire

Your brand has a unique point a view. It has personality. Use graphics and quotes that are aligned with your brand voice and point of view to inspire and motivate your audience.

  1. Use Hashtags & Descriptions

Always create descriptions that are clear and concise, making that critical connection between the photo you’re posting and your brand and its message. Then, use hastags tags that make it easier for interested users to find your content. Use keywords that categorize your images, are always relevant, and indicate such things as theme, location, event, and subject matter. Don’t forget to use some popular, but definitely relevant, hashtags as well, such as the following:

#TBT (throwback Thursday)

Of course, there are a few don’ts too. Don’t just stuff your description with hashtags. While it’s generally accepted to use more here than on Twitter, you don’t want to go crazy. In fact, three seems to be the optimal number of hashtags for Instagram.

Grow Your Following

Slow and steady may win the race in some cases, but that doesn’t necessarily apply to your Instagram following. You want to capture your audience’s interest quickly! Here are some ways to do so:

  1. Run a Contest

Plan an Instagram contest that will appeal to your audience, and cross-promote it on your other social media accounts. Make it appealing enough, and some of the followers from your other social media accounts will head over to Instagram and follow you there too.

  1. Tell Your Customers

Let your audience know you’re on Instagram now. Send out an email announcement, and  share on your website and blog, in your newsletter, and on your other social media accounts.

  1. Tell Your Friends

Let your friends know you’re on Instagram. They many not only become some of your first followers but also help spread the word about your brand.

  1. Cross Promote

Post your Instagram logo on your website and blog and any other domains you own. Create call to actions to draw your audience in as well. Post your call to actions to your other social media accounts too.

  1. Use Hashtags

Use hashtags in all of your cross-promotions, contests, and announcements.

Engage Like a Boss

As you’ve heard from us time and time again, social media is social, so you should not only post but also engage. Without this critical component of your Instagram plan, you might as well be yelling into the wind.

  1. Socialize, Socialize, Socialize!

There’s a whole give-and-take thing that goes on with Instagrammers. Follow others who interest you on Instagram, and they’re likely to follow you back. But don’t just stop there–like and comment too. One caveat is that your comments should always be relevant and add something to the conversations. Otherwise, it’s just spam, and who needs more of that?

  1. Sharing is Caring

Sharing is a big part of engaging and interacting on any social platform, and social media is no exception. Just how do you share on Instagram, you might ask? Here’s the Right Way to Repost Instagram Photos gives you the skinny on getting the job done. Also, don’t forget to repost user-generated content that shows off your products. Just be sure to properly attribute the shared content.

  1. Call Them to Action

While you definitely don’t want to go for the big sales pitch on Instagram, you do want to encourage your audience to take critical next steps. Include a call to action in each of your posts. For example, it only takes a second to ask your followers to “like” your post if you’ve wowed them or they agree with something you’ve posted. And asking them to tag friends who might be interested can only increase your reach.

With these 21 tips at your disposal, you’re ready to take Instagram by storm. Instagram is a powerful tool, and when used well, can only help your brand achieve its social media goals. Put these strategies to work for you, and then be sure to come back and share your success with us in the comments.


Reasons Why Your Influencer Marketing Isn’t Working


With over 100 billion active users on Facebook, and one million people using Instagram monthly, social media is a definitive part of our communication culture.

Among the average daily users wanting just to connect with friends and share fun pics of their kids, are what we call influencers, individuals with large, vibrant communities and audiences who tune in to connect with them on a regular basis.

And they are powerful.

With millions of followers and countless brands clamoring to get their endorsements, they have the ability to make a significant difference in the marketplace.

Influencer marketing has emerged as a more scientific way to capitalize on the influencer phenomenon. And, it has indeed become quite an effective way for brands to expand their client base to new audiences in a more engaging, authentic way. This is why it is now an integral part of many well-designed marketing campaigns.

So why isn’t everyone doing it? And why are so many people doing it wrong?

The answer isn’t necessarily simple, yet it’s not complex either. We’ve found that there are few reasons why your efforts may not be paying off.

Why Your Influencer Marketing Isn’t Working

#1: You Don’t Know the Rules

For starters, influencer marketing is regulated by the FCC, and they aren’t playing around. If you want to avoid huge fines and major scandal (yes, major: please don’t be Lord & Taylor), you need to become intimate with the rules that apply to your brand as well as those that apply to your influencers.

Beyond that, you need to know the “unofficial rules” of the game. You need to know what influencers expect, what they desire, what something as basic as the word “partnership” means (hint: it doesn’t mean you’re doing the influencer a favor by working with them). A lot of this knowledge can be found just spending time on blogs, talking to influencers (go to a conference!), and being a real part of the conversation about your industry. (see reason #5)

#2: You Don’t Have a Budget

Influencer marketing could be considered media or public relations, but it is vastly different from the earned media you might be used to working with. Attempting to treat it similarly means you’re destined for failure.

Most successful, prominent influencers are also savvy business people. And, as you know, savvy business people don’t usually do their business for free. You need to come into the partnership with something to offer –and a chance to win product or be featured on your social channels is generally not what we’re talking about.

That’s not to say you can only get this done with a massive monetary budget at your disposal; it’s just to say that, like anything else, you get what you pay for. How you pay is only limited by your creativity and ability to build relationships with the people in the space you want your brand to be a part of.

#3: You Don’t Choose People, You Push Messaging

Influencers are people –each one unique, each one with their own special voice and platform where they use it. You can’t go into a campaign with a template and expect your influencers to cookie cutter create it across the board. And, really, why would you want to?

The beauty of the influencer is that they are authentic. That with their personal story and personal brand, they can reach their audience in a way you can’t. These are sacred parts of the influencer-audience relationship and, when you try to control those, your campaign falls flat.

Take some time to read blogs, find ones that touch you as a human, outside of your role as a marketer, and then figure out how to get your message to that person so they can put the feels on it for their readers.

#4: You Don’t Do Your Homework

Just like influencers need to choose brands they have a connection to, it’s important that brands choose influencers who are a good fit for their brand. I recently received an email, from someone who “loves my blog,” offering me an opportunity to review their “mom and me dresses” with my daughter.

I have three sons. No girl. My blog is about raising boys. Not a good fit for their brand. You want to work with influencers who can bring your brand’s story to life and you find those influencers by truly getting to know them, their sites, and their topic.

#5: You Haven’t Built a Relationship

Influencers rely a lot on relationships –relationships with their audience, relationships with the brands they work with, relationships with the other people who play roles in the stories they bring to life online.

A large part of an influencer’s ability to be successful has to do with their ability to build engaging connections among people. You want influencers to want your brand to be a part of their story, and to do that you need to build a relationship with your influencers. Get to know their process, learn about their inspiration, and then you can help them find a creative way to bring your story to life, alongside theirs.

Influencer marketing has the potential to be the most powerful part of your marketing campaign, but it’s important that it’s done right if you want it to have a positive impact on your bottom line. Take time to cultivate relationships, engage with your influencers as people, and align your goals properly to ensure you, your influencers, and their audience have a positive experience.

Are you struggling with your influencer marketing strategy? We’d love to help!


How to Run a Remote Business With the Right Tools

How to Run a Remote Business With the Right Tools

How to Run a Remote Business With the Right Tools

There are many benefits to working remotely. Even if you typically work in a traditional office, you’ve dreamt about escaping to work from somewhere else from time-to-time. This is the lifestyle we at Crackerjack Marketing have adopted and loved for a little over six years now: our team is 100% virtual, and we all work out of home offices (or sometimes on the road when we travel for business or pleasure). While we believe there are huge benefits to working remotely, we do rely very heavily on digital tools to help our team stay in touch and in sync with each other.

Simply put: the right tools help your company, your partners, and (if you’re an agency) your clients work together efficiently and effectively without having to be in the same place.

Four Tools for Virtual Team Collaboration

We are always looking into the next best website, app, or extension that will help us get the job done for our clients. New tools are always coming out, but I’m going to highlight four that have become a crucial and integral part of Crackerjack Marketing’s day-to-day work.

1. Slack

When working remotely (as with any work situation), communication is key. However, when you work remotely, you can’t walk down the hallway to ask your boss or a co-worker a question. In collaborative messaging app Slack, we’ve found the next best thing. Here are the two most important Slack features that our team uses regularly:

1. Channels: Slack offers three different types of conversation threads:

a. Team-wide “channels” can be created for each project, topic, client, or department to chat in, keeping conversations distinct. Team members or clients need only belong to the channel(s) that applies to them.
b. Private channels allow you to invite just a few members to keep your sensitive projects secret.
c. Direct messages provide a way for you to chat directly with a coworker; direct messages can also be set up for multiple people to chat together, outside of a team-wide channel.

Fun tip: Within any channel, jazz up your interactions by using GIFs. Add the Giphy app to Slack and type /giphy and a word or phrase such as “/giphy dance”. Giphy will pick a GIF that corresponds with the word or phrase. Since it’s random, try using the command a few times with Slackbot (a built-in helper app) and then share the one that fits best!

2. File sharing: Slack isn’t just for talking. Share files, images, PDFs, and documents directly in a channel. You can also connect files from DropBox and Google Drive (I’ll talk about these later). These files are indexed and archived automatically by Slack so you can easily search and find the one you’re looking for.

Slack is so much more than a messaging tool. It’s neat and organized, but allows for freedom. Create a channel for funny GIFs; create a channel for the most important project your team is working on; create a channel for interesting and relevant articles. Slack allows for the personality of your business (remote or not) to shine through in your every day communication.

2. Nozbe

Project management tool Nozbe is where we like to get things done. Since we don’t have face-to-face meetings, how do we know what’s going in current projects, and what new projects are being started? Nozbe, that’s how. It’s a task manager for projects big and small. Here are a few of our favorite Nozbe features:

1. Inbox: Whenever you have a task you need to get done, you can add it to your inbox. If your boss or a teammate is giving you a task to do, they can add a task and then assign it to you so it appears in your inbox. Each task allows you to add a comment, a due date, a category, a repeat option, and a time needed option. These features allow you to be even more efficient and on top of your work.

2. Projects: Once you’ve received a task, it’s necessary to move it from your inbox into the corresponding project. For example, if you’re hosting a contest for a client on Facebook, create a project called “Facebook Contest.” One of your tasks under that project might be to choose a prize. Once you’ve created that task, move it into the project folder so you can see that it needs to be done for your Facebook project. Then indicate if it needs to be completed by you, or by a teammate. That way, every project you run goes smoothly, efficiently, and correctly.

Fun tip: If you notice that your projects are piling up and you want to make sure the most important ones stand out from the rest, color code them! Chose a project, click “Project info” and select the “Change project color” option. Order your projects by color by clicking, dragging, and moving each one in place.

3. Project Information: Nozbe also has great additional features within projects, such as the priority feature, that allows you to indicate what needs to be done first. Selecting a completion date and time for a task will put it into your calendar on Nozbe that can be viewed by your team. If you want to see what your coworkers are working on when you can’t visit their cubicle, select the team option to view their tasks.

A project never goes unnoticed in Nozbe. The satisfying feeling you get from crossing an item off your to-do list is the same feeling you get from checking an item off your task list. Nozbe keeps you on track, on task and able to delegate with ease. What I find helpful is that Nozbe isn’t only for projects. Use it to securely save your social media and blog logins, your notes from a call with a client, and other sensitive items only viewed by you, or shared with a few others.

3. DropBox

When it comes to file sharing, Dropbox is a no-brainer because it’s the online land of files. It’s where anything from images, to documents, to spreadsheets, to PDFs can live in. We love Dropbox because it’s:

1. Accessible: One of my favorite features of Dropbox is that you can access these files on your computer, laptop, and phone, from anywhere! This also makes sharing a breeze because your items are safe in Dropbox even if you drop your phone in the toilet (don’t judge!), or accidentally delete a folder!

2. Share-friendly: One of Dropbox’s slogans is “Simple Sharing” and I’ve found that to be true. All it takes is a simple invite to a coworker, partner, or client and they have access to that folder. You can share specific links, photos, and files as well to keep items as private or as open as you’d like.

Fun tip: Instead of making edits on a project and sharing a file back-and-forth, use Dropbox’s commenting feature. Your colleague will get notified and can make the change easily (especially if it’s one edit or a simple edit) without having to download the file, make a change, resave, then send it back.

The short and sweet of Dropbox: You don’t lose your files, you’re more successful when your files are safe and in one place! Dropbox makes you look organized. Clients (and your coworkers or partners) enjoy being able to see what you see in real time. When I ask myself, “What would make a collaboration with my team easier?” I think of Dropbox especially when I’m not in the same room as my team or our clients.

4. Google Apps

I’m willing to admit my love for Google Apps right here and now. I absolutely love them. I use Google Mail, Docs, Sheets, and Calendar every day. We use Google Apps, especially Docs and Sheets, for the following:

1. Sharing: If you’re noticing a theme appearing, it’s because there is one: easy sharing is crucial if you want your remote team to be successful. Any item you’re working on at any given moment can be shared with coworkers so they can view them, comment on them, and edit them at the same time. Projects are ten times easier and faster when you don’t have to email, download, open, save, and re-email them (I’m tired just writing that). With Google Docs or Sheets, all changes are saved in one space in real time. An offline feature is also available so you can work without Wifi.

2. Organization: Google Apps has a place for everything and everything in its place. If you’re looking for a spreadsheet, go to the Sheets. If you’re looking for a document, go to the Docs. Every file is searchable as well and listed by the last time opened, and the owner.

Fun tip: If the look of your Google Apps are boring to you, customize them with your favorite color scheme, use backgrounds in Calendar (or use Google’s “Interesting Calendars” option), download extensions and apps that give you even more themes, the possibilities are endless!

The possibilities available through Google are amazing. Features such as Sheets, Docs, and Slides keep you, your team, and your clients working in sync and on the same page (literally – you can see people make changes in front of your eyes). Keeping in contact during a project without having to constantly email back and forth is a recipe for success in and of itself. Google Apps also carry the same features as Dropbox: access across all of your devices and backups of your documents!

What tools should you use?

Of course we suggest you try out Slack, Nozbe, Dropbox, and Google Apps (maybe you already use them!), but not every tool is one size fits all. One thing all of these tools have in common is excellent sharing capabilities. Find a tool that works best for what you need whether that’s communication, sharing, editing, etc. What tools help your company collaborate virtually? Let us know!