Go Big or Go Home

In classic Orwellian style, the great Seth Godin wrote: “Safe is risky.”

This quote is taken from one of his most famous books, Purple Cow, which was the first business book I ever read and one that had a profound impact on me.

After freelancing full-time as a content writer and social media manager for the past year and a half, it has finally dawned on me that the only way to truly be successful is to keep reaching higher. Cliche as it sounds, the following old saying comes to mind: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

Hedging your bets and trying to play it safe, by nature restricts growth. And when starting a business or embarking upon any new project or venture, growth and continual progress is crucial. Staying in one place for too long leads to stagnation, and eventually death. When you play it safe, you have already prepared yourself for eventual failure. If you don’t strive to grow beyond what you’ve achieved so far, you will lose even that which you have already gained.

I’ve been thinking a lot these days about how to take it to the next level. While I could go all in on my writing skills and remain a solitary consultant or freelancer, I would rather take the leap and attempt to build an organization larger than myself. That is what true entrepreneurship looks like.

To accomplish this task, I’m going to need people. This may mean working alongside other freelancers or partnering with someone. It may eventually mean hiring up. Either way, at the end of the day, there are many things I want to accomplish and it’s time to grow. What I did to get to where I am now as a consultant will not be enough if I wish to get to that next rung on the entrepreneurship ladder.

To carry out the grand projects I have in mind, I will need to find more clients who are willing and able to do what it takes to achieve a maximal ROI. Reaching for bigger clients with bigger budgets who value the importance of digital marketing will then give me the keys I need to build a solid team that can carry out my vision, which extends far beyond what many imagine possible for their business. This will allow me and the clients I serve to reach new horizons and break through all perceived limitations.

I thank all of you for patiently coming along with me on my entrepreneurial journey as I grow from a creative freelancer to an entrepreneur starting a digital marketing agency. By telling you about my story and my process, I hope to inspire you and your brand to tell YOUR story and start making a real connection with your audience.

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How to Tweet Like a Boss: 10 Twitter Tips

“Oh, I hate Twitter. I don’t understand it at all.”

This is the usual response I receive whenever Twitter comes up in conversation. I believe this is unfortunate, because when harnessed to its full potential, Twitter is a powerful marketing and networking tool that is also enjoyable to use.

Now, I understand the frustration. When I first started using Twitter several years ago I felt the same way. I’d post something and nothing would happen. Fickle followers would follow me and then seem to suddenly unfollow me out of nowhere. It seemed impossible to grow a following and the lack of engagement was pretty discouraging.

Twitter is not a platform where results are always as immediate as some others. One weakness of Twitter is that the feed is not great at organizing users’ posts. It’s a steady stream of content, which can sometimes feel like an overwhelming information overload that makes it hard to gain visibility. This has led many people to give up on Twitter over the past couple years, and as a result, it has declined and become less a part of the mainstream, reserved more for early adopters, hipsters, techies, journalists, celebrities, and most famously, the President of the United States.

However, if you demonstrate a little bit of patience (not something many of us have these days) and are willing to put in the work, Twitter can be an excellent vehicle for developing your brand, advancing your career, or simply connecting with like-minded people. For those willing to learn, Twitter presents numerous opportunities.

Here are a few tips I learned from steadily growing my own Twitter following over the past year  (as well as the accounts of others) from less than 100 unengaged followers to over 700 followers without the use of bots or ads:

1. Tweet every day.

In addition to being one of the most social of social networks, it’s also one of the most time consuming. To truly make progress on Twitter, you need to tweet every day, or at least Monday through Friday and at the right times. The recommendation, according to general best practices is approximately 2-3 times per day or 10-15 times per week (not including replies or retweets).

2. Tweet one-to-one. 

Because it’s very difficult to gain visibility in the Twitter feed and your tweets will quickly get crowded out and covered over by others’ tweets, you need to tweet directly @ people’s handles to ensure the right people see your content. Twitter is a friendly space where it’s perfectly normal and cool to talk to strangers, so lose the fear! Tweet directly at individuals (tweets that begin with @) or mention influencers or followers by including their handles in your tweets.

3. Use strategic hashtags.

Do some keyword research or use the Twitter search bar to find hashtags that are not too broad and competitive (used by too many people) or too narrow (used by too few people). This well help you find a good sweet spot where your tweets will get more visibility by people who are interested in the content. The general recommendation is to use no more than 1-2 hashtags on Twitter. More than that can make you appear spammy.

4. Use the Direct Message (DM) feature. 

If someone is already your follower, you have the ability to send them a direct message, but be careful with this one. You don’t want to spam. Twitter’s DM is a fantastic way to reach out to people one-on-one, but make sure that your messages offer something of value rather than simply ask for something. Also, try not to use a cheese-y auto-respond DM. It’s not a real social interaction and people know it. Including a joke in it like: “Yes this is an automated message…” doesn’t make you sound cooler. Frankly, it’s irritating and inauthentic. Try to send actual messages to people whenever possible.

5. Utilize quote retweet.

The quote retweet option allows you to provide your own two cents or caption about a tweet in an additional 116 characters. This is a great opportunity to curate content created by others while still including your own unique perspective, POV, or voice, and personality.

6. Reply 

Reply to people’s tweets that interest you. Leave a comment that’s friendly or helpful. Be a good citizen. Engage in real conversation and be social. Don’t just self promote. Answer people’s questions. This is a great way to attract like-minded followers.

7. Learn the rules of ‘Twittiquette’

Like all social media platforms, Twitter has its own nuances. Learn the language of Twitter or proper Twitter etiquette so that you don’t make embarrassing faux pas or unintentionally piss people off. There are certain social norms and expected ways of communicating on Twitter. Like a tourist in a foreign land, some behaviors can make you come off as an idiot to the natives. Therefore, try to adapt to the local culture.

8. Shorten links.

Use tools like Bitly, Hootsuite, or Buffer to shorten your URLs so that your links can fit neatly into the 140-character word limit on tweets.

9. Do not auto-tweet from other platforms.

As stated above, each social network has its own nuances and preferences. You need to be actively involved and demonstrate that you are a real person who is actually there participating if you wish to be accepted on Twitter. So, don’t simply auto-share links to photos from Instagram or posts from Facebook. That’s a quick way to show people you’re not really present.

10. Share quality content.

Probably the most important rule on this list. Use the Twitter search bar and search relevant hashtags or topics to find out what your intended audience is talking about. Reply to people talking about your area of interest and communicate in an authentic manner. Answer questions, provide feedback, or share items they’d be interested in. Social media influencer and entrepreneur, Gary Vaynerchuk grew his New Jersey wine business by finding and chatting with people who were talking about wine on Twitter for 10 hours a day. Look at what hashtags are trending on Twitter (left-hand side on home page) or search Google Trends and include these hashtags along with a relevant tweet. This is a fast way to gain impressions and jump into the national or global conversation. In your two-three daily tweets feature helpful or entertaining articles, blog posts, infographics, videos, and podcasts that your audience will appreciate. Even if the content is not original content created by you e.g. a great article about small business in Forbes, it will still attract engagement and followers.

Whereas platforms like Facebook or Instagram more easily allow you to gloat, promote, and showcase your best self, Twitter is truly the most “social” of all social media networks. It’s where the conversation happens. Twitter is essentially the cocktail party of the Internet or the world’s water cooler where our culture goes to chatter and keep up with the latest news. Even if Twitter were to go out of business, as some think it will, there will always be a need for something like Twitter to exist.

Go give Twitter another shot and use the tips I listed above. I promise that your time spent on Twitter will be a much more rewarding experience.

Have any other tips you’d like to add to this list? Feel free to leave them in the comments below!

Follow me on Twitter @ZevGotkin for more social media marketing tips!

How to Add Value in Your Follow-Up Emails

You sent your proposal a few days ago and…Nothing.

So you wait and you wait and you wait….

Crickets

Now, you’re getting antsy. ‘Surely, they received it!’ you think. ‘I know that follow-up is key, but how do I follow up with the lead without coming off as annoying or pushy?’

Recently, I read the book, The Little Green Book of Getting Your Way by Jeffrey Gitomer. In this book, which I highly recommend, Gitomer explains that it’s not enough to simply send a message to the lead asking: “Hi, do you have any questions for me about the proposal?” You don’t really care if they have any questions. What you’re really saying is: “Hi, is my money ready yet?”

Now, I’ll admit I’ve sent follow-ups like that. I thought asking if they had any questions about the proposal was a good way of eliciting a response and it was way better than saying: “Hurry up already!”

But, in truth, a follow-up will be way more effective if you add something of value to the lead. Think about it. What’s more persuasive?: Asking someone if they’re ready to move forward or doing something for their benefit before you ask?

Many of us understand that it’s good to provide value before going for the sale. What we forget is that it’s important (maybe even more important) to continue bringing people value in the follow-up stage. When we’re trying to close the lead, that’s when we need to step our game up and not only be persistent, but also persuasive. And, I’ve learned that you get more with the honey of providing help than you do with the vinegar of pushiness.

Incessant follow-up phone calls and emails aren’t going to cut it. You should bring people value in every interaction from the first interaction to close and then continue to surprise and delight even after the sale is made. That’s how you instill loyalty.

So, how to do you add value in a follow-up?

Well, that’s a good question. I looked it up on Google. By the way, not sure if you already knew this, but you can learn everything on Google! Shhh, don’t tell anyone.

I found a variety of tips, but the two that stood out to me are as follows:

Personalize it.

Don’t send a generic, ‘all-business’ email like: “Hi, following up. Please let me know if you’d like to discuss the proposal. Thanks.”

Use the lead’s name and open with something that will establish rapport. Engage them in conversation. Reference something you talked about. Use humor when appropriate. Establish a consistent tone for your brand’s follow-up emails. It could be quirky or a little more business-like depending on your audience. Perhaps, it’s a catch phrase in your opening line or your email sign-off. Get creative with it. There are numerous ways to differentiate your brand and stand out in every interaction you have with prospects and leads.

Share customized content. 

As stated above, helping is a great way to provide value. The more you help, the more you sell.

Share useful, helpful, informational content in your follow-ups that is customized to the needs or interests of the lead. According to a report from Custom Content Council, 61% of consumers say they find custom content helpful and will be more likely to do business with a company who provided them with custom content. A study done by Demand Metric found that 82% of respondents felt more positive about a company after reading custom content.

Depending on your time and resources, you can either create custom content for specific types of audiences or leads or you can share content from elsewhere that your leads will find helpful. This content can be blog posts, videos, articles, infographics, ebooks, or podcasts that your lead will appreciate. Create separate email lists targeted to specific types of leads categorized by their interests and feature different types of content in your emails for each list.

Recently, I sent a follow-up email to a lead that featured an article from Hootsuite about the best times to post on various social networks as well as a blog post of mine that I thought would help them with a specific issue they were having. I then asked them if they had any questions or would like to discuss the details of the proposal with me. This email got a response whereas my first two follow-up emails, which simply went in for the ask, did not.

When you give away something of value, you make the lead feel more positively disposed toward you and your brand. An aggressive follow-up email can be quickly ignored and discarded. Most people will pay more attention and respond to someone who has first provided them with something of value. When you give something away, you make the lead feel more inclined to respond to you. And if you truly brought them value in your follow-up, they will be more likely to become your client.

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If you need help creating custom content for your follow-up emails or email newsletters, feel free to shoot me an email: wgotkin@gmail.com and we’ll set up a meeting. 

Why Travel is Good for a Freelancer

Fresh off the Red Eye from San Diego and fueled by coffee and adrenaline, I decided to pop open my laptop and crank out a fresh blog post about the benefits of travel.

I’ve traveled very little over the past 6 years. During this time, I was mostly ensconced in the bubble of Brooklyn, Long Island, and Manhattan. As you might imagine, this could occasionally get stressful and overstimulating.

But, over the past month I traveled to two separate destinations. First to Israel and then San Diego, California. Both were enjoyable and enlightening experiences and I’m proud to say that I booked both trips on a spontaneous whim (something I don’t normally do).

While abroad, it was a bit of a culture shock to encounter people who actually smile, say hello, and make room for you to pass. Not going to lie, I was a little creeped out and uncomfortable with all the friendliness at first. Instinctively, I’d brace myself for what I thought was the inevitable solicitation or confrontation. But, after a while, I started to let my guard down and enjoy it.

And see, that’s why travelling is so great. Travelling to a new destination can open your mind to new experiences, new people, and new ideas. And you don’t have to travel very far to reap the benefits. Simply breaking out of your mundane, normal patterns of existence can give you a fresh perspective and a sense of clarity that can help you return to normal life rejuvenated and reinvigorated.

Now, I did not stop working on these trips. Thanks to the digital revolution, I can work from anywhere (as long as there’s Wifi). In fact, many freelancers have opted into the Digital Nomad lifestyle. While I wouldn’t (yet) call myself a digital nomad, I do think it’s appealing and I applaud anyone who has the self-discipline to work remotely while seeing the world.

It’s imperative for a freelancer, entrepreneur, or creative to periodically open themselves up to new experiences and ways of thinking. Sometimes, the only way to get out of a rut is to break out of the usual routine do something different. Travelling can inject a freshness and renewed vitality into your work and into your life. And, for me personally, getting out of my environment (the everyday stressors, the gossip, the #FOMO) is actually very refreshing and effective for eliminating the usual distractions. While some might think travel to be distracting, I found it much easier to focus and work long hours with a clear mind in my fresh surroundings.

So, if you’re a freelancer or anyone who can work from anywhere and you want to broaden your horizons or strengthen your craft, I strongly recommend booking a trip as soon as possible. Opening yourself up to inspiring people and new experiences is a great way to grow beyond the confines of your comfort zone.

Safe travels!

Video:  Why Travel is Good for a Freelancer

Authenticity: What Does it Really Mean Anyway?

There’s a lot of talk about authenticity these days.

Every brand strives for it, especially on social media. We’re told millennials, in particular value it and expect it from the companies they do business with.

Aside from being a popular buzzword, what does ‘authenticity’ really mean? And what does it mean to be authentic?

Be genuine and up front.

Being authentic means not disguising or hiding your agenda. If you’re in it to make money, then don’t hide it. Be honest about your intentions. For example, don’t claim to be a conscious company like Tom’s Shoes if you’re only going to jack up the price above market value so that you can keep profit margins high. Don’t pretend to care about causes (or worse, tragedies) only in order to curry favor with your audience and make a buck. Authenticity means your brand only aligns itself with products, people, and causes that embody your values. Corporate responsibility is great, but please don’t pretend to give a f*#% if you don’t. Trying to put one over on your prospects and customers will only backfire. Everyone knows companies need to turn a profit so don’t hide it. Be real about your purpose and direction.

Give sincerely.

Unfortunately, one of the most common blunders in business (and other areas of life) is to give insincerely, or only in order to get something in return. Aside from being dishonest, this tactic is particularly ineffective, because people can often smell the insincerity and it turns them off from working with you. If you’re only helping others with a “what’s in it for me” mentality, people will notice right away or you will eventually be exposed.

The good news is brands who do a great deal more sincere helping than asking often win a great deal more sales than companies who don’t. We live in a word that is over-saturated with mediocre content and often tunes out ads mentally or with technologies such as Ad Block and fast-forwarding on DVR. Therefore, sharing engaging content that is relevant and educates, inspires, or entertains is the best way for a brand to stand out, grab attention, and stand head and shoulders above the competition.

It’s not “fake it till you make it.” 

We’ve all heard the expression, ‘fake it till you make it,’ but it’s not really the best strategy. Now, I’m not talking about trace amounts of imposter syndrome, which we all feel at times, particularly when we are at the start of our careers. I’m talking about posing as an expert before you are one. Today, becoming known and developing a brand is not only easier than ever before; it’s almost a necessity. Establishing thought leadership and credibility is valuable currency, but if you talk about things you don’t yet understand or fail to deliver on your big promises, you will later end up looking foolish and compromise your reputation.

So, stay in your lane and tell the true story of you or your brand. If you do one thing particularly well or have a great deal of knowledge about a subject, stick to creating content about that and don’t try to swim in waters that are above your head. And, if you don’t yet have an area of expertise, find ways to inspire or entertain others as a means to break through to the market.

Above all, be passionate and real and people will feel it. I’m not just espousing the cliche “be yourself.” Obviously, this is not the best idea in every case. What I am saying is be up front about your intentions, provide value in a sincere manner, and stick to what you know and care about, and you will come across as authentic and believable and people will want what you have to offer.