How to Get Started with Social Media Marketing – A Handy Checklist

Your organization wants to start taking social media marketing seriously and utilize this tool to expand the reach of the brand and get more customers.

Congrats!

Now, before you go plunging head-first into tactics, setting up social media accounts, posting random things, and hoping for the best, it’s best to have a plan in place. Developing a strategy, coordinating with various staff and departments, determining your budget, and setting up the logistics of who should do what will save your brand from a lot of headaches and enable you to move more quickly and efficiently once you start.

Hire an expert.

First things first. Hire an expert. Don’t go at it alone and don’t delegate your social media marketing to an intern. Social media is one of the first places prospects and potential customers will look before deciding whether or not to work with you. Why entrust that responsibility to an intern? Outsourcing social media to an intern, your brother in-law or the young receptionist may seem like an attractive solution. It’s cost-effective and they’re young, so they totally get the whole social media thing. However, using social media for fun is not the same as using it to market a business. Mistakes on social media can irritate customers, embarrass the brand, get you into legal trouble, or result in other damaging consequences. If you want to actually get positive results from social media, then you need to take it as seriously as you would any other marketing initiative. This doesn’t mean you can’t involve interns, staff members, or Karen from down the block in your social media, but make sure they are working under an experienced social media manager. Your social media expert can be an outside consultancy or someone you hire to be in-house. Just make sure you hire someone who knows what they’re doing.

Set up an in-house team. 

Regardless of whether you hire an outside consultancy or marketing firm, you will still need to involve in-house staff members who have their boots on the ground and work within your business every day. Social media marketing

Social media marketing is most effective when it is aligned with the rest of the organization. Customers often use social media to ask questions or complain and they expect a speedy response. Therefore, make sure your marketing team and customer service departments are in communication, ready to answer queries and interact with customers on social media. If you have any special offers on social media, make sure other members of your staff know about it in case a customer brings it up. If there is little communication between the social media marketing team and the rest of your company, customers will sense you don’t have your act together, grow frustrated, and seek out the competition. Determine which of your staff will be involved in social media and what their roles will be e.g. posting, taking photos, filming, being in front of the camera, being in communication with an outside consultant or marketing firm, designing images etc. Finally, determine your marketing budget and how much of it will be allocated to social media.

Run things by the legal department. 

 

While smaller organizations and scrappy startups are not as weighed down and burdened with having to run everything by a legal department, it’s a good idea to check in with legal counsel about what things you can and cannot do or disclose on social media. As tedious as this step may sound, come up with a short list or guide that spells out the ground rules. This could potentially save your brand from legal nightmares or law suits down the line.

Execute. 

This last step is the most important. Don’t overthink or get bogged down and crippled, wondering what you should post on social media. Social media is most effective when you’re authentic, helpful, and providing value. It’s the channel where you can show the human side of your business and make genuine connections with potential customers, current customers, investors, and employees so don’t get hung up on minor details like the lighting and the video quality. Don’t be afraid to test things out and see what works. Don’t be too scared to experiment. Too many brands wait until everything is perfect. They ponder and strategize endlessly to the point where they never end up getting anything done. Hesitating and being overly perfectionist will prevent you from taking action and getting started. Once you have the above considerations in place, get to work and start executing. As the old Nike slogan says: Just do it.

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Good Things Come to Those Who Work Their Butt Off and are Patient AF

We’ve all heard the expression:

“Good things come to those who wait.”

Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s bullsh*t.

No one ever achieved big things without working their ass off and going out and getting it. Every successful person I know has had to work hard. Even people who raise boatloads of cash or enjoy family connections will not be profitable without grinding day in and day out. Sure, there are people who win the lotto or were handed a lucrative venture, but you and I can’t point to anyone who earned lasting success by not giving it their all. There are many gurus and coaches on the Internet selling mastermind courses these days with “get rich quick” schemes who claim they have a hack for getting successful without all the work. Some of their suggestions may turn a profit for a short time, but will not bring lasting wealth. There really are no shortcuts to success. There is no simple formula, growth hack, or automated process that will enable you to win long-term.

I’m currently in the process of building a digital marketing agency as well as my own online presence and personal brand. Having interviewed many successful people for my Huffington Post column and studied many people who built a business, personal brand, or an online presence, the common themes I’m seeing and applying to my own life are as follows:

Patience: 

It takes so much patience to achieve any big, hairy, audacious goal. If you love it and it’s worth pursuing, you’ll likely have the fortitude to stick it out when the going gets tough. Oh, and it will get tough. We look at many successful people today as “finished products.” We didn’t see them before they achieved greatness. We don’t see the countless hours of painstaking effort and unglamorous amounts of dedication they put into refining their craft. It doesn’t make for good TV (or whatever medium you use for entertainment these days). There’s always this temptation to try to jump ahead several steps before you’ve made it. And it can be discouraging when you go through a dry-spell. You need to remain humble and continue to do things you may feel you shouldn’t have to still be doing if you want to get to the place where you aspire to be. It’s called paying your dues.

Persistence:

If you’re patient and appreciate every small victory, you’ll have an easier time remaining motivated and persisting toward your goals. Let’s take influencers as an example. Many of them churned out hundreds of blog posts, videos, and podcasts that barely got any reads, views, or listens before they seemingly “popped” out of nowhere. They didn’t get discouraged when no one was paying attention them because they believed in themselves and persisted. The truth is even if you do everything right and you produce quality work or churn out great content frequently and consistently, it will still likely take years of doing it before you break out and become well-known.

Consistency: 

This one is so crucial. They say a big part of success is just showing up. I’d like to suggest an addendum to that old adage: A big part of success is just showing up consistently. Even if you’re talented, produce great work, have good ideas, and spend time honing your craft and working toward your goals, you will not go very far if you’re on-again, off-again, hot and cold. This is true for many endeavors in life, but specifically, when it comes to building an online presence, no one wins the market’s attention and becomes known for anything if they don’t consistently put out value. Even if you have one big piece of content that goes viral, you’ll be a one-hit wonder that no one remembers and have no brand recognition unless you consistently follow up and engage your audience. Every drop in the bucket counts. The key is consistently working on your goal and not allowing yourself to get distracted or make excuses.

Sometimes life gets in the way or we see something that looks like it might be more interesting or exciting, but the show must go on. Only by sticking with it, remaining patient when we don’t see results for long periods of time, persisting in the face of obstacles and applying ourselves consistently, will we achieve any of our dreams.

Don’t Underestimate the Value of Attention

“Isn’t there a way to narrowly target only the people who will buy from me without our content being seen by anybody else?”

This is a question I’ve received several times in my role as a social media marketer.

The answer is no, but it’s interesting to analyze what lies behind the question. Often, the asker simply doesn’t understand how social media works or doesn’t fully appreciate the interconnectedness of the Internet as a whole. More importantly, this question reflects a lack of appreciation for the value of attention. It also reveals a misunderstanding of how marketing and sales work together to drive prospects from brand awareness to purchase.

Now, it’s true that smart marketers aim to target their efforts toward a specific and well-defined audience. This helps them determine their strategy, tone, style, and which channels and tactics to use. Marketing for “everybody” is marketing for nobody.

However, while an overly broad approach is counterproductive, so is an approach that is overly narrow.

Attention is a very precious commodity. With so much competing for our attention spans, it’s more precious than it ever was before. Attention is also extremely valuable. If you don’t have it, you stand little chance of becoming known or found by your target audience. However, if you do have people’s attention, then you can leverage it for greater opportunities.

Many people question the ROI of social media marketing. How does building a following or getting likes, comments, and shares boost my bottom line? And yet, most of those same people completely see the value of appearing on a popular talk show, running a television advertisement during prime time, or appearing in a prestigious or widely read magazine. Social media doesn’t deserve to be judged with an unfair double-standard, especially when it has a unique ability to target effectively and provide data analytics reporting in real time — things traditional channels cannot do.

Getting the exposure, the eyeballs, the attention is the first step. Even the most targeted digital marketing campaign can’t and shouldn’t avoid attention from those who may not buy anything — right now.

sales funnel hubspot
HupSpot

Marketing is like a funnel, which can be sifted and segmented from the widest to the most narrow. Awareness sits at the top of the funnel. A small subset of those at the top will become leads and a small subsection of those leads will be nurtured into sales or “conversions.” Depending on the particular campaign, a conversion might mean a monetary sales transaction or it might mean a sign-up or a subscription. Either way, getting attention and establishing a relationship with prospects is the key to garnering more sales as well as loyalty that keeps your clients or customers coming back for more. Attention can also lead to other good things, like a job offer, a book deal, a speaking engagement, and more.

The way you get attention is by providing value. This could be accomplished by sharing content that educates, entertains, or empowers your audience. By providing value through your content, you earn your audience’s attention and give them a reason to care. Too many people undervalue or underestimate positive attention because it’s part of long-term branding rather than short-term sales. Therefore, it’s super important to be able to maintain perspective and put every part of your marketing strategy in its appropriate place. Knowing where everything belongs will also help you contextualize and personalize your content for your audience throughout each stage of the sales funnel or buyer’s journey.

Before you can get your audience to buy anything, you need to have their attention. Word of mouth — friends telling friends — is often the best way. Most people tend to value the recommendations of trusted experts, friends, or family than they do an advertisement from a company. Social media marketing allows you to further amplify and leverage word of mouth to get the attention you need like never before. Take advantage and utilize this technology to the fullest.

Being Cheap Will Cost You

When I was younger, I used to pride myself on spending the least amount of money as possible on things that I wanted. One area where I was particularly cheap was sneakers. Initially proud of my purchase, it took me a while to figure out that I wasn’t getting a good deal at all. When the laces are frayed and the sneakers are worn and falling apart beyond repair after only a few months you’re only screwing yourself into having to buy yet another pair much sooner than you would have if you had spent a little more and invested in better quality.

One thing you learn as you get older and more experienced is that being cheap rarely pays off. If anything it costs you more money, time, and headaches later down the line.

We all have areas of our lives where we don’t care enough to spend and that’s fine if we’re OK with the consequences. But, when it comes to the things that matter, like our health or our business, we really should think twice before we go with the cheaper option. The damage that could be done by hiring an amateur could end up being far more costly than paying an expert. Skimping on added features, options, or services in the short-run may end up costing you far more in the long-run.

Let’s say you’re choosing a marketing firm to do your social media marketing. They present you with several options. Thinking only about price, you go with the cheapest one. Later you realize that you can’t get the results you hoped for without the additional services offered in the higher priced option. Now, you’ll either spend more money on hiring freelancers to fulfill the need or you’ll end up upgrading your package with the marketing firm. Either way, you just spent the past month or more spending money and receiving little in return. If you had only done it right the first time, you would have accomplished more and sooner. And, if you depleted your budget, then it might already be too late.

So, don’t be a cheapskate. Think about the long-term or the lifetime value. Your business is something you’d like to comfortably own for a long time. Don’t treat your business like a cheap pair of sneakers. Spring for the better option and you’ll wear it well for years to come.

 

5 Tips for Success with Blogging

So your company wants to start blogging.

Great!

Where to begin? How do you ensure that the blog will be a success?

Here are 5 tips that will break down the essentials of corporate blogging:

  1. Set goals. 

goal

If you don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish with the blog, how will you be able to determine whether or not the blog is successful? Determine from the outset what results you’d like to see or what metrics you will be using. Also, make sure that your blog’s goals are aligned with your company’s larger goals and purpose. Is the goal of your blog brand awareness? Getting more leads? Attracting talent? Generating more subscriptions to your email newsletter? Gaining credibility and establishing thougtht leadership? Improving brand perception? Choose a clear goal or set of goals for the blog before you start. Keep in mind that your blogging goals will likely change over time.

2) Target your audience.

Target

Next, you need to determine who the blog is written for. Are you trying to appeal to people who live in a certain geographical location? Stay-at-home moms? Moutain biking enthusiasts? People who enjoy outdoor activities? HR managers?

Identifying who your blog is speaking to will help you choose topics, set your tone, and develop a consistent brand voice. Targeting a specific audience doesn’t mean that it won’t be appealing to others as well, but a blog for everyone is for no-one. Try to tailor your blog content to one audience who would be particularly interested in your brand and write for them.

3) Publish frequently & consistently.

 

Hard at work
Author hard at work on a blog post

 

A major key to having success with blogging is publishing frequently and on a consistent basis. Publishing on a once-in-a-while or “whenever we get around to it” basis is not going to cut it. The only way to grow an audience and build momentum is by publishing frequently. Blogs that publish sporadically or infrequently fail to gain traction. Aim for once a day or once a week in the beginning. It’s also important to publish consistently. This will help you plan your content in advance so you never have to scramble for ideas. It will also please search engines and help your audience know more-or-less when to expect your next piece. Use a content calendar to schedule your posts. For example, you can decide to publish every Monday and Thursday or every day at 1 pm. The only way your blog will get off the ground is by making it a priority. Treat it like a TV program. Don’t delay, make excuses, or push it off. The show must go on!

4) Provide value

currency

While your organization has an idea of what it would like to see happen with the blog, don’t forget to focus on the needs of your audience. If you want people to actually read your blog and share it with others, then you need to create content that your audience finds valuable and keeps their attention. Good blogs usually entertain, educate, tell stories, inspire, or answer common questions. Some blogs do all of the above, but chances are, your blog will excel particularly well in one of those areas.

5) Distribution

contentmarketing

No matter how great your content is, your blog will not do well if no one knows about it. Creating the content for your blog is only half the battle. Without a good distribution strategy, few people will discover your blog. Therefore, keep SEO best practices in mind when writing your blog posts so that people will have an easier time finding them. Share the blog posts to social media in a way that respects the individual nuances of each platform. For example, on Twitter shorten links, keep your posts to under 140 characters, and use 1-2 relevant hashtags. On Instagram, direct people to click the link in your bio to read your latest blog post. Write out a long-form teaser, caption, or excerpt in your Instagram posts, Facebook statuses and LinkedIn updates.

Besides contributing regularly to your “owned” blog, consider blogging natively on blogging platforms where your audience is already hanging out, such as Medium.

Good blogging takes a lot of time, dedication, patience, and consistent output. It also must be goal oriented and targeted to a specific audience. Combined with good content and basic technical know-how, these 5 tips will help your company achieve success with blogging.

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.

***

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.