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Dealing with Negative Comments on Social Media

Teach Me Social Blog - dealing with negative comments on social mediaIt’s happened to all of us. We work hard to publish an article or a social media post only to have someone come along and respond with a negative or defamatory comment. It’s disheartening, frustrating, upsetting and even angering and it takes every ounce of patience to not want to write back an equally negative and snarky reply. I’ve been there, and I’ve felt the same way. But I can honestly tell you that the best way to respond to negativity on social media is with positivity.

Sir Isaac Newton described his 3rd Law of Motion by explaining that “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” In elementary Mathematics, we are taught that a negative and positive number of the same absolute value cancel each other out in an equation (ie. -4 + 4 = 0) What does this have to do with social media? Well, the same notion of countering forces can be applied to all positive and negative forces, energy and comments.

As a rule of thumb in customer service, it is always best to respond to customer complaints in a calm, professional manner. As business owners, we need to recognize that the customer just wants to feel validated for their complaint. This can be handled in a number of ways, but it is always best to acknowledge their negative experience and try to offer a solution. There may not always be a mutually agreeable solution, but remember that an angry customer has more potential to do damage to your business’ reputation than a happy one.

Here are some important Do’s and Don’t’s when considering how to respond to customer complaints, reviews or feedback on Social Media…. KEEP CALM AND RESPOND WITH CALM Poster

What not to do –  

  • Don’t ignore it. It might be tempting to try to delete the comment, or hope it quickly fades down in people’s newsfeeds, but there is never any guarantee. It is always better to respond and address the problem than ignore it and hope it goes away.
  • Don’t respond back with negativity. In the world of debates, two negatives never equal a positive! Responding with anger or offence is just going to add fuel to the fire. It’s upsetting for everyone involved and surrounds your business with negative energy.
  • Don’t get into a battle. There is nothing to be gained from trying to have the final say. Anyone following the discussion on your social network will be able to “see” the entire battle unfolding and each of your followers has an easy click to unfollow you and refuse to see any future posts from your business.

What to do instead –

  • DO take time to formulate an appropriate response before typing any reply to the comment. If possible, ask a colleague or trusted friend to read your reply first before you publish it online. Taking time not only allows you to respond with a clear head, but it also has likely given your disgruntled customer a chance to cool off too.
  • DO respond with professionalism and offer to address the complainant’s concerns offline, perhaps via email address or over the phone. Offer a solution to the problem right up front so that the next step is in their hands to either take you up on the offer, or to walk away.
  • DO end the discussion quickly, after a single, well composed reply. There is nothing to be gained by carrying on the discussion if you first response did everything to address the complaint, offer a solution and provide a non-social media form of communication to use to continue the conversation.

Teach Me Social owner Kelly Farrell has been helping empower Canadian Small Business owners through social media for over for years. Teach Me Social now offers services ranging from training sessions for small business owners and their teams, to full-service social media account management. Visit teachmesocial.ca to learn more about our service offerings or to contact us today for a no obligation consultation, including an audit of your existing social media channels.

Kelly Farrell - Teach Me Social -headshot (2)

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Facebook News Feed: How does it work?

Kelly headshot (2)

Have you ever wondered how Facebook’s news feed work? Or how Facebook decides what content to show in your news feed?  In this blog we are going to tell you how the news feed works and how you can create more visibility for your brand

 

  1. Facebook decides what to show you in your news feed based on other similar content that you browse.

For example  if you spend most of your day reading articles about animals, watching videos about animals, then you will see more content about pets and animals on your news feed.

How do you get your content to show on your fans news feeds?  You need to create content that engages your users, and keeps them around.  The longer users spend on your content, the more likely they are to see your updates in their feed.

There are a few ways to do this.  Don’t use deceptive headlines, this won’t win you any points with Facebook’s algorithm.  Make sure you have great content.  You want a catchy headline that will make people click on your link, video or instant article.

How much content is enough?  Don’t make content for web and mobile too long.  The majority of people have a very short attention span when interacting with online content, especially articles and videos. While the algorithm measures time on content, there is a maximum threshold.

 

  1. Content Diversity

Due to feedback from users, Facebook plans to implement some diversity in it’s news feeds.  Users have complained about seeing the same content, back to back, from the same publisher, pages or sources.  Facebook learned that users want to see wide-ranging content from different publishers.

Diversity can be harder nut to crack, but there is a very simple way.  Make sure you post your blog on multiple site, get friends pages to share it, if you have partners, ask them to share your info.  The more places that your content lives, the more likely it will appear in people’s news feeds.  I do however want to suggest caution, as having your content on too many sites can damage your google search rating.  It’s all about finding the right balance.

The other thing you can do is to re-purpose old content, and share that to your page via other links like from your blog, your LinkedIn page, employees pages.  You have more content to draw from and share than you realize.

 

  1. Facebook wants to show you the stories that it thinks will matter most to you

This is an easy on to achieve, create stories that matter to your audience.  Are you involved in the community? write a blog about it.  Do you help out with charity drives? write a blog about it.  Did an employee of yours win an award? write a blog about it.  Creating stories is easy because there are so many around you if you just take the time to really connect with your customers and employees.

 

  1. Shows you content based on the friends you have and pages you follow

I’m sure you’ve seen this in action.  You follow a new business page, and BAM, their content starts to show up in your news feed.  Pretty convenient right?

Well, here’s how you can start to take advantage of that for your business.  You have all these fans, maybe thousands, that like your page and have shown interest in what you do or what you offer.  Encourage your fans to share your content.  The more that they share, the more your content will appear on their friends news feeds.  Identify who your regulars are.  Who is always commenting, sharing and engaged with your content? Give them a shout out, recommend that other people follow them.

You can also start following other businesses, recommend other businesses who you have had successful partnerships with in the past.  All of this not only helps you gain more exposure to followers of these groups, but also helps to build your brand awareness and recognition.

 

  1. Types of content users interact with

This one is pretty straight forward, if users tend to watch more videos on Facebook, then their feed will tend to include more video content.  Same goes for text, photos and links.

To overcome this obstacle, be sure to have a wide variety of mediums for your content.  Have a good mix of text, video, pictures and links.

 

  1. Engagement can beat Recency

Lets talk about engagement first.  If a post has a lot of engagement with your audience, it will be more likely to show up compared to something posted recently.  For example, if someone posted content yesterday that got a lot of engagement and you decided to share that same content today, Facebook would prioritize the post with the highest engagement to show up on the news feed.

For recency, be sure you post everyday.  If you take a few days off from posting anything, then you will be less likely to show up in news feeds because your audience also follows pages who may post more often and therefore will have a higher chance of showing up.

So make sure that you post often and that you are getting engagement on the content you are posting.

 

  1. Users can control their news feed

While this is an option for all users, most people are unaware of this option.  Users can hide posts from friends and pages, while still remaining friends and fans of those same pages.  Users can also tell Facebook which pages they would like to see first in their news feed.

Make the assumption that most users don’t know about this option, then tell them how they can be sure to see your content first in their news feed.  Take a screen shot of your page with the instructions of “how to see us first”  Then pin it to the top of your page or make it a part of your cover photo.

FB

Companies like Facebook and Google are constantly changing how their algorithms work, so it can be a full time job staying on top of the changes and understanding what they mean for your business.  Keep up with the changes and adapt your content to meet those changes and you will see better results.

 

Teach Me Social owner Kelly Farrell has been helping empower Canadian Small Business owners through social media for over three years. Her team now offers services ranging from training sessions for small business owners and their teams, to full-service social media account management. Visit teachmesocial.ca to learn more about our service offerings or to contact us today for a no obligation consultation, including an audit of your existing social media channels.

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15 free or low cost marketing ideas for small businesses

FB Pic

1)  Communication: start up as many social media sites appropriate for your business; LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, blog site, live chat through your business website and a toll-free phone number.

2)  Business cards: leave them everywhere and hand them out to everyone!

3)  E-mail newsletters: collect e-mails and send out weekly, bi-weekly or even monthly newsletters informing customers about upcoming promotions or events.

4)  Business webpage: keep your website and social media pages up to date and fresh. Your customers need to see that you are active within your business.

5)  YouTube: create a video of your product or service, post the YouTube link of your video on all your social media accounts and on both your blog and business site.

6)  Stay connected: keep in touch with your clients by sending them a hand written thank you card and attach a coupon.

7)  Loyalty: reward your loyal customers with, for example, a 20 per cent off discount for their next purchase. Do not assume customers will keep coming back, acknowledge them and show them that you value their commitment to your business.

8)  Go old school: print out pamphlets, brochures or flyers and go door to door in your community and hand them out. You could also leave them on the windshield of cars in a full parking lot at a local mall.

9)  Get listed on directories: both Google and Bing offer free listings for local businesses.

10) Vendors: speak with the vendors from whom you buy products or services from and ask them if they know of any other businesses that could use your products or services. Also, check to see if they have a bulletin board where you can display your business card and ask to place yours up!

11) Offer to be a speaker: often volunteer organizations, industry conferences and local business groups are looking for guest speakers for their meetings. This will help you and your business gain contacts, name recognition and publicity.

12) Product or services: it does not matter what you are trying to sell, get out there, hand out sample size products and show off your work. This will help potential customers get a feel for your company and give them a chance to see what you have to offer.

13) On the go marketing: if you use a car or truck for your business ensure that your business name, logo and contact information are painted on the vehicle. For a less costly alternative use magnetic signs and place them on the vehicle.

14) Contest: run a contents through your business website or on Facebook. Ensure that the prize is desirable and that it relates to your business. Example: a coupon offering 40 per cent off a service from your business or a gift bag full of sample size products. *Note: this will also create traffic on your business website and social media sites, along with helping you gain more followers*

15) Community events: a fund raiser, festival or even a family day event, ensure you get out there and offer or donate your services/products to events within your community. This is a great way to get your brand out there and help you better connect with potential clients/customers in your area.

 

Dwania is the Founder and Executive Director of Canadian Small Business Women Contact Canadian Small Business Women:

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Website

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Creating “C.O.R.I.” Content

 

Sheralyn

Much has been written (by me, for CSBW, never mind from all those other experts!) about creating great website content and how to blog for business. Today, I would like to add to the narrative by sharing my short and simple acronym for creating meaningful content that works.  It’s “C.O.R.I.”  When writing about your business in any capacity and particularly when creating content for your website, make sure that it’s Current, Original, Relevant and Interesting.

Social Media encourages, to some degree, a tendency to “over share.” I attended a networking event recently where a person told me they shared to Facebook 7 or 8 times per day!!! I am not sure when they were getting any work done but unless you are actually in the business of Social Media, providing this as a service to clients as part of their business strategy, this is probably a little too often. It also begs the question are you sharing relevant information or just re-posting randomly? So unless you’ve hired an expert like my good friend Kelly Farrell at Teach Me Social, stick to the C.O.R.I. principle.

Your website content should always be current.  Create a schedule where you build time into your business to regularly refresh and update.  There is nothing worse than searching for something on the web and coming across a Christmas special at Easter. Your product or service may not necessarily change but you can tweak the wording, offer a seasonal special or post a blog all of which could help your rankings if a search engine like Google thinks you are posting new content.

Make sure your content is original. First and foremost if it isn’t that’s plagiarism and we all remember the consequences of that from school. Secondly, if you are posting and sharing excessively, from other sites, again your rankings could be affected because Google sees it as duplicated content. Besides, your website is about you, your product and/or your service so it SHOULD be original.

Relevancy is a big one for me. This is not so much about your website content because it is assumed if you are describing your service, the content is relevant to your business! However, when sharing information across your other social media platforms it is imperative that you share content that is related to your business. Sharing stories about cute kittens or babies sucking on a lemon is not only irrelevant but frankly, might just annoy your potential clients and see you placed on their “blocked senders” list.

Finally, when it comes to content, do your best to make sure that it is also interesting. Provide tips and tools that your potential clients can actually use.  Share a news story that is current, interesting and related to your industry. Perhaps, offer a little known “fun fact” about your product that people might not already know. Post something regularly that engages your audience without inundating them.

By creating content that is current, original, relevant and interesting you will create an audience that comes looking for you rather than you having to seek them out! Be an original. Share responsibly, not randomly.

As Owner and Principal partner of “Writing Right For You” Sheralyn is a Communications Strategist – working together with entrepreneurs to maximize profit through effective use of the written word. Looking for web content that works, blog articles that engage or communications strategies that help you get noticed?  Contact Sheralyn today. Sheralyn is also the mother of two children now entering the “terrible and terrific teens” and spends her free time volunteering for several non-profit organizations.

Sheralyn Roman B.A., B.Ed.

Writing Right For You

Communications Strategies that help you GET TO THE POINT!

416-420-9415 Cell/Business

writingrightforyou@gmail.com

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Name That Tune…

Sheralyn

I may be dating myself but years ago a show on TV called Name that Tune asked contestants to “name that tune” in as few notes as possible. What you ask is the relevance of this memory? It brings to mind that moment your eyes begin to glaze over at a networking event when someone tells you EVERYTHING you ever DIDN’T want to know about their job, position, title, company and number of years on the job. I know you know what I’m talking about and I know exactly how you can avoid it. Just follow “The Rule of Ten.”

In Name that Tune, the music was so good and the “hook” so memorable that people instantly recognized the song. That’s what you want for your business.  An introduction that is catchy and memorable – your own personal “hook.”  The Rule of Ten is my personal guideline to developing a solid, short and simple introductory sentence that succinctly describes you and your product or service. It’s derived from the “Tenplate for Success” which includes ten critical communication tips for those in business. Taking ten means taking the time to distill your business mission statement or your vision into just ten words (or less!) using catchy lingo that will draw in the audience, inviting them to have a conversation with you. Isn’t that the whole idea behind networking? You don’t want the  “glaze over,” you want to encourage and enable a conversation. For that to happen, all you need is something catchy to get the conversation started.

So – what is the Rule of Ten? It’s simple: Take your main product or service, your goal or vision for your business and distill it down to the BEST TEN WORDS that describe your service and sound enticing to potential customers. Think it can’t be done? It can. Your first attempt might rival War and Peace but I assure you, with a little effort, some fine-tuning and perhaps a hint or two courtesy of Google Thesaurus, you CAN create a ten words or less elevator pitch that gets your potential customer talking to you not running from you.

Compare “I am a freelance writer and editor providing website content, editorial, blogging and advertising services for the small business entrepreneur” vs. “I help small business succeed using words that work!” or this one: “At a loss for words? I’ll help you find them!” In the first intro perhaps all you’ve heard is the word “Writer” and immediately images of a lonely, rumpled and wild haired women in front of an ancient typewriter comes to mind.  In the second or third example however, you’ve created the possibility of a conversation between you and your prospective client.  “Really,” they might say. “How do you use just words to help business?” There’s your opening, your invitation to have a conversation with a prospective client, without any pre-conceived notions that might possibly be associated with the word “Writer.”

Tammy Elliott of The Leadership Forum in Caledon calls this finding your passion and letting it shine through in your “5 second intro.” Using this technique helps you position your passion as a value statement and your client is much more likely to connect with you if you are like-minded and have similar values. Using words like “help” implies genuine caring, enthusiasm for what you do and again, it encourages a conversation over an eye-glaze. Try it. Throw a bunch of words on a page and then start working with them. Break out the Thesaurus or Google words.  Choose the best ten, formulate your catchy sentence and then give it a try at your next networking meeting. Have fun with it and hopefully soon your customers will be singing your favorite tune!

As Owner and Principal partner of “Writing Right For You” Sheralyn is a Communications Strategist – working together with entrepreneurs to maximize profit through effective use of the written word. Looking for web content that works, blog articles that engage or communications strategies that help you get noticed?  Contact Sheralyn today. Sheralyn is also the mother of two children now entering the “terrible and terrific teens” and spends her free time volunteering for several non-profit organizations.

Sheralyn Roman B.A., B.Ed.

Writing Right For You

Communications Strategies that help you GET TO THE POINT!

416-420-9415 Cell/Business

writingrightforyou@gmail.com

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Doing What Matters – because……..

Sheralyn

It’s time for a little reality check.  This is a business blog but it’s really about the business of life.  Haven’t we all occasionally spent just a little too much time trolling the internet, facebook and LinkedIn for advice on how to live our lives, succeed in business and be happy, healthy and well- adjusted? We are locked in an inevitable search for meaning in life, for how to “add value” and how the understanding of these will provide meaning to our existence and therefore also, presumably, business success.  What we may not have done however is really figured out how to do what matters, when it matters and for whom it matters because we haven’t figured out our “because.”  The “because” is UP TO YOU and the “because” is the only thing that matters.  Whether you do what you do because you want to be successful, make money, be a great provider for your family or be recognized in your industry as a leader is, in the end, all that counts.

Doing what matters means embracing your destiny, career, business or even (if this is your choice) your decision to be a stay at home parent. Embrace this decision with full force, with no doubts, no questions, no reservations and no limitations. Let it settle in and become a part of every fibre of your being because if you don’t – it won’t. You will question your decisions, your abilities, your commitment and your competence and then your business will suffer. Quite possibly you will suffer.

It doesn’t matter what you are doing right now as long as you enjoy the doing and that you are confidant. This isn’t just a blanket suggestion to “be happy” as if life really was that simple.  No, it’s not a Law of Attraction kind of thing either.  It’s just common sense. It doesn’t need to be labeled anything other than what it is. I don’t know about you but I am tired of all the current buzzwords around being “authentic.” Buzzwords set us up for failure as we fall short of these often false and pretentious expectations.  We judge both ourselves and others by the standards of these new (and constantly changing) “realities.” The reality of our daily existence is simply that each of us has to do what we do for reasons that matter only to us. For the most part these coalesce nicely with an overall “raison d’être” that makes the world go round. In other words, by each of us doing what matters to us, enough people do enough good things to help others and to offset the people who do bad things (because unfortunately, there are people who by doing what matters to them, do bad things.)

So stop worrying about the labeling and naval gazing.  Stop reading every site you can find that will help you determine your “brand.” I don’t care what your brand is. Are you a brand? Are you a box of cereal? Seriously? We are human beings not brands and who you are as a person, as an individual, this is what matters – not who you are as a “brand.”  A simple search on Google will tell you that a “brand” is “a type of product manufactured by a particular company under a particular name” or, even better, that a brand is “an identifying mark burned on livestock or…former criminals or slaves…”* Is this what you aspire to be?

Let’s not lose sight of the fact that we are PEOPLE not an inanimate object manufactured for the express purpose of a corporation. While we may occasionally feel like a “slave” to the corporate machine, we are not.  We are reimbursed for our efforts and if you go back to my earlier point – hopefully you are doing something you love and that has meaning and purpose to you, thus negating the feeling of enslavement. This is ever more true if you have chosen the path of an entrepreneur. Be who you want to be and do what you want to do and your sincerity, drive and passion will naturally flow because it is founded in confidence and in being true to yourself. So do what matters. Do it because it’s what matters to you.

As Owner and Principal partner of “Writing Right For You” Sheralyn is a Communications Strategist – working together with entrepreneurs to maximize profit through effective use of the written word. Looking for web content that works, blog articles that engage or communications strategies that help you get noticed?  Contact Sheralyn today. Sheralyn is also the mother of two children now entering the “terrible and terrific teens” and spends her free time volunteering for several non-profit organizations.

Sheralyn Roman B.A., B.Ed.

Writing Right For You

Communications Strategies that help you GET TO THE POINT!

416-420-9415 Cell/Business

writingrightforyou@gmail.com

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The Importance of Research

Sheralyn

The importance of, and the reliance upon, good, old-fashioned research should never be underestimated.  Whether we grew up using the Dewey Decimal system and Encyclopedia Britannica or more recently, rely on “Dr. Google” and “Wikipedia” – the simple fact is, research can support your thesis, or give your website credibility and it fosters the viability of your business.  So whether you are creating a website, starting a new business, contributing to a magazine article or blog – make sure you do your research and always site your sources. It might sound kind of obvious but fewer and fewer people seem to be doing it these days.

In starting a new business venture research is critical. You are going to want to complete a market analysis, scout locations, survey your potential customer base and thoroughly investigate financing options.  Each of these steps requires research and further, requires you to produce written documentation that you can present to potential backers, even if that backer is your spouse or mother in law. Reliance upon cold, hard facts with supporting documentation is what’s needed when considering investing in business so the research step is important. Ensuring the use of credible sources while on your fact finding mission is also paramount.

When it comes to websites, often this is the first place your customer finds you. Websites with lots of “jazz, pizzazz and razzmatazz” will only take you so far if the product or service you are selling is represented inaccurately.  With websites, not only are you seeking accuracy in the description of your product or service, you also must ensure that whomever designs your site has also spent time researching SEO keywords for your industry, knows and understands the function of font and colour scheme to best attract the type of customer you seek and can provide you with information on where your website is likely to place in Google rankings. You better darn well hope they have also done their due diligence when it comes to logo design and other potentially proprietary information. I write website content for clients and a significant amount of my time should be spent on conducting research to ensure accuracy, avoid duplication and create content that both resonates and ranks.

If you are looking to drive traffic to your website and/or just have an interest in writing once again, whether blogging or submitting articles for publication, research to clarify content and guarantee accuracy is not just important but ethical too.  From a legal standpoint you want to be sure your claims about products are defensible and true and if you are writing about a person, quoting facts is the only feasible option. Writing an article or blog that compares two types of services, (perhaps comparing Naturopathic and Western medicine for example) requires extensive due diligence on the part of the author and research, verifying the accuracy of sources and interviewing key people in the field is what you MUST do. Too many irresponsible people with easy access to the Internet are presenting what amount to opinion pieces that have no solid foundation in fact.  Blogging for business is not the time to share your opinions.

It is incumbent upon us to be sure that whether we are offering information or searching for it, we take the time to verify its accuracy. If you are responsible for content, make sure it is well researched, accurate and sourced appropriately. If you are looking for information apply the same due diligence to your search.  Look for the source, is it credible? Apply the scientific principle – is it replicable? You probably want to place a higher degree of reliability upon a medical site hosted by the Mayo Clinic than one hosted by Facebook, curated by “Tom” and called “Free guide to pain free Home Dentistry!”   This might all seem like common sense but the unfortunate fact is common sense appears harder and harder to come by.  Our reliance upon the web to present factual and credible information and to discern fact from fiction has taken the place of the old-fashioned legwork that used to be involved in going to library, hauling out books and comparing their content or searching through microfiche for factual references in newspapers. I know I’m dating myself and I am not a Luddite “anti-internet” gal by any means. It’s pretty darn convenient. Just don’t forget that the old principles: research, accuracy, credibility, source citing….still apply!

As Owner and Principal partner of “Writing Right For You” Sheralyn is a Communications Strategist – working together with entrepreneurs to maximize profit through effective use of the written word. Looking for web content that works, blog articles that engage or communications strategies that help you get noticed?  Contact Sheralyn today. Sheralyn is also the mother of two children now entering the “terrible and terrific teens” and spends her free time volunteering for several non-profit organizations.

Sheralyn Roman B.A., B.Ed.

Writing Right For You

Communications Strategies that help you GET TO THE POINT!

416-420-9415 Cell/Business

writingrightforyou@gmail.com

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Why you should not download a legal template from the Internet

Karima

As a Canadian entrepreneur and small business owner, chances are you’ve downloaded, at least once, a legal document from the Internet. Whether for an employment contract, a partnership agreement, a finder’s fee, a non-disclosure agreement, a final invoice letter or a general agreement, you’ve probably turned to the Internet in the hope that a free template would help you cut costs. After all, the terminology looks complex enough, so we may think the document will be good to use.

Here enters Randy Ai, an employment lawyer I met through my professional networking group. A couple of weeks later, we sat down to learn more about each other and our businesses. While we chatted – him about employment law and me about how social media can help businesses establish their online presence and grow – it became clear to me that we had great synergies. Most entrepreneurs and small business owners are always looking for ways to sustain our business while keeping costs down and stay profitable. The Internet and Google is where most of us turn for responses to our questions and for free documents. One of the topics Randy Ai and I tackled was how entrepreneurs and small businesses download legal templates from the Internet, and the cases he frequently sees in his practice. The conclusion is, “don’t cheap out on legal by downloading templates from the Internet”, and here is why.

The legal document you are downloading from the Internet contains irrelevant or too much information. Chances are that the template you found on the Internet is not customized to your business and situation. In addition, most templates are American or have an American focus, so they likely won’t be valid in Canada. The document may contain a high volume of extra noise that does not apply to your business situation and just adds irrelevant information. Unless you are legally trained, you don’t know how to separate the “junk” and the part of the contract that applies. As an example, the notion of Employment at will exists in most employment contract templates you’ll find online, but as this is an American concept, it can’t be enforced in Canada. Thus, you are exposing yourself and your business to liability and in case of dispute, you will have to hire a lawyer because part of the contract is invalid.

The legal document you are downloading from the Internet is missing key clauses. When you’re using a template off the Internet, these documents are not customized for your situation, as we’ve established. That means it puts you and your business at risk of liability. In case of a dispute, this sort of template is not tailored to your needs and you might as well have no agreement. Having missing information is as bad as having too little information or inadequate clauses that don’t protect you. When you are a business owner entering into a legally binding relationship with someone else, you need a solid contract that will take into account the types of issues that may take place.

The legal document you are using is easily attacked. A template downloaded from the Internet easily falls apart, since it was not drafted specifically for you and your business. A defense lawyer could easily attack the integrity of the document and compromise its validity in court. Furthermore, as the law changes frequently, a contract is not a static document. Thus, the downloaded template you’re using may be obsolete and no longer applicable. In addition, the wording alone can make your document unenforceable and easily attackable in case of a dispute. The judge can look at your document and decide it does not make sense. By using one of these documents, you’re exposing yourself to liability.

Now that I’ve explained why using a legal document from the Internet is useless at best and, at worse, dangerous for you and your business, there a few ways you can protect yourself and what you’re working so hard for:

1 – Legal fees are typically seen as a cost instead of an investment. Spending two to three hours with a lawyer can prevent you from being sued, being dragged to court or simply having to settle and pay someone large amounts of money. If you can’t afford to hire a lawyer, you still may seek some legal advice through Legal Aid or through the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Lawyer Referral Service.

2 – If you still decide to download the template, we advise you to send it to a lawyer for review. This may cut down on costs. The industry standard is that entrepreneurs and small business owners should spend 5 to 8 percent of their initial capital on legal fees. As Randy Ai says, “If you’re not going to spend any money towards setting up your business, you are not doing your job as an entrepreneur.”

3 – Another reason to seek legal advice is that it brings credibility to your business and sends a strong signal to your ecosystem that you are serious about your success.

As an entrepreneur, I am aware that setting up a business requires lots of hard work and dedication. But there are areas where you can’t cut corners. Randy emphasized that legal advice is one of the cornerstones to setting up a successful and sustainable business. For any legal advice related to employment law, connect with Randy Ai by email (Randy@Randyai.com) or by telephone (416-716-2256).

Karima-Catherine is the co-founder of Red Dot Digital, a digital agency that strives to deliver top-notch solutions to various clients.  Red Dot Digital drives real, meaningful, quantifiable business outcomes for companies. Karima-Catherine is also the co-moderator of #MMchat, a Twitter weekly forum which focuses on business, marketing and social media.  

Connect with Karima-Catherine:

karima@reddotdigital.net

Website, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest

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SEO: Getting Found by Search Engines

SEOsweetspot

 

In the fourth post in this series, I described social strategy: which social platforms you may want to prioritise for your business, depending on your conversion funnel.  Over the next 2 months of this series, we’ll finish fleshing out the remaining pieces of the content strategy puzzle, and this month we’ll tackle a murky and mysterious area: search engine optimisation.

There are 6 basic ways to get your business found online, and while each one is important and some of them are closely connected, how you prioritize them and which one(s) you focus your time and money on depends on the way your target users are seeking your type of product or service, and the value of a conversion for your business.

 

The Six Basic Ways to Get Found

1) Directory Listings

2) Advertising (I’m referring to Google Adwords or Google display ads)

3) Having a Social Media Presence (covered in post 4)

4) Inbound Links

5) Content Marketing

6) Organic SEO or search engine optimisation

Organic SEO encompasses all of the other tactics to a greater or lesser degree, so it will be our focus for this article.  And organic SEO is almost synonymous with, or at least shares many tactics of, content strategy itself.  In fact, one of the primary reasons to have a good content strategy is so that your digital business will get found, because the bottom line is without content, you will not get found.

The intersection of organic SEO, content strategy, and usability or user experience design is a sweet spot where you will get found, get customers, and make money.  We’re going to talk a lot about the keyword aspect of organic search engine optimization because it is a great way to focus in on the words and phrases that will best target your users and help them to find you. Getting found using organic SEO is all about search engines like Google, so it’s worthwhile to describe very briefly how Google works.

 

How does google work?

Google’s mission statement is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.  In order to do this, they have what are called Search Spiders: these are little bits of computer code that “crawl” the Internet, scanning pages as they go.

Google has an algorithm that then ranks each and every page; giving it what Google calls “page rank”.  Page Rank is based on multiple factors that only Google really knows, but they are things like:

  • Does this read like real content or does it sound false or fake?
  • Are there certain words that are used enough times (2-7% of the time) so that we, the robotic spiders, can guess what this page is about?
  • Does anyone else on the Internet, especially sources that have a good page rank and therefore good reputation, link to this page?
  • Does this page load quickly?

Then, when a user searches for, say, “Content Strategy”, Google’s algorithm looks for all the pages that it ranked as top quality for the words “Content Strategy”, and it serves them up on the Search Engine Results Page or SERP.

The goal of getting found online is ultimately to be there on the first page of Google’s search results when people are searching for the kind of product or service you offer.  Very few people will ever look on the second page of Google, and in fact, very few people will ever venture beyond the first 3 results served.

 

Keyword Optimisation: the basics

To drive traffic and develop a relationship of trust with your customers, you really must create relevant, helpful content.  But optimising that content for keywords is an important and useful practice, because it will increase your visibility in search and it will also help you focus your content.  What this means is that you need to choose a word or short phrase that represents what you believe your target users might be typing into Google’s search box when they are searching for your product or service.  You need to imagine what words THEY would use.  Then, you need to make sure that those words comprise 2-7% of the text on the page you are optimising.  Every page on your website should be optimised for one keyword (or keyword phrase); this keyword should appear in the URL for the page, the page title, in the body copy of the page, even in any image descriptions on the page.

There are lots of simple places to look to figure out what keywords you might use to focus on in your blog posts, landing pages, and product pages.

Look on competitor websites and see what kinds of words they are using to describe products and services similar to yours

Listen to your customers: what words do they use to describe their problems, their solutions, and their needs?

Type your ideas into Google and see what alternatives appear as you type

Look at the bottom of the SERP or search engine results page; you will see further variations there

Each page should also have 4-6 secondary keyword variations, so as you are doing this research, try to group keywords and phrases and their close variations together on a spreadsheet so you have lots of options when it comes time to write your blog posts, landing pages, or other site copy, and try to include location as keywords if your product or service is local.  Imagine your website as a series of landing pages: every product page, every post, should be created and written with keywords in mind.

Keyword optimisation is something you should do on your website even if you are not blogging!

 

Inbound links

When we talk about inbound links, it’s really important to distinguish these links from the links that you might put on your website, between pages or linking out to other websites.  When we say inbound links we’re not talking about the links ON your pages, we’re talking about the links TO your pages, FROM other websites

Inbound links are as important as keyword optimisation as far as helping your pages to rank well for Google.  They are especially important if your conversion funnel is more weighted towards passive discovery rather than active discovery and they are critically important if your service is consultation, thought leadership, expertise, or education.

The easiest way to get inbound links is to submit your site to directories; while some directories cost money and therefore give you what is called a “no follow” link, they are still really important if you are a very active discovery type of business or to build your credibility as might be the case, for example, with being listed by your community’s Better Business Bureau.

However, if you are more of a passive discovery business where customers require multiple touch points before they make a buying decision, you need to use content to generate trust and develop the relationship, much in the way a traditional salesperson might do.  This is where Content Marketing in the form of blogging, white papers, report, eBooks, videos, or info graphics can serve double duty.  They can be keyword optimised to drive organic search traffic, but they also provide you with key pieces of content that can be leveraged to obtain inbound links from Influencers.

Influencer ‘Backlinks’

What is the ecosystem surrounding your product or service, the community?  Who in that ecosystem influences your customers’ buying decisions?  Making contact with these bloggers or businesses online and making them aware of content you might have that might interest their users is a great way to develop a mutually beneficial relationship with them, one in which they might link to your valuable content, giving you a valuable inbound link or ‘backlink’, and you will have access to their audience and may drive some of that traffic to your site.

 

Advertising

Google adwords can be an extremely inexpensive way to catapult your website onto the front page of Google in the form of an ad.  Paying for advertising will not improve your website’s organic search ranking, but it will help you get your brand in front of consumers while you build your content marketing bench strength, and it is an excellent research tool, enabling you to really finesse your keywords and see very clearly what words to drive traffic and conversions.  You need to figure out the balance between advertising spend, which can be very low, and organic spend.  To do a good adwords campaign, you need continuity between your keywords, ads, and landing pages, so there is no way around having good, focused content on your website, but sometimes one really good ad & landing page can drive more traffic than a whole bunch of blog posts, so it can be a good idea to advertise early in your content marking lifecycle so you can drive immediate traffic while you build you bank of landing pages.

While there are no hard and fast rules, the 70/10/10/10 rule outlined in this chart can help you to prioritise your efforts:

MyFindabilityTacticsMatrix

On this chart, I’m assuming that active discovery means your users need very few touch points with your brand before they buy, whereas passive discovery means they need more touch points  before they buy.  If you need a refresher on active vs. passive discovery, have another read of last month’s post in this series.  You can use the chart above to prioritise you SEO efforts behind specific tactics that will make the biggest difference, the most efficiently.

 

What we haven’t covered

This series is about content strategy, but when it comes to very thorough SEO, there are issues that impact on your ability to get found that are more technical in nature.  The easiest and most important one to address is the speed of your webiste.  Your pages should never take more than a couple of seconds to load.  The bottom line for SEO is that if your site is reasonably fast and you have authentic, focused content, you have a great base on which to build your SEO.

Next month, the last in this series, we’ll cover Content itself: what are the options in how you can most effectively and inexpensively generate the kind of content marketing that will move your digital business into the spotlight.

For more resources and information on Content Strategy and to download a detailed description of what content strategy entails, go to analyticalengine.ca/resources or download a Content Strategy Info graphic at http://bit.ly/1qY9tYp.

Christine McGlade is a Business Analyst, Content Strategist, and Usability Consultant.  With over 25 years experience in the media business, Christine helps small business, social enterprise, and Not for Profits how to leverage the power of the Internet to grow their business.  Learn more about Christine at analyticalengine.ca

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Social Strategy SOS

SocialStrategy

In the third post in this series, I discussed why you need to consider your customers as “users” and how you go about creating a User Persona to help you target your Content Strategy to your ideal users. Over the next 3 weeks of this series, we’ll finish fleshing out the remaining pieces of the content strategy puzzle, and this week we’ll tackle what is possibly the most perplexing and time consuming part of your digital business: your Social Media Strategy.

Do I really HAVE to have a social media strategy?

Social strategy is complex: there are so many social networks, and sometimes it feels like there is a new one every day.  How does a business owner know which ones to pay attention to, and which ones to ignore?  Engaging in Social Media can be extremely time consuming with little visible return on investment: It can be difficult to clearly see how a social media strategy can help your business.

But social media can also be a virtual goldmine of new customers.  It can be a way that you can develop a relationship of trust with your customers, engage in customer service activities, and even recruit new employees. Social media is here to stay and it is an essential part of every business owner’s sales, marketing, and business development toolkit.   A smart, targeted social strategy can deliver brand awareness, new customers, and even conversions, but it is important to understand why you’re doing it and what exactly you should do, and this is unique to each and every business.

Conversion has changed – forever.

Think about how your customers convert nowadays.  It used to be that customers would become aware of your brand or product through a limited number of expensive and highly controlled channels: perhaps through a television, radio, or newspaper ad, or perhaps through word of mouth.  Their decision to buy was made primarily at point of purchase, that is, when they saw your product on the shelf in the store: the “first moment of truth”, as it was called in the traditional marketing model.

Google has recently described a new model that very accurately captures the new way consumers become aware of, and make decisions to purchase, products and services today, and they call it the Zero Moment of Truth.  The Zero Moment of Truth is all about digital discovery: the extensive searching, recommendation reading, and consulting with Facebook friends that we now engage in before making a purchasing decision.  For products and services big and small, we rarely convert until we have had at least 7 and sometimes as many as 17 digital “impressions” or touch points with a brand.

ZMOTequation

This Zero Moment of Truth is perhaps the most compelling reason that each and every brand, every business selling every product or service, needs to ensure that when the consumer is engaging in this foraging behaviour, that they are there, building trust and clocking impressions that may lead to conversion.  These impressions come from your business website and your social media activities, especially what people are saying with you and about you in social media.

There may be a small segment of the population that doesn’t use social media, but this is a rapidly shrinking segment.  The fastest growing segment of social users is adults 45-54, and more and more seniors come online every day.  In many ways, Social Media IS the Internet, and the Internet IS Social Media.  It’s difficult today to grow your business without a strategy that covers how, for whom, and how often you will engage your customers in the two-way conversation that Social media has to offer as a marketing tool.

So Many Platforms, So Little Time.

Scheduling tools like Hootsuite make it easy to track and control the frequency of your social media communications, and they make it easy to post the same content simultaneously to multiple social platforms.  But while it may be tempting to try and broadcast your messages to multiple platforms at once, it is rarely a good idea.  In his book “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook”, Gary Vaynerchuck makes a strong argument that business owners should heed: not all social platforms are created equal.  The kind of storytelling that works really well on Facebook for a particular user will not work on Twitter, or Linked, In, or Pinterest, or….

Knowing which platforms to prioritise is perhaps the most difficult part of your social strategy but also the most critical.  You stand to lose a lot of precious time if you prioritise a platform that really doesn’t work for your business, and you can even erode or undermine your brand if you post something clearly inappropriate for that platform: so how does a savvy business owner choose?

There are three factors to consider:

1) What are the various social platforms “good at”?

2) Which of the social platforms do your users tend towards?

2) What is the nature of your business conversion funnel?

1) A Brief Primer on Social Media

There is much crossover between the various major social media platforms: all of them are, of course, social, meaning they are about engaging in a dialogue with others.  But because each one operates in a slightly different way with different rules of engagement, they require different kinds of Storytelling.

Twitter

  • Has over 230 million monthly active users
  • Twitter followers are 60% more likely to recommend you than a Facebook Liker
  • The average age of a Twitter user is much higher than Facebook, at 39 years
  • 70% of Twitter users expect to hear back from a brand, and 53% want that response within the hour
  • Twitter is good for establishing thought leadership, expertise, for sharing news, and for customer service and customer relationship management

Facebook

  • Facebook is the largest social platform in the world: if it were a country it would the third most populated, after only China and India
  • Facebook does have an influence on purchasing behaviour, even if not a direct one. Your Facebook fans are more likely to convert than non-fans.
  • Facebook is great for visibility in social search
  • Facebook is getting into the retail game with Facebook shops if you are selling a product
  • The new killer app on Facebook is the short video

YouTube

  • Has moved from being primarily a video search engine to a powerful social platform where many brands have been born and built. Khan academy, for example, and Justin Bieber.
  • Web videos are a great way to reach out to new and current customers and generate inbound links to your website
  • Because it is owned by Google, embedding YouTube videos on your website gives those pages a double-boost in Search Engine Optimisation

Google Plus

  • Great for local businesses, reviews, and Google search “juice”
  • Ties your business address into a Google Map and ties into other Google services

Linked In

  • The largest professional network, you must have a personal page on LinkedIn; it is far more common to connect with business contacts on LinkedIn than to keep a Rolodex or stack of business cards or emails.
  • Linked in generates 200% more leads than the other social networks

Pinterest

  • The fastest growing as of December 2012
  • Pinterest is very visual, about ‘things’, items they find interesting, but it works even for small businesses that aren’t visually stimulating.
  • Pinterest is good for referral traffic because the source of the pin is a link to your site, especially images you might be posting in your blogs. Even if you don’t maintain a page or presence on Pinterest, installing a “pin it” button on your website pages is a good idea

2) Where Are Your Users Hanging Out?

The short answer is, everywhere.  But you have to narrow that down a little to come up with a feasible strategy.  It’s important to note here that there are multiple social platforms not listed above, many of them attracting niche audiences where you might find a treasure trove of users interested in exactly what you have to offer.  This article outlines 60 niche social networks and it is worth doing a bit of digging to see if any of them resonate with your business goals.  Another tool that you can use is socialmention.com; social mention searches blogs and social networks for topics or brand mentions and can be a good way of finding out where conversations are taking place that align with the kinds of conversations you want to be having with your customers.  And social crawlytics at socialcrawlytics.com can be very insightful, generating a report that will tell you which pages of your website have been shared in social media, where they have been shared, and even by who.

3) What is the Nature of Your Conversion Funnel?

Typically, the more expensive the product or service, the more touch points the consumer will require before purchasing.  What are you selling, and how many touch point’s do you think your customers need before they buy?

Is your product or service more suited to an active discovery process or a passive discovery process?  For example, if I need an emergency plumbing repair I tend to engage in some very active discovery to find one.  I search Google and will probably call the first few service providers I see.  Social Media is better at passive discovery, at marketing products, services, and ideas that consumers don’t need right away or in an emergency.

Do you have a lot of competitors, so will need more touch points or more visibility in the market, or very few competitors?  Are you in the B2B or B2C market?

How much customer service does your product or service require?  And how much brand awareness do you already have in the market?
SocialStrategySOSWorksheetImage

Document the answers to these questions on this worksheet; by indicating on the sliders in the worksheet where your business lands on these various conversion factors will give you some pointers towards which platforms you might want to prioritise as well as the frequency of posting you might want to consider.  Note that the worksheet is more art than science and is intended only as a starting point: they only way to really get good at social media is by doing it, so start small, perhaps with your LinkedIn page, and build slowly using the worksheet as a guide.

The biggest question the Content Strategist has to answer is “Do I need a website AND a Social Strategy”?  The answer is yes, for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is the findability of your content in Search.  Next month, we’ll cover Search Engine Optimisation and Influencer Marketing, the two biggest ways you can make your website work for your business.

For more resources and information on Content Strategy and to download a detailed description of what content strategy entails, go to analyticalengine.ca/resources or download a Content Strategy Info graphic at http://bit.ly/1qY9tYp.

Christine McGlade is a Business Analyst, Content Strategist, and Usability Consultant.  With over 25 years experience in the media business, Christine helps small business, social enterprise, and Not for Profits how to leverage the power of the Internet to grow their business.  Learn more about Christine at analyticalengine.ca

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