Archives for business

5 Rules You Should Break When Blogging for Business

Blog with stars shooting off the word BlogA common question entrepreneurs ask is, “Should I blog?” If you have a business, it’s worth your while to do so.  Why? Consider this: “Companies that blog generate 55 percent more visitor traffic.” So say the authors of From Prospect to Evangelist – Optimizing Relationships with Social Media, a free e-book by HubSpot (a company that creates software and gives out marketing information for businesses).  Producing great content, drawing attention through relevant keywords and attracting a community of followers through important topics are all ways to generate traffic. And this traffic can then be diverted to your website and your business.

You may be just starting out, or a veteran blogger, but if you’re overwhelmed and confused by all the “shoulds” out there, here are 5 rules you should be breaking when it comes to blogging for your business:

1. Blog only what you know. They say the same thing about writing. But there’s a big flaw in this. You’re not just limiting what you can write, but your potential for learning as well. Sure, write about what you know, but also leave space for topics you are not familiar with. Do the research and you will eventually increase your expertise in other areas of your professional life. You don’t need years of experience in a subject to write about it. You need passion, good research skills and interest in the topic.

2. Pretend everything is okay. It’s all too tempting to create a perfect persona online. But perfection can create boredom in blogging and an inauthentic representation of your work. Say, for example, you made a mistake in a blog post. You may have quoted the wrong person, added the wrong link, misspelled a word. If your readers and potential customers are commenting about it and you don’t acknowledge your mistake, that’s an elephant in the virtual room. It puts distance between you and your future customers. To be successful in business you need to create trust. Be honest and show them you’re not perfect. Present yourself as human and you will establish better relationships with your prospects and customers.

3. All your posts must be planned. It’s great to have a row of posts lined up when you go on vacation or in case you get sick. Consistency is key to getting an established set of readers to your blog. But to be successful you don’t always have to have your posts planned. Say you’ve got a great new product you want to share with your customers or a marketing strategy you’ve just learned. Spontaneous posts keep your readers on their toes. They’ll never know when something new or exciting may show up on your blog and they will keep coming back for more.

4. Your posts should not be too short, nor too long. I think breaking up your blog with short and long posts makes for an interesting read. There is no specific word count that will make your blog more popular than others. It is the content, not the length that will draw readers. Remember that the next time you want to post a 300-word post and feel the need to double it before it’s published. For more information, read Problogger’s take on post length

5. To have a successful blog, you must continuously plug your business. We all know you’re blogging to grow your business. But writing your latest press release or touting your product in every post will scare away your readers and potential customers faster than the plague. The most important thing you can do when blogging for your business is to create a community of readers. This means welcoming and answering comments, visiting other blogs, commenting on their posts, creating an email signature with your website and putting your blog on your business card. You want to do everything to garner potential readers to your site and create interesting, engaging posts to keep them there.

These are just a handful of rule-breaking tips. Do you have your own? Share them in the comments below.

Brandi-Ann Uyemura is a professional freelance writer. Not only does she write for other people, but she writes for herself as well.  She maintains two blogs. One is for writers and taking your writing to the next level. The other is a blog that is designed to inspire.  Her background in English and Psychology give Brandi a great voice, inspiring others to write, and giving insight into the world of writers.

Read her self-titled blog: Brandi Ann Uyemura: Guide from a conscious writer

Read: The Inspiring Bee

Follow her on Twitter @2inspired

Mom and Pop are Back?

Thanks to the eCommerce and social media, mom-and-pop businesses can compete effectively alongside multinational corporations on equal footing. Smaller, more agile companies may even have the advantage in some cases. In fact, users may not be able to tell if a site they visit is run by a guy in a hut or a board of directors in an office tower. Customers who use websites to conduct their business, however, often find that small businesses offer them the personal service and attention to detail they thought was no longer available.

With point-and-click website-building software and other advances on the side of the little guy, ecommerce sites built by small organizations look professional and include many of the same design elements as those that were once available only to companies with massive information technology budgets.  The Internet serves as a leveler, putting small businesses on par with big companies. In some industries, upstarts achieve great success.

Consider these two examples

In the case of bookselling, being a decades-old corporation may not have any advantages at all. The Borders chain of retail stores closed its doors after no buyer could be found to take over the failing company. Meanwhile, Amazon has grown into a bookselling powerhouse by using a web-only model and embracing changes in the industry like the move to ebooks. It should be noted that Borders accidentally positioned its online store against its retail outlets in a “perfect storm” of bad planning.  In addition to the advent of the ebook, Half-Price Books has dominated the publishing spectrum by droning out the best-sellers at 40% of what Borders was charging.

Amazon’s forward-looking model allowed the company to persevere through the economic downturn of recent years while the less flexible business model at Borders is part of the reason the chain failed.  This is obvious of course, given that Amazon has NO retail stores and relies primarily on eCommerce and social media.  As Borders closes its final doors, Amazon sits strong with a $195.93 stock price and continuous growth on its horizon.

The success of Amazon and failure of Borders also proves that customers do not necessarily want to shop in person when transactions can be completed easily on the web.  From this author’s experience, most the time spent in Borders was to browse the new titles and then order them from Amazon given the retail price was about 50% more.  It would have seemed that Borders might have picked up on this and established a cover charge.

On the opposite side of the product spectrum, smaller companies like Blue Sun Properties are proving that customers reward well-built, easy-to-navigate websites with their business.  A user can go through this site and shop for Panama City Beach condos from their own home, whether that is in Ohio or Washington State.  Family attractions surrounding that area such as Shipwreck Water Park and Barnacle Bay only add value to the experience; given the site itself is geared toward families.  This convenience is in direct competition with the resort cities of Destin and Cancun, who offer the “all-inclusive” rates and packages.  With eCommerce, this organization can match itself against such giants while emphasizing its message.

Whether buying a book or booking a vacation condo, customers are proving they prefer to work with companies that offer simple online shopping experiences, whether the companies behind those experiences are large or small.  As a result, the days of the Mom-and-Pop shop may be on the rise.

Superhero Summits! …coming to Albuquerque

Superhero Summit LogoThe Superhero Summits are flying into Albuquerque! This is a business summit being held by Laura Petrolino from one of my favorite blogs, 365 Days of Startups, and Nicole Fende, blogger of the Small Business Finance Forum and of such great and funny blogs like the “Bright Shiny Object Syndrome“.

The summit is coming to Albuquerque on September 21-22 at the Hotel Andaluz! SM Cubed is sponsoring the summit and we are very excited to help bring in such a great business summit that will help teach people how to launch and boost your small business.

The Superhero Business Summits is a two day, intensive executive training programs that will arm you with the tools needed to develop and run an efficient and successful business. You will learn tools that will help you conquer the challenges that so often run businesses into the ground and arm you with the knowledge to rise above your competition and boost your business to the next level of success.

Beyond being a sponsor, I will also be delivering the keynote address. So if you ever wanted a time to be able to pick my brain about social media, this is a great opportunity!

Click here to register for this amazing event!

Top 10 things America’s Next Top Model can teach us about Social Media Success!

Tyra Banks, ANTM

Top 10 things America’s Next Top Model can teach us about Social Media Success!

  1. Be Fierce! (Tyra)

    To be top you have to be confident. You have to be strong. You have to have a presence. To set yourself apart in social media you need to have a unique voice. Be yourself. Be the best. Be unique. Be Fierce!

  2. Smize- Smile with your eyes.  (Tyra)

    Did someone make you angry?  Do you have troll on your blog or in your Twitter stream?  Don’t respond with emotion because it will come off aggressive and mean. Check your emotion a the curb. Even when you are fierce you can still be friendly.

  3. Model from your head to your tippy toes! (Tyra)

    Commit! Don’t do anything half way. Don’t let the details fall away. If you are going to do it, then do it all the way! Many people wonder why their Facebook or Twitter is not pulling int he traffic or engagement they expected. More than half the time it is due to inconsistency. You have to commit to a schedule, and one that meets the needs of the platform not your needs. Twitter is a daily activity. Actually it is a multiple times a day activity. If you cannot get on and tweet with people at least once or twice a day, then don’t do it.

  4. Perfect is boring, human is beautiful. (Tyra)

    Being perfect is not interesting.  Write as yourself. Tweet as yourself.  Don’t be afraid to mess up or put your foot in your mouth. It allows people to relate to you. It makes you accessible. Mistakes will open up more conversation than perfection.

  5. Never dull your shine for someone else. (Tyra)

    Always be who you are.  If you are a shooting star then let your star shine! It is hard when you are going on your own and start to find success. You have been working hard and deserve it. But that doesn’t mean that other people will not be envious or view your success as “overnight” or undeserved. Be proud of what you have accomplished. Never let your success be dulled by someone who is not as successful. Let them find inspiration with you.

  6. You have to be strong and confident everyday, because everyday is a challenge. (Natasha Ivanova, model contestant)

    Everyday is something new.  We all have days when we feel less than 100%. I have had many days where I feel defeated or just simply uninspired. Pull yourself up by the bootstraps and approach the day with confidence.

  7. Walk like it’s for sale and the rent is due tonight. (J. Alexander)

    Every day is a sale.  Every day is an opportunity to do business. Make sure that you pursue every opportunity with vigor, like your life depends on it. That is how you find success!

  8. YOU can’t cry because WE don’t have time to fix your makeup (Jay Manuel)

    We all take hits. Business deals gone bad. Blogs poorly received. Tweets misunderstood.  Don’t wallow in your mistakes. Don’t let fear get the best of you. We all make them, but if you want to be successful you cannot waste time focusing on mistakes.  Accept them, learn from them, put your fear behind you and keep moving forward.

  9. If you feel it, you will be it! (Tyra)

    Feel like the successful person you are trying to be and you will become that person.  If you feel like a failure, you will become a failure. Make sure your energy is focused on realizing your dreams, not defeating your dreams. This will affect the way you approach your business, your clients and your whole life. Make sure you manifest the positive.

  10. I was never a courtesan in a renaissance castle! But for that day I was. (Tyra)

    Essentially fake it till you make it! Someone might ask you to be something or someone, or do something that is not you. It might not be in your normal skill sets, but that does not mean you cannot do it. Just because you are not comfortable does not mean you can’t do a good job. Often times working outside our comfort zone is the best way to grow. We learn the most and learn about what we can do. It is scary at first, but it will build confidence in your abilities to take on new challenges. Commit to the role you are filling, even if it is outside your comfort zone.

    ….and one to grow on:

  11. Do you want to be on top?

    Do you have the drive? the commitment? the perseverance? Do you have what it takes to make it to the top? I bet you do!

Modern Mad Men: What’s in your Media Cocktail?

Mix. Layer. Repeat.

Our culture has a love-hate affair with advertising. What was once an art reserved exclusively for the Ad Men of Madison Avenue (you’ve heard of Mad Men?) has deteriorated over the years, as savvy consumers get harder to reach. It’s an embarrassing cat-and-mouse game now, as customers dodge behind pop-up blockers, DVR and no-call lists. Various brands shamelessly persist, seeking to interrupt us at the exact moment when we might pause long enough to be engaged or entertained by their message.

So where does the love part come in? The reality is that if it didn’t work, advertising would not persist. Consumers don’t realize it, but our habits indicate that on some unconscious level we’ve accepted advertising as a part of our culture. Mad Men is one of the highest rated shows on television, Super Bowl ads are almost as highly anticipated as the game, and Twitter allows us to follow our favorite celebrity brands who are likely tweeting about their favorite brands.

Mad Men

Your marketing strategy: like modern day Mad Men?

That’s the consumer side of the picture, and in real life we consumers are often business people who need to advance our businesses. Whether we need to sell more products or services, every business on the planet needs to get the word out to someone, about something. Is advertising the best way to do that? If you think of it as a paid vehicle through which you promote your message, then yes, you could probably benefit from some form of advertising.

If you’ve committed to telling someone about the something you are selling – product or service, B2B or B2C – then it’s time to talk about your mix. It used to be that when the Mad Men would talk about your media mix, they meant that you could complement your television advertising with radio advertising (insert nostalgic chuckle here) Oh, the simple days …

Today your mix must be strategic, dynamic and appropriate to your audience. Think about your marketing plan as a layering of messages that complement micro- and macro-targeted approaches. Here’s a look at a few of the myriad options, starting from the most wide-reaching media vehicles and narrowing down to laser focused opportunities:

Radio and Television

  • Overview: This is the big-picture nuclear bomb approach to advertising. Cast the broadest possible net!
  • Best for: Setting the tone of a campaign – creating the perception that your topic, product or company is part of a larger dialogue. This is a medium for overarching brand messages. With this you can plant the seed of an idea, but it may not be best for a call to action.
  • Optimization Examples: Nationally you can buy broadcast stations like NBC, or Radio mega networks like Clear Channel. Unless you are a big company like McDonalds though, you may be better off looking at cable and satellite networks, or keeping your buy strictly local for refined targeting to your key audiences.
  • Warning: Unless you can shell out for high-quality production and high-ticket time, step away from this medium as an option. You will only sully your brand with poor quality production, and your saturation needs to be adequate as well. Repetition gets results.


  • Overview: Print is the old war horse, and getting a bad rap for lacking effectiveness and ROI.
  • Best For: Bolstering messages as part of a larger campaign. Use to promote specific events or sales, or relate your product or service to a specific issue being talked about in the publication.
  • Optimization Examples: Select a targeted print option. If you are a CPA, the business section in your local paper is a good spot. If you are an interior design company, look for the local home magazine. You can get even more granular and find target industry association publications which can be a very cost effective means of reaching just the right people.
  • Warnings: Your advertisement is just wallpaper unless you make it stand out. In newspaper, go with color; in a magazine go with a full-page full-color. Always ask for premium placements – back cover, inside front cover or better still, get an editorial calendar and ask for placement next to relevant editorial copy.

Outdoor & Transit

  • Overview: This is more of the grenade approach. Big coverage in small localized areas.
  • Best For: Reaching consumers in their everyday lives. Soccer mom on the way to practice, lawyer on his commute to work. This can be a good call-to-action medium, and is generally very cost effective.
  • Optimization Examples: A media agency can give you specific data on the customer segments that drive past a particular billboard, and you can geo-target bus routes by zip codes and demographic areas.
  • Warnings: What are we thinking about in our cars? All kinds of things! Make the message relevant, eye catching and briefer than your think it should be. As I whiz past your billboard at 75 miles an hour am I going to make a decision about the printing company I use at work? Not likely. Am I going to think about my car insurance? Possibly … if you get my attention fast enough!

Alternative Media

  • Overview: This category could be a blog post unto itself, as I am lumping in all kinds of wonderfully targeted options here. Find a great media buyer, and learn about the possibilities that await with options like:
    • Closed circuit television in airports and airplanes
    • Elevator advertising
    • Parking lot advertising
    • Bathroom stall advertising (if you sell feminine products or birth control, this could be the ticket!)
  • Best For: Targeting groups of people, at a key moment in time when they will receive an aptly paired message.
  • Optimization Example: Do you have an environmental campaign that wants to remind consumers to use reusable grocery bags? Parking lot strips catch that person before they forget the bags in their car!
  • Warning: As your approach gets this targeted, make sure the message matches the medium. When you are waiting for a plane to take off, are you thinking about cleaning products? Not likely.

Online & Social Media

  • Overview: This is the laser-targeted, sniper approach. You can try to reach millions worldwide on some sites, but it’s best to find the specific customers that matter most to your business, in their natural online habitats.
  • Best For: Just about everyone, really. The Internet is as big as the universe and the people you want to reach are probably online. The tools within this category are limitless. Twitter can be a great tool for solidifying a position of leadership in a dialogue, and pay-per-click contextual ads can be a great way to drive traffic to your site.
  • Optimization example: The optimization options are also limitless. Find a partner with the experience and capabilities to recommend the best options for you. Remember that you may not be reaching millions of people, but you will more likely reach the right 1,000 people. (see SMCubed Popularity vs. Influence: Are you the popular kid?)
  • Warning: This medium is changing so rapidly that last week’s trends may be prehistoric this week. Embrace what you don’t know, and find an expert partner with their eye on the ball to help you make the most of this medium!

If you are undertaking an advertising campaign, think about your customer and how to reach them at different times in different ways. Almost all of these vehicles are useless by themselves. When layered together, they become a dynamic brand presence that can actually get through to today’s dodgy audiences.

A last parting thought to ponder: you may have the best chance at reaching your target market right in your own back yard. Consider this: I spent a few wonderful years in marketing for Whole Foods Market, and you may notice they do very little paid advertising. What they understand is that they have hundreds of ways of reaching their customers inside their own stores. Every communication point is an opportunity – directional signage, price tags, point of sale signs, team member name badges, checkout kiosks and receipts.

What might these opportunities look like for you? Invoices, email signatures, meeting signage, Powerpoint presentations, proposals, conference programs … every touch point is an opportunity to present the brand image you desire. The Mad Men of the 1960s would be very proud of such ingenuity!


Colleen Rauscher brings over 10 years of strategic communications experience in a variety of industries including energy, non-profit, insurance, hospitality and retail. She specializes in integrated corporate marketing communications, brand strategies, Hispanic marketing and advertising strategy.

Prior to joining GBSM, Colleen served as an independent marketing consultant in the alternative energy and hospitality industries, helping clients articulate complex technical concepts, define their market niches and build well defined brand identities. She also served as a Regional Marketing Associate for Whole Foods Market, where she worked on seasonal campaign development, supervising staff in 33 stores and four states in the Rocky Mountain Region. She was recognized by the Global Consumer Research group for her work using customer data and demographic information to create innovative market strategies.

Colleen began her career in New York City, working for dotcom start-ups and advertising agencies. She moved to Denver to work in the meetings and incentives arena, with clients including Eli Lilly, Schering-Plough, Ameritrade, AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals and 3M Corporation.

Colleen has a BS from the University of Kansas William Allen White School of Journalism with minors in Spanish and Latin American Studies. She serves on the Board of Directors for Global Energy Options, Inc. and the Denver Hooperz Youth Organization, a program that uses competitive basketball as a vehicle to give at-risk youth opportunities to learn life skills, discipline and responsibility.

The Slut, The Politician and The Broken Record…..Which Type of Entrepreneur are You?

South Park Business Strategy: Step 1, Steal the Underpants. Then Step 2. Step 3, we're rich!

The South Park Business Strategy: The gnomes in the cartoon TV show South Park outlined their business plan. First, they steal the underpants. Then there's step 2. At step 3, they are rich! Who else is missing step 2, just like the gnomes?

Any athlete out there understands the fine art of ‘finishing’. You can run the best mile splits of your life, but if you forget to cross the finish line, you won’t win the race. You can end the first half up 100 points, but if you don’t come back after half time, the game will be forfeited. No matter what you do in life, if you don’t finish, your hard work along the way will never truly be appreciated.

Unfortunately, I see many entrepreneurs who, for one reason or another, become stuck halfway through the race.  Instead of crossing the finish line, they end up wandering perpetually around mile 15 of their business development marathon.  All entrepreneurs have their unique strengths and weaknesses. Like athletes, they must understand where they are vulnerable and put mechanisms in place to prevent those weak points from throwing their business success over a cliff.

Although all entrepreneurs are slightly different, I’ve found there are three main camps that have the hardest time turning their ideas into viable businesses:

The Slut: This person has jumped into bed with more ideas than a Las Vegas hooker. They simply love ideas, and each month they become captivated with a new AMAZING one. Each new idea is ‘The One’ and will be described as the most ‘incredible’, ‘ground breaking’, ‘hot’ and ‘exciting’ idea to ever have been conceived. All their energy, attention and money will be poured into this new idea until sadly one day………….wait for it……………they find a new, hotter idea, and abandon all of their previous hard work to pursue this latest, even more AMAZING, concept.

The Good? They really do have some great thoughts, plus they are so passionate they can easily pull others in to help move things forward and create even more excitement.

The Bad? They will never take things far enough to turn an idea into a business. Perhaps it’s a fear that if they really evaluate the feasibility of their concept, they’ll end up finding out something they don’t want to know. Sluts also tend to dislike dealing with logistics and some of the other less ethereal aspects of creating a business. Continuing to have idea after idea allows them to sit in a bit of a safe zone. They don’t ever accomplish anything, but they don’t experience the pain of failing either.

The Politician: Full of grandiose talk, but not much substance, they have one clear concept they want to push forward, and they’ll talk to anyone who will listen, trying to get them on board. They may end up with a great network to assist in the creation of a business, but not enough actual meat to their concept to do much with it. They either have a lack of knowledge about how to fill in the details, or a lack of understanding that there are details that need to be filled in.

The Good? These folks are great communicators and salespeople; they can easily develop the network needed for business success, and therefore possess a huge amount of potential.

The Bad? They don’t know what they don’t know (and they may not know how to figure that out). Talk will only get you so far. Eventually, people need to see something that is defensible, fleshed out and complete. Normally, the politician has been successful in another type of career. Thus, they think they know what they are doing, but have no knowledge of how to put  an actual business together.   ‘Creating’ a business and ‘operating’ a business are two very different things.

The Broken Record: Stuck on the same chorus over and over again, this entrepreneur is the opposite, in many ways, to the slut and the politician. They stick ad naseum with one idea (even it if is a bad one) and agonize over little details without paying any attention to the big picture

The Good? They do realize that a business can’t be created unless you understand and work out the (sometimes sticky) details.

The Bad? Their focus is misdirected. They don’t realize that although it is true that details matter, they must be analyzed within the context of the larger vision.

None of these people will ever create a successful business. They might have great ideas, but they are clueless as to how to get to finish line. You don’t need to know it all as an entrepreneur, but you do need to understand your own bad habits. Figure out what is holding you back, and get out of the way of your own success.

Portrait of Laura K PetrolinoLaura Petrolino is Managing Director of Flying Pig Communications, a communications and business consulting firm which focuses on the needs of startups, small business and non-profits. She also serves as Chief Communications Officer at Ignite Venture Partners, which brings together consulting, capital and concept incubation to build value in businesses of all sizes and in all stages, and across industries.


Find her on twitter @lkpetrolino and @365startups

Laura is a great writer and a great advisor.  Be sure to check out her blog!

ping your podcast

Do you need a Social Media Manager? 50 Ways to Know!

Jenny on the Job drawing of a woman lifeing a box

Are you working hard or smart? Learn to life with you legs not your back on your social media

Should you manage your social media yourself or should you hire a manager? This is a big question that a lot of people have, especially when their business is growing and they find their attention is split between 20 different things.

Here are 50 ways to know that you might need a social media manager.

  1. You still wonder if social media is a fad
  2. You only tweet once a week
  3. You tweet, but you never read what anyone else says
  4. You get the best results from your Twitter when you are on a layover and can only work from your smart phone
  5. You forget you have a Twitter
  6. People ask you for your Twitter handle, and you don’t know
  7. People ask about your business and you don’t see the tweets
  8. You have 10,000 followers and no one clicks to your site
  9. ROI and ROR are terms that don’t seem to apply to your social media
  10. Facebook is something you only do from your phone or hootsuite
  11. You can’t remember the last time you logged into facebook
  12. Your places page on Facebook has your address from 2 moves ago
  13. Twitter keeps asking if you want the tour of the “New” Twitter…that was release Fall of 2010
  14. Facebook keeps trying to give you tours of their new features from 6 months ago
  15. The last wall post was thanking people for birthday wishes from last year
  16. You last tweet is celebrating an anniversary
  17. People think you are a bot
  18. People are flagging you for spam
  19. You still don’t know how to post on the wall of a fan page
  20. The phrase, use Facebook as your fan page, means nothing to you
  21. You niece who is 17 does most of your posts
  22. You wall is covered in spam posts from people trying to get you to learn foreign languages
  23. You don’t know what a hashtag is
  24. You don’t actually know how to post
  25. Your profile image is an egg
  26. No one follows you back
  27. Your biggest fan is a part of #TeamFollowBack
  28. All you do is post news stories that are unrelated to your business
  29. No one can figure out what you do
  30. Your Facebook posts to your Twitter
  31. Your foursquare automatically posts to both your Facebook and Twitter
  32. All your updates are the same on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn
  33. The most interesting thing you said was about your lunch
  34. You don’t know the difference between Facebook and LinkedIn
  35. Everyone who tweets you is speaking a different language
  36. Everyone who tweets you has an Egg avatar
  37. You don’t know why having an Egg avatar is a bad thing
  38. You post links to you website and no one clicks the link….ever
  39. You don’t know how to write in only 140 characters so your tweets are always linked to “con’t…”
  40. You only talk about your kids and pets
  41. Your only update is a horoscope
  42. You still think that isn’t spam
  43. You tweet the same tweet every day
  44. You can’t think of anything to tweet…ever
  45. You still can’t figure out how to follow anyone
  46. You are wildly successful and don’t have time to tweet
  47. You want your Twitter to help with sales and customer service
  48. You want another way to talk to your clients
  49. You want to bring your Twitter to the next level
  50. You want to implement a social media strategy that will give you business a big boost


Build Your Audience: Find a Fan Base (part 3)

The success of online content relies on both traffic and ongoing engagement, which demands a dedicated audience; a fan base. This series first discussed the importance of converting users to fans, and followed with simple ways to generate a connection with your audience and ‘prime’ them for loyalty. The next step is to generate a true fan base that can be a source of ongoing growth through your fans’ social investment.

The bigger your audience, the better chance you have to connect with a casual visitor and convert them to a fan; but it takes particular users to build a solid fan base. Fans are the people who not only read content, but are also willing to get behind it and share it with others. Fans tend to click, comment, enter contests, and generally be more active in the social media conversation. They will also attract other fans just by engaging with your content.

So, how to convert the casual users in your online audience, and identify fans? Here are a few suggestions.

Rewards: You can actively reward your audience and essentially ‘buy’ fans. Though contests and giveaways are easy and most immediately effective, avoid bribing people to click your content; instead try to integrate the rewards, so that the value of your content is reflected. Involving the user in the rewards process will also create a fan following. A simple example would be to have users submit a photo or video entry to qualify for a contest, and then feature their submissions on your site. You could even allow your audience to select a reward by vote, or elect a charity to benefit from your contest. All easy ways to identify and develop a fan base out of your general audience.

Recommendations: You can also solicit recommendations from outside authorities, to help convert a casual audience member to a true fan. Engaging with acknowledged experts around a subject, or having experts participate in your content by commenting or endorsement, lets you potentially benefit from a pre-existing fan base. In general, people take greater interest in supporting content when other people seem interested; having a recommendation from any user immediately validates your value and will attract the potential fans in your audience.

Referrals: Ask your audience for referrals, and ensure your fans can easily promote you to others. The share button itself is the easiest way for a user to ‘refer’ their friends to your content through social investment, essentially recommending your content by posting it to their social streams. Like a medical practice posting a sign in their lobby, make sure your audience knows how much you value referrals and fans.

By adding referrals and focusing on your fans, you’ll build a motivated and loyal audience willing to invest their social capital in your online content.

Corina Newby is a social media strategist, writer and community manager for She’s also an anti-drama queen who fights crime in a future time @corecorina

The Right Questions: Initiating the Branding Process

Brands of brands

Do you have a lasting brand? (Image Credit: Emily Berezin)

The average person sees around 5,000 ads per day. At the supermarket, products are arranged according to the price paid by the producer in order to reach the customer more effectively. Billboards along highways illustrate products which may only apply to a small number of passing drivers. Companies like Angie’s List seek to use “word-of-mouth” tactics which employ consumer reviews of a service (utilizing the important “market maven” technique) as a way to advertise that service. The list goes on and on. Methods of branding are immeasurable, in that they evolve on a daily basis on every level of the marketing spectrum. How does a company keep up? Furthermore, how can a company be proactive in reaching customers when they so quickly turn a deaf ear, or turn entirely to another product?

There are no easy answers. Entire textbooks have been written on branding methods. There are, however, some guidelines which may help quell the stresses with branding without causing bad decisions.

The Problem: Question

  • What need or gap in the market does your product/service fill?
    • Simply put: Who (is your target customer)? What (value do they see in your product)? Where (do they live)? When (will they buy it)? Why (will they buy it)? How (price; frequency of purchase)?
    • These questions start to feed into each other.
  • Example: One of my first companies was a pie shop that specialized in hand-made pies. The example below is a simple one, but holds to the general format of the problem question/answer:
    • XYZ Pie Shop seeks to provide the buyer (defined – see below) with a natural, hand-made product which is free of preservatives.

The Target Customer: Answer

  • Your target customer has everything to do with branding. Companies like Best Buy have developed entire approaches on how their floor sales people speak with the customer, all based on age. Empty Nester, Tech and College Grad are just a few of the many examples once used by the retail giant. The point is that your product is tailored to a specific age group naturally, so you market it to that age group. (There are exceptions; the iPod is an example of a product which the user defines.)
  • For pies, our target customer was primarily the Mother (30+). Below are a couple of other summations based on our customer evaluation:
    • The convenience of a hand-made product without her having to spend the entire day in the kitchen. (opportunity cost question)
    • Our price ranged from $12.00 -17.00 per pie, making us target retail stores in higher-income communities. Holiday seasons will result in more sales consistently.

This is only the first part of the process. The method of analysis mentioned here is just a glimpse into a much wider field of branding and marketing exploration. The ways in which we reach our customers determine our successes and failures. During the initial phases of developing a brand, the process begins with the right questions.

Joseph Baker’s business experience in management spans more than 15 years. A leader of development and management teams, he also implemented budget reductions professionally and as an independent contractor.   Joseph led strategic planning and systems of implementation for nine organizations, public and private, and worked extensively with small businesses.

He holds a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, and an MBA from Kellogg School of Management.

Build Your Audience: User to Fan Conversion (part 1)

1950's movie audience wearing 3D glasses

Do you have your audience's attention?

So often people pour their hearts into a project of passion, only to have it fizzle after launch. This is especially true of online content, which can take a long time to design, develop and execute. By the time it is ready for an audience, it may feel like a big splash because of the energy put behind it. However, just because you build it, that doesn’t mean anyone will come. Many online marketing promotions – blog posts, websites, projects or campaigns – don’t yield their desired audience engagement results.

So how to avoid the disappointment of a failed effort? Simple: don’t assume your enthusiasm is contagious, or will automatically transfer to your audience. To achieve real engagement results, online content must proceed from the user’s point of view; and not just any user, but specifically your audience.

Connecting with your audience is a principle often applied to writing or public speaking, but it also lends itself well to the concept of social leverage. By building rapport with your audience you gain their trust, loyalty and respect. In the online environment this translates in to social currency, which you can leverage to extend the reach of your marketing efforts.

There are a few simple ways to encourage the audience to connect with, and socially invest in, online content:

  • Establish a clear “personality” for all content; use tone, style and imagery that your audience can relate to.
  • Try accessing the content from the user’s point of view, on different devices and in different browsers; make the experience as pleasant, seamless and intuitive as possible for the most people.
  • Feature content that gives back to the user, either with information or a tangible reward.
  • Avoid spam content, including flashy graphics or unnecessary steps.
  • Never take the user’s time for granted; look for ways to make their engagement with your content easier.

These simple guidelines will help you to clearly communicate with users and more effectively share the passion behind a project. By producing marketing efforts that connect with those who understand this passion, you can begin to build a motivated and loyal audience willing to invest their social capital in your online content. This is the beginning of building a true fan base – and if you keep building it, they will indeed come.

Corina Newby is a social media strategist, writer and community manager for She’s also an anti-drama queen who fights crime in a future time @corecorina