Why Are Small Businesses Afraid of Social?

If I had a dime for every time a small business owner told me they were uncertain about social media, I’d buy Google. Dozens and dozens of SMBs have told me they know they should be on social media and they see the incredible value of it, but for whatever reason, they haven’t made that leap.

Social media buttons

Interior designers, contractors, dentists, painters, and many more are keeping their audience from valuable insight in important fields because of the obstacles facing small business owners when it comes to social media.

With a little digging and good conversations, I’ve found the fear of social media for small business owners ultimately comes down to three main factors.

New/unknown

Last year Forbes.com reported the average age of American small business owners to be 50.3 years. This is over 20 years older than the average Millennial, the generation most familiar with social media. Social media is constantly changing business culture and commerce and the learning curve tends to be steeper for generations, namely most small business owners, who didn’t grow up with social media. Add in the fear of the unknown and many small business owners are at a loss at what to do and where to start with social media.

Time requirement

Regardless of age, social media is an investment of time. Most small business owners believe the lie that actively engaging their audience through social media requires two hours of their work day. “If I’m tweeting, posting, sharing, and on Facebook all day long, when will I have time to actually run a business?” In truth, a solid approach to social media should take no more than a total of half an hour per work day. Starting small and building slowly is a tried-and-true way of building a quality digital footprint.

No direct correlation to sales

Most small businesses would rather spend their time on work directly tied to sales. Calling customers, sending invoices, and working on projects are easy opportunities to see direct results in the bank account. Indirect marketing, such as social media and blogging, carry long-term investments. Content creators may not see the results initially, but a constant farming of quality content and audience engagement will grow a thriving community over time, a community willing to pay for your insight and services.

So, where’s a good place to start?

First, I recommend finding the right platform that fits your brand. If you’re an interior designer, decorator, or artist, I highly recommend using Pinterest as your primary platform. If you’re a thought-leader, idea developer, communicator, or writer, I’d recommend blogging and Twitter. Whatever your industry may be, focusing on one to two quality platforms is better than shotgunning a dozen uncertainties.

Second, I’d suggest getting good resources, like ebooks, blog posts, webinars, and videos to help educate you on good social media practices. These tools can help empower you to unlock a very important part of marketing for your business.

Another great idea is investing in a social media coach who can share their experience with your business. I’ve worked with a variety of entrepreneurs, small to medium businesses, and nonprofits to develop a solid social media strategy and the payoff is huge! A simple four-to-six week course can help small businesses take charge of their online branding and share their value with an audience waiting for their message.

Click here to ask Jon about social media.

What’s the Ideal Blog Post Length?

Finding the ideal blog post length

“How long is too long of a blog post?”

That was the question posed to me the other day. My response is if you have to ask, it’s probably too long. If I need multiple sittings, a lunch break, caffeine, or a road map to make it through your blog post, chances are you need to trim it down a bit. Maybe a lot.

For the average entrepreneur, time is money and a longer blog post cuts into prime billable hours for someone running their own business. For entrepreneurs writing their own blogs, trimming your posts into more easily digestible segments is a front-end investment with a long-term reward. Stronger blog posts build traffic, increase SEO, strengthen your brand’s message, and improve your digital footprint.

So, what is the ideal length for a blog post? How long should a blog post be? Is there a formula for finding the idea blog post length for your brand’s message?

There aren’t as many rules as there are parameters for blog post length. The difference is parameters are more forgiving than rules. Too long and you lose your audience. Too short and you don’t have enough material to fully develop your idea. The mind can only absorb as much as the backside can endure.

Research shows the magical number to be somewhere between 400-600 words. It’s approximately 5-8 minutes of reading for the average adult reader, a fair amount of time for a blog post. I rarely post over 500 words per blog post.

If you’re an author or a keynote speaker, your audience is used to longer messages from you. You have more credibility to share longer blog posts, maybe 800-1200 words, or more.

The truth is there’s no exact number to best fit every blog post. There are a few practical ways to find the right post length for your audience…

  • Audience feedback – Ask some, or all, of your readers to share their feedback. Throw in a freebie as an appreciation of their time. Make it worth their time to help you.
  • Try different blog post lengths – Write both longer and shorter posts and watch your analytics for audience interest, engagement, and click rates.
  • Research other bloggers - Target a few highly successful bloggers and study their most recent posts. Copy/paste their posts into Word for a word count. Did they use bullet points, pictures, line breaks, or anything else to keep the reader engaged?
  • Write for quality, not quantity. If you can say what you need to say in less words, do it. Being focused is commendable and appreciated. As the saying goes, don’t worry about your word count; worry about making your words count.

What are some other tips for finding the ideal blog post length?

How to Find Your Blogging Voice

Microphone

Every blogger needs to find their blogging voice.

When it comes to blogging, the temptation to write formally, have exact grammar, and be SEO-sensitive can sometimes be paralyzing. Did I write enough? Do I sound pretentious? Are prepositions something you shouldn’t end sentences with- shoot, I just did!

The conventional wisdom of blogging says, “Blog like you speak”. Public speakers work for countless hours to find their speaking voice: inflections, movements, tones, posture, everything that goes into public speaking. Speakers want people to understand their personality, communicate clearly, and be dynamically effective from their platform. So, how do you find your blogging voice to best fit your blogging platform?

The truth is many of us could use a little help with our speaking voice. Maybe we mix up phrases, use confusing word pictures, and all without the added boundaries of good grammar and punctuation when it comes to writing. This may work well for face-to-face conversation, but blogging is the untamed Serengeti between English composition and public speaking. 

It takes time and hard work to find your blogging voice. Here are some easy ways to start finding your blogging voice…

  • Write more. Even if you don’t end up posting everything you write, at least get your words on screen. This helps your brain visualize and identify what looks a little out of place, maybe something you never realized.
  • Edit more. If you have to choose between writing more or editing more, always choose editing. One of the skills to constantly refine as a blogger is the art of editing, and it truly is an art.
  • Study other bloggers you admire. Ask yourself why you admire their blogging. Take notes. Contact them with questions if you want more insight.
  • Read your blog posts out loud before you post them. Even if you’re the only one hearing them, it helps hearing what you write to see how it sounds. Our brain naturally verbalizes what we read as we read inside our mind. Hearing it first is a good way to find what might sound clunky in someone else’s mind.
  • Get feedback. Ask other bloggers or a trusted capable colleague to do a quick review of your blog posts.
  • Hire a blogging coach, like me! I work with a variety of bloggers to help them develop their blogging voice. It takes time to develop, just like any other discipline, but the investment is a smoother reading style unique to your personality and easier on the reader’s eyes. Our initial preview session is complimentary and gives you insight for what to expect.

Do you need a blogging coach?

SMBfuel

I believe in the power of collaboration. Some of the best work I get to be a part of involves working with others, even “competitors”, to build a better product for our clients. Building a strong network is one of the greatest factors to my success. This is the latest post where I get to highlight some of my colleagues and their value in my network.

SMBfuel - St. Charles, MO

I can’t tell you how many times I hear different small businesses and entrepreneurs say their website is a disappointment. Maybe the design isn’t quite what they wanted, doesn’t place nice with Google, or unstable on the server. Their best potential business generator has now become their biggest headache.

Earlier this year I started partnering with SMBfuel to help customers build quality websites to fit their business needs. A business website needs to be more than just a passive profile for your company; it needs to be an effective marketing tool to generate traffic, capture leads, and convert those leads into business.

SMBfuel provides marketing strategy with the right tools for customer conversion beyond the vehicles of SEO, social marketing, PPC, or other offline services. Their 5-in-1 website model combines all of these tools and more into one location to fully empower businesses.

  • Flexible updates – SMBfuel gives owners an online tool to manage as much of their website for promotions, testimonials, portfolio, and more.
  • Lead capture – Capture hot leads online and convert them with a CRM database built into your website.
  • Email campaigns – You can access your CRM database to send e-newsletters or loyalty campaigns as part of your sales workflow.
  • Analytics – For the numbers guru, this is your lucky day. SMBfuel builds a highly informative analytics database into each of their sites for monitoring web traffic, subscriber patterns, email campaigns, lead conversions, search terms, and countless more information.
  • E-commerce – With the SMBfuel setup, businesses can sell tangible or digital products, membership access, and event tickets through their online store with credit card payments and invoicing. All online.

I’ve networked with over a dozen individual web developers and full-scale web-dev companies. None of them carry the level of quality I’ve found with SMBfuel and its 5-in-1 model.

Whether your website is non-existent or you just wish it was, give SMBfuel a call today (314-266-0669). Their staff will help you find the right website setup for your business needs. Visit SMBfuel’s services page and check out the 5-part preview of their 18-month Roadmap, a game-changing advantage included in all of their website packages.

Take a back seat, Google!

Google SEO

As a content creator, I face two constant pressures: create great content and feed the insatiable appetite of SEO. When it comes to search engine, the obvious king is Google. Sorry, Bing. And Yahoo. Always the Google’s maid, never the Google.

When it comes to building your platform, Google needs to take the back seat to one other entity: your reader. Many businesses and entrepreneurs make the mistake of writing for analytics, not for people. Write for your readers first and Google second. Your audience is people with questions needing answered and problems needing solved.

To be clear- don’t ignore SEO; that’s ridiculous. It’d be foolish to not feed the most powerful search engine in history… but write with people in mind. People created Google, not the other way around. Google doesn’t have emotions, only emoticons. Write for passion and fear and love and loyalty and all of the stomach-firing feelings that make us know we’re human.

Whether it’s headlines, keywords, post length, hashtags, or tweets, always write with flesh-and-blood people in mind. So what if your content is page 1 SERPs if it’s not helping people find the right answers? What are their current struggles? What are the current points of pain in their business strategy? What are the thoughts and feelings associated with trending topics?

I love Google and I use it everyday. But Google can’t express emotion, only predict it. Your job is to write with a pulse: what do you want your audience to feel from your writing? What emotion and concern can your business ease for your audience?

Your business will grow more by feeding people’s needs first and the search engines second. One without the other is imbalanced, but your audience is made of people, not computers. Write for people and tell Google to take a back seat.

Is your blog lacking life? Click here to talk with Jon!

Six-Packs and Social Media?!

Crunch

Six-pack abs take work!

It’s one thing to see a 20 year old claiming to be allergic to his shirt while flashing a six-pack on Daytona Beach. It’s another thing to see a 40-something not ashamed to show the world they are the 1% of their age group with a fantastic core.

Shaping a six-pack takes months and months of exercise, diet, and discipline to get the results you want. The same is true for social media.

Many businesses and entrepreneurs invest too little effort in hopes for overnight success with their audience. Trying to carve out an hour of time for social media and expecting instant results is like expecting six-pack abs after your first day in the gym. It takes time, discipline, and focus.

When I coach different businesses and entrepreneurs about social media, I recommend finding two, maybe three social media platforms with a great potential audience for your brand and becoming fantastic with those platforms.

If it’s Facebook, pour your efforts into leveraging your Facebook page for contests, fan-gating, increase likes, build into conversations with your audience, and invest in your audience.

If Twitter is where your brand is gaining traction, take the time to develop your Twitter following. Use a social media management tool, like Buffer, Hootsuite, or TweetDeck, to interact with your audience, engage in conversation, and space your content strategically.

Thinking you’re going to share 30 posts a day if you’ve never posted before is unrealistic and unsustainable without the right discipline in place. I personally carve out 30 minutes each day to curate my Twitter feed and email to find content relevant to my learning and helpful to my audience. My Twitter following isn’t nearly as high as others yet, but it is a very strong audience.

Start with one post a day, then move to two, and slowly build as you’re able to sustain that pace. Whatever your platforms are, start slow, build strong, and hone your platform to perfection over time… just like a perfect six-pack.

I provide coaching on how to build social media platforms to best fit your brand. Getting the right education can empower you to share your message to build a powerful platform for future business.

Click here to ask Jon about social media.

Why Your Brand Needs to be Blogging

photo credit: Search Engine People Blog via photopin cc

The question I hear consistently from businesses is why should they blog. It’s usually followed with, “Who has time to blog?”

For businesses and entrepreneurs, writers and non-writers alike, the idea of creating regular blog posts to build your brand is several rungs down the ladder of priority compared to making sales and chasing leads.

Your blog is the most consistent voice of your brand. It speaks more authoritatively, personally, and accurately to who you are as a brand than any other form of communication, including social media. It’s one of the fastest, most reliable ways to grow your brand’s presence on social media and search engines.

There are several instant benefits to blogging for your brand…

  • Build authority – Your blog gives you a platform to share as an expert in your industry. This also means you need to know what you’re saying and how it’s relevant to your audience.
  • Increase credibility – Connecting with your audience gives them the freedom to check your credibility as a brand. If you’re not who you say you are, they will quickly find out and respond negatively. Blogging increases the chance for readers to check your credentials.
  • Educate your audience - Blogging gives you an easy-access avenue to share valuable content with your target audience. Customers want value first, not sales pitches.
  • Show your human side – We’re not doing business with nameless, faceless companies; we’re working with flesh-and-blood people. Show your human side by sharing failures, lessons learned, successes, and emotional experiences for your brand.
  • Create business opportunities – I can’t tell you how many times people share with me how a simple blog post led to a great sale. Take the time to articulate how your services and products can meet someone’s needs and ask readers to respond. A quality CTA at the end of each blog post gives them a one-click opportunity to contact you.

These are just a few of the reasons why brands need to be blogging. Many businesses and entrepreneurs don’t have the time or experience to blog regularly. That’s where I come in…

Does your blog need help? Click here to talk with Jon!