Forget More Cowbell; Your Blog Content Should Have More Of This Instead

Thanks to the flawless comic delivery of Christopher Walken and Will Ferrell on Saturday Night Live, “More cowbell,” has become one of the most recognized modern one-liners.

 

While more cowbell might solve some problems, unfortunately, it won’t do much to help your marketing efforts succeed. You can bang out more cowbell until…ahem… the cows come home, but it won’t make your audience more impelled to read and engage with your content.

 

What does your content need?

 

Put down your bell and do more of these two things instead:

 

Let Your Personality Sing

Unless you’re writing a technical manual, an academic piece, or something that otherwise demands a heightened degree of stuffiness and formality, relax a little. Writing in a conversational tone helps readers stay tuned in and makes them better able to grasp your message. Write like you speak so your content sounds natural and genuine. In the process:

 

  • Include references to things readers can relate to (e.g., cowbell).
  • Share relevant personal experiences to help your audience connect with the topic and to you as the author.
  • Avoid too much jargon, and don’t use fancy-dancy words to demonstrate your intelligence.

 

Approaching your writing in a more casual, conversational way doesn’t mean you will forfeit professionalism. To the contrary, you’ll improve your professional image by putting out content that readers will want to consume and share.

 

The “You” Factor

“You” is one of the most powerful words you can use in your marketing content. It instantly makes your readers a part of the conversation rather than keeping them on the outside looking in.

 

Work more “you” into your writing rather than using third person references.

 

For example, if I had written the first two sentences under this bullet as shown below, it would lose its direct connection to the reader, “’You” is one of the most powerful words business marketers can use in their marketing content. It instantly makes their readers a part of the conversation rather than keeping them on the outside looking in.”

 

And “you” becomes especially important when you’re writing about your services and products. Rather than dominating your content with sentences that begin with “We can…” or “We will…” or similar “we” wording, shift the focus on the reader and the benefits they can expect. For example: “If you…” or “You will find…” or “You’ll discover…” bring your readers into what otherwise might sound self-centered and pushy.

 

Final Notes (“Notes,” Get it?)

While more cowbell won’t make your small business marketing efforts smash hits, paying attention to how you approach the voicecow with cowbell around neck of your content can help give you star quality. Infuse more of your unique self into your writing style and speak to (rather than at) your readers.

 

Your turn! What tips and tricks have helped you connect with your readers?

 

 

 

Get Over It: Why You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty About Using A Ghostwriter

It’s an ethical dilemma for some clients. Is it right to claim authorship for a piece of writing that you’ve hired someone else toGet Over It - Text write?

 

As a freelancer who ghostwrites blog posts and articles for clients, I find that’s prospects’ biggest hesitation about using a ghostwriter. They feel guilty about posting something as their own if they haven’t personally written it.

 

Does that sound like you?

 

Get over it.

 

There’s no shame in hiring a professional who can do the job better than you can. Many people simply don’t have the time or writing skills to craft a compelling, well-written blog post or article. And rushing to get to the finish line or forcing a skill that doesn’t come naturally can cost you in several ways.

 

  • Whether you’re submitting an article to a high-profile industry publication or posting on your own blog, creating a piece of writing that’s sub-standard can cause embarrassment and hurt your professional reputation. At best, prospects and customers will think you had a bad day. At worst, they’ll think you’re careless and incompetent.

 

  • Without the natural ability and skills, you might find yourself spending a half-day or more on a 500-word post. So much for productivity and effective use of your time! Yes, hiring a ghostwriter will cost you some money, but what’s your time worth?

 

  • You might miss out on valuable readership if your writing doesn’t have an attention-grabbing headline or doesn’t incorporate the information and keywords to help it become found by search engines.

 

Still not feeling comfortable about the idea of hiring a ghostwriter?

 

If completely turning over your writing to someone behind the scenes unnerves you, know that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You can still have a hand in the process when you hire a ghostwriter by doing one or more of the following:

 

  • Take an active role in brainstorming topics.
  • Contribute your expertise and experience by giving your ghostwriter specific key details you want to communicate.
  • Craft a very rough draft and let your ghostwriter flesh it out and refine it.

 

No matter what your involvement, make sure your ghostwriter understands your “voice.” The tone, wording, and style should sound like you, not the ghostwriter. Always review and read aloud what your ghostwriter has written and ask for a revision if the piece seems out of character. Even though you haven’t written it, the writing needs to genuinely reflect you.

 

So, don’t feel guilty about hiring a ghostwriter. It’s a wonderful way to eliminate the stress, preserve your valuable time, and ensure you’re presenting your very best professional image online.

 

Your turn! What has stopped you from using a ghostwriter for your blog or other writing? If you use a ghostwriter, what benefits have you gleaned from it?

 

 

 

What To Do When You’re Not In The “Write” Mind

It’s not easy to admit, but I confess that I’ve been in a bit of a mental and motivational slump where my blog is concerned. Oh, Pen with question marks implying writer's blockI’ve been writing plenty. Just not here.

 

In the past month, my work for clients included…

 

  • 16 blog posts
  • Copy for an email campaign
  • Content for a print newsletter
  • Project managing and editing a magazine for a local medical society
  • Brainstorming and writing abstracts for 10 posts of a “disruptive” nature
  • Content for two websites
  • Two press releases
  • Two industry editorials
  • A corporate retirement announcement
  • Two case studies
  • And a few other odds and ends to boot.

 

I haven’t been sitting around twiddling my thumbs or spending hours meandering around town playing Pokémon Go. Still, I’ve beat myself up about not following through with tending to my responsibilities here.

 

This post isn’t intended to show you how busy I’ve been, but rather to demonstrate that sometimes something’s gotta give. Occasionally, you might find you’re not in the “write” mind or you have put forth so much effort elsewhere that you have nothing left to give to your blog. Feeling guilty or less of a professional because of it won’t change the situation.

 

The moral of the story: Not having the drive and determination to write for your blog doesn’t make you a slacker.

 

Fortunately, my business hasn’t seemed to suffer as a result of my silence in this space, but if you count on your company blog to draw in traffic and produce leads the same might not be true for you.

 

So, what can you do if you’re overwhelmed with your other business obligations and undermotivated to write for your blog?

 

A few ideas:

 

  • Schedule dedicated time for the task. Just knowing you’ve planned for it and aren’t cutting into the time you should be doing something else might help you put your mind to it.

 

  • Pick a topic you’re pumped up about. When you’re enthused about the subject matter, it’s far more enjoyable to write about it.

 

  • Break up the work. Instead of sitting down for hours to write a post, do it in three shorter sessions: One for research and jotting down rough ideas; a second for organizing those ideas and writing a draft; and a third for editing and fine tuning.

 

  • Hire someone to write for you. If you know you absolutely won’t get to it or if you just plain aren’t “feeling it,” don’t force it. Your time will be better spent on other work that’s critical to your business success and you’ll have the posts you need to keep your marketing efforts on track.

 

The next time you find yourself in the midst of a blog writing slump, find some comfort knowing you’re not alone. It happens to all of us—and you have ways around it.

 

Your turn: What frustrates you most about writing slumps? How do you overcome them?

 

Is Your Blog Violating Other Websites’ Terms of Use?

With plenty written about the perils of accidentally infringing on the copyright of images we find online, most of us are well awareProceed with caution symbol: yellow triangle with white exclamation point in middle we should never use a photo unless the right to use and attribution requirements are crystal clear. And we all know it’s illegal to copy someone else’s content verbatim and present it as our own. But did you know that some companies have language within their websites’ “Terms of Use” that call for anyone citing or quoting any of their content to have explicit permission from them to do so first? Some terms of use even state that links to any other page other than their Home page are a no-no.

 

Of course, if you read the terms of use of every website you visit, you already know this.

 

Uh yeah…who does that? And websites don’t typically make it apparent that they even have terms of use (typically the links to them are discreetly positioned in small type at the bottom of websites), let alone language within them that restricts how you reference or link to their content.

 

As I was digging into this topic, I found very little about it from internet marketing experts or anyone else. Which leads me to believe a lot of people may not realize that mentioning statistics from certain companies or linking to a business’s blog post or extracting a quote from an article—even with attribution—could land you in some trouble.

 

So, I’ve asked Matthew Landis, attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, PA to share his expertise and thoughts on what we should watch out for and what the risks are if we violate—even if unintentionally—a websites’s terms of use.

 

Q1. How can companies be legally allowed to restrict people from mentioning their content or linking to the pages of their websites that they’ve made publicly available?

 

A1. The legal basis for these restrictions is twofold.

 

First, intellectual property rights such as copyright and trademark grant certain exclusive rights to the intellectual property owner.

 

Copyright protects original works of authorship that are fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Some examples of works covered by copyright are literary or written works, photographs, and graphic works. Copyright is automatically created when the work is fixed—i.e., when the words are saved or when the photograph is taken.

 

Copyright protection extends to the content on a website—specifically, the combination of words and structure that expresses the information, but not the factual information itself. Someone infringes on another’s copyright when they violate one of the copyright holder’s exclusive rights, such as the right to reproduce, distribute, or create derivative works. The fair use doctrine provides an exception, which allows others to use copyrighted works for certain, limited purposes.

 

Trademark law serves to protect against consumer confusion with a brand name or slogan and gives businesses the right to protect their commercial identity.

 

Second, the terms of use may be considered a binding contract enforceable against the user. A valid contract may be created by a user assenting to the terms by clicking “I agree” when creating an account for a website or by checking a box indicating that they have accepted the terms and conditions. Courts generally have accepted these methods of creating “clickwrap” agreements, which is a reference to the shrink wrap agreements that were made effective by a user indicating their assent to the terms printed on the label by breaking the wrapping of boxed software. A “browsewrap” agreement is typically posted on a website and does not contain an express manifestation of assent such as by clicking “I agree.” Courts are generally skeptical of “browsewrap” agreements, but the facts of each case will dictate whether an enforceable agreement has been created.

 

Q2. Are there any particular types of companies that are more likely than others to have policies restricting use of, referencing, or linking to their content?

 

A2. It generally depends on the business and its goals. Businesses that conduct research, sell information products, and creatives such as photographers and graphic designers often have some sort of policy in their terms of use that restrict a user’s right to use content hosted on their website.

 

Q3. Where can you find a company’s policy? Is it always under “terms of use” or could it be elsewhere on their website?

 

A3. Typically a link will be located in the footer of the site under “Terms,” “Terms of use,” “Terms and Conditions,” “Legal,” “Policies” or a similar link. I’ve also seen shorter statements relating to use of intellectual property (such as a Creative Commons license) or citation guidelines included in a site’s sidebar or included at the bottom of individual blog posts.

 

Q4. What do companies that restrict use of and linking to their content typically forbid or require?

 

A4. There are many ways to restrict use of content. First, as mentioned above, copyright automatically protects many types of content and there doesn’t have to be a policy or statement about it in order for the work to be protected. Often times a citation policy will include the exact way to reference the corporate entity that is the owner of the work in accordance with their branding standards. Some entities also refuse the right to use the work unless permission is requested and granted prior to the use.

 

Q5. Why would companies want to prevent others from referencing their content in their blogs? After all it’s free publicity, right?

 

A5. Content creators typically want to retain a certain amount of control over their work such as how and where it is used, and in addition often want to ensure that they are fairly compensated for their work.

 

Alternatively, if use of the work is being given for free, they want to ensure that they are quoted or referenced in a particular way so that users know the source of the information. It also helps the user identify the source of the work so if they wish to utilize the work, they can contact the owner and make appropriate arrangements to use the work.

Q6. What could happen if you mentioned a company’s content or linked to a company’s website without realizing they have a policy in place that forbids it or that requires you have permission first?

 

A6. It depends on a number of factors, including but not limited to whether any copyright or other intellectual property right has been violated by the use of the content, whether the terms of use constitute a binding contract, and the terms of use that you are subject to.

 

The first step is often a request to take down the material and a threat of legal action, however depending on the egregiousness of the violation or a company’s tolerance for impermissible use of their content, they may skip this step and demand financial damages or file a lawsuit for an injunction and damages.

 

The terms of use themselves may also state the remedies that are available to the company. The company often reserves the right to restrict or eliminate access to their services in the case of a violation of the terms.

 

If the content is being hosted by another service, such as a website provider or social media site, those terms of service will also apply to you as well. Use of these types of sites always includes a provision that you have the legal right to use all of the content that you post on the site, and in order to insulate themselves from liability, the provider of the service has a legal duty to take steps to remove content that is infringing or otherwise in violation of another’s rights.

 

For example, if you produce a video that is hosted on YouTube and use a popular song as the background music, YouTube may take action against you in accordance with the Terms of Service that you agreed to when you created your account. These remedies include termination of your account and indemnification of YouTube for any claims that arise out of your use of their service.

Q7. Any other thoughts on what blog writers should watch out for and how they should protect themselves when using information they’ve found on other websites?

 

A7. Familiarize yourself with the basics of copyright and fair use for the purposes of protecting your own content and respecting the rights of others. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has some great free resources called the Legal Guide for Bloggers that contains an overview of the basics.

 

As a general rule, if you are not the creator of the content, then you don’t have the right to use it unless that right is specifically granted in a license or the use constitutes fair use. If you are using another’s content, familiarize yourself with their terms of service and take the appropriate steps to make sure that you are able to use the content in accordance with their terms and policies.

 

Final Thoughts

As with any issue of a legal nature, consider talking with an attorney to discuss your concerns about your terms of use or the terms of use of websites that you’re visiting. This blog post is for informational purposes only; it is not a substitute for legal advice specific to your situation.

 

Attorney Matt LandisMatt Landis is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He is a creative and strategic thinker that works with business owners, entrepreneurs and individuals to prevent and resolve legal problems. Matt regularly writes about legal issues at the Lancaster Law Blog.

 

 

The Difference Between Writing, Editing, And Proofreading

Writing.Writing, Editing, Proofreading. Oh My!

Editing.

Proofreading.

 

No. They. Are. Not. The. Same.

 

Someone who is good (or even exceptional) at one doesn’t mean they’re decent at the others.

 

So, what’s the diff?

 

Writing

One of the definitions Merriam-Webster has for writing is, “the way that you use written words to express your ideas or opinions.”

 

The way I see it, in the simplest terms, writing is the process of stringing words together to communicate a message and make an impression on readers. In practice, it’s a far more complex activity than that because it requires the capacity to think through how to get from point A to point B, to choose effective words, and to structure thoughts in a way that strikes a chord with readers.

 

Writing requires creativity and the knack for connecting the dots to pull ideas and bits of information together and communicate them coherently.

 

A writer’s personal style, the type of assignment, and the audience the writer—or a writer’s client—wants to connect with will flavor the tone and formality of writing.

 

Editing

“Prepare (written material) for publication by correcting, condensing, or otherwise modifying it” is how Oxford Dictionaries defines “edit.”

 

Most writers I know often edit their own writing to fine-tune how it flows, eliminate wordiness, and modify sentence structure and word choice. For me, it’s part of the process to ensure the end product I’m delivering to a client is as close as possible to what it needs to be. And of course, editing (typically in the form of minor tweaks) after getting feedback from clients comes with the territory, too.

 

Some editors are really good writers, but not all are and they don’t necessarily have to be. When editing, you don’t have to create the story and message; you’re improving upon the writing so it’s as effective as possible. Editors need to have proficiency in making changes that will ensure writing makes sense, uses proper grammar, has effective sentence structure, and uses the right words. They need an ability to both pay attention to details and look at a piece of writing from a birds-eye view to make sure all parts of it are effective parts of the whole.

 

The extent and degree of editing can depend on the type of writing, quality of writing, and length of a written piece. If you’re looking for editing assistance, you might see the various levels of editing referred to as:

 

  • Copy editing – Focuses on grammar, punctuation, and proper word usage.
  • Line editing – Focuses on the sentence or paragraph level rather than the broad scope of the piece.
  • Substantive or heavy editing – Goes beyond the two above and polishes sentences to improve clarity and flow. It will eliminate overuse of passive voice, repetition, awkward wording, and run-on sentences. This type of editing also involves checking facts and rearranging or reworking parts of the writing if necessary.

 

Some characteristics of editing (copy editing in particular) overlap with those of proofreading.

 

But they are not the same!

 

Proofreading

Proofreading comes after writing and editing.

 

Dictionaries.com defines it as: “to read (printers’ proofs, copy, etc.) in order to detect and mark errors to be corrected.”

 

It involves a final check of a piece of writing before it’s published to catch minor mistakes in spelling, spacing, punctuation, inconsistency in indentation of paragraphs, etc.

 

Contrary to what you might assume, not all writers and editors are capable proofreaders. Proofreading requires a skillset all its own, and it’s never ideal for people (writing and editing professionals included) to proofread writing assignments they’ve been working on. Sometimes (depending on how heavy my workload is), I’ll ask a proofreader to review what I’ve written and fix any errors I might have made.

 

When you write or edit something, you’re too close to it, and it’s far too easy for your brain to trick your eyes into seeing perfection where it doesn’t exist. For example, you might not catch an extra “the” where it doesn’t belong or an incorrect “they’re” where there should be a “their.” We’ve all seen published blog posts with those sort of oopses. They can happen to the very best writers—because writers aren’t proofreaders. Yes, writers will do their best to make sure what they write is as clean as possible (and often it will be error free after they’ve reread it a couple of times to catch sneaky mistakes), but a second set of eyes on a piece of writing (yours or a pro proofreader’s) can further ensure perfection.

 

Writing, Editing, Proofreading – Which Do You Need?

It depends.

 

If you answer yes to any of the below questions, you might benefit from asking a writer to help you with your content.

 

  • Do I have trouble formulating topics and ideas that will captivate my target audience?

 

  • Do I struggle writing thoughts, information and ideas in a way that makes sense to others?

 

  • When I write, does it sound stilted and unnatural rather than genuine?

 

  • Do I have trouble getting to the point when I write?

 

  • Would I rather have a root canal than write a blog post?

 

If you’re considering working with a freelance writer, keep in mind that rarely are writers skilled at all types of writing projects or a good fit for all industries.

If you answer yes to any of the below questions, you might need an editing professional’s touch.

 

  • Am I good at formulating topics and ideas and writing them in an understandable way, but do I have trouble varying the structure of sentences so they sound less boring?

 

  • Does my writing sound monotonous and lack variety in word choice?

 

  • Do I creatively convey my message when I write but struggle with organizing the content so it flows logically for readers?

 

  • Do I find that I repeat myself or become long-winded when I write?

 

  • Do I enjoy the creative process of writing but not going back to fine-tune what I’ve written?

 

If you answer yes to any of the below questions, you might need a proofreader’s help.

 

  • Am I good at writing clearly and coherently, but I make a lot of silly mistakes in grammar, punctuation, capitalization, etc.?

 

  • Do I have time to review what I’ve written with a fine-toothed comb to make sure it’s error free?

 

  • Do I loathe attention to detail?

 

Writing, editing, proofreading…they’re different yet all extremely important when creating and publishing content of any type. If you don’t have all three skillsets in-house, consider getting the help of professionals who can make sure your content consistently puts your business’s best foot forward.

23 Reasons Why You Might Be Scaring People Away On Twitter

Building a targeted following on Twitter (the genuine work-hard-to-build-engagement way, not the buy-followers-from-a-shady-Boy making scary facecharacter way) doesn’t happen overnight. It can take years. Along with time, it also requires your attention, energy, and patience.

 

As difficult as building a following can be, it becomes even more difficult if your Twitter profile and tweets scare followers away.

 

As I browse my notifications regularly to view the profiles of people who have recently followed me, I always find a few that leave me wondering, “What were they thinking?”

 

Characteristics That Might Make People Less Likely To Follow You On Twitter

If your Twitter account exhibits any of the following traits, you might find it a wee bit more difficult to secure follows from the people you want to connect with.

  1. Your bio is too #hashtag happy.
  2. Your bio is salesy.
  3. Your bio is too Kumbaya in nature.
  4. You don’t have a bio.
  5. Your profile or header photo is a puppy or a kitten or a guinea pig or some other furry, not-human creature.
  6. Your profile photo is a cartoon.
  7. Your profile photo looks like a for-real mugshot.
  8. You don’t have a profile photo.
  9. You have thousands of followers but only follow a select few Twitter accounts.
  10. You follow thousands of accounts but in comparison have very few followers.
  11. Your tweets are too #hashtag happy.
  12. Your tweets are too salesy.
  13. Your tweets are too Kumbaya in nature.
  14. Ur tweets use 2 many text abbreviations.
  15. Your tweets only share your own content.
  16. All you do is retweet without sharing any commentary about why you’re doing so.
  17. You don’t tweet enough about the things your target audience is interested in.
  18. Your tweets are all work and no play.
  19. You never say “thank you” when people retweet your tweets or mention you.
  20. You curse like a sailor in your tweets. (No offense to sailors; it’s merely an idiom to illustrate a point.)
  21. Your tweets go to extremes—about religion, politics, social issues, etc.
  22. You hardly ever tweet.
  23. You tweet non-stop, like every 15 minutes, 24/7.

 

Of course, what I deem “not follow worthy” might be perfectly acceptable to the next guy. And folks who do any of the above might have very good reasons for making them a part of their Twitter M.O. “To each his own,” right?

 

The point is, when people are reviewing your profile and tweets before deciding whether or not to follow you, how you present yourself and how you use Twitter matter. You can do whatever you want, but you need to pay attention to potential turn-offs if you’re genuinely trying to grow a following.

 

What Twitter account traits are turn-offs for you?

 

Image courtesy of Supertrooper at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Three Vital Points To Keep In Mind When Creating Marketing Content

As I prepare to be a part of a marketing panel discussion in a few days, I’ve been thinking about content creation from a differentTo-Do-Creating-Content perspective.

 

If I weren’t a freelancer who writes content for a living, what questions would I have about content’s role in marketing?

 

One thing I’d want to get a grip on are the things I should consider regardless of the type of content I’m creating. So, here’s a question I anticipate receiving in some form during the panel event—and how I would answer it:

 

What does a business owner need to keep in mind when creating content as part of a comprehensive marketing plan?

 

  • Maintain a consistent voice for your brand.

Whether you’re a solopreneur who is the face of your business or a business owner or manager at a larger company with multiple people creating content for you, strive to make your content consistent in its “personality.” Your tone, your level of formality, your values…your brand’s voice is “who” your brand is more so than what your brand does. A consistent voice builds trust as it enables your audience to know what to expect of you. Don’t confuse “consistent” with “boring,” though. You can still be creative when developing content that’s consistent!

 

  • Don’t make content all about “me, me, me.”

Focus on what’s in it for your audience and not how spectacularly wonderful your company is. A constant barrage of content that sings a business’s praises rather than giving prospective customers information they can learn from or be entertained by is a turnoff. Write content that is audience-centric. Use more sentences with “you” rather than “we” or “I” as the subject, and share insight that will help customers live and work smarter, save money, save time, accomplish their goals…you get the idea. Yes, that may mean sharing bits of expertise for free.

  • Realize creating content doesn’t guarantee people will find and consume it.

There’s a lot of content out there competing for your audience’s eyeballs. YOU have to make the effort to get it in front of your customers. Share content on LinkedIn (if you publish it as a post, all your connections will be notified about it), include it in your status updates on your social media channels, send it to your email marketing list, and directly share it with individuals you absolutely know can benefit from it.

 

Of course, there’s far more to creating content and making it an integral part of your overall marketing strategy. But I think these three considerations stand as a good foundation for guiding how to approach the creation of content for your business.

Your turn: What underlying principles or rules do you follow in your content efforts?

 

Facebook “Dislike” Button: An Awful Idea & How Empathy Could Backfire On Your Brand

In answer to requests for a “dislike” button, Facebook has been developing a button that will allow users to express sympathy or empathy when clicking “like” Facebook Fjust doesn’t seem appropriate. The name of the button has yet to be announced, but it sounds as though it will be something more subtle (possibly “sympathize” or “empathize”) than “dislike.

 

Let’s hope so. A button named “dislike” is an awful idea. Rather than used as a tool for showing compassion, it would give trolls and the otherwise mean-spirited to more readily disrespect and demean others. There would be haters “disliking” posts that share others’ successes and good news.

 

Empathy And Engagement

While an empathy button may help engagement on personal status updates, it won’t likely be a big engagement booster for businesses. Businesses typically don’t post updates that warrant a sympathy or empathy response—nor should they. Who wants to see downer posts from brands in their news feeds? Not me.

 

But what about posting more updates that might prompt empathy responses on your personal Facebook timeline? Could it kick engagement up a notch for your personal brand?

 

In her recent blog post, Rachel Strella of Strella Social Media shares, “I try to put my best foot forward because ultimately, people will tune out the whiners.”

“However, I think that those who remain positive are seen as having the perfect life. There’s actually a term called Facebook envy, which is very real. We post what we want the world to see and for most of us, we want to present ourselves in the best light possible, but sometimes that display is not reality.”

 

Like Rachel, I tend to post about the positive, fun happenings in my life or about things that amuse me or make me laugh. If I’m sad, mad, in pain, or ill, I’m not impelled to air it publicly. Believe me, my life is way far from perfect and I realize that others who have a similar social media approach to mine don’t have perfect lives either.

 

So maybe you and I could garner a little more social media love if we were more open about when things aren’t going our way. If your personal brand shows more vulnerability, possibly making it easier for others to relate to you, could those stronger emotional connections carry over to your business?

 

Possibly, but I think it would be a dangerous strategy to embrace for three reasons:

 

  1. You’ll constantly be reminded of your life’s challenges as notifications ping you when people hit the empathize button or comment on your post. It’s tough to let things go and move on when you can’t catch a break from your troubles.
  2. Depending on what you post, your clients and colleagues might see you as a complainer, a crybaby, or a train wreck (or all of the above). Who wants to do business with someone like that?
  3. If you share too many empathy-eliciting updates, people might tune you out.

 

Easy Does It

I agree with Rachel’s statement, “In a world where we are told to be ourselves and remain authentic, it seems a struggle to share in a way that won’t reflect negatively, but shows we are human.”

 

Indeed, it is a balancing act.

 

Quick shifts and going to extremes will throw off the equilibrium.

 

What are your thoughts about the eventual new button on Facebook? Will it prompt more raw and real status updates to make us connect with each other better or will it further incent chronic complainers to air all that’s amiss?

Is It A Good Idea To Be “Friends” With Your Clients On Facebook?

“Blurry.” I can’t think of a better way to describe the line between “business” and “personal” on social media, can you?Modern-FB-Image-Canva-DMentzer

 

No matter what business you’re in…no matter whether you’re a business owner or a professional working for someone else’s company…at some point in time a client will request to be friends with you via your personal Facebook account.

 

Should you accept? Should you decline?

 

I was curious to find out how others in my network handle those requests from their clients. I’ve shared their interesting insight below. If you haven’t yet decided on a policy for handling Facebook friend requests from your clients, you might gain some clarity on the risks and rewards by reading further.

 

As for me, I do accept Facebook friend requests from clients—and sometimes even from prospective clients. I don’t, however, initiate requests to be their friends, because I don’t want them to feel put on the spot if they prefer not to mix our business relationships with the more personal side of our lives.

 

Overall, I’ve found that having a more personal connection with my clients has helped my business. Knowing about my clients’ interests, families, hobbies, triumphs, and challenges enables me to understand them better—and I believe vice versa. I’ve found that connection has created a stronger bond in business.

 

That said, it also makes me a little more cautious about what I post on Facebook. I generally refrain from liking, commenting on, and posting anything that is politically or religiously charged. I also steer clear of posting “woe is me” posts that complain about this, that, or other people.

 

To my knowledge, being friends with clients on Facebook has never hurt me professionally—it has helped me build my brand as a solopreneur.

 

But enough about me.

 

Here’s how several of my Facebook friends (a combination of clients, subcontractors, and vendors) handle “to friend or not to friend” situations.

 

Rose Boettinger, Freelance Writer and Virtual Assistant

I tend not to accept Facebook friend requests from clients.

 

Although nothing is private once posted on the internet, I believe “personal” Facebook accounts should solely be used as a means of communication with friends and family. If you become friends with your clients, they’re able to see everything you post (unless you adjust your settings accordingly for each post, which just wastes more time) and the frequency at which you post.

 

Clients may have religious beliefs and/or morals and values that differ greatly from your own and may be offended by some of what you post. They may also not share your sense of humor, again leading to your unintentionally offensive posts. 

 

Your clients may also be put out when they notice how often you post and when you post, noting that you aren’t serving their needs at that particular time. This may also lead them to question your work ethic and dedication to their businesses, despite the fact that you’re still providing them with quality service in a timely fashion.

 

I’ve only declined one client request thus far, and that was after explaining in person at my last meeting that I tend not to accept friend requests from clients—nothing personal. I then proceeded to tell the client that I have both LinkedIn and Twitter accounts targeted more towards my industry, and I’d be happy to accept any requests that may come to my LinkedIn account.

 

The client wasn’t offended, just slightly disappointed, saying he doesn’t typically utilize those particular sites as often.

 

A good way to avoid this snag would be to create your own [business] page on Facebook, separate from and in addition to your personal account. Note that pages are different than profiles (I’d be willing to bet not everyone recognizes that fact).

 

Kris Bradley, Internet Marketing Ambassador, MIND Development & Design

About three years ago I decided to friend people in my professional network on Facebook, which included prospective and current clients. I use a lot of discretion when I post, but my true self is visible on Facebook. I try to stay away from posting controversial topics (politics, religion, sensitive topics, etc.), but I do occasionally go down that rabbit hole. I had the mentality that I am who I am and I would hope that my professional contacts can embrace this. I would do the same if they either accept my friend request or I accept their request. 

 

I wouldn’t say that I can directly put a finger on any problems or issues that came from this decision, but I do know that some of my Facebook friends who are also professional connections have treated me a bit differently since I opened that door (friending them on Facebook) into my more personal life. When I say differently, I wouldn’t say in a bad way, but I can tell that their opinion of me has been altered by me allowing myself to peel back layers about myself that they might not have gotten from an occasional interaction via business or networking. Turning the tables, I can say that I have also formed some opinions of several of my Facebook friends whom are also professional connections. I guess it just goes with the territory.

 

As it exists now, I am very selective in friending clients. I have to have a good relationship and amount of respect for them on a personal level (and vice versa) before I will open that door and peel back those layers via a Facebook friend connection. A decent percentage of my professional communication on Facebook, mostly via Messenger, is on Facebook, so I would confidently say that there are distinct advantages to friending professional connections. A good alternative is Facebook Groups, which provides an excellent way to communicate about business on Facebook, but that is another topic for another day. 

 

Andy Garman, Partner and Marketing Director, Pipedream Marketing + Design

At Pipedream, we are very selective when accepting Facebook friend requests. We don’t initiate them with clients and typically don’t accept them. But we have a couple of longstanding clients with whom we have become friendly, and so we have accepted those friend requests.

 

LinkedIn is another story! We typically try to link in with all of our clients and prospects and we accept most requests from others to link in. Prompting the difference in how we treat those two networks is the inherent personal nature of Facebook and the business networking nature of LinkedIn.

 

Heather Kreider, Owner, Makes Scents Natural Spa Line

I feel very strongly that mixing business and personal beliefs/information is not the best choice for my specific situation. I typically do not accept friend requests from anyone that is not a personal friend, which is why I have very few “friends” on Facebook.

 

However, if I have built a friendship in the past with someone who happens to become a business partner, I will continue to be friends on Facebook, but am sometimes choosy with what I share with them.

 

In the past, I have been connected with managers of business partners and feel that doing so interfered with our business relationship. This may not be the case with all business relationships but in this one specific situation, personal information (the death of a loved one) was used against us in a way to justify an unethical situation. After this happened, I realized that sharing personal information with business partners was more of an issue than a positive. From this point on, I made it a personal policy to not become “friends” with clients on Facebook.

 

Although I have nothing to hide as an honest and genuine person, allowing a business partner into my personal life is not something that I want to allow. To be honest, so much can be misconstrued on Facebook, and I would much rather build personal relations rather than cyber relationship.

 

When declining an invitation to be a friend on Facebook, I typically message or email the client to politely tell them that I do not mix business with my personal life, and that I would be happy to connect with them on more business related platforms such as LinkedIn.

 

I have never had an issue declining a friend request. I typically do not receive many friend requests from partners, because I feel there is an unspoken social media etiquette or invisible line drawn in our industry to separate business from personal lives.

 

Jon Martin, Founder, Invoq Marketing

I do allow clients to be my Facebook friends, and often I initiate the friending process. 

 

As a friend, I am able to get a glimpse into their lives. I can keep track of important life changes, find topics (sports, TV shows, hunting, etc.) that I can potentially connect with them on.
At this point, being friends with clients has created no problems or issues that I am aware of. I very intentionally limit what I post on all platforms to be things that won’t offend my clients, and if I don’t want them to know something, I don’t post it on social media.

 

A few additional thoughts…

 

To friend or not to friend depends on your goals for your client relationships. I want to be as close as possible to my clients. I want to be the trusted confidant they turn to for guidance in making business and marketing decisions. The closer I can get on a relationship level, the more successful it allows me to be and to help them to be. The more I understand their pain points, vision, passions, and goals, the better I can serve them.

 

John Oppenheimer, CEO, 1 Sky Media

I consider myself an open networker so I will accept most friend requests even those from clients. I don’t actively pursue connections with clients on Facebook as I would on LinkedIn, but I do have some clients amongst my collection of Facebook friends.

 

We haven’t seen any direct orders as a result of these connections. I try to be conscious of what I post knowing that those beyond immediate friends and family will see it. Some topics will add to the friendly banter when we next encounter a client, something like “I had no idea you…”

 

We’ve encountered no problems so far as I know from being Facebook friends with clients. Again, I try to be careful not to post anything offensive or to like something that some people might consider off color, there have been a few exceptions with posts that were just too funny not to like!

 

Rachel Strella, Owner, Strella Social Media

I absolutely welcome being friends with clients on Facebook. In fact, I proactively “friend” my clients in most circumstances.

 

I consider my clients as friends—and even family—in some circumstances, so Facebook helps me to further my relationship with them. I like to know when their children have birthdays or when they’re going through a hardship, because these instances are not often something people share via email or another social channel.

 

In today’s world, there’s little separation between a professional and personal brand. One thing I’ve learned is that our business brand is only as strong as our personal brand. This is especially true for solopreneurs and small business owners. At the same time, I respect that clients may want to share their personal lives with only their closest friends and family. I would never overstep that boundary, because I understand that Facebook can be a personal thing to some people.

 

I don’t recall ever experiencing any problems with being Facebook friends with clients. In fact, it’s enhanced my relationships with clients, especially former clients because we have a way to stay in touch.

 

As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when deciding whether or not to “friend” clients on Facebook. Ultimately, you need to decide what makes you and your clients most comfortable–and what makes the most sense for your business.

 

Your turn! What’s your policy on friending clients on Facebook?

 

 

 

 

 

To Follow Or Not On Twitter?

Social Media SerendipityTwitter Follow or not

Talk about fabulous timing.

 

I had a blog post in draft form centered on one reason not to unfollow people (more on that later) on Twitter, when Mike Sansone (founder of Small Biz Tracks and Converstations) published his METHOD: Before Following on Twitter post.

 

I once saw someone, somewhere make a statement to the effect of, “When you follow everyone, you follow no one.”

 

That’s true. When you follow all the people and businesses you encounter on Twitter, you’ll have difficulty actively engaging and building relationships with any of them effectively.

 

That’s why it’s important to at some point become more selective about whom you follow. A method like Mike describes for evaluating accounts before you follow them can nip that problem in the bud.

 

A Twitter Tip To Help Stop The Bleeding

If you’re like me though, some of the damage is already done and you’re following a fair share people and companies that don’t tweet updates that align with the topics you’re interested in or that you’d want to share with your following.

 

Regardless of the reasons you followed them (they’re local peeps, friends of friends, or you simply wanted to be nice), you can get around letting them crowd your feed by using Twitter lists. Put all your important contact and quality content creators onto meaningful lists and using a tool with a dashboard that lets you easily monitor your VIPs’ activity. I use Hootsuite for that purpose and it has worked quite well. I’ve written in more detail about this technique in this past post, so have a look.

 

Following Mike’s advice from the get-go is ideal, and using the trick I just explained after you’ve carefully selected who to follow can empower you even more.

 

Back To “Following” My Original Thought About Unfollowing On Twitter

As Mike explained how to choose whom to follow, I’m going to touch on one reason why you shouldn’t unfollow someone.

 

Don’t unfollow people simply because they haven’t followed you back.

 

Tools like Just UnFollow, Manage Flitter, Tweepi, and others make it easy to identify those people and unfollow them, but by doing that you could be missing out on some really great content and insight

 

I’ve learned a lot and have discovered stellar blog posts to share with my audience from folks whom I follow but who don’t follow me.

 

Before you unfollow people, put your ego and hurt feelings aside and use the same review process that Mike described when deciding about following folks in the first place. If they pass that test, they’re keepers even if you’ve either slid under their radar or they’re not interested in following you at this time.

 

And keep your chin up. Although they might not follow you now, the more you share and engage with their content, the better your chances are of getting that follow in the future.

 

What methods do you use when deciding whom to follow—or not follow—on Twitter?