4 Reasons to Have Multiple Freelance Content Writers

Outsourcing your blog writing and copywriting to a freelance content writer can save you a lot of time, energy, laptop and notepadfrustration. Also, it can prevent you from sounding unprofessional if you or no one on your staff has writing skills.

 

A marketing writer who understands your brand can ensure your communications have consistency and continuity.

 

When you find one that fits perfectly with your company’s culture and “gets it,” hold onto that resource.

 

But regardless of how happy you are with that person, don’t make the mistake of using the services of only that one freelance writer.

 

Why It’s Critical to Have Multiple Freelance Content Writers for Your Business

Every writer has strengths and weaknesses.

Not every writer will be right for every assignment. Some are better at short-form content (such 600- to 800-word blog posts) while others shine at longer-form content (like white papers and ebooks). Some are adept at crafting brand slogans and print ad copy, while others are skilled at writing website copy that appeals to readers and search engines.

 

Takeaway: If you can find a writer who is the complete package, fantastic! But you may discover you need more than one writer to ensure all of your marketing content is top-notch.

 

Capable writers have busy schedules.

“Freelance” doesn’t mean “lounging around with nothing to do.” Established writers often have maxed out project schedules. If you have an “emergency” assignment that needs a quick turn-around, you might be out of luck. Most freelance content writers that I know (myself included) will do their best to accommodate rush requests, but that’s not always possible.

 

Takeaway: If you have relationships with several freelancers, you increase your odds of having a writing resource to help when you’re in a pinch.

 

Writers get sick, go on vacation, and have family emergencies.

Yes, we do. Fortunately, these situations are the exception rather than the rule. However, they can affect the volume of work we’re able to take on and create the need for extended deadlines now and then.

 

Takeaway: Having several writers to turn to will help you navigate times when your go-to writer will be out of town or is dealing with unforeseen circumstances.

 

It may be time for a change.

At some point in time, either you or your writer may decide it’s time to part ways. You may decide you want a fresh approach and feel a new writer is your best way to accomplish it. Or, your writer may choose to discontinue doing certain types of assignments or cease doing work for your industry.

 

Takeaway: Business relationships evolve. By having more than one writer to help you with your content, you will not feel stuck without options or be left high and dry when a writer opts to make a change.

 

Where to a Find Competent Freelance Content Writer

Doing searches on LinkedIn and Google will help you find potential candidates to help you with your content needs. Also, ask fellow business owners and marketing managers for recommendations. And, believe it or not, the freelancer you’re currently working with might be happy to connect you with other writers. I have introduced several of my clients to writers that I respect and trust to do good work.

 

Relying on one writer for everything can put your content at risk of falling behind deadlines or not being done as well as it could be. I believe you’ll find it’s well worth the time and effort to build relationships with multiple writers. Not only will it help ensure you have quality content for any assignment, but it will also provide peace of mind that all your eggs are not in one basket.

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.

 

 

How to Give Your Small Business Staying Power on Social Media

Here today; gone tomorrow. On social media networks, that describes a lot of solopreneurs and small business owners. If Marathon runneryou’ve been using social media consistently, you’ve probably noticed some people and brands start strong, but then drop off the radar almost completely. I’ve especially noticed it on Twitter. In my three years actively using the network for business, I’ve seen people go from tweeting and interacting full throttle to running out of gas, their tweets coming to a full stop. It happens on all of the other networks, too…Google+, Facebook, Pinterest…

But why? If people know (and most do) that building brand awareness and professional relationships on social media takes prolonged and consistent effort, why do so many give up?

It’s simple: They bite off more than they can chew and get overwhelmed in trying to keep up amid all of their other business responsibilities.

Tips for Giving Staying Power to your Social Media Efforts

If you – or someone you know – is struggling with keeping current on social media, here are a few pointers that might help:

Educate yourself about how much activity is needed to gain traction on the various social media channels.

Twitter, for example, requires significantly more posts to stay top of mind because of its fast and furious nature. By contrast, connections would find it overkill if you posted that many updates on Linkedin. By knowing how much posting and interacting individual networks demand for gaining notice and building goodwill, you’ll better be able to choose which are right for you.

Be realistic about how much time and effort you can – and are willing to – devote to social media networking.

Far worse than not being on a popular social media channel is being there with a severely neglected account. If you haven’t posted a status update on your Facebook page for 3 months, you need to make a decision: either get active or cut the cord. The same goes for any other online social network. Are you committed to putting in the time and work to stay consistent with each of your social media networks? If no, are you willing to delegate or outsource your social media responsibilities? If no again, it’s time to close some accounts.

Learn and use social media tools.

Time-saving, productivity-boosting online tools can make a big difference in how well you’ll be able to manage your social networks. I use both Hootsuite (which also has a wonderful dashboard component) and Buffer for scheduling posts. Using an RSS reader like Feedly will help you keep content sources readily accessible when you’re looking for relevant articles to share with your audience. Also important: organizing the connections in your network (for example, via aptly-named circles in Google+ and lists in Twitter) to make it easier to keep tabs on posts by the key people (e.g. clients, prospects) you want to interact with. And don’t downplay the power of mobile apps! Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Linkedin…they all have mobile apps for Android and iOS. Use them to keep up on your networks when you’ve got idle time waiting for a client at a coffee shop or when you’re in line at the grocery store.

Have a plan.

For some people, having a pre-set content calendar helps keep them on track. This may or may not work for you depending on your type of business. When creating content in advance, you run the risk of appearing like you’re sharing yesterday’s news. Still, it’s good to at least have a loose plan for how you’ll approach your social media activities. Establish how often you’ll aim to post updates, how often you’ll login to your networks to interact with others, and what mix of content you’ll share (article links, photos, videos, contests, etc.).


Last but not least…

Don’t be too hard on yourself if you fall short! Occasionally, you will. We all do! Expect times when you won’t fulfill your social media commitments. Life happens. Work happens. Both can throw unexpected surprises that can derail your best laid social media plans. When they do, don’t look back and beat yourself up over it. Instead look forward and pick up where you left off. Just don’t give up!

 

 

By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ post

Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What the 91% of Small Biz Owners Who Do Their Own Marketing Need to Think About in 2014

According to results from an AWeber survey, 91% of small business owners are also the primary marketers for their companies. Whoa! Marketing in itself is challenging and time-consuming, but even more stressful and daunting is when it’s one of many other business-critical responsibilities on your overflowing plate.

So much to do; so little time. Where should you put your efforts in the limited hours you have to market your business?

The marketing tactics small business owners say they will focus on in  this year:


Data and infographic by AWeber

There’s no such thing as “one-size-fits-all” marketing, but there are some universal considerations nearly every small business owner should make top of mind…

  • Make sure you have adequate time to plan and execute effectively. Not all social networks and tactics take the same amount of time and attention. If you don’t have the capacity to keep up with them, either look to do something different, or hire someone/outsource the responsibility.
  • Go where your audience is. As of December 31, 2013, Facebook had 1.23 billion monthly active users.* That’s a bunch, but if you’re a B2B consulting business targeting mid-size company CEOs you might be wasting your time with a business Facebook page.  Don’t squander your time on social media channels that won’t reach your target market.
  • Don’t treat online networking and face-to-face networking as two separate initiatives. If you do, you’ll miss out on opportunities to build relationships and trust. Nearly every professional you meet at an in-person networking event will have – at the very least – a Linkedin account. Connect so you’ll have an easy and noninvasive way to maintain contact long after the networking event is over. And don’t forget to find out which other social networks they – or their companies – have a presence on. Social media can help you stay on the radar and generate goodwill when you show support via your interaction. Likewise, seek to strengthen online networking with face-to-face conversations whenever possible. Reach out to local contacts to see if you can connect at an upcoming chamber mixer, industry trade show, seminar, etc. Those multiple touch points can result in strong business development outcomes.

 

Final note:

When you’re a solopreneur or small business owner who does it all in your business, it’s impossible to do it all in marketing. Be smart and selective when choosing where to devote your time, energy, and hard-earned money. You’ll find it’s better to do one or two things well than to spread yourself too thin and flounder while trying to do five or six.

 

Your turn: What marketing tactics are you focusing on most in 2014? Have you given any up since 2013? I’d love to hear from you!

 

By Dawn Mentzer

 

*According to the Facebook Newsroom – accessed January, 30, 2014

The Often Unsung Benefit of Blogging

Blogging. You’ll find no shortage of articles telling you how important it is to your business. It directs traffic to yourThumbs up website, improves your placement in search results, establishes you as an authority in your field…need I go on?

But there’s something else blogging can do for you. And it’s something I believe we don’t talk about nearly enough…

Blogging helps us better understand – and project offline – who we are and the value we bring to our clients.

Here are some of the reasons why that’s so…

  • Blogging helps you find and develop your professional voice.
  • As you blog, you have an opportunity to think about the individual components of your business and how they impact you and your customers.
  • Blogging gives you a reason to dissect your systems and processes. Preparing to explain what you do to an audience helps you find holes and gaps that you might not otherwise find.
  • Blogging reinforces what you know and instills confidence in your capabilities.
  • Blogging often requires some degree of research – you expand your knowledge in the process.
  • Regularly writing about what you know and do and what’s important within your industry can help you feel more comfortable and confident when talking with prospects.

If you’ve felt like you’re simply going through the motions of blogging because you believe you have to for the purpose of marketing, look at it as a professional development opportunity instead. Blogging can do more for you than put you on the online radar screen; it can make you a smarter, stronger, more confident small business owner.

Important to note: Even if you hire a freelancer to write your blog posts, your involvement in identifying topics and specific talking points can give you these benefits!

YOUR TURN! How have your blogging efforts transcended marketing and helped you develop professionally?

By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ post

 

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Want to Make Clients Thirst for Your Services? Think Beer.

Blue Moon has its orange slice.Bottles of beer

Corona has its lime.

While I’m not a big beer drinker, I think both brands give us small biz peeps something worthwhile to think about.

What can we serve on the side to enhance and augment our core services and give our clients an experience they want to order over and over again?

You might say, “But malt beverages are way different than what I provide to my customers.” While that’s probably true, it doesn’t mean you can’t apply the same logic to differentiating your business.

Bottoms up! Brainstorm about what will make your clients say “Cheers!”…

Think about what complementary topics you’re savvy about that you don’t offer as billable service offerings, but for which you could offer some advice or share relevant resources. For example, I bill clients for my work as a freelance content writer, but I often provide clients, prospects, and even other writers with guidance on social media, networking, and online efficiency tools. Those things are my lime wedges and orange slices, and I’m sure that with a little thought, you’ll discover you’ve got your own to serve up in your business.

It’s all about value! What can you add to your offerings to make your brand more appealing? What garnish will help make your brand the one clients thirst for?

 

Your turn! What ways have you discovered you can provide additional value to your clients?

 

By Dawn Mentzer (a.k.a. The Insatiable Solopreneur™)

 

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Image courtesy of Gualberto107 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Duplicate Content: Could Allowing Another Site to Copy Your Content Strip Your Website of Its Stripes?

When another blogger asks permission to share your content, it’s flattering. What a satisfying feeling to know others 2 zebra imagebelieve your insight is worth sharing with their audience. Most often, people will simply share your post’s link via their social channels or give your post mention in one of their posts. But occasionally, you may discover that someone who has asked permission to share your post has duplicated your post’s content entirely – the only difference between their content and yours being a note of attribution with a link to your original post.

Duplicate Content – Could an earnest, honest effort to raise awareness of your content get your website slapped by Google?

It happened to me just about a month ago. A very nice, professional, courteous connection asked if he could share my post via his channels provided he gave attribution. I was of course thrilled to give my approval. But when I discovered my post, including the title, was directly duplicated (aside from the attribution) on his blog, I felt my heart leap into my throat for a moment as visions of being penalized in search or ranking by Google played on my mind. Assuming the duplicate content could negatively affect both my site and his, I reached out to him and asked if he could alter his title, write an introductory blurb with an excerpt from my post, and then link to my blog rather than copying and pasting the entire article. He cooperated immediately; he hadn’t realized copying the content could potentially create problems for our sites.

We dodged that bullet, right? That’s what I thought, but then I noticed duplicate content shown by some other sites and began wondering if there was any bullet to dodge at all. For example, I ran across this blog that essentially copied and pasted this other blog’s post verbatim – title and all! And neither the syndicator nor the syndicated are novices or newbies!

What Google says about duplicate content.

According to its guidelines in the Webmaster’s Tools Help section of Google’s Support site, Google doesn’t automatically penalize sites for duplicate content; only if it perceives the duplication has been shown with intent to manipulate rankings and deceive Google search users.  The penalty if Google deems duplicate content was done in an attempt to game the system: “As a result, the ranking of the site may suffer, or the site might be removed entirely from the Google index, in which case it will no longer appear in search results.”

So, it sounds like we might have been in the clear after all. Surely, Google would be able to tell we weren’t trying to pull a fast one on them, right?

Maybe so, but after talking with a local online marketing and SEO expert, I feel like I made the right decision.

Real world observations about how duplicate content is treated by Google.

Owner of 1 Sky Media, John Oppenheimer, shares his insight and experience regarding the duplicate content issue…

Duplicate content has always been a concern for webmasters. Google has always suggested that duplicated content would not rank well. Their stance had been that the original copy would be indexed and potentially rank well, while subsequent copies would be ignored. In real world practice, however, this has not always been the case. We’ve had original test sites that have garnered the wrath of a Google penalty while later launched copies have lived on without issue. We’ve also had virtually duplicated sites that lived harmoniously.

In the winter of 2011, with the emergence of Google’s Panda algorithm update, the search world changed. Google’s policy regarding duplicate content grew some teeth. We witnessed duplicated sites/pages drop instantly from near the top of Google’s ranking to the basement floor. The handwriting had been on the wall for this for years, so it was really no surprise when the change came. Today, we suggest that if your website writings are to be copied that you request a delay in the copy such that your copy can be indexed first and hopefully gain recognition as the original source. We also suggest that an excerpt is better than a pure copy and that in either case a credit and link must be given on the copied text directly to the source page of the original.

Duplicate content: You decide.

With all that John shared, I’m confident the smart thing to do was play it safe, but you need to decide for yourself when someone asks to share your content. Have a policy in place about how you’ll want your content shared from someone else’s blog and follow up after it’s posted there to make sure your wishes have been carried through.

All in all, keeping in the clear just takes a minute or two of your time and some clear communication. And keep in mind that although we fuss and fret over the changes Google has made, ultimately they have vastly improved the user’s search experience.

In the words of John at 1 Sky Media:

Seems somewhat odd when you think about it, Google is nothing more than copies of all websites indexed, yet we must be concerned about copying! The enforcement of duplicate copy rules has in fact improved the search experience because we no longer need to go through page after page of virtually identical copy, supplied from different websites, whenever searching competitive topics.

 

Your turn: Have you let others copy and paste your content onto their blogs? Have you experienced any repercussions by Google as a result?

 

By Dawn Mentzer

 

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Image courtesy of anankkml / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Is It Time to Say Bye-Bye to Your Business Facebook Page?

As a solopreneur/small business owner, I’m getting more frustrated with Facebook by the day. I know I’m not alone. JustGood bye note recently the platform admitted to what most of us suspected all along, they really aren’t interested in giving your posts exposure to your audience unless you’re willing to pay to play.  This article by Ad Age explains it.

As I’ve seen my posts’ reach dwindle from a decent yet still annoying 35 – 40% to as low as 6%, I’m asking myself, “Why bother?” Facebook has apparently deemed my posts  unworthy of the attention of my fans (You know, the people who consciously liked my page so they could see my posts?) and has chosen not to display them in their news feeds.  Given that my posting frequency, interaction, and content quality have been consistent all along, there doesn’t seem to be much I can do to change the downward spiral. Except pay for ads or to promote my posts, but I won’t.

Like many other small businesses, my purpose for maintaining a Facebook for my business has been to build and nurture relationships, not blatantly sell my stuff. While they say they’re making these changes to improve users’ overall experience on the site, I’m failing to see how that will succeed. Won’t showing only promoted posts and paid ads to users subject them to more “push” marketing content and less authentic content meant to provide value and engage them in conversation?

Are you considering deleting your business Facebook page?

I am. I believe my time and effort posting and monitoring activity on my business Facebook page will be better spent building my interaction on Google+ and Twitter. Still, I realize it’s not wise to just jump ship and swim away from the fans who have been – when the omnipotent forces at Facebook allow them to see my posts – engaged and supportive.

Jenn Herman recently wrote a post providing some extremely helpful and practical tips on how to communicate with your fans about your plans to leave your Facebook page behind.  If you’re contemplating a transition away from your business page, you’ll want to heed her advice!

On Jenn’s checklist of how to prepare Facebook fans, she includes the tip “Don’t Go Cold Turkey.” I agree. A gradual exit will help ensure the vast majority of your fans are aware of your intent and have time to connect with you on other platforms before you officially cut the cord.

After your business Facebook page is laid to rest, you can still benefit professionally from Facebook!

All or nothing? It doesn’t have to be that way with Facebook. While I intend to put the ax to my business Facebook page, I’ll keep my personal profile alive and kicking. Heck, it’s the only way I’m connected with my fellow Oley Valley High School grads. AND a good many of the professional connections who are fans of my business page have also friended me on Facebook. AND I’m following their business Facebook pages (and will be until they, too, decide to delete them) through my personal profile. So as my personal self , I’ll have ample opportunity to build rapport and show support of their businesses on Facebook if they haven’t yet embraced other online social networks. Also, as appropriate, I’ll share content that’s business-related on my personal timeline. I’ve seen a lot of professionals do that successfully.

What about you? Have you seen your business Facebook page reach and engagement plummet? Are you planning to keep your page or ditch it?

P.S.  Please know I respect Facebook’s right to make a buck, but I think they’re approaching it the wrong way. They set the expectation among small business owners that the platform would serve as a viable, free tool for generating brand awareness and building relationships with customers. It was at one time, until they started tweaking their algorithms to the point where business page owners had to start standing on their heads and doing circus tricks to get their posts seen by their fans. Now not even the “tricks” work. Only cold, hard cash does…and not even for building genuine engagement. What if they’d instead offer biz page owners a subscription-based service (at maybe $9.99/month) to have their posts shown to page fans? I might consider staying if something like that were available. You?

By Dawn Mentzer

 

Image courtesy of gubgib / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Deck the Halls – and Your Small Biz: Add Sparkle With These 3 Professional Touches

As the holidays approach, we put an exorbitant amount of time and effort into making the season bright for all around us. It’s as it should be….but don’t forget to look ahead and think about how you can make things a little brighter for your small business in the New Year.

NOW is the time to focus on the things you can do to propel your business forward in 2014. Whether your past year was one that didn’t quite make its mark or one in which you exceeded expectations, you can always find ways to improve and add some professional polish.

Some ideas for brightening your small business in 2014

Refresh your website.

How long have you had your existing website? It might be time for a re-do. Does your site look dated? Does the navigation not serve visitors as well as it should? Is it difficult for you to change content? If you answered “Yes” to any of those questions, you might consider an update. Tip: Unless you’re a web designer/developer, don’t attempt on your own. If you think your audience can’t tell the difference between a self-created Weebly site and one that’s professionally done, think again. This is your brand we’re talking about. Your website will be the one place all your other online spaces, marketing material,s and messaging point to, so it pays to have one that’s well done and shows you mean business.

Pose for some professional photos.

As easy it is to spot  an amateur website, it’s also easy to spot a “selfie” profile pic. I’ve found professional pics to be one of the best investments I’ve made for my business. They put that finishing touch on your website and the social networks you use professionally. And if you’re invited to speak at an event or guest blog, you won’t look like an amateur when they ask you for a high-res head shot. Not all photographers will cost you an arm and leg.  Ask around and do some research to find one who will bring out your best without costing you a bundle.

Start your blog – FINALLY!

I’m secretly laughing to myself because I know at least four people personally who at this moment are saying, “Does she mean me?” Hmmm….maybe I do. I’ll never tell! But what I will say is if you have any doubt about how important blogging is for your business, read this article by Stephanie Frasco. Twice.

No complaining or whining about not having anything of interest to write about! You have a business. Your business has customers. Your customers find some value in what you offer them, so expand on that through your blog. What breaking news in your industry will help them live healthier lives or do business better? Have you launched a new service or expanded an existing service to enable them to save time by outsourcing an annoying task? What tips can you give them to extend the life of your products? What questions do customers most frequently ask about your services? Creating and sharing your own content via a blog is a powerful way to build authority, gain trust, and turn leads into sales.

 

Go ahead; deck the halls, but don’t stop there.

As you’re hanging mistletoe and stringing lights this month, remember to think ahead about how you can make your business sparkle and shine next year. What steps big or small would sprinkle some professional pixie dust over your small business?

 

By Dawn Mentzer

 

 

 

Marketing Isn’t Magic: 8 Things It Can’t Do For Your Small Business

Marketing and Magic Aren’t the Same.

Whether you hire out some of your marketing activities and initiatives or plan and execute them on your own  as a Magiciansolopreneur or small business owner, marketing can do a lot to further your business, but it can’t make miracles happen. Some small biz owners are quick to blame marketing platforms and tools when their businesses aren’t gaining the reputation they want or acquiring the new business they’ve set their sights on.

Marketing usually isn’t the only problem though. Marketing isn’t magic.  It can’t fix what’s broken or neglected in a business.

What marketing can’t do…

  • Make a crappy product or service not crappy.
  • Build relationships for you or repair professional relationships that have gone downhill.
  • Tell you to respond to prospective clients’ emails in a timely manner.
  • Do its job without an investment (time, money, or both) from you.
  • Make you deliver what you promise on time.
  • Be successful without consistency in exposure and brand message.
  • Change your company culture into one that your target market can relate to.
  • Reach your audience online if you’re not using the same channels they use.

Problems in business need solutions, not a scapegoat.

Do you know anyone who has blamed marketing for what isn’t going well in their businesses? Making marketing your “fall guy” isn’t only unfair, it’s downright dangerous.  While at face value it’s less painful to ignore what else might be wrong within your business, getting to the core issues stands as the only way to get started on the changes that will move you forward. Building a strong professional reputation starts with paying attention to what clients want and delivering it. Marketing can help you project your brand message, amplify what you do best, and expand your reach – but it can never make you what you’re not.

Your turn! Have you met people who seem to by default blame marketing whenever their businesses fall short?

By Dawn Mentzer

Image courtesy of Luigi Diamanti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net