Overcome your blog phobia!

Worried about taking your first step into the world of blogs?

Taking your ideas and committing them to paper (or virtual paper) takes courage, determination and a good deal of self belief. You may ponder for hours, even days, over what you want to say and how you are going to say it. Believing in what you’ve got to say is critical; the best advice I’ve read recently is from the blogging master Jeff Bullas

“It’s your time to share your knowledge with a world that needs inspiration.”

Read on for simple tips for any small business, sole-trader or SME about to embark on this journey of self belief and knowledge sharing.

Reasons To Write A Blog

  • It’s a great way to open up your company or business to a new audience
  • It gives you freedom to write about whatever you want
  • It can create new channels of communication with customers and prospects
  • It’s a great place to promote new products and offers

 

What To Write About – To stay motivated and maintain regular blog schedule you have to write about your passion, something that you enjoy and that you can talk about with ease. The trick is not to over think your topic. The content you include in your blog could be educational, inspirational, funny, thought provoking even contentious.

Speech bubble about blogsDon’t worry about being original or ground breaking, just make it interesting.

A blog it doesn’t have to be the written word. What about a video blog, or image based blog, try tools like Slideshare as a new way to present content.

A Great Headline – I always write my headline last. Mostly because I just want to get on and write the blog, also because as I write the headline idea just develops.

The headline needs to make readers want to read on (as you hopefully have in this case). If you’re struggling here are a few pointers for effective headlines:

  1. List posts “20 ways to…….peel a banana…”
  2. How To… or Ways To…….write a blog/do something
  3. The Secret of ……..
  4. What everybody ought to know about…..

Make It Easy To Share  – Don’t forget to add social sharing buttons for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn (and YouTube and Pinterest – for visual blogs).

So if you are worried or procrastinating over writing your first blog. My advice is just go for it.

 

 

5 Curation Tools To Create Your Own Online Magazine

Publish your own online magazine or newspaperYou have probably heard the phrase  content curation a lot; and the concept of sharing interesting, relevant articles and posts is one of the core activities in good social media marketing.  By sharing good content from a range of sources, you can show expertise in your field and present your customers, prospects, business partners and colleagues with a single stream of relevant, accurate and informed material.

“CURATION means to discover, gather and present digital content about a specific topic or subject; amassing content from a variety of sources and delivering it in an organised fashion. It’s now becoming a marketing staple for companies who want a successful online presence”

Source: EContentMagazine

Of course, many people make extensive use of Twitter and Facebook to share blogs, news and websites and Pinterest is great for building a visual pin-board of ideas.  But how about collating and presenting all these articles visually as your own magazine or newspaper?

There are a variety of tools that serve this very purpose.  They can be fun to use and give your community a one-stop-shop for finding useful resources and news.

Not only do they allow you to share content you have found, they actually help you find new content to publish to your own pages.  Most include a “bookmarklet” to make it easy to share articles.  A bookmarklet is the tiny icon that sits in your browser’s toolbar.  It allows you to grab content or feeds from any web page and add them to your paper in 1 click.

Here are five well-known online curation tools we like:

  • Storify

    Storify gathers social media postings such as tweets, photos and videos to tell a story on a particular subject.  The interface lets you search multiple networks and resources to build your story.  You can also add your own headlines and comments, pulling all the elements together and giving your own opinions.

  • Paper.li

    Paper.li has many automated features that help you promote your pages and find new, relevant content from across the web.  It allows users to subscribe to your paper and also gives you access to scheduled posts and usage stats.  It comes as a free basic version and also a paid-for ‘Pro’ edition with more features and customisation options.

  • Scoop.it

    Scoop.it is another tool with a great magazine-style layout at the front-end.  Its smart searches and community help you discover new content and, of course, it also gives you a bookmarklet to add your own content.  You can add your own thoughts and perspective and easily share your magazine across social networks and blogs.

  • RebelMouse.com

    RebelMouse.com, with its ‘Rebel Roar’ product, is a relatively new arrival offering a sophisticated, professional publishing platform which is already being used by some very big companies.  It includes many of the same features as other tools;  it allows you to bring together and share content from social networks and websites.  It has a strong focus on automated tools such as generating newsletters, Twitter Cards, polls and petitions.

  • Pearltrees

    Pearltrees is a much more visual platform, ideal for photos, graphics and video.  This makes it similar in many ways to Pinterest although the interface has the feel of an online slideshow.

If you use any of these tools why not link your magazine below and we will share. Or if we’ve missed your favourite content curation tool let us know!

Simple Tips for More Professional-looking Photos on Social Media

Images are becoming increasingly important when it comes to getting noticed on social media, in particular Facebook, which now prioritises posts that include images and video over text only posts, and Twitter where images are visible in the timeline and of course Pinterest (which is all about image content).

(This article does not cover profile pictures or mastheads which often have to be made to particular dimensions. More on that in a future blog.)

Sharing snaps is OK but if you’re showing off products, your workspace or even your staff then it’s worth making a little extra effort to make your images look better, more professional and ultimately more shareable.

At the risk of upsetting my professional photographer friends, you don’t particularly need a high end camera to get good results.  Images on social media are not meant to be printed and tend not to stick around too long in the stream.  Their main purpose is to grab attention and encourage sharing.  Compact cameras and phone cameras these days all take pretty high resolution photos and, with a little thought, can attain great results!

Here are a few beginners’ tips to help make your images look more attractive online:

  • Make sure your photo is in focus.  Sounds obvious but look around at how many slightly fuzzy photos there are out there.  The problem here is that you can’t always tell how in focus the picture is on the camera or phone screen.  Always try to review your photo on a larger computer screen before sharing it online.
  •  Make sure the picture is well-lit.  If you haven’t got good daylight then you may need to find a bright lamp or two.  Good lighting will help the camera focus and make the colours look vibrant, giving depth to the image.  This is particularly important for product shots where people will want to see close details.
  • Before you publish your image, look at the composition and see if it could be improved by cropping in close to the subject.  Some media let you do this online, WordPress for example, but otherwise you will have to do this off-line in a photo editing app or software package.
  • When cropping, check the background.  Is there too much of it?  Does it look messy?  Removing excess background such as walls, the floor or anything that wasn’t intended to be in shot keeps the focus on the subject of the photo, enhances the overall composition and doesn’t distract the viewer.
  • Look for odd lines at the edges of the photo and try to crop those out, too.  Generally this will give you a cleaner, neater look to the image.
  • Try a square crop.  Cropping an image into a square can look particularly attractive and gives a modern feel to a page.
  • While you’re editing your photos, don’t be overly concerned with file size and don’t over-compress or reduce the size of your images before uploading.  Most (I can’t think of any that don’t) social media and blogging platforms automatically compress and resize your images when you add them and too much compression will result in loss of quality, making your photos look grainy and pixelated.

Here’s an example to show how cropping can improve a photo I snapped on my phone.

Original photo:

Uncropped original image

Image showing the crop area

Final cropped image:

Final image

Good photography can really make a social media post stand out from the rest and, with a little attention to detail and a bit of extra effort, you can really give your quick snapshots a professional feel.  I hope you find these tips useful and please share the results if you try them out in your own social marketing activities.

Why Social Media?

In a traditional setting, advertising used to be leaflets, cold calling, billboards etc. This is now becoming obselete: So why do people use social media as opposed to traditional marketing?

In today’s modern society, everybody leads busy lives, nobody wants the intrusion of having a leaflet thrust into their hand as they are walking down the street, or to receive a telephone call in the evening after a long day.

Social media is about identifying your audience, targeting them and engaging in conversation. Once you have gained trust the ‘customer’ will begin to form a relationship with you and when they are looking for a supplier to purchase there product or service from, you are likely to be top of the list.

‘Engaging’ is the key word. The customer needs to give their permission for you to talk to them. Start a conversation, talk to them about their interests and lives. Let them see that you care about them as a person, and you are not all about the hard sell.

EPSON scanner image
Think 80/20

80% of your time on social media should be engaging and collaborating with your target audience. Only 20% should be you talking about your products.

Remember: Don’t let social media become anti-social!

 

At Bee Social Smart we aim to give practical, no nonsence advice to you, the supplier. We provide bespoke consultancy for your business to show you how to you can increase your performance with the use of social media.

The Secret Of Simple Social Media Strategy

In our last blog we shared some of the most common platforms that you can use for social media; hopefully you have narrowed it down to 2 or 3 that you know will work for your business and that you will have time to maintain.

At this point – make an important decision. Who within your organisation is going to look after your social media. Don’t assume that a younger employee will be better – the average age of a Facebook user is 39 (Twitter 38). It should be owned by someone who really understands the business and has the right personality and approach to be consistent – and has enough time to dedicate to making it effective.

So, now you are ready, here are a few tips for other things to consider:

Woman drawing action plan

Turn Ideas in Social Media Action

Set Some Objectives What do you want to achieve by using social media? The objectives you have for social media will vary depending on the type of business, organistion or charity you are. But it’s always good to have an objective to know why your doing it, maybe it’s:

  • to raise awareness about your business or your industry
  • to drive more website traffic
  • to get more customers into you shop (online or high street)
  • to act as communication hub for a particular issue
  • to become a community discussion group

Know Your AudienceWho are you talking to? You have to know what type of customers, fans, followers you are hoping to attract: knowing enough about them helps you work out where to find them, what to say and how to say it so they will respond to and most importantly it helps you share the type of content they will find interesting and want to share with others.

Think About Content If you haven’t already read our Content is King blog it might be a good place to start. Before you fire off that first post or Tweet you need to know what you are going to share. Having a content calendar always helps; maybe you want to follow a formula every week so Monday is news from your company, Tuesday is share a photo day, Wednesday is write a blog day etc. Do you have some video you can use? Perhaps you want to find relevant information that other people have already created and share. Whatever you decide to do, make a commitment to do it regularly.

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How Do You Know It’s Working?If you set objectives at the beginning it’s much easier to know if your social media efforts are working. There are some great tools you can use (usually free for trial period) like Hootsuite, SproutSocial – which help you schedule your activity and have great reporting features. Facebook has it’s own Insights – which is really valuable data for understanding what has worked in your page. And of course, you can use Google Analytics to analyse web traffic.

We’d love to know if this has helped you simplify your social media strategy – drop us a comment in the speech bubble at the top.

 

 

 

5 Social Media Platforms To Help You Promote Your Business.

With so many social media platforms to choose from – which ones will increase performance for your business? At Bee Social Smart we know that social media is a necessary tool for you to be able to add value to your business.

Below is a brief outline of just 5 (of the many) options available and that can help you increase your sales today.

Twitter

Twitter is an online social media platform that enables you too connect to people or businesses. With approximately 555 million accounts there are plenty of people/businesses to communicate with!

Since there are around 9,000 tweets go out every second your tweet has a very short life cycle span – Twitter Users need to post little and often intermittently throughout the day.

Facebook

Many people use Facebook for pleasure but did you know that you can also create a business page?
Facebook potentially gives you the chance to attract a different type of audience to Twitter, plus you can post a picture which is instantly visible to your audience.
Once your page has received 30 likes, you are then able to access ‘insights’ which are statistics to help you identify which helps you measure your efforts.
Facebook Users need to determine how often they are going to post on their business page and stick to it – By posting regular, reliable content people will learn to visit your page as a trusted source of information.

Linked-In


Linked-in gives you the chance to show off your business skills. It is a powerful tool which enables you to display your CV to the entire world! You are given the opportunity to ‘Connect’ with fellow business, people and build relationships with experts that work in the same field as you as well as potential clients.
Linked-in also gives you the opportunity to build yourself an excellent reputation as passed or present colleagues are able to recommend you to their connections.

 

Pinterest
Pinterest is a virtual online pin board. You are able to create boards about subjects you love. For example, if you own a hair salon you could create the following boards:

  • Styles that you have created in your salon (the before and after picture)
  • Styles which are trending in big cities such as London
  • Fashion

Link to these pins on other social media platforms such as Twitter or Facebook. Other users will also see your pins and start to follow you. Pinterest is perfect for any business that has a product to sell or a visual representation of their service.

YouTube
You Tube enables you to put videos of yourself  and market your brand, this can help people develop an instant connection with you.
People in life are very busy – so it is recommended that your video be 3 minutes or less in time – as always content is key.

All of the above are powerful tools which can be used to drive traffic to your website.

Would you like to know more about how to use social media platforms to increase performance in your business? We  are running two workshops on 14th November.

Can’t make on the 14th November, or think a workshop is not for you? We also offer a range of social media consultancy, training and social media management services.

We love to help, contact us through any of our social media channels and we would love to chat and see if we can help.

Re-purpose Content With Digital Animation

Videos make great online content and, compared to using real video footage, digital animation is a relatively quick and flexible way to put together an entertaining piece.

Here’s how BeeSocialSmart created an animated video from existing content…..

Re-purpose Existing Content: In terms of promoting your services, re-packaging your existing content in the form of a video can provide new marketing opportunities and stimulate interest in your company.  YouTube videos are great for your Google ranking and, social media gurus like Jeff Bullas are always telling us, they are more likely to get shared and prompt feedback via social media channels.  They also provide a fun and interesting way to encourage people to find out more about you by visiting your website.

We had the idea of creating an animated video to promote our social media services and started thinking about how to create a short ‘sting’ to tell people what we do.  The style needed to be clear and bright, show off our friendly personality and give a short, comprehensive message of what we are about.

Pare Down Content: Before thinking of any visuals, we sat down and made some notes on what we wanted to say.  The message had to be made up of short sentences and bullet points but not become too slogan-y.  It also had to get straight to the point, be quick to read and easy to understand.

There’s so much to say about your own business that it can be quite difficult to pare it down to the bare essentials.  However, we think we did quite a good job of picking a few choice phrases and still giving a strong ‘call to action’.

Key Points for video content:

  • Keep messages short and easy to absorb
  • Don’t overload the screen
  • Pace things so that people have time to read the text
  • Unless it’s a tutorial, if your video starts to get more than a couple of minutes long consider splitting it into two separate clips.
  • Try to be consistent with your other marketing materials and activity
  • Make it clear what people should do when they reach the end

After sorting out the text content, we began thinking about how to present the information visually.

Use Your Brand:  The star of the show was always going to be our busy bee, but of course we also needed to make good use of our logo and brand colours. By taking

sb3

Social Media Can Help Your Business Bloom

inspiration from other elements such as the BeeSocialSmart website and our presentation material, we were able to keep a consistent feel.  Consistency is important because it helps people understand who the message is from and gives a much more professional impression.

From this point on, it’s really a case of using your imagination!  The great thing about animation is that pretty much anything is possible.  However, it’s still important to remember to present text clearly and pace things so that people have time to read and absorb the information.

Animation: Sitting down with the animator, we first of all worked on getting the text to flow and then used the animated bee to link the ‘scenes’ together.  We added a vibrating effect to the word ‘buzz’ and, naturally, the word ‘bloom’ was just crying out for a few flowers.  We chose a vibrant pink to bring in an extra splash of colour and add a little impact.

We didn’t have a voiceover, so we chose some soundtrack music which we used to set the pace and timing for the animation.  Adding a few sound effects completed the job!

The finished video was uploaded to our new YouTube channel and embedded into the BeeSocialSmart website.  From there is was easy to promote the video using Facebook and Twitter.

If you want more help with understanding how to use video as part of your online marketing strategy then contact us info@beesocialsmart.co.uk or visit our web site www.beesocialsmart.co.uk.

6 Point Checklist – Making Your Content King!

You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘Content is King’. But you may be sitting there afraid to ask what this actually means, or simply worrying just how to make your content regal…this checklist could help!

What do we mean by content? Our personal favourite definition (courtesy of www.TheWordFactory.com).

“Content is the presentation of information for a purpose to an audience through a channel in a form.”

For social media, ‘content’ is the post, tweet, image, blog and video you share on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, LinkedIn (and other social media platforms). If you’re aiming for ‘Royal Status” ask yourself these few things.

Content Is King

Making Content King

Is my content………………

Interesting, useful or helpful? Make your content work hard: tell a story, share some facts, surprise your readers, reveal some secrets, give a new spin on existing knowledge, make the reader laugh or cry. Give your fans and followers something to act on or teach them something new, they may well do some of your marketing for you – by sharing, liking and retweeting.

Diverse? Make your content varied and interesting. Re-purpose content you already own such as white papers, research data, editorial articles – it can all be used online. Offer tips and information to educate. Remember to add links to your own website and other sources of information you value. Don’t forget to ask questions, provide promotions and offers. Occasional humour or levity is good as well. Don’t be afraid to share other people’s content it shows you are impartial and value other points of view.

Relevant to my target audience? Identify who you need to talk to and use appropriate phrases, keywords and identify suitable #hashtags. Join existing conversations among your target audience, enjoy the ‘chat’ and avoid the hard sell.

Well written? There’s nothing worse than a post or tweet full of errors and broken links so make sure it’s….

  • Punchy
  • Concise
  • Polite
  • Helpful
  • Trustworthy
  • Entertaining
  • In English (not text speak)
  • Check the spelling
  • Check grammar
  • Check links

Remember all content refers back to your business and your brand.

Helping to drive my business forward? Linking your content to business goals gives your social media efforts a purpose.  Maybe you want to find new business partnerships, or research a new region for business development, identify potential customers and learn more about them, converse with experts in your industry or simply entertain your followers and fans. Write content that helps to meet these goals.

Planned? Content works best when it’s planned and co-ordinated. Use a content calendar to schedule content based on business objectives, monthly targets, seasonality, industry trends and events. Be timely with your content link it to trends and news.

At BeeSocialSmart we follow Chris Brogan and in a recent blog and we found his statement that “Content Marketing is sales-minded storytelling”. It embodies the essence of good practice. Avoid the hard sell but know what you want to say – link your content to your quarterly sales objectives and build a story that helps achieve those targets.