New Year, New Marketing Activity?

I realize that most of us are desperate to get the Christmas shopping done right now. I promise that will calm down in a few days and your business-related thoughts will most likely drift towards how you can get more clients in the New Year.

Am I wrong?

There are so many ways to market these days! It can get overwhelming. For some, we stick to the tried and true. If it’s still working, great. If you’re getting bored or need a boost to your marketing life, take heart. Why not add in a new activity to the mix?

Here are a few to think about:

  1. Network with a new group: Do some research and find an entirely different group of people to network with. I’ve recently been introduced to the Board of Change (thanks Jay at Systemic Result) and the Entrepreneur Ultimate Referral Network (thanks Frank at RoadRunner IT Solutions). I haven’t checked out these yet — they will be my New Year’s project. Please see the sidebar of the newsletter for the regular Tri-Cities haunts.
  2. Start participating on a few blogs: I don’t mean you have to write your own. Just take a look around for a few you like (or would like) to read and start leaving comments. Your comments are linked back to your website and you’d be amazed at how people will check out your site if they like your (hopefully helpful and relevant) comment.
  3. Pick a social media outlet and commit to it: You don’t have to join every social media group (e.g. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook) but maybe choose one that fits best with your personality and communication style. The trick? Commit to it and stay consistent. That is the key to building your business through social media. Another trick? Combine it with in-person networking. Miss604 (Rebecca Bollwitt) recently said that once she started in-person networking, her social network exploded. She’s now considered to be one of Vancouver’s most influential online media personalities.
  4. Add the personal touch: Choose 10-20 companies or groups you would like to work with in the next year and draft out a plan on how to contact them and market your services to them. This sounds intimidating, but it’s really just about choosing your target, contacting them, and educating them on what you do and how you can help them. It can be as simple as asking for coffee meetings with people you haven’t seen in ages but could help you build your business. Hint: check out your LinkedIn contacts and see who you haven’t connected with in a while.

So, as 2011 approaches and you recover from the craze of shopping and preparing, take a bit of time to think about what the New Year will bring for you and your business. Good luck and have fun!

Get Your Own Avatar

Have you ever left a comment on a blog only to realize your “photo” was a weird symbol or, worse yet, a picture of some random robo-thing? Ick.

You can have your social media photo follow you wherever you comment from now on by simply adding your photo at www.gravatar.com. It’s easy. You just sign up for your free account and upload your photo. Make sure you use the email address you use when you comment and voila! Your photo will pop up whenever you comment.

Small print — okay, it takes a day or two for your photo to find your comments. Be patient.

Changing Your Twitter Background

Did you know that your Twitter page can take on your branding design quite easily? Even if you’re at a loss at how to make a background image, your page can include your brand colours. Here’s how to spruce it up:

  • Go into your “Settings” at the top right-hand corner of your Twitter page
  • Choose “Design” from the blue navigation bar just under “Your Name’s settings”
  • Choose a theme from the different options. Don’t like any of these but have an image you’d like to use?
    • Scroll down and choose “Change background image”, upload your image, and click the “save changes” button at the bottom of the page
  • Want to change the colour of the background, column, links, or the text? Simply, scroll down and choose “Change design colors”, click on the appropriate box and choose a colour
    • If you know the hex colour code, type it in without the # at the front
    • If you know the RBC colour, you can find the hex code with this handy site

Be sure to click “done” once the colour is picked and “save changes” once the correct colour or image appears in the box. Otherwise, the changes will not update on your page.

Inspiration

Would you like to see some updated Twitter pages? Check these ones out:

Bluelime Media
Ballistic Arts
David Suzuki Foundation
Edible Vancouver
Pebble Road Marketing

Social Media Editorial Calendars

aka How to Stay Consistent with Social Media

The big trick with social media is staying consistent. It makes sense — your strongest relationships in life are generally with those you make time for, right? Social media is no different. Having these virtual conversations and building these relationships takes time and effort — consistent time and effort.

One of the ways to do this is by paring down the number of social media activities you engage in. Unless you have an editorial staff of 50, you cannot possibly regularly participate in all of the social media vehicles available. Can not. Please don’t try.

What you can do is choose the ones you know (or are pretty sure) will work for your business, your personality, and your time limits and participate in them regularly. Have I mentioned that consistency is important yet? Actually, not important. Key.

One way to ease the burden of regular participation — especially when you have a zillion things going on — is to write an Editorial Calendar. That sounds like a barrel of laughs, doesn’t it? Don’t worry! It’s not difficult and it can be fun!

  1. Write a list: Simply divide your paper (or spreadsheet) into three columns: week, activity, and topic.
  2. Now fill in the blanks: For instance, week one (March 1-7), might involve a newsletter, a few Tweets, and a blog entry.
  3. Write in the topics: Beside each activity (newsletter, Twitter, blog) write the topic you want to cover: the newest fashions, a book review, or anything else that pertains to your industry.
  4. Follow the calendar: No excuses. If it’s scheduled, do it. I know I sound like a tyrant, but — did I mention? — consistency is key. Add the dates and topics into your marketing calendar for quick reference, if you haven’t already.

You may be thinking, “But doesn’t this kill the spontaneity of social media?” I get your point. I thought that too and then I realized that I hadn’t added anything to my blog in three months. There’s a fine line between a commitment to spontaneity and abandonment. Don’t abandon your social media activities. The Editorial Calendar will get you through your busy times and — when you have time for spontaneity — feel free to add a not-planned blog post or LinkedIn update! After all, that’s what it’s there for.

What Are Inbound Links?

There are lots of beautiful, lonely websites out there. It always makes me sad when a business owner invests time, energy, and money into setting up a web presence and then — nothing. Aside from those contacts that have been directly sent to it, nobody visits these sites because they can’t find the darn things!

The “study” of getting websites found and read is called Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or, a slightly newer term is Search Marketing Optimization. It simply means that you’ve made every effort to attract the search engines (e.g. Google is the BIG one in Canada) and give them the information they need to decide how to file away your web pages. That’s it.

What is less simple is figuring out what information they are looking for. That key is a carefully guarded secret and is slightly different for each engine, thus giving each of them a sliver of competitive advantage over each other. Debates rage on in the SEO and marketing community as to what each engine is looking for and how best to offer it. One thing that is quite well agreed on is the value of inbound links, which are sometimes referred to as backlinks.

Inbound links are connections that other sites make to yours. That is, someone else has added a link on their site which directs to yours. The basic premise for the value of these is that if other people like your pages and site enough to link to them, there must be some valuable information there. Makes sense, right?

Okay, so how do we build up the inbound links to our site? Good question! I’ll give you three ideas to start with this week.

  1. Referral Partners: Do you know other business owners that love your products or services and continuously refer your business? Ask them if there is space on their site for either a small banner ad, a mention in their blog, or a link on a partner page. Offer the same to them if you love their services just as much.
  2. Comment on a Blog: When you leave a comment on a blog you’re doing two things — telling the web world you exist and linking back to your site. Yay! There is a bit of debate as to how heavily weighted these types of links are by the engines but one thing is for sure — they are WAY better than no links. Besides, anything that directs people back to your site is a win.
  3. Directories: Are you a member of an organization such as a chamber of commerce or a networking group? Check your online listing and make sure that your website address is there and is correct. Build a few more by joining LinkedIn, Facebook, or Hot Frog (all free).

SEO is a big topic, of course, but if you spend a bit of time tackling it in pieces, you’ll begin to see results pretty quick. Start with inbound links and I’ll talk about other techniques in upcoming weeks.

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