3 cool tips to reach your fans this summer (pun intended ;>)

I don’t know about you but when it gets really hot out – when the sun beats down on asphalt roads creating those cool wavy mirages, and geraniums, marigolds and people are more droopy and less perky – I assume that everyone is away on vacation and not paying attention to their newsfeeds. This is misguided thinking.

While it’s true that people are less likely to engage with brands in June, July and August, remember that a strong successful brand is one that is consistent. And that means posting valuable content right through the “lazy” days of summer. Hootsuite actually tweeted to their followers and asked, “How do your social media feeds change over the summer.” Here’s what people tweeted back. There were some great responses.

Here are three ideas to engage your followers (and yourself – stop daydreaming about that vacation you’re going to take in August!) and keep your social media popping:

  1. Make it seasonal. What are YOU thinking about? The beach? A frosty glass of lemonade? Sweet slices of grilled pineapple on a juicy burger? Summer camp memories? It’s likely your followers are thinking about those things too. Relate your service or product to warm-weather content.Here’s an example of an Instagram post I did for ExtraSpecialTeas, a non-profit teahouse in Great Barrington, MA. It says, “Here at ExtraSpecialTeas, we believe that every season should be celebrated.” I used our regular hashtags and added a seasonal one (#flipflopseason). I’ll take 21 likes on a hot day.
  2. Re-evaluate your posting times. When are people interacting with your posts? Whether you’re on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Tumblr, there are ways you can monitor heavy-usage times. For example, on Facebook you can click on Insights and then Posts to see what time of day people are seeing your posts. If your busiest time of day used to be noon and now you see that more people are checking their feed at 9:00 pm, make sure you start posting around 9:00 pm.
  3. Great time to try ads. If you’ve never tried an ad on your favorite social media platform, now’s the time. They’re affordable and easy to create. Think about your audience and what they want. Create an ad with a great photo, choose your audience, drop $30 and see what happens. You might only gain a handful of followers. Or you might move some merchandise, if you drive them to your online sale. You’re never going to know unless you try.

I’ve got to go: I need an iced coffee so I can power through this day. Let me know if I can help you. Shoot me an email!

Brand Before Fans and Sticky-Note Solutions

I’m a doer. You know the type: 1) Hardworking; 2) Always willing to take on a project; 3) Ready to move whatever forward even without full knowledge…because I’ll figure it out! Like with any work type, there are benefits and detriments. A doer’s downfall is that we sometimes plunge forward to maximize time and hit the satisfaction of “getting ‘er done” without completely understanding all the components of the project. You know what? I’ve realized most small business owners and marketing managers are doers when it comes to social media generation and management. Content is generated and posted without truly understanding what that content’s foundation truly is: the company brand. Luckily, with branding, I’m a thinker and a planner as well as a doer.

I conducted a two-hour workshop for small business owners and non-profit professionals a couple weeks ago. This was a learning opportunity for hard-working people who know they need to keep in contact with their customers and clients as well as excite future fans, and drive traffic to their website and/or store, restaurant, etc. Some had experience in generating content for the right social media channels for their business; others had absolutely no experience. I thoroughly enjoyed helping this crew – but the point I’m trying to make is: Many of them had never thought about their brand and whether or not what they promote either in a live day-to-day way or through traditional or digital marketing truly reflects what they believe their brand to be. They thought in promoting product terms and not in brand showcasing terms.

We worked through a couple exercises. One was to put themselves into the mind of their customers or clients. Why in the heck do they come to that business: not only for specific products or services but how do they feel when they’re there, when they leave, when they use the product or access the service. If the business is a home health care agency, this can initially be pretty easy to surmise. People access or are directed to home health care to receive services: let’s say physical therapy for a knee replacement. So when that individual thinks of the home health care agency, he or she thinks of his or her particular experience: physical therapy, professional practitioner, consistent care. Another patient who receives different services will have different words.

Sometimes businesses have to dig deeper. In the home health care agency example, what might all patients/clients feel about their services (assuming all goes well – and I’m sure it usually does!). Get in that patient’s mind: sitting on the edge of his or her bed; waiting for the practitioner to show up at the door; nervous about standing up but knowing that he or she will soon be walking again. What does that patient think and feel about the home health care agency? Perhaps that it’s filled with EXPERTS. Absolutely that they are CARING. When the practitioner is at the bedside, they feel SAFE. That they deliver HEALTH.

It’s easy to come up with brand words that are surface explanations of what your business does; it’s harder to do the deep dive. You can do this yourself: put yourself in your customer’s mind. OR you can survey customers and ask them what they think and feel about your business or non-profit. OR you can ask your employees to do this. I recommend you do all the options.

I often use stick notes in a workshop. You can do that in a small setting with your employees in a meeting room or behind the counter before your store’s doors open for the day. Have them write down their perception of the business brand. One word on each sticky note. Then have them write how they FEEL about the business. Then have them write down how they think customers FEEL about the business.

Once you’ve increased your brand awareness THEN you’re ready to start thinking about the types of content you can generate to engage your customers and pull in new fans. Thumbs up!

If you are interested in learning more about understanding your brand to better tell your stories, email me! Or find me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. Go out and buy those sticky notes!

Personal Preferences and Social Media Tools

We humans are so unique. We have our own personalities with such distinct preferences. For example, you may be moved by feats of bravery while I’m moved by acts of kindness. You may love to be the life of the party while I love to be the life of the party and then curl up in the corner of the couch with a book. You may love the sunshine of California while I love the Berkshires of Massachusetts (well, I love the sunshine in CA too!) Be that as it may, if you’re reading this you’re probably interested in social media communication – and so am I! See, we’re different but we do have something in common.

Here are a few tools and changes in the fast-moving digital world that may interest you.

  1. If you create images for social media sites, you’ll want this 2017 sizing cheat sheet.
  2. Tired of making multiple different-sized images for different social media sites? Canva makes it easy. I’m in love with Canva and would marry it if I could and here’s one reason: You can create an image and then duplicate it and then with a click change it to the size you need. So, let’s say you create a image for a Facebook post – and you want to use the same image for Twitter and Insta. With Canva you can do that in seconds. SECONDS!
  3. Not sure when’s the best time to post on different sites? Check out this awesome infographic by Brafton. Of course, you will know your audiences and monitor your best times to post – but this is a fun little cheat sheet.
  4. One of my clients is an adorable teahouse in Great Barrington, MA that’s also a vocational program for young adults with mental and development disabilities. They are upgrading their website to be an e-commerce site so we’re very excited about Instagram’s expanded shopping tags. I post lots of pics that include tea, gluten-free baked goods, and charming and quirky products – now I can tag an item in the picture and link it directly to the item on the website. So. Cool.
  5. If you want to stay up-to-date on what’s going on with social media and digital marketing, I recommend subscribing to Social Media Today. They push out great content – I always find something of interest in every email.

Any of these five items interest you? Well, me too! We have so much in common!

Monumental urns have stories to tell

When I first moved from Burlington, VT to the Berkshires area, I was a little off my game. The move from a place I loved for MANY years to a new location was trying – much more stressful than I thought it would be. There have been ups and downs over the past two years, and I know there are a few more to come, but I am happy to report that I’ve found my footing. The Northwestern Connecticut/Southern Berkshire County area is gorgeous, I’m finding my people (serving on a couple boards – one non-profit, one business-related), and I LOVE the business I am growing: I help small business owners to tell their stories and grow their businesses through digital marketing (social media marketing, e-newsletters, email campaigns, etc.).

Like with any job I’ve ever had, I come at digital marketing with the perspective, “How can I be of help?” I did this with communications, fundraising, sales, professional image consulting & personal branding, and now digital marketing. (Yup! Jackie of all Trades, Mistress of Some, as I like to say.)

The photo above features a monumental urn – a ceramic vessel made by Steve Procter of Stephen Procter Ceramics in Brattleboro, VT. Steve’s one of my clients – I’ve just started working with him and am so excited to see where we go. He is busy creating amazing ceramic art, so he doesn’t have time to manage social media, website, e-newsletters, and much of the content creation. I happily work with Steve to understand his unique brand, his passions, his voice, what outcomes he’s looking for, and translate all that into amazing consistent and confident content for his audiences.

If you are the type of person who likes a five-foot tall ceramic garden vessel (and really, who isn’t? ;>), you can see his work on Facebook and Instagram. <– Follow Steve, won’t you?

I put myself out there for a great brand twice each year

When I was communications manager at a large non-profit, I began to speak on behalf of United Way during their annual fundraising campaign in the fall. Like many, I would do almost anything to avoid speaking in front of a group. I remember reciting a poem my Junior year in high school. (Sonnet 143, if you must know: “Lo! as a careful housewife runs to catch/One of her feather’d creatures broke away…” Really. Of all of The Bard’s sonnets, I chose this one? Go figure.) I almost had a complete and total breakdown. Many of you will be familiar with the wretched side affects I had to navigate: shaking voice, hands, and knees; sweaty palms and pits; dots in front of my eyes.

For me to take on regular speaking gigs was a big deal. I was ambitious and determined and I was committed to my organization, a Visiting Nurse Association, and the work of the United Way. I participated in some training (even though I had dropped out of a public speaking class in college). I recited my speeches in front of the washing machine and dryer in the basement of our house (appliances are soooo nonjudgmental). And I girded my loins to go out there and do it. The night before any presentation, I would lie in bed and say to myself, “Everything comes and everything goes. Whether this goes well or I bomb, it will pass.” And so it always did: It came, I was awesome or mediocre at best, and it passed. Job well done, Dawn!

Thus began the portion of my career where I spoke in front of groups, large and small, on a regular basis. Fundraising, professional image consulting, and sales all offered many opportunities to help others by sharing my knowledge. A year ago, I transitioned my career (yes, well, again – I like to say I’m a Jackie of all trades, Mistress of some) and began to focus my brand knowledge on small businesses in the Berkshires. Most digital marketers are not known for their public personas (Guy Kawasaki and a handful of others aside). I’m now extremely happy to work behind the scenes to help small businesses share THEIR stories.

While I’m joyous to be behind the screen 90% of the time now, I still present for The Emily Post Institute twice each year. I talk to their Etiquette Train the Trainer participants about tools to grow their fledgling etiquette businesses. I always learn something and get to meet great people passionate to help others. Thanks to my friends at Emily Post for hosting me. Keep up the amazing work to sustain your brand focused on consideration, respect, and honesty. See you in the spring!

Did I mention I’m soooo happy to be behind the computer again? ;>)

Maybe wearing a personal label goes too far…

I’ve had the experience more than once where I’ve walked down the street and had someone I don’t know say, “Hi Dawn!” as they breeze by. For one hot minute, my brain races, “Do I know that person? I don’t think I know that person. How do they know my name?” There’s a tremendous brain flash as I look down below my right shoulder and lay my eyes on the name tag from the event I was just attending. Talk about personal branding. ;>)

A Joyous brand: ExtraSpecialTeas

The second I walked into ExtraSpecialTeas in Great Barrington, MA, I felt happy. Their brand was front and center starting with the sunshine-yellow front door, and splashed everywhere with bright colors, cozy seating nooks, inspirational quotes on the walls, and smiling servers. And tea! So up my alley.

ExtraSpecialTeas (EST)  hosted a Chamber of Commerce mixer in advance of their grand opening on April 2, and they offered up their finest to the participants: iced Tiesta Tea, tea-infused shortbread cookies, and a variety of other finger foods. I understood the brand immediately. And then I heard their story.

EST is a vocational program for adults with autism and other special needs, AND a teahouse open to the Great Barrington community. Their servers, called “ExtraSpecial Servers,” work five days each week side-by-side with vocational trainers. Cherri and Scott Sanes, EST’s co-founders, were concerned with the lack of support for young adults with special needs once they “age out” of the school system. Their son, Jache, who has autism, had reached that stage. They founded EST for him and other adults who want to continue to learn, live with purpose, and be an active part of their community. Cherri and Scott, with the help of EST’s board of directors, plan to open several teahouses across the country.

I told Cherri that night that I wanted to help EST to get their message out. She graciously accepted my offer and we’ve been happily working hand-in-hand for the past three months.

Do me a favor: follow ExtraSpecialTeas on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram. And let me know if you pick up the vibe of their extra special teahouse: joyous; bright; and filled with purpose, possibility, and gratitude. If you live in or near the Berkshires, drop in for some tea! ExtraSpecialTeas is located at 2 Elm Street, Great Barrington, MA.

When discord happens, people question brands

Have you been following the detritus in the wake of Dan Lyons’ book, Disrupted: My Misandventure in the Start-Up Bubble? Lyons, an established journalist and author, worked at Hubspot, a digital marketing software company headquartered in Boston, for a couple years; and then he wrote a book about it. Dharmesh Shah, Hubspot’s founder, responded to content in the book yesterday on LinkedIn.

I’m not taking sides here. What I’m interested in is how a dynamic brand can stumble. Hubspot just got a dose of self-awareness in front of a world-wide audience. Nope, they aren’t as transparent as they positioned. Nope, they aren’t one big happy family. There are problems in paradise.

Hubspot has consistently and confidently showcased its expertise, exuberance and team spirit up to this point. I’ve used the product and read plenty of their content: I like what they do and how they do it. Be that as it may, not everyone does or will. Mr. Shah writes that they are aware of their issues and are working on them. Well, they’re certainly aware now — and in front of a large audience.

How the company represents itself and how it’s currently being showcased do not mesh. That’s brand discord. When discord happens, people question brands. Disrupted is one person’s perspective; however, now that it’s out there, it can’t be ignored. Seeds of doubt have been sown in even the biggest fans’ minds.

The simple formula for brand success: Authenticity + Awareness = Strong Brand. Hubspot has the opportunity now to morph their PR version of authenticity into self-aware authenticity. The result will be a stronger brand.

Ten tips to create a superstar brand

I’m looking out onto my snow-dusted lawn. It’s the day after the spring equinox and I’d just like to say: Spring! You are not meeting your brand promise. Snow? Really? This is not working for me.

Individuals and companies (and seasons – really, all things) have brands. A brand is simply what people say about us. And sometimes what they say, and how they react to us, doesn’t mesh with what we thought we were projecting. Ugh, I know. What to do?

I created this list a couple years ago for an interview. I was addressing personal branding — the process that a professional can embark on to build a more self-aware and honest projection of self. Each of these 10 tips can also be used by small businesses to match appearance in digital and traditional marketing, etc. to performance.

Over the course of several weeks, I will blog about several of these steps, and I will translate each tip from the personal process to small business focus. Read through and let me know if there’s a certain area you’d really like for me to zone in on.

Ooooh, the snow is melting! Spring – I take back all the bad things I said about you.

Top 10 Tips to Build Your Brand

  1. Be Aware! Everyone has a personal brand: It’s what people say when you walk out of the room. Whether you care or not is up to you.
  2. Understand your greatest strengths.
  3. Understand your personality type.
  4. Name your top 3 attributes  – these are your brand’s foundation and filter.
  5. Make sure your exterior reflects your internal strengths.
  6. Understand your communication style and develop voice, tone, pitch; vocabulary; body language; presentation skills.
  7. Make sure your social media/digital marketing reflects your personal brand. Choose 2 – 5 social media sites to focus on – you don’t need to do everything.
  8. Keep it real: If you’re trying to project strengths that truly aren’t yours, people will see through the veneer.
  9. Invest in building relationships through personal interactions and networking. Follow up and offer to help others.
  10. Work with a mentor.