Saturday, February 27, 2016

Part 4 of "Social Media for the Small Business Owner" - Post Frequency & Timing

Okay, you now have a social media strategy, know who your audience is and where they are, got your tools, set up your channels, and crafted your awesome content. Way to go! Now to find the perfect time to post your content to maximize it's impact with your audience. 


"What is the perfect time to schedule my posts?" The perfect time is...a unicorn. It's a myth - doesn't exist - no rainbows, no shiny white coat - nada. What you need to ask is "What is the best time for my audience to see my post?".

That is a different question entirely, but is still very tricky to answer. If you know your target audience and you know where they are engaging on Social Media, you can narrow it down to a good guess. After that it becomes a matter of tracking your results and adjusting your schedule

I have compiled a list of Best & Worst Times from several different experts, but it is just a guideline. Knowing when your audience is active is always your best option. 


 The simple answer for frequency: Post as often as you have engaging, entertaining, or useful content to share. Keep track of engagement and followers to make sure that you are not over-posting and discouraging your audience. The chart below is recommended frequency - again, compiled from several sources. If you post more or less and disagree, that's ok. If you are in demand with your audience, post as much as they want you to! Just be sure to listen to them.


Now that we've gone over time frames and frequency for your posts, I want to stress how important it is to organize and maintain an Editorial Calendar and a Post Calendar. These two tools will be crucial to achieving your social media goals. I will briefly explain each and give you links to templates which you can download to help get you started.
  • Editorial Calendar - Allows you to visualize the content you will be creating and keeps you on track by setting goals and deadlines.
  • Post Calendar - Allows you an overview of when, where and how often your content will get posted. Also great for tracking and A/B testing your posts (more on that next week!).
A quick Google search will net many free calendars of both types (many require email sign-ups). Here is a link to HootSuite's free library of SMM templates to get you started:

 Example Schedule

 So, you've determined your audience is mainly on Facebook and Twitter and you want to start posting content to reach them. You should be prepared to post this much content:
  • Between 21 and 70 post/week = 46 average per week = 6-7 per day
  • Of those 6-7 daily posts, 4 should be Curated, 2 should be Created, and 1 Comical (amusing or inspirational works too) on average.
  • Between 3 and 21 post/week = 14 average per week = 2 per day
  • Of those 14 weekly posts, mix in 7 Curated, 4 Created, and 3 Comical throughout the week.
Of course, you should come up with a post plan which fits you. I personally have days with all created content (Monday - to launch my new blog post and Sunday to review my blogs prior to Monday's new release) and days with all Curated content (Wednesday and Saturday), with a mix the rest of the week.

I schedule my Twitter posts to rotate the same content with different messages at different times throughout the week. For example:
  • Blog post #1, message #1 - Monday 8am
  • Blog post #1, message #2 - Tuesday 12pm
  • Blog post #1, message #3 - Wednesday 4pm
  • Blog post #1, message #4 - Thursday 7pm
  • Blog post #1, message #5 - Friday 11pm
  • Same or similar for other blog posts
  • My Curated content only gets posted a maximum of twice per week each unless it's really being engaged or it's a trending topic
This gives the same content a chance to get viewed at different times throughout the week. It also makes it really easy to track and analyze which messages and content are your best. Scheduling like this also helps stretch out your created content until you have enough to fill out your schedule.

Using the numbers above and a good schedule, we can break it down to where you would be able to fill the week with only having 2 Created content pieces and 10-12 Curated pieces

Remember to stay consistent with your schedule. Your audience will come to expect your original content at a certain time on a certain day and you don't want to disappoint them!

 Next Step

Now you are ready to put everything together, fill out your calendars, and engage your audience! Next absolute necessity you need to learn is How to Track and Analyze your posts. I'll show you how and give you some really useful tools next Monday in Part 5.

I would like to give a special "shout-out" to a few individuals who have truly impacted my approach to Social Media and have inspired me by sharing their ideas and thoughts to the rest of us:
  • Randy Hlavac - Marketing instructor at Northwestern Medill IMC Business 
  • Andy Crestodina -Web Strategist and co-founder of Orbit Media
  • Rebekah Radice - Award Winning Social Media Writer, Strategist, Author, Speaker. 
Images courtesy of  Pixabay

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Part 3 of "Social Media for the Small Business Owner" - Content Creation/Curation

In the previous articles we've talked about your social media strategy, your target audience, and what kind of content or messages you will craft for your audience. Today we get into the nuts and bolts of content creation (and curation!). 

Content Creation 

Original content creation is the heart and soul of inbound marketing. Original content not only drives your social media plan, but can also aid in your search engine optimization effort by creating more pages to be crawled. Content creation is your company's opportunity to show its knowledge and give itself an original voice.

Here are a few key tips to keep in mind when creating original content:
  • Tell your story in your own voice - Write a story a human wants to hear and tell it like they are sitting across the table from you. Creating a persona for your brand will help develop trust and loyalty. Stay away from using big words and fancy terms (unless they are terms common to your audience, ie. medical professionals).
  • Use keywords - Using specific keywords in your content and headline will make your material easier to find and more relevant to your audience. For example, if your audience is searching for "creating a social media plan" you could have a title such as: "Here's Why Creating a Social Media Plan is So Important" or "Expert Tips for Creating a Social Media Plan". The keywords are built into your story and will translate into more views and engagements. Check our useful tools section below for ways to search for keywords.
  • Be Visual -  Use graphics and images that are representative of your brand and content. Images can convey your message quickly and be retained for a longer period of time than just text. Images can also create an emotional response to your audience. 
  • Create to the selfishness of your audience - Your audience may not be concerned about you, your business or blog. Rather, they arrived at your content assuming it would offer them something of value in exchange for their time. 
  • "Take 'yourself' out of the equation. Be 100 percent impartial and put the reader's interest first," advises Mark Rushworth, Head of Search at Blue Logic Web, a digital agency. "This will deliver more traction in the long run."
  •  Matt Certo, Principal of WebSolvers, Inc. recommends you "write and promote [your content] to the selfish nature of your audience. Our digital culture has conditioned us to expect answers to our questions that are fast and free.
    What's more, consumers don't want to be 'sold,' they want to connect with brands. [Content] should focus on the consumer -- not the brand. If your audience profiling is specific and your content and distribution is reflective of those findings, you are well on your way."
  •  Remember the 80/20 Rule - The 80/20 Rule (or Pareto Principle) is Content Marketing 101. Ramona Sukhraj of Impact Branding and Design explains it like this: 
"When planning your content, make sure that no more than 20% of what you’re creating or sharing is promoting your own business or product. Going beyond this can create a very “salesy” tone of voice for your brand, rather than helpful.  
The more you help your audience (without expecting anything in return), the more perceived value your brand will have in their eyes. So, be sure to keep the majority of your content (the remaining 80%) educational, entertaining, or informative."
Original content can take on any form which suits the audience you are trying to reach. Some of the common formats are:
  • Blogs
  • Infographics
  • Videos
  • Webinars
  • Podcasts
  • Reviews
  • Polls
  • Lists
  • eMagazines/eBooks
  • Whitepapers
  • Interviews
  • Data/Reports
What format your content takes is largely dependent on what you and your team are comfortable with and have the resources to produce. Using the same content in a different form on a different channel is a great way to economize your creative efforts and maximize your exposure. For example, producing a "Top 20" list to post on Twitter while creating an Infographic using the same data to post on Facebook. Same content - 2 different channels - 2 different formats.

Content Curation

The process of content curation is the act of sorting through large amounts of content on the web and presenting the best posts in a meaningful and organized way. The process can include sifting, sorting, arranging, and placing found content into specific themes, and then publishing that information.

Basically, curation is sharing content you have found and think your audience would like. Curating content helps fill the gaps that form when you produce and promote your own high-quality content. Sounds easy enough, huh? Well, it can be overwhelming without the right tools and organization. Fortunately for you, I have several tools which I have found indispensable for curating content.
  • Pocket (Organization) - An application which allows the user to save an article or web page to the cloud for later reading. The article is then sent to the user's Pocket list (synced to all of their devices) for offline reading. Pocket removes clutter from articles and allows the user to adjust text settings for easier reading. Available for OS X, Windows, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Kobo eReaders, and web browsers.
  • Hootsuite (Scheduling) -  Hootsuite is a social media management system for brand management. I use it daily to track my social feeds and to schedule my posts across various channels for the week.
  • Feedly (Aggregator) - Feedly is a news aggregator application for various web browsers and mobile devices running iOS and Android, also available as a cloud-based service.
  • Klout (Aggregator) - Track your social media "score" and more importantly, find articles to curate based on your interests.
  • Buzzsumo (Paid)- BuzzSumo is a helpful search tool that tracks content on all social networking sites and ranks them based on the number of shares on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest.
  • Social MentionSocial Mention is a social media search engine that searches user-generated content such as blogs, comments, bookmarks, events, news, videos, and more.
  •  Headline Analyzer - This free tool will analyze your headline to determine the Emotional Marketing Value (EMV) score.
While these are just a few of  the ones I personally use, there are hundreds of apps and websites which can help you with content curation (either aggregators, dashboard organizers, or management/scheduling). A quick Google search will give you a bajillion lists like "Top xxxx Content Tools".

Creation vs Curation

Remember the 5:3:2 Rule from my previous article? You will (and should) use both methods to promote content. Create original content on a regular basis and use Curated content to fill in the gaps and to further enhance your audiences' experience. Serve your audience as a trusted source. Help them with their problems. Answer their questions. That is what will get them to be customers down the road. 

Next Step

Wow! We covered a lot of ground in the 3 segments. Now that you have your content, next item we'll work on is the timing and scheduling of your posts. I'll show you how and give you some really useful tools next Monday in Part 4.

I would like to give a special "shout-out" to a few individuals who have truly impacted my approach to Social Media and have inspired me by sharing their ideas and thoughts to the rest of us:
  • Randy Hlavac - Marketing instructor at Northwestern Medill IMC Business 
  • Andy Crestodina -Web Strategist and co-founder of Orbit Media
  • Rebekah Radice - Award Winning Social Media Writer, Strategist, Author, Speaker. 
Images courtesy of  Pixabay

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Part 2 of "Social Media for the Small Business Owner" - Content

Originally I was going to answer "What, How, and When" in this post, but on the advice from some of the experts, I have decided to break these up into 3 separate parts. A big reason why I'm doing it this way is that understanding content and content creation is a HUGE part of your social media strategy. To simplify this topic too much and not cover all of the basics would not be in anyone's best interest.

What is content?

Content is by far the most valuable asset your business can use, to not only engage and inform customers, but to increase traffic to your website and dramatically improve search rankings. But what is "content"? Bryan Eisenberg (Facebook) describes content like this:
"Think of Web content as the public conversation that happens between you and the visitor, whether the conversation is one-way (from you to the visitor), two-way (between the visitor and you), or conversation among visitors."
So basically, any information which is engaging, relevant, reliable, interesting, entertaining or enlightening in the form of text, image, video or audio can be considered "content".

What Content to Share

In Part 1, we discussed the importance of creating a customer profile and knowing what your customer needs. Your content should be based on what your audience finds relevant, solves their problem, or satisfies their needs. The media choice (blog, Tweet, video, infographic) will depend on the channel you are broadcasting your message within (Where your audience is - Twitter, YouTube, Facebook).

Content marketing experts agree on a few basic practices when creating your content:
  • QUALITY, not quantity wins! - Even if you only post content once a week, make sure it's information your audience wants. Throwing irrelevant junk at them every 3 hours is going to lose you a large portion of your followers!
  • SPEAK to your audience - Have a voice when it comes to your content. Tell a story, make them laugh, be engaging - that is what will keep them coming back for more.
  • CREATE in your own style - Everyone has a style. Be funny, witty, analytical - whatever your personal style is, embrace it and be consistent. 
  • APPEAL to emotions and needs - Your audience wants to feel like the time they spend with you is worth it. Make them laugh, solve a problem (or get them heading in the right direction anyway), hell, make 'em cry if that's your thing. Either way, you are connecting with them and THAT is what's important.

Rule of 5:3:2

A very successful formula of what content to post is the 5:3:2 rule. When it comes to social sharing, the 5:3:2 rule is a ratio to follow for a well-rounded social strategy that will keep your fans engaged - and help you build more followers.The formula breaks down like this:
  • 50% Curated content
  • 30% Original content
  • 20% Fun content
So for example, if you publish 10 posts per week then:
  • 5: Should be content from others that is relevant to your audience.
  • 3: Should be content from you that is relevant to your audience but not sales focused.
  • 2: Should be personal, fun content that helps humanize your brand.

From the Experts

Post Planner Editor in Chief, Diana Adams explains it like this:

"Today, it’s all about user intent, the value of your content and writing for the reader. And not just any reader. Writing for the reader you want, the one you’ve outlined in detail.

For the best results, think about what kind of content would be most valuable to your audience. In other words, what is their intent? Why did they come to your blog? What kind of info are they hoping to see from you?

The best way to answer these questions is to really know your audience (your customers and potential customers). What are the struggles they face? What problems do they need solved?

Once you can figure out how to answer these questions better than anyone else in your niche, your traffic and subscribers will go up up up (and fast)!!"

Next Step

So now you know who your audience is, where they are in the Social Media world, and what to say to them. Next item on the To-Do List is to craft your message and get it ready to be heard. I'll show you how and give you some really useful tools next Monday in Part 3.

I would like to give a special "shout-out" to a few individuals who have truly impacted my approach to Social Media and have inspired me by sharing their ideas and thoughts to the rest of us:
  • Randy Hlavac - Marketing instructor at Northwestern Medill IMC Business 
  • Andy Crestodina -Web Strategist and co-founder of Orbit Media
  • Rebekah Radice - Award Winning Social Media Writer, Strategist, Author, Speaker. 
Images courtesy of  Pixabay

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Part 1 of "Social Media for the Small Business Owner" - Getting Started

Social media is one of the most powerful tools in your marketing arsenal. If you use it correctly, you can create a strong personal connection with your prospective customers. However, small business owners often make the mistake of diving into social media without a clear plan. At best, this is a waste of time – and at worst, it can lead to a PR disaster. With a clear plan and an investment of your valuable time, Social Media can make a huge impact on your business.

To benefit from social media, you need to build a clear strategy that takes into account what you’re trying to achieve, who your customers are, what your customers want/need, and even what your competition is doing. As in any good business communications, you need to listen before you speak. By broadening your social listening beyond just your own brand, your audience (and competition) will give you a good idea on where and how you should be active on social media.


The first step in creating a social media marketing strategy is to understand your own business and where you want to go. What do you hope to gain from your social media marketing efforts? Are you looking to increase sales, or website traffic, or both? Do you want to create or raise awareness of your brand?  Is your goal to build customer loyalty and increase retention? These goals aren’t mutually exclusive, but you should focus on one or two. You’re not going to accomplish anything except wasting a lot of your precious time if you spread yourself too thin.
  • Use the S•M•A•R•T method for creating goals - Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time based. For example: If your goal is brand awareness, then you might want to increase the number of times your brand is mentioned on social media by 50 percent in the next 6 months.

Target Audience

A successful social media strategy is all about targeting the right people with the right messages. But where are they and how do I get my message to them? Again, this is where listening before you speak comes into play.
  • Make sure you understand your customer profile - Age, profession, income level, hobbies, etc. Make a list of common attributes among your customer base to create a profile of your target audience. Depending on your products or services, it can be general or very focused. For example: Men age 18-40, upwardly mobile with interest in technology or Women age 40-65, higher income range, living in northeast US, love pets.
  •  Research where your audience is on Social - Sounds easy enough, huh? By knowing your customer profile, you should be able to do a little digging into what social media and online communities your target audience engages with. Actually, there are a lot of tools which can help you in this (Some are listed in the next section).

 Tools & Channels

Now you know where you’re going, but you still don’t know how to get there. There are two distinct types of applications you will use to navigate social media - Tools and Channels.
  • Tools are the programs or website applications you will used to research, schedule, and analyze your social media campaign. 
  • Channels are where you will interact with your audience (Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, your blog etc.). 
For both of these applications, there are a mind-numbing amount of choices - particularly with tools. The channels you use should be based on where your audience likes to engage, so that is more focused. Below is a small list of resources I use and have found to be easy to navigate and very productive (And FREE! Although, as you progress you may want to explore some of the paid options which they have available).
  • Hootsuite - Social Media dashboard. Use to monitor and schedule your posts to your selected channels.
  • Bitly - URL shortener and Link Management/Analytics. Essential to track click-throughs from links you post in your content. Absolutely critical for Twitter.
  • Klout -  Social monitoring. Gives you a social media score to track your progress. Also has content and scheduling features.
  • Social Mention - Social Mention is a social media search engine that searches user-generated content such as blogs, comments, bookmarks, events, news, videos, and such.
  • Blogger - Blog Management and hosting (Google).
  • - Hashtag search engine with data about hashtags.
  • Relay - Online graphic & infographic tool.
A quick Google search will show many lists of "Top Social Media Tools". The key is to find ones that you can use comfortably and that fill a specific need for you. You may have 5 content research apps, but I would find one dashboard manager and one URL shortener/tracker that you like and stay with them.


Register and setup accounts 

Once you find which tools and channels you want to use, you must register and set up your account. Here are a few keys to optimizing your accounts (specifically channels as they are the Social face of your brand):
  • Account Info - Be sure to use your BUSINESS information to set up your account. Keep your personal and business accounts separate. Some may disagree with me on this, but I strongly dislike seeing personal posts on a "business" feed. To me it looks very unprofessional. Also, register all of your account under the same email address for continuity. If you need to, open a separate email such as "".  
  • Branding - Maintain your brand across all platforms you are engaging in. I can't stress that enough! Use your company colors, logo, pictures, profile, etc. across all social platforms. Here is a link to a Social Media Images Cheatsheet which lists all of the image sizes you need to set up your accounts. 
  • Profiles - Be sure to fill out your channel profiles as completely as possible. This info is what your audience will use to decide on whether or not they want to engage with you.  Review and update periodically - add new products, services, etc. as necessary.

Next Step

Part two of this process will cover one of the most crucial elements of your Social Media campaign - Content - what, how, and when to post. Being that "Content is King", the goal is to be prepared to engage with your target audience in an effective, efficient manner. I'll show you how in Part 2.

I would like to give a special "shout-out" to a few individuals who have truly impacted my approach to Social Media and have inspired me by sharing their ideas and thoughts to the rest of us:
  • Randy Hlavac - Marketing instructor at Northwestern Medill IMC Business 
  • Andy Crestodina -Web Strategist and co-founder of Orbit Media
  • Rebekah Radice - Award Winning Social Media Writer, Strategist, Author, Speaker. 
Images courtesy of  Pixabay