Good For You

Finding And Using Niche Social Media Websites

We’ve all at some point heard the adage of ‘quality over quantity’. Usually, we are not hearing it for a good reason, but as a reminder to ‘be happy with what you have.’

In the case of niche websites, however, it means something a little different.

We know about the giant social networks: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. like we all know about big cities like New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. But let’s say you LOVED cheese. Sure, you can probably find tons of good cheese in most big cities, but Madison, Wisconsin is near lots of local cheesemakers and may be a better destination for you if you are looking for all things cheese.

Niche social media websites are like Madison for cheese seekers; they are small places enthusiasts of [fill in the blank] are most likely to be. If you sell something to these enthusiasts, you are also more likely to talk to a potential paying customer on these websites than some of the larger websites.

What are some examples of niche websites?

If we think of something we want to connect about, we can probably find a niche website for it.

So here’s my random list of things (yes, I made this up with no reference to Google when I did):

microbrew beer
amateur woodworking
gymnastics coaching
first editions of books

Hey look what I found:

Untappd gets points for reminding us all there are still people with Blackberries.

I appreciate that this social network didn’t spend a ton of time on design. Hey, it gets the job done!

I bet if I made a login (and was actually a gymnastics coach), I could find other gymnastics coaches.

Two million people doesn’t seem like a lot compared to Facebook’s one billion but, hey, it’s still actually a lot.

OK, you made your point, there is a social network/niche website for probably everything. How do I find them?

Well, you aren’t gonna find many with an attitude like that! Kidding.

Google searching whatever term plus ‘social network’ is a good place to start. Thinking of some synonyms may actually help, as well as thinking of things a little more broadly (ex: I bet Library Thing has at least a group or forum for bestseller enthusiasts.

Another place to check is blogs in the same arena. Back before social networks, communities of frequent commenters were established on blogs. In some cases, in particular if there’s already a good group hanging out on a blog but not a giant enough group to go set up a whole new website, the comment section of a cool industry blog can lead you to where those people are hanging out. In some cases, it may be the forums of a woodworking website and in others, it may be a private Facebook group.

You can also look at big websites/blogs and see what drives traffic to them on Similarweb.com. For example:

Tools like this can help you see interlinking websites and the overall landscape of a particular industry/topic. Note: websites like this only seem to track websites that have a lot of traffic so this won’t provide you a complete list so much as a way to find more sites.

Why spend time on niche websites if there is less people there?

Because 1) even though there is a smaller group, they are more likely to be engaged 2) because if they are more engaged, they are more likely to buy what you are selling and 3) because there is less activity, your presence is more likely to be noticed.

Am I trying to give you more to do? Of course not. But I am trying to say, give niche a chance, as a participant or a more ‘commercial’ user. You may find yourself saying that quality is better than quantity after all.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

100 Better Decisions: An Approach Toward A Big Goal

100better

What if you made 100 better decisions? How could things be different?

This is what I asked myself at the beginning of this month. (By the way, if Oprah is reading this, I 100% made this up so please give me the credit if this becomes one of your favorite things.)

A hundred decisions sounds like a lot. In reality, you make hundreds of decisions a day. What time to wake up, what clothes to wear, whether to shower or not, what shampoo to use, if you’ll blowdry your hair, what toothpaste you’ll use, whether you’ll brush your teeth before or after you shower… you get the picture.

Now in your decisions lies your lifestyle, your values, and your ambitions. Once you hack how people make decisions, you can help them reach their goals. Here are two approaches I’ve seen to this:

Option 1: The Limited Decision Approach

Productivity experts like Tim Ferris say to have a completely structured routine for the first two hours of every day. The idea is that your brain uses energy to make decisions and rather than wasting that brainpower on oatmeal versus eggs, you should save it for more important decisions later in the day. This totally makes sense to me. This is why you see a bajillion articles about what successful people do the first hour or two of every morning. It’s a thing.

You can also look at this on the other end of the day, where people often protect the last hour of their day for reflection or planning the next day so they can go to sleep with a clear mind and wake up with their decisions already made for them.

Option 2: Following A Plan

If you aren’t keen on making up your own structure, there are PLENTY out there for you to follow, whether you want to learn to fall asleep faster or run a marathon.

When you are on a plan, you have a set of rules you follow for a set period of time to achieve some goal. It’s easiest to think about this with diet. If I am doing Whole30, for example, and someone offers me a gin and tonic, I say no. Alcohol is not allowed on Whole30. That decision of what I can and can’t eat (or when I can eat things) has been made by whatever plan I’m on: paleo, low carb, Mediterranean, etc.

I have issues with both these options.

Why Limited Decisions Is Not Entirely It For Me

My schedule varies day to day and in particular, weekdays to weekends. The idea of doing the same thing every morning not only bores me to tears but doesn’t work well with my life.

For example, every Friday morning, I have a super early standing meeting. The idea of getting up at 5:30 am EVERY MORNING makes me want to gouge my eyes out. (I don’t mind doing it once a week though.)

My modification to Tim Ferris’ plan is that I have Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday morning blocks planned for myself. One day is meal prep, one going to the transfer station, one for running errands (post office, car registration, library, etc.) Monday is my ease into the week morning and Friday is my early meeting (ie no time for my block-o-productivity). I am ok with this arrangement as it gives me some flexibility but it chunks out my morning and I get some of the benefits of minimizing decisions.

Why Following A Plan Doesn’t Entirely Work For Me

One of my core traits is my flexibility. You wouldn’t know it to look at me but I can actually be pretty spontaneous and laid back. Like if I go to your house and you made a fresh loaf of bread and asked if I wanted a piece? I would say ‘Yes!’ even though I don’t normally eat or buy bread. Because you made it and that’s awesome. I can’t categorically say no to things; it’s not in my nature or sustainable (in my opinion).

So what’s a gal like me to do?

What if I just look at my life as a series of decisions and write down when I make a better one until I reach 100 decisions?

Like maybe I have one gin and tonic and while considering a second one, I have two glasses of water instead.

So why did I think this would work for me and potentially others?

  1. Most of us remember bad things and forget the good things. This is like an easier to fill out gratitude journal.
  2. Sometimes we fall of the wagon and use it as an excuse for continued bad behavior (well, I had one glass of wine today, might as well have the ice cream too!). With 100 Better Decisions, each decision is an opportunity to start fresh.
  3. By looking at each decision framed by the question ‘Will this get me closer to my goal?’, we train ourselves to spot times when we could make better decisions. Asking the question repeatedly makes sure the larger goal gets cemented in. 

Now my goal has to do with getting healthier. Some things I wrote down out of 100:

Saved half my breakfast and ate it at lunch.
Chose vanilla seltzer instead of a cocktail.
Put cinnamon instead of cream in my coffee.

Has this approached helped me get closer to my goal? Yes.

Does it fit into my lifestyle? Yes.

Do I think you should try it? Please!

 

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Ethics in Marketing

ethicsinmarketing

Working for a small business that attracts some amazing clients, I’ve never run into a situation where I’m asked to carry out a task or promote something that I’m morally opposed to (and, I have the freedom to politely turn down such a project). It’s a freedom I often take for granted, until I hear stories about people who don’t necessarily have such freedom.

A couple weeks ago, I was listening to a podcast (Real Talk Radio with Nicole Antoinette) where a woman was being interviewed about her blog (Super Strength Health). Part of the podcast that I found intriguing was towards the end, when she spoke about being approached by various brands to promote their product (a fairly common occurrence for lifestyle bloggers). Usually when this happens, the brand has done a bit of research to determine if the blog’s message meshes well with the brand’s message. As a bit of background, Super Strength Health shares very raw material about eating disorder recovery. The brand that approached her had a tagline along the lines of “guilt-free snacking.” You might see the problem here.

So, the blogger was a bit frustrated. “If you spent any time on my blog, you’d know that we were not a good fit.” Which is true. The discussion goes on to discuss the slippery slope of assigning guilt to food/eating in marketing, and whether or not that is unethical. Regardless of where you or I stand on that particular issue, it made me wonder about the messages I’m putting out there. How can I be ethical (or more ethical) in what I produce?

As mentioned before, I have the freedom to turn something down if I feel it is unethical or immoral. We never really get those clients. Usually when I think “unethical marketing,” it’s the blatantly obvious not-cool marketing, like promoting unhealthy habits, tearing down a competitor’s product or service instead of focusing on why your product/service is valuable, or ignoring glaring flaws or safety concerns with a product (think recalls). These are all easy for me to avoid (in that I’ve never encountered them).

So, instead, I thought of a few little ways to be even more ethical. Here’s what I have:

Do the Research. Make sure you know your facts, especially if others are coming to you for information.
Be Objective. Do you really think this product/service would benefit other people, or do you maybe have dollar signs in your eyes?
“Is this Something I Would Do?” If you’re having a hard time being objective with the facts, ask yourself if you would follow your own advice.
Be the Good. This is my way of remembering my bottom line: whatever I put into the internet/world should make it a little better, even if in a small way.
Get Better. There’s always room for improvement, and as someone who produces content for the internet I could in theory find a rhythm and rest on my laurels. But I could also keep an open mind and look for ways to improve my work (because this isn’t just about me).

My hope is that following these five points in a more thoughtful way will help me feel even better about what I produce, and be more helpful for our clients. (I say ‘more thoughtful way’ because I usually perform research or try to be objective, but it can be reflexive).

The cool thing about marketing ethics? Marketing Schools defines it as “less of a marketing strategy and more of a philosophy that informs all marketing efforts.” It’s not a strategy or a game-plan, but more like having a Jiminy Cricket on your shoulder asking if you believe in the message you’re about to share with the world.

 

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

How Do You Get Inspired?

Ever sit down to write/draw/paint/anything creative and just…sat there? These creativity blocks are pretty frustrating (and, as we’ll explore further in a bit, that can actually make matters worse). You want to combat this…but how? We have some ideas.

Find Your Happy Place.

A relaxed mind is a creative mind. Some people have a physical place, like an office or spot in the library, while other people focus more on cultivating a certain internal atmosphere. Think about when you’re at your peak creativity (something you’ll have to explore on your own), and try to recreate that experience as you get in the creative zone. Personally, I do well with quiet and physical activity- usually running. Although, I have found that complete quiet is actually unnerving, and some background noise is actually preferable (like people having a conversation in another room level of quiet). Pay attention and figure out what works best for you- and keep doing that!

10 Ideas.

The purpose of this exercise is to dedicate some time to being creative. So, you sit down and generate as many ideas as you can without judgement. It isn’t meant to cause anxiety about reaching a certain number or wondering why your ideas are lame/weird/useless/what-have-you. All you’re supposed to do is sit down and let the ideas flow. You know how kids are uninhibited when they play? That’s more or less the goal with this exercise. Here’s the link/explanation behind the “10 Ideas a Day” exercise.

If you look online, there are TONS of creativity boosting exercises/tips. My advice- take all of these ideas with a grain of salt. Some of the exercises might look fun- try them out! But not everything is going to be your jam, and if you ask me, it’s okay to skim over those.

Do Interesting Things…

Being stagnant in real life can sometimes lead to a creativity drought. If you’re stumped, this might be a perfect time to visit your bucket list…not to be dark, but to get inspired. These don’t have to be the sweeping, cliff-jumping/spelunking/flying an airplane type of ‘bucket list’ items- maybe you’ve always wanted to knit a sweater, finish a Crossword puzzle, or go to that restaurant you’ve always wanted to go to. Afterwards, you’ll have a new experience that might be worth sharing creatively, but if not, just the act of doing something different can pull your brain out of routine-mode for a bit and help you out of the creative drought. Typically, I try to do at least one small, off the routine adventure every week (usually a hike I haven’t done yet).

…But Not Because Someone Else Thinks They’re Cool.

For instance, if you go skydiving just because it’s something other people will find interesting, you might just end up stressing yourself out. In other words, don’t succumb to peer pressure for the sake of creativity 🙂

Consume.

Read, go exploring, take a class, watch a movie- one of the best ways to get your brain working is to take in information. The trick is to do this simply to consume- not approaching it from a “What ideas can I get from this?” Tricky, right?

If you already do a lot of reading, switch it up every now and then. Personally, I love fiction and poetry, but every now and then I’ll force myself into a bit of non-fiction on a topic I find interesting or want to learn more about. The result: confronted with this subject matter, I often go to the “What if this had happened instead” or “Why did [whatever person] do [whatever thing]?” (This also used to happen in school and made concentrating on problem sets in physics difficult- so many roller coasters).

Happy October-and creativity month!

 

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

Setting Technology Boundaries

“Are those all your notifications?!” A friend looked at my phone, horrified.

Yup.

This is my phone. I know, I'm overwhelmed too.

This is my phone. I know, I’m overwhelmed too.

As a business owner (or heck, just someone who lives in the world), it can be challenging to figure out tech manners and a tech personal code of conduct.

I recently decided to set a couple personal boundaries with my phone:
1) Turn off email notifications. Me getting an email is as frequent as my dog thinking about food.
2) Sleep with my phone outside my bedroom.

I posted this ‘boundaries’ idea to Facebook and got some great ideas from others about it.

Differentiate Between ‘Work’ and ‘Personal’

As you see, I sort of started to do this here (‘Personal Social’ versus ‘Social Media’) but did not fully commit. My friends have ideas on this.

From Sarah:
I use different apps for personal and work email. Work email goes in an app I have to open a folder for — means it isn’t right there in my home screen every time I look down.

From Jeremy:
My notification light is different for different email accounts.

From Jesse:
I turned off all my social media notifications (except for work) and that helps a ton!

Use Do Not Disturb… And Tell People

My friend Kathy brought up the point about modeling behavior. The adage ‘What you put up with, you end up with’ applies to tech too. Here are some ways people made themselves incommunicado without trying to make people uncomfortable.

From Jake:
There is a do not disturb function on most phones. Between 11 pm and 6 am it stays silent.

(Note, there was a lot of variation as to times people had this turned on. Let’s say I can now tell which of my friends are more night owls and which are more morning people.)

From Brian
I use DND on my phone from 10pm until 9am with certain numbers programmed to break through in case of real emergencies.

From Kathy:
I let people know verbally and in written communication that I will respond to them, for instance, M-F 9-5, and ask them to make personal contact at those times so they aren’t frustrated at no response at odd hours.

Just Saying No In Other Ways

If you feel like you’ve ‘tried everything’ this may be your section.

From Breanna:
I don’t check email on my phone.

From Anne:
Turn your phone screen gray. More here: http://www.theatlantic.com/video/index/480240/adventures-in-grayscale/

Various people on my friends list:
Don’t have a phone at all or do something relatively extreme to the phone you do have (among the responses: hammers, hot oil, don’t tell anyone your phone number).

All in all, it was fun to figure out how people figured out their own personal ‘rules’ with cell phone technology. If you have any other ideas, please feel free to contribute them as a comment here!

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

What’s in a Ceiling?

Having boundaries, personally and professionally, is a healthy form of self-preservation that keeps us from getting burnt out. Boundaries are not meant to limit potential, but place value on our own well-being. In a different vein, I think a type of unhealthy boundary (one that constrains you in a negative way) is a limiting belief. This type of belief stunts growth in certain areas because of an ongoing story that says “I can’t,” “I’m/it’s not good enough,” “This is the way it’s always been,” and so on. Here are some of the more common limiting beliefs, and some tips on getting over them:

Not Good Enough/Not Ready. The most common limiting belief is that something isn’t good enough or ready to show the world. One example for me was the first blog post I wrote for Breaking Even. It took me a very long time to write, and I agonized over every word. When I was done, I wanted to throw the whole thing away because it was terrible and unprofound (according to my inner critic). Then, Nicole shared a video from Ira Glass (below) about how everyone starts at different points in creativity, but keeping yourself/your work hidden until absolutely perfect, you probably aren’t going to get anywhere.

When an opportunity for a job or something else comes along (like a chance for breakdancing lessons or running a marathon), it’s kind of a bummer to pass up on that opportunity because we aren’t ready yet. The key is “yet.” All of these things take preparation. You probably won’t get it on the first try, but if you’re persistent and keep showing up…anything is possible.

Not Enough ____. Another common limiting belief is scarcity. It could be telling yourself “I don’t have enough time/money” (in other words, resources) for a certain activity. In a business context, this belief manifests itself in “there’s not enough customers for me AND my competition.” Having this scarcity mentality often results in viewing the world in a narrow, short-term lens. This article from Simple Dollar suggests it breeds “sadness and jealousy.” On the flip side, an abundance mindset approaches the world from a “There’s enough here for all of us” perspective. You don’t live in constant fear that things are going to run out, but continue working hard and trust that more will come when it comes.

It’s always been this way. This belief keeps us stagnant more than any other belief. It’s death to innovation and newer, better ways of accomplishing the same work. It can be anywhere from accepting the way certain people interact with you to submitting to a larger system, simply because “that’s just the way it is.” Turning this type of belief around can be scarier than the others, maybe because rejection is a very real possibility, and who wants that feeling? My advice, if you’re standing up to the “It’s always been this way”-ers, is to have some supporting evidence for your argument, be prepared to meet some resistance, and don’t give up just yet. There might be room for a compromise, or it might take others awhile to warm up to the idea of doing something differently. I’ve been lucky in getting a sample of this work environment AND one that encourages new ideas.

Think about which one of these is creating your ceiling, then you can think about changing it. (Unless you have a very nice ceiling that you like, of course.) 

If you’re feeling generally “stuck” in an area of your life, you might want to consider looking at some potential limiting beliefs (you might not even realize you have them- I certainly didn’t). For examples of limiting beliefs related specifically to businesses, check out this article from Entrepreneur. Limiting beliefs create a kind of clogged drain situation- you can’t necessarily see what’s in the way, but you know that the system could be performing a bit better. Once it’s cleared out, there’s really no telling what successes might come to you/your business (with patience, persistence, and some elbow grease).

Limiting beliefs can fit in any of the above categories, like “I’m too young for people to take me seriously.” or “XYZ company has always had a zero telecommute policy.” It may be hard to get at yours but think about something you wanted to do but didn’t… and the excuse you gave yourself may be a good start.

Ceilings help in houses but not in people. Here’s hoping this post made you think about yours and how you can charge though it to get more height than you ever thought possible.

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.
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