marketing

Networking for Small Businesses

Our theme for July is “Independence Doesn’t Have to Mean Alone,” and in our last post, we shared a few ways business owners can delegate their work rather than spread themselves too thin. This post is about making connections as a small business owner, or, as some like to call it, networking.

For introverts like myself, networking can be a bit of a challenge. But I know the benefits far outweigh the risks.

Networking has a few different purposes. First, it’s a tool for expanding your business and gaining potential customers. Second, it’s a way to meet and share experiences with other entrepreneurs. When networking, I find it helpful to think, “I’m about to meet some people who are in a similar boat as me. I bet some of them have cool stories and I could come away from this with interesting, new connections.”

Here are four helpful guidelines for successful networking:

Set a Goal. Plan to attend a certain number of events per month and talk to X number of people at each event. Or, reach out to a specific number of new people every week via email. These goals can make the whole networking experience a bit more fun, too. Remember to follow up with your connections — that’s just as important as meeting them in the first place.

Remember to follow up with your connections — that’s just as important as meeting them in the first place.

Have Something Ready. One of my greatest weaknesses in networking — and meeting people in general — is that I can become easily flustered. Something as simple as “So what do you do?” will result in me doing a lot of mumbling and rambling — “ramumbling,” if you will.

Know that at any networking event, at least one person is going to ask you what you do. Be prepared with an answer. This may also be a good reason to work on your elevator speech. You don’t need to sound like a robot, but you should sound prepared.

Also, keep your business cards at the ready for anyone who may ask for one.

Participate in Groups. Online groups can be found via social networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or even Twitter. Participation can occur in a few different ways. You can create your own post within a group in which you share a cool resource, ask a question about something you need help with, or seek opinions on a challenge you face. Also, read posts made by others and respond with comments that are helpful and/or pertinent.

Stepping away from the internet, you can join the local chamber of commerce, Rotary, or any other business-oriented or volunteer organization. It’s a great way to meet local people who do business within your community.

A warning: Don’t approach these groups with a sales pitch. Growing your business is a good goal, but networking is more about fostering relationships.

Stay in Touch. Congrats, you’ve met a ton of new people through your networking! But, how are you staying in touch with them?

Nicole has a favorite app for staying in touch, which lets her know when it’s been a while since she has reached out to someone. Or, you may create a system (spreadsheet, flowchart, sticky notes) just to reach out to people, follow up about something from your conversation, maybe invite them to grab a coffee.

As a shy introvert, I find that following up with others can be just as difficult as making the first contact. But I try to keep in mind that comfort zones equal stagnation. It’s like the advice on water sources found in the wilderness: Drinking running water is usually okay, but standing/stagnant water … you gotta watch out for that stuff. (Sorry for the digression — I’m ramumbling again.)

For those who need help with networking (like me), check out this video I made last fall about networking for the shy introvert:

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.

Things We’ve Written About That Are No Longer ‘Things’

The other day I saw this tweet and thought “Huh, I did actually forget about the whole clown thing from last year”:

 

In that vein, I got to thinking about some of the other things that I’ve forgotten about over the past few years. We stay on top of the trends, new apps and websites we think are cool or could become be a big deal, but that doesn’t always mean those things have staying power. Thanks to @imchip’s tweet, I dug through some of our older blog posts to take a look at some of the apps that have been left behind:

Yik-Yak. This was a blog post I’d written almost 3 years ago now, and I’d completely forgotten about how FUN this app was. An anonymous social network that allowed you to post an update and up-/down-vote others within a certain location, it was pretty hilarious. The app wasn’t really popular in rural Maine so I only ever saw maybe 4 yaks that summer when I wasn’t traveling. However, Yik-Yak was also an example of social media turning ugly after some Yakkers used the platform for cyberbulling and making bomb threats. A couple months ago, the company announced that they would be no more. Although I admittedly haven’t paid attention to the app in a long time, I’m still a bit sad to see it go.

Meerkat. In 2015 live video was a budding enterprise and we saw the launch of Meerkat and Periscope. But as they say, “There can be only one.” Periscope has since been acquired by Twitter and lives on. Meerkat, on the other hand, was declared dead last fall. Meerkat’s parent company, Live On Air, said they learned from the experience and have developed the Houseparty group video chat app. In the meantime, live video is now widely available through Periscope, Facebook, and Instagram.

Pokémon Go. Pokémon Go was launched around the time of the Great Clown Scare of 2016. It was an overnight sensation. But a few months later, Pokémon Go dropped almost totally out of my newsfeeds, social media news stories and blog posts. But is Pokémon Go dead? Not by a long shot. Squirtles, Zubats, Psyducks and their ilk may make a splash again this summer as the company plans a big update. Meanwhile, Pokémon Go remains popular with certain folks but is no longer considered a “viral among the masses” app.

Peeple. Back in the fall of 2015, John brought Peeple to our attention.  Advertised as “Yelp for People,” there was a lot of backlash at the concept, pre-launch. As a result, post-launch Peeple was declared “boring” because the creators actually took people’s feedback into consideration and ended up with a watered down version of the app. While Peeple is still in existence, it hasn’t quite lived up to the hype.

Prisma. Like Peeple, Prisma is still an active app, but I think it’s become more of a niche thing than a “used among the masses” thing. Something else that I found interesting: Other apps like Microsoft Pix are starting to replicate the artistic photo effects of Prisma, meaning there’s more competition in the market. Again, I don’t necessarily think Prisma is dead or dying, it just seems to have plateaued.

And finally, something that used to be a thing but is no more — MySpaceBack in 2007, I was on MySpace for a hot second before getting freaked out by the whole thing and deleting it (only to have my friends convince me to get Facebook the next year). MySpace had a good run and has exchanged hands a couple times over the past couple decades (technically it does still exist). Perhaps the coolest thing I’ve seen in the post-MySpace news is that Tom, the dude everyone had to be friends with, was able to retire very early and spends his days traveling around the world taking photos (source).

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.

T.M.I. Part 1: It’s Personal

We live in a world where information is at our finger tips, and it’s just as easy to share a ton of information, too. Nicole has talked about how people draw their own lines when it comes to social media, and that sort of thing is really up to us as individuals. It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about in the realm of sharing vs. oversharing.

What constitutes TMI? Honestly, it depends on individual preferences so there’s no real “cookie cutter” answer for this one. Cultural perception also has an impact on what people deem appropriate for sharing: “While tweeting about your aunt’s divorce might be considered taboo in one country, it might be received with a shrug in a nation inured to the antics of the Kardashians” (source).

I’ve thought a bit about what “TMI” looks like on social media, and there are a few different ways to think about it. There’s what you share on your personal accounts, what a business shares, and what a multi-level marketer might share. Today, I’m going to focus on sharing on personal accounts.

Sharing & Personal Accounts

If you Google “Oversharing on Social Media,” there’s a ton of information, from articles written by other social media marketers to scholarly articles and psychological studies. Apparently, when you share something on social media about yourself, the reward system of your brain gets triggered (source) and you want to do it more and more,which is why oversharers tend to keep sharing- it feels good so they keep doing it.

Based on these articles, it seems like there are two components of oversharing- content and frequency of posting.

“Content” is basically the “stuff” of your post– be it your aunt’s divorce as mentioned above, or something else that might be deemed “too personal for social media.”

Frequency of posting is exactly what it sounds like- how many times a day are you posting online? This can be a personal limit, and it can also vary from social platform (i.e. you may post three times a day to Twitter without thinking twice about it, but more than once every three days on LinkedIn seems like too much).

I’m not going to get all preachy and tell you what you can/should post on social media- “personal” profile really means what you personally are comfortable with sharing. Both content and frequency are subjective, so it’s dependent on the person who is doing the sharing.

Some things, related to professionalism and safety, are best not to share. This includes things like your address, if you’re going to be home alone or away on vacation, if you had a disagreement with your boss or a coworker, that sort of stuff. This article encourages people to “Pause Before Posting,” especially if you are in an emotionally charged head-space while typing. We aren’t all diplomats, but there’s something to be said for being mindful of your words and possible repercussions rather than posting on impulse.

If what you want to share is has nothing to do with professionalism or safety, consider potentially adjusting your audience. Some things you may want semi-private, only sharing with a small group of people. It may be better to share these posts in a message with that select group of people, or creating a private Facebook group made up of the people you want to share with specifically (groups can be made either public or private, whereas a Facebook page is always public). If your views are very specific and perhaps not popular, an anonymous social media platform like Reddit or Whisper might be a better fit.

Overall, if you’re worried about your use (or potential overuse) of social media, you aren’t alone. Many people have gone on social media “diets.” Below are a few resources to check out if you want to learn more about reshaping your relationship with social media:

5 Signs You Should Take a Break from Social Media (Huffington Post)

Unplugging or Overcorrecting? Online Life in Moderation (Breaking Even Blog)

How to Detox from Social Media without Deleting Your Account (Hubspot)

Stay tuned for our next post on TMI: The Business Edition!

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.

Our Top 5 Tech Thursday Videos

We’ve been doing Tech Thursday videos for a few years now, and if you’ve been watching them, you’ve probably noticed how they’ve evolved as time has gone by. If not, we have a few examples below from our “Top 5 Tech Thursday Videos.” Most notable is probably the fact that we used to pre-film and spend time editing our videos down to 3-4 minutes. Now, we hop on Facebook Live with a topic and few key points, and away we go!

The below list is semi-subjective, mixed with videos with the most views AND those that we believe were the most helpful in general. In creating this post, it was a lot of fun to go through our Tech Thursday video archives and be reminded of our earlier days (especially the videos where we were both silly and informative).

Without further ado, here are our pics for the top 5 Tech Thursday videos:

The classic: “OGP”  

This video is set to the tune of “O.P.P.” by Naughty By Nature, with original lyrics written by Nicole about open graph protocol. The lyrics are also published in the YouTube description and are worth reading because they are very informative (Kassie is a visual learner, so if you’re like her having a chance to read through the lyrics is pretty helpful).

A Good Question: How to Find Blogs to Read

Another oldie is from a question we’ve gotten quite a bit is “Where do you find blogs to read?” If you’re looking for content to share on social media or looking for inspiration on your website, one of the best places to look is other blogs. In this video, we share where to start in the search for blogs (that are actually relevant to what you’re looking for).

From the Business Side of Things: Company Retreats 101

Earlier this year, we had our annual Breaking Even company retreat, and decided to share some tips on what ‘company retreats’ mean for smaller businesses (we also wrote a whole other blog post about it here).

Some Personal Development: Crushing Limiting Beliefs

What made this video so great is that it’s a little off our path of marketing and tech, but still relevant. In marketing and growing business, our own thoughts and beliefs (whether at the front of our brains or more subconscious) can have a huge impact on your success.

Getting Organized and Productive: Systems 101

One of our monthly themes this past year was Systems (i.e. what they are and how to create them in different areas of your life). In this 101 video, we summarize some of the things you’ll want to keep in mind if you’re thinking about creating your own systems for things.

All of our old videos are uploaded on our YouTube channel, so if you want to check those out definitely head over there!

And yes, we still take recommendations for Tech Thursday videos, so if there’s something you want to learn more about related to tech, business, marketing, social media, etc, drop us a line or write us a message on Facebook to send in your video topic! (That’s also where you’ll find us live every Thursday at 12 p.m.).

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.

Courting Controversy

A few major brands have waded into some controversial waters lately, leveraging our current national discord in order to send what is hoped to be a positive message. The results have been all over the map. Here are three recent examples:

    1. Budweiser, Born the Hard Way”

Described as “the story of our founder’s ambitious journey to America in pursuit of his dream: to brew the King of Beers,” this cinematic Super Bowl commercial drew criticism from certain folks for a perceived pro-immigrant bias, especially given that it was released around the same time the president issued an executive order regarding immigration. The hashtag #boycottbudwiser (sic) started circulating before the commercial even aired.

However, as Mashable notes the boycott largely failed, in that “The boycotters … missed the larger historical context of the Budweiser ad.”

 

      1. Pepsi, “Live For Now”

      What can be said about this ad that hasn’t already been said? Pepsi and Jenner were raked over the coals by, well, everyone, including SNL:

      The biggest complaint was that ad was tone-deaf in how it co-opped imagery from Black Lives Matter and other earnest political movements. The thinking that beautiful people drinking sugary beverages will solve the world’s problems is also flawed. In any event, “Live For Now” didn’t live for long. Pepsi wisely yanked the ad a day after its release.

  1. 3. Heineken, “Worlds Apart”

OK, so, if we take the lessons learned from both Budweiser and Pepsi, the message seems to be: Stay away from topical material to avoid ridicule and boycotts. But then along comes Heineken with this ad that takes a huge risk and somehow manages to pull it off.

Writing for The A.V. Club,Gwen Ihnat notes that by using real people, as opposed to models and actors, Heineken “very simply and succinctly accomplishes what Jenner and all those hundreds of Pepsi street-activist extras could not.”

Heineken’s strategy isn’t exactly new, argues Sarah Rense in this piece by Esquire: “It uses the reliable trope of Real People seeing something and/or someone for the first time, and then having their minds changed, mixed with a healthy dose of social awareness.” Rense also notes that, in the wake of the Pepsi debacle, Heineken had a low bar to clear: “By itself, it’s just an ad meant to sell a thing. But compared to the Pepsi ad, it deserves a Cannes Lion. Makes you smile a bit, too.”

Tapping into a nation’s divisions to sell fizzy beverages isn’t necessarily groundbreaking. Coke may have done it first with “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)” way back in 1971.

Horribly cheesy? Yes. A cynical attempt to use flower children to sell soda? Yeah, probably. Offensive? Well, I didn’t see anyone in riot gear, so not really. Actually, the jingle was so successful that it was reworked into a full length song and became a hit on the Billboard charts.

I’m going to end this by recalling an earlier BEC post from 2016 regarding ethics in marketing.

In that post, we outlined a few steps on how to be ethical in marketing: Do the research, Be objective, Be the good, and Get better. We can also cull one other lesson in marketing the Heineken ad: Take the time to get it right. This is doubly true if you’re using a societal issue to spread specific message.

 

What I Learned Making An Online Course

I made and launched an online course very very recently. It took me about two months to do it.

Lesson 1: Have a very small agenda for each video.

Who knew it would take seven minutes to explain the ins and outs of Facebook- specifically the fact you need a personal Facebook account to make a Facebook page and how to navigate between them?

Not me, that’s for sure!

When I planned thirty videos and two ‘bonus videos’ I had no idea that a “small concept”  takes a long time to explain when you really dig deep into the topic and keep in mind audience members who have no background in the area.

Try to have one small point per video. If you are ambitious (Ex: five reasons why you need to drink more water every day), prepare to be very succinct on each point. You will probably ramble a bit, because you are nervous and kind of excited. Another option is to follow an exact script, if you can avoid sounding robotic. There are free online teleprompters you can use to help you get through what you need to say and help you with pacing.

Lesson 2: Do a few first.

It’s really tempting to set everything up and just get them DONE (er, “over with”). But do one or two videos and re-watch, looking for things like 1) if the camera angle cuts off the top of your head, 2) the room seems echo-y, 3) your audio is picking up your computer mic and not the nice one you have plugged in. Two out of three of these things happened to me. You’ll only notice these things if you make yourself watch the two videos you just made and make adjustments. It will feel like extra to do this but trust me, you’ll save yourself time, effort, and heartache later.

Lesson 3: The resolution is here.

You will film at a certain resolution but at full screen on some devices (ex: my giant 20 inch monitor), it will still be blurry. Remember you can always reduce your resolution (likely for file sizes) after filming but you can’t make it bigger after the fact. Compare the filming resolution of whatever software you are using with the online learning software you plan to use, then just be ok with it.  (More on picking your online course distribution software here.)

Lesson 4: Filming is grueling.

According to basic math, filming 30 2-5 minute videos will take you 30 videos times 5 minutes, maybe an additional ten minutes for snack breaks. Unfortunately, filming doesn’t follow the rules of basic math.

I filmed ALL DAY starting at 8 am and finishing at 6 pm. If you buy this course, you’ll notice the daylight changing as I go on.

Basic math doesn’t realize you will be interrupted by phone calls, people stopping in, your dog barking, your weird heating system clicking as it kicks on… and any number of other things. Plan for a full day of filming and start early if you are planning on using natural light (much easier than wrangling the perfect artificial setup). I actually almost lost my voice because I spent the whole day talking, despite only seeing one other person the entire day.

Lesson 5: Get a little help from your friends.

If you think people are going to be clamoring for your online course, think again. I’m saying this as someone who has a ‘platform’ set up for distribution- you have to do a little outreach.

I emailed a few business groups I’ve done work with to let them know about my course and offer their friends/members a discount code to purchase. This means 1) Other people besides me will be saying this is good, building credibility and 2) I can measure which relationships ‘work’ by seeing which coupons are most redeemed. I’ve even considered granting a limited number of people access for reviews, feedback, etc.

Lesson 6: Your first course is going to feel rough.

I am saying this as someone who just invested a significant amount of time and effort knowing this is will not be the best thing I ever produce.

But here’s the thing; the only way you can get better at something is to practice. Plus you’ve just spent five hours editing yourself on video (adding some title/ending slides, adjusting volumes, etc.), so you may not be feeling enthusiastic about it at this point. Ask a friend or coworker to review and catch anything you may have missed…and just release the darn thing. If you get too precious about it, you’ll never get the feedback you need for future videos. Plus, your friend will probably tell you it’s fine and not understand why you haven’t put it out there already!

My best advice? Just jump into your online course experience! Most of us have not grown up acting, video editing, or teaching so it’ll feel strange and exciting to try to show what you know to people who don’t know you. But I have a feeling the best part of what I’ll learn from making this first online course will come a few months from now and prepare me for my next project. Onward and upward!

This online course- Internet Marketing for Artists– is live now and ready for participants. If you or someone you know is an artist and want to increase your business presence on the internet, this course is for you!

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.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23