There's an effect seen in small businesses on a very regular basis. It's not quite exhaustion, but it's something close. With limited time, a limited budget, and not enough information, groups jump into marketing activities head-first, hoping for the best. They start a Twitter account, they write a couple of blog posts, they create a Facebook Page (or, misguidedly, a Profile), and they join 15 groups on LinkedIn. Maybe the owner does this all on a Tuesday night after a glass of wine. Or maybe it's the admin assistant in between calls one week. Either way, the channels are activated and a star is born.
3 weeks later, the total tweet count is 7 ("hey, follow us on Facebook"), the Facebook page has 12 Likes (11 family and friends and one from deep Siberia), and a 3rd blog post has been written ("Did you follow us on Twitter and Facebook?"). Almost immediately, these marketing-related activities are relegated to the back burner. Not only have no progress been made but, even worse, an impossible to-do list was born out of nothing. Who will tweet and update Facebook? Who will write the posts? Who will update our LinkedIn group? What's the answer?
The answer is: don't even start.
There seems to be this sense out there that if it's possible and other people are doing it then you should absolutely be doing it too. The problem with this kind of thinking is it has you jumping into activities that, without good planning and execution, get you nowhere. They probably won't hurt you but loss of time can be significant.
So how does someone choose the right things to do? I tell people that "the right way is the easy way." This means that if it's difficult to do, if it feels like a chore, and you're not getting anywhere, don't do it because it's not worth your time. Your marketing activities should be fun and easy to repeat.
Where should you be concentrating your efforts? Figuring out what technique works for your business and how you can make it easy to do. The key is taking it one step at a time and being fine with a slow start instead of taking everything on all at once and being a non-starter across the board.
These kinds of time-eating tasks seem to fall into three buckets and I'll take each one on individually.
The challenge: When you saw "content," you probably thought "pages of text." In some cases, that's correct; text content is very important because it's easy for a machine to consume (makes it easy for email, mobile browsers, search engines, etc). It's also cheap to store and distribute. The problem is that's it's tough to create good text content that performs well.
Making it easy: So, let's say that text only has to be part of the equation. What else you can create? Photographs, videos, audio, graphics, data … the possibilities are myriad. You'll have to write a bit but the core of the content piece can be anything helpful or interesting or entertaining that you make.
The key here is to make it easy. If there is nobody on staff who likes to write, is there someone who will take photographs? Someone who always thought they should be on camera? Someone who is talented at combining and expressing data? The important thing is that the creator enjoys making it and has a knack for it.
Regardless of the type, there are so many tools out there to help you with creation:
Text: The best advice that I've heard here is to use a voice recorder with transcription. I know someone who uses SpeakWrite to record their posts and pays a small fee to have it transcribed. Combine that with a freelance editor and creating 1 post a week is a cinch. Also, there are many talented freelance writers that can turn your thoughts into a polished blog post. You get what you pay for so be choosy and don't be afraid to try a few people out before selecting someone to work with on a regular basis.
Photos: This is more simple than you might think. An iPhone, or any modern smartphone with a good camera, can help you put together some great image content. Try using Instagram to take and share photos. Even if you don't link it up with a social network, you'll still have fun, interesting photos to combine with a post or just add to a gallery, like Flickr or Picasa. Take a picture of what inspires you and tell people why. Really getting into it? Splurge on a nice camera and you'll be amazed how much fun looking for cool pictures can be.
Video: The key is short and sweet. Instructional videos are simple and easy, screen casts work great too (though these are tough to get just right). The "talking head" video is wearing a little thin these days but as long as you've got something to say and it's around a minute or so, don't be afraid to give it a try. You can make this one easier by always writing a short script (but don't read off of it) and being ready to do multiple takes. Forget hosting the video yourself, put it on Vimeo (great player) or YouTube (lots of exposure) to make your life easier.
Remember, you're looking for fun to make and easy to repeat!
Marketing and Engagement Channels
The challenge: It's like a noisy, over-crowded Wild West out there. There are so, so many options to choose from when you're looking for a way to get your message out there. They range from one-way options (like email marketing), asynchronous (meaning that it can be one or two way, like Twitter) and inherently two-way (requires a connection, like LinkedIn). It's easy to sign up and "get started" but, before too long, there's too much to do and it feels like you're at a big party with a million people you don't know who aren't listening to you.
Making it easy: Let's relieve the pressure a bit and say, first and foremost, this is not required. No one is forcing you to use these channels and no one is promising sales out of any of them. Each channel has it's own strengths and weaknesses and every business is different. Just because your brother-in-law is finding success on Facebook doesn't mean that you can. What works for you depends on how you use it, what you're using it for, and what your message is.
Feel better yet? You should because as long as you have it in your head that this is an experiment, you'll be able to relax a bit and be fine with just giving it a shot. Until you've tried a few different things, you won't know what the easy way is.
So, where to start? The best place to start is using anything that you already use. If you're on Facebook or LinkedIn, start experimenting with your own profile. Add a few pictures, start plugging into people a little more, add a few more connections. Using these channels for a business is not much different than using them in your personal life. In fact, the closer they become, the easier it will be (we'll save the conversation about over-sharing for later). Always ask yourself: what part of this is fun? How could this relate to my marketing activities? What do my own connections like to see?
When you're ready to take the next step, ask yourself two questions: how much time do I have to spend on this activity and what kind of value can I provide? The first question is one part commitment and one part "dose of reality." If you've got an extra hour per week, that's not a lot of time so keep it simple. The second question makes sure that you've got something to offer before you start offering. Making these channels work for you means having something to give first. Maybe you're making content (see above) or maybe you stay plugged into industry news but, whatever it is, have something to offer. I have some ideas here on creating a great facebook page for a boring niche or unappealing business and here on taking your first steps on twitter the 30 40 30 plan.
Just take it slow, take on one channel at a time, and don't be afraid to experiment. Talk to people, interact, and don't be afraid. The worst thing that can happen is a typo.
Remember: fun and easy to repeat
With all of your marketing tasks, just remember that success comes with repetition and repetition is made possible and tolerable through enjoyment. Find the easy way to do specific tasks and ignore the herd mentality!
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