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Audiences

6 Simple Ways to Make a Good First Impression Online

by Pamela Wilson on July 25, 2013

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You’ve heard it before, I know. You have seconds — seconds — to make a good first impression with your brand.

Depending on who you ask it might be seven seconds. It might be three. It might be a split second.

You’ve got to make an immediate positive impact, or you’re toast. The worst part is that you may never get the chance to make an impression again.

The pressure’s on. Where do you start?

I’m here to tell you that it’s actually not that complicated.

In fact, you’ve probably heard some of this advice before. It may have been in a slightly different context, but it applies to your brand, too.

1. Plan the effect you want to have

Before you develop a brand for your business, you need to have a crystal clear idea of what you want to say and who you want to say it to. Successful brands start out getting to know their audiences well before they try to appeal to them.

Identify who you want to reach, and study this group. It’s easier than ever to join in their discussions, follow their patterns of sharing, and generally stalk them (benevolently) before you try to approach them.

Once you understand them well, formulate a brand message that you’ll communicate consistently using all the tips that follow.

2. Dress the part

An important element of knowing your audience is understanding what motivates them.

Sound like a tall order? It’s not if you dig in and discover what they’re already buying — the brands they already like. Once you’ve got this, you’ll know how to dress the part to fit right in.

Or, you might decide to not fit in, on purpose. That’s a very valid way to make an impression (but it takes courage).

Dressing the part means using a website theme that reflects how you’d like your business to be perceived. It means choosing brand colors, finding the right fonts, and even using print materials to make a consistent positive impression, no matter where your audience comes across your brand.

3. Stand up straight and make eye contact

Dressing the part isn’t everything, of course. You’ve got to work it.

And by that, I mean you need to own your look, and not be afraid to put your brand out there.

This means embracing at least a couple of social media platforms and posting to them regularly. It means using content to spread your message. It means putting your brand out there on a regular basis, whether through blog posts, webinars, speaking gigs, or interviews.

4. Speak their language

Want to communicate effectively with your audience? Speak their language.

And I’m not talking about their native language. I mean use the words they use, exactly how they use them.

I know, I know … you’re not a mind reader!

Go back to tip one: it’s easy to pick up the language if you listen closely on social media, in your blog comments, and even in your email replies. Notice the phrases your audience uses to express their frustrations and challenges.

If you want to get even more hands-on, consider conducting a series of interviews with a focus group.

Last year, I asked Big Brand System readers to volunteer to be in a focus group. I called twelve people individually and asked them a series of questions. In exchange, they could ask me a question or get my feedback on something.

It was the most satisfying — and productive — market research I’ve ever done.

Yes, it took time and effort to coordinate and implement. But when it was done, I had pages of notes that were like gold to me. I knew intimately what my audience was frustrated with, how they spoke about those frustrations … and even what I could do to help.

5. Direct their eyes to your best attributes

In the course of your marketing you’ll need to emphasize your latest promotion, your next big offer, or even your free giveaway.

The most efficient way to draw attention to this offer — whether it’s on the web or in print — is to set it apart visually.

Think three things here: size, color, and placement.

Make your offer larger and brighter. Set it above or to the side of the rest of your content. Surround it with white space so it stands out.

6. Be yourself

The best brands find a way to make you talk about them.They make themselves remarkable.

How?

They’re not wishy-washy or half hearted about anything. They make a true and lasting connection with their audience through real, open conversations. Their visual impact makes them easy to recognize, even from a distance.

You know where they stand, and what they stand for.

When your brand exudes that kind of confidence, you’ll have achieved drop-dead gorgeous status. And that’s the kind of status that helps to build a business from the first click.

About the Author: Get started on your drop-dead gorgeous brand with Pamela Wilson's Quick-Start Guide to Branding Your Business. Copyblogger readers get 15% off with the coupon code GORGEOUS.

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Authority

Did you know there is a direct correlation between who you spend time with and what your life looks like?

True.

You tend to be happier if you hang out with happy people, more successful if you hang out with successful people, more pessimistic if you hang out with pessimistic people.

So if you’ve got some audacious goals and want to nudge them closer to reality, one thing you can do is spend more time with the people who have the qualities you want.

Business savvy. Well-balanced. Optimistic. Knowledgeable. And yes, successful.

If you want to uncover career-enhancing opportunities, rewarding projects, and a better life, think about the kinds of people you can start to surround yourself with. Because success rubs off.

How do you find these folks? Well here are some ideas about how to get started.

Understand that influential people can dramatically change your life

This has always been true in business, but the effect is hugely amplified by the internet. Success in the 21st century isn’t created solo. It’s built within a web.

According to Lewis Schiff, if you are connected to six highly-connected people (as most very successful people are), they each open up their networks to you.

A handful of good connections can open out to thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of new connections — and one chance encounter could do unbelievable things for you.

These might be the web’s “movers and shakers” — the powerful voices with big audiences.

But it can also be the perfect business partner, or the striking creative voice that gives a vision to your business. Your next business-changing connection could be a vendor, a client, or just a friend who’s really smart about marketing strategy and is happy to lend a hand.

We all have something to contribute, and we all have areas where we aren’t strong. A network lets you find your complements, so you can do more of what you’re fantastic at.

Focus on building an effective network — not a massive one

There are some people who seem to make a profession out of networking. And given the amount of time they spend socializing online, it’s tempting to wonder when they actually do any business.

Being social is great, but you don’t need the world’s most massive network. You need a few strong connections with people you feel a real resonance with. Sometimes you get really lucky, and those people have audiences that are on your wave length as well.

When you start building your network, focus at first on a few people — maybe five or six. Make yourself damned useful. Understand their work, what they’re passionate about. If they have an audience, find out what that audience cares about.

Pay attention — not in a phony, creepy way, but because you’re interested in what they have to say.

Go beyond social media

Most of us who work at Copyblogger Media met Brian Clark through social media.

We didn’t stop with chatting on Twitter about Phineas and Ferb, 80s music, and Fight Club, though. (Although that didn’t hurt.)

Social media is great for starting relationships, but when you get the chance, take things further. Trade emails. Go to conferences. Do projects together. Get into real conversations.

Copyblogger Media was born out of this kind of networking leading to partnerships, and it’s evolved into a bunch of bright misfits doing meaningful work together.

Don’t be creepy

One of the best ways to build a professional network is to be the kind of person other successful people want to be around.

Be helpful. Be confident. Know what you bring to the table — even if it’s mainly boundless enthusiasm. Contribute. Know how to give, and also know how to ask. Treat everyone with respect, whether they’re “influential” or not. And remember not to squee on your shoes when you meet your heroes! Being a fan is great; being a rabid fan is a little … scary.

The best kind of success — the kind I value — is measured primarily by the number of people you can help. Not by selling yourself short (that doesn’t help anyone), but by building something worthwhile and getting the word out. Making honest, real connections can help you with that. When you’re on a cool mission, the people who can help will find that attractive.

Discover where the influencers hang out

So where do you find this network? Well, you start by figuring out where they hang out.

Do they have a blog? What conferences do they go to? Where do they speak? What forums do they haunt? When do they hit the bars?

If you happened to be in Austin for South by Southwest interactive this year, I hope you made it to our party. It was a hell of a place to connect with bright people — online influencers, creative business minds, talented artists and writers, and an assortment of rock stars, ninjas, and (my favorite) goonies.

We like bringing smart, successful people together. It’s fun and it’s interesting, and we learn a lot from the connections that are sparked. We’re going to have some more thoughts to share with you on that very soon, so stay tuned.

How about you?

Ever made a connection that’s made all the difference in your business or your life? Let us know about it in the comments.

About the Author: Sonia Simone is co-founder and CMO of Copyblogger Media. Get more from Sonia on Twitter and .

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5 Writing Links You’ll be Glad You Clicked

by Robert Bruce on April 20, 2013

The Lede | copyblogger.com

This week on The Lede

  • Jerry Seinfeld’s Secret of Productivity
  • If You’re Stuck for Ideas, Go for a Walk
  • How to Consistently Write 1000 Words a Day
  • The Reuters Guide to Cultivating and Keeping Good Sources
  • You Can Be Busy or Remarkable — Not Both

Want to grab even more useful links (beyond those that make The Lede)? Follow @copyblogger on Twitter.

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Jerry Seinfeld’s Secret of Productivity
Writing is a game of odds. The more you play, the better your chance of walking away from the table (or desk) a winner. Some seem to have no problem writing every day. For others, it’s a constant ‘fight unto death’ that produces more losing days than not. This article outlines the best trick I’ve ever used for getting what I want from the blank page.

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If You’re Stuck for Ideas, Go for a Walk
Another bit of ancient advice rolled out to the Generation of Screens. Contrary to popular belief, you cannot actually squeeze blood from a turnip, and at some point, staring too long into those white, glowing pixels becomes a self-defeating excercise. Get up. Get out. Walk a mile in your own shoes.

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How to Consistently Write 1000 Words a Day
A simple walk-through of how one writer has become prolific. You will have heard some (or much) of this advice before, but it’s the basic things our pride tells us we no longer need, that we sometimes need the most. No?

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The Reuters Guide to Cultivating and Keeping Good Sources
Chances are you’re not a professional journalist. However, I believe that traditional journalistic integrity should be transferred to the creation of content for the purpose of building audiences and businesses. Are you publishing interviews? Are you gathering facts? Are you making statements about the nature of your industry? All of this must be backed by solid research, tenacious follow up, and complete truth on your part. Who, or what, are your sources? I shouldn’t have to bring this up, but there you go.

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You Can Be Busy or Remarkable — Not Both
Mr. Newport’s headline says it all. The addiction to busyness kills business.

Miss anything on Copyblogger this week?

About the Author: Robert Bruce is VP of Marketing for Copyblogger Media, as well as its Resident Recluse. Get more from him via Twitter or Google+.

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Is it Time for Content Marketers to Abandon Facebook?

by Sonia Simone on November 28, 2012

image of Batman and Robin

If you spend time on Facebook, you’ve seen a great weeping and gnashing of teeth as Pages realize that they’re only reaching a tiny sliver of their audiences with each post.

Facebook’s noisy, overvalued IPO means they need a better revenue model. Page owners are being strong-armed encouraged to pay to “Promote” posts to get a wider reach to the audiences they built in the first place.

For a business with a really large Facebook audience, this can run into tens of thousands of dollars a year.

Does this suck? Yes, it sucks.

Should you have seen it coming? Yes, you should have.

This phenomenon isn’t as new as people think it is. Pages never reached 100% of their subscribers. But a recent algorithm update does appear to be making things noticeably worse.

This morning we republished our post on digital sharecropping, which is the dangerous practice of building your online business on someone else’s (virtual) land.

The latest in a long line of Facebook messes is a prime example of just what makes that a dangerous strategy. And the dangers won’t stop with Facebook.

Social platforms are great tools for expanding your audience. But there are three things I want you to keep in mind if you still want to use Facebook (or any platform you don’t control) to promote your business.

Principle #1: Facebook owes you nothing

You may think they do. You may argue that you attracted a certain number of users to “Like” you, thus helping them build an audience they can show their spammy display ads to.

Facebook, much like honey badger, don’t care.

You can keep thinking that your relationship with Facebook is a two-way street. And you can keep being disappointed when Facebook pulls another lousy stunt and you get shafted.

Or you can use Facebook for what they’re good at — having conversations with people who might become customers. If you can do that without becoming dependent on Facebook, you’ll do fine.

Or you may decide that Facebook isn’t worth the effort. That’s fine, too. Contrary to what some will tell you, not every business “needs” to be on Facebook. It’s a tool — nothing more, nothing less. You need to make an informed decision about whether or not the tool makes sense for you.

Principle #2: Understand why people use the platform

People go to Facebook to share duckface selfies, pictures of grandkids, and memes from George Takei. Silly and personal are the watchwords.

Some businesses can fit into this pretty well. Health coaches, wedding photographers, and gluten-free cupcake bakers are part of their customers’ personal lives, so using Facebook (judiciously) can work well.

Nonprofits with the right message can also do well. The Occupy Sandy organization (or un-organization, as the case may be) uses Facebook and Twitter to quickly recruit volunteers and donations for hurricane relief and rebuilding in the Northeast. Their supporters’ webs of personal connections are incredibly well suited to this. It works.

It can even work B2B, if you have the right brand. Superstar business author and coach Pam Slim does a great job making audience connections on her Facebook page.

But you need to watch out for two things.

First, the minute you actually depend on Facebook for your business, they will change their terms of service in a way that causes you pain. Refer back to Principle #1.

Second, “engagement” does not equal “customers.” I see too many coaches in particular who have magnificent engagement on Facebook. They get tons of shares and comments and likes. But that’s not translating into business.

That’s not marketing, it’s an annoying hobby.

Principle #3: Facebook is an outpost, not your home base

I’m not here to trash Facebook. (That’s Brian’s longtime job.) I’m here to encourage you to use Facebook if it makes sense for you, and to protect yourself against the Terms of Service roulette.

One popular Page I saw was recruiting her Facebook fans to move to Google+, Pinterest, and Instagram.

No.

Never build up an outpost at the expense of your home base. Your home base is something you control — a place where you pay the bills and you make the rules. In other words, it’s your primary site.

Your Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instragram, and any other fans/followers should have frequent opportunities to come back to your site for content they can only find there, and to subscribe to your email list for even more premium content.

Think of social sites as trade show booths. They’re excellent places to spark conversations, find new leads, and spread the word about what you do.

But you still have an office where the main work gets done. That’s your primary site. Keep it … well, primary.

Still want to use Facebook?

Next week, we’ll be running a detailed reference post on how to make the most of Facebook today, if you decide it’s a good outpost for you.

We’ll talk about:

  • How to reach more of your audience
  • The advantages of images versus text-only posts
  • Whether and how to use Promoted Posts
  • Whether the Interest List will save your engagement
  • What Page Notifications are and whether they can help

Make sure you’re subscribed to the blog updates so you don’t miss it.

And this week, do yourself a favor. Create a fantastically useful piece of content for your primary site. Use Facebook (or wherever else you hang out) to drive traffic to it.

Spend a little less time and emotional energy on your social media outposts, and a little more building the asset that contributes to your long-term business success.

About the Author: Sonia Simone is co-founder and CMO of Copyblogger Media. Get more from Sonia on Twitter and Google+.

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3 Questions Content Producers Must Answer

by Charlie Gilkey on October 22, 2012

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Have you ever read a non-fiction book that was so poorly structured that you couldn’t finish it, because you were constantly confused about what you were supposed to be learning?

I know I have. And I know that my not being able to finish it or not learning whatever I was supposed to wasn’t my fault — it was the fault of the author and their editors.

Learning is a journey. Effective teachers help students navigate that journey smoothly. The major difference between learning on your own and learning from a teacher is the fact that the teacher knows where you need to go and how to help you get there.

Content marketing is a form of teaching (among other things), so what’s true of teachers is true of content producers.

Teaching via content marketing requires you (the content producer) to know where your readers are, and to have a plan that will help them get there. If you do it well, your readers learn what you’ve promised and are better off.

If you do it poorly, they’ll end frustrated and dissatisfied with you, for the same reason we’re dissatisfied with those murky authors.

I’ve come up with three simple questions to help make sure your readers are never disappointed in you, and don’t lose track of what you’re trying to impart …

Effective teaching requires planning

Good teachers can show up and wing it; great teachers plan their students’ journey and stay on track.

Why are the latter better? Because they make the content they share subservient to their students’ needs, rather than making their students’ needs a secondary, almost accidental, consideration.

Yet many, many content marketers show up and wing it every day. Their blog posts are persistently the thoughts du jour. Their newsletters are whatever random information they can send out on schedule. Their social media streams are a constant reaction to what’s going on today.

And their audiences are understandably confused or disengaged. If they hang around, it’s because there are occasional glimmers of brilliance amidst the cacophony.

Developing a content plan helps increase the frequency of those glimmers of brilliance. And those glimmers of brilliance are what will get shared, liked, commented on, and purchased.

Developing a content plan also helps avoid the dreaded “but what do I say?” problem that so many creatives end up grappling with from time to time. It’ll be clear what you need to say, because you can follow your own script.

1. Where are you taking your students?

Here’s a paradox that goes back to Socrates: If you don’t know what you don’t know, how do you figure out how to learn what you don’t know?

A good teacher avoids this problem altogether … assuming the teacher knows where they’re taking you.

Answering that deceptively simple question drives your content plan. Remember, simple isn’t easy: to nail that question down, you have to decide who you’ll be talking to.

2. What’s the first thing they need to learn?

Are your students beginners or experts? Do they keep up with trends or live under rocks? What do they already know?

By picking what the first thing your students need to learn is, you’ve necessarily picked a niche. For instance, many of the teachers reading this post are likely thinking “Duh!” because they already know what I’m saying, whereas content marketers who haven’t considered themselves teachers are (hopefully) having lightbulbs go off.

Experienced teachers: knowing ≠ doing; Do the work!

Developing the rest of the content plan is straightforward: keep asking what the next thing is that they need to learn to get them where they are wanting to go.

Note: if you want to be creative, do so in the content and (perhaps) the delivery method, not in the journey itself.

3. When are you going to create the content?

I’ve seen brilliant content plans and many of them have had an obvious flaw: they don’t consider the amount of time it’s going to take to create them.

Effective teaching content doesn’t create itself.

After you develop your draft content plan, you have to assess it in light of the other activities you have planned during that time period.

A content plan that you mean to execute has to be incorporated into your operational plan. Otherwise, that content plan just ends up becoming another thing you “should” do that you’re not going to have time for.

Most of the time, syncing your content plan with your operational plan means that at least one of the two will have to change. If your content plan is the priority, some other things will have to shift.

If it’s not, either trim your content plan — teachers always stuff more into the plan than actually needs to be there — or stretch out the timeline so you can get the necessities in there.

It’s for this reason that I added a monthly planner to our premium blog post planners; too many people weren’t incorporating their content plans within the context of their total business activities.

A content plan that would require 20 hours of content creation a month simply won’t work if you only have 10 available hours to do the creation that month. (Note that this isn’t just a problem with content plans; many plans fail to address the reality of how long the plan will take to execute.)

In summary …

To be an effective content marketer, you have to develop an effective, executable content plan. When you think like a teacher, the three questions that you’ll have to come to grips with are:

  1. Where am I taking my students?
  2. What’s the first thing they need to learn? (Followed by a rinse and repeat of “what do they need to learn next?”)
  3. When, specifically, am I going to create that content?

Answer those questions clearly, execute the plan, and watch as you create satisfied customers.

About the Author: Charlie Gilkey helps people and organizations focus on what matters and then execute on it. His company, Productive Flourishing, just released new versions of their popular planners for creatives, changemakers, and proactive leaders. He can also be found on Twitter at @CharlieGilkey.

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