Face The Facts: Your Profile Pic Says A Lot About You

When’s the last time you updated your Facebook profile picture? Twitter? What about LinkedIn? You may think that keeping your profile pic current isn’t necessary, but the harsh reality is most customers are judging you by your picture long before they ever talk to you in person. If you don’t have your profile picture locked down, your customers will notice, and they’re going to judge you. HARD.

So if you’re like me, and haven’t updated your profile pic in quite some time, these tips should help you get the perfect profile picture, and help you grab the interests of potential customers.

Dress To Impress

What sounds more inviting to you: 1) a nice, solid colored button up shirt, complemented by a matching tie; a clean cut hair style with a clean-shaven or trimmed up beard; and modern looking, black framed glasses OR 2) a white wife beater, browned from years of pit stains, with a barbecue smudge the size of Florida’s panhandle; long, untrimmed hair pulled back tight into a ponytail to hide the split-ends; a scraggly, rough beard with yesterday’s meatloaf in it; and a trucker hat that says “Merica” in bright red, white and blue colors?

I sincerely hope you picked the first option.

This is an extreme example, of course, but the point here is that you want to present yourself in your profile picture as someone who looks like they belong in the business world. Pick matching colors and nonabrasive patterns to show off your style, and if you don’t consider yourself a style expert, ask a fashionista friend to help you out.

Show Off Those Pearly Whites

Research has proven that smiling while showing off your teeth is twice as effective as smiling with your mouth closed. People love to see beautiful smiles, and customers will be more likely to trust someone who’s smiling with their pearly whites in full display in their profile pictures. But if you’ve got Austin Powers teeth, the closed-mouth grin works well, too. Really, it’s all about showing your confidence!

Hire A Pro

There’s a lot that can go into taking a good photograph. Lighting, background, aperture and shutter settings, ISO, and your camera equipment must all be considered when trying to get the perfect shot.

So rather than taking an iPhone pic with the help of your selfie stick, consider hiring a professional photographer to take a few headshots of you. A high quality picture says a lot about your company, and will impress customers. Think about it: would you really want to do business with a person whose profile picture has less pixels than an 8-bit video game?

Leave Out the Debauchery

This one is pretty much a no-brainer. No smoking, no drinking, no stealing zoo animals on a wild night out with your conservationist buddies…you get the idea. Putting any of this stuff in your profile pictures, or even posting it on your Facebook Twitter, or LinkedIn accounts, is a big red flag to potential customers. Showing you’re an upstanding citizen, and professional business man or woman, in your profile picture is what is ultimately going to make or break your business. Because these days, no one’s personal life is secret–especially if you’re an active social media user.

If you’re still wondering what’s inappropriate for a profile picture, check out these profile picture no-no’s below!

  1. Mirror Selfies: Selfies are completely unprofessional when it comes to profile pictures. Even if you have perfected the duck face, your customers couldn’t care less.

  2. Over Filtered Instagram Nightmares: Filters are nice if you’re trying to make your pictures really artsy and over the top, but they don’t make for very professional pictures.

  3. Bathroom Selfies: Gross. I’m not sure why people think these are okay, but no one wants to see where you use the bathroom.

  4. The “I Hate Everything” Face: This goes back to the smiling tip. Super serious faces are not very inviting, so make sure you’re at least faking a smile in your picture.

  5. The “I Took This Picture While Running From A Tornado” Blurry Pic: Blurry, low quality pictures are awful. If you’ve got shaky hands, then set up a camera on a tripod with a timer to take your headshot.

  6. Head-To-Toe Full Body Shots: Your upper body is what’s important for a good profile pic, so take pictures from your shoulders up.

  7. Butt Selfies: Taking a picture of your butt while turning your face toward the camera really doesn’t work for anyone, so why would you make it your profile picture. Your butt isn’t selling homemade artisan soaps–you are.

  8. Default Social Media Pictures (a.k.a. The Silhouettes): This is just plain lazy, and really makes you look like you don’t care about your social media presence. If you don’t have any good headshots of yourself at the time, at least find a picture that is reasonable.

  9. The “My Kitty Is My Best Friend” Pic: Look, I get it. Your cat is your BFF. But unless he/she is the mascot for your business, or has stock invested in your business through Kitty Wall Street, leave the cat out of the picture. Or any pet for that matter.

Tips For Successful Email Marketing

Every business knows that email marketing is one of the most important tools for getting consumers the info they need. Email marketing is like sending out a door-to-door salesperson to promote your product.

But just like a door-to-door sales pitch, email marketing can become annoying to consumers. They can be overwhelmed with too many emails, and wonder if you’re still in business if you send out too few.

Check out these tips on how to make your next email marketing campaign grab their attention.

Mobile Is The Way To Go

These days, there are more people who check their emails on smartphones and tablets than on a traditional desktop browser. So you have to make sure your emails are optimized for viewing on small screened devices. That means, don’t clutter the screen with non-essential info. Just the most important tidbits that you want customers to see first.

Subject Lines Matter

You want the people who receive your emails to be able to quickly glance at the subject line and know exactly what they’re opening. That means 1) don’t be ambiguous, and 2) get to the point. Another effective strategy is to use the same subject line for different email types. For example, using “10 Things To Know” every time you send out an email with info about your company lets customers know what the email is about. This makes them more inclined to open it, because they know exactly what they’re going to see in the email.

Get Social

Adding links to your social media accounts in the footer or header of every email you send out is a great way to get users connected to you online. You can include buttons that link to various social media accounts, and you can even include a social sharing call to action button, so they can share the email contents to their followers!

Don’t Be A Spammer

There’s nothing people hate more than seeing hundreds of spam emails cluttering up their inboxes. So avoid being a spammer at all cost. In other words, limit the number of emails you send out to a maximum of one per day. Bi-weekly emails at the beginning and end of the week are effective strategies as well. And you can even choose to send a weekly recap at the end of every work week, if you feel that your customers will appreciate it more.

Design To Please

The way your email looks is sometimes more important than the actual info in the body of the email. A good design is guaranteed to catch the eye of a current or potential customer, so try to design your email to be visually appealing. If you don’t have your own graphic design department to create your own flashy header image, there are many helpful websites out there that can help!

Networking for the Socially Awkward

Networking can be very intimidating for many business owners. Some people are naturally outgoing, personable, and do great with small talk. Others (myself included) dread the idea of having to talk to a person that they have no common experiences with, and have no idea how to make conversation with them.

Luckily, in this new era of tech advancements and varied forms of communication, there are some great ways for those who are socially awkward to network just as well as those who are socially confident.

Social Media Master

A lot of times, people who are socially awkward feel much more comfortable communicating with someone via the Internet rather than in person. Whether it be through email, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, or LinkedIn, chatting and making connections with someone through social media is a much more comfortable setting.

You can gather your thoughts on what you want to say, rather than being put on the spot; send helpful pictures, files, and videos that you may want to share; and meet far more people than you could ever meet in real life.

You can even join an online group that shares the same interests as you. Facebook makes joining group very easy and efficient, and any topic that you’re interested in creating a business around is available in an online group. You’ll find ideas in these groups that you might never think of on your own.

In-Person Meetings

But that’s not to say in-person meetings aren’t important. Eventually, you’re still going to have to meet a client or go to a networking party. So what do you do in those situations, where your comfort level is at an all time low?

First, you need to remember that networking is vital to growing your business. You never know when the person you met once at a networking party is going to contact you offering the deal of a lifetime.

So, when you’re faced with a situation where you have to network in person, and you feel uncomfortable about it, try to remember these two things: Be yourself, and relax.

Just Be Yourself

Both of these things are kind of easier said than done, but they’re key to making good connections. I’ll be honest with you; I HATE small talk. Networking, and meeting new people in general, is 90% small talk, 10% deeper connections. So it’s not my favorite thing in the world. A lot of the pressure and awkwardness that I feel comes from the fact that most of the time I’m trying to show the other person I’m a professional, dedicated person. That’s all well and good, but the problem is, when I do that, I end up coming off as stiff and serious. And that’s not me.

It’s sometimes hard, but if you’re a jokey person like me, then try to throw in a few light jokes into a conversation. Sometimes it’ll be well received, sometimes it won’t. But that’s a good risk to take when you’re trying to lighten up a conversation and make deeper connections.

Relax, man…

It’s also important to relax. Why? Because no one likes a stickler. In all seriousness, though, when you’re less worried about whether you’re making a good impression on the other person, you’ll have a much better time. So what if you can’t make a good connection with everyone you meet? You only need one good connection to make the whole thing worthwhile.

Chances are, there are a lot of people out there who feel exactly the same as you do about social events. But there’s always a way to make those fears turn into strengths, and network in a way that makes you feel the most comfortable.

What’s Up With Meerkat and Periscope? Tips For Two New Apps

Social media is a constantly evolving form of technology. From the early days of Xanga and Myspace, to the global Internet takeover by powerhouse companies such as Facebook and Twitter, social media has a huge impact on the way people have lived their everyday lives for the past two decades.

When a new social media platform, or application, pops up on the radar, it’s important for businesses to research how they can utilize this new tech to become more connected with their customers.

So what are the newest apps that are making waves in the social world? Introducing: Meerkat and Periscope.

What Are They?

Meerkat and Periscope are both apps that allow users to live stream video of whatever they’re doing, whenever they’re doing it, through the ever popular 140-character quick info app Twitter. When you start streaming your live video, your followers will get a notification telling them you are streaming live video. They can open up Twitter and watch your live stream. They can also leave comments while the video is playing. Periscope even has the option to watch video in the app itself, without having to log in to Twitter.

Meerkat was the first one of these two apps to premiere to the world, first showing up at the annual South By Southwest (SXSW) tech, music, and art festival in Austin, Texas, and quickly sent media and tech journalists into a frenzy. Although Twitter now limits the usage of Meerkat on its site, and is quickly being surpassed by Periscope in terms of active users, it was touted as the “next big thing” in social media and interactivity.

Periscope launched its own app shortly after, and has given Meerkat some very stiff competition, due to the fact that it is owned and endorsed by Twitter.

Effectively Using These Apps

So, what’s the point of these two apps, and how can your business use them to optimize connectivity with customers?

The No. 1 reason why these apps are great for business is they can give you the unprecedented opportunity to connect with people in a way that’s more honest and open than ever  before.

Live streaming is different than posting a short video on other apps, like Instagram and Vine, because there’s no editing involved with them. What you stream is what people get, no matter if you make a mistake or shoot the wrong angle of something you’re trying to capture.

Although this can be intimidating to some people, it can be worth the risk because people will appreciate the honesty and realness of your interaction with them. That’s why more people are using Twitter and Facebook to voice their opinions to companies: because they know they can interact with businesses directly.

These apps can also be used for promotions. For example, you can send out a Tweet to all your followers that if they tune in to your live stream at a certain time, they’ll be treated with a promotional discount code, or exclusive offer. It’s a win-win situation for both parties. Not only will your customers appreciate the discount, and might possibly refer your company to others, but your company can bring in more potential customers through your promotion.

And make no mistake about it, customers remember the kind things you do for them, and will stick with your company if they know you care about them.

So don’t be afraid of the new tech that’s coming out each and every day in today’s world. There’s always something new and better, and there are always ways to use it to create a more connected and honest relationship with customers!

Marketing Tip of the Week: Grammar for Business

Good grammar is important to the success of a business. Schoolhouse Rock knows it. Sesame Street knows it. Your 3rd grade English teacher knew it as well. Just check out the video below and you’ll see.

But why is it so important? I mean, if you’re writing an English paper for a class, or your job consists of writing for a living (such as an author or journalism job), of course it’s important. But how can the everyday business man/woman use grammar to succeed in their field?

Below are a few tips for optimizing your grammar and how it can help your business in the long run.

Common Grammatical Flubs

Their are tons of examples of words out there that are completely misused by the average person. From homophones, to using the wrong form of “your” or “you’re,” it’s easy to make an embarrassing grammatical mistake. Most of this is probably due to the fact that many words in the English language sound the same when spoken, but are completely different when written out.

As I mentioned before, misusing “your” and “you’re” is one of the most common mistakes, but “their,” “there,” and “they’re” is also a very common mistake. Always make sure you know which words fit together with the sentence you’re constructing.

Other words, such “affect” and “effect,” are homonyms (words that sound the same but have completely different meanings). If you’re unsure of the correct spelling to use, always look it up in the dictionary or search on the Internet to find the correct spelling and usage.

Proper Grammar Can Make You More Professional

Which one of these sentences sounds more professional to you?

  • “During an recent claims adjusting proces, we discovered some concerns with you’re property that must be adressed.”
  • “During a recent claims adjusting process, we discovered some concerns with your property that must be addressed.”

Hopefully, you selected the second sentence. When you have to write up a report for your superior, or present to your team, you need to write with correct and proper grammar. It will be very hard to convince others that you know what your’e doing when your grammar is poor; no matter how much research you’ve done or how much knowledge you have about the project.

Proper grammar lets others see that you are passionate about your business, and presents yourself as a professional in your field. Even when you’re interacting with customers, your grammar needs to be top notch. A lot of people, myself included, will turn their nose up at businesses that have spelling or grammar mistakes on their marketing materials (such as advertisements). These so called “grammar nazis” can make or break your business, so make sure you’re always presenting yourself, and your business, in an intelligent, professional light.

Here are some more tips on how to increase your professionalism in your writing:

  • Use synonyms to spice up your writing. Ex. use “excellent” or “outstanding” instead of “good.” 
  • Try to avoid lame cliches like “we think outside of the box” or “we’re focused on making synergistic decisions.” People get tired of hearing these cliches, and they end up sounding insincere when repeated too often.
  • Work on correct usage of punctuation. For example, the ellipses is a fun punctuation tool to use…but it consists of three periods, not 5 to infinity. And you don’t need multiple exclamation points to bring home the idea that you’re excited about something!!!! One is plenty!
  • Capitalize only important and necessary words. Usually, these are proper nouns and the first word of a sentence. And avoid capitalizing every letter in a word. THIS MAKES IT SEEM LIKE YOU’RE YELLING, and that’s rude.

But, hey, even celebrities make grammar errors (quite frequently, actually) so you’re not alone in this. But it’s good to know that school kids are keeping their grammar straight on Twitter.

 

 

What’s Trending For March

 

Marketing Tip of the Week: How to Design the Perfect Business Card

What’s one of the first things you do (or should do) when you meet a new client who’s interested in starting a partnership with your business or startup?

Shake hands? Yes. Introduce yourself? Yes. Try to remember the other person’s name for when you get to the end of the conversation? Double yes.

But one of the most important things to do in any business exchange is to present your business card to the other person. Why? Because business cards are the perfect way for someone to easily get in touch with you again, and, depending on how your card looks, will leave a lasting impression on the person.

If your business card looks like it was drawn with a crayon on top of a 2″ x 2″ corner of last night’s pizza box, then here are some tips to update it, and get people interested in the services you have to offer them.

Include the Most Vital Info

Your business card is like a mini bio of who you are and what your business is about, but you don’t have to write the next great American novel on it. Sure, you need to include enough info that your business isn’t wildly ambiguous, but typically you only need 4 -5 bits of info. The most important info to include are your name, title (CEO, writer, manager), your company name, and your contact information (which can include phone number, email, and maybe even your mailing address).

Fonts Make a Difference

When selecting the typography for your business card, always make sure it’s easily readable and font is large enough to make an impact. Most of the time, sans serif fonts are the best to use because they’re simple, clear, and easy to read. Use sans serif fonts like Helvetica or Swiss for your contact info. But your company name needs to be a little flashier, so feel free to use any font that’s both flashy, and easy to read. But whatever you do, avoid using Comic Sans. If you’re struggling with Comic Sans addiction, consider visiting this site: www.comicsanscriminal.com.

Colors Grab Attention

Colors can be just as important as your typography. Make sure if you use a solid color background that it’s a color that works well with the font style and font color that you choose. Using a yellow background with a white font is typically bad news, but a black background with white font helps to make your font standout much better. And it’s a good idea to stick with CMYK colors when designing, since these colors are better for printing projects. RGB colors are better for websites and screens.

Different Materials Can Impress

Most of the time, business cards are printed on cardstock, with varying thicknesses and quality. But now there are so many options for different materials that you can use to make your business cards pop.

You want the material you use to reflect the business you’re in. For example, a carpenter, woodworker, or construction company owner might get his business info printed on different types of wood. If you’re in the fashion or clothing industry, you might want to get your cards made out of leather or wool. Or, if you’re a DJ, record store owner, or music producer, you can even get your cards printed on vinyl record material. There are so many options out there, but the traditional paper business card is the most reliable and cost efficient if you’re just starting out with your business.

Business cards are great tools, but you gotta know how to use them properly in order to make an impact on your next business partner or customer. I’m gonna say it again: don’t use Comic Sans. Please. I’ll come find you if you do.

 

 

Marketing Tip of the Week: Jumping on the Trend Wagon

Participating in social trends is a great way to connect to your customers, and give people the impression that your company’s social media account isn’t just a mindless robot, but a relatable person.

If you’re looking to find ways to engage in fun social media trends, but also get people to notice your brand, check out these three tips on how to jump on the trend wagon.

Jump On It Fast

When trending topics happen, whether it’s on Twitter, Facebook or some other platform, it comes and goes very quickly. You need to be ready to jump in on the fun right when it’s happening. If you don’t, before you know it everyone else will have already moved on and you’ll be tweeting hashtags with yesterday’s Internet fad. Usually, unless the topic is something that occurs for multiple days (Olympics, festivals, world series, TV shows), most trends happen within a 24 hour period. When you start seeing multiple people using the same hashtag on your feed, that’s when you know you need to jump on the bandwagon.

Use Some Tact

When tweeting trending topics, always remember to us a little tact when coming up with your social message. There are countless examples out there of companies that failed to understand the meaning of a trend, or posted something that was offensive to customers. For example, when the Ray Rice domestic abuse fiasco was happening, the hashtag #WhyIStayed popped up all over social media. DiGiorno Pizza mistakenly tweeted out, “#WhyIStayed You had pizza,” and Twitter immediately unloaded on the company. DiGiorno later apologized for the tweet, saying they didn’t know the meaning of the hashtag, but the company’s error is a great message to other companies to research your hashtag meanings before you use them.

Use It To Bring People To Your Brand

During the #TheDress debate that occurred a few weeks ago, the Internet was up in arms about whether a badly photographed picture of a dress was blue and black, or white and gold (it’s blue and black, by the way). While the debate stirred on through different social media outlets, many companies took notice and began using the debate as a way to promote their brands. Xbox tweeted out a picture of a new blue and black controller design (asking if it looked white and gold), Specsavers asked people who see the dress as white and gold to come in for an eye exam.

And most innovative of all, the Salvation Army used the debate as a way to raise awareness for domestic violence. There’s always a way to use a trend as promotion for your brand or even to show support for certain social causes.

So remember, trending topics aren’t always meaningless Internet fun. They might also have marketing and branding advantages for your company!

Marketing Tip of the Week: Social Media & Customer Service

Social media can be one of the greatest assets for any business to utilize. The Internet has the awesome capability of connecting millions of people from all cultures, backgrounds, and languages, in one place; something that no other form of technology can do!

Learning to use your business’s social media accounts can be advantageous on so many levels. But most importantly, it’s a great customer service tool. Here are just a few ways that you can improve your social media presence and help you connect with your customers on a more personal and direct level.

Designate A Social Media Customer Service Rep

Having a team of customer service reps to answer the phones when a customer has a problem or is upset with their services is a great thing to have. But often times, those phone lines can get tied up with hundreds of calls coming in to your office, and customers can be left waiting one the line for extended periods of time, growing more impatient with every second that ticks by. These days, people are more likely to complain about their service on social media accounts, especially on sites where they are able to address your business directly, such as Twitter. It’s important to have somebody managing your accounts at all times to help mitigate problems that arise, and answer customers’ questions.

Respond Quickly

The beauty of social media is that it’s a very personal piece of tech. Whereas emails, and sometimes phone calls, are a one-way form of communication, social media is very much a two-way form. Customers know that when they tweet at you with your handle tagged, or make a Facebook post with your business page tagged in the message, you see it. So they expect you to respond as quickly as you can. That’s why it’s important to address complaints and questions as soon as they pop up in your notifications. This shows customers you really care about their business and want to help solve their problems.

Deal With Unruly Customers Privately

Undoubtedly, you’re going to encounter customers that are fed up with poor service they’ve received, or frustrations over miscommunication with the company. And they’re going to let you know they’re upset. When a customer tweets at you, or speaks unkindly about your business on Facebook, it can potentially make your company look really bad. When other customers see those angry posts, they might have a different viewpoint of your business. You may lose a lot of potential customers because of one bad post. In these situations, it’s best to send a private direct message to them, to deal with the issue out of the public’s eye.

Respond With Intent To Resolve

This is one of the most important tips I can give about social media customer service. Always make sure you’re responding to complaints with the intent to solve the customer’s problem. This can help cool off a hot-headed customer that’s upset, and also shows your maturity and confidence in your business. A good example of a tweet back to an unruly customer would be “@JohnDoe – we’re sorry that happened to you, John. Is there anyway we can work with you to resolve this issue?”

Social media isn’t just for promoting your business; it’s also a wonderful tool for helping your customers with their problems. When customers see you’re willing to do whatever it takes to keep their business, they’ll remember it, and they’re more likely to recommend you to other potential customers.

Marketing Tip of the Week: Hashtag Etiquette

The humble hashtag has been around a lot longer than social media would lead us to believe. Although adopted and popularized by Twitter in 2007, the hashtag has been around since the late ’90s, used by Internet Relay Chat to categorize images, messages, videos and other items into groups. Since that time, most social media platforms have embraced the hashtag, including Instagram, Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest.

And with that intro, a code of ethics was born. Although, like the Internet, these are not set-in-stone rules about what’s proper when using hashtags, following these 5 easy steps will definitely help your business succeed by increasing your social presence, and preventing you from committing mild Internet no-no’s.

Hashtag Only Relevant Tags

Just because you CAN hashtag a word doesn’t mean you HAVE to hashtag it. Hashtagging the word “new” in the sentence, “Check out the beautiful #new floral arrangement from Bill’s Flowers!” won’t help your tweet any, because “new” relates to so many different topics. Hashtagging “floral arrangement” or “Bill’s Flowers,” however, will direct customers exactly where they need to go to find more tweets or posts related to your hashtagged words. Ex: “Check out the beautiful new #FloralArrangement from #BillsFlowers!”

Stay Away From Excessively Long Hashtags

Hashtags are great for tagging one or two words, or even sentences with only a few words, but when you make the mistake of hashtagging an entire paragraph full of words, you just end up confusing customers. DON’T: “#checkoutouronlineexclusivedealsavailableinourwebstore.” DO: “Check out our #OnlineExclusive deals available in our webstore!” And when you do use multiple words in a tweet, capitalize the first letter of every word in your sentence, to make the tag easier to read. 

Use Hashtags For Promotion, But Don’t Spam

No one likes spam, not even the people who make it (we’d like to think). So it’s okay to use hashtags to promote an event, like a #WeeklyNewsletter, but a weekly newsletter means you send it out weekly. Don’t excessively tweet about checking out your business’s newsletter every day. The day before, or day of the newsletter going out is plenty.

#TeamFollowBack #LikeForLike and #RepostForRepost Are Bad

I’m sure we’ve all encountered those random accounts that follow us on Twitter and Instagram for seemingly no reason. Usually, those accounts are spam accounts that are looking only to get the most followers possible and have no interest in what you’re business is actually about. So don’t use your social accounts to follow hundreds or thousands of people that have no relationship to your business. Users get annoyed by this. Make sure to really research those you wish to follow before clicking the button (making sure they’re not spam accounts first, of course).

#Don’t #Hashtag #Every #Word

#Seriously #Don’t #Do #This. It’s unnecessary and makes it almost impossible for tags to be grouped properly. Hashtags aren’t meant to make categorization easier, not more convoluted and infuriating to navigate.

Remember, hashtags are meant to make your use of social media optimal and more efficient. Don’t make it any harder than it needs to be.