Friday, 24 June 2016

"Cheap" Work - And What It Does To Your Industry

I had an interesting conversation with a colleague just now - the lovely and talented Dina Arsenault. The discussion opened my eyes to something still existing; something that I thought we as an industry had dealt with already. Sadly, this turns out to not be the case, and it fired me up enough to get these creative juices of mine going.

We were discussing rates, and how we come to those rates - I've had some new projects pop up, and since they're a bit different than what I've been doing lately, I reached out to Dina because she and I do very similar things professionally, and I wanted to touch base with someone who knows their stuff. Sort of a "sanity check", so to speak. Am I still on track? Are my rates reasonable? That sort of thing.

Imagine my surprise when we started discussing the fact that there are still businesses out there who are not just undercutting professionals like us, but who are almost giving away their services! I'm not going to name any names here, because I don't think that's appropriate in the least, but I will say this: If you are running a "social media strategy and management" company, and you're charging anywhere near $150/month, it's time for a lesson in self-worth - and in economics.

I've been doing this for a long time, and my rates reflect that. I'm not "cheap" - and that's okay, for a number of reasons that we'll come back to. The reason this entire conversation upsets me is two-fold:

  1. You're making a statement about the value of your work, and worse yet;
  2. You're making a statement about the value of mine.

Remember that saying: "Fast, Cheap, Good: Pick Two." - it exists for a reason.

If you tell someone that you're able to provide strategy, content, and social media management for $150/month, I sincerely hope you have 20 accounts, no employees, and absolutely no interest in having any sort of life outside of work, because quite frankly, that is ridiculous. Not only is it ridiculous, you are horribly undervaluing what you do - and what I do. When you under price YOUR work, you're also devaluing mine.

The time alone that it takes to create the right strategy for a business - never mind the analyzing of date, reporting, and tuning! - costs more than that. The time it takes to create good, effective content that is based on a solid strategy and that's speaking to the right audience costs more than that. The time required to properly manage online communities/Facebook Pages/Twitter accounts and provide the level of customer service necessary to be effective costs more than that. By setting the bar low for these very important services, you're effectively saying that "what I do isn't really worth much, so don't pay me for my time." 

Listen, I think we can all agree on this sentiment, right?

Here's my question: Does that mean that "cheaper" is the way to go? Let's get back to why my rates are what they are for a moment, shall we? 
  1. I've been doing what I do for approximately 15 years. I'm what you call "experienced". (No age jokes, people. Just don't go there.)
  2. I'm VERY good at what I do. I have spent years getting good at it, and I bring real, tangible results to the clients I work with. I go out of my way to ensure that when a client works with me, they get what they've come to me for - and oftentimes, more!
  3. My time is worth something. None of the work I do for clients springs out of thin air; I actually have to do the work. That work requires time, and that time requires my full attention and skill set - and payment for my time is reflected as such.
  4. I have costs, too! Whether it's my laptop, my internet connection, my travel costs, etc., they're all real and I'm responsible for them.
So, let's recap. When you are saying "We can do it for $150/month!", one of two things is happening. Either a) you don't know the work required to do this job PROPERLY, or b) you're more worried about "getting out there" than you are in making sure that people who require and want your services understand that it has a value.

You're not helping yourself be taken seriously, and you're devaluing what I do. Please understand that this isn't good for anyone, including the businesses who are paying that horrifically tiny fee - when the day comes that you realize how much work you're doing and how little you're being paid for it, you're going to swiftly lose all motivation, and it will become a matter of "why am I busting my butt for this? It's not worth it!!" And then, my friends, your clients get shoddy work. It's a vicious cycle, and it CAN be stopped.

So seriously....cut it out. Value yourself. Value your time. Value what you do. 

I promise you, you're worth it.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

"Good" Content: What Does it Mean?

For the last few years, the magical phrase for businesses has been "Content is King!!" - I'm sure you've heard it. It's been sung loudly from all the proverbial rooftops, it's been the driving force behind everything we've done. "Have good content!!" we've proclaimed. "It'll make all the difference in reaching your audience!!"

Okay....but what does "good content" mean?

Before we even get into what "good content" means, let's examine a little bit about how Google's organic search (and therefore where you show up in that list) works. If you don't have a clear understanding on this, you might as well forget the rest, I promise you. This great video (if you've got half an hour to spend watching it) really explains it out, and this article simplifies it, but if you want an even simpler explanation, here you go:
  1. Mobile first - Google search has to be available wherever the searcher is
  2. Features - People want their search fast, and helpful. The more you do to help them get that, the higher your content ranks.
Now, this is clearly the simplest of simple ways to explain Google, but what this boils down to for the majority of businesses online is that if your content is easy to access from anywhere in the world via a mobile device, and it has a feature that actually helps solve a problem for the searcher (online calculator, show listings and times, etc.), you're ahead of the game.

One important thing to keep in mind: Think about how you search, not how you want people to search. You may be tempted to "direct" search to your website by adding a million keywords for your business, but the truth of the matter is that people have become accustomed to searching with phrases such as "Best breakfast in Niagara Falls" rather than "breakfast Niagara Falls". (PS: If you're in Niagara Falls and looking for the best breakfast, visit Phyl's, and tell them Tabatha sent you. Yum!) My point here is that you don't get to define how people search; trying to will only create more work for you in the long run.

Remember the days when every other word on a website seemed to be there simply for SEO purposes? Websites read like a poorly-written television commercial, if you recall. They offered little in the way of helpful information, and the only way they could have been more self-centered would have been bright, flashing lights that said "PICK ME!!" (I'm pretty sure those sites actually existed, sadly.) This wasn't "good content"; this was "we want to hit every keyword possible" content.

So then, back to the original question: What does "good content" mean?

(Every content creator's fuel: Coffee.)
The answer isn't as simple as you'd think, and it requires a lot of trial and error, quite frankly. Much depends on your target audience (which is why it's important to understand who your target audience is), and what answers they're looking for. If you're selling gardening equipment (It's World Naked Gardening Day today!), your audience is going to be interested in well-written, helpful gardening advice, not in reading about how fantastic this specific brand of hand rake is. Instead of writing about how great that hand rake is, create a Top 10 list! "The 10 Top Hand Tools Every Gardener Needs!" is much more interesting and helpful than "This is the best hand rake ever!" and a sales pitch. Create an online tool that allows new gardeners to see when the best time to plant in their geographical area is. Provide a helpful feature!

Over time, you'll start to understand what works and what doesn't - and why. Fine-tuning your content requires strategy, patience, and most of all, consistent conversation between you and your customer base. Remember: One of the most important parts of social media marketing is that it is NOT "broadcast" marketing; it is intended as a two-way discussion/engagement opportunity that will allow your audience to give you feedback and allow you to learn how to better relate to them.

Any questions? If so, please do reach out. I'll be out on my balcony celebrating World Naked Gardening Day. (I kid, I kid - but maybe have bail money ready, just in case?)

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Social Strategy: Why You Need One

Let's get something clear, once and for all. Let's just address the elephant in the room; let's talk about that thing that no one really wants to discuss, because it's just far enough out of our comfort zone to be in the "we don't talk about that!!" pile. That's right, folks: It's time to talk about strategy.

Listen, I understand where you're coming from. You "got online" because that's what you're supposed to do these days; everyone's there! "We need a Facebook Page!!" Sound familiar? You're not alone.

What if I told you that posting a few pictures now and again, discussing the weather or the happenings in your shop simply isn't enough? What if I told you that in some cases, I see the great intentions of business owners actually harming their own brand by "just getting online"? What if I told you that whether you have 2 employees or 200, the most important thing you can do for your social media marketing efforts is to have a clear, concise strategy in place long before you ever write a single post?

Well folks....listen up. Here's where I tell you all of that - and then some.

The very first thing you have to keep in mind is this: Your strategy online is about a lot more than knowing what posts you're going to schedule when. While I'm a big advocate of editorial calendars (don't know what an editorial calendar is for? Email me!), the truth is that your strategy needs to be in place before you can properly plan anything. Your strategy covers these things, just at a very basic level:

  1. Brand voice
  2. Brand management
  3. Calls to action for customers
  4. Content creation
  5. Editorial calendar
  6. Community management/manager
  7. Analytics management
  8. Reporting
  9. Return on Investment (ROI)
  10. Big picture thinking

You'll notice the first item on my list is "brand voice". Many people believe that this simply refers to the tone you use across social platforms; it's actually a lot more than this. Think of it this way: It's your personality.

What is your business conveying to your customers and potential customers online? What do you want it to convey? I firmly believe that before you can even begin to work on a strategy for your business - no matter how big or small - the very first step is in discovering your brand voice. Everything after that carries back to this very important, all-encompassing issue, and will help to shape the all-important strategy.

Not sure where to start? Have questions? I'm here to help! Let's get you started and seeing results!

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

The "Why" of B Side: Why I Love What I Do

I've always been someone who wants to fix things, or simply make them better. I remember being a little girl and wanting to take things apart; not because I was destructive, but because I had an alarmingly strong need to understand why they worked. Figuring out how things worked meant that when something needed to be fixed, I could think back to what I'd learned when I took something similar apart, and extrapolate. As it turns out, this need to understand how things work and the urge to make things better would stay with me.

If you asked my mother about my formative years, she'd tell you a story of a child who would, for lack of a better word, "experiment" with ingredients. My mother, patient parent that she was, referred to these concoctions as "Witch's Brews" - and believe you me, this was an extremely kind way to describe them. Essentially, there wasn't a spice in the house that was safe. I worked my way through more (likely expensive) spice jars than I can tell you, and my poor mother just shook her head and reminded me to "clean up after yourself, Tabatha." Interestingly, this ability to to experiment and try things out in a space that allowed me the creative outlet taught me that sometimes things don't go as expected - and that's okay. (Except for the time I made a ground clove loaf instead of a cinnamon loaf; there was nothing okay about that...)

When I started my social media career, I was a Community Moderator with, an NBC Universal owned property that was, in its' prime, the "largest online portal for women". I was part of the Pregnancy & Parenting Team, and I became very good at the "Hot Topic" boards; ones that no one wanted to moderate, because they were volatile in nature. Topics ranged from Circumcision Debate to Stillborn Births; no topic was untouched. If you were a mother at that time, and you did an online search for something parenting/baby related that was "unsavoury", chances are you ended up on my watch. I learned a lot in that time - mostly that no matter how difficult the subject matter, there was a "right way" and a "wrong way" to deal with it. Was it gut-wrenching, talking to mothers who had recently lost their children? Absolutely. Did it teach me more than I could have possibly imagined? You bet. I learned how building communities mattered, and how they helped - in times of trial as well as in times of celebration.

As the years passed and I became interested in marketing and advertising, it wasn't so much about the commercials (remember - I grew up in the "TV Years") - it was about how I felt about the products in the commercials. To this day, if you tell me "You need this!!" you'd better have a damned good backup for that statement. I'm not talking about "It gets great reception!" or "But look how shiny it is!!" here; I'm talking about "Tell me why I should spend my money on your product. Tell me why I should CARE." Just like in my iVillage days, I wanted to hear the whole story; I wanted to know the "behind the scenes" stuff that no one else knew. Often I found myself thinking, "There's a better way to do that!!" because I knew that something was missing.

And therein lies the "Why" behind B Side Media; Emotional connections are much stronger than almost anything else we as human beings experience. Simply put: I want to help you make your idea better.

I want to help you turn your idea into something that people connect with, to help you tell your story in a way that others can relate to. After all, do people do business with businesses? No; people do business with people.

Are you ready to take the next step? Let's talk!