Spring Cleaning Your Social Media Graphics

Spring Cleaning!  Does it bring up pleasant thoughts of airing out the house and getting everything shining clean and fresh?  Or is it a task you dread each year?

A number of ideas have been proposed for how the practice of spring cleaning developed.  Some say it is rooted in the ancient Jewish tradition of cleansing the home before the celebration of Passover in the spring.

Catholic churches traditionally clean the church and the alter right before Good Friday, while people in Greece and other Eastern Orthodox countries clean their homes at the beginning of the Lenten season that leads up to Good Friday and Easter.

Some propose that spring cleaning dates back to the Persian (ancient Iranian) culture where the new year began on the first day of spring.  Everything in the house was thoroughly cleaned to prepare for the new year.

Carpet Washing

In North America and northern Europe, before electric vacuum cleaners, spring was the best time to dust, sweep, and shake rugs because it was warm enough to open windows and doors to let the spring winds carry the dust out of the house.  But it was not yet warm enough for bugs to be a problem.

Of course, in most Western countries, we have all the convenience of modern appliances to help with our cleaning, so we no longer need to carry rugs down to the river to wash them by hand. And we no longer need to wash the coal soot off the walls when the furnaces are turned off in the spring.

National Spring Cleaning Week in the United Kingdom has a website to inspire you about why and how to spring clean your home and your life!  http://www.springcleaningweek.com/

Cleaning Up Your Graphics

Since spring is a great time for starting afresh, I think it’s the perfect time to take a look at your social media graphics and see what needs attention.  I recommend checking on these 3 areas:

1.  Make sure your profile photos are up-to-date and high quality

Susan Joy Schleef

Your social media profile photos are one of the primary ways you have to show clients, customers, and prospects that you are a serious, professional business owner.  It’s so important to have professional, good quality photos of yourself posted on all your social media profiles.  They don’t necessarily have to all be formal photos, but they should still present a professional image.

Also make sure that you use a photo that shows your face clearly, not a shot taken from so far away that you’re barely visible and definitely not a picture with you and other people.

It’s also a good idea to use a fairly recent photo.  You don’t want to have other people thinking you look like your photo from 10 or 12 years ago!  When they meet you at a networking event or you talk with them on a Skype call, they will be startled to realize that you’ve been less than honest about your age and your current appearance.

2.  Review your cover images to ensure you’re sharing a consistent branding image

The 2 biggest mistakes to avoid for your social media cover images are:  a) not having a cover image at all, and b) stretching out a low-resolution photo to fill the cover image space so the picture looks blurry, grainy or pixelated.

Social media cover images are such a fantastic piece of internet real estate, yet I see so many people who have never bothered to post a cover image on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

You can find pre-made designs for a fairly low cost, but the best approach is to have something designed just for your business.  You want your cover design to be eye-catching but also to express something about you and your business.

Of course, it depends on whether we are talking about your personal profile or your business profile, since many people have both types of accounts on some social media platforms.  But you really should have good cover images for both your personal and your business accounts.  Personal branding is important too, especially for solo-preneurs and professionals.

3.  Do an audit of the visual posts you share on social media

Go through your posting history, if possible, and delete any posts you feel no longer represent you in a good light.  Maybe it’s time to take down those pictures from the office party where you had a little too much to drink or photos from your college frat parties.

While you’re reviewing, notice what you typically post and see if you want to make changes going forward.  A good guideline is to share only about 20% promotional posts related to your business and the remainder should be general interest, networking, and relationship building.

Also most social media sites now allow video and visual content where they did not before.  Make sure you’re sharing lots of visual posts — including some original content, not just sharing what others post.

If possible, add a consistent branding element to your original posting content as well.  It’s just one more way to build your brand and your reputation on social media.

Your Best Practices

What are you doing with your social media graphics?  Do you have some personal best practices you can share?  Please leave a comment – I love to hear from my readers!

Join me Saturday, April 9th, 2016, on Creative Marketing TV at 11am Eastern for a free training hangout.  I’ll be sharing more tips about:

  • keeping your social media graphics up-to-date
  • easy, low-cost tools for creating your own Facebook cover images
  • design guidelines for professional-looking covers

Go to the Google+ Event page at Google+ Event and click “Yes” or “Maybe” to let me know you’re planning to attend.  That way you’ll receive an event reminder and a link to join the hangout on Saturday morning.  

Plus I’ll have a special written tips and tools checklist for anyone who registers in advance — whether or not you can join us live.  Just click the bit.ly link below:

Google+ Event

Branding for Small Business: More Than a Logo

old brand signsBranding is a big factor in contributing to someone’s decision to do business with you.  But what exactly is branding?

And is it only for big businesses that can afford expensive advertising to spread their name and logo all over just for the sake of brand recognition?

Like most abstract concepts, there is no single, precise definition of branding.  Many people have expressed different ideas about what branding is and what it means.  Here are a few of those ideas:

  • A brand exists in the mind of the customers or clients.
  • Branding is much more than just a logo.
  • A brand is a promise to the customers.
  • Branding is a perception that triggers an emotional response.
  • Your brand is what people think or say about you when you’re not in the room.
  • Branding often has nothing to do with the product.

And one of my favorites:

“A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”  ~ Seth Godin

When we choose to pay a premium for one product compared to another, we make that decision based on branding and usually we are unaware of the subconscious emotions that influence our decision.

Here’s an example I once heard from business magnate and motivational speaker, Nido Qubein.

Why would people pay so much more for a box of chocolates in a gold box with a dark red bow than they pay for a bag of Hershey’s kisses?  The difference is you buy Hershey’s kisses to eat, but you buy Godiva chocolates to give.

If you’re going to give someone a gift of chocolate, that gold box and red bow send a different message than if you were to wrap up a cellophane bag of chocolate kisses.  But it’s not the gold box and red bow that make Godiva more expensive; it’s the meaning the Godiva brand has in the mind of the purchaser and in the mind of the gift recipient.

Is Branding Relevant Only for Big Business?

It’s easy to think that only big companies can afford to worry about branding – especially when we see the television commercials, magazine ads, billboards, and store signage all focused on building brand awareness in the minds of consumers.

As small business owners, entrepreneurs and professionals, most of us can’t afford to spend millions of dollars on a nationwide campaign of televisions commercials.  We need to focus on getting new clients and making sales.

We are also unlikely to have our products distributed in stores across the country and we don’t have a team of sales people.  We need to rely on methods that are known as direct marketing or direct selling.

cattle branding

But branding is still critically important for entrepreneurs, professionals, and small business owners.  It just looks different for us than it does for the big brands.

One of the most important roles of branding for small business reflects the original meaning of the term, going back to the days of cattle ranching on the open plains of the western United States.  Branding serves to differentiate things which are otherwise identical.

When you tell someone “I’m a dentist” or “I’m a business coach” or “I’m a real estate agent,” you make yourself indistinguishable from your competitors and you give prospects no reason to choose you over anyone else.  It that situation, buyers will most often resort to choosing based on price!

What Makes Prospects Choose to Do Business with You?

There are quite a few factors that effect that decision-making process of our prospects and clients — reputation, quality of product or service, word of mouth, and more.

Here are some important elements to consider when developing a brand for your business:

Quality:  What is the level of quality that you establish for your products or services?  Do you consistently deliver that level of quality?  Would your customers or clients agree with you about your quality?  Remember, your brand exists in the mind of the consumer.  It’s their perception that counts!

quality-500954_1280Familiarity:  For a small business, think in terms of your tribe of fans and followers.  As your brand grows, they feel familiar with your brand and what you stand for, which makes them more likely to buy additional products or services from you because they already trust you.

Memorability:  In order to generate more business from your clients and prospects, your brand needs to stick in their memory.  You want them to think of you when they have a need for your product or services at some point in the future.

Consistency:  This is closely related to familiarity.  Be careful  your consistency in products or services, in your content marketing, and especially in your images and other visual content.

Resonance:  Since your brand lives in the mind of your clients and prospects, you want to continually focus on developing a brand that creates the desired feeling in your clients and prospects.  Make sure they’re receiving your intended message and not the wrong message!

Clarity:  Because branding involves so many abstract factors, it can take a lot of testing and feedback to make sure your audience is getting your intended message.  Visual images can also be abstract.  It’s important to choose an image, for your logo or other branding, that clearly indicates a specific meaning to most people.

uniquenessUniqueness:  This is one of the most important elements of branding for small business.  It is also an element that can take a lot of mental effort, brainstorming, and feedback from others.  What makes your product or service unique among your competitors?  That is something that may evolve over time as you understand more about the unmet needs of your clients and prospects.  By the way, uniqueness also means that your products/services don’t need to appeal to everyone!

Emotional Connection:  As I mentioned before, people identify emotionally with brands they like.  It becomes part of their personal identify and defines them just like their political or religious affiliation.  Since we know that “facts tell and emotions sell,” you want to make sure your brand makes an emotional connection.  Visual images are one of the ways to do this because they speak directly to the subconscious.

Credibility or Trustability:  This element relates back to Familiarity and Consistency.  By making sure your brand doesn’t stray from your clients’ expectations, you establish credibility in their minds.  Your business becomes a trustable old friend that is always there, always giving them the same message and the same feeling.

Aspects of Visual Branding

Out of all those factors that influence our clients’ and prospects’ decision-making, we can most easily and quickly change the visual elements of our branding.  Again, as you focus on visual branding, you want to ensure quality, consistency, resonance, and clarity.  Make sure that prospects and clients are actually receiving the message you want them to have about your products or services.

As you work on developing a logo or choosing brand colors to use in all your marketing content, be sure to get feedback from others.  And if your own graphic design skills cannot produce the desired level of quality, make sure you invest in getting the best branding graphics you can afford at whatever stage you’re in with your business success.  Poor quality graphics send the wrong message and can be worse than having no visual brand at all.

You can always upgrade and rebrand as your business grows, but get the best you can afford for now.  So much is at stake for the reputation of your business!  Make sure you give prospects and clients a good emotional connection with your brand and give them the feeling that you are really the only choice they should consider.

single_binder_16374Learn More About Designing Your Visual Brand

If you’d like to learn more about developing (or enhancing) the visual aspects of your branding, you can sign up for my email course, consisting of 5 lessons to guide you through this process.  This course will:

  • Help you feel more comfortable with your branding process
  • Lead you through brand development in easy-to-follow steps
  • Connect you with resources for the visual elements of your brand
  • Build your confidence in developing a brand your clients will trust
  • Help you share a consistent, quality visual message that generates more leads

Click here to learn more about this easy course that will get you started on designing your visual brand.  If you decide it’s right for you, sign up on that page!

Storytelling and Content Marketing: 3 Benefits of Turning Your Content Marketing into Stories

storytelling - once upon a timeOnce upon a time, an entrepreneur faced 3 challenges. …

February 26 was “Tell a Fairy Tale Day” so I wanted to share some ideas about how – and WHY – to turn your content marketing into fairy tales or other classic stories.

We are all familiar with “Once upon a time.”  Those words immediately let us know that a story is about to begin.

That’s a very positive feeling, associated with all those times that our parents, grandparents, older siblings, babysitters, and teachers read stories to us.

Even as adults, when a story begins, we relax and prepare to be entertained.

Our brains love to feel familiar with whatever information we encounter! 

Whenever we’re learning new concepts, complex or abstract ideas, or information that is challenging or threatening to us in some way, it is especially important to create a feeling of familiarity, safety, and comfort.

content marketing storytellingThis is one good reason to use a classic story structure in your content to help your audience be more receptive to your message by framing it as a story.

If the information you’re offering your audience implies any kind of change they need to make in order to solve their problem, then they will likely have some resistance to your message.

Stories help to reduce resistance.

We stop worrying about whether the speaker or presenter is going to try and sell us something and instead we just allow ourselves to get absorbed in listening to, watching, or reading the story.

As audience members, when we enter a kind of “story listening trance” where we also become less critical of the speaker, presenter or author. We are less quick to disagree with something they tell us and more willing to consider that there might be some validity to the new ideas they are sharing with us.

Think about the experience of watching a movie in a theater or on television.  If you really get wrapped up in the story, aren’t you more likely to overlook any discrepancies in the plot or in the setting, scenery, or costumes?  We sometimes refer to this as “suspension of disbelief” and it happens because of the story listening trance.

Stories are also the best way to learn almost anything. 

storytelling increases learningThis should be no surprise since, for thousands of years, oral storytelling was the main method of passing information from one generation to the next.  Stories help our brains to process information and to retain it – much more than factual information!

Scientists speculate that this storytelling advantage may be part of the reason that human beings were able to survive and thrive.  We are the only animals capable of telling stories, which helps us to learn important lessons from others without needing to experience that learning for ourselves.

Think about the huge benefits in learning from someone else’s story — without needing to experience first hand the dangers they encountered or the difficult challenges they faced.

Fairy Tales for Content Marketing

While we sometimes think of fairy tales as being children’s stories, many fairy tales were originally dark and even violent stories told around the hearth or in taverns — before Disney sanitized them for PG viewers.

Because of that dark under-current (which we’re all aware of, even if it’s only at a subconscious level), fairy tales can provide a useful structure for content marketing stories that address a major problem your clients and prospects want to solve.

Some of the common script or content formulas call for agitating that problem first – helping your audience really get in touch with the pain or fear or other dark emotions associated with that problem – before beginning to talk about the solution you have to offer.

The quest or challenge is a common element in so many fairy tales.  This can also be used in content marketing stories, either to acknowledge the struggle your prospects have already been facing or to help them see the challenges they may have ahead of them as they implement your solution to their problem.

fairy tales process dark emotions

Next Steps

Story content can be much more engaging and attractive to your clients and prospects.  This can help your content to stand out in the flood of free but boring, dry, factual content on the internet.

So how can you actually turn your informative blog post, article, or e-book into a story?  I’ll be sharing more ideas about this over the next several weeks – here on my blog, as well as in video, slideshow, infographics, and social media posts.

Plus I will introduce one approach in my training hangout on Creative Marketing TV on March 5th when I kick-off my celebration of “March Multipurposing Madness.” Learn more on the Google+ Event page.

To learn more about turning your content marketing into stories, click here to sign up for my free email course.  Each lesson of this course, “Taming the Content Marketing Dragon,” will teach you a concept (written in the email and sometimes including a link to a video or other content).  There will also be an exercise or assignment for you to complete.  You’ll receive 3 emails per week for 4 weeks that will guide you, step by step, toward creating your own storytelling for your content marketing.

Visual Content Creation: Quote Graphics Challenge

logo-imageMy new Facebook group — “Visual Content Galleria” — is just beginning to grow, but look out!  We’re expecting visitors and new members for our upcoming 5-Day Quote Graphics Challenge.

Quote Graphics are one of the easiest ways to create your own visual content.  There are lots of easy and free tools and I’ll introduce you to some of them next week during the challenge.

Of course, you can still continue to share other people’s quote graphics.  But there are some definite reasons to create your own:

  1. You can select the best quotes that relate to important topics or messages in your niche or specifically in your business.
  2. You can brand your Quote Graphics with your brand colors and put your name or your business name in small type on the bottom or side.
  3. You can even create an overlay that includes colored lines or filters over the image, in addition to your name, for a very stylish branded look.
  4. And with your own designs, you can repurpose the Quote Graphics in a variety of ways.

I’ll be talking about and demonstrating how to repurpose your visual content creations in my monthly training hangout on March 5th on Creative Marketing TV.  You’ll see how I start with quote graphics or tip graphics that I’ve created in PowerPoint or Canva.  Then I turn a series of them into a slideshow or a video series.  I’ll even show you how to turn them into a visual e-book right in PowerPoint or in Canva.

If you complete the quote graphics challenge, you’ll have some custom quote graphics all ready to use in those repurposing projects!

To register for the 5-Day Quote Graphics Challenge, just go to my Facebook page — PowerPoint Queen Rules — and click on the Event post pinned to the top of the page.  You’ll find the registration link there.  I hope to see you in the group!