On Friday, I announced the new Better Blogging Series and how we’re planning to work together to evaluate our blogging personalities and where to apply some simple sales strategies to grow our audience. Today, we kick off the first official challenge in the series by going all the way back to the beginning. No matter where you are in your blogging journey right now, I suspect you’ve been challenged to do more and be more than you ever imagined when you typed that first post. I know I have!
When you first decided to blog, there was a moment. A moment where you went “I think I should share this with someone else.” Why? What was the experience that sparked the idea for your blog and what passion continues to fuel that fire? To help, I’ll ask myself and “talk out loud” here.
My Moment: I was constantly being asked “How do you do it all?” by overwhelmed moms. These moms had one of three problems. They were either drained and deflated by the general busy and chaos of life, were struggling with their value as a woman and a mother, or were deep in the muck of small business ownership and felt the light fading fast as they tried to balance all of the work involved along with a decent family life. My “moment” was knowing that their perception that I had it all together was false and that I struggled with exactly the same struggles they faced. I felt motivated to be honest and transparent in a desire to uplift others by sharing that they weren’t the only ones with their heads spinning, trying to juggle too much with too little. I wanted to shout from the roof tops “I’m just like you!” and share some of the things that work for me in hopes maybe they’d work for them.
My Passion: I am fueled by a deep desire for a mother and a woman to feel valued, beautiful and strong. I love nothing more than empowering and encouraging others to excel and succeed in new environments. Seeing those “light bulb” moments of hope and the transfer of knowledge that sparks action and ambition in others…that’s my fire. If I have any tiny piece in me that I can share with someone else so that they feel better, stronger, more prepared, capable…I want to share that piece. That is the passion behind my blog. I want you, my readers, to be encouraged to keep on, keepin’ on and that you’re exactly who you are meant to be and where you are meant to be.
Now that I’ve identified the short term moment that sparked the blog’s beginning and the long term passion that continues to motivate my writing, it’s time to talk strategy. More importantly, it’s time to acknowledge that there is a wealth of “competition” out there, blogs in the bazillions, attracting each and every reader (and advertiser). What makes me different? Similar to a small business, the best starts come when you do your homework and understand the what, how and why of your intended market before you dig in. This discovery period and ultimate plan of action comes to fruition in three parts.
- Research: This is the “what?” behind your blog. It’s time to check out the blogosphere. You must know your market. Are there similar blogs out there? What makes your voice unique and do you see a need for the information that you have to share? Do you have something to say that hasn’t been said? If there are similar blogs out there, what sets you apart? Who is your reader? What about you will make them click on your blog instead of moving on to another? As a mommy blogger, it goes without saying that there are about a million of us. What makes me different? In my research, I found that my particular life experiences provided a neat little trifecta of sorts that I hadn’t seen elsewhere. As a working mother of multiples, daily organization and time management are a must, and I could offer simple tricks to managing time and a huge workload while still engaging with your family. As a small business owner and a long-standing salesperson, I could share marketing and strategy that could help others bring their dreams to life with passion and professionalism. Finally, as a photographer, I could offer multiple audiences basic education and guidance to achieve better results for their family pictures, blog posts and/or Etsy shops. Take that one step farther as a boudoir photographer, and my heart for affirming women and embracing our naturally unique beauties and strengths, especially as mothers, is a strong undercurrent that ties the rest of my personal and professional life together.
- Strategize: This is the “how” behind your blog. Now that you’ve identified your unique voice, how do you plan to project it? I’m a firm believer in defining your writing and design style. As your readers get to know you through your written voice, they develop a level of expectation when they come to visit your blog. Meeting that expectation is important, not only because it develops trust, but because that connection to your written voice that they made when they first clicked is what is driving them back for repeat visits. I know that my voice is confident, but humble. I have faith that I can achieve all things, not because I’m pure awesome, but because I believe in hard work, the power of the mind and heart, and that God paves the way to the best life for me. I toss in humor and can be counted on for lots of lists. Most importantly, I am extremely visual as a photographer, and I know my readers expect high quality imagery and graphics because of that skill set. The second piece to strategy is to analyze and assess how you will market your content and engage with your audience. I knew that other bloggers would be interested in my unique experiences, so I made a commitment to visit lots of link ups, comment on other’s blogs and work hard to find my tribe when I first got started. I engaged frequently with top social media experts and small biz whiz blogs to learn and develop trustworthiness as a small business owner. Long before my content caught up, I had developed a rock solid reputation that now carries my content through to various channels that were previously closed to me. Your readers will not come to you. You have to find them and draw them out. What’s the best way for you to do that?
- Deliver: This is the “why” behind your blog and brings us back to the introductory post. Why do you write your blog? Not because you want to draw advertisers (although that’s certainly a high priority). Fundamentally, you write your blog because you saw a need in your reader and you are seeking to meet that need. I ask myself constantly, “Are you delivering on the promise you’ve made to your readers?” With technology and Pinterest and all else social media, we are burdened by the pressure to compete and often struggle with feelings of inadequacy as we compare ourselves to others and fall short (at least in our own minds). Couple that with the pressure to monetize, and we often tweak our strategy and style in the name of posing for advertisers or becoming what we think our reader might like. This is a grave mistake and results in mediocrity, which is the first step in the downward spiral to failure. I keep reminding myself these days, that there is not a blog manual out there that says I must blog once daily, or at least three times weekly, and I must have 2 sponsored posts a month and I must tweet each post 15 times. These “best practices” are just that…practice. There is no manual for what we are doing here. There is only this: Your reader needs you and you need to deliver. I’m discovering that 1 great blog post a week is better than 7 lackluster blog posts. Each and every thing I do in relation to the blog comes with a question. Is this taking me one step closer to the dream I imagined for my readers or is it taking me one step away?
Remember your two audiences? Your readers and your advertisers. When you write for your readers, the advertisers will come. When you write for your advertisers, your readers will spot your “disloyalty” from a million miles away and will fall off. It’s just like the salesperson who walks in with the “I need one more sale to make budget this month” instead of “The product I’m about to share with you is going to help make your life so much better.” Your readers need to feel your passion and they need to know that you care about them more than you care about you. That’s the ultimate sale.
How to Add Custom Facebook Tabs to your Business Page
Custom Facebook tabs are a great way to spiff up your business page with touches all your own. In a visual flow format that’s mostly controlled by the social media platform itself, making the most of these tiny advantages and calls-to-action can be pivotal to expanding your reach. Take steps to prompt your audience to actively engage and direct visitors on your business page to your areas of greatest interest (i.e. subscribing or following you on social media). Custom Facebook tabs give you the opportunity to plant a tiny seed of interest by highlighting applications that otherwise tend to be ignored.
Implementing custom Facebook tabs starts with activating the appropriate applications on your business page. Connect your Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram feeds directly to your business page (Did you know you can set up your Instagram to post directly to your Facebook business page?). Explore your email subscriber tool for Facebook integration. If you’re using LeadPages via WordPress, activate the auto-Facebook tab (amazing!).
Your next step is to order your Facebook tabs so that your top 3 (the ones you plan to create custom Facebook tabs for) are at the top of the list. You can do so easily by navigating to your business page, clicking “More” on your top tab bar, and then selecting “Manage Tabs.” From there you can drag up or down to order your list and even delete tabs that serve no use for your page.
Now we are ready to create your custom Facebook tabs. This feature is kind of hidden…which is why most people don’t customize their tabs! The phrase we hear most often when introducing this to our clients is “Wow! I never even knew that existed!” Click on your page Settings and then navigate to Apps, which should show a complete list of the programs you just integrated with your page. Click “Edit Settings” on one of your apps and there it is! You can accomplish two special customizations here. You can change the tab name (i.e. from LeadPages to Free Motivational Planner) and upload a custom tab image. Yay!
The appropriate size for custom Facebook tab images is 111 pixels wide by 74 pixels high.
And there you go. You now have custom Facebook tabs that can drive traffic to subscriber portals, other social media profiles and more. Make sure your custom Facebook tabs are in line with your brand style and message. Maybe try a few different styles to see if any convert more than others. Take the opportunity to make the page your own and entice your audience to take the next step by clicking through.
How to Make Custom Pinterest Board Covers and Upload Pins
There are so many little ways you can personalize your online profiles and increase engagement with your market simply by improving your visual presentation. This week, we’re introducing a few ways to sharpen your Pinterest profile. The most visual of all the social media platforms out there, and second only to Google for searching for just about anything…Pinterest is an application that no small business owner can ignore. The case for Pinterest and how to maximize market engagement could be a whole blog in and of itself. We’ll have more tips and tricks to share later, but for now, let’s start small. Today, let’s talk about how to make custom Pinterest board covers and how to manually upload and edits pins (without hitting the “Pin It” button).
Custom Pinterest board covers create a strong visual consistency in your profile that can help visitors understand your brand, intent and authority in your area of the business (or blogging) world. To create them, you’ll need to understand how to manually upload and edit pins, so we’ll start there.
Log into your Pinterest account and open one of your boards. See that nice little “Add a Pin” button? Click it!
Once you click that button, you’ll have two options. Add from Web or from your Device. When you click from Web, it’s going to remind you that you should just use a “pin it” button (and they’re right). For this lesson, let’s click from your Device. It will prompt you to upload a photo and you’ll browse your device (in this case, my computer hard drive) and choose the image to upload. It will automatically trigger the pin box and you’ll be able to choose your board and add a pin description. Voila!
You’re probably going…something is missing! Where does the newly created pin take you? And you’re right. We’ve got one more step. Once the pin has been created and uploaded. Click to edit the pin and then add the URL that you want your audience to click through to in the Source box. Now…ta da!!! Voila!! You’re done!
The process for adding custom Pinterest board covers is 90% what you just learned and 10% PicMonkey fun. Click “Custom” to get started.
The magic dimension size for custom Pinterest board cover is 217 pixels x 147 pixels.
Once you have your board covers created, you’ll upload each of them via the process above. You don’t have to add a source URL to click through if you’re just going for Pinterest pretty, BUT…our recommendation is to take the opportunity to link through to your website wherever you can! So, if you have a landing page on your website that relates to the items on your board, link your custom board cover through to that page! You never know who might click! To assign the new custom boards as the cover images in your profile, click “Edit” and then “Change Cover” and you’ll be able to scroll through to the new cover image. Click “Save Changes” and you’re done!
Are Your Product Photos Hurting Your Business?
Why are Quality Product Photos Important to my Business?
There are a lot of factors that impact your sales success (or failure). Just like the right strategy and mix of medias can propel sales forward, most marketing mistakes are closely intertwined and can often work against each other to create a rapidly downward spiral. Often, new business owners overlook the power of their product photos when considering market strategy.
Today’s world is visually driven by the real-time access that social media provides. The good news is that great images get a lot more love these days. The bad news is that it’s made us a bit complacent when it comes to quality. Not everyone is a pro, and seeing blurry or poorly exposed photos in our news feeds has become a regular occurrence. The result has been small business owners that underestimate the importance of consistent, high quality product photos. Many make do with poor images straight from their camera phones (you can get good images on your phone!) and few take advantage of the massive range of editing software available.
Overlooking the power of your shop’s visual draw is a huge mistake. In a visually motivated society, a certain level of complacency has desensitized our eyes and we often find ourselves aimlessly scrolling through images until something truly powerful catches our attention. The“Well, that’s good enough, it doesn’t have to be perfect.” response to mediocre images most likely means that your product photos are getting lost in a churning sea of visual garbage that your market blindly scrolls past instead of clicking through to purchase.
We live in a world of options. Gone are the local general stores as the only source of food and supplies. These days you can quite literally order something from any corner of the globe with a few clicks or swipes on a computer or phone. The availability of endless options is overwhelming for consumers. Most will gravitate towards the easy button, which typically factors in two key markers. 1. Ease of Website Navigation (More on that later!) and 2. Stellar Product Photos. You have one chance to grab their attention, and even less than that to keep it. All of the factors need to play to your success, not your demise. And that means your product photos should be impeccably styled, consistently clear and properly presented to your marketplace.
How Do You Improve Product Photos?
1. Simple Presentation: Make sure your images highlight your wares. Remove distractions and design a simple layout that makes your product the star! Use simple backdrops and keep product photos tight and clean, avoiding background furniture, people or other elements that do not directly correlate to your market or highlight your product. If your images show your product in use by clients, make sure your background is staged, clean and devoid of the busy of life (i.e. piles of bills, food out, laundry, fridge covered in magnets). You want your buyers looking at one thing. Your product. Don’t tempt them to look away.
2. Consistent Styling: Your product photos should present as a body of work. This means that each product should be photographed similarly. If your product photos are laid out in an Etsy shop, and their design and presentation differ considerably, your buyer will spend more time (even subconsciously) contemplating the differences. The end result may be poor decision-making or confusion, because the styling has become a stumbling block instead of a showcase. Use the same set up for each product, edit them consistently and make sure the images compliment each other instead of competing with each other. The last thing you want to do with your business is to create an environment where you are competing against yourself!
3. In-Focus: Blurry photos belong in one place. The trash. That may sound harsh, but you’ll be much happier when you throw away poor product photos and take the extra time to create stellar product photos. Out-of-focus images send a few messages to potential buyers. You don’t take your business seriously, you don’t know what you’re doing and you don’t care enough about me to present your product in a way that I can clearly see…just to name a few. None of those thoughts are encouraging click-throughs. Show value to your audience by taking care to make their visit to your shop as enjoyable as possible, which means they can look at your images with ease, clearly understanding your talent and services, and properly interpreting whether it meets their need.
4. Properly Exposed: Admittedly, there is a bit of a learning curve here, but this is important! If your product photos are overexposed (too bright) or underexposed (too dark), then your prospective buyer can’t see all of the details. They have to work harder to visualize your product in their hands. Like we mentioned before, don’t make them work hard to consider purchasing your services. Whether you invest in professional help or explore today’s popular editing software, make sure your final product photos are well-balanced and properly exposed.