The Number One Thing Your Brand Should Be

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What is the number one thing your brand should be? CONSISTENT (in every way).

Personally, I like when things make sense and are easy to understand. When I look at a brand online, I don’t want to get confused about what I’m looking at or overwhelmed. Of course, you don’t want a potential customer to feel that way either. Take a moment and think about your own brand, whether it be your personal brand or your business. First, let’ me tell you about the importance of your business name in a few examples.

My last start up had a peculiar name which had nothing to do with fashion let alone menswear. It sounded like a travel start up, helping people save money. Of course, the natural reaction from SF tech investors was, you have to change your name. I obviously didn’t take it seriously (case in point).

For years, I’ve had this blog with this random name “AuditYourCloset” mostly because of sentimental reasons, and I justified it by saying I’m not a personal brand. But, the fact remained that this random business idea I had years ago was no longer a reflection of who I was or what I wrote about today. It’s downright confusing. I only recently changed it to JasCity, and overall I feel that I am sending a more consistent message to the world.

Recently, I had a client who’s business name reflected only one part of his many activities. Yet, his social media was only showing 20% of what his “name” represented, the rest was all of his other activities that he didn’t really mention anywhere. It was confusing because his fans and/or potential clients couldn’t really figure out what he was sharing or why he was sharing it. There was no consistency. I recommended he rename his site and general branding to his own name, since he essentially was his own brand.

How about your business name? Does it truly reflect your brand, or is it confusing?

Next time, I’ll talk about other aspects to make sure your brand is consistent.

To Schedule or Not to Schedule Your Social Media

There are those of you who may find “scheduling” social media impersonal and disengaging, yet as someone who monitors multiple social streams everyday, I can’t fathom not scheduling social media. I have now even set up minor social media scheduling for my personal tweets as well. I’ve experimented with and tried out various modes of scheduling on all types of social media. In any case, there are definite pros and cons to scheduling and not all social networks are meant for scheduling. Here, I will rundown my recommendations for each one as it pertains to business.

Social Network

Scheduling Rule Reason
Twitter Yes I had the chance to read a fascinating chapter from the unreleased book: The Science of Marketing. It basically stated that the ideal tweets a day are “22”. Given the timeline changes so quickly, I recommend scheduling tweets (heavy on the links) evenly throughout the day or during your desired time zone. I use Hootsuite, Buffer, and Batch.me to schedule tweets.
Facebook (page) Yes I would recommend scheduling a maximum of 3 posts. Generally, people check Facebook first thing in the morning, lunch time, 3 pm and after dinner. This will require some testing as it varies based on your target market’s Facebook habits. Facebook works well, if you do some paid ads or promoted posts (more on this later). I use Facebook (native) and buffer to schedule posts, although I usually post in real time since it’s less frequent.
Tumblr No I have tried “queuing” 10 Tumblr posts throughout the day. But, I realized that Tumblr is a community that does bursts of sharing vs. queuing throughout the day. They’re more likely to engage when they see 5 to 10 of your posts all at once vs. 1 every hour.
Blog Yes Your blog should be scheduled since you’re probably only blogging at maximum 5 times a week. (Wow if you are!) This will again depend on testing and figuring out when your target market likes to read your content, start with common sense times like Facebook posting.
Pinterest No There are a few Pinterest scheduling tools that exist like “Pinerly” but for some reason you have to pay to schedule; you can do up to 3 for free. Like Tumblr, the community is built on bursts of sharing so I don’t really see the point of scheduling. Alternatively, you can create a board that is shared with a bunch of people who will post various times a day.
Instagram Can’t You have to do this manually
Google Plus Can’t

You have to do this manually, in fact Google plus discourages third party posting.

While I do cross promote content from Pinterest/Tumblr to Twitter and Instagram to Facebook etc., I treat each social network as its own community. What I mean by this is I don‘t just schedule and forget about it, I ensure I check each feed for engagement and analytics.

This leads to two more topics: analyzing the behavior of each network to figure out which one works for your business and how to best analyze and find insight around what‘s working and whats not working. These two posts coming up next! Stay tuned.

How to Use Social Media to Target New Audiences

As a start-up, in most cases, your primary job in the first year besides building a great product/service is to widen your audience so that it goes in front of as many people as possible. This is done a lot easier with a chunk of cash, so it’s a catch 22. With limited funds and a fuzzy idea of your product market fit, your best option is to start off with all the free options, since one thing you do have a lot of is your time (along with your blood and sweat).

Here are a few things I do, although they may not work for every business, these are just ideas that may be of use to you.

Quora is a place where people go and ask questions on anything and everything. Its not filled with spam or “stupid” questions as it’s linked to your Facebook account. Other people who may have an answer based on their experience can answer questions. It’s very easy to set up and subscribe to topics in your niche or industry. You then get emailed every time a new question is asked and you have the chance to answer it. This is a simple way to build up your credibility and get some eyeballs on your profile which leads to your company page.

Guest Blogging has been mentioned in almost every article on this topic as an inexpensive way to widen your funnel. There are a few ways to go about doing this. You can cold email blog owners which is more likely to be accepted if they have a “write for us” section. In most cases, blog owners will not bother answering your emails unless you make it truly genuine and unique. Even then, a blog worth writing for probably has a lot of requests. My dating blog gets a few requests a week from random people who serve as third parties and only get paid once a back link is published. In any case, I was able to write this blog for a Style Girlfriend only because I sought her out and met her in person while I was in NYC. I did blindly email months before, but got no response. You could definitely try to build warm connections with bloggers or you could just go after blogs that are not popular but still have a decent and loyal audience. Even if you don’t get any bites through their blog, you’ll build your SEO and credibility. But, popular blogs can also be deceptive, I got less than 50 hits to my website from the Style Girlfriend blog post probably because the placement of it was tiny and at the bottom.

Create your own Syndication. What I mean by this is, share your content to various channels beyond your own network. I re-blog my company blog to my old menswear blog which has an established audience and gets around 5000 hits a month. Further to this, I created a generic menswear style and trends facebook page where I post my blogs and Pinterest pictures. I make it so it has nothing to do with my company.  I haven’t shared it heavily as of yet. The problem with Facebook pages are that only 10% or less of your fans see your content. The only way to get it seen is through very strategic ads. So, I keep this page’s content completely automated and will return to it once I have a bit of money to spend on ads. I created the page as another channel to build an audience on as more of a long term strategy.

Google + is the underdog of social media networks. It gets a lot of hate and neglect (especially from me). Meanwhile, it’s highly engaging and posting on it only helps your Google search rank. The Google team is smart as they don’t allow automated posting, you have to sign into the page and post manually. By doing so, you actually visit the page. So, I have made it a habit to check it everyday and post something while adding people and plus 1ing a bunch of things. It’s an interesting, and friendly crowd on there that actually interacts with you, very unlike Facebook.

Twitter Lists are great for keeping track of your potential customers, prospects and existing clients. The best part is lists can be kept as private so no one can see they’re on your list. It’s online stalking at its best. Keeping track of lists are best done in Hootsuite or Tweedeck, since you can view everything on one screen.  Twitter takes work as it’s not really built for one way communication, but more so for direct one on one engagement. If someone shares something about their day, they do it so they can get reactions or comments on it. As brands, its best to engage like you would a friend and not push your propaganda more than once or twice a week, unless someone directly asks. In that case, share your twitter card.

Do you have any other tricks or hacks? What service has worked best for you?

My Favorite Social Media Shortcuts

I’m going to be writing a few posts on social media in the upcoming Mondays, just because there is a slew of stuff I want to talk about based on personal experience. To start off, I wanted to share a few of my favorite website/apps as they pertain to social media. You may probably use most of these or may have similar ones that work better – please do share!

Buffer

I really like buffer, especially their amazing blog which talks about really useful start-up stuff. The app allows you to schedule your tweets based on time, day and time zone via their nifty bookmarklet. All you do is click the bookmarklet while you’re on the site you want to tweet and it creates a neat 140 character message that gets queued. You can also manually schedule your tweets on their site. I use the free version which allows 8 tweets a day, while the unlimited version is $10 a month. I know, I’m cheap.

Batch.me

Batch.me is very close to my heart as it has been built by my team. It’s basically a lazy person’s dream come true. It has all the charm of buffer except you don’t have to bother with scheduling anything. It has 3 settings: low, medium and high representing frequency of tweets during your desired time zone. I use this for all my personal tweets since I read a ton of articles online and like to schedule them all instead of having them tweet out all at once which can be a bit annoying. There’s no limit to tweets, its a free service, for now.

Hootsuite

I’ve been using Hootsuite for a few years now because I love the dashboard. I like being able to see my tweets, mentions, direct messages and my personal friend list all in one screen. Its great for business as well, since you can create various columns of keywords, hashtags, or specific types of people you want to follow. The unlimited version is $10, but again I use it for free, since I don’t use it aggressively.

IfThisThanThat

This is by far the most useful tool online. It’s basically a way to trigger an action based on another action. “If I publish a photo on instagram than upload it to my dropbox” is an example of a recipe. I have about 7 recipes going on around various things getting pushed to other places. I have tumblr, pinterest and instagram going to buffer because I have it hooked up to bit.ly for analytics. It’s easy, always running, and something you don’t have to think about. Is there any easier way to track your social media metrics? Perhaps. (more on this in a future post).

Pixlromatic

There are so many picture editing apps out there, its a crime not to take advantage of them. I’ve tried a few paid and unpaid ones and I find Pixlromatic matches my style the best as it has really punchy filters, effects and borders that match my personal blog style. I use basic Instagram for my business, since we have a few designers and photographers on our team, most of our blog photos are edited in Photoshop.

Instaquote

The new trend in blog pictures and pin-worthy posts is having words on pictures. I use instaquote, free version which shows the annoying “instaquote’ at the bottom. It’s alright for now, but eventually I’ll have to upgrade!

PicFrame

Another photo manipulator app which corresponds to photo editing trends is multiple photos in one frame. PicFrame does the job really well, but, I’m sure there are a slew of others that can be used in the same way.

What are some of your favorite websites and apps?

Social Media Rules to Live by

I wrote this list out a few months ago and came across it today when I realized I was super late posting today. 🙂 Looking at it, its definitely my philosophy when it comes to social media for business.
  1. Don’t abandon an existing traditional marketing plan. Social media does not replace anything. It should be added to the overall marketing strategy to enhance activities and more importantly create a channel to interact with your audience.
  2. Know your target market. Not all companies need social media as a part of their existing plan. It all depends on your business goals and if your (potential) customer base is actually online.
  3. Know your target market even more. Before jumping on the bandwagon of social media, first understand the online habits and behavior of your (potential) customer base. Do they even go online? What do they do when they are online?
  4. Don’t blindly create social media profiles on various outlets without having a consistent strategy of posting. Do not create profiles if you (or your team) cannot consistently post engaging and relevant content. There is nothing worse than a stale account or page which a potential customer may look up on a Google search of your company name.
  5. Don’t view social media as a loudspeaker from which you inadvertently advertise your product/service to death. Social media is not a platform for this – save it for your landing page. No one will appreciate it and it may get you blocked or worse, marked as spam.
  6. View social media channels as conversations. This is about things that your customer is interested in and talking about like the weather, pets, food, reading, traveling etc..
  7. Respond and post as a friend would. This is done in a neutral yet positive voice that makes friends not enemies, doesn’t take sides and doesn’t meddle in politics, religion or any controversy as it will directly affect your company’s views.
  8. Use analytics. Like all marketing strategy, social media efforts should be tracked and analyzed to see what works and what doesn’t work. Moreover, timing of posts and relevancy of the post can be analyzed here as well.
  9. Monitor competitor’s social media movements. It’s not against any rules to follow or investigate who follows your competitor’s social media channels and then follow them on yours.
  10. Lastly, remember that no one is interested in you or your company. Sorry, but social media is not about selling, it’s about sharing relevant information and being helpful and friendly. People will respond to you or follow if its in their best interest only.

These 10 Rules should give you a good starting point on whether you need a social media strategy based on your target market. Your voice and style should be empathetic, happy and neutral, while downplaying your business and what you’re trying to sell. Initially, Yes, its the opposite of what you normally do, but it’s important to gain trust and credibility from your (potential) customer. This is not achieved by banging them on the head with your product/service, no one likes that. By watching your analytics and competitors, you should be able to find a good balance of what works and eventually your social media strategy will help you indirectly with sales and customer service. Most importantly, what most businesses do wrong is they don’t consistently post, I think this is due to not seeing results right away, not believing anyone is watching and of course, not having enough time! But, all of this takes a substantial amount of time, and effort, so don’t give up!

How to Manage Google Fatigue

I was thinking that I didn’t want to write yet another blog on SEO (search engine optimization) as there are already a slew of blogs out there, notably: Kissmetrics. Even I get a bit overwhelmed when I see my Google analytics dashboard. Frankly, I’m a bit tired of Google, but it’s this massive giant that you just have to learn to tolerate.

So I thought I would write a super “dumb-ed” down post on an aspect of SEO that everyone should know especially if you have a brand, product or service.

Adwords” are exactly that – words that are bought through a bid. It’s assumed that people type specific keywords to search you out (the higher the “competition” for the word – the higher the price will be). However, relative competition is not directly related to search volume – more on this later. Sometimes the key words are obvious other times they are not so obvious. For example, although my company, Seat 14A offers complete menswear ensembles, no guy will ever search “ensembles” or “men’s outfits” in Google. They may search blue blazer or mens clothes though.

So here’s how you start.

Go to http://adwords.google.com –> Tools & Analysis –> Keyword Planner –> you’ll get a list of 4 different ways to search for keywords. I use the “get search volume”.

Enter in your search criteria – “English” “United States” and also a list of random keywords. Anything you think would make sense for your industry. The results show you low, medium or high competition and search volume for each word. For example “camo” is searched quite a lot (above 100K) searches yet the competition for this word is low.

This chart will help you figure out what words work best for you, oh yeah, I’m sure there is some techie way Google can  produce this for you, but I like my research old school – manually inputted and on Microsoft word.

low (competition) – italics=no results, bold=best

medium

high

low (searches – <10K)

men’s fall trends

men’s fashion (9.9K)

tweed blazer/blazers

sports

medium (between)

men’s trends

blazers (90K)

bow ties

high searches > 100K)

SWEET SPOT

camo

ties

gifts for men

Here are some pointers:

  • Don’t assume that words singular and plural will give the same search results, they can be wildly different, ex: blazers is 90K and blazer is 160K.
  • Generally people don’t use exact punctuation when searching, so this also is wildly different ex: mens vs. men’s.
  • The best words are those that have a high search and low competition as the bid is much lower. These usually take a bit of creativity to figure out and its about knowing your company and (potential) customers.

This is a really great exercise, as you can then input all the keywords into your site, so it’s better tracked by Google search results. You can also see what the most popular words are and those that are underbid and opt for those in a potential ad campaign. Of course the most popular words have the highest competition, but as a small business/entrepreneur, you can’t usually spend that much on SEO.

Do you have any tried and tested SEO tricks or pointers to share?

My Lesson from Audit Your Closet

I’ve always been interested in fashion and technology. It was just one of those things I was drawn to, even when I didn’t completely understand how I could incorporate various technology. My initial idea was “audit your closet” a place where you could store and categorize your entire wardrobe in one spot. Then, an “e-stylist” would help you figure out how to combine different looks and tell you how to get the most out of your closet. I went as far as testing out the idea on a friend, where she photographed her clothes and I organized them for her into outfits. This was pre-iPhone, and apps so I quickly lost interest. I never stuck with the idea long enough to see how well it would’ve made a nifty app. Years later, I find my idea staring up at me and I feel a pang of regret. 

ayc

It wasn’t that I didn’t pursue the idea that I am regretting (well, a little) since ideas are a dime a dozen and useless on their own. It’s more about the fact that I didn’t truly and consistently stick with that which I wanted to do more than anything else. Why did I not see the importance of sticking to it? Well, hindsight is always 20/20.

This is my general advice to those that have an idea or anything they want to pursue.

  • Start a blog and write in it consistently. This is a good excuse to research and also to build an audience of interested readers. Don’t stop writing ever. This is my single biggest regret, why did I ever stop writing in this blog and this one on menswear?
  • Guest blog on other sites, I did this for a few months, but didn’t stick with it.
  • Attend events in the niche you’re interested in as well as keep up to date on trends and news.

If you continue these three things, then you’ll start meeting the right people and be given opportunities. You may even meet potential business partners or partnerships that make sense.

The key is consistency and not giving up ever. When you lose both of these things, you lose everything because starting from scratch when your competition has already spent time and effort doing what you want to do for years, puts you really behind. Even picking up from where you left off is a disadvantage, since it’s like you’re starting all over again.

I’ll leave you with this, don’t turn your back on something you want to do regardless of if you can’t do it full-time. You can always start small and build it up on the side. Even giving it an hour a week of attention is enough. Also, it’s okay to take a break from it and try other things, but never leave it for good for a stretch of time.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you have a passion project or subject that you love but haven’t pursued consistently or have left it completely?