Daphne Stanford – Tweak Your Biz https://tweakyourbiz.com Business, Marketing, Entrepreneur Articles. Sat, 21 Jul 2018 19:55:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.7 https://tweakyourbiz.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/cropped-tyb_trans-32x32.png Daphne Stanford – Tweak Your Biz https://tweakyourbiz.com 32 32 Five Best User Experience Practices for 2018 https://tweakyourbiz.com/technology/2018/01/11/five-best-user-experience-practices-for-2018 https://tweakyourbiz.com/technology/2018/01/11/five-best-user-experience-practices-for-2018#comments Thu, 11 Jan 2018 19:00:10 +0000 https://tweakyourbiz.com/technology/?p=16931 What are the best ways to optimize your company’s products and web content to be accessed via mobile device in 2018?

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What are the best ways to optimize your company’s products and web content to be accessed via mobile device in 2018? Although the issue of UX design Source: Pixabay (https://pixabay.com/en/office-freelancer-computer-business-620823/)[/caption]

#1. Email Subject Lines: Keep Them Short & Focused

Reading emails should not be a chore — whether you’re in the office or finishing up the day’s work on a plane. Time is precious for most of us, these days, so we all need clarity of focus and product messaging in order to be able to picture ourselves as a potential customer or client.

But the future may not merely require us to simplify subject lines and appeal to a customer’s personal journey. It may expect superhuman intelligence and personalization, as well: according to Fast Co. Design’s Katharine Schwab, automation and AI may play a greater role in determining what kinds of emails you receive in the future “based on what kinds of emotional pleas work best on you.” Though this prospect may seem creepy, remember: you can always unsubscribe; and how is this kind of algorithm any different than, say, Spotify’s weekly customized playlist or Amazon’s “Suggested for You” page?

Try to keep the idea of personalization in the forefront of your mind. Moving forward, it will become increasingly important to implement customer feedback and genuine, real interaction — in spite of the increasing digitalization of media and everyday life.

This is because the more companies put a human face on their everyday interactions and mission statements — think Microsoft or Patagonia — the more they will appeal to customer emotions and ideals like hope, optimism, and freedom. These nebulous concepts can’t be easily quantified by data and email subject lines, but we can try to approximate them as much as possible.

#2. UX Optimization: Interaction & Accessibility Are Key

Considering that the number of mobile devices in use is projected to be over twelve billion by 2018, companies should, at the very least, ensure continuity between devices. While it’s still important to focus on the overall ease of use of the website in general, you also want to make sure the transition from mobile to desktop or tablet is seamless.

Sarah Gibbons recently provided a cheat sheet of UX mapping methods that outlines the difference between empathy maps, customer journey maps, experience maps, and service blueprints. Gibbons points out necessary predecessors to the mapping process, as well as when to use different kinds of UX mapping — for example, before, during, or after the design process.

The service blueprint is an interesting outlier to the conventional focus on customer-facing user experience. Being comprised of customer actions, frontstage actions, backstage actions, and support, it emphasizes the importance of organizational coordination and communication.

#3. Mobile App Optimization: Maximize Efficiency for Smart Devices

When it comes to user experience and accessibility, mobile apps are key — that is, as long as they don’t have any major pain points, in terms of usability or efficiency. Speed and function, therefore, are mandatory. The last thing your company wants is for its brand-new app to malfunction within the first week.

Apps are also great for maximizing customer interaction, whether via downloads, chat bots, or accessible user interface. Also, in your overall web design, be sure to avoid excessive use of video or pop-up ads, graphics, or stock images in order to optimize user experience for your clients.

All this talk of UX may allow us to forget the importance of a human touch in our company’s interactions with its customers and clients. As Ivo van Barneveld recently explained, “Language is the most natural interface humans understand.” As a result, conversational user interfaces like chat bots and smart home hubs with voice search commands are likely to become more common ways for customers to get in touch with all kinds of companies.

#4. Cybersecurity: Keep All Business & Client Data Safe

Whether accessed by “ethical hackers” or more innocent/accidental trespassers, data can easily be stolen under the correct circumstances. Especially if your company is based out of a sky-high building surrounded by other innovative companies in the tech industry, you’d better make sure every database and data file has multiple password barriers and is extremely difficult to access.

Nowadays, since so much information is stored in the cloud, it helps to be just as careful with online storage as with internal data security. Cyber espionage, data theft, and unprecedented attacks are all important considerations for small and midsize businesses — despite some people incorrectly assume only multinational corporations will be targeted.  

Be sure to keep the mobile customer experience in mind, in 2018, when it comes to keeping data safe and maximizing user trust, as well.

#5. Image Matters: Communication & Customer Feedback Data

We all know that public brand image matters, but what about internal-facing communication and employee feedback? The more easily companies can retain their employees, the better a company’s return on investment in terms of performance, longevity, and money — not to mention social media shares. The current nature of social media and the digitally connected world means that people must watch what they do and say now more than ever.

This includes workplace offices and company communication — whether that means doing a better job of employee recognition or making sure employees are given a good balance of feedback and guidance. Especially when considered from the millennial perspective, it’s crucial to take the employee feedback loop into consideration: as much as employee recognition emails have been utilized in the past, that kind of impersonal communication does not build trust.

Rather, in-person coaching and meetings build rapport and allow for maximum participation and diversity of interaction. Companies should remain mindful of the ubiquitous presence of social media and sites like Glassdoor and Indeed, which rate companies based on people’s opinions of the CEO, management style, and advancement opportunities.

For now, the human brain is still much more complex than any Twitterbot or chatbot. Until then, it’s best practice to focus on customer feedback, interactive site content, and accessible user applications to maximize every employee’s user experience — whether at home or in the office.

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The Future of Cybersecurity in the Workplace https://tweakyourbiz.com/technology/2017/11/20/the-future-of-cybersecurity-in-the-workplace https://tweakyourbiz.com/technology/2017/11/20/the-future-of-cybersecurity-in-the-workplace#respond Mon, 20 Nov 2017 19:00:11 +0000 https://tweakyourbiz.com/technology/?p=16607 Let’s consider security risks in light of where we have been and where we are going in the workplace in order to be prepared for future security challenges.

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October was Cybersecurity Awareness Month, but company-wide Source: Pixabay[/caption]

Mobile Security Best Practices

In a recent article for Forbes, Gil Shwed points out the importance of understanding where the cyberspace and security threat trajectory is heading: toward a future controlled by bots, cloud computing, personal data, and the need to realize that cybersecurity defense strategies need to be multi-pronged.

Shwed goes on to point out the expanding role of government and the need for mobile security:

Countries and states will have a bigger role in protecting large scale environments like their own infrastructure (power grids, water supply, traffic control and frankly—everything around us), and maybe even to provide some of their intelligence to the public. We can have the most secure data center, but if our data leaks through a cloud provider or a mobile device, we are just as vulnerable.

In other words, we should be concerned with introducing mobile devices into our daily workflow if we’re not implementing the same kind of security precautions to ensure that remote workers install the same kind of VPN security software and take the same basic precautions at home and in the office.

For example, we all can make it a point to require strong passwords and change our passwords on a regular basis, make them difficult to guess, variable, and resist using the same password for all our accounts. We should also avoid utilizing free and public Wi-Fi unless absolutely necessary, and if we do access public Wi-Fi we should install high-security firewalls and other software updates on a regular basis. Ideally, it’s best to avoid conducting work-related business in public places unless we have our own mobile Wi-Fi access.

Privileged Users & Password Security

White collar crime has made it necessary to be aware of all users at all times, regardless of their role with the company. Privileged users can often serve as the weak link or gateway for hackers to access other company data.

One basic minimum security protection you can take is to require your employees and department heads to use strong passwords everywhere — meaning passwords that are complex, difficult to guess, and not the same as passwords used for other personal accounts. For example, if John Smith uses a password for his Google account at home that reads 123456, he should change his personal password to something much more hack-proof, and utilize separate, more complex, and randomly-generated passwords for any work-related accounts.

Many sites that confer automatic passwords have a better grasp on best practices; it’s better to utilize a password like M4T#ly&4hb, for example, than a password made up of, say, your birthdate or the numbers of your mailing address. The general rule is, if it’s easy to remember, it’s probably not a strong password. Rather than emailing all your passwords to yourself or storing your passwords in a Google doc, store this information in a safe place like a locked desk drawer or at home.

Information Security Protocol & Legislation

Strategic cybersecurity and intelligence hubs like Washington D.C. have proliferated in nearby areas of the globe, including other and international commerce and cyber-technology hubs like London, Silicon Valley, Tel Aviv, and Boston. The sooner large conglomerates and big business gets this concept wrapped around their heads, the safer we’ll all be. Until our government treats this as seriously as human threats on the ground with weapons and automatic rifles—not to trivialize that very real threat — we will continue to face large-scale security breaches targeting as many people as possible.

Since the federal government continues to distance itself from any involvement in the private business sector, this means it will likely continue to be extremely difficult for CIOs to mandate the implementation of basic information security protocol at the structural level. The responsibility should fall not only on the shoulders of CIOs, but upon everyone throughout the chain of command in workplace management, to communicate the very real security risks that are ever-present but also maddeningly nebulous.

Educational Deficiencies in Cybersecurity

The recent Equifax data breach that leaked out into the Dark Web makes it depressingly clear that much information security is out of our hands. In order for companies to ensure data will remain uncompromised, they must stop doing things like storing weak username and password combos like “admin/admin,” in the case of an Argentinian Equifax service, as well as exposing the lifetime data of more than half of the adults in the United States. Lifetime data refers information like Social Security numbers, dates of birth, full legal names, family surnames, and so on. These used to be the go-to answers to what used to be considered high-security questions.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham notes ten prominent security risks in 2017: the internet of things, passwords, mobile devices, privileged users, dwell time, social engineering, malware and ransomware, algorithms, educational deficiencies, and changing corporate focus. The remedy, according to UAB, lies in “employee training and restructured security departments. IT professionals need to occupy a more central role in business. Security should become inseparable from the service a company provides.”

In the future, AI cybersecurity bots will do much of this work for us. Until that time, we need to remain aware, nimble, and vigilant—constantly learning and seeking to understand the best information security practices for our places of work, whatever our individual role.

Or, in the famous words of Agents Mulder and Scully, “Trust no one.”

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How Can Small Business Utilize Automation & Big Data? https://tweakyourbiz.com/technology/2017/08/17/how-can-small-business-utilize-automation-big-data https://tweakyourbiz.com/technology/2017/08/17/how-can-small-business-utilize-automation-big-data#respond Thu, 17 Aug 2017 12:00:05 +0000 https://tweakyourbiz.com/technology/?p=16153 This post will explain how to utilize automation and big data for your business

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How we talk about data has changed to include terms such as “fog analytics,” “edge analytics,” and the “four Vs.” As data collection and data storage become more automated, the daily tasks we undertake to run our businesses more efficiently have become more automated as well. Data can help small businesses predict which markets to tap into next, or which email format works best for different products.

But how should we discern the difference between daily tasks that can be automated and ones that require more personalization or attention to detail? Furthermore, what does this all mean for small businesses, and how can business owners utilize some of these concepts to help themselves succeed?

Daily Automated Tasks

What are some tasks you do on a daily basis that are integral to the smooth operation and social reach of your company? Chances are, a number of projects and financial records can be automated or more centrally organized, rather than done manually or confined to one space. Altering some of these processes might come down to a willingness to let go and delegate tasks. And some of it may have to do with turning a daily process into more of a routine than fully holistic and singular, every time. For example, take project management, accounting processes, and website analytics.

Rather than having one person hoard all the knowledge about a particular project, it’s preferable to centralize various tasks and projects into one place. Furthermore, “According to a SCORE survey,” writes Intuit, “40% of small business owners reported bookkeeping and taxes as the worst part of owning a business.” Since bookkeeping can cost quite a bit to outsource, it’s best if small business owners look for ways to minimize costs related to finance and accounting, thereby freeing up a lot of time for other, more nuanced components of managing their business.  

And if you’ve wondered how you might utilize Google Analytics to track and report website traffic, you’re not alone. Now Google’s making it possible to access a demonstration account—a dummy account, of sorts. Through accessing this sample data, new users will more easily understand which types of data are collected, as well as the kind of insight they’ll be able to glean from setting up an account to analyze their own business website’s traffic and usage patterns. It’s also possible to utilize SEO tools created by SEMrush and Moz to analyze the impact of particular keywords and site content to a site’s online rankings and customer response-related performance.

Fog and Edge Analytics

You may or may not have heard of the terms “fog computing” or “edge analytics,” but they basically refer to performing analysis on IoT data in real time. Talend writes, “It’s about [analyzing] in real-time on site. The architectural design of ‘things’ should consider built-in analysis.” For example, Forbes’ Bernard Marr describes what the ideal method of data collection from a massive-scale security system might look like, assuming hundreds of hours of footage is collected: “Wouldn’t it be better if the images themselves could be analyzed within the cameras at the moment it is captured, and anything found to be useless either discarded or marked as low priority, freeing up centralized resources to work on data of actual value?”

You might deduce that more sophisticated discernment within data analytics programs would likely require more sophisticated programming. This is certainly true, and it only points to the increasingly pressing need for more professionals well-versed in data analytics, IoT, and cybersecurity. But more importantly for small businesses, capable individuals are needed to decide which types of data are deemed important, after the fact, and which parts are expendable; because eventually we’re going to run out of space. As more of our devices become connected online, we will need to find ways to make room for all of them, and only the ones that are the most clever and efficient in their data collection methods will be let through the door.

Data Governance and the Four Vs

Because of the rate of data collection, we are faced with the need for data governance and a system of understanding how to organize all the data our small businesses accumulate. According to Maryville University, “… As the year continues, we will see increased value and insight from artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms, which are now powerful enough to handle the Four Vs of Big Data: volume, velocity, variety, and veracity.” Beyond knowing which aspects of data we should be concerned with, it’s crucial to decide how it will be automated, as well as who will be responsible for it. Hence the need for governance.

Moreover, we are in need of efficient data organization, as well as attention paid to the quality and privacy of collected data. While data volume and velocity can be largely automated, the last two—variety and veracity—require a more discerning entity to fully comprehend. It’s best to select particular data sets upon which to focus and utilize to greater ends. In particular, we can learn a great deal from the particular types of data we choose to focus on, some of which aren’t intuitively connected: structured and unstructured data, text information, payment information, GPS data, audio, and video.

Thankfully, we now have tools like IBM Watson Analytics to allow laypeople to become virtual data scientists. Analysts pull relevant data sets, visualize and analyze data using advanced analytical tools, and make real-time decisions. However, Martin Zwilling warns that he sees many executives who still view data analytics as a measurement of current and past results, rather than a tool to determine future strategy. Therefore, it’s important to keep an open mind and remain open to taking risks and innovating. Otherwise, you may fall into a routine that goes unquestioned.

The business world is evolving, and it demands that we stay abreast of current technology in order to remain competitive, regardless of our company size or type. What are you doing to utilize automation and big data for your business?

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Pros and Cons of HR Personality Tests in the Age of Data https://tweakyourbiz.com/growth/2017/06/22/pros-and-cons-of-hr-personality-tests-in-the-age-of-data https://tweakyourbiz.com/growth/2017/06/22/pros-and-cons-of-hr-personality-tests-in-the-age-of-data#respond Thu, 22 Jun 2017 18:00:03 +0000 https://tweakyourbiz.com/growth/?p=11427 I’ve always been skeptical of personality tests, which neatly categorize us (e.g. introverted/extroverted). In reality, people are more complex than that.

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As a writer and a contrarian, I’ve always been skeptical of personality tests. Despite the fact that the world is composed of unique individuals with completely different life experiences, personality tests neatly categorize us as introverted or extroverted, detail-oriented or interested in the big picture, etc. In reality, people are more complicated than that.

Furthermore, the assignment of a given personality type does not necessarily predict job performance. It may be telling that in 2012, 70 percent of companies relied on

Personality tests

Since many companies are run by extroverts, like goes toward like, and extroverts are often shown preferential treatment. In this way, depending on who is administering a personality test, they can do more harm than good. Personality tests may prove especially useful after an employee has already been hired. For example, a department manager may find it useful to have new hires take a personality assessment in order to gauge how best to communicate with a new employee—whether it be in writing or face-to-face.

Moreover, although personality tests can detect universal personality traits, they can’t accurately predict who will excel at their new position. Introverts may turn out to be equal to extroverts in their ability to excel in sales-based positions—they may prove themselves to be a very good listeners when interacting with clients, for example. Another potential problem stems from the fact that it’s impossible to know if candidates are giving answers that are simply untrue or inaccurate—perhaps because they suspect that the job position ideally requires a particular set of traits that they don’t happen to naturally possess.

Be strategic

One potentially effective use of personality tests involves deciding on a specific list of characteristics considered desirable for a particular position, and then designing a test with questions involving those particular traits. In that way, hiring managers can ask more strategic questions that are unique to the position in question—as opposed to wasting time asking questions that are largely irrelevant to the potential job duties. Constructing your own questions will also allow you to include information specific to the job description in order to gauge which candidates did the minimum amount of research, before interviewing for the position, rather than simply applying to as many jobs as possible.

In addition to considering a candidate’s unique personality traits and talents, HR managers should also hire to improve expectations for open positions—rather than simply replacing the last person who occupied the role in question. Moreover, companies should try to gauge whether candidates are a good fit, personally; for example, does the interviewee exhibit knowledge and interest in the company? Furthermore, rather than putting all the pressure on candidates to impress interviewers, hiring committees should also present an attractive company face and hiring package to people interviewing for a position in order to attract the strongest candidates.

Validated by studies

Keep in mind, however, that the best personality tests have been well-validated with studies. Surprisingly, one of the best-known versions—the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)—has not fared well in scientific studies. In fact, Katherine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers weren’t even psychologists, and neither of them had any formal training in psychology. Instead, they based their categories on the personality theories of Carl Jung.

Rather than lean on MBTI-type assessments, Fast Company suggests utilizing tests that use the five factor model (FFM) made up of five different characteristics: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Be careful not to confuse personality with aptitude at particular tasks. Ideally, you would find some way to measure both types of traits separately, either in written or conversational format.

Human Assessments

At the end of the day, human assessments are more powerful than tests, so be sure to take any written results with a large grain of salt. It’s impossible to predict how well a candidate will perform a particular set of job duties until you can see them turn experience into expertise. Moreover, it’s important to recognize that some people simply aren’t good test takers: that doesn’t mean they won’t be good at their job duties.

Therefore, be sure to utilize written assessments as one part of a larger interview picture—one that ideally involves on-the-floor interaction and the impressions of more than one person. Don’t hesitate to gather employee input regarding questions to ask, skills to assess, or traits to emphasize. There’s a lot more to a person than what can be assessed in writing, and your current employees may spot gaps or errors in the questions.

Continued learning

The continued growth, improvement, and expansion of a company depend not only on wise hiring decisions but also on continued research, learning, and development of current employees. Most people enjoy learning and expanding, so experiment with ongoing classes that teach new skill sets or reinforce existing knowledge that’s crucial to the job duties in various departments. Remember, also, that each of us has biases toward certain kinds of personality types or character trait inclinations, so it wouldn’t hurt to take those biases into consideration after the assessment process is complete. After all, even human resource specialists are human!

What are some experiences you’ve had with personality tests for potential employees? Did the results defy expectations, or did they prove to be relatively accurate? Share your thoughts and experiences with written or computer-based assessments in the comments section below!

Image Source: Alberto G.

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How to Overcome Writer’s Block and Produce Creative Blog Content https://tweakyourbiz.com/marketing/2017/05/10/how-to-overcome-writers-block-and-produce-creative-blog-content https://tweakyourbiz.com/marketing/2017/05/10/how-to-overcome-writers-block-and-produce-creative-blog-content#comments Wed, 10 May 2017 12:00:38 +0000 https://tweakyourbiz.com/marketing/?p=32561 Here are some solutions for both of these common roadblocks to produce creative blog content.

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There are two major components of content writing that tend to trip writers up: first, coming up with any new ideas at all (i.e. overcoming writer’s block); and second, producing creative, original content that grabs readers’ attention and leaves them with the distinct impression of having learned something new, as a result of reading it.

Here are some solutions for both of these common roadblocks to produce creative blog content.  

Treat Writing Like Star Gazing

If you try to stare at a star directly, you won’t be able to see it as clearly as if you focus your gaze right next to it. Similarly, there are a few strategies for successfully generating blog topics without trying too overtly that may be more effective than focusing too intently on writing an old-fashioned outline right from the start. This is because ideas often come to us when we’re not looking for them directly. Rather, the best ideas come to us when we’re least expecting them: for example, while on a break; or while brainstorming or freewriting in our journals a week before the blog entry is due.  

In fact, it could be argued that the worst time to think up a blog topic is immediately before you need to write it. Rather, if you spend time brainstorming in your off-hours, you’re much more likely to come up with a good idea — simply because you’re not trying as hard! In terms of what to write about, consider the issues and questions that are important to you, right now. What are your competitors tweeting and blogging about?  How can you fill in the gaps between what has already been said and what is in need of more explanation than what is already out there?  

Technology Tools

If you’re still stuck, try utilizing your smartphone for recording your ideas using a voice recorder app — say while on the bus or driving to work?  You might also try using the simple memo pad app on your phone to make notes during breaks or your off-time. Another idea is to allow your latest Kindle book or magazine read to inspire you: try riffing off a quote or a section of text and see if your piece is creatively influenced by the other piece of writing. Lastly, try writing about an image — such as an especially intriguing image on your digital camera from your latest vacation or weekend getaway — and see where it takes you.  

Take a Walk

If you feel stuck for new ideas, or are struggling to finish composing your latest blog post, try going for a walk.  If you’re able to physically distract yourself from the frustration of a brief bout of writer’s block, you’ll be doing better.  In fact, there are even studies showing that walking can boost our creativity and ability to think clearly.  While a graduate student at Stanford, Marily Opprezzo recruited undergraduate students to take creativity tests in two different settings: while sitting at a desk and while walking on a treadmill.  Almost every student’s creativity increased substantially while walking.  If you’re still at a loss for words, try timing yourself using the Pomodoro Technique: alternate between automatic or free-writing for twenty-five minutes, then taking a five minute break by going for a short walk!  

Unplug & Recharge

One of the most important ways we can ensure that we perform at our best is by coming to work refreshed and invigorated, as well as relatively stress-free.  How do we get to that point, though?  Washington State University suggests unplugging from our devices in order to allow for extra centering and focusing time.  Rather than turning to your smartphone first thing in the morning, try meditating outside or doing light yoga to help your mind face the day’s tasks with a calm mind and a centered body.  

You might also consider taking notes for your next blog post manually—that is, via pen and paper—as opposed to on your computer.  The act of writing by hand helps us retain information more effectively, which may help us to synthesize our thoughts more clearly than if we were brainstorming or outlining via our computer.  If anything, the changing-up of routine by writing with a pen and paper can sometimes help jolt our brains to think about things differently.

Dare to Be Different

One of my biggest qualms with much of the blog content to be found online is the frequency with which blog content is recycled, imitated, or just plain stolen.  Considering the plentitude of unoriginality, it’s always a relief to come across a piece that says something different or gutsy, for once.  It can be scary, but the courage to be original and independent may make your content “go viral”— provided, of course, that it’s well-written!  

While being different can mean writing about a topic in a new way, it can also mean breaking away from the crowd and refusing to agree with popular opinion on a subject.  Provided you employ good critical thinking skills and avoid being a contrarian for the sake of playing devil’s advocate, many readers tend to find controversial think-pieces refreshing and attention-grabbing.

Tell a Story

What types of writing are the most engaging?  In most people’s experience, writing is the most engaging when it tells a story using vivid imagery, interesting details, and engaging action that sets up tension, builds to a high point of action, and then resolves. The classic story arc is an old formula but one that has stood the proverbial test of time.  

That said, avoid clichés and too-familiar tales at all costs, and make your readers care about your characters and their situation. Inspire strong emotions by presenting them with believable scenarios they can relate to, while also avoiding the commonplace. Stories are also easier to remember than facts and figures, so narrative writing is likely to leave readers with a stronger impression than a dry how-to list.

Conclusion

If you want to produce creative content for your company blog, remember that people want to be entertained and they never have a lot of time on their hands.  However, the majority of your readers likely aren’t children and won’t appreciate being spoken down to, so don’t dumb down your writing just to get their attention. Rather, if you write about subjects you care about that are well-researched and interesting, your audience will appreciate the care to detail and uniqueness that will invariably help it stand out from the mediocre crowd.  

What are some blog post characteristics that you appreciate?  Have you come across an especially notable article or piece of evergreen content, lately?  Share your experience in the comments section, below!

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Convenient Shortcuts for Business Logistics in 2017 https://tweakyourbiz.com/technology/2017/03/17/convenient-shortcuts-for-business-logistics-in-2017 https://tweakyourbiz.com/technology/2017/03/17/convenient-shortcuts-for-business-logistics-in-2017#respond Fri, 17 Mar 2017 19:00:34 +0000 https://tweakyourbiz.com/technology/?p=15057 Did you happen to start your own business, recently? Here are a few shortcuts for taking care of logistical tasks and everyday to-do lists, at work.

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Did you happen to start your own business recently?  If so, you’re likely hoping to be as efficient as possible, since your time is valuable—as is true for all of us.  There’s something empowering about speed and efficiency—and, as the saying goes, time is money.  So, without further ado, here are a few shortcuts for taking care of logistical tasks and everyday to-do lists at work. 

There’s an app for that!

Apps help people save time, money, and sanity due to their ability to automate tasks that used to be manually processed, such as invoicing.  Mobile invoicing allows you to immediately invoice after a service call; for example: “Being able to immediately issue invoices using your mobile phone saves you a considerable amount of time, especially if you’re on an extended work trip that will keep you away from your office for several days.”

In addition to saving you time, mobile invoicing also can save you money by eliminating the need to print and mail an invoice.  You’ll also be able to easily integrate your app with other software, as most apps are ‘smart’ about figuring out how to work with other programs.  In addition to invoicing apps, there are also predictive intelligence apps (e.g. Einstein), third-party app integration (e.g. Zapier), and desktop software with cloud integration apps (e.g. Google Docs or Dropbox) to look into.

If an app can’t help, Artificial Intelligence (AI) will!

Or, alternately, one of the new, up-and-coming forms of technology, such as machine learning—otherwise known as adaptable artificial intelligence.  According to Ohio University, it’s “the next big step in developing robotic systems capable of performing complex tasks in fast paced environments.”  There are, for example, programming tools that serve as a basis for machine learning systems which are finally experiencing widespread release.  There are also vision cameras that have evolved from external sensors to systems that are responsive to environmental and sensory input.  

Business intelligence has also evolved to interpret large amounts of data using new software that performs advanced meta-processing of data in order to suggest specific courses of action.  The visualization of data will also help to illustrate potential important business opportunities.  Lastly, business leaders will want to consider how their products and services can cater to the gig and shared economy models that provide professionals-on-demand and within a short amount of time—catering to both on-demand and traditional customers, so as to diversify their client base.

Organize, organize!

Whether your workspace is in a traditional office or at home, it’s crucial to be as organized as possible, at all times—although it’s especially important when working from home.  Part of the reason for this is that it’s likely easier to get distracted when working at home, surrounded by gizmos and gadgets.  Psychologically, it will help quite a bit to make sure all your files and paperwork are organized and in order, your schedule is easy to locate, and your time is well-managed.  Whether you do this with a physical calendar or planner or with a Cloud-based tool like Google calendar is up to you; but however you do it, make sure it gets done!

To this end, it may also help to have certain rituals in place—such as coffee-making and showering—that get you psychologically ready for the day.  This way, even though you aren’t in the office physically, your home environment supports your work mode and your psychological state of mind—which is work-mode!

Communicate wisely, not more often!

Do you ever feel as if you spend more time talking than getting through to people?  Entrepreneur recently published an article by Dorothy Mitchell that addresses some of the most common communication-related time wasters.  For example, take traditional meetings: Mitchell recommends holding short standing meetings, instead—in part, to address employee focus and alertness, as well as productivity and efficiency.  She suggests, as an alternative, holding virtual or digital meetings or sending out a company-wide email, so as to cut down on time and allow employees to focus on their main job duties.

Mitchell also suggests implementing an efficient communication system such as Microsoft Dynamics, Ooma, or Slack to “facilitate smoother and faster internal communication among staff, or hold short, impromptu meetings.”  You might also consider using a universal cloud system—such as Google Drive—in order to centrally locate all company files, programs, and so on and cut down on distractions, as well.

Don’t be afraid to take breaks!

In a recent article on Fast Company, Rich Bellis quotes Ellevest founder and CEO Sallie Krawcheck in saying, “The more I walk, the more ideas I have.”  She reportedly takes four-mile walks and comes up with all kinds of ideas for newsletter updates, people she should contact, etc.  The Pomodoro Technique, similarly, encourages frequent breaks to help stimulate creativity by encouraging the brain to switch gears often and have fun rather than force your brain to work harder than necessary.  By “eliminating burnout,” according to the website, and working “with time, not against it,” it claims to eliminate the urge to procrastinate because it allows for sufficient time away from work.

Bellis also recommends getting to know yourself enough to know when you should quit.  If people are encouraged to acknowledge that mental resources “ebb and flow,” they may be able to get more done by switching their focus to different projects when their juice for one runs out.  He also recommends embracing procrastination in order to put 100% into whatever it is you’re doing at the moment.  That way, when you return to the task at hand, you’ll be more focused and motivated.

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Today’s workplace requires flexibility, creativity, and a willingness to try new things in order to succeed.  If we acknowledge that we can’t do everything on our own and may benefit from the assistance of machines or software-based intelligence, we may learn something new in the extra time we suddenly find on our hands.  

What are some efficiency tools you’ve found to be helpful, in the workplace?  Share your experience in the comments section, below.  

Image: Shutterstock

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Creating a Culture of CSR and Community Building https://tweakyourbiz.com/growth/2017/02/16/creating-a-culture-of-csr-and-community-building https://tweakyourbiz.com/growth/2017/02/16/creating-a-culture-of-csr-and-community-building#respond Thu, 16 Feb 2017 07:00:04 +0000 https://tweakyourbiz.com/growth/?p=10900 There’s a new urgency around not only green, renewable energy and material sourcing policies, but also community initiatives that help combat social ills and environmental injustice

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There’s a sense that it’s not enough to implement a sustainability program in order to exhibit corporate social responsibility. Rather, there’s a new urgency around not only green, renewable energy and material sourcing policies, but also community initiatives that help combat social ills and environmental injustice. More and more, people are connecting socioeconomic inequality and lack of access to natural resources like clean water and air.

In fact, the issues of social justice and equal access to natural resources are so linked that in 2010, the

How can businesses build community while remaining focused on profitability and revenue?

B the Change offers some important questions companies can ask themselves to get started, including whether to pursue one or several causes, whether to go short term or long term, and whether to give money or time.  Certified B Corporations set an example through how they impact their communities and the environment, as well as their workers and customers.  They’re certified by the nonprofit, B Lab, to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.  

John Falcetta discusses some guiding principles of corporate social responsibility, pointing out the importance of community being able to provide its children with “good schools, extracurricular educational opportunities, recreation, the arts, community service, and entertainment.”  Furthermore, he argues that businesses have a vested interest in the common good, and that a business’s contribution to the common good must be self-regulated.  Of course, it helps if these values are principles that people from all parts of the company support, rather than merely the C-suite. (Incidentally, if you’re interested in seeing how your company can get involved, learn more here.)

How, then, can liberty, equality, and innovation be honored and encouraged, via corporate community involvement?

Knowing it’s good for the proverbial bottom line certainly can’t hurt.  According to Washington State University, ethical leaders have productive workers—largely because motivation levels increase when employees are engaged and fully in support of their workplace’s business practices.  Furthermore, consumers want to spend money with ethical organizations.  Supporting community-minded businesses offers customers a way to help their communities, indirectly.

Nita Kirby discusses the benefits of a work volunteering program with paid time off factored into a work policy that naturally encourages employees to become more engaged with their community.  It can be motivating to develop contacts with a few nearby organizations in order to establish ongoing relationships that may be built upon, over time.  If a certain number of hours—for example, 24 hours a year—are designated and set aside for volunteer purposes, employees are likely to be more motivated to take advantage of the time allotted to build ties within the community.

For example, the Xerox Foundation partnered with schools in Dallas, Texas, in order to implement a program called “Readers are Leaders,” which set out to improve reading and comprehension skills as well as encourage a love of books and reading in children.  Another company that regularly fights for social justice related causes is Patagonia, who drew attention to the oil spill in Santa Barbara, along the Gaviota Coast.  Patagonia maintains a blog called Activism—the latest entry detailing a visit to Standing Rock, North Dakota.

The latter fight for clean water is yet another example of social justice intersecting with environmental sustainability causes and the way these issues often intersect. The pursuit of clean water and air is often tied up in social and racial justice issues, as we can see with Standing Rock as well as the recent water pipe fiasco in Flint, Michigan.  These causes are more connected than many of us would like. One doesn’t have to investigate very far or look too hard before seeing how racial, social, and environmental justice causes often overlap.  

Matt Walker argues that the key to creating community outreach that is ongoing and self-sustaining is by creating a culture, rather than merely establishing a volunteer program. Nowadays, people are more connected than ever to the brands they support, going so far as to “Like” their favorite companies on Facebook and Twitter, and to regularly post comments on their pages. People want to feel as if they are a part of something bigger than themselves, and becoming part of an online community of like-minded folks is one way to do that. Furthermore, it’s possible to learn a lot about one’s customer base by paying close attention to their feedback and what they respond to most favorably, via social networks.

Josepf Haslam testifies to the importance of community building to not only content building but also to the proverbial bottom line: “For example, we have military scholarships that we’re running off the website, and we made friends with a number of different influencers out there.” Haslam explains how customers voluntarily share this kind of content with their friends and networks, since it speaks to their values and belief systems. Creating this kind of shareable content not only has the potential to deepen existing relationships; it also appeals to a great many friends of existing customers, expanding your customer base even further, in a genuine way.

Conclusion

If your company is able to create a culture that both employees and customers can relate to, it’s more likely to facilitate long-lasting change.  A culture is made up of people engaging in certain repetitive rituals and behavior that become integral to a shared identity.  If your company rewards and recognizes behavior promoting social giving and relationship building, you will have created a culture of community outreach that sustains and defines your company for a long time to come.

Image: Shutterstock

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Strategies for Content Marketing Success in 2017 https://tweakyourbiz.com/marketing/2017/01/30/strategies-for-content-marketing-success-in-2017 https://tweakyourbiz.com/marketing/2017/01/30/strategies-for-content-marketing-success-in-2017#comments Mon, 30 Jan 2017 07:00:27 +0000 https://tweakyourbiz.com/marketing/?p=31384 As we look forward into the brave new world that constitutes 2017, many online marketing strategies have stayed the same. However, it’s always a good time for a refresher — especially when people keep making the same mistakes over and over again. A few essential differences remain between marketing to businesses and marketing to consumers, […]

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As we look forward into the brave new world that constitutes 2017, many online marketing strategies have stayed the same. However, it’s always a good time for a refresher — especially when people keep making the same mistakes over and over again. A few essential differences remain between marketing to businesses and marketing to consumers, so I’ll go over a few key contrasting points here.

Use Social Media

First, it’s vital to realize the importance of social media to any successful marketing strategy.  If you don’t utilize your various social channels on a regular basis, and with gusto, you could be faced with losing your customers to some of your competitors.  Also, don’t make the mistake of over-thinking your posts, lest they come across as too serious.  Chrissy Symeonakis echoes this advice by reminding Intuit blog readers to avoid ‘over-corporatizing’ your posts, and have fun with them instead.  

To give you an example, I used to work next to a marketing colleague who was in charge of a client’s Facebook social media posts.  He would post the most light, ridiculous memes and giphy-laden posts you could possibly imagine — a talking horse, for example — and they’d go viral!  His strategy was proof that in Facebook-Land, the lighter and more ridiculous, the better. Don’t hesitate to search image banks online for the fuzziest puppy and kitten images you can dig up: the extreme cuteness-factor can’t hurt.  Also, remember to share your human side, being upfront with your weaknesses and mistakes.  Your customers will appreciate your willingness to be vulnerable and down to earth with them.

Know Your Competitors

Symeonakis also points out the importance of knowing your competitors and your market.  We can learn a great deal by studying the marketing and brand imaging strategies of our competitors — if only to find ways to noticeably differentiate ourselves: how are we able to stand out if we don’t know how to effectively project a contrasting image?  Surprisingly, Conductor reports that 25 percent of both B2C and B2B marketers don’t check their competition at all.  Additionally, they quote Larry Kim of Wordstream in arguing that “If you’re not doing any type of competitive analysis, it’s likely that your content marketing strategy isn’t as great as it could be.”  If one of your competitors has an especially strong, stand-out campaign, it would be worth your while to study their techniques.

Listen to Customer Feedback

In addition, you should utilize customer feedback as the valuable marketing tool that it is: rather than seeing it as criticism, take advantage of the opportunity to glean valuable knowledge from a customer and to improve your image through providing excellent customer service and practicing active, social listening.  University of Alabama at Birmingham also champions social listening, calling it “the most transformative tool for mining social media for quantifiable data that can lead to actionable insights.”  UAB also writes, “It can inform product developments and service offerings throughout their lifecycle, provide visibility into competitor’s offerings, gauge customer sentiment, and provide real-time metrics on the effectiveness of marketing campaigns.”  

Don’t Ignore Technology

Furthermore, a number of technology trends have been building momentum for a while, now, and a few of them are bound to pick up steam as we go into 2017: according to The Next Web, they include artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT) and new devices, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), live streaming video, improved search engine algorithms, and e-commerce in social media.  Part of the reason for this switch to more advanced technology is that so much of our time is spent on a mobile device — 65 percent, in fact — compared to 35 percent on a desktop computer, and many emerging technologies are exclusive to smartphones and mobile devices like iPads.  

B2B Vs B2C Marketing Strategies

Some of the differences between B2B and B2C marketing strategies and best practices are fairly intuitive.  Business managers looking to purchase content are usually in search of specialized knowledge or niche-information in the form of white papers, ebooks, and webinars; whereas traditional customers are more interested in fast consumption of content that is easily attainable and entertaining, such as videos, social media posts, and blog articles.  According to Oktopost, the goals and metrics also differ, slightly: while B2B marketers aim for lead generation via web traffic, B2C marketers aim for virality in their social media posts.  

Interestingly, one contrast I see tossed around quite a bit is the assertion that B2B purchases are based on logic, while B2C purchases are based upon emotions.  I find this fascinating, as it seems as if all purchases are based, at least partially, on emotion.  However, I can understand that if customers are thinking in terms of business, they would be more interested in a return on investment (ROI) in order to feel justified in their purchase.  It would follow, then, that B2B marketing materials should, in fact, be more in-depth and educational than the marketing content utilized to attract B2C clientele.  

The website B2B Marketing offered up a few specific differences between B2B and B2C campaigns that I found useful amid a sea of logic versus emotion posts.  One essential difference is product tangibility: that is, B2B campaigns usually sell intangible services, whereas B2C campaigns are more designed for tangible goods and services.  Also mentioned were different performance indicators: while B2B marketers are concerned with leads per month, B2C marketers tend to be more interested in sales per month.  Lastly, pay attention to the type of keywords utilized by each campaign: while B2B campaigns use many industry keywords, B2C marketers allow for and encourage generic keywords — whatever grabs the audience’s attention, in fact.  

And, to cite one last article on the subject, Conversational’s post is all about long versus short, jargon versus simplicity, expertise versus entertainment: basically, light versus serious—to summarize the main differentiating quality. Part of the reason for this is that there are usually no contracts involved with B2C sales, whereas B2B purchases often involve a time commitment and a deeper, more high-level chain of command that is also signing on to the connection between companies.  

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I hope you’ve come away from this article with a good sense of the various marketing techniques that are successful, across a number of different platforms and audiences.  Hopefully it’s become clear to you that video is king — whether in the form of a barking puppy or a highly informative webinar; good listening is important, regardless of who is speaking; and mobile technology is not going away, so we may as well embrace its related emerging technologies, from VR to IoT.  

Remember, you can market anything to anyone.  It’s just a matter of learning how to speak their language.  

Image: Shutterstock

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Leadership and Employee Retention in an Age of Uncertainty https://tweakyourbiz.com/growth/2016/12/30/leadership-employee-retention-age-uncertainty https://tweakyourbiz.com/growth/2016/12/30/leadership-employee-retention-age-uncertainty#respond Fri, 30 Dec 2016 19:00:16 +0000 https://tweakyourbiz.com/growth/?p=10626 In this uncertain economic climate, what should managers use as their road map?  How can companies manage their talent in a way that encourages its growth, prepares for the best, as well as the worst, and maximizes engagement, on a daily basis?  One key to talent retention is empowerment. Another is trust. Another is goal […]

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In this uncertain economic climate, what should managers use as their road map?  How can companies manage their talent in a way that encourages its growth, prepares for the best, as well as the worst, and maximizes engagement, on a daily basis?  One key to talent retention is empowerment. Another is trust. Another is goal setting and performance management that is characterized by autonomy and self-monitoring. Employee development can come in many forms, but development is the single most important retention technique, according to

Track performance and engagement

One step toward reversing or minimizing low engagement levels is to treat employees like individuals and members of a community, rather than representations of a number or vague measurement of ‘performance’ or ‘engagement.’ Part of this engagement may be facilitated with the help of data tracking and consolidating software such as ERP systems that allow employees to monitor their own progress in relation to their professional goals, over a given period of time, allowing them to track discrepancies in performance between where they should be and where they are. In this way, there is a level of involvement and self-tracking—hence also a sense of control and ownership over one’s own progress.

According to Gallup, good managers focus on both performance and engagement, in order to maximize employee satisfaction and retention, as well as overall team performance.  Moreover, strong managers maximize engagement “in three primary ways”: they are “involved in their employees’ work lives”; they “help employees set goals and prioritize their projects”; and they “hold their employees accountable for performance.” Keep in mind that there are appealing and not-so-appealing ways for managers to interact with employees: and keeping an eye on the difference is key since almost half the employees who leave companies do so because of their supervisors.

How to retain the talent

So how can companies retain the talent they attract? One factor is paying a fair wage to both men and women, keeping in mind industry standards and gender equity. Other employee engagement tools include praise and recognition, clear career progression, training and feedback, autonomy and task variety, and feeling valued. Mary Schaefer argues, however, that we tend to focus too much on shorthand phrasing and metrics, losing sight of the real issue: how “to engage real people at work.” In order to do that, managers must reevaluate their methods of interacting with employees. Schaefer suggests meaningful one-on-one meetings, effective team meetings, and making resources readily available to employees, in order to help them succeed.

Therefore, employee engagement and corporate growth are directly tied to excellent managers utilizing effective leadership strategies, on a regular basis. According to Rutgers University, results-driven management has replaced actions-driven management, in both the for-profit and not-for-profit worlds. A few ways to ensure success, on this front, include keeping the end-goal in mind, building on previous successes, relying on trial and error, providing frequent reinforcement, monitoring progress, and making adjustments when needed. Although these strategies may seem as if they have the potential to mimic micromanagement, there’s no need for managers to be overly involved in tracking progress; there simply need be self-monitoring tools implemented in order to allow employees to track their own progress.

But how do we retain valuable employees, once we’ve found them?  And retention is especially important because, according to Entrepreneur, the longer they stay with an organization, the more productive they get. Moreover, favoring internal promotions over external hiring for higher-level positions reduces costs and increases retention and employee satisfaction.  Also, feeling valued is more important to employees than their salaries, so it’s crucial that managers communicate effectively and often with their employees. Offering team members a variety of opportunities to advance and grow, in their positions, is also key to employee satisfaction.

The Growth Mindset

Harvard Business Review recently published a fascinating article about the leadership development potential that comes about when companies adopt a growth mindset. The authors, Carol Dweck and Kathleen Hogan, single out Microsoft as an example of a company with a strong growth-mindset: “the belief that talent should be developed in everyone, not viewed as a fixed, innate gift that some have and others don’t.”

To that effect, Microsoft is encouraging creative learning by hosting a hackathon, introducing high-risk projects like HoloLens, and redefining their talent program. For example, the yearly “Talent Talks” enlists heads from each arm of the organization to meet with the CEO and his senior leadership team to review employees, move people to different teams, and discuss development opportunities. In this way, they are able to more easily identify and develop talent and growth opportunities among current employees—which in turn provides more incentive for people to want to remain in their current positions, rather than leave for a position at another company.

The Forbes Human Resources Council also has a few excellent suggestions for improving employee retention and facilitating growth, as opposed to shrinkage. First, Catherine Decker advises, conduct ‘stay’ interviews annually, at the very least, in order to gauge reception of recent company events, alert team members about upcoming events, and answer any questions they might have.  Enrica Sighinolfi says that Opportunity Network makes an effort to empower employees as much as possible in order to make everyone “feel like an entrepreneur in their own area of competence.” Kim Roneree suggests providing a way for team members to communicate questions or feedback anonymously. And Sarah O’Neill says that transparency can dramatically increase retention and employee loyalty, although leadership teams often shy away from it.

Conclusion

Exemplary leadership and smart retention strategies can help companies maximize their profits and company growth, as well as provide a solid foundation for strong workplace culture that cultivates trust and encourages employees, building them up, rather than tearing them down. How does your company promote employee retention and development? Who are exemplary leaders in your department or management team?  Share your experience in the comments section below.

Image: Employee retention word cloud concept

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How to Win at Social Media Marketing https://tweakyourbiz.com/marketing/2016/12/13/win-social-media-marketing https://tweakyourbiz.com/marketing/2016/12/13/win-social-media-marketing#respond Tue, 13 Dec 2016 19:00:54 +0000 https://tweakyourbiz.com/marketing/?p=30976 Here are three ways to reach out to customers via social media marketing and utilize feedback to generate more effective content for your site.

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Do you ever wonder how you can reach more customers in a friendly, community-minded, targeted manner—without getting too uncomfortably personal?  The answer is more interaction via social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Despite the fact that you’re acting as the marketing face of a company, you shouldn’t be afraid to interact with customers in a relatable way that reminds them you’re human, rather than merely a faceless, corporate drone.

Here are three ways to reach out to customers via social media marketing and utilize feedback to generate more effective content for your site.

#1. What Questions are Being Asked?

When you post links to articles and other site content on social media,

For example, say an article about your company’s community-minded policies related to CSR prompts customers to ask which organizations and charities does your company support, in the town where your headquarters are located.  You might respond with a post about specific actions or donations that your company has provided as part of its annual outreach to the community. This type of post could be especially relevant around the holidays, as collective mindfulness and goodwill tends to be relatively high, this time of year.

You might also consider offering a random, voluntary poll to website visitors and seeing what kind of responses you get.  Chat boxes are also surprisingly helpful, since they offer a casual environment in which dialogue takes place without a lot of added pressure, due to the spontaneity and anonymity of the interaction. You’ll be surprised at how forthcoming customers can be when the format is casual and there are no expectations placed on customers to provide particular answers.

Also, pay attention to what your competitors and clients of competitors are writing about.  Consider responding directly to a competitor’s article with one of your own. You might also try emailing customers and key industry influencers with a link to your latest article, in order to increase the piece’s circulation and exposure—as well as exposure to your company website and social media channels, as a whole!

How do you get in touch with these influential folks?  Bloggers often have their social media contact information listed in their bio section or profile page.  Reaching out may feel intimidating, but the potential payoff, in terms of business leads, is worth it.  Furthermore, if you encourage readers to provide feedback about your content, you will get a better idea of what to write about in future posts.

#2. Practice Social Listening

If you aren’t familiar with the term social listening, it refers to providing a direct response to customers’ online feedback in a genuine and thorough way that demonstrates you are paying attention.  The University of Alabama at Birmingham refers to social listening as “The most transformative tool for mining social media for quantifiable data that can lead to actionable insights.  It can inform product developments and service offerings throughout their lifecycle, provide visibility into competitor’s offerings, gauge customer sentiment, and provide real-time metrics on the effectiveness of marketing campaigns.”  In other words, social listening is a vital and necessary component of social media marketing. By failing to engage with fans and customers, companies exhibit a lack of empathy or willingness to engage with customers’ legitimate concerns.

Although customer service or marketing specialists may fear that admission of fault amounts to showing weakness and damaging company interests, nothing could be further from the truth. By exhibiting a willingness to engage with customer concerns and admit to shortcomings, a company can appear more legitimate than a company that simply ignores or questions customer feedback.  Social Media Examiner has a handy guide to handling different types of customer complaints, when you have to deal with the negative feedback; they recommend, among other things, including the customer’s name in your response and letting them know how, specifically, you plan to fix the issue—as opposed to offering an automated, generic response.

#3. Connect to Your Audience’s Emotions

One last way to utilize social media in order to improve customer service and product development is by paying attention to the specific campaigns, memes, and articles your audience seems to respond to the most positively, and to do more of that.  Also, pay attention to the demographics of your audience in order to deliver the kind of content that will appeal to their specific interests, concerns, and emotions.

George Washington University provides a few examples of successful digital campaign strategies, citing Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” as one of the most viral videos that ever circulated, online.   Apparently, the video, which depicted a forensic artist drawing sketches based on how women described themselves alongside a depiction of a stranger’s description of the same woman.  The strangers’ descriptions were both more beautiful and more accurate when compared to how the women actually looked.  Apparently, many women could relate to this campaign, since it elicited 114 million views in one month and was the third most-shared ad of all time!

This element of emotion is crucial; however, not all emotions are created equal, in marketing land.  A recent story on Scientific American asked the question of what, specifically, makes a piece of content go viral.  They took a sample of articles from The New York Times, first, finding that positive, awe-inspiring stories, as well as (to a lesser extent) stories that elicit anger, were more likely to be shared than stories that elicit sadness, say, or other less emotionally-specific responses.  Another element that helps the ‘share-worthiness’ of a piece is directly connected to its perceived usefulness.

Conclusion

At the end of the proverbial day, the average person has spent a great deal of time on social media—about 50 minutes a day on Facebook, for example—so you might as well meet them where you know they will be and pay attention to their behavior, there.  Marketing Land points out a number of different details we could try noticing in order to be more informed about their preferences: “The non-competitive products they enjoy, the websites they read, the music they like—these are all pieces of information that give agencies direct insight into the people they need to reach.”

In other words, social media provides a great deal of potential customer information to us, free of charge.  We’d be wise to pay attention and see what we might be able to glean from clues that are right in front of us, in plain sight.

Image: BELCHATOW, POLAND – AUGUST 31, 2014: A social media logotype collection printed and placed on modern computer keyboard.

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