Making your voice heard

Consumers make quick judgements about brands. We spend so much time online these days, we are constantly making snap decisions on who to follow. There can be different motivations as to why someone chooses to follow you, but for the purposes of this article I want to focus on businesses who are trying to attract new customers, and retain existing ones. If you’re looking for some quick pointers to help you stay on track with your marketing strategy read on.

BE CONSISTENT

One of the biggest turn-offs for a lot of people is inconsistency. As a consumer if you aren’t sure what a brand represents it can be confusing and you are less likely to commit to following and engaging with them. If you are starting out and want to build a community (and ultimately attract customers) you need to set out a clear brand identity for your company. I’m not just talking about visuals, but knowing how to translate your brand’s personality into the written word is crucial too. Are you funny, informative, irreverent or serious? Try anthropomorphising your brand – for example if Social Butterflies was a person it would be a career driven mother who was a savvy consumer of lifestyle products and services. If you can define its personality and attributes you can begin to see its place in the market. Being confident about this information will help you stand out from the crowd and create a niche for your business.

STAY TRUE TO YOU

Don’t keep chopping and changing your offering. Nothing says “I don’t know what I’m doing” more than a company that regularly changes its image and business offering. Being consistent doesn’t mean you can’t evolve of course, but over time. If you’re overhauling your entire proposition within a matter of months from launching (or even every couple of months) then something is seriously wrong. You need to take time out, reassess what it is and have a clear business strategy before you start marketing your services. Particularly if you are offering any kind of marketing services – this could be the kiss of death for your business otherwise.

THINK LIKE A CONSUMER

The best way to get back to basics with your online business presence is to think about how you interact with social media as a consumer. Sometimes you can be so immersed in the day to day running of a business you forget to put yourself in the consumers’ shoes. Look at how other businesses project their image online – what works and what doesn’t.

BE A LEADER

But don’t follow a lazy business model by simply copying what other people are doing. Authenticity and originality are the attributes which will engage and retain your customers, so keep it real. You’ll find that customers in a niche audience will tend to follow the same people, so you will stand out as a copycat pretty quickly. If you’ve been inspired by someone else’s success then that’s great, but trying to keep up appearances and shadowing someone else’s online persona will only lead to feelings of disappointment. Concentrate on your own strengths, your company’s USP and carve out your own voice.

DON’T OVERSTRETCH YOURSELF

Don’t compare your business offering to others and simply try to match or exceed it. If you have a strong offering in one or two keys areas, then focus your energy on building those up and making them pay. Once you’ve honed those, then you can look to expand your services or product range. Spreading yourself too thin just to keep pace with competitors is not good business practice. Always remember what your key skill sets are, refine them and teach yourself new ones.

IT’S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE

The message is pretty simple: know who you are and what you do. It’s not rocket science, but so often people get overwhelmed by the mass audiences online and start to panic. This is totally understandable; it can be an overcrowded marketplace. But all the more reason to take a step back and have a clear digital marketing strategy in place before you go live. Be confident in your offering and if in doubt seek advice from professionals.


If you’re interested in finding out more then visit my new digital marketing consultancy website: amywhitedigital.com.

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Time for a positive change

Something occurred to me this week after I’d read some lovely emails from readers of Social Butterflies, there is a never-ending discussion online (and offline) about ‘honest parenting’, we can’t get enough of books like Hurrah For Gin and The Unmumsy Mum. But how about some ‘honest career chat’? I’m not talking about flexible working – there are huge strides being made in that area, thanks to amazing ambassadors like Mother Pukka and Digital Mums. I’m talking about the identity crisis so many women feel when they put their careers on hold to have a family. So why does this issue still feel like a taboo subject?

For many women of my generation (born in the 70s/80s) we had established professional identities long before children came along (not forgetting spontaneous mini-breaks, oh how I miss you mini-breaks). But no-one, it seems, feels comfortable talking about the lows of career compromise in motherhood. The most obvious reason is because people don’t want to prejudice future job opportunities or damage their image. But I’m not talking about committing an act of career self-harm. It’s just about acknowledging those lows so you can refocus that energy on creating new highs. If you’ve taken time out, or your foot off the career accelerator, then your confidence needs building up. You’re not going to get that by feeling unable to talk about it. Knowing others feel the same way is both reassuring and empowering. When you feel part of a movement don’t you feel more energised to make a change?

So I would like to open up the conversation. But this isn’t a drowning your sorrows exercise. This is very much about focusing on the positives. It’s about recognising your worth, valuing your experience, honing your skills, retraining in some cases, pursuing a passion and giving each other a leg-up! (I’ve been there, so I should know). I took a three-year career break a few years ago (but I did have two children) so I never feel awkward about explaining that time off to prospective employers. Maybe if I hadn’t done that I might be earning more money, or have a more impressive job, but I don’t like to look back. I am where I am because of the choices I made – no regrets. I think one of the best things you can do if you are on a career plateau is to skill yourself up. Even now, with over 16 years’ experience behind me I still think it’s important to attend courses, workshops and industry events. You should never be complacent about your knowledge in the workplace. I work in digital marketing where innovations and trends move so fast I have to keep pace.

If you’re feeling out of touch with your career identity and looking to try something new, or maybe just want to enhance your existing skills, then take heart from all the amazing women we feature on Social Butterflies. So many of them have taken career breaks, or left behind stellar jobs to try something new that suits family life. You can achieve that too – all it requires is a positive attitude, determination, a healthy dose of confidence and a good support network. You too could feel like the lady in the photo (looks like a Bodyform advert, I know).

TOP TIPS

KEEP ON LEARNING
The best advice I can give anyone who is feeling out of touch with the work place is to continuing learning: take a course, attend a workshop, go to a talk. Find something that interests you and meet like-minded people. Taking courses purely for professional reasons is great too (I’m currently learning all about analytics…) but be clear about what you want to get out of it, particularly if you’re paying a lot of money for something.

RETHINK YOUR STORY
Even if you’re not currently looking for work, try writing your CV out as you would a diary-style story. It’s a great exercise to help order your career thoughts and reexamine what you have to offer in an informal way. Once you’ve got a clearer sense of what that story is, you can translate into a CV format (have a look at Pinterest for CV style inspiration). Set yourself up with a LinkedIn profile and connect with old colleagues – you never know where Barry from accounts is now working and how he could help (by the way, Barry is a fictional character, purely for illustrative purposes).

EXPERIENCE NOT AGE
With age comes wisdom. We should be proud of the experience we have gained, and not compare ourselves to twenty-somethings. Each generation has their own unique skill set  – ours is multitasking experience (in bucket loads!). Taking time out of work has reinvigorated your desire to work, not diminished it. I’m in my late-thirties and we’re not having any more children, so I represent a whole load of women who are not going to go on maternity leave and we’re less likely to flit from job to job. This is an advantage for a future employer. It’s all about changing negative perceptions and seeing the positives.

POSITIVITY PEOPLE
It’s therefore crucial to surround yourself with positive people. There’s nothing wrong with constructive criticism, but the doomsayers can quite frankly f**ck off! If you’re trying to lift yourself up you need people with a glass half full attitude. I always think if you project positivity you will attract it (you can have that as a motivational fridge magnet, you’re welcome).

I’m really hoping by getting this topic out in the open it will help other women out there, who felt like I once did. I’d love to hear from anyone who has felt like this and has made positive changes in their career. Please email hellosocialbutterflies@gmail.com. I’d love to feature your story and inspire other women to do the same.

First (and very possibly last) ‘Podcast’

We all make decisions we may live to regret, creating this Podcast could be mine. I recorded and edited this in a couple of hours to prove a point to myself, and hopefully to you too. If you’ve got an idea don’t keep procrastinating, give it a go. I’d like to quickly caveat my use of the word ‘Podcast’ for fear of retribution. I’m sure the criteria for describing it as a Podcast requires it to be longer than five minutes, informative and entertaining, I cannot promise any of these sadly. As a fan of Radio 4 Woman’s Hour I’d just like to apologise to the nation in advance.

This is for all the mum’s out there who’ve taken a career break to have children. Returning to work at a level which recognises your worth and allows flexibility is something to be celebrated. But sadly this doesn’t happen very often. How can you find that elusive job and get your mojo back?

I’m cringing as I say the words ‘mission statement’ but essentially my mumblings are an explanation for why I started Social Butterflies and hopefully how it can inspire you too. I’d love to hear your thoughts – please don’t leave me hanging in a virtual bubble! Hopefully my words mean something to you. Or even if it’s just to tell me to stop making bad recordings!

CV reality check

I work from home a couple of days a week, and like all women I end up doing chores in between work. Loading the washing machine, unloading the dishwasher (and reloading), checking the fridge for missing items before the inevitable ‘top-up’ shop to the supermarket later (I feel a sad sense of achievement if I can avoid going at least once a day). My ability to multi-task is second to none, as is my ability to procrastinate. The internet has been calling me today with its cheeky loveliness and I’ve been powerless to resist. However, and quite unbelievably, amid endless cups of tea, a quick power-up in the form of a few ‘Waitrose-mini-hot-cross-buns’, I have actually written my CV. I know, I’ve even impressed myself.

I run this magazine alongside my day job, and I’m currently trying to find time to launch my freelance business (digital marketer and editor). During this process I’ve been going through my CV for the first time in a long while, and oh my lord it’s been an uphill struggle. Does anyone else find writing in a self-promotional style buttock-clenchingly awkward? I’m happy to write about other people and tell their story, but when it comes to listing my own experience and achievements I feel out of my comfort zone, much like Nigel Farage at a Eurovision party.

Writing down your professional story is an exhausting process, but once you’ve written it you can spend an infinite amount of time refining it, or as I like to call it, disappearing down the rabbit hole that is Pinterest (goddamn you Pinterest). There are so many styles and designs these days for CV writing that I find it all a bit overwhelming. So I’ve decided to stick to my guns and opted for simplicity. A clean design coupled with riveting lists of experience and achievements *should* speak for themselves.

Part of the reason I’ve done this, is so I have a clear vision of what I can offer, what I know and how much that is worth to a business (and I don’t just mean financially, don’t underestimate sparkling wit and personality). If you’re thinking of returning to work, looking for a new job or perhaps starting a business, writing a CV can be a cathartic process – think AA meets NCT (but with jobs) – the first step is admitting you’ve got a problem, and remember, it’ll be worth the pain! It’s a good idea to get other people to check for errors obviously, but most importantly, writing about yourself in the third person (always a bit weird, but necessary in this context) helps you think objectively about what it is you have to offer. Which, I can guarantee will always be more than you think – age for once is a distinct advantage!

Desk reality: clearly need to buy A LOT more wine by the way

I’ve used two photos to illustrate visually what I mean about having a ‘CV reality check’. The main image is obviously not mine but an idealised, Instagram composition (credit to desk of dreams creator: Emma Highfield). The second one is the reality of my home working situation (it’s my kitchen table surrounded by crap). My point is that you need to think of a CV as you would the picture perfect desk – it’s a contrived version of reality. We recognise the same concept in the real picture, i.e. there is a table and a computer, the similarities end there sadly. So don’t stress about how to present yourself on paper – just write it down and tidy it up later.

We all have bundles of experience to offer future employers, particularly once you’re over the hump of, ahem…35 (ish). We should learn to celebrate our achievements for what they are, not compare ourselves to Instagram perfection (that gorgeous desk can bloody well piss off with all its neatness). Being a mum unofficially qualifies you as a PRINCE2 practitioner, referee, chauffeur, wine taster extraordinaire, UN diplomat (I could go on). Basically you’re awesome, even if at first glance your CV needs sprucing up.

Five podcasts you need to hear

I have confession to make, I was (up until recently) a Podcast virgin. Yes it’s true, I didn’t realise there was a whole world of aural pleasure to be had (no sniggering). Seriously though, if like me you’re often looking for ways to cut out the noise of work, children, (perhaps even partners), then look no further than my Podcast picks. It’s by no means exhaustive, and I’m sure you’ve got your own favourites (or disagree with mine). In fact, there were so many possible choices that I may well do another list soon. But for now, have a listen.

Warning: put your headphones on for number 3…

(1) Hashtag Authentic
Sara Tasker (Me and Orla) shares tips on making the most of Instagram – there are four in total so far, well worth a listen.

 

(2) Ctrl, Alt, Dlt
Emma Gannon is a blogger, author, speaker and all-round digital wiz. Check out her podcasts Ctrl, Alt, Dlt. My favourite is the one with Gillian Anderson and Jennifer Nadel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(3) My Dad Wrote A Porno

Jamie Morton reads out chapters from the books written by his Dad. Pant-wettingly funny stuff (I recommend listening to this with headphones on and a glass of wine in hand!).

 

(4) This American Life
A broadly journalistic theme runs through each weekly show, with some humour and essays. Difficult to categorise, but it’s quite addictive and definitely worth a listen.

 

(5) The Guilty Feminist
Funny stuff, in particular check out the one with Phoebe Waller-Bridge – creator and star of genius BBC Three comedy Fleabag.

The importance of being authentic

Size isn’t everything. I’m talking about audience size (of course). It’s not always a numbers game for companies wanting to market their products or services to customers. Quality can be better than quantity in terms of influence: an engaged, niche-demographic can be the best audience there is. I recently wrote an article about digital trends for 2017 and in that I mentioned the rise of the micro-influencer (usually with a following of approximately 30k).

This group of social media darlings have amassed significant followings but still retain key traits that companies (and audiences) are looking for: accessibility, authenticity and trustworthiness. Whether you are a company wanting to work with an influencer or an aspiring influencer wanting to work with a company, the most important relationship you have is with the audience you are trying to reach – forget them at your peril. You may have heard the term ‘brand ambassador’ used in this context, it refers to someone who has created an engaged following and a brand wants to reach this audience through this person, the so-called ‘ambassador’.

I’ve seen some very poorly executed examples of this kind of marketing, really cringe-worthy stuff. Just remember, the audience these influencers are courting are savvy social media users and they won’t be fooled by clumsy advertising, masquerading as real-life endorsement. As audiences become more sophisticated and discerning it’s time brands realised the importance of creating decent content with influencers, instead of simply pushing product placement.

Stop thinking about content ‘marketing’, start thinking about content ‘publishing’

I come from a background in editorial and I came into marketing later on in my career, but the values and integrity which I absorbed during my time at the Guardian hold true more than ever. Provide interesting, useful, engaging, thought-provoking content (blogs, videos, social media posts) that people genuinely want to share and the audience will follow. That audience is more likely to become a customer if they feel reassured by the way your company conducts itself online (and influencers will retain their valuable followers).

Audiences have changed: they make quick judgements and they are arbiters of their own online worlds. Google’s algorithm favours well produced content, so take time to consider how you can become the ‘go-to’ brand to get interesting, useful information. It doesn’t always have to be directly related to your business either. The new freelance business I’m working on will have this ethos at its core. Give people something of use and they will happily share it. Have confidence in your business offering and customers will follow.

Key digital trends for 2017

Ever feel like you can’t keep pace with the digital scene? You’re not alone. Even for someone like me (who works in the industry) it’s a constantly shifting landscape and I try my best to keep my skills current (attending courses, meet-ups and networking). But it can feel a bit alienating when you attend a conference and one of the speakers is 24-year-old Steven Bartlett, CEO of a global agency Social Chain (I felt a bit like Mrs O from Acorn Antiques in comparison). OK, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but the point is if I felt like that, then how bewildering must that be for others trying to get to grips with the digital scene.

 

Steven was speaking at an amazing conference I attended today called Digital Gaggle. It’s a digital marketing conference today run by Noisy Little Monkey – a search and social media marketing agency in Bristol. I’m always looking for opportunities to enhance my digital knowledge and get to know people in Bristol and it was a great opportunity to do both. I’m currently trying to get my head around all the different data analytics tools available to measure web and social media traffic and engagement. It’s not my natural playground if I’m totally honest, but I’m determined to enhance my knowledge and feel confident discussing it.

I had a great chat with a delegate about the way marketing has changed so fundamentally. In the old days before digital marketing it was much harder to measure success in a tangible way: for example you could never prove how many people read a press ad and then went on to buy that product as a result. With the advent of digital analytics you can pinpoint the exact route that customer took to the point of purchase. The ability to prove this precisely and quantitatively has split marketing into the ‘analysts’ and the ‘creatives’ – if you can manage to straddle both then I bow down to you.

The speakers at the conference today were full of inspirational stories and happy to share their inside track on different aspects of the industry. I’ve outlined below the key points I took from today which I thought it might be useful to share for anyone with an online presence.

KEY DIGITAL TRENDS TO WATCH OUT FOR IN 2017

LIVE VIDEO
Already gathering popularity on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook – streaming will become ubiquitous across platforms. Get ready to watch a lot of crap on Facebook as people accidentally click ‘live’…

THE ‘STORY’
The ephemeral video feature which began life on Snapchat (copied by Instagram) will dominate and move onto other platforms. I’m a big fan of this and the fact it disappears after 24 hours means any mistakes will die too!

RISE OF THE MICRO-INFLUENCER
The celebrity status of the mainstream influencers such as Zoella and Deliciously Ella etc) has created a gap in the market for the micro-influencer (20-30k followers). It’s a numbers game – if you have over 500k+ followers you simply can’t engage with them all and brands want access to engaged audiences. Micro-influencers offer brands this access with niche, hyper-engaged audiences (and they are a lot cheaper). As Holly from Noisy Little Monkey, says: “size isn’t everything”.

SOCIAL LISTENING
Attention spans aren’t dwindling: they are in perpetual motion, according to Steven Bartlett from Social Chain. We are all simultaneously consuming multiple media platforms: watching TV, scrolling through Instagram, checking Twitter, surfing Facebook, browsing shopping sites. Brands are increasingly using sophisticated social listening software to track what you are talking about, searching for and following online (it’s all a bit Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror if you ask me!).

MESSAGING APPS & BOTS
Ever thought of WhatsApp as a social media platform? No, me neither until today. But apparently in the Far East private messaging apps are the dominant players and big brands are getting in on the action. This success is being replicated elsewhere in the world and it’s coming our way, with the use of artificial intelligence bots.

My final thought however is not about technology trends, but something I hold closer to my heart. It was a message from the final speaker of the conference Lisa Myers of Verve Search: if you want to succeed in the digital world then you need to show passion, grit and hustle. Think what can do you for the person sitting next to you, and help elevate them. Well, I may not be literally sitting next to you, but hopefully my blog post will help ‘elevate’ your digital knowledge and awareness. That’s what I love about the digital scene – it’s all about collaboration and democratising information. I may never get to grips fully with Google Analytics (or be a creative geek) but maybe there’s enough room for everyone to stand out in their own way.