Top 10 Takeaways from Blogtacular

I attended Blogtacular last weekend (a blogging and online conference in London). Rather than write a blog post detailing my thoughts on the event I thought it would be fun (and a good way to test out new skills) to try my hand at recording a Podcast. I used the Opinion App on my phone, so bear with the quality. I think it sounds OK and it goes to show what you can do with mobile technology these days (record, edit, overlay music and share).

Let’s get digital

Meet Claire Greville, a Digital Mums graduate who has since set up her own social media consultancy Greville Social in Bristol. Claire studied Accounting and Finance at university and had a successful career working in higher education, before making the difficult decision to take redundancy after they were unable to accommodate her flexible working request (sound familiar?). So with no idea of what she was going to do, but with a bit of time to reflect on what kind of job would suit her and her family, Claire stumbled across a Digital Mums Facebook advert, and the rest (as they say) is history.

Why did you choose Digital Mums and what was it like doing the course?

Funnily enough, I found Digital Mums through Facebook (I understand now that it was a cleverly targeted advert!). I was scrolling through my feed one afternoon in October 2015, when I spotted the details. It seemed almost too good to be true as it was exactly what I had been looking for – flexible, rewarding work which I could do from home. I immediately checked out their website and the course sounded really interesting, so I emailed for more information. I did lots of research about Digital Mums in the meantime, but I was getting more and more excited as I thought about it. I loved social media, and the prospect of being able to work for a business as part of the training was very appealing. I decided to apply, and a few weeks later, I was offered a video interview for a place on the course. I was quite nervous but I really needn’t have been. Nikki (one of the co-founders, pictured on the left below) was lovely, and before I knew it, I’d been offered a place on the Social Media Marketing: Associate Programme starting in January 2016.

Digital Mums co-founders: Nikki Cochrane and Kathryn Tyler.

The course itself was a fantastic but very intense experience. It was 20 weeks long, but run over six months, in order to accommodate some of the school holidays. The ‘live learning’ aspect was brilliant. I was paired with a business from the very first week of the course, and I was able to apply everything I learned each week straightaway, which meant that I retained all of the information I was taking in (and there was a lot!). It was also a great way to learn about managing clients and their expectations.

Every student is put into a peer group with five other mums, and my group ‘The Katherine Ryans’, was such a fantastic support. We spoke every week of the course, through Google Hangouts and WhatsApp, and I’m still in touch with them now. The course finished at the end of June and there was a scary final report to hand in, but I passed with flying colours. I took a few weeks off over the summer before starting work for a small digital agency based in London. I did that for a couple of months, but quickly realised that I would prefer to work for my own clients, so I set up my own social media consultancy, Greville Social.

I currently have three clients, all of whom I work for remotely. I still provide social media consultancy to the lovely business that I trained with: Cambridge Academic Performance. I’m just about to start running a new Facebook campaign for Green Ginger Design, a fantastic web designer based in East London. And I’m currently managing Facebook and Instagram for Eye Heroes, a small charity who are campaigning to prevent avoidable blindness in the UK. I’ve also recently been selected as a mentor for Digital Mums, working 1:1 to support another mum through the course and beyond.

My work/life balance is now exactly what I could only dream of two years ago. Gone are the ridiculously early morning starts, and the stressful commute. I now have time to walk my sons to school every day, before I settle down to work in my home office. I do most of my work during school hours, and all of my clients are happy for me to work remotely, keeping in touch with them via phone, video calls, and email. As my work is so flexible, I even have time to do a little bit of volunteering in the local area, helping out at my sons’ school, and also running a local community group’s Facebook page.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about doing a Digital Mums course?

Make sure you’re absolutely committed to doing the course. It will take over your life for six months and you need to be prepared to put the hours in every single week. It’s not something that you can do half-heartedly as you need to keep up with each week’s tasks and assignments. There isn’t time to fall behind, and the deadlines are strict.

I was fortunate that both my children were at school when I started the course so I studied during the day, but there were plenty of mums on the course with younger children. Just think about how you’ll manage to find the time to study as well as look after the kids. And don’t worry if you haven’t studied anything new for a long time – all the other mums will be equally as nervous as you are. But the support you will receive from your peers and Digital Mums both during the course and afterwards will increase your confidence ten-fold.

The support from the #DMCollective (Digital Mums graduates) continues to astound me every day, and I feel genuinely honoured to be part of such a talented and inspirational group of women. If you’re a mum looking to change your work/life balance, then I highly recommend the Digital Mums course. 

What are your top social media tips for small businesses?

  • Be selective: you don’t have to be on every platform. It’s far better to do two platforms well, than five poorly. Work out where your target audience is hanging out, and focus your time and efforts there.
  • Be consistent: establish a tone of voice and stick to it. Turn up every day – post at the same frequency, preferably at the same times, so that your followers know what to expect from you.
  • Be social: it is called social media after all! Don’t just promote yourself. Take an interest in others, join in conversations, and you’ll start to build relationships, which will pay off in the long run.

Claire is following… 

Mother Pukka: such an awesome inspiring lady who champions the Digital Mums #workthatworks movement. I love watching her Instagram stories.

Jools Oliver: is effortlessly stylish, and the sneak peeks into her life with Jamie and her five gorgeous children are fascinating.

Talented Ladies Club: I love their mixture of motivational quotes and practical advice, as well as inspirational stories about working mothers.


Claire’s work

grevillesocial.co.uk
facebook.com/grevillesocial
instagram.com/clairegreville
twitter.com/clairegreville

Getting to grips with digital

Meet Maxine Kerley, a digital marketer and owner of Digital Bon Bons, a marketing company for parent and children focused businesses.

Tell us about yourself

I am a digital geek and I can’t hide it. I’ve worked for a number of different industries over the years from a dental software company to a fashion brand and it was while I was working for this fashion brand that I really discovered and fell in love with digital marketing. I say love because I really did, it hit me hard and to have something you do for a living be a passion as well – I’m grateful for that.

I’d had experience working with parent and children focused brands in previous job roles and it was while I was on maternity leave with my daughter Ava, that I really started to get to know these type of businesses and what their challenges were. I returned to work in 2015 and then last summer created Digital Bon Bons – a marketing company helping business owners reach their target audiences of parents and children, digitally. I officially launched on New Year’s Eve 2016.

Top tips

Getting to grips with digital marketing takes time and making a business work online can take even longer. For a business owner, you want to see results for all the efforts you’re putting in. I’ve collated together some tips that can help you get started.

Get verified

You have a fantastic website and it’s live but Google doesn’t know about it and it won’t until you verify. You need to tell it that it’s there, waiting to be crawled and picked up for search results. This is done using Google Search Console, so you will need a Gmail Account to do this, but a Gmail Account is so important, especially if you want to take advantage of Google Analytics too. Once verified you will start seeing your site appear in listings.

Have a plan

To really make a success of digital marketing in your business you need to have a strategy outlining your goals. Ask yourself – “What do I actually want to achieve with my digital marketing?”. Is it website hits, e-commerce sales, thought leader? Whatever your goals, you need to have these on record. The next step is creating a plan. This will detail how you will achieve those goals, the actual methods that will be put in place across all the digital platforms you are using. This will not only help you stay focused but will save hours of time, crawling the internet for content ideas, posts, designing newsletters late into the night.

Local search

You want your business to get found when people type words into search engines – this is all down to SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and one of the big topics so far this year is about ‘local search’. If you have a local business, for example, a class or a bricks and mortar shop then you need to be thinking about local search. Using tools like Google My Business to highlight all your business information is really key. This means when someone is searching and your business is applicable, it will not only pop up in the page results but also on the right hand side with a box full of your images, website, opening times, address and reviews.

Use tools

Being your own boss is hard work and time management is an issue a lot of my clients struggle with when it comes to social media. With so many platforms and trying to reach the right customers, it can be overwhelming trying to keep up. A social media management system is a huge help in not only planning your posts and content but also for providing reporting so that you can see how well it is all going or where your challenges are. I’ve used several systems over the years so some of my recommendations are Buffer, Hootsuite, Sprout Social (ideal for larger businesses), Planoly and Later. The last two are specifically for Instagram and while they won’t automatically post for you like other systems for Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, it does prompt reminders for you. Come on Instagram, change that API and help us business owners out huh!

Digital success definitely doesn’t happen overnight, even though it may seem that way for some. It takes work and planning but it can be done and you can do it.


Maxine’s following…

Doing it for the Kids
When I launched the business I discovered Frankie’s account on Instagram and it was brilliant. For a newly launched business I felt like I was amongst friends. The community she has created around DIFK is brilliant because not only are there regular blog posts from inspirational people but you always feel you have support and you’re never alone.

A Branch of Holly
Her blog is filled with productivity tips to help keep you focused on what you want to achieve in your business. I’ve read so many of her amazing post on helping you manage your time, how to achieve better results in your blog and much more. She is truly fantastic at what she does.

Emma Gannon
I discovered Emma on Twitter first and before I knew it I found her Podcasts and I just couldn’t stop listening. She interviews truly amazing women about their journeys, their inspiration and it’s funny and light.  Her website is a fantastic hub of life online and last year she published her first book of the same name all about growing up online. So many things I identified with having grown up with Yahoo Chat and AOL, not to mention a dial up modem.


Maxine’s work…

digitalbonbons.com
instagram.com/digitalbonbons
twitter.com/digitalbonbons
facebook.com/digitalbonbons
pinterest.com/digitalbonbons

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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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.

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.