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How to Dress Your Content for Success

“Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak”  – Rachel Zoe

If you know me, you know I am not a fashionista. But just because I do not have a closet full of the finest clothes and shoes does not mean I don’t understand that how a person shows up will dictate how they are perceived. My fashion style is more aligned with my personality: relaxed and casual. The rope sandals that I buy from Bonnaroo each year are much more representative of who I am than any high heels.

173HThe way we dress will affect the expectations that people have. Wouldn’t it be weird if I were in my jeans, t-shirt, and rope shoes but extra serious and all business? Or if I was wearing an expensive suit and Prada heels but was completely relaxed and careless? 

The same is true for your online content. The first thing a person sees when they come to your site is the style you present. This includes the colors, the layout, the size and type of font, the number and type of images, and the number and type of advertisements and call-to-actions.

I may see an enticing headline but once I click on it if the actual site is not appealing I rarely stick around to read the content that drew me there. Even if the site is appealing, if the content is not laid out in a format that’s enjoyable to read, I move on. I am sure you do the same thing. Here are my 3 tips for creating content that represents who you are and appeal to the audience you want to attract.

You Do You

Your content marketing should differentiate you from everyone else. Let’s get real: Whatever you are writing about, there are thousands of others writing about the same thing. And if you think you’ve found a topic that no one is writing about, then that begs the question if anyone is looking for such content.

Your content should represent the story you have to share with the world. A good story is authentic, creative, makes an emotional and personal connection, inspires actions and takes an audience on a journey with the brand.

Although there are various design best practices and trends that you should follow, ultimately when you look at your site you should be confident that it represents you in the way you want to show up to the world and it communicates the expectations you want to set for your audience.

If your site was a person at a networking event, what would it be like? If you have a site that presents a reader with lots of pop-ups and advertisements as soon as they land on a page, then your site is like that annoying sales person who goes around shoving their business card in everyone’s hand. If the font on your site is extra small and condensed with lots of words, then your site is that person who stands in the corner like a wallflower but if you start a conversation with him he will talk nonstop.

Think about who you are and how you want the world to see you and then allow your content and its style represent that.

What Are You Trying To Accomplish?

Why are you dedicating time and resources to publishing content?

Are you trying to build a brand identity? If so, the total focus of your content is to align your brand–whether it is a company name, a stage name, or your birth name,–with what you want to be known for. Be consistent, be unique, and be engaging. Draw people in by connecting with them on an emotional level. Create content that aligns with what you and your ideal audience have in common. Make sure your site is dressed up the way you would show up.

Are you trying to find sales leads? Then your content should show your expertise and help your audience think through how to solve problems. Run a keyword search to see what questions people are looking for answers to and answer those questions but also provide a personal insight or unique idea. Perhaps present a boring answer in a fun and creative format. Whatever you do, do not be a salesperson. No one wants to be sold to. Don’t dress your content up with pop-up ads or lots of call-to-actions that demand their information. Instead, be a valuable resource that people are willing and wanting to do business with.

Are you trying to get people involved? Maybe you are trying to get people to advocate an idea or event or share their own opinions or insights. If this is the case then you need to write content that is conversational and includes your audience. Hit the points that are the emotional triggers for them and then allow them to include their own thoughts. Curate your audience’s information and talking points. Give your audience something to do. Perhaps you can choose an audience member to take over a social media account. The biggest difference between how you dress this kind of content is that people should recognize your site is a place of community collaboration.

Dress Appropriately For the Occasion

When using social media channels to publish content or promote your blog content, keep in mind that consumers go to Facebook and Linkedin with different goals and mindsets. Facebook provides a fun and entertaining diversion. It is a place where people go to see pictures from their friends and celebrate life’s little moments or to debate the latest political controversy.  When you are on Facebook be engaging, be fun, and keep it light.

LinkedIn, on the other hand, is where people turn for career advancement. Content that helps users build skills for their current job, find vendors to solve business problems, or get another job would be well-received there.

Each platform has its own community rules and culture. Be sure how you show up does not make you stand out in a bad way.

Finally, do not try to be everything to everyone. Each person and brand has its own unique style and each person has their own taste. Your goal should be to attract an audience that shares your style and taste which is the foundation of a solid, long-term relationship.

Need marketing help? Let’s talk.

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Everything I Know About Economics is Outdated

I have been working in digital marketing for over a decade. Changes in my industry happen so fast that I have to spend at least 30% of my time, each week, just to keep up. Some industries are not changing as fast but they are still changing faster than ever before in history. Technology is disrupting everything we ever thought we knew, and that includes our economic system.

Read my thoughts on 3 Reasons We Need a New Economic System


The Negotiation Game

Some people believe that the price you quote is the opening bid. They believe they are in a game and to win the game they have to get a price that is below the value. It has been suggested that to be a player in this game you have to set your opening bid much higher than your value so that the other player feels like they won the game once you have reduced your price to be equal to the value that you have to offer.

Do you like playing this game? I don’t. In my article, Should You Negotiate Your Price/Value? I suggest a few new rules to apply as a way to avoid this antiquated idea of business.


Interactive Content Enables Visitors to Experience Your City Like a Local

Destinations all around the world invest millions of dollars in attracting visitors each year. You see commercials with celebrities inviting you to California, or families enjoying the 5783999789_9d06e5d7df_zbeaches of Florida while most of the country is waiting for the next winter storm. Attracting conventions and visitors to your city means more economic growth, not just in tax revenue, but in increased revenue for local businesses including hotels, restaurants, attractions, and so forth. 

Over the years, as more people spend the majority of their time with digital media and travel planners have begun to conduct all of their research online, destination marketers have moved their marketing messages to optimized websites, blogs, and social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. But is simply moving your content from one media platform to another the best approach? Of course not.

When new platforms are introduced, marketers need to be quick to seize new opportunities. Consider when radio, once the major media platform, was usurped by televisions in people’s homes. Did communicators simply switch their message from one platform to the next without looking at the new opportunities that they could explore in the new medium? No.

Now that people are carrying around the entire interactive world wide web in their pocket, marketers need to rethink not just how they will communicate but what they can communicate and how their communication can impact the experience of their audience. Based on Google’s recent algorithm updates, we also know that the more useful and timely your content, the more your content will show up in search results.

Studies show the 92% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know and 70% trust opinions posts online. Therefore, the best way to market your destination is through word of mouth. The best word of mouth comes from people who have had an amazing experience. The best way to help your visitors have an amazing experience is to empower them to feel at home in your home – to be able to experience your city like a local. Here are 4 ways to refocus your content from marketing to attract visitors to empowering your visitors.

Local Guides

I can guarantee that you have people in your city who are quite knowledgeable about the best places to visit and they love to share their in-depth knowledge with friends and strangers alike. In The Tipping Point, journalist Malcolm Gladwell referred to such people as “Mavens.”

What makes leveraging the content of such Mavens so powerful in your marketing mix is that your audience will recognize the passion they have when sharing information and the authenticity of their advice. Their words are based on beliefs and experiences as opposed to a marketing message that is trying to sell something.

Many of these Mavens have already leveraged digital media sites to share their stories and have already built a significant audience. By working with your local Mavens not only do you get to share great their stories with your audience but you also get to tap into their audience.

Insider Insights

What is common knowledge to locals is often completely foreign to visitors? On my first visit to NYC, I did not understand that “No Standing” signs were no parking signs and I spend my first night in the city getting my car out of the impound. This is not a good experience. I am a local in Atlanta and fortunately know when to ignore my GPS when it tries to get me to turn down a one-way street, an unfortunate GPS glitch that will get locals in some serious trouble. On a recent visit to New Orleans my son spent 5X surge rate on an Uber because he did not know how to catch a taxi or navigate through the transit system.

By creating an arsenal of insider insight guides that can be linked to within relevant content on your site, share within a library, and promote on social networks, you can empower your visitors to become “mini citizens” of your city for a few days or weeks. 

Breaking News

Visitors need to know breaking news happening in the city that is specifically related to their experience. The local news that is covering who was murdered and what store was robbed is not where your visitors need to be tuning in. Instead, they need a news outlet that tells them the weather information and what some alternate plans that they can make if the weather has interrupted their day. They need to know what shows are playing or games that are going on where they can still get tickets. They need to know what streets or highways to avoid during certain hours and alternative ways to get around the city.

When you switch your marketing from just trying to showcase all that your city has to offer to providing insights on how to experience your city, not only does your marketing become more useful, but it will develop into a rich story about the many characters that make your city great.

Need help getting started empowering your visitors with these tips? Contact me.

Who Should You Vote For?


I am not going to tell you which candidate to vote for. That is each person’s decision. But considering that many people have expressed that they are not thrilled with our choices this election, I am going to talk about my process and how I decide who to vote for.

First, you should vote. You have an opinion and you have a voice in the process and whether or not I agree with your opinion I do believe that your voice should be heard.

But who to vote for.

Don’t go by who you like as a person. The most evil people the world has ever seen have been the most charismatic people. You have to look beyond charisma. Also, you have to look beyond the words the people are saying because there is a big machine behind each candidate that helps each one learn exactly what their followers want to hear.

You have to try to understand the candidate’s motives and look at their record to decide who each candidate is. Once you do that you will see that none of the candidates are perfect and exactly in line with your thoughts and opinions.

So you have to decide which issues are most important to you and why and which candidates align with those issues. But the why is so important. I mean you really need to line up all the issues and prioritize them and understand the impact on your life. You may be against abortion, but does the abortion issue affect your personal life more than the economy? More than gun laws? More than your privacy rights? Are you willing to vote on an issue that impacts other people’s lives while ignoring issues that can destroy your own life?

Here is my biggest issue. I do not want the government telling people how to live their lives but I do want the government to protect the citizens from the greed of corporations. The greed that leads to poisoned drinking water or unethical business practices. I want laws that protect people from harming other people – and from what I understand, corporations are people too. But I do not want laws that tell individuals what they can and cannot do with their lives. I want a government that provides an opportunity for all people. A government that is forward thinking and knows how to prepare us for the future. There is no perfect candidate for me, but there are candidates that are way off the mark. So I vote. I have been lucky enough to vote for a candidate that was aligned with my priorities and I have been and probably will be in a position to vote for the person the least far away from where I stand. But I vote.

Does a strict brand voice have a place in online conversations?

What does social media mean to you? That is an important question to ask every stakeholder involved prior to launching a social media initiative. This question not only needs to be asked, it needs to be discussed in-depth, debated, and documented.

There are people who believe that social media is an extension of marketing communications, others who believe it can generate sales, some who see it as a way to provide exceptional customer service and those who see it as a necessity for reputation management.

I, personally, am in the “all of the above” camp. Social Media enables conversations with and about brands. These conversations can be started by the brand, but only if the brand becomes part of a community. Ultimately the conversations will be driven by the community based on what community members are looking for. This could be product information, customer service, exclusive information, or up-to-date news.

Many emerging and/or larger brands have worked hard to build their brand image, an image that connects with the target audience profile. Style Guides have been created that dictate images that should be used to represent the brand as well as the words and sentence structures that are used when discussing the brand. This works well for marketing and advertising campaigns where there are copywriters and designers that create controlled images and experiences. But how does a style guide work within online conversations?

The answer is it provides your social media manager with insights of what to listen for and what conversations are most relevant to get involved with. But it cannot dictate what to say if the brand is seeking an authentic and timely voice.

I am seeing a lot of brands trying to force their controlled brand experiences within social media channels and the results are mixed. It seems if the brand is already established and has a significant amount of loyal fans, then people will comment, like, and share the creative copy-written messages. Below is an example of such a great copy-written tweet from Coca-Cola:

drip-934949_640“When you open a coke, 12,607 bubbles are born. Happy birthday bubbles!”

But is that a community-driven conversation starter? No. Is it an effective brand builder, especially as it is re-tweeted by the millions of followers of Coca-Cola? Absolutely!

This effort works for Coca-Cola, which has decades of expert brand building efforts behind them. Coca-Cola did not have to start the online conversation, they had to join it. By the time social media even hit Coca-Cola’s radar there were already thousands of conversations happening about them each day.

But can emerging brands or even large brands who do not have thousands of mentions within online conversations happening each day create a community with only an authorized brand voice, or will they need to empower selected ambassadors to use their real and diverse voices?

Does a strict brand voice have a place in online conversations? I say yes; 40% of the time when social media is used to distribute news or create unique and creative brand impressions, a strict brand voice should be adhered to. For the 60% of the efforts needed to create an online community, such as providing exceptional customer service, offering solutions, requesting fans to share their stories or celebrating the successes and stories of their fans, brand guidelines should be followed only to the extent of how the brand is represented whereas not to prevent brand ambassadors from speaking personally as a means to connect with people as people.

I have witnessed many brands trying too hard to control their message and use only approved copy-written words within social media channels. Typically the community growth and engagement remains stagnant, the return on engagement is very low and the value of social media gets lost in translation.

Why Your Social Media Strategy Is Not Working

You are on all the right social channels. You are posting content consistently. But you are just not getting much value from your social media efforts. Here might be a few reasons why.

You Are Looking for More Responses

Is that really so bad? Should you be looking at that metric?9011116378_32e56983e3_c

I know, I know. This goes against everything you have ever read about social media as a conversation. We write about the value of conversation all the time. But think about it, all statistics show that more than 90% of your audience consumes content and less than 10% will contribute. This is like having a conversation with someone who listens but simply refuses to respond…not much of a conversation, huh? But the content is what is keeping them around, they are learning and thinking and will respond in their own way. Keep working on getting responses, but there are many other valuable stats to look at too.

You’re  Not Getting to the Right People

About a decade ago when I started consulting on social media that #1 concern was reputation management. “What will they say about us?” Most organizations have come to realize that Pandora’s box has been opened and people have the ability to say anything they want to say. That makes for a very noisy web. The response I have seen is that more and more organizations are responding by simply adding to the noise. FAIL

The key to an effective social media program is to get the right message to the right people at the right time through the right channel. This is nothing new in the world of communications. What is new is that people have many channels to choose from. Not long ago the choices were print, a few channels on TV and a few channels on radio. Now the choices are unlimited from blogs to text to social networking sites to video sharing sites. Our job is to make sure that our audience can get the message the way they want through the channel they choose to get it from. This is what we refer to as optimizing your communications for social media.

 Social Media is Another Thing You Have To Do

If you are stressed about how much time social media takes, you are doing it ALL wrong. The speed you are able to get personalized articles delivered as opposed to searching through pages and pages of “old media” is truly astounding. You can schedule several posts, repurpose content for different channels and be alerted when your attention is needed.  You should be using technology to save time. Not as an add-on while you keep doing things the old ways.

An effective social media program is about personalized channels and strategic data flow of relevant content. This creates value. Add in the ability for your audience to post their questions, insights, and reviews, what you get is conversation and community. The impact is enhanced business intelligence, more effective R&D, more successful marketing programs and increased customer satisfaction. If these are not the results your social media program is delivering, it is not working!

Are You Really That Busy?

I have a few friends and peers who always seem to be busy and stressed and not nearly as productive as they would like. After a bit of probing I have uncovered they just feel busy, they really aren’t as busy as they think and that is why they are not as productive as they would like to be.

In my article, 10 Reasons You Think You are Busier than You Are, I highlight some of the main habits that keep people in the busy mindset.

Startup Stock Photos

The Difference Between Social Media Marketing and Online Communities

As more and more brands embrace social media as an extension to marketing, advertising, pr or customer service efforts, the line between social media marketing and the essence of online communities continues to blur. However, it is important that these efforts not get mixed up otherwise the purpose and benefits of each effort will get diluted and the tactics and measures of success will become a confusing mess.

Social Media Marketing can be measured by the number of impressions, the reach of the conversation, as well as the number of transactions. Social Media Marketing can have very specific and measurable goals such as increased share of voice, improve brand reputation and/or awareness, or direct sales.

photodune-3447460-community-xsOnline communities are much more nebulous. Communities, in general, are a very ancient creation. Communities of people gathered together for interdependent reasons. Therefore, a community is about the experience of belonging.

There are many benefits for a brand to develop a community, including the ability to scale. If you bring together people with passion and expertise then every person in the community gains tremendously for the small efforts of many. Think of Wikipedia.

Oftentimes efforts to building online communities involve bringing together more people with questions than answers. This makes sense when you are trying to find people with a need that you can fill. That is called selling. People do not become part of a community as a means to be sold to.

If we think of communities like we think of our neighborhoods, then what we are seeking are people with common interests, people we like to invite to our house, people with expertise such as…I don’t know…plumbing. Most importantly we are looking for people we trust.

So how do we build online communities? We set out to bring together people with a passion and expertise to share, we give them tools that help them get to know each other and we highlight ideas and insights of the members.

Building an online community takes a lot of work. Hospitality must be top of mind. Think of hospitality as the welcoming of strangers and offering “gifts” with no expectation in return thus creating an environment of trust and safety.

As your community grows it is tempting to think it centers around you or your brand. It doesn’t. It is important that community members always know that they are appreciated and are often reminded why they are there – what is the benefit to them.

So, should your social media efforts focus on marketing, advertising, pr, customer service or community building? That depends on your goals and resources, however, do not confuse community building with marketing or you may find that you create a road map that does not lead you to your goals.

Defining Online Community

I have noticed the word community is being tossed around inappropriately lately. It seems many people are trying to make online community analogous to social media. Perhaps the holiday season is a good time to explain the difference.

You know how you walk down the street in your neighborhood? Hopefully, you live in a neighborhood where you see your neighbors on the front porch or in the front yard. If not, think of a show, like Sesame Street, where people run into their neighbors every time they walk out of their door. That may feel like a community, but it’s not. It is a group of people in similar proximity who have the ability to socialize. That is social media in the real world.

Social media is a set of technical tools that enable people to express themselves, “house” their personalities, and socialize with each other.

photodune-348156-friends-xsNow, raise your hand if you were invited to a holiday party, game night, or to help a friend move over the weekend. If you raised your hand then you were invited to be part of a community; People who get together to enjoy each other’s company, share ideas and help each other out. Online this is most similar to communities that have existed for years, inhabited by the members who share information, ideas, and solutions to problems.

Today there are many other wonderful online communities of people who share information about their hobbies, interests, and struggles. Within these communities, each person knows and supports each other and more often than not there is no real defined leader or sponsor within the group.

Most of the time online communities such as these are spontaneous, people who are searching for connections find each other, but it is possible for a brand to “orchestrate” such a place. To do so a brand might want to think of themselves as an HOA where they meet and listen to the community members, set the rules for the community, and find ways to connect and support each member within the community. This definitely takes time and commitment, beyond just creating content that is generated and pushed through social tools such as Facebook and Twitter.

To reiterate, social media is for people you say hi to as you pass them by, a community is for staying connected to and supporting the people you care about. So the next time someone refers to their online community ask them questions about what they know about the people they supposedly care about.