How to Make Facebook’s 2018 Algorithm Change Work for your Business

As you may already be aware, on January 11, 2018, Facebook announced a major change to its News Feed algorithm that will profoundly impact brands’ ability to reach people on Facebook through organic distribution. The change prioritizes interactions between friends and family over company-generated posts, meaning that content consumed directly from business pages on Facebook will shrink and content that is shared & talked about between friends will grow.

In particular, posts that generate “interactions” such as comments and shares will be weighted more heavily than a post that generates just likes or reactions. In addition, posts with longer comments will be weighted more heavily than those with short ones.

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“Interactions” is the new “Engagement”

Many news organizations and blogs are decrying the move, using terms such as “apocalyptic”, “betrayal” and “nail in the coffin”. We here at Reshift Media are not quite as pessimistic as others about the changes. We believe that the reduction (or even the possible elimination) of the “engagement bait” posts that have been dominating Facebook’s News Feed for far too long is a major opportunity for high-quality organizations with strong customer engagement strategies to finally stand out from the crowd.

Declining organic reach is nothing new. Facebook has been decreasing the amount of organic reach brands are able to achieve for some time – from 50% to 20% to 10% to 5% and most recently down to around 2.5%, on average. Smart brands and agencies that have already been pursuing engagement strategies and building solid content to adjust for this declining reach should see less impact than brands whose Facebook content gets little shares or comments.

The changes to the News Feed are happening quickly, so we recommend brands and agencies adjust their Facebook strategies as soon as possible to minimize the impact to their reach. We have several recommendations that brands can pursue to not only survive, but potentially thrive, on Facebook going forward.

How Facebook’s News Feed is Changing

Facebook announced last week that they are updating the News Feed algorithm to prioritize posts that create conversations and interactions between people. In their definition, these are posts that people share and react to, and that “inspire back-and-forth discussion” in the comments.

“We’re making a major change to how we build Facebook. I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.”

– Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Facebook

Mr. Zuckerberg also stated that people browsing Facebook will see more content from friends and family and less from brands and publishers. In addition, posts that generate comments, shares, and messages will be prioritized more than posts that only generate likes. Not only that, but Facebook has also stated that posts with longer comments will be weighted more heavily than those with short ones, as longer comments indicate a greater level of engagement with the content.

“As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media.”

– Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Facebook

Of particular note is that Facebook has explicitly said that pre-recorded videos, no matter how entertaining or informative they are, will be de-prioritized in the feed as watching video tends to be a more “passive” exercise that typically does not inspire much conversation. This is a major reversal for Facebook, as video has gained incredible prominence in the News Feed in recent years and has been an effective way for brands to organically generate reach and engagement.

“There will be less video. Video is an important part of the ecosystem. It’s been consistently growing. But it’s more passive in nature. There’s less conversation on videos, particularly public videos.”

– Adam Mosseri, Head of News Feed, Facebook

However, Facebook has specifically called out live video as a continuing opportunity, citing that live videos tend to generate six times as many interactions as regular videos, which is the type of person-to-person interaction they are looking for in the updated News Feed.

A bit of a surprise to some people was that both Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook vice president Adam Mosseri have mentioned Facebook Groups as a growing opportunity for person-to-person interactions. In fact, Mr. Zuckerberg specifically mentioned Groups alongside friends and family as an area of content people can expect to see more of in their News Feed. This is something that has been in the works for some time, as Facebook has been recently increasing their focus on Groups and implementing several improvements. The company held its first ever “Communities Summit” in June 2017 where they announced a number of new features for Group admins to support their communities on Facebook, which looks to have been a precursor to this latest New Feed update. They also announced Groups for Business pages, allowing brands to create their own distinct communities and feeds.

“You can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups.”

– Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Facebook

The timing of the update has not been specifically outlined, but Facebook has indicated that the philosophy of encouraging “social interactions” more than “popularity” will be rolled out across all of their products over several months. The News Feed is the first area that will see these changes, which are expected to be rolled out very quickly.

Why Facebook is Changing the News Feed

Although many people have speculated that these changes are being made in response to the issues Facebook has faced regarding “fake news,” the company is has indicated that the update is not aimed at their ongoing efforts to address this concern.

“It’s not about addressing false news or other forms of problematic content, though that is a continued area of focus and investment for us.”

– Adam Mosseri, Head of News Feed, Facebook

Instead, Facebook says that the motivation for the changes is to improve people’s happiness and well-being. Instead of simply spending time on Facebook, the company says that it wants the time to be “well spent”. To support this position, Facebook has cited studies conducted by academics and by the company itself which differentiate “bad” effects of social media when it is being passively consumed versus more “positive” effects when the person is actively engaged.

Here’s a brief summary of the rationale (as provided by Facebook in a December 15, 2017 post):

The bad: In general, when people spend a lot of time passively consuming information — reading but not interacting with people — they report feeling worse afterward. In one experiment, University of Michigan students randomly assigned to read Facebook for 10 minutes were in a worse mood at the end of the day than students assigned to post or talk to friends on Facebook. A study from UC San Diego and Yale found that people who clicked on about four times as many links as the average person, or who liked twice as many posts, reported worse mental health than average in a survey. Though the causes aren’t clear, researchers hypothesize that reading about others online might lead to negative social comparison — and perhaps even more so than offline, since people’s posts are often more curated and flattering. Another theory is that the internet takes people away from social engagement in person.

The good: On the other hand, actively interacting with people — especially sharing messages, posts and comments with close friends and reminiscing about past interactions — is linked to improvements in well-being. This ability to connect with relatives, classmates, and colleagues is what drew many of us to Facebook in the first place, and it’s no surprise that staying in touch with these friends and loved ones brings us joy and strengthens our sense of community.

A study we conducted with Robert Kraut at Carnegie Mellon University found that people who sent or received more messages, comments and Timeline posts reported improvements in social support, depression, and loneliness. The positive effects were even stronger when people talked with their close friends online. Simply broadcasting status updates wasn’t enough; people had to interact one-on-one with others in their network. Other peer-reviewed longitudinal research and experiments have found similar positive benefits between well-being and active engagement on Facebook.

Others have speculated that the update is designed to force brands to buy more advertising to reach their desired audience – essentially ending the “free ride” brands have enjoyed since Facebook’s inception. While we can’t say if this is indeed one of the motivations driving the update, there is little doubt that the change will result in brands spending more ad dollars on Facebook to reach their current and prospective customers.

Facebook has publicly stated that they believe the update may actually decrease the amount of time people spend on their platform, but that ultimately people will be happier with their overall experience. If the amount of time people spend does in fact decrease, this will likely contribute to the inflation of advertising costs, as there will be more brands attempting to buy ads in an environment of shrinking inventory.

“I want to be clear: by making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down. But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable. And if we do the right thing, I believe that will be good for our community and our business over the long term too.”

– Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Facebook

This blog post is the first of a 4-part series. Read what’s next:


Jen McDonnell

VP of Content and Social Media. Jen has worked in online journalism for a decade, most recently as the Managing Editor and Director of Dose.ca

Post first seen on Reshift Media. Click here for the original post.

5 Tips to Get The Most Out Of Your Chamber Membership in the New Year!

A chamber of commerce membership is oh-so-much more than just an “I’m a proud member!” sticker to put on the front door of your business. Member benefits like website listings, participation in exclusive promotions, invites to chamber events, and more put you at the forefront of the community when you’re a member of The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce.

But Chamber membership is a two-way street. While there are certain benefits you’ll receive year after year with your membership — interactive listings on our website, printed listing in The Chamber directory, invites to events, etc. — there is certainly a way to get more bang for your buck no matter what investment level you come in at. Let us highlight a few ways to get the most out of your membership.

1.) Attend Chamber Events

This one is a pretty obvious membership benefit that often goes overlooked by many. While we understand that you won’t be able to attend EVERYTHING with the dozens of networking events, workshops, and lunches we hold throughout the year, it doesn’t hurt to show up to an event once or twice if your schedule allows. This is a great way to get your name out there and to meet other business professionals in our community. Chamber events aren’t open to business owners or management only – staffers, please come!

2.) Interact with us on Social Media

Want to know a great way to get a conversation rolling online? Tag us in your posts! We’re active on TwitterFacebookLinkedIn, and Instagram to name a few. Chances are if you tag us in a photo or post, we’ll give you some social media lovin’ back. That means more interaction for your profile, and for The Chamber. Win-win!

3.) Post on our Website

With your Chamber membership comes exclusive access to sarasotachamber.com for you to post events, coupons, job postings and more. Use this access – you pay for it! The Chamber fields dozens of phone calls and email traffic every week with people looking for events, jobs, and deals. We can’t offer your awesome information if we don’t have it!

4.) Submit Your News

This one goes hand-in-hand with what was previously mentioned. When you have some newsworthy information to share, send it our way in the Press Release Tool located on the website! We’re always looking to brag about the amazing things our members are doing. Whether your business recently completed a remodeling project, your staff headed out to the community for a volunteer day, your business won an award, or you have other great news to share — we want to know about it so we can share your news on our social media pages, add to the news section of our website, and send member news out in our email newsletters.

5.) Reach Out

Is there an area of your business that could really use some help? Maybe you’re looking for some creative marketing ideas or want to form partnerships with other business professionals in town. Whatever it may be, always be sure to reach out to us here at The Chamber to see if we can help make some connections. If we don’t have immediate answers, just give us some time to think about things and point you in the right direction.

If there are any membership benefits that you have questions about or think that you might be under-utilizing, give us a call or set up a meeting! We want to make sure that you’re getting the most out of your investment. Utilizing your membership benefits makes your business, our organization, and our community stronger.


If you have any questions about getting the most out of your membership, we want to hear from you! Please feel free to call Craig McGonigal, our Membership Engagement Manager at The Chamber at 941-556-4034 or shoot him an email at cmgonigal@sarasotachamber.com.

Member Tip Monday: How to Create a Successful Social Media Marketing Strategy for Your Business

Social media can be a nice distraction and a considerable time suck. But if you’re doing it for your business, you need it to be much more. So how do you make sure that you’re using your time there efficiently?

This article offers you the steps you need to create a solid social media marketing strategy for actionable items.

1. Know Why You’re There

Before any campaign, whether it’s marketing, social media, or even a military campaign, it’s important to know why you’re there. What are you trying to accomplish? The answer to this will help you create the tactics that will get you there. You can’t forge a path without some idea of where you’re going.

Action item: Create 1-2 SMART goals around what you’d like to accomplish with social media for your business.

2. Understand Who You’re Trying to Reach

Marketing messaging is very personalized these days. But it’s impossible to personalize your messaging without knowing your target audience. You don’t need the world to love you. You just need to focus on those who would have a need for your product or service. And to do that, you must know who they are.

Action item: Create buyer personas so you know who you’re talking to.

3. Do Research on Your Demographic

Now that you know who they are, find out where your customers are on social media. If you’re fortunate enough to have an email list, you might be able to use emails to locate where they are online but if you don’t, take what you know about your buyer personas and match them to the demographics for each social media site.

You have a limited amount of time in your day so don’t try to be everywhere on social. You’ll likely spread yourself too thin. Instead, concentrate your efforts on where your customers and potential customers are.

Action item: Find out where your ideal customers are on social media by doing research on demographics on the most popular social media sites.

4. Create Tactics That Move You Towards Your Goals

Having goals isn’t enough in social media. Let me show you why. Let’s say your goal is to increase blog shares by 50% by the end of October 2017. That’s a nice measurable goal. It has a deadline and a number assigned to it. You can easily figure out how you would assess whether you were successful or not.

But how in the world are you going to do it?

Tactics move you towards that goal. Perhaps you will:

  • Post more frequently changing from once a week to every day.
  • Share your content to a newly-formed LinkedIn group.
  • Ask for the shares.
  • Approach 5 industry influencers every Tuesday.
  • Start accepting guest blog posts and asking them to share their posts with their network.

There are many ways to get there. You just need to choose a few and get to work.

Action item: Review your goals and map out tactics of how you will get there. Assign them dates, times, and ownership. If no one owns them, they won’t get done.

5. Implement and Analyze

After you have a social media plan constructed from your goal(s) and tactics targeted at your ideal customer, it’s time to take your business’ current pulse and begin tracking your work and its effectiveness towards meeting your goals. Social media is not an exact science. It requires experimentation and adjusting your path according to what you deduce about your audience’s preferences. This type of analysis is ongoing so make sure you budget in both time and money for it.

Action item: Set up Google Analytics and create social media campaigns to be able to watch how your strategy implementation is moving you towards your business goals.

Finally, get a little help from your friends. Social media is always changing. Today’s best practices could make you look like a rookie tomorrow. It’s important to stay on top of social media and assess your strategies periodically not just to ensure they are effective at helping you reach your goals but to make sure they are still best practices in the industry.

Keeping up on all of this while managing your business isn’t easy. Turn to your friends at the chamber for social media curriculum, knowledge, or assistance that can help you stay on top of changes without the time involved in researching them on your own.


Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers, and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com and the Event Manager Blog.

She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.

Advertising Opportunities in 2018

The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce provides multiple affordable visibility opportunities for our members. Advertising through The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce is a great way to reach out to the business community and showcase your products and services. Two popular publications that many members find value in promoting their business through is the Chamber Buzz E-Newsletter and the Chamber Bridge Digital Magazine. The SarasotaChamber.com website offers banner ad space throughout the website to build your visibility.

The Chamber Buzz E-Newsletter

Published each Monday, reaches over 4,500 business people in the Greater Sarasota area on a weekly basis. The Chamber Buzz highlights Chamber news and events.

Buzz Ad Example

Chamber Buzz Ad Rates

The Chamber Bridge Magazine

Our quarterly digital publication distributed to 5,000 business professionals in the area. The Bridge highlights Chamber member benefits, photos of events and recognizes members accomplishments. View the Bridge Magazine here.

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Bridge Magazine Ad Rates

Website Advertising

The Chamber’s website receives 10,000 visits per month making it a highly visible and trafficked area for advertisers. Whether you are looking to connect with other Chamber members or visitors coming to the area this is a great way to expand your reach.

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Website Ad Rates


If you are interested or have questions regarding Chamber Advertising, please contact Brittany Lamont at blamont@sarasotachamber.com or 941-556-4040.

So, What’s Your Story?

3 Ways Storytelling Can Help Boost Your Business.

Surprisingly, though, during the many feedback sessions I led at Booth, no one asked me exactly how they could demonstrate “fit.” The answer I would have given? Successful applicants weave compelling narratives that demonstrate how their sparkling qualifications, values, and goals align with Booth’s.
That rule applies across the board: Whether you’re applying for an elite MBA program or trying to win investors and woo early adopters for your startup, it’s essential to convey that you and your audience are a perfect match. After all, as entrepreneurs, we’re all in a perpetual “competitive admissions” game. Hardly a day goes by that we aren’t trying to persuade others to join us in some effort. That means that we have to prove our “fit” day after day.
storytelling
Stories create that sense of fit. Even if you have a Ph.D. or MBA from a top-tier university, even if you’ve led the most respected company in your field, even if you’ve done the most extensive market research possible, the story you have to tell is always going to be worth more than strong qualifications alone. Time and time again, the people with the most compelling stories stand out.

Stories, in short, enable you to prove your value, paving the way to accomplish your goals. How do you find those stories? Here’s how.

Storytelling connects us with what our audience needs.

Say you have a business (maybe you already do.) You love the products you’ve designed. You’re proud of the services you’ve worked so hard to offer. But, focusing on your products, your services, your company isn’t what your audience needs. If you want to persuade anyone to act on the information you give them, you have to shift perspectives.

Several years ago, I worked with a real estate investment trust hedge fund to revamp its pitch book. At the time, the fund’s leaders were having trouble raising more assets to manage. As I looked through their existing pitch book, I noticed that every slide was answering the same question: “We are SO awesome; why wouldn’t any client want to invest with us?”

Of course, that’s what most investment funds’ pitch books look like. Like most of their competitors, they were preoccupied with themselves.

So, my work with them began. And, in time,, they shifted toward anticipating prospective clients’ questions instead of focusing on themselves. Questions began to emerge for the pitch book — questions that a client would ask: “How did the fund have such stellar performance for so long?” and “Can the team continue its track record?”

The pitch book we completed used these questions to tell the firm’s story. It worked so well that the firm achieved its asset-raising goals within 18 months!

Storytelling differentiates us, giving us a competitive edge.

Unfortunately, your company’s long lists of accomplishments don’t give prospective clients a way to see how you’re different from other equally impressive startups. You need accomplishments plus an emotional incentive. When faced with many similar-sounding options, people make choices based on how they feel about a business and its leaders. So, make sure that business is yours.

A powerful Radio Lab episode, Overcome by Emotion, illustrates this. It tells the story of a hard-working accountant who developed a brain tumor. After having surgery, he lost his ability to make decisions. Why? The surgery cut him off from his “emotional mind,” making him “pathologically indecisive.” Emotions are critical to our decision-making capacity. As author Alan Weiss has noted, “Logic makes people think; emotion makes them act.”

Di Fan Liu, an onshore private banker in Beijing, is someone I know who uses storytelling to speak to his customers’ anxieties. Liu and his firm know that their potential customers struggle to pass their wealth to the next generation. So, when they pitch their services to ultra-rich Chinese entrepreneurs, they tell stories about multi-generational family businesses that have succeeded in handing down wealth.

The catch? All the stories come from countries other than China. The company then asks potential customers to think of a fellow Chinese entrepreneur who has successfully done the same. Most of Liu’s audience can’t name a single one. This is the point at which they’re ready to hear about what his company has to offer them.

Do what he did: Once you anticipate your audience members’ emotions, tell the story they need. As I discuss in my book, Let the Story Do the Work, plot strongly influences the emotions your audience feels. For instance, shaping your business’s story as a “quest” narrative can make your audience feel restless, ready to achieve more than what life currently offers.

Storytelling establishes our personal credibility.

People don’t just want to buy a product or engage a service; they want to know what the people leading the business are like. And, according to psychologist Robert Cialdini‘s research on social influence, we tend to like people we imagine as being like us. We’re more likely to form a stronger connection with them and more likely to find their ideas persuasive!

Leading a business provides countless opportunities to demonstrate that you are like your clients. After all, clients often ask us, “So . . . tell me about yourself.” We can answer this with a story that is universal enough to make clients consider how similar our experiences are to their own.

Entrepreneur Kelly Standing of Standing Media tells a story that, thankfully, has not happened to everyone. When asked to say something about herself, she describes how her father saved her life after a bully left her hanging from a tree. Standing’s “worst nightmare” scenario is one any parent (or anyone with a similar, personal story of resilience) could relate to. And, so, it resonates.

In the perpetual competitive admissions game, stories prove our “fit.” But that doesn’t mean only “born” storytellers can succeed as entrepreneurs. I firmly believe that anyone can learn the methods for telling a brilliant story, and that once you’ve learned these methods, you will reach goals you never thought possible.


Article  from Entrepreneur: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/305062

10 Tips To Get Your Press Release Picked Up

The Central West Coast Chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association (CWC-FPRA) hosted its annual Media Breakfast on November 15, 8 – 11 a.m., at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County and Dillon Buckland, the Communications Coordinator for The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, was in attendance to get tips and tricks for our members from the source itself.

media breakfast

The program began with a panel discussion featuring area broadcast media representatives, who discussed the ways local news outlets are reinventing themselves across multiple platforms, from traditional TV shows to social content, live streaming, and digital-only channels. Following the panel discussion, a series of rotating roundtables gave attendees the opportunity to speak with 8-10 media representatives from a variety of media formats, who offered their expertise and advice for story pitching and developing authentic relationships with the media.

Here’s a quick list of 10 tips to get your press release picked up by our local media:

  1. Develop a working relationship with your press contact.This way you can follow up easier and you already have a relationship so your story may be more likely to be picked up.
  2. Make your introduction emails with the press release personal to your press contact“I really enjoyed ____ story you did.” or “____ is why this is important to be shared with the community.”
  3. Put your “News Hat” on!if you were a reporter, would you find this to be news-worthy? Some things don’t need a press release and can be pushed out on social media.
  4. Do some research on the media outlets and compare what is written about with similar companies.
  5. Subject Lines should be straight-forward and direct.
  6. Your “Who, What, Where…” should be brief.Some media outlets get HUNDREDS of press releases a day so your press release shouldn’t go past a page. Chances are that no one is reading past the first or second paragraph.
  7. Your news can get picked up off social media, too! – Most rely on sending press releases as the only way to get news out but reporters and media look for stories off of social media.
  8. Follow-up phone calls work BUT use sparingly. – If you call on every one of your press releases, you may tarnish your relationship with that media contact.
  9. Media outlets like stories of a local business doing something regional or national.
  10. Include Photos & Videos!These can be a huge asset to getting your story picked up! High-Resolution Photos are a requirement. Videos are preferred landscape and only need to be 30 seconds. (Please note: If utilizing our press release tool, please include [Photos/Video available on request at youremail@email.com]).

This year’s media representatives included:

  • Brian Ries – Herald-Tribune, Digital Editor
  • Lisa O’Driscoll – funmoneymom.com, Blogger
  • Joey Panek – ABC7, Suncoast View Senior Producer
  • Jacob Ogles – SRQ Magazine, Senior Editor
  • Jacqueline Matter – ABC7, Anchor
  • Kat Hughes – Observer Media Group, Executive Editor
  • Richard Dymond – Bradenton Herald, Education Reporter
  • Megan McDonald – Sarasota Magazine, Digital Editor
  • Joey West – Bay News 9, Assignment Editor
  • Marcel Bauduin – WSRQ Radio, Programming Coordinator

 


If you have questions on crafting or sending press releases, please contact Dillon Buckland at dbuckland@sarasotachamber.com or (941) 556-4039.

Member Tip: Is Your Unique Value Proposition Doing Its Job?

Your business needs a unique value proposition (UVP) to differentiate you from your competition and to get you more customers. If you don’t have one, or you have one that’s not working, the foundation of your marketing is shaky at best.

The problem with creating a UVP begins with the name itself. It’s smothered in marketing garbage lingo. It turns people off. No potential customer will ever ask you “What’s Your Unique Value Proposition?” before making a purchase, but they will ask you what makes you different and that’s what you have to concentrate on when defining this concept for your business.

Unique-value-proposition

What Makes Your Business Different?

Most companies are quick to say what differentiates them from their competition. Usually, it’s service or quality. For the most effective UVP, it must be two things – valued by your ideal customer and hard to replicate by your competition. While most customers value good service, every one of your competitors probably believes they (too) are providing excellent customer service, so it’s not a strong differentiator in the market unless you bolster it with specifics that can’t be imitated.

How to Stand Out

Regardless of what you call it, a unique value proposition is all about standing out. If you’re lucky you do something no one else does. But in today’s crowded global markets, it’s harder to find something that no one else is doing. Instead, you need to discover, and market, how you’re doing it differently.

Explore Your Business Model

The fortunate will take one look at their business model and immediately recognize a differentiator, such as their giving 10% of proceeds to a childhood cancer charity or providing college scholarships for employees. As in these examples, you can see it’s not always your product or service that differentiates you. Sometimes it’s how you conduct your business or your company culture that stands out.

Examine the Needs of Your Ideal Customer

If you have a buyer persona or an idea of who your ideal customer is, ask yourself what that person needs? If you’re not sure, listen to what your loyal customers are saying about you in reviews or testimonials. What makes an impact in their lives? Read reviews of your competition. What are the key themes that keep surfacing?

Define the Impossible

Ideally what makes you stand out is something your competition will have difficulty duplicating. Using the themes you identified in what your ideal customer likes or values, you’ll construct a promise your business can make that would be hard for others to replicate. “The best service” is not a differentiator unless you pair it with specifics like “best same-day service” or “service with a smile or your meal is free.” Take for instance Dawn Dishwashing Soap. Marketers had a hard time finding the right niche for the product. It cleaned well but so did its competitors. Nothing seemed to work in differentiating it until they did a commercial showing how it was used in oil slicks to clean birds. Suddenly the dish detergent is known for taking “grease out of your way” was also saving the environment.

Even if your competition eventually offers the same thing you do, if you can bring it to market and become known for it first, you will have a successful differentiator.

Make Your Process Unique

Sometimes what makes your business unique is actually a flaw in other’s eyes until you define it as something intriguing or fun for your customer. For instance, Dum Dum lollipops by Spangler Candy Company produces a mystery flavor. At first glance, this appears to be a fun marketing stunt but it is really an efficient operations tactic. The mystery flavor is the combination of two flavors of lollipops. Instead of taking the time to strip the production machines between flavors and make a solid switch, the company decided to leave the machines running between flavors and thus the mystery flavor, a combination of the two. This saved huge amounts of time and resources but appeared to be a product marketing decision. Sometimes the efficiency with which you bring your product to market is your differentiator.

Differentiating yourself from your competition is essential to helping potential customers select you over other businesses in your town and across the globe. An effective difference lies in marketing something your prospective customers’ value and calling attention to something your competition can’t easily replicate (or hasn’t thought of).  If you don’t know or establish what makes you different, there’s no way for a buyer to know.


Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers, and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com and Event Manager Blog. She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.

Member Tip: SEO TIPS FOR THOSE WHO DON’T TALK GEEK

Understanding every aspect of search engine optimization (SEO) is not unlike trying to have a conversation about the mysteries of the universe with a 3-year-old. Sometimes what is being said makes no logical sense whatsoever and then you catch these rare glimpses of unbelievable genius that you think you’re hallucinating. But with SEO and with a 3-year-old, just when you think you understand how it all works, they want to play a different game.

For that reason, we’ll skip over the details of how to rank well and boil them down to this: you must create content that is found, enjoyed, and shared by your audience. This article will focus on how to understand what your audience is looking to you for.

SEO Should Never Trump the Audience

Content strategists will tell you that you must become a thought leader in your area. As simple as this sounds, it confuses a lot of business people. Your SEO strategist will ask what your keywords are for your business and extrapolate long-tail keywords from them (most use analytic software or Google to do this). They will then tell you what people are searching for from a keyword perspective.

The next logical step is to pass off those keywords to your content creator. But often this is where the disconnect occurs. One of the most common mistakes I see businesses make is confusing the keywords of the audience they serve with keywords people would use to find their business. For instance, if you are a lawyer specializing in patents for pharmaceutical companies, you need to ask yourself what people would search on to find you. Some of these terms and questions might be:

  • Patent attorney
  • Corporate patent attorney
  • Patents for pharmaceuticals
  • Patents for drugs
  • Help to obtain a drug patent
  • How can my company get a patent?

Before selecting any of these, you’d want to check out the search numbers involved on Google or some other keyword tool. What you wouldn’t want to place for was words like:

  • Pharmaceutical company
  • Big pharma
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Or any other word that would return company results.
  • Do you see the difference? It’s subtle but a common mistake.

Businesses often try to place for what their ideal customer or client does and not what they do. It’s a very fine line.

Becoming a Thought Leader (on what?)

You want to establish yourself as a thought leader in the industry you serve, not a thought leader in your ideal client’s industry. For instance, if you were a healthcare recruiter who only worked in healthcare, your content would focus on things like:

  • How you find and place the best people in healthcare
  • Why a healthcare-specific recruiter is better than a general recruiter
  • Best interview questions for a healthcare company
  • What questions to expect in an interview for a healthcare company

Since you serve two groups of people – those hiring and those wanting to get hired – you would want to create content for both. These topics are things people who would be in the market for your services probably search on. Creating content around them would set you up as an expert in the field of healthcare recruiting.

Niche marketing is very important to SEO because often the smaller the search (in terms of the number of people doing it), the cheaper the keywords. Plus narrower searches often yield better results as people are further along in the sales process or need assistance and are willing to pay for it.

What doesn’t work is creating content in your client’s niche. In this example, you are an expert in the recruiting field, not an expert in something like hospital administration. You may place people in those positions but you don’t want to place for their words. You want to place for words like healthcare recruiting and hospital jobs, not hospital administration (unless it’s hospital administration jobs).

Keywords Are Just Questions

The easiest way to think about keywords is to think about what people would type in to find you. This might be very straightforward (short-tail keywords) like “mechanic in Clearwater” or it could be more convoluted (long-tail keywords) like “what do I do when my car makes a weird sound?”

Make a list of terms people would use to search for you and what you do. Now add to that list with all the problems you solve for in the form of questions. Remember you want to appeal to your ideal audience, but you should be creating content that makes you an expert in your industry, not your client’s.

Solve Problems for Bonus SEO

While you’re creating content that sets you up as an industry thought leader, don’t forget to solve customers’ problems with your content. This is particularly successful in achieving shares. For instance, a caterer may create a how-to video on chopping veggies or meat the correct way. Don’t worry if you create content that helps your audience do some of what you do by themselves. If they see you as a good resource, they will return and at some point, need your help. When they do, they’ll seek you out.

In order to have good-ranking content, it must be found, enjoyed, and shared. Google bases a lot of its search rankings off of human interaction with your content. You can achieve good organic results by setting yourself up as a thought leader in your industry (not that of your ideal client’s), solving your client’s problems, and giving them helpful resources to meet their needs (in your area of expertise).


Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers, and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. Christina is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com and Event Manager Blog. She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.

Member Tip Monday: How Do I Improve My Organic Search Listing As A Small Business?

Search engine optimization is like weather forecasting without models and data. You open up your window and look around. You make plans and try things and look for patterns.

There are people who are happy to give you tips, and there are best practices, but ultimately it’s something that’s always evolving as algorithms are anything but constant. However, optimizing your content and site to place well is essential to minimizing your marketing spend on getting found. Here are a few tips to make your small business competitive on a local level.

Improving-organic-search

Is It Harder for Small Businesses to Place Organically?

Google’s algorithm is aimed at showcasing “valuable” sites first. Since Google is not an expert in every field it looks for indicators of a quality site. These things include:

  • Decent load times (no one wants to wait even 2 minutes for content to load)
  • mobile friendly (according to Google, 82% of smart phone users use their device to find local businesses)
  • good content (as evidenced by shares, interactions, and links)
  • good outbound links (your site is not an island. Google expects you to link out to quality websites as well)

In non-organic search, large businesses have a distinct advantage over small businesses – money. From an organic listing standpoint, that advantage dwindles. What they do have over small are exposure and notoriety. People often think first of larger businesses and may share their content more readily because it comes to mind first.

Luckily, the advantage ends there. A small business can produce content that gets recognized and shared with the same ease (or difficulty, as the case may be) as a larger company. Yes, a larger company may have a larger audience and larger staff, but creating blog content and sharing it on social media requires the same effort from both groups.

Improving Local Search

The first thing you want to concentrate on if you have a physical business location is building out your business profile on Google and other directories. Ensuring you’re listed in local search is free and doesn’t require anything more than your time.

At a minimum, claim and build out your business listing on

When you visit these directories you may find your business is already listed. Verify the details and claim it, if applicable. Be sure to fill in anything that isn’t complete, including your business hours. Information from these sites feeds local search so don’t leave fields incomplete.

Next, check out other listings such as your local chamber, YellowPages, SuperPages, and industry-specific business listings such as TripAdvisor (if you offer food, entertainment, or lodging).

Here’s where things get a little tricky. There are data aggregators that pull information about businesses and feed them to other large companies (TripAdvisor included in that). Look at your business listing. Is the information about your business correct? If not, it can be cumbersome to change. Even if you go directly to TripAdvisor for instance, they may change it on their site, but that doesn’t fix a hundred others. In this case, Moz offers a yearly service where they will push out corrected information for you to the four main aggregators of business data.

Improve and Seek Out Reviews

There have been books written on this topic on how to create a referral mindset among your customers. But simply put, you need to make sure you focus on delighting your customers and making it easy for them to tell others about you. You must also ask them to do it. There’s a lot more detail in the implementation of these ideas but that’s how you’ll improve reviews on the most basic level.

Take the time to respond to reviews, good and bad. The good ones make you shine and the bad ones give you the opportunity to improve your offerings.

Think About SEO When Creating Content

You are writing for two distinct groups – search engines and people. People need good quality content (from their perspective) that addresses issues they care about, gives them the information they need, and entertains them. The content needn’t do all three at the same time but it should do one.

From an SEO perspective, you want your content to give your audience what they want because they’ll be more likely to share if you do. You also want to do everything you can to personalize it to your industry and local audience. Have you ever read a novel that is so rich in the setting and life it describes, that you feel like you’ve been there? On the other hand, have you read something that was so flat, that you didn’t even recognize it as a place you’ve been many times?

Place can be a character and you want people reading your website content to have a sense of the place you service. You can do this by mentioning surrounding areas, local events, and using insider language in your copy. These little things help customers identify with your site and tell Google that you are a local industry authority. You’re not a bot or a keyword stuffer.

A Final Word About Placing Well in Local Search

Finally, be smart about the keywords you want to rank for. There are some that are impossible. For instance, if you’re a local travel agency, ranking for “travel” will be Herculean task mainly because the first page is dominated by heavy hitters like Travelocity, Expedia, and CNN. Instead, focus on being a big fish in a small pond. Look to optimize your content by answering questions your ideal customer wants to know (or things they’d key into search, like the title of this article). Look for local opportunities like “best travel deals to Orlando from <your town>.” It’s a mouthful, but creating copy around long-tail keywords will help you achieve better local placement for free.


Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers, and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com and the Event Manager Blog. She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.

*Post seen on Montgomery Chamber of Commerce website.

MEMBER TIP MONDAY: 4 TIPS TO MAKE YOUR BUSINESS MORE LIKEABLE

LikeablePeople buy from people they know, like, and trust. While you might be in the right place at the right time when someone is up against it, and they may buy from you once without knowing, liking, or trusting you, for them to return, you’ll need more than luck.

Know and trust generally come along when you establish yourself as a likeable business with a human behind it. It’s difficult for people to like you if they don’t trust you, unless you’re a villain and then being untrustworthy is your business. For most of us, that is not the case. You can’t like someone you don’t remember, so let’s get to work on establishing the like part of the sales equation.

Share Your Reason

Think of how filmmakers or storytellers get us to like the main character. One of the ways is that they place him on a quest, or up against a challenge, that we want him to succeed in. Often it’s one we identify with. Share your reason for doing what you do. There’s probably someone in your audience or potential audience who can identify with your convictions and story. Passion is contagious.

Find Commonalities

In order to find commonalities, you need to share things about yourself outside of your business and how it came to be. Share your likes, be positive. Share what you love about your community or your love for bacon. Be genuine and people who see your social media posts or read your content, will begin to identify with what you’re sharing. They’ll jump in and say “me too” and you’re one step closer to getting them to like you.

Ask Questions

If they’re in your store or business ask them their opinion on something and really listen to their answer. On social media ask what they think or what their preferences are. Involve them in your rebranding by crowdsourcing some of your marketing decisions. People like being involved and if you really listen to, and then act on, their advice, they’ll remember it and like you more because they see you as someone who values what they think. That’s all a lot of us are looking for.

Anticipate Your Customers’ Needs

As a business you are in a position to help, whether it’s helping someone look better, feel better, be entertained, or whatever it is you do for your customers. But you are also in a position to solve problems or answer questions. Use your content and social media to help customers with problems they face in their lives. If you run a boutique, you can create posts about unique gifts for the women in your life. If you are a CPA create helpful checklists of things people should track throughout the year for effortless taxes. Be helpful. Anticipate what your customers need and then give it to them. If they know they can count on you, they will return again and again.

In today’s competitive market place it’s hard for your product alone to set you apart. Often it’s the things behind your product that will help you make a name for yourself. It’s the service, personality, and assistance you provide. These are the things that make people like you and they are also what keeps people coming back.


Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.comand the Event Manager’s Blog.  She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.