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5 As a Business, We Are What We Aspire to Be

The title of this post applies to most things in life I feel and certainly in business. Unless we have goals and aspirations for our business, it’s hard to imagine arriving at a destination of our own control.

Businesses have long espoused the virtues of mission statements, but it’s only when you live these statements through everyday acts that they become real.

My business has always been driven by a few simple ideas, but only recently did I turn them into what I call a “culture statement.” I would say these ideas represent a great deal of what I’ve always stood for, but seeing them in this fashion keeps them even more firmly rooted in my day to day actions.

The idea behind a culture statement is to come up with a set of ideas for what you stand for and then build upon them in ways that make them real in everyday situations. This not only lets team members know a bit about what we stand for it also helps us all make the right decisions when the heat of the moment may creep in and attempt to dictate how we act.

This is how culture is built, communicated and lived through decision-making that happens in real time.

We use this document in training and keep it front and center at all times. It’s our plan to discuss individual attributes during review meetings and I’m happy to share it here publicly.

If you find this document interesting you might also enjoy similar ones from Buffer, Zappos and check out the companies rated by Glassdoor to have the best cultures. After wrestling with this idea for a while a couple things became very clear:

  • A culture statement starts by reflecting who you really are – there’s no point in coming up with stuff that simply sounds good
  • A culture statement should include some aspirational elements – it’s okay to include “this is something we strive for but don’t always achieve “- that’s how we grow
  • A culture statement will evolve as you grow – add new things, take things away, consolidate and learn
  • A culture statement, like so many things in business, will flow only as it’s lived from the top – if the boss doesn’t live it, it won’t mean much
  • A culture statement must be taught, led and enforced – make time to discuss various elements of the culture statement as you teach and review actions inside the business
  • A culture statement is a team game. not an edict – everyone in the organization needs to come to their own terms with what the values mean to them and how they can best live them

20 How to Promote Every Piece of Content You Create

You’ve written a series of useful blog posts and done everything you’ve told to optimize that content for your most important keyword phrases. Now it’s time to post it to your social media profiles and sit back and enjoy the rush of traffic.

Several years ago this scenario may have been true, but today content marketing has become so competitive that you must include significant promotion as a core element of your editorial process.

Buffer Scheduler

Yes, of course, tweet your blog posts several times (I love using the Buffer Scheduler as you can add a tweet now, in 10 hours, in a day and in a week all at the same time.) Add Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ posts that highlight why someone might want to read your posts and then go to work on getting your posts in front of other people’s targeted audiences.

When we build content plans for our clients today we always include what we call an influencer program that over time can help us significantly increase the reach, traffic, engagement and leads from the content our clients produce.

Below are five steps we take in building an influencer program

Find Influencers

Step one, of course, is to find the Influencers we want to target. By Influencer, we loosely mean other content producers in our chosen industry who we believe to have a following in our ideal client pool.

There are a variety of tools you can employ to find such folks. Currently, I’m quite fond of BuzzSumo’s influence ranking tool but I also employ Topsy and Followerwonk to help validate and expand my list of potential partners. (Inkybee and BlogDash offer powerful paid plans as well.)

BuzzSumo

BuzzSumo shows me what kind of content Jim Connely – a small business influencer – shares so I can know what he reads and where he likes to get his information.

Segment Influencers by customer persona

Next we build a spreadsheet of influencers segmented by our client’s differing market segments or personas. Many businesses seek to gain influence with different levels of stakeholders. For example, a company might need to interact with the CFO and the purchasing agent, and we need to create profiles of influencers for both. This is true as well for businesses that serve significantly different industries of market demographics.

We add as much social information as possible to the spreadsheet as well as relevant notes. This process can be automated to some extent using a CRM with unified communications and social built in. Tools like Nimble are very powerful for this purpose.

Build relationships first

Now that have our list we go to work on building relationships. We never pitch story ideas or ask for links or tweets until we’ve established relationship based on value. One of the first things we do in most cases is to follow every member on our list by putting them in Twitter lists and Google+ Circles. We also subscribe to their blog feed using Feedly, as well as their newsletters and other forms of content. Obviously if you want to build a relationship you must take the time to get to know their content habits, behaviors, and needs.

Next we begin the practice of sharing their content with our follower, posting relevant and useful comments on their content and, where appropriate, featuring their content in our own blog posts, emails, and newsletters.

All of this effort is aimed at gaining some recognition and building a relationship based on mutual content goals. At this point, we may reach out and directly share something that we think they might find extremely relevant – hopefully something they might want to blog about or use as a data point in an upcoming post.

Add guest blogging to your editorial plan

In addition to our targeted Influencers, we also build a list of potential guest blog post opportunities. We are looking both for places that we can post and potential writers that may have great content to share on our blog. The reason this is such an important element is that we can often find blogs that won’t respond to covering some topic, but would love a well thought out blog post.

In addition, when we add guest posts to the mix of content on our own blog we often find that our content is more diverse and we start to build relationships with bloggers who wish to promote their content featured on our site. Of course, we also vigorously promote our guest posts run on other blogs.

You may find there is some cross over here from your influencer list, but we also use keyword searches on BuzzSumo and Topsy adding the term “guest post” to help build our guest post plan.

TopsySearching Topsy to turn up guest post possibilities for my chosen topic.

Expand with strategic partnerships

Finally, we look to blow up one or two significant pieces of content every so often. We’ve found that one of the best ways to do this is through collaboration and cobranding.

Our first approach is to take an eBook, tip sheet or case study and offer to let a strategic partner or Influencer cobrand the already proven content to share with their audience. This often allows us to gain introduction to large groups of prospects and is welcomed by partners who know they should be producing more content.

Another approach is to jointly create a long form post, infographic of even eBook with a strategic partner. Quite often one partner may have big data to share while another wants to showcase their killer graphic design skills and collaboration creates an impressive end product that just may get picked up by numerous blogs and influencers as you co-promote with your partner or partners.

Yes, content marketing is work, but it is the most effective way to generate leads for any business that wants to compete on expertise and authority rather than price.

6 3 Super Simple Ways to Make Buffer Even More Useful

I’ve long since professed my love of the BufferApp. But it’s been a while since I’ve shared some of the ways I use this tool, so I thought I would add some tips today. (About a year ago my youngest daughter landed a job with Buffer – so take that for what you will as you read! – To me, it’s just another reason to love them.)

Millions use Buffer for it’s core namesake functionality – buffering social media updates over the course of a day. While it does accomplish this task in ways that no other tool has been able to replicate, it does much more.

Below are three of my favorite ways to amplify Buffer’s usefulness.

Upload in bulk

One very useful way to use Buffer is in support of a campaign. Let’s say you have an event coming up and you know you’re going to promote landing pages and valuable content related to the event.  Or let’s say you have an entire network of contributors, whose content you want to share.

Using the 3rd party Bulk Buffer you can add a CSV or text file of dozens or even hundreds of links and have them automatically distributed across your Buffer schedule.

I’ve also used this approach to que up an entire week’s worth of activity so I could forget my social habit during a vacation. Of course, you could also do this kind of thing on behalf of a client that has engaged you to beef up their social media participation and sharing.

Re-promote old posts

buffer scheduler

Make sure you install the Buffer Chrome Extension so that with one click you can compose an update to buffer from the page you happen to be on. Then check out the “new scheduler” in the window that pops up. This tool allows you to set repeated, future posts of this update in pretty much any schedule you dictate.

I will often put blog posts into schedule days and weeks out so that they receive ongoing, future attention without any additional effort on my part.

Look, it’s silly to believe that everyone that needs to read your awesome post will see it today. You will find that your traffic for your posts often doubles by adding repromotion to your routine.

Hook it up to your RSS reader

Feedly app

Even though you can find plenty of people suggesting that no one uses RSS readers anymore, you shouldn’t listen.

Subscribing to and easily accessing blogs is still a big part of my ongoing education, sharing and idea getting. Sure, I also subscribe to a handful of targeted aggregators like Newsle and love the “Buffer Suggested” links that show up daily in my Buffer account, but I also fire up Feedly everyday and because I’ve authorized a connection to Buffer I simply share all the posts I want to share during my morning read and push them to Buffer.

By adding each of these elements to my daily and weekly routine I can multiply my social media sharing efforts with very little extra work.

What are your favorite Buffer hacks?

1 Duct Tape Selling Launches This Week

When my first book, Duct Tape Marketing, finally went on sale I told my readers that it felt like I’d given birth. A number of women were quick to point out that I knew not of which I spoke. I’ve been careful ever since not to make the same mistake, but certainly somewhere in nature there is an appropriate metaphor to describe a book launch. (Please feel free to suggest one.)

Just fair warning – To celebrate the occasion of the launch of Duct Tape Selling I’ll probably be extra promotional this week so hopefully you’ll allow.

Below is a very short book trailer produced by the talented folks at Simplifilm. I hope you like it and I hope you’ll share its message with others.

You can also find lots of other great information about the book and some fun stuff to share by heading over to my Duct Tape Selling Social Objects page.

In addition, I want to share the best of this week’s guest blog posts from the Duct Tape Selling Blog.

3 Simple Elements To Test To Perfect Your Twitter Messaging

When it comes to social media marketing, you can spend all your time studying up on the best methods and practices and still not feel totally confident.

Are you posting at the right times? With the right content? Could your message be connecting better

Enter testing. Read the rest . . . from the good folks at Buffer

Tips On Setting Up Your One Question Testimonial Machine

When setting up your one question testimonial, it’s easy to focus on the customers who would refer your product or service to friends and ignore the ones who wouldn’t. But this would be a big mistake. The customers who wouldn’t refer you to a friend are a great source of information to help you find out what went wrong and what you could do better. Read the rest . . . from the good folks at Wufoo

Get on the Infographics Movement

Infographics are increasingly being included in a marketers’ arsenal. Deceptively, they look like something made for pre-schoolers with its bright clip art and playful copy. Even so, infographics are increasingly being used in boardrooms, notice boards, blogs and social media. Here’s why you need to get on it too. Read the rest . . . from the good folks at Piktochart

Two Secrets to How Small Businesses Can Win More Sales

Selling at a small business isn’t easy. The bigger companies have brands that help them open new doors and win competitive sales. They have strong marketing support. And often they have deep pockets and aren’t afraid to use them. Read the rest . . . from the good folks at RainToday

7 One Simple Way to Generate More Traffic for Every Blog Post

So you write that killer blog post, hit publish and go about promoting it in social media and email. You get some nice traffic, people share it with their networks and you capture a few leads. It had a good run, so now on to the next one right? That’s the way it works, you keep feeding the machine and just accept that your content has a very short shelf life.

traffic to old posts

photo credit: TheBigTouffe via photopin cc

What if I told you there was a way to give new life to those posts long after you write them?

Sure, you can go back and hand select the best of the best and promote them over and over again, if, of course, you remember to do so.

I prefer however to automate the task of resharing my blog posts in social media in a very systematic way bringing new eyeballs to posts I’ve written even over a year ago. This approach not only brings me new traffic and shares it also aids in the long term SEO process as new links and social signals show up long after the initial post.

Here’s how I accomplish this powerful content tactic.

I’ve installed a WordPress plugin call Buffer My Post written by Ajay Matharu.

As the name implies, this plugin relies on another very powerful social media tool called Buffer. Essentially, Buffer allows you to select all kinds of content to Tweet and share and then have it “buffered” to your profiles at the pace you select. (I’ve written about Buffer in the past.)

While Buffer My Post can automatically Buffer your new blog posts I use it primarily to randomly select older posts to send to Buffer each day. This way, in addition to whatever other activity I submit to social networks, I know that a handful of posts written in the past will get exposure on an automated basis. Since one of my primary objectives for using social networks is to share lots of good content with my followers, this approach helps me meet my goals.

When you set-up Buffer My Post you get to select how many posts get buffered each day, how old those posts can be and what categories and even individual posts to include or exclude. Depending upon how well you’ve structured your post categories it can be a really good idea to exclude categories that might have dated content like a webinar announcement of something.

I buffer 4 posts every 24 hours and focus on posts that are more than 45 days old but less than 12 months old. I also exclude a bunch of categories that have potential for less than evergreen content.

The installation and set-up of the plugin is pretty simple. It uses your current Buffer settings so if you want to post 4 old posts a day and you already buffer other people’s content, you may need to adjust your Buffer account settings to handle the increased load.

The only tricky part of the process for some is that you need to create a custom Buffer app in order to get the API key that allows Buffer My Post plugin to access your Buffer account. Don’t worry if that makes no sense, here’s how you do that. (This assumes you have a Buffer account already set-up – if not, do that first.)

  • Go to Bufferapp Developers page
  • Make sure you are logged in to your Buffer account
  • Click on Get Started With Our API button
  • Click on Create an App link
  • Fill in the required information
  • For last field Callback URL use native app default – urn:ietf:wg:oauth:2.0:oob (just copy and paste this into the field)
  • Look for an email from Buffer
  • In that email find the link in this line – “You can find out your own access token here and start hacking straight away!”
  • Click on the link and find the long number after Access Token: and copy it.
  • Open Buffer My Post settings in WP Admin Panel sidebar and paste that token in the Buffer App Access Token: field
  • Then just tweak the other settings in Buffer My Post as you like and your should be good to go – here’s how I do the format {title} {url} {category} – that way I automatically post the title of the post, url of the post and use the category as the hashtag.
  • The other settings such as how long between posts and age of posts are pretty self explanatory.

So, there you have it, set it and forget it method of giving new life to old content.

 

 

11 How You Handle Controversy Speaks Volumes About Your Brand

Over this past weekend social media start up Buffer got hacked. Apparently hackers were able to gain access to users permission tokens so without the need for a password were able to post spammy weight loss messages all over user’s Facebook pages.

I’m not sure how widespread the problem was, but I was able to track Buffer’s reaction in near real time and I’m pretty sure social media students are going to study this as a text book response to handling an online crisis.

Buffer has over a million users that count on the service to post to Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook throughout each day so, even though many do not pay to use Buffer, the exposure to their accounts and therefor online reputations was high.

Around 1:30 pm CT reports like below started to hit the Buffer account on Twitter.

Own It At Speed

By 1:36 the following post went out on Twitter

  Once a problem was identified the first step of course was to minimize it and while I have no access to the thought process I believe they took the right steps by immediately shutting down access and posting by their tool and communicating with users constantly for the next hour or so. The fact that they monitored customer communication so thoroughly, even on a Saturday, allowed them to react in near real time.

Tell the Entire Story

At 2:07 I received the following email from Buffer CEO Joel Gascoigne – they also inserted a message into the Buffer log in page.

Hi there,

I wanted to get in touch to apologize for the awful experience we’ve caused many of you on your weekend. Buffer was hacked around 1 hour ago, and many of you may have experienced spam posts sent from you via Buffer. I can only understand how angry and disappointed you must be right now.

Not everyone who has signed up for Buffer has been affected, but you may want to check on your accounts. We’re working hard to fix this problem right now and we’re expecting to have everything back to normal shortly.

We’re posting continual updates on the Buffer Facebook page and the Buffer Twitter page to keep you in the loop on everything.

The best steps for you to take right now and important information for you:

  • Remove any postings from your Facebook page or Twitter page that look like spam
  • Keep an eye on Buffer’s Twitter page and Facebook page
  • Your Buffer passwords are not affected
  • No billing or payment information was affected or exposed
  • All Facebook posts sent via Buffer have been temporarily hidden and will reappear once we’ve resolved this situation

I am incredibly sorry this has happened and affected you and your company. We’re working around the clock right now to get this resolved and we’ll continue to post updates on Facebook and Twitter.

If you have any questions at all, please respond to this email. Understandably, a lot of people have emailed us, so we might take a short while to get back to everyone, but we will respond to every single email.

– Joel and the Buffer team

Owning the mishap and apologizing immediately and repeatedly while continuing to keep people informed can be tough, but it absolutely calmed any kind of panic and assured people that this was going to end well.

Keep Communicating Throughout 

A steady stream of tweets that followed added updates as they unfolded.

 

Dig Your Well Before

One thing that I believe won’t be reported enough, but is critical – Buffer provides this kind of experience all of the time so ramping up and doing it in a crisis was second nature and that spirit was shown through the constant stream of supportive tweets.

It’s difficult to be transparent and authentic in a crisis unless that’s simply who you are in the first place.

I’m guessing Buffer received some support from Twitter and Facebook and the relationships they built there allowed them to lean on these two in a time of need.

Fix the Problem Not the Blame

All too often organizations spend the first pass at an issue trying to figure out who to push the blame to. Mostly people don’t really care why something happened until perhaps long after they know it’s fixed and won’t happen again.

Buffer owned the problem and the tone of their communication, including another email from Joel explaining what they are doing to beef up security, lacked any hint of blame.

Buffer may indeed lose users over this as one of the steps they took was to voluntarily unauthorize the app from every Twitter account in an effort to squelch damage. In fact, every user must sign back on to Buffer and reauthorize Twitter if they wish to continue to use the service.

In the end, Buffer demonstrated what they stand for and certainly strengthened their brand in the eyes of most who publicly witnessed how they maneuvered through a crisis.

Reader Note: One final note of warning. Hacking into authorization tokens is the new password stealing. It’s time to visit the authorization you’ve given to services to access your social media and other online accounts. Just browsing through apps I’ve authorized on Twitter I found dozens that I no longer use and some that are no longer even around – those are some potential targets for hackers.

24 8 Tools I Use Every Day for Social Engagement

I get asked what tools I use for some of my daily social routines on a somewhat frequent basis. The other day I got that question and it dawned on me that many of the tools I’ve written about for the basic stuff have changed or evolved over the past six months.

So, I thought it might be useful to write a post outlining my current tool set for consuming, sharing and interacting online.

Alerts

It seems to me that Google Alerts might be on the scrap heap over Google as it not only suffers from lack of innovation it just seems pretty lame in terms of what it picks up anymore.

I’ve recently gone to a combo of Mention and Talkwalker to get alerts for things like my name, brand, journalists and important phrases. It seems like they tend to pick out different things so the combination is very strong.

Content consumption

By now you’ve likely heard that Google Reader is shutting down. While this caused widespread panic and prompted lots of anxiety about replacement tools, the fact is the technology is pretty simple and this opened the door for some innovation in a long dormant space.

For now, I am sticking with Reeder, a Mac based laptop, iPad, iPhone app that relies on Google Reader but says it will replace the underlying technology. I really like the interface and love that I can interact with a piece of content in the app by sharing, bookmarking or saving in a variety of ways. I use it with Buffer to share lots of content to Twitter and Facebook.

I think it’s worth noting that many people have also started to embrace tools that surface content based solely on category or the recommendation of friends rather than sticking to content produced only in blogs they subscribe to. I’ve started to use a service called Newsle in this fashion.

Social dashboard

I have been an avid Tweetdeck user for years but recently made the switch to HootSuite. For me Tweetdeck was getting a bit tired in terms of innovation. While it took a little bit of time to embrace the somewhat more complex interface of Hootsuite, I’ve grow to like the tabbed profiles approach and the fact that you can get so much more information on individual profiles and tweets. I also like some of the integrations available. For example, with one click I can add people who I interact with on Twitter or that get added to a list, based on search terms in Hootsuite, to my CRM tool.

Social CRM

This last element is a crucial piece of the engagement puzzle. I currently use two CRM tools. I use Nimble for the daily interactions that I have or should have with clients, influencers, authors, partners and prospects for various types of projects. Nimble allows me to create a unified messaging platform that includes email and important social networks. This way I can view a record of what these important groups of people are saying and doing in real-time and what I’ve said to them over the course of many interactions. Access to this level of information helps turns transactions into trackable conversations.

In addition to Nimble I use Infusionsoft to run the many ecommerce functions of my business such as shopping cart, list segmentation, follow-up and email marketing in general.

The key to making this part of the communication cycle work is that most of these tools talk to each other and almost all are available in synced versions on the desktop and on a variety of mobile devices and tablets.

So, that’s it for now, until, well it isn’t. Always love to hear about tools you find useful.