My Two Cents
My blog about business, social media, books, life, and what matters.
A friend of mine posted this question and tagged me asking if I had advice:
I am guessing there are many more people who are facing hard choices like this, so I asked her permission to share the question. Here is an expanded version of what I shared with her.
Before anything else, take a deep breath! We are all making a lot of hard choices right now. Take the time to think it through - you've got this!
Why Social Distancing?
I am sure most of us have seen some version of this chart. When we are evaluating staying home it is important that we understand what is at risk. Even if our own children and families are low risk, the more that we spread this disease the more will be infected.
My nephew is 5 years old and recently started having seizures. So far no medication or treatment has been able to get them under control. On a good day he has a few seizures. On a bad day he is having seizures every hour or more. When he gets sick it gets worse - much worse. My grandmother is 90 and has congestive heart failure. On the phone the other day she said that canceling things was to "protect all those older people" without seeming to realize that she is in that group too.
It is easy to minimize in times like these because the stress is a lot to handle. But the best thing that we can do is to stay at home if at all possible.
Even if you don't go anywhere and don't expose anyone else, you probably have little to no control of who is going in and out of the daycare and how many more people you are getting exposure from.
Questions to Ask:
Making Money Work
Most of the time you are locked into contracts with daycare providers so that even if your kids are not there you still have to pay. This absolutely makes sense.
However, it is worth realizing that the normal rules don't apply right now, and you don't know if you don't ask.
Try to appeal that based on everything that is going on. If they can't waive fees entirely, maybe a payment plan is available. There may be financial relief for them from the state to make up the lost income on their side. Or you might be able to split the difference.
Only you know how big of a deal financially this would be from a lost work standpoint and a daycare cost standpoint. Now is time to truly take stock of where you are at financially so that you can start making better decisions. Now is NOT the time to stick your head in the sand. Be proactive about every bill.
Questions to Ask:
Getting Work Done with Kids at Home
I started my business a year before my oldest son was born. At one point I had a 2-year-old a 1-year-old and a newborn. Take all the challenges of being a working mom and a stay-at-home mom and mash them into one. It is not for the faint of heart! Now a lot of people are being thrust into being work from home parents with no ability to plan ahead, weigh different options, or make choices. That makes it even harder, but you can get through this! One day at a time.
What works depends a lot on the age of your children, but there are some things that are true at every age:
Bonus: my legs are super in shape! There are always bright sides.
Questions to Ask:
Looking for Creative Places to Get Help
It is always okay to ask for help, but if you needed an excuse a global pandemic sounds like as good a one as any! Remember that you don't know unless you ask. Don't be afraid to think outside the box to get what you need.
Keep your eyes open for all the resources around you. Even if you need more work time, you might be able to find a source to free up income so that you don't need as much work time anymore. Think about what you really need, and if there are any substitutes. We can get really stuck in our ways and not realize that the answer is right under our nose.
Have an attitude that everything is on the table!
Questions to Ask:
What About You?
These are some of my thoughts and advice, but let's get sharing! I am sure many of you have other great things to add. What would you tell this mama right now?
I live with (and work with, and mother with, and create with) chronic generalized anxiety disorder. It has taken a long time for me to share this openly. The stigma around mental health is still so strong! But that is why I need to share this. It has meant so much to me when other moms and entrepreneurs have shared their journey. If this post can help just one person feel less alone, it is worth it.
Before I dive into the weird strategies I have for keeping my anxiety under control so I can do meaningful work, there is one critical disclaimer. I do take medication, I do go to therapy, and I do practice yoga and meditation and journaling. Supportive and loving friendships and a caring husband are all essential. In no way am I trying to make anyone think that if you come up with the one right "trick" can you solve mental health issues. But, that aside, our brains are tricky and funny things. Creativity can sometimes help, and either way, it makes life a little more fun.
AND - even if you don't live with chronic anxiety, maybe you know someone who does. Or perhaps these ideas will give your non-anxious brain a new perspective too. One other note for the neurotypical among you, these strategies will not work for everyone. If someone you love has anxiety (or any other concern) and they tell you this doesn't help them - believe them. As I say to my kids all the time, the one thing you can never know is how someone else feels unless they tell you. And when they tell you, believe them.
Changing Up My Log-In Screen and Other Randomness
Colors, sounds, smells. All of these stimuli can be triggers for anxiety. Even if you have never had anxiety, you are probably familiar with the feeling of dread that occasionally accompanies the sound of your alarm in the morning or the sight of someone with whom you argued. After a few bad days trying to log in to my computer to work is the same feeling. Or seeing my email background will remind me of a stressful email I got the day before. Or opening my cell phone screen will suck me into scrolling through Facebook to escape. The great news is that I have control over what I see when I open my email or computer or phone. And it can be random!
By turning on the random screen background, themes in my email, and occasionally rearranging my phone home screen, I avoid getting stuck in mental loops. When I open my laptop, my surprise and curiosity circuits in my brain are triggered instead of the stress ones. As an added benefit, sometimes, the image that pops up on my screen is exceptionally captivating and gives me a shot of pleasure and awe—a much better mental place to start working.
Soduku Puzzles and Tetris
More and more research is showing that mindfulness can help reduce stress and anxiety . The only problem with that is often it can be hard to slow the brain down enough to focus on being mindful in the first place. The solution? Tetris or Soduku puzzles.
Let's talk about Tetris first. Studies show that Tetris specifically can help reduce anxiety and focus your brain. While researchers are not sure why this is, one speculation is that because you have to focus on the rapidly falling tiles, it helps drown other thoughts out. I use this as an occasional exercise to focus before I dive into a task. To maximize this strategy, I will play one game of Tetris and then set a timer for focused work for 20 minutes.
Next, Soduku. Psychology Today theorizes that playing games like Soduku are calming to the brain because there IS a correct answer. Unlike the messiness of life, there is a single solution. I find the action of solving solvable problems satisfying and anxiety-reducing.
For Soduku puzzles, I prefer to do them on paper rather than an app or on the computer. The action of writing is also calming and helps ground me in the real world.
A caveat, watch out for phone apps or online sites with tons of ads! Not only do these interruptions of your thoughts defeat the focusing purpose of the game, but the ads themselves may be upsetting. One of the things that I like about the basic Tetris game on their website or paper Soduku is that it doesn't trap my brain in a reward circuit link. For example, with special bonuses, or limited time extras, or any of the many other tools game creators use to keep you playing for hours. It can be a fine line between intentionally relieving stress to be more productive and using distractions to avoid and ignore.
Baking Productivity Cookies
Okay, I don't have a thing called "Productivity Cookies," but maybe I should invent a recipe. As I mentioned before, using a timer can be a powerful tool to keep me from getting mentally stuck. The only problem is that sometimes I ignore the timer when it goes off. Know how to prevent that from happening? Put some cookies in the oven! Nothing quite like the smell of burning cookies to snap you out of your funk.
Baking is in itself helpful for my anxiety because it focuses me on my senses, what is happening right now in the physical world instead of in my fears, and gives me a sense of satisfaction from completing something. Bonuses to this strategy include that my baby falls asleep in the baby carrier while I walk around the kitchen, and everyone else in the house loves the fresh baked goods!
Pause My Inbox
Geeky tools make my day, and one of my favorites is Boomerang for Gmail. It is one of my big secrets to getting to inbox zero daily. And it is also useful for avoiding distractions when I need to get work done.
I just hit the "pause" button, and no new emails come into my inbox for a while. Time to set a goal set, a timer, and get working!
When my husband is done with work, he gets in his car and drives home. He works on industrial robots, so they can't come home with him. Out of sight, out of mind until the next day, for the most part.
Working on social media at home is a different world. There is no off switch. I have been known to work early mornings before the kids are up on holidays, on weekends, after the kids go to bed, and while sitting in the pickup line at school. Don't get me wrong. Flexibility is one of the significant advantages of having my own business and working for myself. As my kids have grown up, I have been able to put them first. I can squeeze in events and coffee dates and volunteering. But I have to be careful with it too. When I had my daughter last year, I decided to actually take maternity leave. And the world did not stop turning!
It means that I have to be more intentional about my work. I need to say no to projects or clients that don't respect my boundaries. And I have to be all in during work time. But the value of actually closing the computer, stashing my phone, and being present is unmeasurable. It has taken me time to find that balance, and it is an always evolving work in progress, but I am so much happier now accepting that breaks are worthwhile and will help my productivity in the long run.
The Upsides of Anxiety
We tend to stigmatize brains that work a little differently. There have most certainly been days that I wished I didn't have anxiety as a part of my life. And treating it is essential. However, each of our different and unique brains comes with advantages too.
For example, I am genuinely good at empathizing with others, seeing potential roadblocks or problems and solving them, and thinking outside of the box. I can consume large amounts of information in a short amount of time and make connections from disparate sources. All these things are significant advantages in life and my business.
I would love to hear from you - how does your brain work differently? What are the positives of the mind you have? What strategies have you discovered to help minimize the downsides?
Most 20 or 30 somethings can't write a compelling memoir, as they haven't lived enough life. But Megan Phelps-Roper is the exception. She has lived at least 2 lifetimes in her few decades. I feel confident saying that because I have also made the journey out of fundamentalism. This book applies to anyone who wants to understand others or themselves better. In other words, essential reading for the thoughtful and the feeling person.
Summary of "Unfollow"
Megan Phelps-Roper grew up in the church her grandfather started. Maybe you have heard of it? Westboro Baptist Church. Many people may feel uncomfortable even calling it a "church" as it breaks from the mainstream in so many ways. In today's culture and political atmosphere, many of the attitudes ring true for a more significant portion of the population than we would like to think.
If you haven't heard of Westboro, they are famous (infamous?) for protesting. Protesting gay people, at American service members' funerals and celebrating their deaths, and particularly inflammatory signs at said protests. What I did not know before reading the book is that most of the original leadership are also lawyers. In fact, they run a successful law practice in Kansas. It was also interesting to learn that the founder Fred Phelps was a strong proponent of civil rights in the 60s and represented many black people when no one else would help.
The book details Megan's childhood experience, beginning with her memories of protesting when she was 5-years-old. The narrative continues through her young adulthood and disillusionment with the church. Spoiler alert - she ultimately leaves the church and now works against fundamentalism and extremism in all its forms.
Why You Should Read This Book
One thing that Megan does particularly well in this book is capturing her viewpoint at various times in her life. It is challenging to hold onto a connection with why we felt we were right in the past when we change our minds. Especially true when the change is as substantial as hers. It is much easier to claim that we knew all along, or were only going along with others. She chooses the brave and challenging path of fully owning her feelings as they existed at the time.
Almost no one thinks they are "the bad guy." Each person feels justified in their own right. No matter how much you disagree with someone else, they have reasons for what they think. Dismissing someone as stupid, evil, or uncaring, does a disservice to that person and the dialogue. Does that make controversial discussions easy? No. Neither does it make every position equally valid or correct. But it can help educate the exchange.
Reading through Megan's process is helpful for anyone who wants to have meaningful parlance with others when they disagree. Her humility, kindness, and focus on love are cornerstones to my own approach as well.
My "Ah-Ha" Moment
In many ways, Megan's journey mirrors my own. Raised in an extremely conservative family, I was taught that women and girls were lesser than men and boys. To shun the "evil of the world." And most importantly, that "we" were right and "they" were wrong. I read the Bible so many times that the bindings were falling apart before I was 10-years-old.
One of the reasons we struggle to convince others is because we come from our framework rather than understanding theirs. Megan did such a fantastic job of laying out the importance of taking the time to understand the perspective of others deeply, working from inside their framework rather than outside it. Or to quote one of Stephen Covey's habits - to seek first to understand and then to be understood.
While this is a commonplace ideology in the business world, taking it to heart is rare. As I have said many times in discussions with my husband and close friends - my goal starts with getting people actually to do what they say they believe. Almost universally, extremism comes from inconsistencies within belief systems. Unpacking those inconsistencies one thing at a time rather than trying to undo the foundation is critical.
This book has been on my to-read list for a while following an interview that I heard with Megan. Her journey out of Westboro Baptist Church began with conversations on Twitter. People often tell me that I am wasting my time when I try to engage others on social media in meaningful discussions. Many people have told me it is a waste of time because "you will never convince anyone through social media." Megan Phelps-Roper is the quintessential counterexample proving that is not true. In fact, for those that are extreme in their views, social media may be the only place you CAN reach them. They do not engage in the world through any other means.
As a social media specialist, I believe deeply in the power of bringing people together through social media. It is an extension and amplifier of our attempts to connect in person. You can talk to so many more people than you ever could because of the doors social media opens. This does not negate the importance of personal touch. But it is a reminder that behind the computer screen are real people.
That is why it is so important to think with intentionality and purpose about how we engage online. Personally, I have specific rules about how I engage with others - online and off.
1) I never insult a person or demean others through my words, rather challenging ideas and concepts.
2) I don't allow myself to be pulled to another topic or go down unrelated bunny trails no matter how emotionally charged.
3) I work hard to differentiate between fact and opinion.
4) I consciously work to communicate with love and treat others how I would want to be treated, even during the hard conversations.
"Good, a lot going on!"
"Tons of work!"
My guess is that you hear these responses more days than not. If you talk to other people that is.
One of our most common questions is "How are you doing?" Generally, it is accepted that a simple answer consisting of a couple of words is what is appropriate here. And the one I hear more than any? "Busy."
We wear busy as a code of honor in our society. But that answer doesn't actually get us anywhere. It doesn't grow our business. It doesn't deepen our relationships. If anything, it puts distance between us and the person we are talking to. The insinuation is that we have a lot going on, it better be worth our while to talk to you or we are moving on.
We do it because it is easy, and simple, and almost a pre-programmed response. But what if there were a different way to answer this question that would completely change your relationships and your business? Both in the online social media world, as well as in the offline world?
Marginal Gains and Social Media Relationships
One of my favorite stories to share is about the bicycle coach who led his team to victory by improving every area of their performance by 1%.
The reason I love this is because it is a great way to introduce the concept of marginal gains. Basically, that changing little things consistently really do add up.
Often when we think about relationship building, social media marketing, or selling our business, we think about the big things. The "numbers game" so to speak. We think that if we reach out to enough people, or send enough emails, or post enough times on Facebook that we will start getting the business and the client relationships we really want.
But what if we are making things harder on ourselves than we have to? What if we could apply marginal gains and make small tweaks that would improve every area of our life and business almost effortlessly, doing the things that we already do.
How we answer the question "how are you doing" is one of those areas. In my experience, making a small change here has opened more doors and opportunities than I can count, and it is something that you can start getting into the habit of too - starting today!
A New Way to Answer
As I mentioned, when we simply say "Busy!" we are putting distance between ourselves and the other person, rather than drawing them closer.
"Fine" or "good" also give no new information. They are polite responses, but don't share in any way.
What if instead, you shared something specific to you? What if you helped them connect to your world? And at the same time provided an opportunity for them to understand what your needs are in your life and business?
Let me give you some examples.
Let's say that you are a business owner who is hiring an assistant. Yes, you are busy. That is why you are hiring someone. What if told someone that? Here is how that conversation might go:
Friend: How are you?
You: Great! I am in the hiring process for a new assistant for my business!
Friend: Wow, that is awesome, what skills are you looking for?
Perhaps your friend knows someone who is looking for a job. Maybe this will prompt them to ask more about your business and you will both find out that they are a perfect new client. You would have missed the connection entirely if you hadn't been willing to share.
Friend: How are you?
You: Really busy, I just launched a new course about how to use LinkedIn to grow your business!
Friend: Oh really? Tell me more, I have been trying to start using LinkedIn, but it is not really working for me!
Often we are quick to make assumptions about other people, especially if they are only acquaintances. And they are making the same judgements about us. Under the surface may lie the opportunity you have been looking for, and you will miss it if you are not willing to share.
Now, it is true that sometimes nothing will come of the conversation. But even then, the person you are speaking with has a better idea what you do, which may prompt an introduction or other opportunity later. And you have had a chance to start a meaningful conversation without being pushy or "salesy" in any way.
Bonus: Prompting Helpful Answers
You know how to answer the question now to get the most out of the conversation, but how do you return the favor? How can you get the person you are talking to to dive deeper than a "fine" or "busy" response? What will open the door to giving you opportunities to know how to help them, connect them, or be of value to them as well?
Stop asking "How are you?" Most responses will be meaningless. Instead ask one of the following when you are reaching out to someone:
How Will You Change?
Now, time to start making the shifts so you can see results from this strategy! Think about how you will start asking better questions, and answering "how are you" with more clarity and relationship building finesse.
If you have found this helpful, can you do me a huge favor? Share on your favorite social media channel! The more we can improve people's ability to build meaningful relationships with each other, the more we can change the world. It all starts with the little things. Thank you!
One of the biggest challenges of content creation is coming up with new and engaging ideas on a regular basis. There are many tips out there, and even lists of prompts to get you thinking. But if you are able to activate three unique habits in your daily life, then you will create more and better content, with less effort. These mindset shifts make take some practice, but are so worth it!
Activate Your Inner Two-Year-Old
If you have ever spent any time with young children, you are familiar with their wonder at the world around them. They are continuously asking "why." Our tendency as adults is to slowly accept certain things as "known" and stop wondering about them.
Curiosity is a habit worth cultivating. Maintaining openness to new information will not only help you with content creation, studies show that it helps us to feel happier, achieve more, and strengthen relationships, among other things.
So how do you cultivate curiosity? Simply start asking questions. Start small with something you experience every day. For example, maybe research why dish soap is different for the dishwasher than the dish soap you hand wash with. Or read the ingredients list of your favorite food and look up one ingredient you don't recognize. Begin to open yourself up to new possibilities. Wonder about things - even things that seem obvious. You will uncover a lot of interesting things to write about or post about.
There are two parts to listening. The first is the most obvious. When you are talking to someone, take the time to absorb what they are saying rather than simply thinking about what you want to say next. Develop the skill of listening, and you will find that people are actually telling you exactly what to create content around all day long.
But there is a deeper level to the habit of listening. It is to listen when people are not talking, or when they are not talking to you. It is to listen to the sounds of life. And sometimes to listen even when there is no sound. Some examples of this:
This doesn't mean that you should intentionally snoop on conversations not meant for you or start digging through desk drawers uninvited. Rather, it is willing yourself to notice the things that other people miss.
Get Away from the Echo
This may very well be the most difficult habit to integrate. In a world that tries to figure out what we like and how we think through endless algorithms, it is easy to get stuck in a rut of information. When we start getting pre-programmed information, our creativity suffers as a result.
The first step to getting out of the echo chamber is to stop only listening to people who already agree with us. Seek out communities of people who don't share your views. Don't argue, don't get angry, simply work on developing your empathetic skills and understanding their point of view.
The second part to this skill is to make sure that you try new things regularly. Try a new hobby, go to a lunch spot you have never tried, take a chance on the new coffee shop down the street.
And finally, connect with sources and real world experiences that are outside the norm for your industry. Rather than reading another book about business, try a fiction book. Instead of digging into an online class about Facebook ads, take one about how to appreciate wine. The intersection of information, the ability to see a new angle, makes all the difference in being able to create content that is unique.
If you use MailChimp, you may have noticed that they recently added the feature to create your Facebook ads directly in MailChimp, rather than creating them through Facebook.
What does this mean for you as a marketer? Are there advantages to using the MailChimp creator vs. Facebook? Does it cost more?
This review covers how it works, along with some pro strategy tips to make the most of it if you decide that it is right for you.
There are three types of audience targeting options in the MailChimp integration.
- The first audience option "Contacts on a list" you will be able to engage and re-engage with people in your email list.
The most notable benefit is the ability to reconnect with your "unsubscribes". Since your not legally allowed to email these potential clients due to non spam laws, this will give you another option. You will be able to provide them with a custom ad directed to changes in your business, new products and even directly confronting concerns they had when they requested the unsubscribe.
One doesn't always get a second chance to earn someone's trust and business, this will help provide you an outlet to do that.
The second option "Engage similar audiences" I have not gone into detail in this video. To sum it up, this will allow you to connect with similar audiences to the subscribers you already have on your list. This is primarily useful if you have a strongly engaged and highly targeted list. Avoid this one if you have used list building tactics in the past that have resulted in a less targeted list.
The third option, "Engage unique audiences", will allow you to target your outreach to a specific location, age group, gender or interest.
Age, gender and location are pretty self explanatory. It does appear to have less specific location targeting than designing in Facebook, so if you have a hyper focused local business, this may not work for you. I love how streamlined the process is here - condensing and making quick work of organizing your target audience.
As with any Facebook ad - targeting is CRITICAL. You want to define your target audience to provide the best results. If you are not sure how to do this, spend some time defining that first.
With the interest box, it does give you a drop down of suggested key words like it does when you design ads natively in Facebook. If you have already developed key words to focus on that will help a lot.
Designing Your Facebook Ad in MailChimp
If you are familiar with the drag and drop formatting of designing emails in MailChimp, this is just as easy. Like email, you will have to design and format your images in another design editor first. (See my tips for creating graphics.)
MailChimp also links to specific Facebook Ad design tips. It is worth reading through these if you haven't done a lot of successful ad campaigns yet.
Of particular importance is the rule about not having more than 20% text on your ad. This is true no matter where you create your ad, and will cause your ad to not be accepted by Facebook. If you want to check your image, using the Facebook grid tool can help make sure you are within the limit.
Above is screen of the details of completing your Facebook Ad. Ideal size is 1200 x 628 px for carousel size, or 1080 x 1080 px for normal ads.
Set Clear Goals for Your Ad
Deciding which URL to include in your ad is largely dependent on what your goal is for the ad. Do you want people to buy a particular product? Link to that page directly? Sign up for a webinar? Send them to the landing page.
If your goal is getting more likes on Facebook, then you can link the ad to your Facebook page url. Many people overlook the fact that your Facebook and Twitter pages are URL's just the same as your actual business website.
If you are trying to build likes on your Facebook page, you will likely find this option much more effective than sending them an email asking them to like your page, because they are already on Facebook, rather than in their email inbox.
So how does Mailchimp fare with Facebook Ads?
If you are already using Facebook ads and MailChimp, this is a great new tool in your toolbox. I wouldn't go so far as to say that this alone is worth signing up for MailChimp, as there are a lot of other considerations in choosing your email service, but it is a nice added touch. You can still complete your ad through Facebook Ad directly, however, I really like how this takes some of the guess work out of it and enjoy the tips MailChimp provides. For beginners in both email marketing and Facebook advertising, this is a tool that will help you get started with less of a learning curve.
So what do you think? Are you going to use this option through MailChimp? Did you find any awesome little features that I haven't yet? Feel free to share in the comments below.
Images are so important on social media. They can increase your reach, your engagement, and generally how much people love looking at your stuff. Too many people either don't take the time to create images, or do it wrong.
One reason is they think they don't have time, another is that they don't know how as a non-designer. Either way, let's solve both those problems right now. First, what not to do...
The Wrong Way to Make Social Media Graphics
Here is what a lot of people do. They go to Google, type in what they want, click images, and then right click to download what they want. There are a bunch of problems with this method including:
Ditto for a direct copy and paste from someone else's website, blog, social media feeds (it is totally okay to share, just not to download and repost as your own work), etc.
The Tools I Use
So what is the right way? Create your own images, of course! Not only is this better from a legal/ethical standpoint, but also allows you to customize for your brand and needs. Back in the olden days of the Internet, the only way to make cool graphics was to learn something like Photoshop, but now thanks to the wonders of technology you can make beautiful amazing images in a few clicks. There are a bunch of really cool tools out there, but here are the five that I use most commonly.
Canva is absolutely my go-to tool for all things graphic. My favorite part is their regularly updated templates that make it easy to make sure the beautiful new Twitter header or Facebook cover I am creating will actually fit. It is a good all around tool that will solve most of your graphic needs. You can upload your own images to work with as well.
The downside to Canva is that if you are a total graphics novice then the options may still be overwhelming. Stick to the templates as much as possible to keep your images looking amazing if you are not sure about the rules of design.
It does have a free version, as well as a professional version that has more options (like adding team members and saving branding rules). You can also pay for individual images on a one time use basis if you don't have your own photo to use. (Don't worry, there are a TON of free graphics included as well.)
Formerly called "Share As Image," Stencil is another tool that gives you templates and amazing images to work with, and then let's you tweak it to work for your brand. I love all the free photo options. You can easily resize to the type of graphic you need.
If you are only creating a few graphics, then the free version will be fine (up to 10 per month). To get access to all the images available, along with more features, they have a paid version for $9/month, which is a great deal.
As a bonus, if you are a blogger looking for options to recommend that have an affiliate program, this one does!
Recite is SO simple, and makes fun and fast images. Their options are a little more limited than some of the other tools I use, but that is not always a bad thing when I want a fast option. It is completely free, and they make their money from ads. This means you have to put up with the ads, but that is a small price to pay.
Because it is so simple, this is usually the first one I recommend to someone just getting started too. It is almost impossible to mess it up, even if you have never made an image in your life.
My favorite thing about this one is what it does with the text. In any of the other tools, manually changing the size and font of every word can be time consuming. Sometimes it is nice to switch it up a bit, and Quotes Cover is the only tool that does it for you. You can click through until you find a font and color combination that you love, and then add your own background image too if you want. This one is also completely free and supported by ads, so is a great one for anyone getting started in their business with a small budget for social media graphics.
Pablo by Buffer
One of my all time favorite social media tools is Buffer, so I was very excited when they added an image creation option to their available tools. I haven't gotten the sharing to sync up to my Buffer quote right yet, but the speed of making simple text on image graphics has made it something I still really like using. I actually blocked off a couple hours and did about 100 graphics that I could use on my social, and then loaded them all into my scheduling queues. This one is also totally free!
How Do You Use Visual Content?
All of these tools show quotes as the default image to create - but start thinking outside the box too. What else can you turn into a visual image? Questions? Testimonials? Fill in the blanks? Trivia fact or product tips? Be creative and watch the social rewards roll in!
Share with me your favorite picture you made using one of these tools! I would love to see it!
We all know we don't want to get spam. Whether in our email inbox, through social media messages, or even the unsolicited flyers we get in the mail. It takes time to sort through, and draws our attention away from the things we really want to do.
Some people know they are spamming. They just don't care.
It makes enough money to be profitable and they are willing to push through all the negative responses (and maybe some bad karma if you believe in that sort of thing). However, what I have realized over time is that most people who are spammers don't realize it. They are following bad advice from someone about how to build relationships and market themselves. Maybe you even spammed someone today. Don't think so? Are you sure?
What prompted this post was an example of exactly that. Take a look:
A little background. This is someone that friend requested me on Facebook a while back. We have a mutual friend that I know well, and her account looked like a real person, so I accepted the request even though I didn't know her personally. Because you never know what kind of connections you will make I tend to be fairly liberal in accepting requests. (It is important to note though that she didn't send an introduction message or anything like that, so I just as easily could have refused the request.)
Since then, she has not contacted me, commented on any of my posts, liked any of my posts, or in any other way built a relationship with me. Out of the blue today she sent the above message. I tried to explain that the type of message she sent wasn't very effective and could be considered spam (in the nicest way possible). She got upset, told me I didn't know what I was talking about, that she was just sharing her business, and finally that she would pray for me.
Other than the fact that she missed a golden opportunity to get some free advice and help from an expert in social media marketing, she also ensured that I will definitely never work with her, and I unfollowed her as well.
The upside for you is that while she didn't want to hear any helpful advice, this made me realize a lot of people are in her boat, so I am sharing the advice with you instead! Enjoy!
Know Who You are Talking To
Granted, I don't share a ton about my business on my personal Facebook page, but a quick Google search would have revealed a whole bunch of things (such as this website).
These are just a few examples. What they all have in common is that they are trying to force people to pay attention to you. It is annoying, it is rude, and it is spam. It is also not very effective, especially long term.
What is effective? Taking the time to build actual personal relationships. Give value so that people come to you rather than having to chase them down. If you feel like you are constantly pressuring, begging, or pursuing people, you are doing it wrong.
Please note that I am not suggesting you don't follow up, or that you don't have to reach out to people. Do an inner check - does it feel like you are starting a conversation with a friend, or does it feel like you have to put on a mask? Put yourself in the other person's shoes - how would you feel if someone approached you the same way? Which brings us to the next key...
Give THem A Way to Opt Out
Even in personal communication, such as social media, you can still do the same thing. Saying something along the lines of "feel free to let me know if this is not a good fit for you, no hard feelings" or "if now is not a good time that is totally okay" or "if not, I would still love to stay connected" all work great.
Studies have shown that giving people an easy way to say "no" that doesn't make them feel bad actually makes them more likely to say yes!
Perception Is Reality
Whether or not what you are doing technically meets the definition of spam doesn't really matter from a practical standpoint. The person you are trying to reach out to is offended and upset. It is a truism that what you feed grows. If you feed negativity in your business it will grow. Whenever someone tells you they have felt violated, the correct response is to apologize. You don't even have to apologize for the action (though you should if you were in the wrong), but you should care about their feelings. A simple "Thank you for the email, let me know if there is ever anything I can do for you" or "Thanks for getting back to me, I have made a note that this is not a good fit for you right now" can go a long way. Arguing with someone about how they feel is a lose-lose every time.
What's Your Story?
What's your best crazy spam story? A creepy stalker? A random marriage proposal? A pushy sales person? Share your story in the comments - I am sure everyone else will appreciate the examples, and it might make you feel better to vent. :-)
Full disclosure: I was given a free Post Planner account in connection with other social media writing, and am a registered affiliate for Post Planner. My commitment is to always give you my honest opinion so you can make your own decision about what is best for you!
Now that is out of the way, let's dive in.
What Is Post Planner?
On the most basic level, Post Planner is a social media scheduling tool. Similar in ways to other tools like Buffer and MeetEdgar. Depending on your plan size you can connect multiple social media accounts, schedule and create content, and monitor results. So far pretty standard. You can also create your own custom RSS feeds like you can in Buffer or a tool like Feedly. There are a few features that make Post Planner worth checking out though, even if you use another tool already.
How Is Post Planner Different?
The biggest feature that Post Planner has is that it does not simply schedule content that you think of out of your head, it suggests content for you based on a wide variety of criteria. It pulls popular content from around the web and rates it if you want to share links or viral images. Want to post text status updates instead? You can choose from a large library of already created posts and then customize them.
If you struggle with creating content day in and day out, this feature alone will make Post Planner pay for itself. I was really impressed with the breadth of content available. (And that is saying something!)
Another thing I like is that you can decide what types of content gets sent out when in your schedule. While not quite as advanced as the Meet Edgar tool, you can at least plan when you want links, text updates, or pictures being published.
I also have to add that their support team has been amazing. While it is possible I get preferential treatment, I doubt it because I go through the built in help tab when I have questions. Response time is fast and personal.
Other features I love (though it took me a little playing with it to find them) are the ability to schedule recurring posts, and the Canva integration.
What It Doesn't Have
Overall, Post Planner is a unique tool that adds some things to the landscape of content creation and scheduling.
However, I wouldn't recommend it as a stand-alone social media tool. You will still need tracking and analytics from something like Buffer (or a more robust tool like Agorapulse). It does not provide any monitoring options (again, loving Agorapulse for that, review coming soon). The one thing that was most notable in my workflow though was the lack of a browser extension. While Post Planner is create for suggesting content, if I happen across it on the web I have to manually add it if I want to use Post Planner for scheduling.
What Do You Think?
Post Planner is a great addition to my social media arsenal, when I make the time to go in and browse the library for content. Like any other tool, you will only get out of it what you put into it.
If you have trouble being creative and coming up with content, then definitely give Post Planner a try. It's price point is very accessible even for a small business with only a couple social media accounts. An important note is that it only connects with Facebook and Twitter right now. That is fine for many businesses, but if you want to schedule to Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, or LinkedIn you will need another tool.
Have you used Post Planner? Are there other social media tools that I should be reviewing? I would love to hear about your experiences.
In the past I have often allowed myself to get sucked into projects that I am not excited about. There is a meta narrative in our culture that we have to do things that are unpleasant, and in fact that is the path to success. While that may be true in some ways and at some times, what I have discovered is that it is no way to build a life.
Yes, I may need to work out in order to stay physical health. But I have choices about what I do. Playing a few games of "Just Dance" on the Wii with my kids is just as legitimate as running a mile. Maybe more, as doing something I love and building relationships have added stress relieving and brain building properties.
In much of human history (and even still in many parts of the world) we have had to do what we have to do to survive. But I am extremely blessed to live in a time and place and situation that gives me lots of choices. I will be able to bring my best to the world when I make the choice that brings out my passion. That will help me deliver more results, get more done, and keep my productivity high.
Sometimes that might still mean sacrifice and hard work. It always amazes me how far passion can carry me, even when things get rough.
The next word I chose is closely related to the first. What can help direct passion, and overcome the challenges in the process, is purpose. A greater why behind my choices. My goal is to stay aware of my why behind everything I do. To focus on projects that make the world a better place overall. To not be afraid of being vocal about things that matter.
This word is something that I already began in 2015. I started getting intense about where I am going and what I want to accomplish. Tracking successes and failures, measuring, and improving. That is something I definitely want to continue and even expand on in the new year.
My last word is people, because really that is what it all is about anyway. I have been accused of being a workaholic. And my response is always that it is not work for work's sake, but for a bigger reason. Which is all true. I have to always keep my eye on the fact that the bigger reason is the people I love immediately, and people as a whole indirectly. I want to keep my sons, my boyfriend, and my family and friends in the fore front this year. Looking for ways to make more time for them and to involve them in my purposes and passions too.
Maybe this exercise has inspired you too. I would love to hear your three words in the comments below. Something amazing starts to happen when we start saying things out loud. Try it and see. And Happy New Year!