Social Media influence can bring you notoriety, cash and, sometimes, a new gig (or two). But how do you actually get your audience to grow? There are three things that are essential for all digital brands, no matter what you’re saying, sharing or selling. And I’m giving them to you, right here.
Consistency. Clarity. Communication.
Those are the three things that every brand, entrepreneur and influencer needs to do in order to build a healthy digital community that translates to clients and builds your bank account.
This article is more about the authentic connection than it is about any hard and fast best practices.
It’s about understanding who you are and what you’re offering then it is about building a sales funnel or the perfect Facebook ad.
It is about mindset, intuition and goals. All of your goals.
Step 1: What is Your Community?
Tribe, community, gang. Whatever you call it, it’s all about the people you’re engaging with. The content you share, the products you sell — they have the power to change someone’s life. Even if you’re not an entrepreneur, building a following, a community, means that you have leverage to work with as you work your way up the ladder as a careerpreneur, which is my term for someone who treats their job like a business.
In order to build a community, you have to understand what the people who follow you, are inspired by you and choose to connect with you are interested in as a unit. What shared traits do they have? What shared interests? Identify those first, at least the top three, before you define the relationship.
Step 2: Define the Relationship
Are you the teacher? The guide? Coach? Cheerleader?
Defining the relationship in your community is a key step… it’s a key step in every, single relationship you have (right, millennial friends?!?) but in building a community that converts, it’s even more important. Be the Alpha your community needs AND help them grow, share and be confident in their own abilities.
Step 3: Give the People What They Want
Once you know what common traits and interests your community (or desired community) shares, it’s easy to give them what they want. And, if you’re still not sure? That’s where polls and quizzes come in. Creating a quiz (like my “What’s Your Boss Style?”) is a great way to generate leads that are interested in what YOU have to offer. Polling your Facebook group or your audience on Facebook in general, is the best way to figure out what they want. You can also look back through your past posts to get a sense of what’s popular in your organic content strategy.
Overall, the three steps to building a community involves setting a clear intention for your efforts ONCE you’ve established the needs, hopes and dreams of the community you desire.
And then? Then it’s just about being authentically, awesomely, amazingly, YOU.
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Quarter four is upon us!! This is the home stretch of the year — and it’s not just about business goals to finish this year strong, it’s about setting up a foundation for the following year so you can hit the ground running as soon as the holidays are over… and maybe, accomplish a few goals before it even begins.
For the past six years, I’ve started counting down to the new year in October. It may seem like I’m not “in the moment” but I can promise you that by doing my 10 Weeks to whatever the next year is, I’m actually more present, strategic and mindful of my goals.
The best part? I usually knock a few off before we even hit the holidays.
Why am I telling you this? Well, last year, I used this time to get serious about my brand focus for 2017. And it worked. It worked so well that my company earned multiple six figures this year — our second full year in business. It worked so well that I brought on two new team members, managed dozens of projects and still found time to get a little press along the way. It worked so well that I cleared 10K on Instagram and continue to grow an engaged following that ACTUALLY converts. It worked so well that I found the love (of self), sweat (of hard #werk) and tears (of joy) mantra and ACTUALLY felt what that means for me.
It worked so well that beyond all those tangible success items, I found myself in a whole new way.
This next year, 2018, is a big one for me. It’s my third full year in business and the start of my third decade on this earth. I’ve recently gotten more into the Woo (more on that on my lifestyle blog) and I’ve found that it has helped me burn old stories and break the cassette tapes that no longer served me.
And I found that in the 10 weeks leading up to 2017 last fall.
That’s why I am so passionate about making this quarter count. It may seem like a slower time period — with family, holiday and travel chaos — but that means there are more pockets for YOU to find time to just be. To allow your mind to really go there when it comes to the possibilities that you may have denied yourself in the past.
Here are four things I’ve done in the last quarter of the year to create MASSIVE success in the next year — they may not all be for you but they may be something you can “vix” for yourself and that? THAT is the most powerful thing of all.
The List of 100 Dreams
In 2011, I was 23 years old a little lost. I knew I wanted to change the world — I’ve known that my whole life — but the path to doing that seemed foggy. I purchased the book “What Color is Your Parachute?” I read about one-third of it and then decided I had what I needed and could move on. The most important part for me, at that moment in my life? The List of 100 Dreams. I wrote down everything I wanted to do in this life — including (most importantly) things I’d already accomplished. It helped me put my path into perspective. And best of all? Three months after I did that? I got the biggest job of my career and forged a new path in uncharted territory that led me here. Write the list this fall. Take the time to do it — in a place that makes YOU happiest — and think about what goals you can tackle in 2018. You’ll be surprised by what you’ve done already and how far you’ve come… I know it.
Calm in the Chaos
Meditation is something I committed to at the end of 2016 as well and as we circle back around on this ride we call life, I can tell you I haven’t kept up the practice as I thought I would BUT I did keep the intention. I live in NYC, it is a chaotic city — full of energy, motion and go-go-go. And I love every second of it. The entrepreneur guilt can often feel like that too — am I doing enough — and so meditation was one way I decided to calm my mind. I thought it meant that I had to sit, cross-legged on my couch, clearing my mind of all thoughts. That was not what worked for me — Instead, it’s a daily listen to freevibeoftheday.com, checking my horoscope and walking to my morning workout class without any expectation of what thoughts will pop into my head. Finding the calm in the chaos of my routine helped me stay the course. My advice for you? Find three things that calm you. Learn three new tools in this season to help you stay calm in the chaos and block time to do them every, single week of the first quarter of the new year. Knowing that you have a plan to tackle anything that comes your way IS half of the battle and this is one of the most powerful things you can do.
Healthy Body, Healthy Mind
I’ve had a regular, stable, consistent workout schedule since I’m 17. It has been a constant in my life through ALL of the changes in this defining decade and it is one I am eternally grateful for. I also went gluten- and dairy- free in my 20s. Trying a new food or workout routine is not easy during the holidays but the holidays are a few weeks away — take October to really consider what your “normal” eating habits are and how you can clean them up (or open them up) to give yourself more energy throughout the day. Find small tweaks that work for you. This isn’t something that I can really advise you on BUT I can tell you that paying attention to this — especially in my solopreneur days — helped me through a LOT of ups and downs.
I set goals, a lot. Quarterly goals, daily goals, weekly goals. I am #goalsongoalsongoals all damn day! Goals help me stay grounded and they help ME make the decisions I need to move forward. Each week of the next three months, write down three goals you want to accomplish that week. I find a hybrid of business and personal goals really makes me feel fulfilled so try that to see if it helps for you too. Write them on a post-it and tape them to your laptop or desktop each Sunday. On the following Sunday, block 15-20 minutes to evaluate your accomplishments and another 15-20 to set new goals for the following week. This intention setting allowed me to not only hit my financial goals for this year, but it actually allowed me to surpass them without even thinking about it. Powerful. Stuff.
No matter what practices, tactics and tools you use, setting yourself up for success in Quarter Four IS a crucial part of making the BOSS moves you need to succeed in the year ahead. The simplest thing to do? Get a handle on your expenses, write-offs and tax deductions for April — that is one way to understand your accomplishments this year AND how to maximize your success next year.
Brand trust — in everything from e-commerce brands to brick and mortar stores to editorial brands — is gone. Consumers — that is people who buy, click, visit, read and share — are more skeptical than ever. This is a problem ALL brands, businesses and individuals who share content on the many digital platforms face — and yet, it seems like we’re doing nothing to combat it. There are many, many things that can be done but the most important thing YOU can do? Be transparent with your audience every step of the way.
Editorial brands like The New York Times have spent decades refining their reputation. Television news brands, like CNN, ABC, NBC, etc. have done the same. And now? Now we have a generation of consumers — in all age groups and all phases of life — who are skeptical of everything they see, read, share and hear.
Where does that leave us?
These digital tools — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and more — are platforms meant to bring communities together. Like the meeting houses, bonfires and great halls, these platforms have become a place to buy, trade, sell and share.
And as trust in the information presented decreases?
Well, it stands that trust in brands trying to sell in the same arena would also decrease.
And you don’t have to take my word for it — Buzz Sumo recently analyzed over 880 million (yes, with an m) Facebook posts from brands and publishers and engagement is down by 20% — regardless of spending which, for many of these individual entities, increased dramatically over the same period.
As an individual, you may have noticed a downward trend too — and that makes sense because as the algorithm struggles to learn new ways of verifying real vs fake content, individuals and business pages, it puts a clamp on all information.
Organic reach still exists — if you have the right content strategy in place, you should be able to see an increase in reach with a few well-placed tweaks — but it is not the same as it was.
So what are online entrepreneurs to do?
Transparency is your friend
Sharing your success stories, case studies and launch stories is bread and butter of digital brand marketing when it comes to online personalities. The true key here? Is to break it down! Tell your audience how much you spent on Facebook ads, how much you spent with affiliates, where you placed your content and how much time you spent training your audience to be primed for purchase. Share your missteps (because nothing is truly a failure) as lessons learned to move forward.
Be the expert, own your space
Experts are a dime a dozen — but YOU have a unique spin for YOUR zones of genius and excellence. YOU get to decide what content you share and how your audience consumes it. And you get to shine in the darkness of unreliable content (otherwise known as fake news) by providing statistics, data and verified sources. You are a content creator 5% (or less) of the time and a content curator 95% of the time — curate wisely.
Own your missteps — see them as an opportunity
The New York Times prints corrections… every, single news organization in the world prints corrections. Humans are not infallible — we are HUMANS. It’s called Human Error for a reason and the best way to combat the problem of unreliable content on today’s oversaturated content platforms? Think like an editorial team — decide how, when and where you’ll acknowledge your corrections and make it public. Make sure that you’re owning these answers consistently in your messaging. Using a response grid (like the one I offer for free, here) is a great way to stay on top of this day-to-day and across a distributed team.
Every expert will tell you something different about what it means to build a digital business. This quick start guide will help you get the building blocks in place so you can expand as you go along without having to scramble for key assets and systems last minute, allowing you to take full advantage of all the opportunities coming your way.
Understanding what you’re going to talk about is the first part of building a digital brand. What key areas will you “own” as an expert? Will you create a blog or plan to share content on social media? Are you going to train your audience to expect a podcast, video series or to convert to a group program?
Here are a few resources to help you get started:
The Only Branding Cheatsheet You’ll Ever Need
Buzzwords and Your Digital Strategy
3 Content Objectives and 5 Ways to Achieve Them
Content Planning for Entrepreneurs
The 5 W’s and an H of Content Planning
Website or Landing Page — Or Social Media Page
No matter what your hub is, you need a hub to send your new audience to. That hub can be a website, landing page or series of social media profiles.
My advice? Start with a simple website (like these that we’ve created for clients) with a home, about, contact and services page. This allows you to start collecting email addresses quickly (to build your list from Day 1; even if you’re not sending them anything yet, it’s an important digital branding step!) and it will also allow you to employ some of that content planning you’ve been working on — on the About page, think about what you want to own, your why and how you can provide services and products to YOUR ideal client. That will help you start to inform your content strategy AND give you something to share on social media.
If you decide to start with a social media page or profile? Consider where your ideal client hangs out before deciding which one to focus your energies on. And if you’re not building a website at all? Stay off Twitter, you won’t have the content to support a solid strategy and then the brand building efforts there will fall flat.
Social Media Strategy
If you do nothing else when building a digital brand, you MUST reserve your business name (or your name) on all social media platforms. Even if you plan to NEVER use that platform to promote your business, you never know which way the tides will turn so reserve all of your handles on Day 1 to make sure you never, ever have to think about this again!
Then, it’s about deciding where your ideal client hangs out and how many times a day you can reasonably post.
If you’re only on Facebook, you ARE leaving money on the table, but if you’re just starting out, it is better to be focused so take the time to build a rapport with your community.
All of the resources we have on social media planning can be found here.
No matter what you’re doing, you want to get paid. Whether you’re a side-hustler, a naptime ninja or a weekend warrior, you’re starting a side business and digital brand to get paid. If you’re an influencer, you’ll be using your digital influence to get paid in a variety of ways… but you’re still GETTING PAID! Think about the easiest way for YOU to handle payments. Start by creating an excel sheet for expenses and income tracking so that when tax time rolls around, you’re not wasting valuable time scrambling for receipts and payment records.
A resource to get started:
3 Payment Systems to Rock Your Business
You may not know what types of content you’ll be sending via email but owning an email list is one of the most important parts of building a digital brand. Yes, all of these parts are important, that’s why they’re the building blocks! But having the ability to reach your customers 1:1? THAT is priceless. Always remember, the social platforms that we invest so much time, energy and money into are public (some are even publicly traded) and can go away in an instant. And if they do? How would you connect with your audience? This is something that the Vine influencers dealt with a little over a year ago and it was not pretty. Don’t ever allow yourself to be in this position! Get ahead of it from Day 1 with an email system that suits YOUR needs and can scale with your business.
There you have it! Of course, there are MANY more elements to consider as you build, scale and grow your business and digital brand, but this is a great way to get started.
In six months of careful, strategic curation, I brought my Instagram brand from 2K to 10K and got the coveted “swipe up” for more in my stories. It may not SOUND like a big deal but as a digital marketer with many offerings, products and places to drive my ideal customer, it SO is! In these six months, I can also directly attribute clients and conversions back to my Instagram looking the way it does — so that means I turned my Instagram followers into clients. This blog will share more on how YOU can do the same.
Instagram is a powerful tool for conversions — paid and free — if you use it correctly. It may seem like magic, but I promise you there was a lot of love (of self), sweat (of hard #werk) and tears (of joy) on the journey to 10K for me. A LOT of it.
If you only read this far into the post, I can tell you the ONE thing you need to do to grow an authentic following (because yes, mine is also verified by one of the hottest influencer programs, Fohr) is this: training your audience by giving them content they want to see on a consistent basis with your unique, authentic voice.
That’s really all it takes to grow your following.
Of course, there are many strategies to get there and many ways to deploy these recommended strategies for success long-term but that ONE thing IS the key to success… and now, for the rest:
Get Your Look On Point
Instagram is THE most visual platform of the current “cool kids” on the social media block. It’s all about getting an image that speaks to what you’re selling AND to your ideal client. You might think that an image is perfect for your brand but if it doesn’t resonate with your client? Don’t post it. This makes me CRAZY when I’m working with clients — I know, I know, I KNOW you love the photos you’ve taken and curated as you built your brand but I also am an expert at increasing engagement per post — promise me when I say I know what your audience wants.
How can you figure this out without working with me? Well, guess, test and review is one solid strategy (and you can download a freebie on how to do that here). You can also check out your competitors and see what their audience is responding to — chances are, if they’re in your zone of genius, their followers are followers YOU want to bring over to your tribe too.
And, you can also check out the Instagram patterns that play well for large influencers. There are proven strategies that get results — the key is to put YOUR spin on it to make it authentic to you and attract your tribe like bees to a hive.
Strategic Promotions are Necessary
Facebook Ads are something I’m quite passionate about. Investments tell the Universe that you’re ready for BIG things and that’s important on many levels.
In terms of “the woo,” it is important to have a mindset for success. It’s why I share daily mantras on my Instagram profile — to hold MYSELF accountable to keeping a positive and optimistic mindset no matter what else is happening in my world.
In terms of practical strategy, it shows Facebook (which owns Instagram and is the “holder” for Instagram ads and boosted posts) that you’re interested in using this tool as a business-builder and that you’re ready to invest to do so. That’s big in the eyes of the algorithm and important for you to understand as you grow your brand.
By boosting individual posts on your Instagram Profile and also setting up small, strategic investments in dark posts through Facebook Business Manager for Instagram-only ads, you’re creating a loop of promotion that will attract the right people at the right time, every time.
The more you grow, the more likely your posts are to show up in the Top Posts feed for the hashtags you use (and if you’re not using at least 1 hashtag, you’re missing out; two hashtags is best for most brands in terms of getting optimal engagement… but that really varies and I often do use the full 10 until you reach at least 15K followers) which will then put you in front of many, many more of your ideal clients and their friends.
Should. Struggle. Obstacle.
I am on a mission to erase these words from my vocabulary when it comes to my business and my business-building efforts. It’s working, I made 6 figures in the first 6 months of this year which is only my second full year of entrepreneurship, but it is a challenge. Which I now see as an opportunity for behavior change that is really resonating with my audience.
Why should you care about this? Because BEING AUTHENTIC is a huge lesson learned on the journey to 10K (over 10K now… insert GIF happy dance here, y’all!).
Sharing the ups, downs and #lifelessons learned is a huge part of what makes the most powerful influencers powerful. Sure, beautiful photos get a bunch of likes and comments but how many of those likes turn to business? How many of those comments turn to cash?
Being authentic is what brings in the PAID conversions from Instagram and it is what sustains a brand long-term.
You’re not a flash in the pan — you’re in it for the long-haul and your brand will reflect that if you are authentically you every time you show up on Instagram.
Engage the Right People
I refer to Instagram as a vertical network. Twitter and Facebook are horizontal networks — because I see something in my main feed and immediately share it to my profile, making a horizontal leap, whereas with Instagram, I see something, I like it and I move on. I may reshare down the road, but the way someone will engage with it is, most likely, in a vertical view on their own feed.
The way to get around that on Instagram is to actually LIKE, COMMENT AND ENGAGE users on THEIR profiles, their photos and their content.
Reply to a story from a big influencer, share an authentic comment on posts that resonate with you.
Dedicate time to actually engaging with the community you want to build. It’s a “woo” thing — showing up the way you want your tribe to engage with you — but it’s also a strategic thing. The more you comment, like and engage, the more your username shows up in the circles you want to play.
Timing is Everything
Did you know that I’ve built over 25 Instagram accounts from scratch? Most of them have at least 10K followers if not more within the first 4 months of my control.
Why? Because I am as strategic about WHEN I share as I am about WHAT I share.
This is where switching to an Instagram Business Profile comes in handy. There are many, many different viewpoints on this but in my opinion and experience, it is the ONLY way to go.
The “research” says you should post in the morning on Instagram and yet, for most accounts, I see (in all different time zones and verticals) 7pm-11pm ET is the most active time frame.
Check your times, guess, test and review and check ‘em again, I promise it’ll be worth it!
Stick to the Plan
If you’ve read this far, I applaud you. I know this one is long but it’s FULL of good information.
This piece is one of the most important pieces of information I can share.
I cannot tell you how many times I thought about breaking my pattern for something cool or more relevant to that DAY or EVENT.
And I stopped myself because I was committed to my strategy.
And guess what? It worked.
Curate content… share things in real time on InstaStory but for your feed? Treat it with kid gloves and, whatever you do, stick to the plan you’ve chosen for at least 6-8 weeks. By then, you’ll have an idea of if it’s working and how to shift if not (or you could just work with me in one of my 1:1 coaching + execution programs!).
Give the plan time to work and enough data to review. That is what will keep your brand healthy for the long-haul, I promise.
If you’re looking for Instagram support, let’s schedule a discovery call and see how I can help YOU get the BIG results I’m known for.
Unicorns are rare, but Digital Polymaths are even more precious. Why? Because so many of us were trained to be specialists for so long and now? Now we need to be well-versed in all areas of the digital lifecycle. Read on to learn WHY you need a digital polymath in your business.
A polymath is someone who has a wide range of knowledge or learning in many subject areas. People like Benjamin Franklin, Leonardo DaVinci and countless others who have been dubbed “geniuses” over the decades and centuries.
Today, these individuals are unicorns.
Blame it on our education system, on our “millennial laziness” (which is total BS and I’ll be following up with why on http://vixinthecity.com) or on our inability to be truly creative… whatever it is, generations have been stripped of their ability to think outside of the box and explore subject matters beyond their areas of expertise.
It may sound conceited but I am a digital polymath and I truly believe I am a unicorn.
I’ve been a polymath since I was a child — I studied creative arts in writing and design, and the more “traditional” science and mathematics courses in computer coding.
For me, it wasn’t about getting as many skills as possible but more about gravitating to what interested me, not thinking about whether I’d be well suited to it based on my other strengths.
As early as 2012, the Harvard Business Review discussed the rise of polymaths and why it is good to have them in your organization as well as, for the employee, why it is good to acquire a wide range of skills.
A simple search for “digital polymath” brings up many discussions about user experience design — that is, how we interact with apps, websites and devices — among others discussing video polymaths at the Washington Post and so much more.
Why Should You Care?
Because a Digital Polymath is essential for online entrepreneurs and influencers, especially if you can find one who has the ability to navigate from both sides of the table as well as in online and offline communities.
Really? How Do I Know You’re Telling the Truth?
Yes, really. Because I do it every, single day.
Most social media experts and Facebook ads experts will focus on the creative — that is the images, videos, words and links you share in your social media content and paid media content — and not worry about the full lifecycle.
And by that I mean — once they’ve driven traffic to your site, they often wash their hands of the results OR push it off to a “lesser” team member.
And that is complete and total BS.
If you don’t have a basic understanding of tactics and systems used to complete the conversion, you have no business.
I am not telling you to step out of your zone of genius and struggle to find the time in your already packed day to learn new skills, but I am telling you to have a basic understanding so you can identify the experts and make sure the ones you hire are doing everything they can to help YOU build your business without draining your bank account.
Ok, you’ve convinced me… now what?
As a unicorn, I’ve never really fit in with anyone one group or within a specific job title.
And that was the most lucrative path I could have chosen.
By learning how to be creative enough to come up with ideas and then truly understanding the tactics needed to execute the ideas, I was able to triple my salary in four years, turning a six-figure degree into a six-figure salary in the process.
But enough about me and my background… what do YOU need to know?
Digital Polymaths may be more of an investment but they will increase your bottom line in less time and for less investment overtime.
It’s the Blue Apron model, right? Why buy ingredients that could make up a delicious dinner IF you put them together when you can spend less money and buy the exact amount you need to create the delicious dinner you want each and every time.
And, as Maya Angelou said in the Harvard Business Review piece — you don’t have to be an expert to understand and find the experts (paraphrasing, but you get the idea). If you want to expand your knowledge of all things digital, sign up for my weekly newsletter here and join my private Facebook group here.
You can learn all you need to know to hire the right people to build your business without draining your bank account — if you have patience and a solid digital tribe.
PS: Did you know I launched a Podcast? The Get is designed to give you the interviews, inspiration, connections and advice you need to get the life you want. Click here to Get Informed, Get Connected, Get Hired and Get Inspired by subscribing on iTunes.