Ever see a video, hear a podcast or see an Instagram feed and feel a little jealous? Comparison can be toxic, but the inspiration for elevation with an aesthetic that really and truly resonates with you? THAT is one of the best ways to move your brand and business forward. In this post, I’ll share some hacks for creating content that is #InstaGoals for less!
Do you ever feel like everyone else has it figured out while you’re still playing dress-up in your mom’s suits?
As someone who – quite literally – played dress-up for hours and hours in her mother’s suits from the 80s and 90s (shoulder pads and all), I can tell you this is part of the practice of becoming an expert in your zone of genius. It is part of the practice of advancing in your career and it is part of the practice of finding your voice in an oversaturated and fatigued marketplace.
It can be downright exhausting — and detrimental if you don’t take some time to get clear on your mantras, your goals and your content buckets to hone in on the area(s) that YOU want to own.
This is challenging, no doubt about it. In a world where everyone’s life, business, marriage, motherhood and workouts are #InstaFiltered, it can seem like you’re the only one going through this phase of life-acne, but I promise you’re not alone.
I promise you.
In my mission to be transparent, I will say that I once felt this way. I often felt not good enough when I worked at some of the biggest names in the business… and then, when I went off on my own, I realized that those titles reinforced that belief in me and once I let go of expectations, I was truly able to soar and work with even bigger names and create massive success for my clients and myself.
How Did I Do It? Practice.
Practice is a word that has resonated with me since my days of daily hot yoga sessions before sunrise — as a little girl, I imagined the woman I wanted to be. I’m a very visual person, my memories and dreams play like film clips in my mind, like a kaleidoscope of a highlight reel I once hope to share. So my image of me as an adult has always played out this way in my mind. And from an early age — 8 at least — I kept looking in the mirror searching for her, willing her into existence.
Two decades later, she is here, she is fierce and she ain’t even halfway done.
But that was a practice. It was the practice of figuring out what truly fit my style, my mission and my personality as I went through the runway of work and life, trying on new titles like last season’s t-shirts and collecting case studies like Ariel’s baubles.
Next year, I’ll enter my third decade and I firmly believe in the power of three (that’s a story for another post; it will come so stay tuned) — for me, this is when my practice has hit one of it’s most aligned moments. And that’s where I pick up the title of this post, the power of a staged space.
My new apartment is great, it works for what I need it to way more than any other space but it’s definitely not “ideal.” It doesn’t have the perfect clean light that I need and the windows don’t look out into the majestic city like the windows I someday know I will have (hoping and wishing and praying) but that shouldn’t matter, right? It’s my home and I love it and it should be good enough for all of my content needs.
Should — that word can be such a B.
The reason I’m writing this post today is because of an episode of Happy Thoughts Show run by two girl bosses and friends, Sara Wiles and Lacey Sites. Last night’s episode featured comparisonitis and how to deal/what it is. I was so intrigued by the responses that so many of the ladies had because I do, as I explained above, DEFINITELY remember being there myself professionally. And while I don’t always struggle with this as a CEO, as women, there are always ways in which we judge ourselves too harshly and this comes up for us.
So many of these things, however, can be quickly fixed with a little zuzsh — as I like to say. Basically, a little quick fix solution to turn the space you have into the space you want to have someday in some way. Working with what you’ve got to create what you desire — THAT is key to this practice. As I shared today “See it. Believe it. Think it. Be it.” because you’ve already got everything you need, you just gotta make it #werk.
In times when you wish your brand looked a little more Kardashian and less Kitchy, there are spaces that you can use to stage your content collection.
Breather is a great app featuring workspaces AND photo/video spaces in several major cities (Canada too!). You can rent the spaces by the hour (and you’ll get a discount if you use my code) or by the day. I did a photoshoot in one of these spaces last fall and it was GREAT. It allowed me to get all the shots I needed without having to worry if my apartment was clean enough.
My favorite photo series, ever (for my brand) was taken in my 450 sq ft apartment, the one I had before where I live now. Yes, really. I got some green screen from a friend who purchased it wholesale at a production house in Brooklyn and then we used two massive lights to turn my apartment into the kind of “#lit” #InstaGoals are made of. I’ve also purchased my own lighting kit since this shoot, for $70 from Jet.com. Even if you think your space is drab, lighting can make a HUGE difference.
Flowers can completely change a shot. Placing flowers over your right or left shoulder just beyond the shot can open up a room and make it feel like you’re in a totally different space. This can be accomplished by shooting from different angles too.
If you’re ready for a big project, Peerspace is one to investigate. They also have spaces in cities all over the world that can be used for events, photo and video shoots, fashion shows, intimate dinners and more. What I love most about Peerspace is that some of the photo/video shoot spaces even come with lights — which totally beats trekking around Manhattan with your gear.
I hope these tips help you create your #InstaGoals photoshoot for your brand and business — and if you’re not resonating with that type of photography and brand representation? Find the five brands that fit YOUR idea of what YOU want to be and create your own #InstaGoals — because you deserve to write your success story on your terms, not on someone else’s.
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.
Content should not be free. Unfortunately, the rise of digital properties led to the cannibalization of content. While this buzzwordy phrase is currently making the rounds on social, we’re losing valuable opportunities to create content that truly matters and that is why, if you’re using content, you have to find a way to pay the writer in one way or another.
I am a Huff Post contributor but don’t agree with their model. Why? Because not everyone knows how to maximize the exposure they get from contributing this content. Not everyone knows to syndicate their blog posts to Huff Post for traffic, social brand awareness and more. (Well, if you’re reading this, now YOU do).
And that, my dear readers, is BS.
Content makes brands, entrepreneurs and influencers MILLIONS, if not Billions, of dollars every year. Many creators — that is people who write, post and MAKE images, videos, photos and more — never see a dime of that OR even see any social currency and follower growth.
There is a better way
I understand the business logistics of paying every single creator for every piece of content. I understand that it is not a model for every business, HOWEVER, there are ways to pay your writers without actually exchanging any cash.
Social Media Currency is real and very few are taking advantage of it.
If YOU want to use free content, here are a few things you can do to contribute to the solution rather than continue the plague.
Giving link love back on social media is a tag or mention, on a website, it’s about linking to their website and articles. It’s about using SOME of your digital klout to mention others and help them increase THEIR influence. An easy way for all brands to do this is to give every contributor at least 1 tag per platform per mention. It could be over the span of 12 months, hell, it could be over the span of 5 years. As long as credit is given, it helps decrease the use of free content
Linking back and link love is great but you can also simple RESHARE a post, giving the author/creator proper attribution from the start. This is very important for videos on social. As videos and vemes become more popular, it is important to share a mention of where you found it and to actually site the creator, not just the source.
If you’re including my contributor article in a newsletter that will net you a profit, some of that profit should be distributed to the writers. This is something that many brands have not started to get into but do need to consider as influencer marketing and content marketing continues to grow.
If you’re ready to use your audience and influence to build your business and your bank account without taking advantage of the creators, let’s talk and figure out ways to syndicate the best creators for YOUR brand objectives.
An expert is someone who lives, breathes, eats and sleeps the work they do. That’s not to say that they don’t have many interests or areas of expertise, but to identify someone as a true expert — especially in the social media marketing space — can be a challenge. This guide is meant to help you get a sense of whether or not this “expert” really knows their stuff so you can get back to the work of building your brand, business and bank account.
Why Should You Care What I Have to Say?
Well, quite frankly because I AM an expert. A quick scan of my bio and LinkedIn profile will show you that I’ve worked at some pretty impressive places and done some pretty incredible things.
But does that really mean I’m an expert?
In my opinion, it does not. Just because you worked somewhere doesn’t mean that you actually did the work and just because you can write a great post or two doesn’t mean you actually did the writing.
Sooooo… What the Hell?
I know it seems more complicated but it’s actually better to assume everyone you encounter is NOT the expert they say they are.
Confusing, perhaps, but if you are skeptical upon your first interaction with someone and their brand/content, you won’t become a disciple of theirs.
How Can I Get the Information I Need?
You do, it is true, need experts to help you flourish in the zones of genius that you do not excel. This is a valid and true statement. But finding those people can be difficult… if you assume everyone knows what they’re talking about.
The first thing to remember is that social media marketing is in its infancy. Facebook hasn’t even had business pages FOR A FULL DECADE!!! Let that sink it for a moment. The method of doing business for so many of you reading this, wasn’t even something to USE a few short years ago.
That means that every, single expert in social still has tons to learn (myself included).
Identifying an expert is easy if you know what to look for and these three steps can help you find an expert in any zone of genius, not just someone who excels at social media marketing.
Consistency in Results
When someone says they’re an expert, ask them for examples of their work and their successes to date. These case studies should be varied and show success based on the resources available for the project. And, the expert should be willing to explain how each success was achieved. That is consistency in results.
When you ask someone for their advice on Facebook ads, they should not give you a generic statistic. They should be able to tell you what they have been able to achieve for other clients and how those results varied from client to client as well as share insights on the “average” across all types of Facebook posts.
Basically, if they’re offering a one-size-fits-all model, run the other way.
When you see a Facebook post or Instagram Story from an expert, ask them questions that go beyond the topics covered. Someone who really knows their stuff will be able to offer clear answers AND ask clear questions to get to the heart of what you’re really looking for and give you some solid advice. Even if they won’t give you strategic advice (because no one should give that away for free), they should be able to tell you some stats from past clients and give you some food for thought when it comes to what YOUR next move should be.
All in all, a true expert is someone who not only knows the right answer but knows HOW to get you from the question you’re asking to the answers you need to have. A true expert is a guide, someone who helps you navigate their zone of genius with ease and strategy; someone who helps YOU build your business without draining your bank account.