The End.

Word Works has been on quite a ride over the past two years.  Unfortunately, due to various complications so regretfully common in business and life, we have reached the point where we cannot continue.  Rather than belabor an explanation, let it suffice to say that we found ourselves in a situation where the skill sets and the willing attitudes simply didn’t match the circumstances.
If any former clients or prospective new ones reading this are looking for the kind of assistance we provided with Word Works, please contact Stephen at stephenheiner@gmail.com or Brandon at brandon.james.carlson@gmail.com, and we’ll do our best to help you independently or put you into contact with someone else who can help.
Thank you!
Stephen and Brandon

Owners

Word Works, Inc.

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Sometimes DIY Isn’t The Answer

As a small business owner, you’ve probably gotten used to doing it yourself no matter what “it” may be.  Whether that’s the part of your business that you’re passionate about — the thing that made you want to own your own business in the first place — or the accounting for your business, or the marketing for your business, or the technology for your business, or even the cleaning up the mess at the end of the day…you probably do it yourself, or at least you did for a long time way back at the beginning.  Whether it’s something that’s built into the DNA of most small business owners or simply a necessity from being forced to run as lean as possible, DIY is par for the course in the small business world.

But there are times when it’s not in your best interest.

blogging-428954_640While it’s always wise to understand every part of your business, there comes a point of diminishing returns when the specialized knowledge that your business really needs just isn’t worth the time or effort for you to develop it yourself.  Sure, given enough time and energy you could probably learn how to do it as well as the “real” professional, but who runs your business during the time it takes you to get there?  It’s demanding enough just to build and grow a business, but to do so while learning all of the new specialized skill sets necessary to make it successful is approaching the impossible.  For some, the knowledge in question is the accounting.  For others it might be the sales or marketing.  Technology is often something that isn’t a ready part of a small business owner’s skill set.  There’s a reason there are so many independent small businesses that provide precisely these skill sets!  Most small business owners eventually begin to outsource these more specialized pieces of their life’s work to specialized professionals — whether employees or not — because the cost of paying them is less than the cost of doing it themselves.  Blogging is one of those specialized pieces.

Yes, it’s true: in the year 2015, anyone can start a blog for free in just a few minutes.  You can even make it look pretty decent, too.  But, in today’s social media driven society where you have just a few seconds to connect with your blog’s visitors before they move on to the next thing, can you grab (and hold) their attention?  Can you keep them coming back day after day, week after week? Can you build a growing readership?  Much like working the drive through at McDonald’s, blogging sounds a lot easier to do than it really is.

For one thing, blogging is its own kind of writing.  It’s not high-minded or formal academic writing, but it’s not messy, sloppy, and nonsensical, either.  In the same way that even professional authors struggle to jump from novels to short stories to newspaper reporting, it takes a significant amount of time, effort, and experience to develop the right tone of voice and style for a blog.  This can be even more tricky when you factor in the exact subject matter and content of your own particular blog, but in order to have an authentic and consistent voice, that is exactly what needs to be done.  On top of that, the mechanics of the writing needs to be high quality.  It is not uncommon to find minor typos or grammatical errors even on websites of major companies, but the more of these a reader sees, the less credibility the blog carries with that reader…if they bother to come back at all.

But it’s not just about the writing skills.  If your readers leave comments or interact with your blog in any way, it becomes even more paramount that someone with experience is on the other side of the keyboard to curate and nurture those interactions in a positive way that not only builds your brand but also provides extra value to your readers.  We’ve talked before about how to do — or not to do — social media (here, here, here), and in many cases these disasters occur because of inexperience with the platform.  If you’re not sure you can manage the inevitable trolls — or if you don’t even know what a troll is — then you may want to think twice about doing your own blogging.

success-620300_640It’s becoming more and more important to enter the blogging and social media game on behalf of your small business, but it’s also critical to get it right.  If you outsource other specialized pieces of your operations, then it only makes sense to outsource your blogging, too.

How To Use SlideShare for Your Small Business

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Does your business use SlideShare as a social media marketing tool? SlideShare is a great resource for providing information to your target audience. When used effectively, SlideShare is a powerful way to market your business and generate leads.

Your business is probably using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, so what is the hesitation with SlideShare? SlideShare is a valuable resource for improving your search engine optimization and also proving your business as a subject matter expert, which is valuable in driving leads. Historically underutilized, SlideShare has less competition, so your business can take the spotlight quicker than on other platforms.

SlideShare is “the world’s largest community for sharing presentations and other professional content” and boasted an average of 60 million unique visitors a month in Q4 of 2013. [Source: SlideShare] You can upload presentations, infographics, documents, PDFs, videos and webinars to your SlideShare company page. In this post, I’ll share our recommendations for how to use SlideShare effectively for your small business.

Add Links and Calls To Action Within Your Presentation

SlideShare is a useful way to provide subject matter expertise, but we understand you really want SlideShare to help drive users to your website where they can convert. By using embedded links and call to actions within your presentations, you create a seamless transition from your presentation to your website for interested readers. Starting at the fourth presentation slide, you can place live links in your presentation that send users to relevant landing pages. You can take advantage of an interested user by including clear calls to action, both through text and visual items, like arrows and buttons. Don’t be afraid to ask your viewers to share and download your slides.

Optimize Your Presentations With Keywords

Finding the right keywords are important for your brand as a whole, in addition to your presence on SlideShare. Consider the relevant keywords for your SlideShare presentation topic and use those keywords within your filename before uploading to SlideShare, as well as in the title, description and tags of your presentation. Since Google is taking a stronger look at relevant synonyms in search, it may be useful to use variations of your keyword phrase to rank higher in search, as well.

Take Advantage of LinkedIn

LinkedIn, a business professional network, owns SlideShare and the platforms work seamlessly together. LinkedIn even encourages SlideShare use by allowing upgraded features to all users at no cost. In addition to uploading your unique presentations, you can upload video. We recommend repurposing company videos and webinars on this platform through short teaser videos. LinkedIn’s sharing functions allow you to share certain SlideShare videos and presentations with different audiences making your exclusive content that much more desirable. Share your presentation from your personal and company pages to increase your reach. While you are in sharing mode, make sure to share the SlideShare slides on your other social networks too!

Insider Tip: SlideShare lets you update your posts without losing your social shares and views counts, so feel free to take a look at old presentations as a starting point.

Ready to Get Started with SlideShare?

If you are ready to take the next step, we encourage you to jump right in. As with any content marketing and social network, it may take time before you find the right strategy and voice that works for lead generation, but keep at it. Visitors most likely are looking for several interactions with your brand before they are ready to make a purchase or commitment.

Tapping into the Valentine’s Day trend on social media

Taking Advantage

As business owners who want to stay relevant with current trends, you plan ahead of time to take advantage of holidays. But maybe you struggle with Valentine’s Day because you don’t see how it fits in with your business. Further, you see the advantage in using social media, but don’t know where to start in contributing and drawing attention to your brand.

First of all, have something to say. We always want to add value to the consumer’s life. This is what gets us shares. Especially on Valentine’s Day when we are competing against hundreds of other companies for consumer attention, we have to come up with something unusual, creative, and completely shareable.

Whether or not you personally want to “buy in” to all the Valentine’s Day hoopla, it’s smart business to encourage what consumers see as a day of hope for humanity.

  • Set up a series of inspiring quotes with trendy graphics relevant to your business. For example, if you own a computer store, your quote could be a cute quote on love or a corny romantic-themed joke, but your graphic should be of something like two computers running off together holding hands. Check fiverr.com to get something drawn up quick. Post your graphics on social media throughout the day. These should be completely shareable and only include your website in a discreet way down at the bottom somewhere, if at all. Selling your business to the consumer is only the remote goal of what you’re trying to do here. The proximate goal is getting them to agree and love whatever it is you’re sharing.
  • Highlight your business’ support for couples and participation in Valentine’s Day festivities by offering couples-centric discounts. Or offer freebies for those who stop by your business between certain hours. Your participation in Valentine’s Day with a discount for the public is the bare minimum of what the consumer expects. Graphics are cute, and you’ll get clicks for something shareable, but you need to cement people spending money for your product, not just have them like your page.
  • In all social media posts, include appropriate hashtags. #ValentinesDay and #Valentine are obvious ones, but other hashtags, like #WhatIsLoveInFourWords, are starting to show up. Check out hashtags.org to see what is trending from hour to hour. Appropriate hashtags would also refer to hashtags common to your target market. This post will be shared with the Valentine’s Day tags and #SmallBiz.
  • It’s probably too late for your small business to get a short video together, but if you have that kind of ability, don’t underestimate the power of the video. With Facebook, if you promote a short video – something humorous, something moving – your traffic can increase a ton because users will now see your content streaming in their feed, regardless of whether or not they click. Seeing a bit of what they are getting provides incentive for them to engage.
  • Instagram, a picture sharing site, is more heavily used by the younger crowd, so if you’re wanting to tap into this market more and use Valentine’s Day to do it, try ramping up your editorial style pics and making a social commentary on love with photos. Even if this only means taking your camera and randomly taking shots of occasions that remind you of love, romance, etc.  If it’s inspiring to you, it will probably be inspiring to others. It doesn’t matter whether it’s connected to your business specifically. The point is that your company believes in and encourages love, commitment, and hope for the future. Best of all, Instagram is free.
  • Use Valentine’s Day as a way to encourage people to engage with your business. You could ask users to post a pic from their journey to love and offer a discount code to anyone who does. You could participate in the trending hashtag #WhatIsLoveInFourWords and host a contest with a “basket” or gift card as a prize for the best one. Or do the same thing with a romantic haiku.
  • Make use of the personal story. Whether it’s an inspiring personal love story, your grandparents’ story, or your love story with whatever product or service your company produces, sharing something concise and inspiring can up your traffic. Video is the ideal vehicle for such a story, but this late in the day, a slideshare.com presentation is your next best thing. Failing that, use an article. Just make sure that the update announcing your story is pithy and will create curiosity in the consumer.
  • Service or product, have something crafted specifically for Valentine’s Day weekend. Limited edition items sold for a limited time create urgency in the user to take advantage of the moment. Use the obvious themes – hearts, flowers, romance. Even if your product or service isn’t romantic per se, having it wrapped in Valentine’s Day packaging (literally or figuratively, depending on what you are offering) or giving it a Valentine’s Day inspired name, is enough.

Valentine’s Day is coming up fast so you might not have time implement as many marketing strategies as you’d like. If coming up with content for your business isn’t doable, the least you can do is engage and participate with the existing content on the day of. Promote the business of other small businesses like your own and retweet and share the Valentine’s Day quotes, pics, and vids that put a smile on your face or in your heart.

You might not think your business has anything to do with Valentine’s Day, but that’s no reason your business can’t support love and romance.

Trends To Watch (And Use!) For 2015

Being active in social media and content generation is a must for all businesses in 2015, especiallystock-exchange-295648_640 small businesses. In order to effectively utilize those tools, it helps to be on the front side of the trend curve whenever possible. One of the biggest trends in social media in 2015 is the move toward less disclosure. While this may seem counter-intuitive, understanding the reasons for the move helps put things into context.

To illustrate, let’s look at the struggles of the biggest social media platform in the world, Facebook. Facebook grew to prominence on its enormous appeal to Millenials and youth because it allowed them easy access to the comings and goings of their friends. Last year was a watershed moment for Facebook because they actually lost users for the first time in almost a decade. It would be overly simplistic to attribute this loss to any one cause, but there can be no doubt that a big part of the reason is that Facebook use is now skewing toward older adults rather than Millenials and youth. Facebook’s struggle is the fact that Millenials don’t want to be “friends” with their parents and grandparents, and don’t want to have their online activities patrolled just like their real world activities. This is precisely the reason for the move toward less disclosure on social media.

Those Millenials and youth who cause rapid growth on social media platforms are fleeing toward other options that allow them to still connect with their friends without the older generations being privy to those interactions. Believe it or not, one of the hot new trends this year is the comeback of chat rooms. Users can enter the chat room, have their interactions, and leave, all without anyone unknown hopping in alongside them. In most cases, when the chat is done there is no enduring record of the discussion.

Another reason driving the desire for less disclosure is that social media has been widely adoptedshield-107860_640 by citizens of countries all around the world where censorship is used to quell unrest or prevent freedom of speech or expression. The need for instant communication with mass numbers of people is beautifully filled by social media, and in a very real sense, people’s lives may depend on disclosing less information about the identity of those users.

Another trend that has continue to grow is that of visual social media, especially on mobile devices. Platforms like Pinterest, Instagram, and Snapchat have experience massive growth and show no signs of stopping, confirming the truth in the old saw that a picture is worth a thousand words. Video platforms are coming up quickly, too. In addition to YouTube, newer services like Cinchcast and Screenr seek to make it easier than ever for anyone to create and publish their own videos about any topic of choice. As mobile devices continue to get more powerful, and as readily available broadband public networks continue to spread, the hurdles of mass video distribution have become very low.

Another big trend that appears to be emerging is that of new and creative strategies about how to use social media. For example, rather than simple brand marketing through social media, many companies are moving toward influencer marketing to make more genuine connections with potential customers. If a popular or well-known figure endorses something they use in social media, it is likely that many of their followers will do the same. Similarly, as consumers get more social media savvy, they expect more personal messaging than a typical Twitter hashtag or Facebook pay-to-play ad. A growing number of large companies use social media to interact directly and personally with customers — and have done so with great results — and small businesses will be expected to follow suit quickly. One example is airlines quickly re-routing lamp-432246_640stranded travelers via Twitter after mechanical or weather problems. Some companies, like Lego, have created entire user communities where enthusiasts can meet and interact without any direct involvement from Lego itself. However, by paying close attention to these communities and tapping into their leaders for special projects, Lego has essentially created a system of free idea generation and innovation guidance while simultaneously building loyalty through active user engagement. The bottom line is that an emphasis should be placed on creatively making meaningful connections with customers and providing real value to them rather than simply pushing information at them. Companies who are able to do that will develop a loyal and engaged following that improves their bottom line, especially as more and more social media platforms build payment services directly into their service.

There are a few honorable mentions I wanted to toss out there, too. Wearables are just starting to hit their stride, and it’s too early to estimate the magnitude of effect they will have on the social media space. Some think that social media outlets will become reservoirs of information in themselves, and it will just take the right interface to tap into those reservoirs to create a vast searchable hub of real time information. Aggregation is on the rise, as well, whether in the form of big data analytics for corporations, tools to help small businesses better understand which social media is working for them (and which is not), or being able to blast out content to multiple social media platforms in a single click.

All of these are merely guesses at this point; time will tell which of these become fixed in our society and which will not. Regardless, it is wise to do everything possible to stay on the forefront of the industry. Using social media is no longer just a fun little side gig. Instead, it should be viewed as a core part of the business’ strategy to reach, attract, and retain loyal customers over the long term.

Make Google Work For You

Google has more tools than handyman’s toolbox. Most people know about the big ones, like Search, Gmail, Drive, Docs, and Maps, but there are many more. One of the ways in which Google innovates is by putting out numerous beta products for free, just to see which ones are picked up and used by large numbers of people. The most popular ones receive more focus and resources, and eventually become full-fledged products (Gmail was technically a beta product until mid-2009, five years after it was first released). However, there are loads more that many people haven’t heard of. For a (mostly) comprehensive list, go here. However, one of the most useful tools isn’t even on the official list of products: Google Alerts.

Google Alerts is a terrific way to make Google Search work for you and on your timeframe – think of it as customized search results delivered to your email inbox. To set up an alert, go to the starting page. There are pre-built suggestions listed there, but to customize alerts for your needs just enter your search terms in the box at the top of the page. Sample results will appear below to give you an idea of the kind of information that will be delivered by the alert. Next to the “Create Alert” button is a drop-down list of options allowing you to control how often you receive an email from the alert, what kind of sources the email will include, and several other factors. Pick the options you want and click the create button. You’ll start receiving emails with the information of your choice right away. It’s that simple.

Now that you know how to set up alerts, let’s explore why you might want to. One of the biggest challenges for a small business is reputation management. The reality of 2015 is that more and more people are looking online for answers to their questions, meaning anything that’s posted online about your company could be seen by current or potential customers. Whether it’s checking reviews on Yelp or monitoring hashtags on Twitter, you need to be wherever your customers are looking so you can make sure false information doesn’t go unchecked or requests for help don’t languish. Unfortunately, most small businesses don’t even have a marketing department let alone a PR department, so anything that can be done to simplify these critical responsibilities can be a life saver. Setting up Google Alerts for keywords like your business name or top product lines can help keep you informed of what’s being said about you online, thus giving you a chance to respond. There are other reasons, too, though. You can keep up with general news and trends on your industry, saving a lot of time by having the applicable information sent directly to you. You can do a little virtual stalking of your competitors, if you’re into that sort of thing. You can keep track of who is linking to your site by using “link:www.yourdomain.com” as your keywords. If you want to get fancy, you can use operators to nail down some specifics. For example, let’s say you want to be notified if someone hacks your site and posts racy pictures on it.  You can set up an alert with the following search terms:

Nude OR naked OR porn OR sex site:www.yoursite.com

That should run along happily invisible until such time as a hack-and-post occurs, and then it will notify you right away.  It’s a nice little bit of extra reassurance on top of your normal online security procedures.  Feel free to set up as many alerts as you’d like – Google will allow you up to 1,000 of them. It’s just a single click to edit or delete your alerts, so anyone can do it.  More tips and details about customizing your alerts can be found here.

But it’s not just for businesses. Individuals can use alerts to help discover potential identity theft or content theft, follow sports teams or Hollywood celebrities, or stay on top of new products and technologies. You can set up an alert to perform the written digital equivalent of a selfie to find out what other people are saying about you. If you’re a traveler, you can use alerts to keep you posted on what’s happening back home. If you crave savings, you can keep an eye out for coupons, discount codes, or free goodies. You can even use an alert to send you notices about a particular job title you’re interested in.

Google Alerts is a very versatile tool for just about anyone who wants to get customized search results on just about any topic. Alerts take almost no time to set up, they function with very little maintenance once created, and can be an extremely powerful way to keep tabs on the information that matters most to you. Give it a shot, and feel free to come back and leave us comments about what works (or doesn’t) best for you.

How to Share Your Content in Social Media Updates

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Your window of opportunity to garner the interest of the consumer is small. With attention spans shortening due to social media induced comprehension issues, that window has shrunk even further. What you say to the public has to grab them from the first phrase. And any excess wordage or concepts results in attention drift. Once that happens, you’ve lost them. They are already moving on to the next update in their feed.

Consumers don’t want their social media pages to be overburdened with posts they aren’t interested in. ‘What will interest consumers?’ is the question which every marketer has foremost in his mind. Not every post you make will produce a like or a share. But knowing what to say and how to say it has a direct correlative impact on whether or not consumers will find your posts interesting and worth sharing. Below is a short guide on how to share your content in social media posts.

  • Have great content. It doesn’t matter how much your update garners consumer attention and interest if the content you send them to is subpar. They’ll soon stop bothering to read your posts altogether, much less share them, if they’re disappointed on the follow through. What makes great content? The marketing rule is that it must teach, entertain, or inspire. If your post rambles, is a mere narrative about your day, or otherwise fails to teach, entertain, or inspire, consider writing or hiring experienced content writers who can start filling your website or blog with content worth reading.
  • What posts you share are important. Don’t take for granted the content you have that can remind consumers of your company’s existence. Share your about page, your testimonials page, your most clicked on posts (see what those are via analytics), and the posts that consumers found the most useful.
  • Keep posts short. Twitter length is a good rule of thumb. Consumers skim through their social media feed, which means they spend about two seconds reading a post before the decide whether it interests them.
  • Post updates with a link attached, but draw them in with your words. Don’t rely only on content you’re linking to. Even if the content is important, consumers need to have a reason to click on your link.
  •  Ask a question you think your target audience will agree with. Ego is an important part of the sales process because consumers have to feel good about the product they buy. If the audience can give a resounding Yes or No to your question, odds are, you will be getting more clicks.
  • Make a statement that will surprise your target audience. ‘Surprise statements’ cause curiosity, and curiosity equals clicks. Get familiar with presenting the unexpected, but don’t mislead the consumer as to the nature and slant of the subject matter.
  • Keep your updates clear and easy to understand. Pick a single point to emphasize rather than multiple points that leave your reader confused about why they should click on the link. Use the simplest word and the shortest sentences. Simple and clear beats out elaborate and confusing any day of the week.THAT MOMENTWhen your updates start
  • Use hashtags. Not all social media has ease of use with hashtags (Pinterest is a noticeable hashtag exception to the hashtag rule). Research which hashtags are the most used and visited hashtags in your industry. Add a minimum of two of hashtags to each update and make sure they are appropriate to your content.
  • Know your business. And not just your business. Check out the updates of competitors and peers with a high number of followers. Pay attention to which of their tweets are retweeted, which of their FB updates receive a high number of likes or shares. Figure out why. Are there good ideas you can implement there?
  • Share updates that link to content similar to your own. Part of having a social media page for your business is not just about linking to your own content, making announcements, or offering discounts, it’s proving to the consumer that your business page is worth perusing more in depth for other articles they might find relevant or of interest. And it helps to sell your brand by creating a mental association of your business with a specific industry as a whole.

Knowing what to share and how to share it can take some finesse and a good sales sense. If you don’t think you have those kinds of chops, stop by our page. We can help with that!