Social trends to watch out for in 2018

Social trends to watch out for in 2018

Since the 2016 elections, “fake news” has become a favorite cliche in public discourse. It has also directly affected how people perceive information sources. Tribalism, community discussion groups, and person-to-person conversations are replacing traditional information sources and, as a result, they’re affecting how businesses market to their tribes. So, for 2018, the buzz word for brand marketing  is “connection.” Take note.

@taylorfayebragg Taylor Bragg is a technology journalist with a particular interest in blockchain applications, brand marketing and the effect of the ever-growing digital world on businesses around the globe. Taylor also has a love for all things fashion and discovering new places. Read more here …

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25 Tools to Create Infographics for Your Small Business Website

25 Tools to Create Infographics for Your Small Business Website

Believe it or not, people will share infographics 3 times more than they’ll share other content types. That’s because they’re little visual bite-sized content snacks rather than a 1,000-word blog post or 9-minute video meal. Until recently, creating infographics has been the domain of graphic artists. But if you can’t afford to outsource, you can create your own infographics using tools designed to help small businesses create their own smart-looking infographics that will boost your SEO and authority in your niche. Plus, these tools are big fun!

If you’re looking to publish infographics online, take a look at the following list of 25 infographic creation tools ideal for small business websites. One of the best places to start is with Canva, which is free to use and enables non-designers to create attractive and informative graphics with a simple drag-and-drop method. Another popular free infographic generator is Visme. Their creation process is easy to navigate and can help a small business owner create and share professional-looking infographics with the added option of making them interactive. This easy-to-use infographic creator offers a free service that is useful, although the best options it has are only available through paid upgrades to the premium Piktochart services, one costing $15 per month and the other $29 per month. You can create a multitude of charts, maps, graphics and dashboards with Infogram’s free-to-use infographic generator. There are also several paid options in which more advanced infographic services can be accessed, ranging from $19 to $149 per month. Another infographic generator with a basic free option but with much more in-depth paid services priced from $19 per month is Venngage, which can be especially useful for businesses which require animated infographics. This free… Read more here …

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Why Core Documentation is Essential to Your Business

Why Core Documentation is Essential to Your Business

Core documentation.

Google it.

The search engine picks up the keywords “support documentation” and “medical documentation.” Search the phrase “core business documentation,” and all you get is a few articles on documenting your business’ core processes — a topic worthy of exploration in other posts, to be sure. But when I use the term in the context of business documentation, I mean something else.

I guess I assume every business keeps a series of files in the company “vault” of official papers that say who you are as a business (along with your registration and business plan). But, as a business owner myself, I’ve learned how easy it is to get mired in the business of business building that you don’t get around to formally putting your vision on paper. I’ve also learned that, in the long run, that’s no excuse.

Roughly half of small businesses fail within the first five years. Moreover, experienced entrepreneurs and experts agree that one reason is they don’t build their business infrastructure starting with a clearly defined mission, vision, and values statements.

“Wait! Yes, I did!” you protest as you search for that coffee-stained Starbucks napkin with the doodled mind map you drew at the moment of your epiphany.

That doesn’t count.

Create a “company vault” of core documents

When I say “document”, I mean just that. Take the time to write formal statements, and other key documentation outlining your business’ purpose, vision, mission, values and keep it in your company file. If you don’t you’ll become a Ben Franklin proverb along with other would-be geniuses who had a great idea but tanked it:

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”

It behooves you, your partners, staff, and customers to bite the bullet, pull up your sleeves and generate those essential pieces of paper that may ensure your business’ longevity.

Then, compile those documents and keep them in your version of a vault — I recommend an organized file of hard copies, a digital copy in a secure location on the cloud and a copy you keep in your external hard drive. In other words, treat them like expensive jewels.

 

Core Documents You Should Have in your vault

Core Three Statements

Core Operation Documents

 

●   Mission statement

●   Vision statement

●   Statement of core values

 

●   Products/Services Profile

●   Ideal Client Profiles & Avatars

●   Company Position Descriptions

●   Five-year Strategic Plan

●   Operating Budget

●   Operations Inventory

Brand Messaging Documents

Marketing Collateral

 

●   Brand Identity

●   Brand Personality Profile

●   Brand Manifesto

●   Brand Story

●   Tags & Slogans

●   Social Media Profiles

●   Brand Imaging and Aesthetics

 

●   Marketing Plan

●   Content Marketing Strategy

●   Company Profile

●   Press Kit

●   Elevator Pitch Scripts

●   Brand Board

●   Business Cards

●   Website

●   Brand Video/Presentation

 

While I’m not going to expound on the elements and mechanics of creating these documents in this post(there’s an ocean of information floating around out there about writing them), I’ll give you a few reasons why you should invest time in the process of generating them.

  1. They help you understand why you’re in business

You may think you know all the reasons you’re starting your business, but in my experience, most first-time entrepreneurs don’t examine their motives. It’s a valuable exercise that helps you tap into your initial passion and excitement for your vision that will fuel you for the long journey.

  1. They map out your business’ future

Starting a business is like embarking on an exploratory expedition. You’re charting a new path for yourself. And, like most expeditions, you need a compass to help you plot your route, and you need a route plan to get to your destination.

  1. You’ll need them when you create your business plan

At some point, you’re going to need a business plan for funding. Producing at least some of these documents, in the beginning, will cut in half the time and effort to generate your business plan.

  1. They’re the foundation of future strategic plans

The beauty of core documentation is you can always tweak them. You’ll have your business’ blueprint at your fingertips. When you need to adjust to market fluctuations or if you have to re-brand, you don’t have to start from scratch.

  1. They ensure brand image consistency

Because core documentation is your brand’s rebar and foundation, everything you produce will reinforce your image in the marketplace, strengthen you as a leader in your niche, inspire customer loyalty, and expand your following. That’s because everyone inside and outside of your company will know exactly who you are.

  1. They put your team on the same page

I often refer to Zappos’ company culture formula: happy employees provide excellent customer service that creates happy customers. It’s true. Your core documentation defines your business’ standards and values. When you’re clear about those, you hire and partner with like-minded people who have a stake in your brand, so they’re happy to be on the journey with you. That’s how company culture is created. It starts with clarifying your business vision and practices in writing.

  1. They’re the basis of all training

Whether you need new-hire orientation materials or a manual of best practices, you have the structure already codified and accessible for internal training requirements.

Core Documents need revision over time

Alright … I did liken business core documents to sacred stone tablets with your company’s commandments inscribed on them for posterity. The truth is, they’re fluid. You can revise and amend them as needed. After all, markets and industries change. You’ll change. Your company will change to adapt. But creating the core documentation early in your business’ life is like feeding an infant a healthy diet of breast milk. It gives your business a healthy start that will evolve into good habits that will position it for a long life.

 

Isn’t that what you want?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Your Brand Needs A Message Architecture

Why Your Brand Needs A Message Architecture

Imagine a tree — a content tree. If content represents the branches, message architecture would be the trunk from which the branches grow.

Some call it message framework. Others refer to it as message architecture (my preferred term). It’s the message structure behind all your brand’s content.

The Content Marketing Institute defines it as a collection of communicative — words, terms, phrases, clauses, or statements — arranged into a hierarchy according to a brand’s messaging priorities.

It has three primary purposes:

  1. To infuse brand-specific messaging into every piece of content you (and your staff) create.
  2. To create language that identifies your brand in the collective mind of your audience.
  3. To establish guidelines within your organization to ensure message consistency in all content platforms — social media, blogs, images, videos, podcasts, etc.

How it works

Like most good ideas, various leaders in the content marketing industry developed their own signature message architecture templates. Meghan Casey, Content Strategist and Author of The Content Strategy Toolkit, created a message architecture template using three steps of message flow:

  1. First Impression – what a visitor feels the first time they land on your site.
  2. Value Proposition – what the visitor feels after learning the value you provide.
  3. Proof – the content’s effectiveness in assuring the visitor that your brand will deliver.

Casey focused on the customer, not the organization.

Advanced Marketing Concepts created this template in 2013 which extracts messaging from core documentation including mission and positioning statements:

Brain Traffic Founder Kristina Halvorson is hailed for having birthed the concept of content strategy. Her messaging template starts with defining a primary message — a value proposition statement. From there, secondary messages encapsulate that statement.

As you can see, message architecture can take different forms emphasizing different angles. Depends on what you want to say to your tribe.

It doesn’t matter which template you use as long as you have one

The concept of message architecture is a byproduct of the transition from traditional marketing to digital marketing when people started doing business online. It’s a trend that’s here to stay, which means it’s not just a novel idea anymore. It’s integral to your brand’s content marketing strategy.

Moreover, it’s a vital tool in your marketing chest — whether you’re part of a team or going solo. Without one, your online marketing will be, at best, unfocused. With one, you’re likely to efficiently target your audience while reinforcing brand marketing stability with each piece of content.

Now, that’s worth the trouble, isn’t it?

Need help building your messaging architecture? Shaston Writes can create template that will articulate your value proposition while focusing your brand voice, so it hits the target. Let’s talk!

Sources:

“Align All Your Messaging With This Simple (& Fun) Tool,” By Marcia Riefer Johnston published Content Marketing Institute, JANUARY 28, 2016, http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2016/01/align-messaging-tool/

Casey, Megan. The Content Strategy Toolkit: methods, Guidelines, and templates for Getting Content Right. New Riders, 2015, pgs 143-146

“Your Sales Problem is Not the Problem, It’s Marketing, Admarco, Advanced Marketing Concepts Blog, Mark Gibson, February 5, 2013, http://www.admarco.net/inbound-marketing-messaging-sales-performance-blog/bid/93858/Your-Sales-Problem-is-not-the-Problem-it-s-in-Marketing

Kristina Halvorson’s “Message and Medium: Better Content by Design” UI15 Session Sample, December 22, 2011