Navigating Your Small Business During COVID-19? Ramp up Your Social Media Marketing (For Real)

Business is down. Fear and uncertainty are creeping in. Need to cut here and cut there to be cautious. What about your social media marketing budget? RAMP. IT. UP!

Why in the world should a business ramp up social media marketing right now when cuts are happening everywhere else? Because there is a very captive audience online. People are stuck at home with lots of extra time on their hands. And they are online. Check this out:

Time spent on Facebook alone is up 70%. Engagement is up nearly 80%.*

So, get your message out there—but not the same message you were putting out there two weeks ago. The world has changed, and your message needs to address the change. Here is what you need to do with your social media marketing right now:

Address the new normal. Most everyone is home; people have either lost their jobs or been sent home to work and even students have been sent home to learn. Most of the nation is under some kind of Shelter in Place order. Face-to-face contact with anyone other than family is (supposed to be) nearly non-existent. Address this. How?

Explain to your audience how your business is operating within the current mandates. How are you protecting your customers and clients, your employees, and yourselves? Show pictures. Do live video. Get it out there to give people confidence that they can continue to give you their business without breaking rules or getting sick.

Offer solutions to current problem. This will look different for different industries, obviously. Put yourself in the mind of someone who needs your product or service. Why do they need it? What problem can you solve for them? Articulate their problems and provide your solutions in your content.

Provide Public Service Announcements related to your industry. People are scrolling online for many reasons, and one main reason currently is for information. Give your audience news and information that provides value and is clearly presented.

Sprinkle in some posts that are not solely about your product, service, or industry; humor, encourage, and relate to your audience. While being sensitive to the current environment, post positive content. We ALL need it these days. Throw in some posts that will make your audience smile or laugh, feel comforted, encouraged, or inspired, and enable them to get to know you as a human being. Memes, funny or endearing pictures of pets and family, and pictures of you being real are great ways to connect with your audience. Remember to BE SENSITIVE always; avoid anything that will create controversy.

Consider ways to give back. There are so many people out there hurting. Brainstorm ways your business can give something back to the community and provide a way for your audience to participate. People want to help, but they often don’t know where to start.

Good luck out there. Be safe and well, and please stay home. ❤

*Influencer Agency March 17, 2020 Study.

Posted in communication, coronavirus, COVID-19, hardship, health, humor, sensitivity, social media, social media marketing, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Finding the Very Good in the Midst of a Very Scary Pandemic

isolated farm house

Whether we live in a big city or out in the suburbs, many of us feel like we are living in an isolated house out in the middle of nowhere. Even if we have neighbors and friends nearby, we aren’t supposed to be gathering with them. Kids are not in school, college students have been sent home, most workers are working remotely, and the sick and the elderly are confined to hospital rooms and homes without visitation. This is a very strange and uncertain time in the world, and it’s causing loneliness, fear, stress, worry, and even panic. All of those feelings are understandable, but, as with any crisis, there are Very Good–and often unexpected–gifts to be found if we look.

And we should look. Actively seeking the positive in a situation can be the catalyst for changing a negative mindset. I’m naturally an optimistic person, but I’ve struggled, too. And to force myself out of the dark cloud that would be so easy to get comfortable in, I’ve been taking note of the Very Good things that the Corona Quarantine is producing.

Mandated bonding with family is happening all over the world. Covid-19 is affecting a majority of the world. (Check out this map: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/world-map.html) Because most of us have been sent home to work, to educate, to “Shelter at Home,” most of us are spending more time than ever with family. This is a fantastic opportunity to really get to know one another, to break down barriers, to talk about things that have been swept under the rug, to right wrongs, and to have fun with each other.

Being confined at home isn’t good for everyone, though. And this leads me to the next Very Good thing.

There are so many opportunities to help others, to work together, and to give–and people are stepping up. For children who counted on going to school to get two hot meals, for people whose homes aren’t safe, and for people who don’t have a home or food to eat, people, groups, and organizations are coming out of the woodwork to help. Artists are showcasing their art on social media; musicians and DJs are putting on shows, comedians are making us laugh, experts are teaching their skills… to give what they can. People who couldn’t–or wouldn’t–work together before the crisis suddenly are able to put differences aside to do Very Good things together when the going gets tough. During times of crisis, it’s beautiful to watch how the concept of community generally becomes a higher priority than individual.

In times dominated by a frightening or uncertain issue such as a pandemic, the issue becomes the focus. What seemed important enough to dominate the news, drive the gossip magazines, and lose friends over on social media is now suddenly irrelevant when compared to how to feed, clothe, house, and heal people. Those recently important issues don’t go away, but they do tend to lose their importance.

In times of crisis–and especially in mandated isolation–we have a limited view; we have to learn to appreciate what we have. This phenomenon happens after a natural disaster or a death, so it’s not a total surprise, but we don’t have precedent for how to navigate this one. We don’t know when it will end. And we don’t know what to expect when it will end. Appreciating who and what is around us is vital for our sanity right now. For instance, in order to entertain ourselves without sports, eating out, entertainment, and social events, we have to get creative; board games, laughter, virtual book clubs/happy hours/play groups, cooking, drawing, and nature are readily available and inexpensive.

People are facing new learning curves–and most are embracing it. Millions of people are suddenly getting crash courses in Zoom, Skype, Facetime, how to work remotely, the etiquette of calendar sharing, and virtual learning–much of which is being offered at free or reduced prices. Many older Americans who didn’t want to bother with learning these new technologies are diving in to text messaging, email, and social media in order to stay in touch. Challenging our brains is one of the healthiest moves we can make while isolation confinement can make apathy seem appealing.

Priorities change. Just as the concept of community generally becomes a higher priority than individual, our society is learning that the ones who are keeping this ball rolling are our amazing and self-sacrificial healthcare workers, our first responders, our teachers, our hourly wage earners in the grocery stores, our essential workers who are picking up our garbage and delivering our mail and repairing our homes (and I’m sure I’m leaving some important people out–but you get the picture)… not our celebrities, our influencers, or our professional athletes.

Again, we don’t know what this will look like when it’s over, but my guess is that we will have developed some new, Very Good habits. I am enjoying the ready opportunities to help others, the time I’ve been able to spend with my family, the reconnecting I’m doing with people I don’t see often as I reach out to see if my out-of-town friends and family are ok, the cooking, the time spent enjoying my home, the books I’m reading… My hope is that, when this is over, we will all have a newly rekindled appreciation for what we have and for what we will have learned– and we will not take it for granted.

Be safe. Be well. Stay home. ❤

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Future Politicians Skip Kindergarten; Head Straight to 1st Grade

Okay. I know that the title is ridiculous; I took my cues from Star magazine–just because it was fun to put together a tabloid-esque style headline. But seriously. I was recently reminiscing about my last trip to Washington, DC; one of my favorite days was spent walking around the monuments and reading the quotes engraved in stone. That I love language is no secret; I wanted to read everything. The quotes in the monuments captivated me; they are powerful and moving, and some of them brought me to tears and others inspired me with a fierce sense of patriotism. I can’t stop thinking about them, especially when I watch television. What is being said in politics today that will be engraved in stone? Hardly anything, I hope.

The commercials have already begun. Some are embarrassingly juvenile, and almost all are entirely negative; I hardly know what someone stands for because the messages are wholly focused on the wicked character of the other candidate. (I don’t think anyone is going to take the time to engrave character assassination into a piece of stone for posterity.) I remember the days of student council elections when a candidate would stand in front of the class and declare the fabulous things that he or she would institute for the good of the class (“Start time at 10 am for seniors!” and “Every Friday off in May!” and “2-hour off-campus lunches!”). I can’t even imagine the reaction if someone had stood at the podium and trash-talked the other candidates. That sounds absurd! Yet, we not only accept this from our politicians, we’ve come to expect it.

When did this happen? Several decades ago, it seems, the political culture began to digress from being one of honor, integrity, and service to something quite the opposite. I watch (way too much of) the news, and not only can I not salvage a stone-worthy quote, I find myself cringing and having to scramble back to safe HGTV to escape the squirming that comes from watching how these adults, who’ve been granted an opportunity to serve and to better this country, treat one another and, in turn, the people they serve. I’ve come to the (ludicrous) conclusion that future politicians skipped preschool and kindergarten. My (tongue-in-cheek) conclusion is based on my hypothesis that they missed out on learning the essential rules for life that we are taught in kindergarten because they skipped that year and went straight to 1st grade.

Here are some of those indispensable rules:

  • Be nice. — This one is simple; just be nice (AKA don’t be so mean).
  • Don’t call names. — Remember the “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” jingle? It’s a lie. Plus, it’s childish.
  • Tell the truth. — Just because you repeat a thing or say it loudly doesn’t make it true.
  • Play well with others. — There are two major parties because there is more than one legitimate way of thinking–so work together or everyone is unhappy.
  • Take the time to understand others. — Imagine what the world would look like if people would take a minute and try to understand that which looks different.
  • Don’t gossip. — “What you don’t see with your eyes, don’t witness with your mouth.” (Jewish proverb)
  • Think before acting or speaking. — Can someone please take social media away from these people (all of them–and there are many who abuse this medium)? With it, they don’t stand a chance at this one.
  • Be slow to judge others. — “The self-righteous scream judgments against others to hide the noise of skeletons dancing in their own closets.” (John Mark Green)
  • Don’t drag people’s families into your conflict. — You got in trouble for saying “your mama” when you were little–and for good reason.
  • Be authentic. — No one likes (or respects) a hypocrite. Don’t point the finger at someone for doing something you are guilty of doing.
  • Share. — Term limits, anyone?
  • Listen. — “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.” (Mark Twain)
  • Encourage others. — What if politicians started giving kudos regarding positive change being done on the other side of the aisle?

We are better than this. I fervently hope that in the near future, this accepted culture of trading insults will do a 180, and our politicians will rise above the negativity and will instead stand committed for important issues, respectfully voice those positions, infuse positivity and honor back into the service of government of this awesome country, and please, give us something to engrave in stone.

mount rushmore

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Write the Thank-You Note

Putting pen to paper and then mailing a thank-you note has become a lost art. It used to be a standard practice in certain situations–usually mandated by one’s mother–but I am finding that many people either don’t know when or if they should write and send them, don’t care to take the effort to write and send them, or mistakenly think that a text message is a perfectly sufficient way to thank someone. To be clear, a text is not the same as a hand-written thank-you note.

In the past month, I have received several thank-you notes in the mail, and, while most of them were clearly written hastily and under duress because the mothers of some new graduates made sure it happened, I received a few that were obviously thoughtfully written from the heart. Moms and dads, please continue (or start) encouraging your kids to write thank-you notes, and teach them how to do it. Grown-ups who don’t currently write them, please start writing thank-you notes. Receiving a thank-you note truly is meaningful. Even in this day and age. (There are some of us who neglected to ensure that our kids wrote a thank-you note to Uncle Tom, and he was understandably not happy about it.) Receiving a thank-you note lets the recipient of the note know that the gesture was appreciated. It’s not just a Southern thing; it’s a “good people” thing. Here are some of the absolute musts for a thoughtful thank-you note.

When to send a thank-you note

It is absolutely necessary to send a thank-you note in these circumstances:

  • when you receive a gift
  • when someone goes out of their way to do something nice for you (writes a letter of recommendation, brings a meal, keeps your kids in a pinch, and so on)
  • after a job interview.

Growing up in the South, I find it is somewhat common to write thank-you notes after being hosted in someone’s home for dinner or overnight, after someone recognizes you in some way, and just because it seems like the right thing to do. There are even some people who send thank-you notes to people who’ve sent them thank-you gifts. Gratitude is a big deal in the South.

I’m sure some readers will debate the circumstances that require a thank-you note, so why not simply write them with wild abandon? No one receives a thank-you note and thinks, “Wow. I wish Jane had not sent that kind note of appreciation to me.” Just do it; make people smile often.

How to send a thank-you note

Here is what constitutes a proper thank-you note scenario:

  • write and send the note in a timely manner; “timely” means days if possible, and the rumor about having a whole year after getting married is false
  • use a pen to write the note (I once was in a hurry and couldn’t find a pen, so I used a pencil to write the note. My friend called when she received the note to tell me her husband asked her if I was five years old. I was mortified. Avoid mortification; use a pen.)
  • use nice stationery with matching envelopes if possible (Buy thank-you notes in bulk so you will always have one when you need it. This is also a good idea for birthday cards and sympathy notes. Having to take the time to go to a store to buy a card is a good way for it not to happen.)
  • date the note
  • make sure you spell the recipient’s name correctly
  • thank the person or people for the specific gift or circumstance (i.e., “Thank you for the gift” is not good enough. They will wonder if you know why you are thanking them. In a bulk-gift situation–graduations, weddings, and so on–make a conscious effort to keep cards with gifts so you know who gave what when you sit down to write your thank-you notes.)
  • say something nice about the gift even if you don’t like it–and never be honest if you don’t like the gift; you can think of SOMEthing nice to say about it
  • include something personal so the note feels personal to the recipient (and not written in an assembly-line), such as “We will always think of you and the fun meals we’ve shared with you when we use these beautiful dishes.”
  • put the note in an envelope with the recipient’s name on the front if you plan to hand the note in person, or make sure to address the envelope correctly before you mail it.

Thank you for reading my article. I hope it encourages you to write many thank-you notes and often. 🙂

 

Posted in #dohardthings, #goals, be kind, communication, gratitude, life lessons, thank you, Uncategorized, writing | Leave a comment

Why We Should Welcome Hardship (It Helps Define Happiness)

Who wants hardship when you could have happiness instead? Not anyone that I know. It is true that a person has a great deal of control over personal happiness, but I have found that hardship brings with it a point of comparison for happiness, and the greater the hardship, the happier the happiness. What does that even mean?

Well, when the weather is my kind of perfect day after day, I acknowledge that each day is a beautiful day. When there is a day of wind, rain, and turbulent temperatures and the next day is calm, sunny, and the perfect temperature, that beautiful day is a thousand times more beautiful to me. Or when I have a migraine, and the headache finally goes away, my normal feels like a million dollars. It’s as if good is even better than good when that good is experienced after bad.

It’s as if good is even better than good when that good is experienced after bad.

There is a day that my husband, kids, and I refer to as “The Best Day Ever.” In the summer of 2010, our family was experiencing serious hardship. I was teaching at the time, and my kids were rising 6th, 7th, and 11th graders. We were on summer break, but we didn’t have the means to go on a big vacation, so we decided to road trip to the beach and stay for one night. On the way to the beach, we were run off the road and ended up totaling our Ford Expedition after a horrifying crash. That was not our “Best Day Ever.”

It was the most frightening experience I’ve ever had. We should all have been seriously injured or killed. But we obviously had an army of angels watching over us. My daughter had taken her seat belt off, but something caused her to buckle it right before we crashed. Our car was full of coolers packed with cans, ice, and food, an entire set of loose bocce balls, lacrosse sticks, books, unsecured bags… When the car finally came to a stop, cans from the coolers in the back had ended up under my feet in the front, bocce balls were all over the car, lacrosse sticks went flying–yet nothing touched any of us. My daughter’s car window shattered, and had she not been buckled in, she would’ve been thrown from the vehicle. We should’ve flipped, but we were stopped abruptly by a concrete barrier just before rolling. That concrete barrier was the only one on that stretch of the highway, and it was right where we needed it to prevent us from rolling down a massive hill. In the ER, one of my sons was thought to have internal bleeding, we were all badly bruised, my daughter had a concussion, but we all went home to our own beds to sleep that night, shaken up but thankful, grateful.

The next morning, we all piled into our other (very small) car and decided to make that beach trip happen. As we passed by the place where we had crashed 24 hours earlier, we were even more amazed at how fortunate we were to be back in the car and heading to the ocean–all five of us in good condition considering what had happened. When we arrived in Wrightsville Beach, we couldn’t stop talking about how the sky was more blue than we had ever seen it, the ocean was more beautiful than ever, the sand was so white it was blinding, the temperature was truly perfect, the funny conversations made us laugh so hard that our stomach muscles ached, the food we ate was the tastiest food we’d ever eaten, and the five of us had never loved each other as much as we did that day.

When we arrived in Wrightsville Beach, we couldn’t stop talking about how the sky was more blue than we had ever seen it, the ocean was more beautiful than ever, the sand was so white it was blinding, the temperature was truly perfect, the funny conversations made us laugh so hard that our stomach muscles ached, the food we ate was the tastiest food we’d ever eaten, and the five of us had never loved each other as much as we did that day.

I still experience nightmares about that day, but I am grateful for the experience. When bad things happen, the rest of life gets put into perspective. We were grateful to be alive–and not much else mattered for a little while. I love to remind my three grown children about that awful crash; when I bring it up, we all reminisce about The Best Day Ever. Without hardship, clarity is hard to come by and priorities can get out of whack. I remain grateful for the tough times because they make the good times so much better.

PS: I don’t have pictures from that day because we were all fully in the moment. This photo is a recent one of all five of us, still incredibly grateful for each other.

fam on boat 2018

 

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A Conversation with My Son, A Reminder, and Hopefully A Lesson

A great reminder for me today that will hopefully turn into a lesson for my son in the near future: if you want a certain thing to happen, you must do some work to ensure that it happens. It sounds simple, but…

The Situation

My 21-year-old son called me on his way to work this morning, and he mentioned that he had worked over 90 hours in the past two weeks in his job as a cook in an upscale restaurant. He’s on summer break from college, so he has all the time in the world to work. He was excited to tell me that he will be getting paid time and a half for 10 of those hours. I told him I was impressed and hoped he was saving a good chunk of his money so he can cut way back on his hours this fall and concentrate on doing well in school. His response? “Well, I’m spending so much money right now because I have it. It’s fun! So, we’ll see how that saving thing goes.”

The Lesson 

I’ll spare the entire lecture I gave him because we all know that if a person thinks it would be great to have saved a lot of money but doesn’t set a goal or have a plan or make a decision to stop spending frivolously, the money is not going to be there when August rolls around. The Spark Notes version of the lesson: It’s not happening if you don’t make it happen.

Planting Seeds

I was glad he responded the way he did because he was being honest, and it gave me a chance to plant some seeds and to remind myself that if I want something to happen, I have to put in the work to make it happen. Realistically, I don’t think he will take my advice right now, but at some point, I hope he will remember the conversation and the advice. I struggle with self-discipline myself. It comes and goes with seasons of my life for some reason. I’m currently not in a great season of self-discipline, so hearing myself talk to my son couldn’t have happened at a better time for me. Today is Monday, and I love a Monday because it always feels to me like a new beginning—kind of the way a new year feels. This week, I intend to:

1. Set goals (I love lists. Checking things off is cathartic to me.)
2. Plan (Because a goal won’t simply happen because I wish it to be so.)
3. Decide to stick with it (This is where the discipline comes in.)
4. Tell someone (Accountability is key for those of us who struggle with self-discipline.)

I am grateful to my son for calling his mom this morning, for being real with me, and for allowing me to remind both of us to be deliberate about making things happen.

Posted in #dohardthings, #goals, communication, life lessons, mothers and sons, relationships | 3 Comments

Attending a Networking Event? Here’s What You Should Know

two women shaking hands

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Even though there are tremendous advantages to attending networking events, actually getting up the nerve to go to one for the first time can be daunting. I just recently began attending local networking events for the purpose of letting my community know about my newly-created small business, so I’ve got some tips to share–most of which are based on me making mistakes. Knowing what to expect before you go can calm your nerves and help you walk into the room feeling confident and ready to mingle.

Go armed with your brand

Before you go, pack a big stack of your business cards to hand out, and if you have a professional name tag, wear it. When people at these functions meet you, they will want your contact information, and they will want to remember your name; they either like what you’re selling and want to be able to reach out to you for your services, or they would like to add your contact to their database–or both. And you should take a card from each person you meet for the same two reasons. A bonus is when you get a card with someone’s picture on it; you’ll be able to connect a name and a face long after you’ve left the event.

Practice your elevator speech before you go

Each networking event I’ve attended has provided the opportunity for each person to introduce him or herself and to give a short business presentation. If you’re an extreme extrovert, this opportunity probably sounds like fun–but most of us get nervous speaking in front of people. Practice before you go, and bring notes so you don’t leave out important details. If you are able to provide something of value during your presentation such as a discount, some tips or ideas, or something for free, that is a fantastic way to get new business and immediate loyalty. The business presentation portion of the event is a great opportunity all the way around; you get free advertising, and you get to learn about other local businesses. After you get through this part the first time, it gets easier each time you do it. I promise.

Sit next to people you don’t know

When you walk into a networking event for the first time, you may be tempted to find people you know and sit by them. For the record, I’ve only run into one friend at one event; I didn’t sit with her (even though I really wanted to), and by the time that event was over, I had spent time getting to know three terrific people who own their own local businesses. The whole point of these functions is to meet people and to introduce your business to people who don’t already know about what you do.

Be prepared for sincere encouragement and support

Networking is about making genuine relationships; getting contact information electronically or from lists is sometimes helpful but totally impersonal. Meeting someone face-to-face, shaking hands, participating in conversation–this is how you will establish meaningful connections and maybe even make new friends. Everyone at a networking event has attended one for the first time. We all understand what it’s like to walk into one of these events without knowing what to expect. In my experience, people at these events are exceedingly glad to do what they can to support you and your business, and they are genuinely glad you are there.

 

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