Communicating your business online is one of the biggest challenges of being in business at this time. Learning to create professional quality content is a skill and a practice many consultants, coaches and educators need to pick up on the side whilst still doing your main job, working with clients in your area of expertise.
There’s a lot of confusing advice and information out there online about what to do, what not to do, what to invest in and what to avoid. It’s over-whelming for business owners at the start of building your digital presence. Trying to figure out what’s the right things to do at the right stage of your digital marketing process can be really stressful.
Every business is unique and what you want to communicate is unique. But having reviewed the the digital content of hundreds of small business owners, I’ve found there are five key things that most small business aren’t doing, that can be addressed in straightforward ways. I call them Your Content Essentials.
Make sure you have your content essentials in place, before getting distracted by all the contradictory marketing advice and information ever-present online.
YOUR CONTENT ESSENTIALS
#1 Create a recognisable brand
When you publish online you are part of a communication environment that is highly competitive and cluttered. So the first thing you need to do is create a recognisable brand, both visually and in terms of your positioning and the focus of your topics you talk about.
Colour is the most easily recognisable and memorable aspect of your brand so start hereby choosing one strong brand colour, and a secondary colour if you want to. Use them everywhere. Make sure your brand colour is in all the content you publish, your social media, your website, even your brand headshot (I show you how to do that here in a free short course).
You don’t have to commit to this colour for the rest of your life. So don’t get bogged down in decision making. Do a bit of research and pick one that works for you and your industry. Give it at least a year before you consider a re-brand.
Your professional positioning is also key. If you’re an established expert this can be straightforward for you, but if you are getting established in your field it’s a bit more complex. There is a lot of pressure to inflate your positioning as part of personal branding. The encouragement to ‘fake it till you make it’ is, in my view, misguided. I advise you to only position yourself as an expert when you can concretely demonstrate this. Wait till you have evidence of work you have done, or a consistent online presence demonstrating your expertise over time, before calling yourself a consultant or similar.
If you’re faking it till you make it and someone else is paying for that, true to my PR roots, I have to say that’s a reputation disaster waiting to happen.
Like your colours, you’re not picking a position you have to stick with for the rest of your life. Position yourself in a way that is congruent with where you are at with your business development and what you can measurably demonstrate. Then build on it.
Make sure you can deliver on your promises, and increase what you promise as you are able to deliver more concrete evidence.
Your content essentials infographic
Infographic Your Content Essentials
#2 Listen and respond to your audience
Your priority when you begin your digital presence is to build a small, relevant and engaged audience, as quickly as possible.
Aim for one hundred people on two social media platforms, at least 60% of whom are relevant to your business (If it’s best for you to start with one platform before you taking on a second that’s a perfectly good way to go). Friends and family support is really valuable, but getting members of your target market engaged is essential to start the feedback loop that will help you hone you content creation.
Publish daily for at least a month, and you should have at least some feedback (in terms of engagement) on what is resonating and what people want to see more of.
You do not have to have a massive audience to know what people are looking for or wanting to hear about. A small relevant and engaged audience will give you incredibly valuable insights into where to focus your content creation efforts. For example, you will get a sense of what formats and mediums work best for you. You will discover whether video is your strong suite, if your photos popular, what topics get read or get a reaction.
Monitor your analytics and observe carefully, looking for patterns in engagement (and non-engagement).
In the early stages of building your content presence you will need to try different things, and develop a persistence mindset that many of these will not get engagement.
You will be creating content on a trial and error basis at first, because you must give people plenty of potential things to engage with, to get feedback about what’s working and what’s not. Consistent non-engagement is still your audience speaking to you. They are saying ‘not this thanks,’ and you can use that feedback in the content decisions you make moving forward.
#3 Create and share meaningful content
Even in the early stages of building or growing your digital media presence, you need some sort of basic content strategy in place. Creating content just for the sake of it, randomly without a specific purpose isn’t going to help you get the feedback you need to grow your audience of grow your business.
There are plenty of entrepreneur marketers online giving away or selling their social media content calendar prompts, promising you can get your social media sorted in a minuscule amount of time. I can’t honestly say whether this is true or not but I doubt it (very much!). You will need to do considerable customisation of these generic content plans to make them relevant to your business and meaningful to your audience. By all means consider them as complimentary to your content creation but don’t rely on them as a standalone strategy. I talk about the difference between good content planning and bad content planning here.
You are better off starting with your own research and content planning, rather than relying on these supposedly ‘done fore you’ content plans.
Whether you are starting from scratch, or you want to build up the volume of content you are creating for social media and your website it’s a really good idea to do an audit of your industry for some key pointers. Who’s out there already established? What are they talking about, and what are people engaging with and responding to? This is trickier to find out now Facebook has removed life counts from Facebook and Instagram so if you can, find video views for numbers you can guage.
Join Facebook groups where your peers and your target audience are, and participate in conversations. Watch and observe the conversations happening between others. Be generous with your input. Don’t see everyone who is asking for help or advice as a potential client. Be present and join in. Even the answers to questions that you give to others that are popular will give you insights. That is return and and reward enough. And people will tell you quick enough if they don’t agree with you (which is also valuable research).
An unconventional suggestion I make to home in on what’s meaningful to you, and therefore what you want to talk about enthusiastically and passionately, is to follow someone who annoys you! Countering what they say with your own views and perspective can be a valuable source of meaningful content inspiration. Try it! You’ll see …
#4 Maintain a consistent online presence
This is the area where most businesses – who don’t employ creative staff to help them – struggle. To be consistently present online is basically a second job that most people who enter into business are not trained or equipped for in advance. You need to learn it on the job, whilst doing your main job which is being an expert in your field! And that is why I am here. To help you with this.
I don’t condone bully business coaches who say lots of opinionated things about people’s motivation or how committed they are to ‘showing up’. Businesses struggle with being consistently present across social and digital media, because it’s hard! It’s demanding. And it’s something you need to build your knowledge and skills for.
We can only come up with realistic strategies and tactics to manage content consistency if we acknowledge this is probably the biggest challenge to being in business at this time.
Putting yourself ‘out there’ over and over again whether you feel like it or not is challenging. Creating and publishing when you are still building your content creative skills is confronting. Having to compete with others for attention online when maybe you are not a competitive person (you’re an expert and an educator) is a tough thing to get used to.
But you must be consistently present, be aware of your competition and put yourself out there. It’s crucial to growing your business because being consistently present online builds trust. It builds credibility. It builds your reputation.
The good news is consistency breeds consistency. The more you can build that content creation muscle the easier it gets.
Which leads to our final content essential:
Don’t give up!
I once read a quote about someone who had been married for a very long time being asked what the secret was to staying married. Their answer? Don’t get divorced! Well the secret to building an online digital presence that will grow your business and your income is very similar. Don’t give up!
This is something I also see often in small businesses. That people lose motivation, lose heart and stop creating and publishing. Or they are on again off again with their blogs and social media. They give up for a bit. Get back on the horse. Fall off it again.
There are many reasons for businesses being on-again off-again with their digital presence but the biggest one of all is: because it is a tough gig.
There are many ways to try and make it easier to keep going. The main one is to build a persistence mindset. Try to take the emotion out of creating and publishing. See your efforts as part of a big picture process.
By persevering and publishing consistency you will get a growing body of information that tells you what works for you and your audience. You will be able to be more and more relevant and sought out for the advice and information you share in your content.
Creating courses and resources to support you in this, is the reason Create It Content Exists. I created this business to give you reliable training and skill building that gets straight to the point and avoids unnecessary fluff. So if you haven’t joined my mailing list, or signed up to try a free course or resources from this site.