[Guest Post] Networking Dos and Don’ts

Networking Dos and Don’ts

by Wendy Jacobson

Many people love in-person networking. Most people don’t. The prospect of walking into
a room full of people you don’t know and striking up a conversation with at least one of
them, all in the vein of “growing your sphere,” is downright silly to a lot of people.

But, it can also be a very powerful marketing tool.

I used to fall in the “I hate networking” camp. Now, I rather like it. Granted, I joined a
networking group that meets once a week, so I’ve gotten used to the whole idea. And, I’ve
gotten pretty comfortable with it.

That’s not to say that everyone is comfortable with it, or even knows how to do it. So
consider these networking dos and don’ts.

Whatever the networking event, do walk in with your head held high and with a smile on
your face. When you make eye contact with anyone, approach, hold out your hand and
introduce yourself.

Don’t walk in, sit down and look at your phone. Or stand up and look at your phone, for
that matter.

Do bring an ample supply of business cards. You will be meeting lots of people, and you
want a way for them to follow up with you. Also, do ask for the business card of the
person you are chatting with, especially if you think there is synergy between your
businesses.

Don’t try to sell your services. This is networking, not selling. The idea is to meet some
folks, get to know them a bit, and follow up if it makes sense. This is not a sales pitch.

Do be prepared to answer the question “What do you do?” Have a response ready that is
concise and to the point. When done responding, pose the same question to the person
who asked you.

Do listen. And do ask more questions. Be engaged in the conversation.

Do follow up. After the event, draft an email to all those people you met and want to stay
connected to. Find them on LinkedIn and connect with them there. And if it makes sense,
ask them to coffee to learn more about them and their business.

Don’t expect to get a sale from attending a networking event. A new client should never
be the end goal of any networking event. Rather, the end goal should be the opportunity to
meet new people and grow your network. The more your grow your network, the more
referrals you get, which will ultimately lead to more business.

Yes, in-person networking can be a lot of work and it can force a lot of us out of our
comfort zone. But, the end results are well worth the growing pains.

About the Author

Wendy Jacobson is a freelance writer and content strategist living in Minneapolis, MN.
Along with publishing a local online magazine called Minneapolis Happening, she works
with businesses to help them articulate their message. She and her husband, Andy, have
two amazing children (Ethan and Sasha) and a sweet dog, Astro. To learn more about
Wendy, check out her website, wendythepooh.com.

Hit “Reset” on Your CSS

This article is a look at a technique first introduced by Eric Meyer called “CSS Reset”. Please read on for an explanation of what it is and how it works…

A while back, I was building a website when I hit a wall I hadn’t hit in a long time. No matter what I did, I just could not get it to look exactly the way I wanted it to in the browser. Then I remembered “CSS Reset” and it made my life so much easier! Once implemented, it instantly fixed the entire problem, which I had wasted far too much time laboring over in the first place. If I can pass on a little knowledge and save someone else the time and headache, I feel like all the trouble I had wasn’t in vain.

What is CSS Reset?

Did you know that each web browser has its own default stylesheet that creates basic style on otherwise unstyled webpages? The reason is to present the content in a more readable and user-friendly fashion. But what if you have your own custom stylesheet and these default styles are interfering with the appearance of your website? In a nutshell, CSS Reset is a piece of CSS code that communicates to the browser to reset the specified default styles to null. It simply gives you the ability to overwrite the predefined default browser styles.

How does CSS Reset work?

This time I’m not going to include any code snippets. (For the original CSS code, please visit Eric Meyer’s website.) Instead, I’m going to briefly explain how it works, as the concept is simple: CSS Reset works by forcing each browser’s styles to be reset to null. This allows the CSS author to essentially start their page styles from scratch, with no external interference.

CSS Reset can help create a more cohesive, cross-browser & cross-platform compatible, adaptive, responsive web experience. Simply put, it is easier to make a website look virtually the same across a wide variety of web browsers and platforms. This uniformity saves a lot of time and frustration for the designer/developer and aids in branding your company.

By: Danielle Dandridge

5 Simple Tips on Gaining and Retaining Website Visitors

This is a brief look into five simple tips to help you gain and retain website visitors. This is in no way meant to be a comprehensive guide, as it is always best to tailor your digital strategy to your individual website’s purpose. It is important to customize any campaign to fit the needs and interests of your target audience.

The goals of most webmasters are quite similar. They are akin to this:

  1. Get indexed
  2. Climb up the search engine results pages (SERPs)
  3. Gain traffic
  4. Convert visitors into customers/clients
  5. Keep them coming back

I’ve put together a list of five basic tips to help you do just that here:

Tip #1: Be Responsive

With so many different devices and browsers to choose from, website responsiveness will continue to gain importance. A responsive website is capable of adapting to different screen resolutions and sizes. On a mobile device, content should load quickly and be legible without the need to zoom. If your visitors know your website is accessible on all of their devices, they will be more likely to come back. Make it easy for your visitors to become repeat visitors!

Tip #2: Keep it Fresh

Updating your website with fresh content is crucial. First, your visitors are more likely to return if they know there is going to be something new to see. Additionally, fresh content helps your site climb the SERPs because search engine robots will crawl it more often to see what has been added and what is new that needs to be indexed. This will, of course, bring more traffic to your website as it gets closer to the top of the organic search results.

Tip #3: Blog it Out

Because blogs are so search engine friendly, they are indexed rather quickly. Creating a reciprocal link between your website and blog will direct those who visit and/or follow your blog to your website, as well as contribute to your natural link building efforts, which is still an important off-page element of Organic SEO. Blogs can also be viewed as fresh content that brings your visitors back to read new entries. Make sure a link to your website is featured prominently on your blog. If they like what they read on your blog, they will likely be interested in taking a closer look at what you do!

Tip #4: Get Social

Supply your visitors with a list of tried-and-true, free online business and social networks, preferably some of which you or your company are already a member, and don’t be afraid to promote your company’s social profiles. The more you interact with your visitors, the more likely they are to become customers/clients. Additionally, business networks can be a great way for your visitors to give their own company a boost. Consider starting your own network, incorporating your business/company name into the title. This can assist in getting your company’s name “out there” so people will recognize it, and it will help establish you as an expert in your field, which is always good!

Tip #5: Give a Gift

Give your visitors gifts because they appreciate it. They will be more likely to return and recommend your website to others. You can offer things like free consultations, free quotes, free daily horoscopes, free graphics, free quizzes, or anything else that pertains to your specific content. When you change and/or update your freebies, it also counts as fresh content, which will place you higher in the organic search results.

I hope these have given you some helpful hints for your own website. What has worked for you in the past? Are you experimenting with new interactive ideas and techniques? Please feel free to leave your own tips and tricks in the comments!

By: Danielle Dandridge

Top 10 Ways to Effectively Use Social Media

To follow my last revamped blog post, here is the updated version of its original companion article from back in 2010, which can also be found on shankarsoma : Social Media & Digital Marketing Trainer Blog.

Social media is a vital component in internet marketing, visibility, and branding. However, when done incorrectly, it can actually become detrimental to your company. Here are my top ten tips on how to use social media effectively.

Tip #1: Identify Your Purpose

Your social media strategy should be a stand-alone plan which requires nothing else to sustain it. Your plan should not aspire to improve your search engine rankings, as there aren’t usually many backlinks that come from it. Approach your social media strategy as if there were no such thing as search engines. Some things you may want to consider in identifying your purpose include:

  • Branding – Start building a strong brand for your company!
  • Exposure – Give your company and website some visibility!
  • Networking – Get involved in the community and make connections!
  • Customer Relations – Use social media to build good, solid customer relations by answering questions and becoming engaged!
  • Relationship/Trust Building – Leads are more likely to become paying customers/clients when they feel like they have a relationship with you and know they can trust you! (This is also how you become viewed as an authority in your field, which is another way to convert traffic and leads into customers and clients.)

Tip #2: Fresh, Consistent, Relevant Content

Make sure there is a high level of consistency in the content you share on social media websites. Consistency is important regarding frequent updates (fresh content), as well as in keeping with the purpose of your social media strategy. Consistency in your message and your branding also establishes relevance for SEO purposes.

For instance, if you are a Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Consultant, provide quality tips on SEM and internet marketing, as well as useful articles, resources, and links. Try to link to (connect/contact/friend/follow) other members in your industry, or similar industries, like Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or network marketing. This can assist you in achieving your branding ambitions and enable you to engineer your own company’s brand recognition, offering you some control over how you and your company are perceived. Your social media presence can help strengthen your company’s “webutation” (web reputation). Your online friends, business contacts, and followers should be able to give a brief description of what your company does. If they cannot, you may want to reevaluate tip #1 and reexamine the content you are sharing.

Tip #3: Concentrate on Content, Not Marketing

All too often, companies go about this the other way around. Allow your content to do the marketing for you by focusing on valuable, consistent, relevant information.

Liking, favoriting, bookmarking, etc. your own content can actually damage your credibility. It is better to write compelling content that your readers will give an unsolicited like, favorite, or bookmark. When people like what you’re saying, they will share it. When they do, search engines will take notice, so write something noteworthy, share it with your social networks, and let the rest happen organically.

It is also important to note here that begging for likes and/or follows is an equally bad practice. Not only is it unprofessional, but it is really annoying. Again, if your content is fresh and relevant, you won’t have to beg people to follow you, and your followers will like what you post.

Tip #4: Be a Valuable Asset

When you think of social media, place the emphasis on social. It is not called self-promotional media for a reason. Always keep that in mind when considering what to share with your social networks.

Posting nothing but self-promotional material will inevitably make you a part of the social media noise, and you will eventually be filtered out. Worse yet, you could be labeled a spammer, which is the fastest way to tank your webutation. Even if you don’t lose any contacts or followers, they will begin to skim your posts without even realizing it, or they may ignore you entirely. It is possible to mute accounts on certain apps, for example. Although, if you’re going to go to the trouble of muting someone, why not just unfollow them altogether? Avoid losing credibility, followers, and potential business by being an engaged and engaging member of the social media community.

Become a valuable asset in your niche. One example of how to do this is by posting links to resources and domains that are not your own. I don’t mean for you to post links to your own social media profiles and blogs, though doing so is perfectly fine, but mix it up with resources from other websites too. Be sure to share content from domains with which you are not associated, as well as your own. Believe it or not, you should attempt to befriend your competitors and even promote them. I know this may seem counter-intuitive, but interlinking and networking are very powerful tools!

Tip #5: The Client Always Comes First

Now that you’ve identified your purpose, contemplate what your client (or ideal visitor) is searching for. (Write for the audience you want.) Imagine your ideal, potential client distinctly in your mind, and consider what they may be perceiving through the information that you share. You want to make a good first impression on them, as they are the ones you want to attract to your website.

Tip #6: Get Involved and Build a Rapport

Participating in discussions, replying to forums and blogs, and asking for feedback (and responding to it) are all exceptional ways to get involved in the community and build a rapport with other members. This allows people to view you as a real person, instead of as a robot that does nothing but spam links. (If you’re going to post links, always ensure their relevance.) Other people will warm up to you and be more likely to become a friend, contact, or follower if you humanize yourself. Social media sites provide you the opportunity to show your personality, so use them to truly connect with your target audience.

Tip #7: Do Not Overshare

Of course you want to stay engaged and on your audience’s radar; however, resist the urge to post one thing right after another. Even if your content is relevant and engaging, oversharing can be viewed by followers in the same way as spamming nothing but self-promotional material. Give them enough time to really look at what you post. Curate your own content and that of your other resources carefully. Listen to your audience, and post more of what they want to see.

Another way to “overshare” is by sharing things that are of a personal nature. You want to humanize yourself without being too personal, especially if you have a business account. Keep your posts friendly, yet professional, and always relevant.

Tip #8: Start Linking to Your “Deep Links”

Everyone wants to link their public profiles to their website’s homepage, but deep links (or links that point to internal pages on your site or blog) provide depth and authority. Let’s assume that there are two identical websites. The one that has accumulated more deep links will be considered more relevant than the other. This method will also gain more exposure for your site in search engine results because your internal pages will begin to rank for relevant keywords and key-phrases.

Deep Links Tip: You may not want to share the link to your homepage with someone you meet on a business network or social media website. Think about linking to your “About Me” page (if applicable) in order to give a more personal introduction to your site, or try linking to your “Company” or “Services” page (if applicable) to give your visitors an overview of what your company does.

Tip #9: Link Deliberately With No Apologies

When someone “friends” you, follows you, or subscribes to your blog and/or updates on social sites, it is because they are interested in your most recent information, news, tips, resources, etc. If they should discover that they are not interested, they will simply stop following you, which is not a big deal. This is not a “popularity” contest (regardless of what some may think), as the “quality” of your followers is what matters, not the quantity of them! This is a way to syndicate and socialize with like-minded individuals in a professional and personable setting.

As with anything else, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about hyperlinking to content and resources on social media websites. Here is the wrong way: “Read my blog!” or “Check out my site!” The correct way is achieved by sharing a helpful link (it can be your own, or something else of interest to your audience) and encourage a discussion about it. For example, if you are a SEO specialist, you could share a link to a Google article about their latest SEO standards and ask for your readers’ opinions on it. Since most of them will be in your industry or a related one, the article should be of interest to them, which should inspire some discussion.

Tip #10: Utilize Social Networking

In order to genuinely accomplish a successful social media strategy, you should engage in social networking. Replace the word “competitor” with “colleague” in your social media vocabulary. Other webmasters, companies, consultants, and individuals in your niche are your allies in the social media arena!

Make it a goal to locate as many of your new “colleagues” (who are on your level or within an acceptable range) and develop a key group of professional contacts. These are people with whom you can share/exchange links and even embark on joint ventures. Don’t view them as your competition anymore. Start exploring ways to leverage one another’s positions in the new marketplace!

By: Danielle Dandridge

Top 10 Social Media Mistakes

This post is a revisit to one of my old articles (can also be found on Sitemason.com). I have updated it a bit and am sharing it again because I think it has some good information that is still relevant on what-not-to-do in your social media campaign. Enjoy!

Mistake #1: Sporadic Updates

If you are only updating your social media profiles and networks occasionally, you are likely to lose followers and leads, as well as discourage your current customers/clients. It is so important to update all of your social platforms on a regular basis, without inundating your followers with irrelevant content and filler. Use status updates, graphics and images, interactive ideas (such as polls, surveys, events, and contests), and interesting information to engage your audience and keep them coming back to your profile or website. These are your returning visitors, and they are imperative to the success of your social media campaign.

Tip: Set aside a specific block of time each day to devote to your social media accounts.

Time Saving Tip: Connecting your social platforms, like Twitter and Facebook, can help you save time by updating them simultaneously. There are also apps that allow you to schedule social media posts, so you can create them when you have time but schedule them to be posted to your account at a time when the majority of your audience is online. Hootsuite and Buffer are great tools for scheduling posts!

Mistake #2: Too Many Profiles

Many businesses mistakenly choose quantity over quality in this area. Creating profiles on ALL of the social networks can actually be detrimental to your social media strategy (unless you are a large corporation with an entire department devoted to social media). One reason for this is that not all social media sites will work for all businesses. You want to find the best ones for your particular business or niche, and be sure to be active in them. Having an overabundance of profiles to update and networks to engage in can be extremely overwhelming and almost guarantees sporadic updating (refer to number one above), because you simply won’t have enough time to be as attentive as necessary. Remember to leave yourself time to engage with your audience, as well.

Tip: Be selective. Join a handful of relevant social media websites that fit your company’s needs and engage your audience.

Mistake #3: Not Becoming Engaged

Ideally, you should make it a point to recognize and reply to every comment you receive on your blog posts, website, status updates, tweets, articles, etc. You want your profiles to engage your followers through comment replies. Ignoring the opportunity to engage and interact with your community is one of the biggest mistakes you can make in social media. Gone are the days of talking to your audience. They want you to speak with them.

Tip: Set up e-mail or push notifications to alert you to new comments and, if time permits, answer them as they come in. If not, try setting aside a certain amount of time each day to reply to your comments.

Mistake #4: Confusing “Marketing” with “Engaging”

Many small business owners feel that social media is not giving them the leads they need. However, this is not because the leads are not there. The reason for this is that these companies are attempting traditional marketing and sales strategies in the world of social media, instead of taking the time to listen to their audience and learn more about their needs. Your social media strategy should be more about providing information and establishing yourself as an authority in your field. Building your reputation in this way will translate to more leads, which will yield more sales.

Tip: Utilize consistent, relevant, fresh content to “market” your company. Your content should do all of your “marketing” for you. Make it a point to directly answer any questions your audience may have to help elevate you to expert status.

Mistake #5: Spamming or Excessive Promoting/Advertising

Many companies have become involved in spamming as a method of advertising. This tactic no longer works as internet users have become very savvy and learned to ignore and filter these messages without even looking at them. Be very careful when hiring an internet marketing agency because some of the self-proclaimed “experts” in this area simply launch spamming campaigns which are highly unethical and largely ineffective.

Tip: Obtain a marketing outline from the agency which illustrates their marketing strategy for your company, brand, services, and/or products before signing any contracts.

Mistake #6: “Generic” or “Stock” Avatar

Clients and potential clients alike can become suspicious of businesses that use the website’s stock avatar or profile picture. It can cast doubt about the credibility of the company. In addition, this is an indication that the company is not experienced with and/or knowledgeable about social media.

Tip: Use your company’s logo as your avatar on social media platforms that allow it. On websites which require an actual photo of the profile owner, use the best picture of yourself that you have. Make sure the photo is as professional as possible. Don’t use a grainy selfie!

Mistake #7: Not Having a Plan

A lack of planning, preparation, organization, and strategy will result in the failure of a company’s social media campaign. It takes more than simply launching a profile, blog, or social media presence to run a successful campaign. Appropriate planning and follow-up are integral to the success of any social media strategy.

Tip: First, identify your purpose and audience. This will make it easier to formulate a plan, prepare, organize, and strategize.

Mistake #8: Inconsistent Branding

It is important to ensure that your branding is consistent throughout all of your profiles on each of your social media platforms. The sheer amount of social media profiles that a company can set up can lead to multiple brand identities on multiple sites. This tends to confuse the audience, making it more difficult for them to find pertinent information. They may also become fragmented by this.

Tip: Stay consistent. Set up your first profile, making sure to be as detailed as possible, then use it as a guide when filling out subsequent profiles. Don’t necessarily use it word-for-word, but the guide will help you remember to include all of the most important information which plays a role in your company’s branding.

Mistake #9: Trying to “Measure” Social Media Impact

Since I first wrote and published this article, a couple of key things have changed. 1.) Social media analytics have become more accessible and accurate. 2.) With more social platforms offering (or planning to offer) a way to make purchases directly from their websites and/or apps, I suspect measuring return on investment (ROI) from these will become easier. However, there is still no surefire way to measure ROI from social media, as you don’t necessarily know who has made purchases because they saw a tweet, Facebook post, etc. Companies can come up with measurable goals, but they must realize that it is very difficult to attach a monetary value to user engagement or customer relations. Another aspect of business that is difficult to measure is customer retention, which social media can help increase.

Tip: Become engaged in the community. (Refer to number three above.) If you stay active, you will retain your audience/following.

Mistake #10: Giving Up Before You Have a Chance to Succeed

Some companies dabble in social media, not giving it the attention it deserves or requires, and then claim no ROI. Oftentimes, this is before they have even identified their audience and/or devised a strategy to meet realistic business goals. (Refer to number seven above.)

Tip: Select a few, highly targeted social media sites to join, develop a strategy, and jump right in. Get active and stay active. Be patient. It takes a little time to build an audience or following. (Refer to number two above.)

To Conclude…

There is little doubt that social media has become, and will continue to be, a powerful tool to grow your business. When used wisely, it will provide your audience with a way to interact and engage with your brand. It can also be leveraged to boost your reputation and establish you as an authority. Being considered a trusted expert in your field will help turn your audience into customers and clients.

By: Danielle Dandridge