March 2016

Life Update: Burgers, Tattoos, Cars + VR

- by Alyson Shane

One of the downsides of being a busy business owner is that I don't often get the opportunity to share what I've been up to on a personal level. I'm working on big biz-related surprises which will hopefully help me find more blogger balance (more on that soon!) but in the meantime, here's what I've been up to in the few weeks since I've been back from my trip:


Burgers & Cars

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to test drive a Lincoln MKX, which is classified as a "luxury crossover vehicle" and is by far the fanciest vehicle I've ever been in. As someone who's spent most of her time in Neons, Vibes, and Swifts (aka, not your mom and pop kinda van) it was a pretty great experience, especially because I don't have a car day-to-day.

With that in mind John and I decided to take the Lenore Street Squad (aka our roommate, Alex and his girlfriend Katrina) on a Manitoba-based day date to try and suss out where we could find the best rural burgers (also because while going to IKEA and cramming the trunk full of stuff is exciting for me, I'm sure you guys could care less about my amazing new lamp, but anyway).


We hit up Trails North Grill, which is a super-charming burger joint located in Warren, MB. We gorged on fried pickles, salad, and (of course) burgers. I'm glad I wasn't driving on the way back because I was officially in a food coma.

Honestly it was also really nice to just get out of the city; I don't often have the chance to get to know my province a bit better, and even though some Silent Hill-esque mist descended upon us for part of the drive, it was still a ton of fun and a great way to spend some time with some of my favourite people.

Tattoos

Tomorrow I'm going under the needle and getting my first-ever tattoo!

While this is obviously a super-exciting event for me, it's also been a very long time coming. The tattoo I've chosen (it's script, actually) is meant to represent where I've come from: from a sad, unhappy and deeply depressed person to someone who does her best to take chances, challenge myself, and who works to make healthy, happy decisions instead of getting dragged back into the mire caused by unhappy and dramatic people.

When I first met with Katie from Metamorphosis for my consultation she told me that she doesn't usually do script tattoos, and as a rule doesn't do them for first-timers like me. However, after explaining my reasoning behind it, and how deeply personal the quote is, she not only agreed to design it for me, but she also told me that it was one of the best script-based tattoo ideas she'd seen in a long time!

What am I getting? Well, you'll just have to check back here and find out once it's all healed up! (Or follow me on Instagram, where I'll likely be sharing it first).

VR

Aka virtual reality!

A few weeks ago John and I spent a few days playing around in virtual reality as part of the trailer shoot for the HTC Vive game Fantastic Contraption and had an utter blast.


(Yes I'm every bit as excited as I look!)

The goal of the game is to create "contraptions" within a virtual space and send them rolling towards a goal while avoiding obstacles, staying balanced, and not rolling right off of the edge of the floating island you're standing on. The game is insanely fun and I'm really, really looking forward to playing it again soon.

Here's a little more about the game (featuring older trailer footage):

The coolest part about the shoot was that, since it was shot on a green screen background, the VR world that the player can see inside the headset can be stitched in to replace the physical world. This allows people watching the trailer to actually see what we saw, and experience the game in the same VR world that we did.

I definitely need to give a huge shout-out to the super-talented Kert Gartner for including us. I'm so excited to see the project when it's finished (and am always available for any future VR-related projects, hehe).


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How to Get Your Start as a Digital Marketer

- by Alyson Shane

A few weeks ago, while travelling around Central America, I received a comment on my Instagram which I wanted to take the chance to respond to here on the blog. Here's the question:

How did you get started doing social media marketing? I am interested in this but have no current knowledge of marketing.
-Brittany T.

Instagram isn't the best way to answer a questions like this in an in-depth way and I've been chomping at the bit to get home and write a longer, more detailed response because I wish someone had told me all of this stuff back when I was trying to figure out what I want to do.

Not only because it's great to hear what other people did to get to where they are in life, but also because being a digital marketer isn't really something that anyone worth their salt can just start doing successfully. That's because there's a lot of ongoing effort that goes into crafting a personal brand that people (freelance clients or future employers) will feel comfortable handing their social profiles over to.

So without further ado, here we go:


Build your personal brand

Your "personal brand" is exactly what it sounds like: it's the image of yourself that you project out into the world through your words, your actions, and your behaviour.

What's beautiful about the internet is that you can craft your personal brand to reflect whatever parts of yourself you'd like to accentuate.

This takes time. People aren't going to start recognizing your name overnight, and

The more time you spend working on and crafting your personal brand, the stronger your image will be and the sooner opportunities will start coming your way based on people's perceptions of you. Your audience will see you as a sincere, intelligent person and will be breaking down the door to work with you. I wrote more about personal branding here.

Build a badass website

I've said this before, but your website should be the centre of everything you do online; all of your social media feeds should attempt to drive traffic back to your website, and it should clearly and succinctly explain to people who you are, what you do, and what you're about.

Make your website as easy to navigate as possible. Try to aim for a slick, clean layout without a lot of clutter, and try to use bright, eye-catching photos. Personally I prefer websites with a white background and dark font, because it's easier to read and looks cleaner, but do what works for you.

Start blogging

I've been blogging since 2003, and the latest iteration of my blog (what you're reading right now) has been active since 2009. In that time I've transitioned from being a "lifestyle blogger" to someone who, largely, writes about their profession, but what matters is that I've been publishing content online for a long time.

Regardless of the topic, maintaining a blog for an extended period of time looks great professionally. Here's why:

  • It's the best way for you to showcase who you really are in more than 140 characters.
  • It shows that you can commit to an ongoing project (blogging).
  • It demonstrates your writing skills.

Blogging has helped me establish myself as someone who understands their industry, is a strong writer, and has allowed me to expand my audience. My blog has allowed me to speak at MBlog, get published in the Winnipeg Free Press, and even to get featured on ShawTV as one of Winnipeg's Hottest Bloggers. When I was applying for jobs all of my employers checked out my blog, and it's the first place most of my clients find me nowadays.

But... what if you hate writing?

I get asked this question a lot, and to be honest I never really know how to respond to it. In my view, people who are interested in social media enough that they want to do it professionally should have a deep interest in how we communicate online and how we use persuasive language (aka rhetoric).

Because let's be serious: someone in my position spends most of their days writing in one form or another. Maybe it's website copy, maybe it's scheduling tweets, maybe it's writing a blog post or a newsletter, but either way all day every day, we're hustlin' writing.

If you don't like writing and understanding the nitty-gritty of how we communicate with each other... maybe this isn't the profession for you.

Having a social media presence

I can't stress this one enough.

If you are genuinely serious about pursuing a career as a social media manager or digital marketer, you need to jump into social media feet-first and do your best to maintain an active presence on platforms which will help you get a bit more well-known. I prefer Twitter for this purpose, personally, but if you don't have at least a Facebook profile, Twitter presence, and Instagram account, it's unlikely that prospective clients will take you seriously.

This is because how well you manage your own accounts gives people an insight into the kind of person that you are (are you nice online, for example), demonstrates that you know your way around at least a few of the major communication platforms, and shoes that you're relevant because you update them all regularly.

Oh, right: update them all regularly. This is key. Nobody is going to take someone who sells their services managing and understanding social media platforms seriously if their last tweet was from 2014.

Not just that, but social media is the easiest way to share that blog content that we talked about earlier. Cross-promoting yourself across a variety of social networks is one of the easiest ways to get noticed by a potential employer or client.

Show up to local Meetups

This expands a bit on the earlier point about building your personal brand: while connecting online is great, it's important to turn those digital connections into real, face-to-face ones, and the easiest way to do that is to show up to things.

If you're in Winnipeg, there are plenty of opportunities to connect and get known. Some of them are:

Not in Winnipeg? Check out Meetup.com for local social media-related gatherings near you!

Let your passions drive you

I believe that being passionate about what you do is the single most important asset in this equation.

While I make my living as a digital marketer, I actually identify as a writer. That's it. I love to write, and am obsessed by rhetoric (aka persuasive language) and the ever-evolving nature of social media, so applying what I love to do (writing) to something that interests me (communication/social media) just made sense.

If you aren't passionate about what you do, then you won't take the time to explore it and understand it, and part of being an effective digital marketer is keeping up with the ever-changing trends in your industry. Not just that, but if the idea of developing marketing plans for Instagram, or spending your days monitoring @ mentions on Twitter doesn't make your heart go pitter-pat, then you may want to rethink your career choice.

A lot of this comes down to perspective, too: like I said, I identify as a writer above all else, and managing social media profiles, developing copy for marketing strategies, and keeping up-to-date on how to effectively communicate on each platform (to hashtag, or not to hashtag? That is the question!) is just another way to sharpen my writer's chops.

So, figure out what you love the most about social media and make that your focus.

Hopefully that helps, Brittany! Good luck to you on your career journey!

Do you have any questions for me about being a business owner, digital marketing, social media, or anything I mentioned in this post? Ask me in the comments or drop me a line - I'm always happy to hear from you!


How to Build a Killer Digital Marketing Strategy

- by Alyson Shane

We live in tumultuous digital times, my friends. New social networks seem to be appearing every day, and if you're trying to promote your business online, it's easy to feel like there are too many options to choose from.

Most clients I talk to when we first meet have an ad-hoc strategy when it comes to promoting themselves online; they know of a few social networks and have accounts set up, but in many cases their messaging is muddled, unclear, and in many instances they are trying to reach an audience who simply aren't there.

That's why developing a digital marketing strategy is so important. Having a strategy which has taken into consideration both your brand's needs and those of your audience and customers can make or break your marketing efforts, so today let's go over some steps to build a badass digital marketing strategy to help you stand out online:


Determine your goals

The first thing I ask a prospective client is: what do you want your digital marketing strategy to accomplish? Many people have never thought about this before, and if you haven't until just now, that's okay! But now is the time to start thinking about what all the time and effort is going to do for you.

When I was in university, I took a few business courses where I learned about two crucial acronyms for planning that I still use every day: SWOT and SMART.

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, and is helpful when planning a project or new business venture so you can assess (you guessed it) your strengths and shortcomings before moving forward.

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. When planning out your goals for your digital marketing strategy, make sure that they all meet this set of criteria. What do you want to accomplish and how will you measure it? What are realistic and attainable goals to aim for?

Understanding your SWOT and SMART goals will help direct your time and energy, so you don't waste time floundering around, trying this or that, instead of having a focused and easy-to-understand set of goals.

Ask "Why me?"

What I mean by this is: ask yourself why your business exists.

What does your organization (or your small business) do that makes you worth working with? Are you a Twitter whiz? Do you write fantastic, eye-catching copy? Are your presentation and PowerPoint (or Keynote) skills second-to-none? How do your skills and your personality set your business apart from your competition?

This may take some digging and soul-searching, and that's okay! Many of us (myself included) have had to take a hard, critical look at our business and suss out what makes us unique, and how we can convey that to our audience and potential customers.

Tell your story

Crafting a narrative about your brand is one of the most important things you can do online. Your story -what makes you unique, different, and perfectly posed to solve your customer's problems - is what sets you apart from your competition.

Humans are natural storytellers, and people will be attracted to and remember a brand whose story made them feel something. Positive feelings also lead to feelings of trust, comfort, and help shape your brand's identity not just as a company, but as somewhere where real, dedicated people work and put their energy into.

(Want more info on brand storytelling? Check out my post Marketing Your Brand Through Storytelling)

Build your buyer personas

A buyer persona is exactly what it sounds like: a fake profile of the kinds of people you want to attract and engage with online.

A complete persona should have details about the person's background (I like to name my buyers, too), what they do for a living, what their values and beliefs are, what they like and don't like, and what motivates their decision-making process.

Developing buyer personas is one of the most important steps you can take as part of your digital marketing strategy because it gives you a deeper insight into what your ideal customers are looking for online. This information will inform the kind of things you say, what you share, and the people you connect with online.

Identify where your audience will be

This is critical to implementing a successful digital strategy because if you don't take the time to figure out where your target audience is hanging out online, then you'll never be able to reach them and show them how awesome you are.

That's why doing a buyer persona is so important: it doesn't just inform what to say and how to say it, but also where you should be saying it for maximum impact. For example, if your target audience are Etsy obsessed DIYers who love Pinterest, spending all your time marketing on LinkedIn, which is a business networking site, isn't going to help you find your audience anytime soon.

Take time to think about where your ideal customers will be spending their time thinking about the things that interest them online, and how you can make yourself stand out so they notice you.

Track your success & pivot when necessary

Social networks change over time, so it's important to keep an eye on how successful your digital strategy is, and to fine-tune as you go along. Paying attention to the statistics of each social media account (and your website, if you're blogging, too) can go a long way towards informing what kind of content is resonating your audience, and which turned out to be rather lackluster.

What's wonderful about digital marketing is that unless you really screw up, your audience will usually forgive and forget about a post that didn't catch their eye, or a tweet that didn't go as viral as you hoped. This means you can experiment with different kinds of images, polls, contests, and more! Just track how successful each one was and try to duplicate the ones that did well.

Ask for help (if you need it)

Developing a robust digital strategy can be challenging and time-consuming, and even when brands and businesses have buyer personas they often can't (or don't want to) spend the time reaching out to them and connecting.

That's totally okay! You are not a machine designed for selling and promoting, and if you feel overwhelmed at the thought of having to run your business and develop and implement a digital marketing strategy, that's normal.

Many people choose to work with business consultants, who can help you determine the right direction for your company and develop a killer digital strategy to go along with it (I recommend Kyla Roma if you're in the market for someone; she's fabulous). There are also people like me who offer content management services to help keep you on track (shameless plug, haha).

There's no shame in asking for help, so if you're feeling baffled or overwhelmed make a point to reach out to someone and get the ball rolling on developing and implementing your shiny, new digital marketing strategy!

Do you have any questions about digital marketing? Do you want to know more about how to implement a killer online strategy? I'd love to know!


4 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Blog Bounce Rate

- by Alyson Shane

Whether you blog for yourself, your business, or your employer, minimizing your blog's bounce rate should be a top priority. Readers who click on your site are much more likely to come back than the ones who don't, so managing your bounce rate can go a long way towards building your audience.

If you haven't heard this term before, your blog's bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who arrive on your site, stay on one page, and then leave without clicking around.

This might not seem like a big deal - after all, if they clicked on a link you shared to get to your site, then didn't you accomplish your goal? Well... sort of.

Why is your bounce rate important?

If you run a blog simply for the sake of writing about your life or your interests, then maybe your bounce rate isn't that important to you.

But if you're anything like the millions of bloggers, artists & creatives, and businesses who feature a blog as a single section of a website designed to sell a product or service, then making sure that your site aims to encourage users to explore your site should be a top priority. You don't want them to visit your blog without looking at everything else that you have to offer, do you?

What is a "good" bounce rate?

According to this article, most websites will see bounce rates fall somewhere between 26% and 70%, so as long as you fall within that range, depending on what you do and the purpose of your website, you should be okay.

The same article cautions that a bounce rate below 20% or over 90% is usually a bad sign. The former hints at a problem with the analytics setup, the latter with the website. If you've never taken a look at your bounce rate before, you can find it in Google Analytics (which you should have installed!)

How can you reduce your bounce rate?

I'm glad you asked! It's not as difficult as it may seem, and with a few tweaks and adjustments, your blog will soon be converting like crazy.

Below are four easy ways to spruce up your blog, make it visiting better experience for your audience, and to reduce that bounce rate:


1. Improve your site's speed

Sites that load slowly are my biggest pet peeve! There's nothing worse than waiting for a website to load, or (even worse) try to navigate one which keeps refreshing because the image files take longer to load than the text (I'm looking at you, every single Huffington Post article).

If you're like me the most likely culprit is huge image files or lots of videos; I just did a speed check and managed to get my speed up by 60% by resizing just three photos. Oops. Now my website loads faster than 79% of all tested websites on pingdom.com.

Want to see how quickly your site loads? Punch your URL in here and take a look!

2. Use a clean, easy-to-navigate design

Remember when the internet looked like this?


My eyes.

Unfortunately, many websites still look a lot like this, with people trying to cram too much information onto a page at once, providing a visually unappealing and difficult to navigate and read experience for a first-time visitor.

Your website should be designed to move your readers on a journey through your site (generally called a "sales tunnel" but the same idea applies whether you're selling something or not), from the first post they read to other important areas, such as your newsletter signup page, contact form, or online store. If you're struggling to cut back on the content on your page, make a list of the most important parts of your site (e.g., your blog, your About page, your services page, etc.) and try to remove links that don't lead visitors to those areas.

Also, this should also go without saying, but you should also make sure that your site is mobile responsive (aka that it resizes to fit the width of the screen on a mobile phone). Trying to read and navigate a website which hasn't been optimized on mobile screens is a nightmare, and is one of the easiest ways to make sure that first-time visitors to your blog never come back.

3. Keep your content relevant to visitor's needs

What do you blog about? Take a look at the posts you've written recently, and then take a look at your Google Analytics. Are the search terms that are leading people to your website the same ones that you're writing about? If not, then it's time to start honing your content strategy, and then to start paying attention to how you use your headings and subheadings.

Not only does using proper headings and subheadings make your posts easy to read and understand, but it also helps boost your search engine rankings. This is because sites like Google pull information about your page based on what's in your H1, H2, H3, etc., and will help make sure that the people arriving at your site are coming there for the information that you're providing.

4. Link to related posts

One of the easiest ways to reduce your bounce rate is to offer your readers with more to do on your site once they've finished reading. Most bloggers (myself included) just add a footer to the bottom of our posts which recommend posts in the same or similar categories. Adding this at the end of a post is an easy way to entice your new visitor to explore more of what you have to say.

In addition to the footer trick, I also organize my posts into categories so my readers can quickly browse all of the posts I've written on a single topic.They can also browse posts by category and by month and year, and see a list of the most recent posts I've published on the right-hand sidebar.

Try experimenting with your layout and see how you can entice your visitors into exploring of your blog content!

That's it!

By making these changes we've not only managed to increase your blog's look, feel, and navigation, but we've also made sure that your visitors who care about your content can find you, and that your site's slow response time doesn't drive them away before they get through the first paragraph of your latest post.

Have you had issues with high bounce rates? If so, how did you solve them? I'd love to know!