Monthly Archives: October 2017

Five Platforms for Sharing Your Message (and Services) with the World!

Have you ever felt like you had something to say but doubted that people would listen to you? Or has someone ever called you an expert, and you thought, “Who, me?”

When starting out as a Virtual Assistant, these doubts can creep in while we’re planning to promote our brand and business. We may have heard Bill Gates’ declaration that “Content is King,” and understand that sharing content can boost our credibility. But it can feel daunting to decide what to say and how to say it. People who share content seem to know stuff, and how do I know whether I know stuff people want to hear?

Well, take comfort in the fact that we often know more than we think. Even if you don’t see yourself as an expert, you do have knowledge to share and simply need the right platform to share it.

I sometimes feel hesitant to share content because I was raised not to give unsolicited advice. So I often feel a bit of a “Who do you think you are” kind of doubt when I share tips. I’m also somewhat introverted and quiet in a professional setting, so if we were talking about this subject in person, I’d be more likely to listen to you rather than speak. If I’m put on the spot, I can get flustered and shy, but then later that night, at 3:00 a.m., I’ll think of the perfect words I could have said. That’s why blogging has become the right platform for me. It gives me time to process my thoughts and choose my words before expressing them in writing.

So when you’re planning your own business promotion, think about how you like to express yourself and how your audience likes to receive content. I love this quote by Maya Angelou:

This is an important idea to keep in mind when striving to build credibility with your target audience. The way you share content can either build trust or tear it down. It can make people feel validated and cared for, or misunderstood and overlooked. When we plan blog posts for VAClassroom, we typically go through this process:

– What topic addresses the needs and concerns our audience has right now?

– How does our audience like to receive our content?

– What can we give our audience as takeaways they can use to build their business as a Virtual Assistant or Online Professional?

As Moss Clement explains in his article “8 Undeniable Ways to Build Trust and Credibility With Your Brand on Social Media,”  you might need to experiment to discover which content strategies are most effective in your area of competence. He says,

“The idea is for you to discover the type of content that gets you more engagement. Among the contents you’ve created, which ones are more popular? Find out and create more of such content. Whenever possible, though, it’s best to relate that content back to your core business. After all, we’re not doing this for fun are we? We’re trying to build relationships with potential and current customers so when they need our services, we are top of mind.”

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the top content channels for promoting your brand and business.

Blogs

According to an article by Jodi Harris, blogging “continues to lead the pack when it comes to reliably driving returns on the content investment.” She includes some data points from the Content Marketing Institute’s 2017 research that support this fact, namely, “80% of B2B marketers and 75% of B2C marketers include blogging among their current techniques” and “52% of B2B and 51% of B2C marketers expect that blogging will be their most critical tactic for achieving success in the upcoming year.”

That’s one of the reasons why you’re reading this post on our site right now. At VAClassroom, we blog regularly and value this medium’s versatility. Blog posts can be posted on our main website, shared on social media, and emailed to our subscriber list. We can also use a blog as a place to communicate content created on other platforms. We’ll talk more about that below.

eBooks

Now, this is a platform that embodies the idea of giving your audience takeaways. If you provide an eBook as a free offer on your website, for your audience it’s like going to Costco and getting some free samples. They get a taste of your knowledge and services in a format they can “take home” and digest at their leisure. It might also keep them coming back to your site to see if you’re offering any more goodies. My husband has been known to go back to the same staff person at Costco and hope they won’t recognize him so he can get seconds of a particularly good sample. ☺

In her article, “3 Ways to Use eBooks in Your Content Marketing Strategy,”  Caoimhe Gaskin explains:

“One unique strength of eBooks is that they’re downloadable. Instead of feeling like yet another blog post or video, a downloadable eBook feels far more like a real object of value.This means you can use eBooks as lead generation tools, offering your users the chance to opt-in with their contact information in exchange for your information. Writing an eBook also gives you the ability to showcase your authority on a subject in a greater level of depth than a blog post allows.”

Podcasts

So far we’ve talked about written content, but what about audio? If you enjoy communicating verbally, podcasts might be the platform for you. One of the benefits of podcasting is that people can multitask while they’re listening to a show. They can subscribe to a podcast and access it on their device online or download for offline listening while they’re exercising, driving, dusting the living room, or any number of activities.

Because of the nature of this medium and users’ habits, Heidi Cohen offers some great recommendations in her article, “Audio Content: How To Reach Your Busy Audience.”  She says we need to make our information attractive for people to listen to and that we should “think like a talk radio show host.”

You can reach a large audience when you record something that people will want to switch on in the background while they’re going about their day. And you can be creative about the format of your podcast. You can conduct one-on-one interviews, host panel discussions, present information in a lecture format… The sky’s the limit!

Facebook Live

As you may already know, Craig Cannings, co-founder of VAClassroom, hosts a Facebook Live session once a month. Facebook Live continues to grow in popularity among both private users and businesses. It’s a great platform for connecting with your audience in an interactive and immediate way. As the presenter is speaking, the audience can react to the presentation and type comments which the presenter can respond to either verbally or in writing.

Users can be notified when a page or a person they’re following goes live so they can tune in to the broadcast. And after the session ends, the recorded video can remain posted on a profile or page to be viewed on demand.

Facebook Live has gained even more functionality by adding its own screen-sharing feature that eliminates the need to use other software.  This gives you greater freedom to plan online presentations or tutorials for Facebook Live. It’s also beneficial for anyone who may be uncomfortable appearing as a talking head and feels greater confidence presenting through slides or other visual content.

YouTube

YouTube is the 3rd most visited website in the world, with 300 hours of video uploaded every minute, and almost 5 billion videos watched every day, according to this article by Danny Donchev.

Like Facebook Live, YouTube allows live streaming, either through spontaneously jumping online or scheduling live events to broadcast to your audience. During live events, you can also interact with viewers by answering comments while you’re on air. You can also create videos at your leisure and upload them. So if you prefer to prepare and edit your video content beforehand, you can express your message that way.

The advantage of presenting tips or giving a tutorial through video is that your audience gets to see you as a real person, and you can address their needs on the fly (in the case of live streaming). Valuable communication is also achieved through tone of voice and nonverbal signals that are missing from written content.

Repurposing Content

Above are just a few of the top content platforms you can use to get your message and services out to the world. There can be lots of movement between different types of content, so you can express yourself in the medium that’s best suited to you and then repurpose your content into another format.
Here are some examples:

– You can write a blog post and create an attractive infographic that illustrates the main points. This infographic can be offered as a free download on your blog and posted on Social Media channels like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, etc.

– You can record a podcast and then have the content transcribed and repurposed into a blog post or eBook.

– You can create a Facebook Live or YouTube video and then post it on your blog with a written introduction and a timestamp summary of the main points.

– You can repurpose a blog post into an article to publish on Medium or LinkedIn to reach an even wider audience.

These are just a few ideas. As you’re planning your content strategy, remember to find that sweet spot between your area of competence and your audience’s area of interest. And be creative! Online content platforms thrive when they’re full of high-quality original content, so share what you know in a way that’s true to who you are, and your audience will be drawn to your authenticity. And the wider community of Virtual Assistants and online professionals will benefit from your knowledge and innovation.

Sometimes we don’t know how much we know until we give ourselves permission to share it. So start sharing, and you’ll see just how knowledgeable you are.

Now we’d love to hear from you. What are your favorite ways to communicate content, and what challenges have you faced when planning your content strategy?

5 Keys to Finding and Attracting Clients Using Social Media

When I began writing this post, I wished I could say that you simply need to close your eyes, blink, and voilà – your perfect clients will appear in Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and other places! In a way, we do have that magical ability when we log on to Social Media, but it takes some strategy, effort, and good old-fashioned social skills to attract and find clients through this powerful channel.

The Q3 2016 Sprout Social Index, “Turned Off: How Brands are Annoying Customers on Social” provides some interesting statistics on why people follow or unfollow brands:

– 57% are annoyed when there are too many promotions.

– 1 in 4 people are annoyed when they don’t receive a response.

– 41% will unfollow a brand if it doesn’t share relevant information.

– 32% are annoyed by a brand that tries to be funny when it isn’t.

– 34% are annoyed by a lack of personality.

So it seems like a lot of the things that annoy people in person also annoy them online. When I’m interacting on Social Media, I like to pretend that I’m visiting someone in their living room or mingling with people at a conference. The same authenticity that attracts clients to you in person will attract them online, and by leveraging the power of Social Media channels like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube, you can attain a valuable following of clients in your Virtual Assistance business.

Here are some tips for finding and attracting clients on Social Media:

 

1. Put your best face forward.

And I mean literally. Often the first thing people will notice is your profile picture. When I first signed up for Facebook, I was kind of shy, so I used my favorite hockey team’s logo as my profile picture. But after becoming a freelance writer/editor, I realized it would benefit me to be a little less hockey-focussed in my personal Social Media profiles and most certainly in my business profiles, so I’m more careful now.

Here are some qualities to look for in a good photo:

– Professional headshots are ideal (ones that still show your personality, avoiding the fanciness of a glamor shot and the stark formality of a passport photo).

– Fairly recent photos are best (at least within the last 10 years).

– Quality of photo is important (no fuzziness or distortion, no awkward cropping).

Some exceptions to these rules are appropriate. For example, for my LinkedIn profile, I use a photo that was originally taken beside my uncle. There’s a book in the background, which suits my writing/editing focus, and with a black and white filter, the photo is very clear. But the main reason why I use this photo is because I have a genuine smile in it that people respond to, which is an improvement on the awkward, forced smile I had in my most recent professional photos. So in some cases, you may have a non-professional photo that works well for you.

In addition to the profile picture, you want to be sure you have a good header image, preferably one that either illustrates your Virtual Assistant niche or displays your logo. Pixabay has many copyright-free images you can peruse to see which ones might be appropriate.

It’s also important to write a good description or tagline on your profile, one that will grab your potential client’s attention and keep them reading. This is where having your 30-second elevator speech prepared can help you nail down the elements of your description. You can even lead with one of your favorite quotes that sums up your passion for your work.

And be sure to fill in all the fields on your Social Media profile. As Tawnya Sutherland says in her article “How to Use Social Media as a Lead Generation Tool”,

“Sometimes before someone clicks through your links they’re going to check your profile. If you have a bad headshot, and a half-filled out profile, they’re not going to go back and give you their email. Nope. They’re going to click away, never to return. Don’t let that happen. Improve your social media profiles – always.”

2. Choose your audience.

Now that you’re looking good, you need the right people to see you. Out of all the many millions of people using Social Media, a fraction of those will be your audience of potential clients. Here are some ways you can find them:

Research keywords for your VA industry/niche and use them in your profile descriptions, titles, taglines, and anywhere you are describing your current or past work experience.
Find out where your ideal audience is hanging out (which groups they belong to, which hashtags they use, which Facebook Pages they follow, which lists they belong to on Twitter, etc.).

The power of keywords for good or bad can be seen in a humorous example from my own LinkedIn profile. When I receive my weekly search stats, I find out that I most frequently show up in search results conducted by animal rights organizations or animal shelters. This happens because I include my maiden name, Petrescue, along with my married name to distinguish me from a niece on LinkedIn who has almost the same first and last name as I have. Funny enough, my maiden name corresponds to some keywords for organizations that rescue and shelter pets. So I need to work extra hard on optimizing my profile for keywords corresponding to my writing/editing niche.

In an article called “1 Simple Strategy to Stand Out on LinkedIn,”  John Nemo emphasizes the need to choose your audience by saying “the riches are in the niches!” By targeting certain niche audiences or industries, you’ll have a better chance of attracting clients because you’ll be “a big fish in those smaller ponds.”

 

3. Speak in terms your clients understand.

So now that you look good and have an audience, what do you say? Well, before you start sharing content, a better question might be “How are you going to speak?”

In this global Virtual Assistant industry, you may have clients who speak different languages. Are you bilingual or multilingual as well? If so, how many languages will you use in your Social Media posts?

Furthermore, what tone will you use? If humor comes easily to you and your target audience seems to enjoy it, you may want to have a light, friendly tone with the occasional cartoon or joke thrown in. If you prefer to remain serious, it’s not necessary to force humor.

But the most important thing to remember is to speak your client’s language in terms they understand. If you have specialized skills, it’s tempting to want to showcase them and impress clients with your knowledge. That’s how I feel anyway. But Jeff Cota has some wise advice in his article “Educate And Attract Clients With Social Media.

He quotes a farrier (a specialist who cares for horse’s hooves) named Ralph Hampton who uses Social Media to reach out to horse owners:

“Every farrier should know what a broken back HP axis is, but if you start spitting out those terms, clients will look at you like you just sprouted a head,” [Ralph] says. “They have no idea what that means. But, if you tell them the horse has crushed heels, they’ll say, ‘Oh yeah, I see that.’”

So Cota says, “The key to Hampton’s posts is using common sense terms with which the horse owner can relate.”

Can you think of occasions in your own business where you might need to think about the wording you use?

My editing work began when I was completing a degree in linguistics. I took many courses in syntax, or sentence structure, and am often tempted to use linguistics “lingo” to describe what I’m doing. But if I start waxing poetic about the importance of comma use with relative pronouns, appositives, and nonrestrictive clauses, I might lose a few people who aren’t as excited about hearing those terms as I am.

 

4. Share valuable content.

In keeping with the idea of using language your client understands, it’s important to share valuable content that speaks to the needs of your clients. As the Q3 2016 Sprout Social Index reports, 57% of people are annoyed by too many promotions. But there’s a way to promote yourself and your services without being too promotional.

You can share what you’ve learned. You can share information about exciting new tools you’ve discovered. You can share encouraging quotes and informative articles.

In a post titled “11 Actionable Social Media Tips for Your Web Design and Development Business,”  Kate Denison-Grimes gives the following recommendation:

“Use your social platforms as a medium to show off what you can do! If you’ve been working on a project that has some impressive customizations, or you’ve revamped a client’s brand let the online world know and post examples of client work that showcase your range of skills and abilities.”

I love how Grammarly shares knowledge in a way that’s accessible to everyone. If I wanted to show off my editing skills, I’d post things like this image that illustrates the importance of proper punctuation.

So in your own business, let your imagination soar as you think about what kind of content might educate and enrich the experiences of your potential clients.

 

5. Communicate generously and authentically with others.

Now we’re entering territory that strikes a bit of terror into the hearts of introverted folks like me – interacting with strangers online. [Insert dramatic music – Dun-dun-DAAA!]

I’m not sure about you, but I get quite shy when I’m in a Facebook or LinkedIn group and tend to hang back and read others’ conversations instead of participating myself. I also tend to avoid liking or commenting on public posts.

But if I were looking for clients, I’d miss out because an effective way of finding them is by communicating with people generously and authentically. When I say “generously,” I’m not referring to quantity, but quality – by being generous with your kindness, goodwill, and kudos to others.

If someone in your target audience posts something on Facebook that they’re proud of, give them a like or a kind comment. If someone posts a question in a LinkedIn group that you know the answer to, be helpful and give your advice.

If someone tweets valuable content that fits your niche and would benefit your target audience, retweet it!

Don’t be shy about joining groups or lists frequented by potential clients. And even consider starting your own group.

In her article “How to Build an Amazing Facebook Group,”  Haley Lynn Gray talks about the Women’s Entrepreneur Network group she built on Facebook. It grew from 0 to over 60,000 members in just over 2 years.

She describes the benefits of this experience:

“Think of it this way: you build a group filled with your ideal clients while providing amazing content for them to engage with, and ultimately you bring them into your business. It’s a win-win because you’re giving people a fun, safe place to hang out that supports their wants, needs or desires. And you’re getting lots of really great clients.”

Finding and attracting clients through Social Media is a huge topic, and I’ve just scratched the surface in this blog post. It’s also an ongoing process that needs constant attention as Social Media platforms grow and change.

If you have any tips that have worked for you or any questions about current challenges you’re facing, please share your thoughts in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you so we can help each other through this challenging part of any Virtual Assistant business.

7 Steps to Building an Awesome Business Plan!

I don’t know about you, but I used to find business planning a very cumbersome process that lacked any enjoyment at all… it was like “pulling teeth”!

That is until a discovered a “NEW WAY” of business planning that completely revolutionized how I structure my overall business plans.

Check out this 37-minute Facebook Live event where I unpack the “Seven Steps to Building an Awesome Business Plan”. Below I’ve included a sample 7-step infographic as well as the summary notes from the event.

 

Video Outline:

-40:33 – Opening Thoughts
-39:45 – Introduction to topic: “Business Planning in 7 Steps”
-38:05 – Story about being lost in Thailand
-36:18 – Business Planning in 7 Steps (an ongoing, continuous, in-flux process of mapping out your business in a strategic way that allows you to grow):
-34:40 – #1. Define Your Big Why and Your Vision.
-30:18 – #2. Build Your Financial Plan.
-25:23 – #3. Build Your Technology Plan.
-21:46 – #4. Build Your Coordinated Content Plan.
-17:31 – #5. Build Your Marketing Plan.
-13:16 – #6. Build Your Learning Plan.
-10:07 – #7. Build Your Productivity Plan.
-4:53 – Recap of 7 Steps and response to comments and questions
-0:18 – Closing Thoughts

Download your 7-steps infographic here: