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The Long Term game of Social Media


Social media is a long term game.  After a while it can seem a bit samey for any business to keep ploughing ahead with their social media.

Changes happen.  Life happens.  For a while I’ve been pretty neglectful of my own Zebra marketing, and the reasons around that have been many-fold - perhaps some of them may resonate with you.  I was so busy with other work that there was no time to invest in taking care of the business social media account, combined with the fact that I had no space in my diary to serve other clients, so it seemed natural to halt proceedings for a while.

Yet there are dangers in being too absent from social media.  People start to question whether you're still around, and what's happening.  Any potential newcomers would just click away and think if I'm not taking care of my own social accounts, how could I possibly help with theirs?  Oh the irony!

But something deeper was happening too, and it’s something we’re all subject to.  The natural changes of life.  My own life story was changing rapidly, and everything I say about being authentic online suddenly fell by the wayside on my own business social media as I grappled with “where am I now and what do I share?”

It’s not that I stopped being authentic, more like I invested my new-found voice and energy elsewhere.  Business social media wasn’t the right channel to post about the “other stuff” that was going on, and so my authentic outlet became my personal blog and the books I'm writing.

It’s easy to see how social media accounts get neglected. But eventually you have to come back and say, hi, I’m still here.  So hi.  I'm still here.

Now what to share?

When things change, we can sometimes end up re-framing what’s okay to share and what’s not.  What channels should we be on and which are not working? (This is a constant question since developers on our fave platforms are always in the business of changing the interfaces and algorithms).

You may have found yourself asking questions (both on personal and business accounts):

Who are we now?

How do we reposition ourselves?

How to advertise our new services?

Can we still say the same things as before?

How should we come across now?

Authenticity

I always say authenticity is the best way forward because of the principle of like attracting like.  Okay but how - and what - and who?

Values

The easiest way to position yourself for the long haul is by values.  Regardless of what is happening externally in your life (personally, nationally, politically, globally) you can share your values and write around them.

Why?

People do business with people they like and who give them something they need - whether it's a need to feel heard, comfortable, safe, invigorated, motivated, whatever the heck it is.  Emotional needs are really important even if they are not verbally or consciously stated.

People will come to you and your business for a reason.  The more you express yourself in terms of values, the more people can get to know the real you.  Business social media marketing is essentially a global match making online service between real people who we call providers and clients.

The chemistry part comes from values.

When you do meet a client you've attracted via social media, you're way more likely to match up because you've already been the real you online and you "click" more quickly in person.  This is why surface level marketing just sounds phoney and fake.

Businesses who stay strong on values – whatever those values are – loyalty, integrity, innovation, adaptability, whatever marks you out as being you – that is unlikely to change significantly despite external stuff changing, so if you're going to re-purpose content for your blog or website, make sure you have plenty of evergreen values based content to share.

Regardless of all the external changes that come and go: however many new staff you take on, however many awards you win, whichever events you attend, the magazines you're featured in, whatever courses you do, whatever new certificates you produce and whatever new services you offer, underneath it all, you’re still YOU.

Are YOU re-evaluating what to share publicly at the moment?

Often this exact dilemma is why clients approach me, to help them with creating messages that feel like a good representation of what they truly want to communicate online about themselves and their business RIGHT NOW.  Not next year, cos we haven't reached that yet.  Not last month, because we are past that now.  But now.  And the more we practice getting in the flow of sharing compelling content, the more easily we can be our authentic selves online.

There is no accident why internet sensations like Gary Vee and Marie Forleo are so popular, because every time they share content you can feel that they are completely in the flow.  They are a walking talking masterclass in authenticity (and high vibe energy!)

To summarise, when developing a social strategy, always keep in mind social media is a long term game.  If in doubt, share content that connects you with your values.

To work with Rachel, please get in touch via the contact page for an initial discussion :) 

New to Instagram? Here’s my best advice



Not everyone in the world is on Instagram (although to be fair, many are), so if you’re a little late to the party but want to build an audience, fast, here are some ways to do this!  By the way this is the most condensed written form of my training ever.

Build an audience quickly with hashtags
To build an audience on Instagram, you have to rock the hashtag thing– it works both ways whether you want to be found or to find others. Instagram is like a massive match making platform between you and the rest of the world, I mean forget the spamming weirdos who use it as a dating service, just block them and see it as a means of gathering your rightful audience, your soul tribe.

They’re out there.  Go find ‘em.

First of all make a note of your overall themes.  Let’s say you have a blog about outdoor writing and photography.

Note down your general themes and turn them into hashtags.  I mean, actually please do this.  Get a pen and pad.

Hashtag overall key themes

#writing #poetry #outdoors #countryside #photography

These are your basics. You need to be using these frequently, but they are also overdone, so you can build up your hashtag use by taking any one of these and doing it to death, as in the following example.

Take photography.

#photography #photo #photographer #amateurphotographer #pic #canonnphotography #lightroom #photographoftheday #nikon

You get me?

So if you’re a photographer, put some of your best pics up with these hashtags.  You can either include hashtags with your post caption, or put your hashtags in a separate comment after your own comment that goes with your pic.  You’ll now get followed by other photographers or people looking for those hashtags.  Follow them back if you like their account.

Let’s take another key theme hashtag, say #outdoors

Now go bananas with it and see what happens:

#outdooradventures #outdooradventurephotos #outdoorslover #outdoordude #hike #hiking #walking #hikerlife #lovehiking #hikingwithfriends #walkingclub

You can make up your own, such as I made up Outdoor Dude (?!) but also a great tip is to go to the search facility on Instagram and type in one of your key hashtags.  Take a look at what else that brings up (Instagram will offer you similar hashtags across the top of the screen).  Note down the ones you like.

Trending
If you want to be cynical about it you can also look up what’s trending, and words like #love and #girl are always popular, but possibly out of genre unless your post happens to be about a girl you love.

Cynical audience building
If you’re simply looking for likes and follows then #like4like #follow4follow and all the other crap that goes with it, are ways to get an audience fast, but I don’t advocate this as it’s both cynical and riddled with bullshit accounts you’ll wish you never attracted.

I’ve been saying quality over quantity for the past 4 years and I’m not about to stop now.

Practical implementation
If you have a lot of content to go on IG, the quickest way is probably using a scheduling app like Hootsuite, in which you can schedule photos in advance and type messages as long as your arm and hashtags to go with it.

If you don’t use a facility like this, manually the quickest way I’ve found to get hashtags onto your Instagram page is to keep them in a word doc or notes page then copy and paste them to yourself via messenger app and copy them from there to your Instagram page.

Get organised
Let’s say you want to share content in different topic areas.  If you have some posts about health, some about writing, some about parenting, etc, you can keep your hashtags in a table in categories, making it easier to quickly add hashtags to your posts that are relevant and will drive an audience to them.

Whilst this sounds like a pain, it’s really not when you consider you can hashtag every post with up to 30 hashtags. Yes, it’s like hashtag spamming yourself but it’s also an amazing way to pick up an audience very quickly.  Once you gave gathered an audience you can slow down on the hashtag spam a bit and work on building relationships with your community instead, but to gather your tribe, hashtag away.

The key to keeping an Instagram account going is posting regular content of a high quality.  This is least of all a problem for a photographer.  If you’re not a photographer (I@m certainly not!) then get yourself clued up with some YouTube tutorials on how to take better pics with your smartphone camera.  Learn the basics of what settings you need, lighting, perspective, etc.  General rule – the lighter and brighter the photo, the more clicks it gets, so use your phone edit function to make it brighter.

Caption
Make sure you write something in your caption. This can be a real tough one for some people, we’re not all writers and writers block can be common. The deeper you dig and the more authentic you can be, the better. Humans are hardwired to listen to stories, so try turning your hand to storytelling and making meaning.  Never forget there is meaning to be found in everyday experiences. The more emotionally compelling and truthful, the more we connect.

Downside
The biggest downside is not having clickable links within the Instagram post itself meaning people cannot directly go to your blog.  In this case it’s best to copy a snippet of your best writing, a tantalising taste, from your blog directly into your IG caption which will give your followers a taste but also make them click through to your website for the full article.

Theme
Also, you need to have a think about your overall theme and positioning. What is the purpose of your IG account?  Is it personal or are you also selling something or showcasing a hobby or driving traffic to a website or blog site? Your purpose will inform your theme, type of content to post both images and captions.

By being clear about who you want to attract you can better understand your audience and how to write for them.  Most of all, be real.  There are no rules, make it as fun and creative as you like.  The more you play with it, the more you’ll want to put into it.  You can see your IG account as an expression of your own creativity.

Be yourself
Of all the platforms I personally find Instagram the place where you can be most yourself.  It’s a creative’s dream.  Aside from the occasional message from users who mistake it for a dating site, it’s an accepting place full of lovely kind tolerant people.  It comes without the harsh sarcastic opinions of Twitter and without the close friends and family ready to jump on shouting WTF that you might encounter on Facebook.

Building friendships and letting your intuition guide you
Use hashtags to search for other accounts you might like.  Ask friends to tag you in accounts or posts they think you might like and do the same for them.  Remember to comment on others’ posts in the same way you might on FB, but comments are normally expected to be complimentary and brief.

Instagram, like any other platform, will offer you friends you have on other social sites and in your phone contacts.  This doesn’t mean you have to follow them.  This is your feed and all posts and accounts come with an energy.  If you don’t like someone’s energy or type of post, simply don’t follow them and then you won’t have to hold yourself in resistance.

It’s really that simple.  Same with accounts you love or otherwise envy – if they give you a case of comparing-itis because their life looks too perfect, leave them alone.  Online platforms work best when you take your real-life energy and pour it into an online space.  Use your intuition to feel into the accounts that make you feel happy.  All else is surplus.


Speak truth even if your voice shakes


Easier said than done whether this is face to face, at home, in business, or on social media.

But getting to the truth and being your authentic self is the only way forward.

The world is transforming at a startling pace.  We hear about digital transformation and innovation all the time.  But to move forward with this, we also have to innovate within ourselves and be willing to go through regular personal transformations.

Transformation starts with a commitment to speaking truth.  When we see leaders role modelling speaking their own truth within organisations, there’s something very empowering about that for those who work with them.  It gives people permission to be themselves and to add their own voices which promotes self-worth and motivation.

When human beings hear the truth, it holds power - the power of connection, of knowing, of joy.

I’m here to help businesses and business owners connect with their own truth about what they’re offering, and to whom, and to enable them to speak it online in the most authentic way possible.

If your voice shakes?  We can always write it instead until it's ready to be said.

LinkedIn private messages – apparently the new way to get business


Not another spammy message!

Recently when I read through my LinkedIn messages, it feels like everyone has been on a course, one that tells you how to send “warm and personal” messages via LinkedIn.  I’ll concede they’re a step up from outright spam, but a small one.

I guess other people must be getting these type of warm and friendly messages from outright strangers too.

No doubt the senders have been told that sending messages via LinkedIn is a successful way to gain clients.  And I’m sure if the recipients were the right target market then it would be a great strategy.  But when they’re not targeted to the right people, then the reading and writing of said messages becomes a colossal waste of time for everyone involved.

Unsolicited uninvited messages to the wrong target market just doesn’t make good business sense.  Then I wondered, what’s the excuse for getting your target market wrong?  With LinkedIn, you actually have tonnes of upfront information to go at.  If your recipient has filled in their LinkedIn profile fully and correctly then you pretty much have access to their full online CV, meaning there should be very little reason to ever target the wrong people with offers they’re unlikely to want to take up.

It’s interesting to watch trends in how people behave on various social platforms and people have upped their game on LinkedIn for sure.  I do feel that the aim has surely got to be true connection, authenticity, clearly defined purpose and a clearly defined target market.  Working on tailored messages would therefore make sense.  Yes it takes longer to craft them, but nurturing real relationships takes time in every area of life – and the rewards reaped are far greater where care has been taken in the first place.

Open ended questions do work well in terms of engagement, but not so open ended that there is zero point in responding.  I frequently get messages from people I don’t’ know whatsoever saying things like “hope business is good, how’s your week?”

Huh?

I have like at least 100 people who I’d like to connect with and tell them how my week is going if only there was the time.  Responding personally via direct message to someone I don’t know is not only a long way down the list, it’s simply not going to happen.

So, advice from someone who has definitely not been on a LinkedIn course but hangs out on LinkedIn for my 2 jobs:

1.       Define your target market very clearly
2.       Only contact people who are in your target market
3.       Spend time thinking about next steps – what do you want to happen next – craft your message appropriately with this in mind
4.       Test out on small handful of people before going wild
5.       Always remember, quality over quantity


Why Being Authentic Matters On Social Media




I talk a lot about authenticity.  What I really mean is I believe in values-based businesses where being truthful and open online matters.

Being truly yourself in your social media presence isn’t just good for your wellbeing and personal development, it’s great for your business, too.

Are you really and TRULY yourself on social media?  Do you need to be for your business to thrive and for you to make the most meaningful connections with the right people, to get you from where you are now to where you really want to be?

Social media is all about growing and deepening your connections – hopefully resulting in sales, but also picking up fans, new opportunities, insights, training, mentors and collaborators along the way.

Authenticity is uncovering those aspects of you and your business that speak to the masses.  Your USP always comes from your people so by showing people the REAL you, you cannot fail to make the right connections.

Having an authentic presence on social media enables you to find and develop meaningful contacts who love what you do and stand for, and ultimately will help you grow your business.

What’s stopping you?

Reasons why people shy away from being themselves on social media (we all do it!):

1.      Fear of success.  More common than you might think

2.      Fear of what others will say - imagined talk of others “who does she think she is?"

If you have a great message to share, I can help you get that message out there shining more brightly than you thought was possible.

Let my knowledge and skills boost you and your business to be the best version of yourself and your business.

New Year Business Reflection

Not sure about you, but 1st January didn't strike me as being that much different from 31st December. My own new year seemed to kick in around 5th January.

Since then I've been forced into a position of slowing down and reflecting owing to a flare up of my illness again.

I reflected on the client work I’ve done over the past 3.5 years with Zebra.  It’s so good to stop and think and to look back and see how far you've come.


Over 800 articles written and uploaded for *one* client

Over 20 Twitter accounts managed

Some Twitter accounts I managed required at least 10 original tweets scheduling per day with follower audiences of over 200k

Over that time it’s safe to say I have produced A LOT of content and learnt a lot too.  There is much to make of what I know know and where I want to focus my energies on the months to come.

Reviewing past clients

Going over the finances from the previous year also had a profound effect of forcing me into remembering past clients I'd worked with - what went well and the types of clients that were not a good match for me.

It was amazing to realise how many clients I'd worked with, the volume of effort we put in as a team when I was working with others, and to make sense of how those work relationships either came to an end, or continued.

In all cases when I was happy to part company with clients, all those relationships involved some element of clashing values, mainly around imbalances of power and control.  It's sad to see how many entrepreneurs see their role as "getting one over" on another person.

Occasionally what we've been ingrained to view as "entrepreneurial spirit" can become toxic when it involves deep levels of competition and plays out more like a game than an effective work relationship.

I am simply not at a point in my life when any nonsense like that will be tolerated or accepted.  I won't play those games and I will call out behaviours that involve power plays.  Luckily there are many people making great businesses from a place of true authenticity, especially those in helping professions and service.

What's next?

There's a real sense of closing off a chapter for me and I'd highly recommend a period of reflection for business owners (at a point that feels right and makes sense for your business).

So my question to you is that if you run a business, did you pause to reflect and to congratulate yourself on victories won?  Did you observe how far you'd come?

When you're running a business, there can be a sense of needing to be always on the go, always pedalling fast, of wearing many hates and of keeping up.  But, there is so much to be gained from stopping to reflect (perhaps to do a SWOT analysis).  In unpicking your strengths and weaknesses, you may stumble upon a new way of best serving clients moving forward. 

New messages may emerge that can bring renewed energy to your social media, new products or services may emerge based on what you now know (or you may decide on a new pricing structure!)  You may decide it's time to re-assess your typical buyer / client personas to better reflect your current standpoint.   Whatever comes out of your reflections, one thing I recommend is writing it all out - WHY?  Well journalling is a great way to assist the reflection and learning process and to create content while you're at it! 

If you dig deep and really force yourself to be honest about your feelings around your work, you will find your core truths.  From there, consider whether your values have realigned based on lessons learned - it can be a very revealing and rewarding process and best of all, snippets of it can be shared throughout all your marketing efforts on social media.

Stuck with what to write / share?

If you'd like any help with "what to write" for your social media posts (a very common plea for help!) then do get in touch.  I'd love to help you uncover the messages that will help you attract all you desire into your business.

What does social media coaching involve?

I offer blended services, working with you over Skype, telephone or face to face.  Approach taken involves listening, understanding current stumbling blocks with your social media and helping you to overcome them, with appropriate and realistic actions.


New and repeat clients often come with a specific set of issues. After listening to your unique dilemma or niggle, we'll decide together the best route forward, whatever that is.

It could be practical help with writing social media posts to establish voice and content that you're happy with, or it could be overcoming confidence issues with posting online, or perhaps you want tailored advice on the best tools to use to make your life online as easy, quick and effective as possible.

Do take a browse around my site to understand my ethos and get a flavour of who I am and how I work.

If you'd like to get in touch the best way to reach me is by email rachel@zebraconsultinggroup.co.uk or by telephone (UK) +44 7544 461914.


Benefits of one to one social media coaching:
  • Renewed energy for moving forward 
  • Clarity on your social strategy
  • Help to feel confident with content creation 
  • Clearer understanding of current blocks or issues 
  • Increased confidence to post online 
  • Manage your social channels more easily 
  • Tips on improving content 
  • Save time and money
  • All advice tailored to you and your business