• Background Image

    The Communication Hackers Blog

    Eric Hsu

February 20, 2018

Our Four Favorite Productivity Tools for Busy Business Owners

Four Productivity Tools for Busy Business Owners

Thanks for joining us! This is a members-only premium article in our Favorite Things series. In this series, we share the digital marketing tools that we’ve discovered and actually use ourselves, after almost two years of testing and experimenting. We’ve done the research and test-driving, so you don’t have to. Today’s topic: productivity tools for busy business owners.

No affiliate or promotional links. We are committed to providing you with unbiased digital marketing advice. That means nothing you find in this, or any other series, will ever contain affiliate or promotional links. Rest assured that when we recommend something, it’s because we use it and like it. We never recommend products, companies, or tools because we get a kickback.

In this post, we’ll be sharing our favorite productivity tools

The thing about being a business owner is you’re always busy. Ever feel that way? Do you feel like your mind is always running in 5 different directions at the same time? Often wonder how you’ll fit everything in? For us, time literally is our most precious resource and as we juggle two side hustles and a full-time job. There are certain productivity tools that are total lifesavers. Without these tools, we couldn’t be half as productive as are and would certainly have lost our minds a long time ago.

The productivity tools

Evernote – searchable, shareable note-taking anywhere

You never know where you’ll be when great ideas pop into your head. Waiting in line at the grocery store, at the gym, waiting for your food to be brought out at a restaurant… anywhere. Without a tool to capture these ideas, you could lose them forever – maybe even the next million-dollar one! Evernote is our favorite mobile note-taking app. Huge portions of the ideas behind Communication Hackers were recorded in Evernote notes! With pretty sophisticated editing tools, you can even brainstorm, outline, and write entire blog posts directly on your phone in Evernote so you can be productive literally anywhere!! The coolest thing is that Evernote is available for virtually all of your devices: laptops, iPhones, Android phones, tablets… So you can start a note on one device, continue on another, and retrieve it on a third!

Evernote is perfect for teams too. You can share individual notes or entire notebooks and the sync function works pretty seamlessly and perfectly in our experience.

Finally, all of our notes are infinitely searchable, and quickly too. Wanna know when you wrote the phrase “killer idea?” Whether it was yesterday or last decade, the search function will serve it up in an instant.

If you’re a busy business owner, Evernote belongs in your toolbox.

Details: Evernote website. Free basic account. Minimally priced premium features including additional storage, priority uploading of images, and ability to sync more devices.

Grammarly – your very own copy editor

Few things make you look more like an amateur than poor grammar or spelling. Of course, the problem is, spell-checker only works in certain apps (like Microsoft Word) and who can afford their own copy-editor right? Well, the folks at Grammarly heard us loud and clear and gave us a powerful spelling and grammar-checking tool that works (almost) everywhere.

Want to make sure emails to clients look good so you don’t let dumb grammar mistakes erode their trust (or get misunderstood)? Grammarly has you covered with an Outlook plugin.

Need an extra eye on your blog posts so they make you look good? Grammarly works on just about any website you’re on. In fact, Grammarly is giving us helpful hints on our spelling and grammar as we type this very blog post (it just told us about the missing comma after “Of course” at the beginning of this paragraph.

Look your best across all of your digital marketing with Grammarly!

Details: Grammarly website. Free basic account including plugins for Microsoft Office products. Upgrade options for even more intelligent copy-editing (like editing for a specific style of writing).

Cloudapp – screen capture, video capture, & annotation too

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. Nowhere is that more true than when you’re trying to explain something to someone.

Ever wanted to describe something on your computer screen to someone and wish you could just snap a pic and mark it up or make a quick video of it? Maybe you even tried hobbling together a solution using your iPhone that didn’t work quite so good (not to mention the 5+ steps it takes). This is a problem when you’re trying share information with friends and family. When sharing info is part of your business, that problem starts to cost you money.

Cloudapp is our go-to solution to easily take screen grabs and even capture video so we can explain things really easily. We find ourselves using Cloudapp all the time – whether we’re collaborating with each other remotely and want to explain something real quick, working with a client and need to explain what we just found on their website, or are calling to customer service for some app we have and want to show them what we need fixed.

You’ll want to add Cloudapp to your toolbox for sure. It will make your life much easier anytime you need to explain something digital to anyone.

Details: Cloudapp website. Free basic account. Upgraded accounts offer longer video capture length, more storage, and more bandwidth.

Slack – team collaboration at its best

Communication. Where would we be without it? Just about everything in business revolves around good communication.

In the digital age, communication often means email. Email might be fine for customers, old roommates, or people you’d like to keep at a distance but it downright sucks for communication between teammates. Attachments can be clunky, privacy is a nightmare, send delays can result in your teammate down the hall cursing you and yelling “where’s that file again?” and don’t even try to do anything useful with the search function.

We’ve entirely jettisoned email for team communication and use Slack instead. Slack is one of the biggest growing players in the small business and entrepreneurial scene and it’s no wonder. Think of Slack as secure, infinitely searchable, highly organized instant messaging. You can easily attach images, video, URLs, or just about anything else you can think of to your Slack conversations so you can get more work done! Oh, and the list of Slack integrations is endless. For example, we use a Drift Bot on our website to be as responsive as possible to our customers and the Slack-Drift integration allows us to answer Drift messages right in our Slack stream. It’s like magic!

If you haven’t migrated your team communications to Slack yet, you’re really missing out on some huge productivity gains and super cool integrations.

Details: Slack website. Free basic account. Upgraded accounts for unlimited archiving/searching, guest access, screen sharing, and more.

Here’s to more digital productivity!

There you have it. Our favorite digital productivity tools! These tools will have you doing much more in less time and staying sane in the process.

We’d love to hear from you! Have you tried any of these tools? What do you think? Did we miss any of your favorite productivity tools? Let us know in the comments or come drop us a line on our Facebook page.

February 7, 2018

How to Perform Keyword Research the Right Way

How to Perform Keyword Research the Right Way

Imagine if you could read your customers’ minds.

What would you do with this super-power? You could create the ultimate product or service. You could know exactly how to sell it. You could even anticipate your customers’ needs before they even know it.

In digital marketing, this super-power almost exists and it’s called keyword research. Every business owner who wants to have even a glimmer of a hope of succeeding in digital marketing absolutely needs to learn how to perform keyword research.

Four-part series on keyword research & SEO

We know that keyword research (and the overall concept of search engine optimization, or “SEO”) can feel intimidating for many business owners (and might even sound a bit like voodoo). However, it really isn’t as hard as it sounds, especially if you create a good system to use, and as you will see, it is hugely important. This is a four-part series on keyword research & SEO for business owners. Good keyword research will supercharge your marketing strategy and put you lightyears ahead of your competition! Here’s what we’ve got in store for you:

  1. In this article, we are going to show you how to perform keyword research the right way. To top it all off, we will even be sharing one of our favorite free tools to make your research as simple as can be.
  2. In part 2, we will be discussing the huge array of ways you can make use of keyword research even beyond SEO.
  3. In part 3, we will hone in on the basics for the most common application for keyword research: optimizing your web-pages.
  4. In part 4, we will end this series with a post on how to incorporate keyword research into your content marketing strategy – one of the most important skills to master if you want to effectively use SEO.

As a special bonus, we will be including a special report highlighting three of our secret weapons. These killer apps will make your content marketing 10x more effective in 1/10th the time and are a must-have for any small business owner’s marketing toolbox.

Let’s start with explaining just how important keyword research really is.

Learning how to perform keyword research puts you way ahead of your competition

Let’s just put it this way. Keyword research is extremely undervalued and underused. For most people, even your competition, it’s an after-thought. That’s a huge mistake.

Sure, you might hear the term “keyword research” thrown around if you speak with colleagues about who they use for SEO services or when you go to a pay-per-click seminar, but most of the time no-one really talks about how to perform keyword research. It’s almost as if everyone forgets about how important keyword research really is!

Consider how much critical data keyword research can give you:

  • How many people are interested in a certain problem or solution
  • How strong this interest is
  • How much competition is out there
  • How many prospective customers are nearby

With that in mind, isn’t it insane to ignore keyword research?

Imagine how much of a leg-up you’d have over your competition if you used keyword research as effectively as you should!

Keyword research: where it belongs in your strategy

Many people only start to think about keywords when it comes time to fork over lots of money to hire an SEO expert (who often has to fix their broken website), or when they want to place a few pay-per-click ads. This is much too late.

In reality, as we will discuss in much more detail in part 2 of this series, a well-planned keyword strategy should have you thinking about, researching, and be using keywords throughout your entire digital marketing strategy, from end to end. This means including keyword planning in:

  • Planning and creating your business name
  • Creating and naming your products and services
  • The URL for your website
  • The words you choose for your social media profiles
  • The visible copy that you put on each page of your website
  • The invisible, SEO-friendly words that go into each element of your website
  • Every single blog post
  • Your landing pages
  • The scripts to your marketing videos

Good keyword strategy really should be the common thread that binds your entire digital marketing strategy together. Don’t let keyword planning be an afterthought. Thinking about it after the fact, like after your website is already built, after your business name has already been in use, after you’ve already named your products and services, after your social media profiles have already been drafted, and, worst-of-all, after you’ve already written a bunch of blog posts, is a sure way to give your SEO expert reason to charge you TONS of money to fix everything.

Learning how to perform keyword research is a must for business owners, whether or not they out-source their digital marketing!

How to perform keyword research: the basics

Step 1: Choose your tools

The first step in an effective keyword research strategy is to pick a good keyword research tool.

If you don’t mind paying a monthly fee, semrush and ahrefs are two of the best out there. Their keyword results are well respected as being highly accurate, and their interfaces are easy to use. Both are also expensive. With packages starting from $99 a month, this may not make sense for your business. Sure, you can use the handful of free searches these services offer you per day, but the functionality is limited and anyone who is taking keyword research seriously needs more than just a couple of searches a day.

Luckily there are some awesome free tools to use. Especially when you’re just starting out in learning how to perform keyword research, my favorite easy to use tool is Neil Patel’s Ubersuggest tool. This tool makes it super easy to evaluate any keywords you provide (providing you the basics: search volume, estimated cost-per-click, and competitiveness), and even adds a few hundred additional suggestions for you to consider! This tool truly is a goldmine (thanks, Neil!) and is a must for every business owner’s digital marketing toolbox.

Step 2: Think of relevant and useful keyword terms

This is where some creativity comes in. Put yourself in the shoes of your ideal customer (you’ve taken the time to build a customer avatar right?) and think of what search terms they would use to find your business and the services you offer. The goal in this step is to try to guess what search terms people are using. You will check to see if you’re right on your guesses in Step 3. Depending on your business, your keywords may be an individual word such as “computers” or a string of words such as “how to repair my computer.” You will often find that individual words are too general. Longer keyword terms (sometimes called long-tail keywords) are more specific and useful and are also easier to rank for.

Write down these search terms. Enlist someone who isn’t part of your business if you can. Sometimes (oftentimes actually) it is helpful to have the perspective of an outsider when trying to think like your customer. Better yet, if you’ve got some actual customers you can bribe with a cup of coffee, get their perspective and help!

When you’ve got a decent list of search terms that are relevant to your business, start to make them a bit more useful. What I mean here, is start adding terms that are indicative of a “buying intent.” One way is as simple as adding “how to” to your search terms. For example, while the search term “life coach” is pretty general and might indicate that someone is simply curious about what a life coach is. However, with a slight modification, the term “how to hire a life coach” is much more indicative of high interest and might signal that the searcher is getting close to wanting to buy or hire.

A final tactic I like to use before deciding for sure whether I want to use a search term is to do a search on it and see what the top hits are. Do these look like web pages from your competitors or articles written by your competitors? If so that’s a great sign. If the top hits are something totally off the wall and have nothing to do with your business, then you probably want to choose different keywords.

Step 3: Check for search volume

Take the list of search terms you’ve compiled in Step 2 and plug them into your keyword research tool. The purpose of doing so is twofold. First, you want to make sure that there is a sufficient amount of search volume for your chosen keywords. Obviously, ranking on page 1 for a keyword is useless if no-one is searching for it (or if there are just 10 searches a month coming from Bulgaria…). What you’re looking for here is a reasonable amount of search volume. What’s “reasonable?” Well, the answer varies according to who you ask. What I recommend is to look for at least the high hundreds and ideally over 1,000. So, using these search volume criteria, take the search terms you came up with in Step 2 and decide which ones make the cut.

The second purpose of plugging keywords into your research tool is to look for related keywords. Almost all research tools have this great feature (and, as mentioned above, Ubersuggest definitely does this well). This will greatly expand your keyword universe by making suggestions for additional keywords you may not have thought of. Look through the list and see if there is anything else that looks promising.

Step 4: Check for competition

The final step in choosing your keywords is to analyze the competition. The idea here is that keywords with too much competition will be next to impossible to rank for. In most keyword research tools, competition data is sourced from the number of search ads for the keyword, and is expressed in a Competition Score that is a fraction of 1.0 (eg 0.2 or 0.6). The higher the number, the stiffer the competition. In other words, if the competition is “0.9” competition is sky high and you’re probably wasting your time. On the other hand, if the competition is “0.1” the coast is clear and you’ve got a decent chance with the keywords you’ve chosen. I like to look for keywords with competition below 0.25. 

For example, if you own a business coaching business, the keyword term “business coach” might be highly relevant and has decent search volume. However, it has a Competition Score of 0.67. This is pretty high meaning you’ll have a really hard time ranking for it. If you use a keyword with a Score of 0.20, for example, even if it has slightly lower search volume, you’ll probably rank much better.

How to perform keyword research

Step 5: Compile your list of ideal keywords

The final step in learning how to perform keyword research is to compile the keywords.

Take all the keywords that passed the tests in Steps 2, 3, & 4, and put them on a list.

Remember, this is just the first in a four-part series on keyword research & SEO for business owners. In part two of this series, we will be discussing the huge number of ways your properly conducted keyword research should be used to drive your marketing efforts and even your overall business strategy (and SEO is just the start)!

Let’s sum it all up

Remember, the right keywords for your digital marketing efforts need to meet three simple, but powerful factors:

How to perform keyword research the right way

Choose and use keywords using this formula, read your customers’ minds, and get a big advantage over your competition!

That’s it for now!

What do you think? Was this useful? Will you be taking advantage of any keyword research yourself? Do you think I missed anything? If you found this blog post useful, please do me a favor and 1) share it with your friends and colleagues; and 2) let me know by commenting or hitting us up on Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn.

Here’s to the success of your business!!

January 16, 2018

3 Good Reasons to Rejoice About the Latest Facebook Announcement

Don’t fret about the latest Facebook announcement. Rejoice instead.

Facebook made a big announcement last week that set the marketing world on edge.

For those of you who missed it, the point of this announcement was that Facebook will be making a major change to its algorithm to favor personal interactions and news, over publisher content.

Facebook’s announcement is great for users. Just as an experiment, right after we read the announcement we counted how many posts by marketers were interpersed into our personal feed. The number, roughly 1 in 6, was becoming a serious distraction. Add to that the fact that most of these posts were more about selling a product than sharing interesting content, and “serious distractio”n was starting to become “annoying distraction.”

What does this all mean for your business though?

Reactions have run the spectrum from “oh no” (reflected in Facebook’s share price) or serious concern, to “ho hum.”

Here’s why I think you should rejoice instead. Read More

January 8, 2018

Looking for SEO expert services? 5 red flags to watch for.

If you’re looking for SEO expert services, watch out for these red flags

So you’re looking for SEO expert services for your business. Great! You KNOW that SEO (or search engine optimization) is a critical part of your business digital marketing strategy. After all, this is one of the most effective ways to get potential customers to your website without paying for advertising. You WANT people to find your business when they enter relevant search terms in a search engine like Google.​

​Watch out though. SEO is an incredibly technical and complicated subject. SEO firms know this and not all of them are scrupulous. Some of them hide behind the technicality and complexity of SEO to waste lots of your money while not doing much for you. Others might just be lazy or don’t have the time to keep up with the latest SEO developments and won’t be much help either. Read More

December 31, 2017

5 Digital Marketing New Year’s Resolutions every Business Should Make

It’s New Year’s resolution time. This year, why not skip the boring resolutions that you’ll forget about before January is up. Let’s focus on your business instead and make some resolutions that you’re likely to keep (and will make you money to boot). Here are 5 digital marketing New Year’s resolutions every business should be making.

Make 2018 your year to build a competition-dominating digital marketing strategy!

Read More

November 9, 2017

What Airbnb and Uber mean to your business

Have you been paying attention to the Airbnb revolution?

A recent article on what has been termed the the Airbnb revolution caught my eye.

Essentially Airbnb has totally disrupted the hotel and hospitality industry. With its killer platform it has revolutionized the way people travel. Some hotels have tried to ignore Airbnb (or have complained to regulatory authorities about them) and they are suffering. Others have adapted and have become more competitive in the digital space.

Of course Airbnb is just one of many examples. We can talk about Uber, Avvo, Betterment, etc, etc.

Have you thought about what this all means for your business?

Well, unless you have some rare business that cannot work better on a completely digital platform, here are the key takeaways.

  1. You’d better be building a digital brand. You’d better be spending an inordinate amount of time learning the digital landscape and figuring out how your business will stand out there. Those businesses and professionals that don’t have a digital brand won’t be in business in 2020. Digital brands aren’t built on credentials either. So leave your MBA, PhD, or JD, etc at the door when you’re building your online reputation. People are realizing that these letters don’t necessarily translate into value. Instead, they’re focusing on what kind of content you produce, your reviews from other customers or clients, and what your social media presence looks like.
  2. Make use of the platform. Avvo.com has completely revolutionized the legal industry. It has given consumers unprecedented access to crowd-sourced reviews about lawyers, has massively incentivized lawyers to give out lots of free advice and to change their fee structures (read: flat fees) and, most importantly, it has given lawyers a platform to reach LOTS more clients. Problem is, many lawyers resent Avvo because of how it has disrupted the legal industry and refuse to advertise there or even to claim their profile (which exists regardless). These are the lawyers who are probably complaining to the state bar associations about Avvo. These are also the ones who are bleeding red when it comes to revenue. You can’t stop the digital train and as the saying goes, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” Be open to using platforms that are made available to you.
  3. Build platforms, not products. Are you the more enterprising type? Wanna build something digital? Well learn from Uber and build a platform, not just a product. With Uber, the individual drivers are offering a product (and some are even doing pretty well doing so). However, the clear winners are the owners of Uber since they created the very platform where all this business takes place. Platforms beat products every time.
  4. Keep looking for opportunities to be the first on scene for new digital and social platforms so you can build attention there. Attention is the #1 most important commodity in the digital world (thanks for teaching me that Garyvee). The first people to build huge followings on Twitter were huge winners in their fields. Same goes for Youtube and Vine (even if the latter was short lived). Now it’s Instagram’s heyday and soon to be Snapchat. Understand that platforms come and go and that the risk-takers who take the time to build enterprises early on the successful ones win. Bigtime. Be willing to capitalize on the next one to come along and let go of ones that no longer work. That means ditching your Myspace account (finally).

Want some free training? Before we wrap up: are you ready to add Instagram to your digital marketing plan? If so you’ve gotta check out our FREE “Instagram for Small Business” training. Access this on-demand webinar here!

Bottom line. The internet is changing EVERYTHING and it isn’t slowing down. Be smart and strategic and the world literally is your oyster. Just don’t be the one who thinks “this tech thing” is a fad. Otherwise you’ll be working for your competitor who realizes it isn’t.

Now to you. What do you think about the Airbnb revolution? Has this article made your day? Made you mad? What are you doing for your business’ digital marketing? Let me know in the comments or come sound off on our Facebook page!

October 8, 2017

4 Ways a Customer Persona Saves you Time and Money

A good customer persona saves you time and money. Here’s how.

Want to save time and money with your digital marketing? One of the best ways is to take the time to build a detailed customer persona.

A customer persona (also known as a “customer avatar” – popularized by such blockbuster movies as “Avatar”) is a detailed profile of your ideal customer. We’re not just talking about their demographics either. A useful customer persona goes as far as to include how your customers think – something known as “psychographics.”

How does having a good customer persona save you time and money? Here are four ways:

1. A customer persona reduces your competition.

Want to actually reduce the number of other businesses you compete against? A detailed customer persona will do that.

Imagine you’re in the fitness business. If you didn’t have a customer persona, you’d have to spend precious time and money on marketing to compete against everyone in the fitness business. That’s over 34 thousand fitness centers (in the US) not to mention the thousands of online competitors.

If, instead, you had a detailed, and precise customer persona, you’d cut down that field significantly. For example, if your customer persona is a middle-aged professional who works sitting down in an office most of the day, eats too much fast-food, strives for longevity so he can enjoy life with his kids and wife, and makes $95,000 a year, you could create a business around this persona’s specific needs and significantly reduce your competition.

Use a customer persona to reduce your competition.

2. A customer persona helps you attract attention.

Relevance is the best way to get attention. A detailed customer persona helps you be relevant.

Want an example of how this works?

Imagine you are a person who’s into luxury SUVs. That’s what you’ve driven for years, you feel like your job and station in life demands this kind of a vehicle, and you think this is the best kind of vehicle for your family.

You’re scrolling through Facebook and two sponsored ads pop up in your stream. The first one is just for “used cars” at a local, nondescript dealership. The second one is for luxury used cars from a dealership that focuses on Cadillacs, Audis, and BMWs. Which one will get your attention? In fact, will you even notice the first ad at all?

The same goes for your marketing. The more you know about your ideal customer, the more you can target them with relevant content and ads that will actually get their attention.

The quicker you can get your customers’ attention, the more money and time you will save.

3. A customer persona helps you earn trust.

Trust is huge for anyone with a business. Not only is it the most important component of first impressions, but it is also a determining factor in building customer loyalty.

Here’s the problem. If you’re selling something, you’re already at a disadvantage. One recent marketing study found that people trust salespeople even less than lawyers!! That’s not good. Anything that can help you build trust will help you strengthen your brand and ultimately build customer loyalty.

Getting to know your customers really, really well is one of THE best ways to build trust.

We all like and trust people who take the time to get to know us and want the best for us (like our mothers, for example). You want to be that person to your customers.

Consider what this article in Inc.com had to say about building customer trust. Four of the nine suggestions (numbers 2,3,5, and 7) all either revolve around getting to know your customers well, or are only possible if you do know them well.

Get to know your customers really well (get to know what they want, dream about and fear better than they do) and they will trust you more.

4. A customer persona helps you avoid wasted conversations.

Consider this scenario. You’ve just given a keynote at your local chamber of commerce to promote your brand and you feel pretty good about it. A few people come up to talk to you which you think is a good sign. One particular person asks you lots of questions and you end up talking for 20 minutes. When she gets ready to leave, she tells you that she is the Executive Director of a local nonprofit and is really interested in your consulting services.

Only one problem. You don’t provide services to nonprofits.

If only you’d been more specific in your message.

If only you’d had a specific and definitive customer persona.

Just like that brand-building keynote, if you develop a good customer persona you’ll attract less attention from people who have no interest in buying from you and attract more from those who do.

A customer persona will help you avoid wasted conversations – online and offline. That will save you time and money.

Ready to build your own customer persona?

What do you think? Do you use a customer persona in your marketing? Would you like to market directly to people who are interested in your business and avoid wasting time with those who aren’t?

Every digital marketing plan needs a great customer persona.

Watch for our upcoming blog posts where we will talk about exactly what a customer persona should include, and how you get that info.

In the meantime, check us out on our Instagram page where we share daily digital marketing hacks, tips, and wisdom!



September 12, 2017

The truth about Instagram marketing. 3 simple reasons you need it.

The Instagram marketing train is leaving the station. Are you onboard?

Everyone is talking about Instagram. But, isn’t it just for teenagers? Can Instagram marketing be used for your products and services? Does this simple, picture and video-driven platform really work?

Yes! You can and should be using Instagram marketing to promote your business.

In fact, you can’t afford to do without it.

It’s time to stop talking and start doing. Get the jump on your competition and get your business on Instagram before your competition does!

Still not convinced?

Here are the top 3 reasons you should add Instagram to your B2C or B2B digital marketing strategy.

Reason #1 It’s The Fastest Growing Social Media Platform

As of April 2017, Instagram has more than 700 million monthly users—and counting!

Six out of every 10 adults are on Instagram, and 77.6 million Instagram users are from the US.

So, while Facebook and Twitter may be popular, you simply can’t afford to ignore Instagram for much longer.

In fact, a recent study shows that while Instagram is seeing meteoric growth, Facebook is holding steady, and Twitter is actually losing users!

Reason #2 The Early Bird Catches The Worm

Even with its rapid acceleration, very few businesses are using Instagram. Remember, only 77.6 million people in the US use Instagram. That means lots of room for growth.

This is good for you because early adopters get rewarded.

Between 2016 and 2017 the number of users placing Instagram on a monthly basis grew from 200,000 to over 1 million. So, as you can see, things are really picking up!

Start using Instagram today, before your competition catches wind.

Can you imagine being one of the first businesses to really capitalize on Twitter in the early 2000s or Facebook in its initial growth years?

Now you can do that with Instagram.

Reason #3 Engaging Visuals

People love pictures and stories. Instagram delivers both.

And not to worry because you don’t have to be a whiz with photoshop. Instagram’s built-in filters and photo editing tools are easy and intuitive. After just a few posts you’ll have the hang of it.

Since you may not yet be familiar with Instagram, you can also post 3 to 60-second videos on Instagram.

In fact, when videos were introduced to the social platform—over 5 million videos were uploaded in the first 24 hours. Statistically, these videos generate 2 times the engagement of photos posted to your current social platforms.

While many other platforms are still mostly words, Instagram delivers what people crave: a clean, simple interface, and beautiful images.

Instagram Marketing: You Don’t Want To Get Left Behind

Want to get a leg up on your competition and build an Instagram presence for your business the right way? Sign up for our FREE Instagram for Business training workshop. We debuted the workshop last week to the Washington Center for Women in Business and they loved it. So we will be offering some live classes in Tri-Cities, WA and will make it available as a webinar by October. Wanna get in on the action? Just sign up for the pre-launch list and you’ll be the first to know when it is available!

Get on the Instagram train. It’s leaving the train station now, and we don’t want you to get left behind. You don’t wanna get left behind.

July 7, 2017

5 deadly social media profile mistakes you can easily avoid

Avoid these 5 deadly social media profile mistakes

Social media profile mistakes are like the Asian Giant Hornet.

People often underestimate it.

But in Japan, where this monster lives, it kills an average of 40 people a year.

Just like hornet stings, social media profile mistakes can kill your business’ brand & digital reputation if you don’t watch out.

Fortunately, you can easily avoid the most common of these social media profile mistakes.

Take a few minutes and take stock of all your social media profiles (especially the inactive ones). Are you making any of the mistakes in this article? A few minutes to clean things up could really boost your business’ brand, digital reputation, and ultimately your bottom line.

Ready for the mistakes you should be avoiding? Here they are!

Mistake #1 – Not having a profile

This is a mistake that is all too common but really shouldn’t be. Don’t just leave your profile blank!!! This is probably the most common of the social media profile mistakes I see (but shouldn’t).

I don’t care if it’s your personal Instagram page or the Twitter profile that you just use for following your long lost cousins who have a traveling oompah band in Germany. If your social media account references your business in any way whatsoever, or if your mug in the profile is easily associated with your business, don’t leave your profile blank.

First impressions happen fast and last a very long time. For example, these psychological studies demonstrate that people stick to their snap judgments even when shown evidence to the contrary.

A blank profile screams “I don’t care” or “I’m just too busy to do this right.” Is that the (possibly first) impression you want to leave anyone?

A title or headline isn’t a complete profile. It’s just the start. Make sure you include a good profile pic along with that title or headline, and a write-up about your business. On social platforms like Twitter, Instagram, & Snapchat, this write-up will have to be brief. You can elaborate a bit more on LinkedIn. Specific listings of the solutions you provide to your customers, or types of projects you can work on, are appropriate there. When it comes to your Facebook page, fill in absolutely as much as you can on your profile. A completed Facebook page is good not just for attracting fans. It also helps with search engine optimization and visibility within Facebook’s own search algorithm.

Mistake #2 – A bad (or nonexistent) profile pic

Your profile pic is often the first thing people will see when your profile pops up on searches or in follow notifications. For example, lots of people use the search pane in the native Instagram app to look for interesting people or posts. The results of searches here will just show three things: The profile pic, the username, & the actual name. Guess what grabs the most attention from people on this very visually driven platform?

Yeah, your profile pic.

In fact, people are inherently visual and form first impressions in split seconds when they see faces. So spend some time and maybe even some money to get that profile pic right.

Don’t crop yourself out of a family pic or just take a random selfie while sitting at your computer. You know what I’m talking about. If I had a dollar for every profile pic that has an unattached arm over a shoulder, or a few strands of hair from the person who’s face was inartfully cropped out…

People will judge your profile pic. Then they will subconsciously extend that judgment to your business.

So spend the time (and even money) on a good profile pic. Try to find a photographer who has experience doing profile pics and has a studio where you can get some done. This will be some of the best money you’ve ever spent on your digital marketing efforts.

Or, if you have to take the DIY route, look for a good step-by-step, well-shared article by someone who knows what they’re talking about.

Mistake #3 – Writing in 3rd person

Social media is supposed to be conversational. As soon as you start talking about yourself or your business in 3rd person, you start sounding a bit arrogant. Or, at least you sound stilted, removed, and not very personable. Writing in 3rd person is an easily avoidable social media profile mistake.

By the way, what I mean by writing in 3rd person is something like: “XYZ company was founded in 2005 and is the premier seller of coffee in downtown Mytown.”

The alternative, using 1st and 2nd person, would be something more like this. “We love coffee and have searched the world for the best brews to serve you. Since 2005 we’ve been brightening days with a bit of caffeine and lots of great service. We’d love to brighten yours!”

People relate better with peple. When it comes to brands, they relate better to brands with personality. Even the commonly held notion that credentials are highly important when it comes to first impressions (which might lead to writing third person) has been disproved by research. See our earlier blog post: Your credentials don’t matter. This does for more insight into why your customers value warmth, trust, and relatability with first impressions.

Write your profile like you’re having a conversation with your audience. That’s how you create a human-sounding brand that your customers can engage with.

Mistake #4 – Not tailoring the profile to the platform

Have you ever gone to an event and forgotten to ask about the dress code? Maybe you showed up to a business casual work social in something way too casual. Or, even worse, showed up dressed to the nines to an even where everyone is in T-shirt and shorts.

Well, each social media platform also has its etiquette and not understanding it can be as embarrassing as a dress code faux pas. Don’t just write a profile once and then cut and paste them on all of your profiles. Using a generic profile (and ignoring etiquette) is a social media profile mistake you can easily avoid.

Here are just a few examples if platform-specific etiquette. Some quick internet research will give you even more insight.

  • Use abbreviations (recognizable ones) and hashtags in your Twitter profile. Your space is really limited here.
  • Don’t use hashtags in your Instagram profile or you’ll look like you just cut and pasted your Twitter profile. Don’t do that by the way.
  • Use appropriate emoticons in your Instagram profile.
  • Provide more than just a short, Twitter-length description in your Facebook page “about” and “story” sections. Your Facebook fans expect more than that.
  • In your LinkedIn profile, make sure to explain and give examples of exactly what your business can do for people, especially if you provide services. Your connections are great referral sources but they can’t refer you any business unless they know exactly what you do.

Mistake #5 – Not taking advantage of the URL link

One of your main goals in social media marketing should be to lead prospects back to your business website. While having followers on social media is great, nothing beats getting those people to visit your website instead. Not having a URL link to get people back to your website is a huge social media profile mistake.

Social media is rented property (and you can have your account suspended or shut down anytime for breaking the rules there). Your website is owned property where you make the rules.

If e-commerce is part of your business (or you ever want it to be) then you need people to visit your site in order to sell to them.

Newsletters (or whatever you want to call them) are one of the best ways to build customer loyalty. Of course, the best way to build your mailing list is through your website.

You’ve gotta get people to your website. So use that URL link to do it.

Leaving the URL link blank defeats half (if not more) of the entire purpose of using social media marketing in the first place!

Ideally, this URL link should point to a customized landing page (here’s the landing page we use for social here at Communication Hackers) but at the very least it should point somewhere interesting on your site. This could be your blog page or your homepage.

Mistake #6 (bonus) – Writing to highlight yourself

Here’s where a social media profile for your personal use is MUCH different than one for your business.

When you have a social media profile for personal use the profile is all about you: likes, dislikes, hobbies, location, status, etc etc. That’s expected.

When your social media is for business, the rules of the game are different.

How often do you read business social media profiles that are just a generic self-description?

Or, in the instances when a business does write in more detail, it’s details that are important to them, not their customers.

The fact is, people really don’t care about you or your business. Sorry. They’re too busy for that.

Instead, what people do care about is what your business can do for them. So that’s what you should focus on.

Show your readers you understand them. Identify an urgent problem they have. Then show how you solve it in a unique and effective way.

Say you own an HVAC business. Don’t just put a generic description of your business (“we provide full service HVAC services in the greater ____ area and service all major brands”) or put details that your audience doesn’t care about (“we are the largest HVAC service company in the ____ city and have been keeping HVACs working since 1950”). The reaction from your readers will be “yawn” if they even stop to read your profile!

Instead, focus on your audience and their problems. Maybe it’s convenience and price in this case. Explain to them why you’ve thought long and hard about these exact problems and have a solution. Something like “Whenever your HVAC needs us – 2 PM or 2 AM – we’ll be there with conscientious, competitive service. No high pressure upsells. Financing always available” can show your audience that you’ve been thinking about them instead of just yourself.

There you have it. Six common, deadly, and avoidable social media profile mistakes.

I know I promised five but I thought I’d over-deliver 🙂

What do you think? We’d love to hear from you. Did we miss any social media profile mistakes that you’ve seen? Will you be changing any of your social media profiles? If you’d like some help with your profiles feel free to drop us a line and we’d love to help!

Finally, no matter what, stay away from that Giant Hornet!!


May 25, 2017

The ultimate guide to overcome fear of public speaking

If the thought of public speaking makes you want to run the other way, don’t worry ⎯ you’re not alone. I was once terrified of public speaking myself. My first important public speaking event was a DUI trial where I was the prosecutor. I was so nervous I could barely see the judge through my tunnel vision. Ultimately, the trial was a nerve-wracking train-wreck of a disaster that I still cringe to think about. Eventually, after years as a trial attorney and attendance at some pretty intensive training conferences, I was able to hack & overcome my fear of public speaking. I want to help you do the same.

I know you don’t have years to practice in a courtroom (thankfully right?). So I’ve combined my own experiences with the latest neuroscience research to come up with 4 easy hacks that will help you overcome any fear of public speaking you may have. These hacks are so easy you can apply them immediately. At the same time, they are so powerful and effective, I’m sure they will have a surprisingly noticeable impact on your speaking confidence the very next time you make a speaking presentation.

A gash, a rash, and purple bumps

Most people (including your competitors) hate public speaking and presentations. In fact, most would try to avoid it. I’ve even heard of people who go to drastic measures such as faking illness to avoid needing to make a speaking presentation. Crazy huh? It’s even been estimated that as many as 73% of Americans have a literal fear of public speaking. Does fear, anxiety, or nervousness hold you back from making public speaking presentations? If so, you’re missing out on one of the best and most powerful ways to build your brand and reputation.

Don’t shy away from public speaking and leave money at the table. Leave your fear there instead!

If you want to be seen as a niche expert and thought leader, you need to speak well. And, establishing yourself as a niche expert and thought leader is the best way to protect your business from today’s deadliest competitor: the internet. Instead of running from this Goliath, read my earlier blog post: Your profession is going extinct: Here’s what you can do about it and be proactive about it!

If you avoid speaking opportunities, you are literally giving away business. Why? Even in a world that is driven by digital interactions, people seek out (even crave) authentic, human connection. In fact, many people agree that trust is the #1 factor that leads to future sales and human connection is, without a doubt, the best way to build trust. You can’t build this kind of loyalty and connection with impersonal emails, web-copy, or flyers no matter how well written. Nothing beats facetime. Taking the time to overcome fear of public speaking is a huge investment in yourself and your business.

Here’s the best reason though: We already saw that most people are afraid of public speaking and even try to avoid it. Learn to speak well and you will stand out!

Learn to speak well and you will stand out!

Try these non-superficial tactics to permanently ban those pre-presentation sleepless nights

1. Know thy enemy and confront it

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles…” Sun Tzu

To overcome fear of public speaking, let’s consider where it comes from.

Neuroscience tells us that fear is a physiological state that results from the activation of our “fight or flight” sympathetic nervous system. This system causes the many familiar physical reactions that can be so debilitating: tunnel vision, sweating, inability to think clearly, shaky hands, desire to flee, etc.

To spare you a science lesson, two things can activate our sympathetic system: a) a particularly traumatizing past experience; or b) uncertainty about a risky future. When it comes to fear of public speaking, unless you’ve had a particularly traumatizing experience in the past, uncertainty about the future is probably the driving force behind your fear.

I recently saw Tony Robbins live at one of his seminars. It was an amazing experience in so many ways but one of the things I really remember is what he said about fear. Tony revealed that fear generally comes in three categories:

  1. Fear of loss;
  2. Fear of less;
  3. Fear of never.
When confronted, fear loses its power

Most people have the same basic fears with public speaking. They fear:

  • Loss of reputation or of social standing (essentially social rejection)
  • Less sales or business opportunities
  • Never being invited to speak to the group again

When you think about it though, how likely are these fears going to materialize? With almost 3/4 of the population afraid of public speaking themselves, the bar is pretty low. Most of your audience will be pretty forgiving of you even if you stumble. Besides, even if they did materialize, would they be the end of the world? Unless it was an absolute mission critical speaking presentation that would for sure make or break your business, I’m guessing not.

Ultimately, once confronted, you will find that fear really is, in the words of John Assaraf, an acronym: False Emotions Appearing Real.

2. How semantics are a self-fulfilling prophecy

How often have you found that the label you give an event decides its outcome? Hate household chores? Funny how calling it a “stay-cation” changes your outlook. Kids hate chores? Calling them jobs might change their outlook.

Behind identifying and confronting fear, the most powerful way to overcome fear of public speaking is to change its label.

Too many people think of public speaking engagements as speeches. Speeches are inherently performances. There are many problems with this label. Performances are a one-sided affair. It is the performer performing something for the audience to consume. Performances naturally invite critique: whether it met expectations or not, whether it entertained the audience or not, whether it was a success or failure. 

When we undertake to give a speech, fear and nervousness are normal since we expect that we will be judged and critiqued and we are worried about the result. Your subconscious mind does not like speeches.

I remember performing in piano recitals as a teenager ⎯ serious affairs with judges, scoring, and trophies. The performance-related nature of these recitals caused me enough performance anxiety that I could never sleep the night before. Then, when they called my name, my legs were always so rubbery I could barely walk when I descended what felt like a hundred steps to the stage.

Changing the label from speech to conversation changes everything.

Do you get fearful and nervous during conversations with people (other than maybe on a first date)? Unless you have conversations with intimidating people on a regular basis I’m guessing the answer is “no.”

All the fear-inducing aspects of speeches: its performance-related nature, the expectation of success-or-failure critique, (and maybe even negative association with childhood piano recital trauma) are absent with conversations.

Label your next presentation as a conversation instead of a speech and get an added style bonus. A conversational style will almost always come across as more authentic and trustworthy than a speech, which can easily sound “canned” or phony. Authenticity is often the difference between a good speaking presentation and one that is truly great. Listen to some politicians give their carefully scripted, canned speeches and you’ll know what I mean.

3. Here’s the only thing you should memorize. Ever.

Some people recommend that you memorize your speaking presentation. This isn’t just bad advice, it’s horrible advice. The most important reason is that it has a huge chance of intensifying your fear of speaking. Alot. It also makes you sound less genuine and more robotic.

Imagine what happens if you were to lose track of where you are in your script, partway through your presentation. Your mind would be racing to find your *exact place* and won’t be able to improvise. Your nervousness and fear level would rise and your worries about screwing up your presentation increase. As your stress level goes up, your mind will be less able to remember your script, much less remember where you left off. This vicious cycle is just about guaranteed to sabotage your presentation in a big way if you trip up at all in your presentation.

So, just lay off the memorizing your speech thing.

There is one thing you should memorize and that’s your core message. Memorize it cold. Your core message is the elevator pitch for your entire, larger, speaking presentation. It is what you want your audience to hear and act on. Like an elevator pitch, it should be short (30 seconds or less is ideal), concise, and easily remembered. It should also be highly tailored for your audience and so valuable they can’t wait to hear it.

Imagine that someone in the audience showed up and said “hey, I’d love to stay for your presentation but I have a plane to catch. Can you tell me the Cliff Notes version of what you’re going to say?” You should be able to immediately tell them your core message without hesitation.

For example: If you were speaking to a group of scientists about using storytelling techniques to help them write better and more enticing research papers, your core message might be this:

“Scientists have an inherent problem in that it is hard to get readers interested and excited about relatively dry science. Instead of trying to share your research with facts and figures, I will teach you how to generate reader interest with a storytelling approach. Not only will I demonstrate the cognitive science behind storytelling, but I will also tell you about my two favorite types of storylines, and show you examples of how they work.”

Your core message is the heart and soul of your speaking presentation. If you know it cold and know that is something so valuable to your audience that you just can’t wait to share it with them, fear will take a back seat to your boldness.

4. Remember how the turtle kicked the hare’s hiney?

It’s better to be the turtle.

Earlier we talked about the body’s sympathetic system and how it affects speaking performance. Tunnel vision, inability to think well, and poor memory can wreck anyone’s speaking presentation. Unfortunately, this usually also causes us to speak faster and faster. This is probably our bodies’ subconscious attempt to put us out of our misery and off stage ASAP!

Unfortunately, fear-induced fast speaking just makes things worse. As we speak faster and faster we make more mistakes. These mistakes increase our fear and nervousness. This increased fear and nervousness leads to even more mistakes and so-on in a vicious cycle that will quickly resemble a circus act by a bunch of one-armed, blind-folded, drunk midgets. Besides, you’ll start sounding like an auctioneer and that’s never good.

The best vaccine & medicine to combat your body’s physiological fear response is to slow down your pace.

Slow down and you will allow your body’s parasympathetic system (which counteracts the sympathetic system) to take back over. This will start getting things back under control.

How slow? I recommend you speak slow enough that you yourself start feeling like you’re talking too slow. Since you will always think you are speaking slower than the audience perceives, this should be just about right.

A bonus reason to slow down? Slowing down will let your audience have the time to absorb the great things that you are telling them. After all, the best content in the world is useless if you don’t let your audience have the time to process it and understand how good it is.

Now your turn. Take steps to overcome fear of public speaking today!

Let’s overcome fear of public speaking and start using it as your best reputation and brand-building secret weapon!

Here’s what to do next:

  1. Write down your fears related to public speaking – what are you afraid might happen if you do poorly? Are they reasonable or the end of the world?
  2. Promise yourself you won’t listen to any more bad advice.
  3. Start thinking of every presentation, big or small, as a conversation.
  4. Let us know how your next presentation goes! Leave us a comment on our Facebook page. We love hearing about how our advice works for people.
  5. Go rock the world with your great ideas and presentations!!