establishing your expertise

Are you giving your audience value?


There are several phrases I use over and over again because they are key to online success. Today I’m focusing on one of them  - give value to your audience.

We’ve talked about the importance of understanding your brand and how important it is to be thoughtful in what you post, but there is something else you need to keep in mind. If you go too far off course from your brand, values, and promises, you will bore or irritate your audience into un-following you.

How do you figure out if you’re sharing content people who follow you value? Let’s break it down:

Who is your audience?

Can you describe your audience? Every audience is different and you need to take the time to really figure out who your audience is. Understanding who makes up that audience, what they like, what they don’t like and what they would like from you is critical in creating the kind of content that can help you build relationships that turn that audience into customers.

Once you’ve figured that out, creating and sharing content that can connect with your audience becomes a lot easier.

What do they value?

Not every audience is looking for the same kind of information. Make sure that everything you share has some kind of connection back to who you are and who your audience is. 

Think about why they followed you in the first place. What would people expect the content to look like coming from your brand? Make sure your content doesn’t go too far off from that.

Things that people value tend to fall into three main categories:

  1. You’re teaching them something,
  2. You’re entertaining them, or
  3. You’re giving them tools and knowledge. 

What don’t they want?

Nobody likes to follow a brand that is only trying to sell to them. That’s valuable to the brand, not to the audience. Make sure that you’re giving your audience something they want or can use so that when you do post some sales posts - and you definitely should - they think so highly of you they’re far more inclined to make the buy.

People don’t want information that has nothing to do with them or that they can’t relate to.

Let’s look at some examples

  • If your main audience is young women about to get married, interesting articles about retirement don’t make sense. 
  • If your main audience is men who want to home-brew their own beer, then funny cartoons about being a new mom don’t make sense.
  • If you promised tips and tricks to help them do something better, just sharing things you’re selling isn’t going to convince them of anything other than that you’re pushy and too sales-y.
  • If you sell hammers, make sure that you talk about the hammers, and the things you can do with the hammers. 

Spend some time thinking about your content and what you’re giving to your audience that they would value. Then share some examples (good and bad) of what you’ve seen or done that relates to giving an audience value.

Is that article you're sharing real or a hoax?

The great thing about the internet is that it has made it possible for anyone to publish content online very easily. The downside of that is that anyone can publish content online very easily - whether it’s accurate or not.

As a small business owner, it’s important to know for certain that the content you are sharing - both on your personal profiles and business page - is from reliable, verifiable sources. But if something looks genuine and seems to make sense, what are the signs that it isn’t what it appears?

I tend to be suspicious when consuming content, but here are a few things that always raise red flags for me:

1) Copy and paste content

This happens on Facebook more than anywhere else I’ve seen. Sometimes it’s status updates meant to raise awareness about a cause. Those don’t usually have any nefarious intent, but it’s quite common for there to be a surge in status updates about privacy settings. It’s also common that the advice given is at least partially - if not totally - wrong. It’s always best to check before copying and pasting a status update. Test the advice with a trusted friend who can help you see whether what it says is actually true. 

Blogs that copy and paste content in posts raise huge red flags for me, particularly if the content ever showed up in my email 10 years ago when forwarding worst case scenarios to all your friends were at the height of popularity. (Did you ever get the one about Coke dissolving a T-bone?)

2) It sounds too good to be true

  • “Everyone who shares this is going to get a free Starbucks gift card!”
  • “Want to go on vacation here? Enter to win by sharing this photo!”

So, maybe some people don’t think that sounds appealing - I do (and I’d definitely use it for a Gingerbread Latte next week when they come out). However, I wouldn’t share this post because I know that my privacy settings would prevent Starbucks from tracking that I had shared it. I also know that it didn’t originate from an official Starbucks page. Since I’ve seen this one exclusively on Facebook (I’m sure they show up in other social networks), I also know that this kind of promotion goes against Facebook’s promotion guidelines.

It isn’t just promotions that sound too good to be true. Sometimes it’s “factual” information that is the reverse of everything we’ve all been taught for our entire lives. Recently, I saw this in a post about earthquake safety that claims the widely accepted earthquake safety tips are not reliable based on a single study. One thing that triggered my suspicions was the intro of the post that indicated the post had been copied and pasted on the individual’s blog.

3) A miracle drug/cure that is being covered up

Many of these posts have a decidedly conspiracy theory feel to them. One such story recently lead me to look into the connection between MS and Diet Coke/aspartame. There’s no doubt that Aspartame is a controversial substance and opinions vary widely about its safety. However, the myth that MS is caused by aspartame (specifically Diet Coke) has been well and truly busted.

4) The context is all wrong

Going back to the earthquake example, this post was published on a blog that is written by a medium, and the focus of the content is typically around psychics and mediums. The earthquake post stuck out because it didn’t fit in with the topic of the blog, not to mention that the writer lives in the Midwest U.S. which is plagued far more with tornadoes than earthquakes.

How do you confirm that a piece is fact and not fiction?

Sometimes I immediately dismiss something, because it’s just not something I find valuable enough to share. However, to be considered truly helpful, you want to share information that is verifiable by more than one reliable and trusted source. 

In the case of copy/paste information, use copy/paste to your advantage and do a search. (In fact, search is your best friend regardless of which red flag is raised.) If there are hoax busting sites in the first page of results, review what they have to say. Snopes is one of the most well-known. I usually go there first, but there are others that are very good as well. 

Why is this important?

Not everyone on the Internet will fact-check before sharing. Perhaps they are busy and forget. Perhaps a piece hasn’t raised any red flags for them. Perhaps they don’t know how. There are many reasons. 

Misinformation can lead to vulnerabilities. Despite what some parents and teachers say, some people still believe a lot of what they read online and other places. When misinformation about safety practices are shared, this can make someone else vulnerable. 

Thoughtful sharing bolsters your reputation. If you are sharing content that demonstrates your expertise, it doesn’t take much to hurt that reputation. Though we all make mistakes, if becoming an expert in your field is a goal fact-check everything you share especially if it is relevant to your audience but outside your area of expertise.

Tell me in the comments what raises red flags for you and what tools and techniques you use to fact-check.

Is giving away your expertise for free a bad idea?

I was having a chat with a client recently who isn’t a social media user. They willingly admitted that they don’t really understand it or how on earth a business can make money by spending time posting to social channels.

We were on the phone, so they couldn’t see my big grin - I knew I could help! No, I wasn’t seeing dollar signs dancing all around. What I saw was an opportunity for this business to achieve greater success and I would get the opportunity to have a small role in that!

In order to give this client some insight on how it could work, I began to throw out scenarios that applied to their business. 

  • You can share tips on how to do _______________. That’s something that individuals can do themselves and they probably don’t even realize or know how.
  • Write up some information on ______________ way of doing _____________. Include some pointers for who such a method would work best and maybe caution against it if there are those it wouldn’t work for.
  • Answer the common questions your clients ask.
  • Write up the reasons you would recommend or not recommend something. 

See what’s happening? There’s enormous value to the audience in these types of content. There is helpful advice, concrete learning, best practices and questions answered. 

Won’t it hurt my business to give away so much information?

That’s highly unlikely. 

I have a personal and extremely amateur interest in photography. I subscribe to a couple of photography blogs like Fstoppers and Digital Photography School and a couple of others. I also know quite a few professional photographers. While some people may follow the pros and gain some insights and then launch their own business, most will not.

If I want professional photos of my family, I will call up one of the many pros that I know and book a session. Partially because I don’t have the eye of a pro, but also because people aren’t really my favourite photography subjects.

Here are a few other examples: 

  • A real estate agent that shares tips for prepping a house for sale isn’t going to lose business, because the real value is in the contacts, knowing the market and being able to market the house in appropriate places - not to mention good advice about pricing.
  • A graphic designer that shares good graphic design principles and samples isn’t going to lose business because let’s face it: most people are terrified of opening up graphic design software.
  • A consultant/coach that shares how to do things they specialize in isn’t going to lose business because the time it takes someone to catch up to their level of knowledge is prohibitive to getting real work done.

This is how expertise works. We hone in on an area, learn as much as we can, work with that knowledge and then we start that cycle all over again. Social media can be a vessel for you to showcase your expertise in practical ways that build trust, awareness, and eventually new clients.

Even if you share how-to content that you offer as a service in your business, that is proof of your abilities. The DIY crowd was going to do it themselves anyway and they can find out how from others in your industry that are sharing on social channels. Your market? The ones you want as customers? They need your help because they don’t have the time and other resources to do it themselves.

Can you name a business(es) that has become successful by sharing its knowledge and expertise?

Let's help each other - come share your knowledge!

One of the reasons that Lara and I designed an online group coaching program was to help our clients with our expertise, but also to allow them to have a place to share and learn from each other.

The idea of this shared learning experience has been so good that we want to emulate it here by giving others the opportunity to talk about their social media successes and learning experiences on The Media Mesh

We’ve committed to three words for 2013 - create, teach, help. Out of these simple words, we have established ambitious goals for ourselves and this business. We want to help people meet their own goals and teach them how best to use tools that can assist them. All through creation of content and programs that add value. 

But we know we’re not the only ones who can create, teach and help others. So, we’re opening the door for you to come and share your knowledge too. 

Let us know if you’ re interested in creating, teaching and helping too.

What is it and why should I care : Quora

What is Quora?

From their site:

Quora is a continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organized by everyone who uses it. The most important thing is to have each question page become the best possible resource for someone who wants to know about the question

Here’s how I see it.

People ask questions, then people answer said questions.  People can then vote up or down the answers, making certain answers more credible.

What has jumped out at me the most when using Quora is that big companies are clearly monitoring it.  If someone has asked a question about an app, someone from that company (often the founder) is answering the question.  The answers that I see are well thought out and often written by thought leaders, making it an excellent place to get not only good and correct answers, but insightful and thought provoking ones. (I also believe Quora recruited high level people to take part and answer questions, lending even more credibility and quality to their site).

When you are on Quora you can follow specific people - whether they be friends or just people you are interested in or who you respect.  You can also follow specific topics.  Answers and topics from those categories will show up in your feed when you arrive on Quora’s site.  You can also search by keywords for topics.

Why should people use Quora?

It’s a great place to find the answers to questions about everything from business advice to fun facts about a movie you might like.

Here are a few random questions/topics to look at:

Pirates of the Carribean

What’s the best launch strategy for a web startup

What are great and easy gluten-free recipes?

What are the best restaurants in Ottawa?

But more than just a place to find the answer to interesting questions, it’s a place to :

- find interesting questions and learn from them.  Sometimes just reading through my feed on the main Quora page can keep me entertained and learning for quite a long time!

-  find inspiration for blog posts - they even have a functionality that you can set up that easily lets you turn the topics into blog posts.

- You can position yourself as an expert.  By answering questions, people who wouldn’t necessarily come to your blog or see you speak somewhere are made aware of you and your style.  The more people vote up your answers the more respect you gain.

- It is yet another way to engage with people with like interests.

How could a business use this to their advantage?

I should be answering social media related questions.  Someone who sells eco friendly products can answer questions about the dangers of bpa to babies/children. If you teach belly dancing, maybe you could be the first to answer why it would be of benefit as a prenatal class. If you developed blackberry apps, I’d follow that blackberry app topic and answer any questions that might come up that fit in line with what you do.

The possibilities are endless really. Answer questions as an expert, not in a marketing capacity. What you want are for people to think you are interesting enough to read your bio and then potentially take the next step.

So go check it out! Find me and follow me if you do. And I challenge you to either answer or ask a question!



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