Sarah Best, CEO/Chief Strategist of Sarah Best Strategy (SBS), has recently been selected for the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program at Babson College in Wellesley, MA. The highly competitive program focuses on mastering financials and planning growth strategy for business. Ms. Best will join a national cohort of 150 small business owners via a combination of online and in-person learning. Curriculum topics include financials, marketing, leadership, activating growth and a tailored independent growth plan.
“I launched my business when I moved to Madison from Chicago in 2014,” said Ms. Best. “I would credit a wealth of local entrepreneurial resources, including MERLIN Mentors, Doyenne Group, and the Small Business Development Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for my early success. I am delighted to join the national cohort for Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses to take our business to the next level.” In its first four years, SBS has increased its revenue by 145% and grown from a solo practice into a team of 8 people.
Ms. Best’s work, which in 2010 included negotiating $1.5 in in-kind services from Foursquare as one the platform’s first content partners, has garnered eight awards, including best use of a social media platform from Travel + Leisure. Her work has been featured in Mashable, TechCrunch, Crain's Chicago Business, National Geographic Traveler, Chicago Tribune, and other publications. She was tapped to speak at Social Media Week for the MacArthur Foundation, selected twice for SXSW, and has served a US Travel Association conference speaker and lead judge. She is an alumna of New York University and the University of Chicago, a Madison Downtown Rotarian, and is on the board of several local nonprofits.
Sarah Best Strategy (SBS) is an award-winning digital marketing agency that focuses on social media and Google search. The agency’s mission to give all companies the tools and strategies they need to succeed, within each organization's unique vision and constraints. SBS works nationally with companies in a variety of sectors, including Fortune 100 companies, global and regional nonprofits, and small- to mid-sized businesses. The company is a Founding Agency Partner of Sprout Social, is a MailChimp Partner Agency, and is nationally certified as a Women's Business Enterprise (WBE), Woman Owned Small Business (WOSB), and Small Business Enterprise (SBE).
SBS officially turned four this October—and to celebrate, we asked Sarah to share everything she’s learned so far. But that could take up a whole book! So instead, she narrowed it down to the top four lessons she’s learned in the past four years. In her own words, here are those lessons.
1. You Have to be Ruthless About Prioritizing Your Marketing Time
It’s really important to pick and choose what channels you’re using. Your strategy should always be guided by why you’re doing the marketing.
Research shows the average consumer uses social media for 116 minutes per day. If you can be targeted and strategic in your messaging, your chances of capturing their attention improve significantly. Let go of what doesn’t serve you so that you have more time for the channels (and strategies) that matter most.
2. Office Hours Can Improve Productivity
I recently read It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson (co-founders of 37 Signals/Basecamp). It reinforced a lot of my fundamental beliefs about running a business.
One tactic Fried and Hansson focus on is the benefits of office hours, which ideally create: “...calmer days, longer stretches of uninterrupted time, and planned moments when [one] can enter a more professional mode to teach, help and share.”
Not only do we embrace this concept, we're happy to report it’s helped us serve dozens of nonprofits in 2018 through pro-bono consulting time. Our Nonprofit Office Hours are available each week on a first-come, first served basis (and are highly productive).
3. Ask for Help When Needed
Not only am I indebted to my incredible team, but also to an amazing array of mentors, collaborators, and resources that have made starting and running my business possible. Madison in particular has a wealth of resources for entrepreneurs.
Some of the people and organizations that have made it possible to grow our business include:
We look forward to joining the Spring Cohort of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program in the spring.
4. Trust is a Valuable Gift
None of this would be possible without the trust and collaboration of our clients. It means a great deal to be entrusted with a company’s vision and brand, and it never ceases to thrill us when a client calls to tell us we’ve made their life easier through our services.
To all of our clients: I and my team are so grateful to you them in our lives—and we are inspired by the work you do each day. If I could send cupcakes to each and every one of you, I would. But instead I hope you’ll accept my sincerest gratitude. Thank you for making my first four years memorable.
The Sarah Best Strategy team is in Orlando, Florida this week, doing live social media for the 66th Annual IWCS Cable & Connectivity Symposium Conference.
We've done live social media executions for many conferences, fundraising events, and theater festivals. Live social media can help drive key business results, such as generating millions of impressions, improving customer experience, and promptly addressing (and containing) negative feedback. Capturing the energy of a live event is also an incredibly powerful way to share the story of a brand.
Here are some keys for success that we've picked up through our work.
1. Pre-schedule as much as possible
What does doing live social media at a conference or other large event entail? Spreadsheets! Spreadsheets! Spreadsheets!
Before we leave for a conference, we obtain a copy of the conference program and pre-write as much content as possible. We pre-schedule reminders about key conference events.
Having a solid layer of content in place before the event allows us to focus on live storytelling - whether we're sharing key quotes from speakers, photography from the floor of an exhibition, or wrapping up what's happened each day.
2. Pre-research as much as possible
Also before we leave for the conference, we spend time looking up the Twitter handles of conference speakers and exhibiting companies ahead of time.
For very large conferences, we gather some intel on what events are high priority from the conferences organizers—typically good candidates include events that tell the story of the conference, showcase a particularly strong offering, or events which might need a little extra help.
3. Know what channels work best for live events
Where pre-conference or pre-festival content may focus on channels like Facebook or LinkedIn (depending on the conference's focus), the best channels for live content are Twitter, Instagram, and potentially Snapchat. There are two reasons for this.
1) Lag: When you do a Facebook post, there can be a lag in between when you post the event, and when it shows up in the newsfeed, making it less ideal for truly timely information.
2) Cadence: Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ accommodate a lower cadence of posts that channels that are constantly refreshing. In other words, you'll annoy people if you post too much.
Twitter and Instagram's constantly refreshing stream of content is a boon in this case. While both platforms still use an algorithm to highlight content a reader may have missed, it's still more likely that people will see live content, and use these channels to keep tabs on what's happening at an event as it's happening.
4. Get great photography and make sure your tech is up to date
I can't emphasize this enough—good photography is critical to telling the story of an event, whether you're talking about a corporate conference, a nonprofit fundraiser, or an arts festival.
At live social media executions, we typically work closely with a professional photographer to outline what types of shots that we think will work best. Particularly if there is an opportunity to get those shots retweeted by a partner with a large number of followers.
For other events, we shoot photos and take short videos ourselves with our phones, and often train other staff on how to take compelling photos so that we have "eyes" in many places at once. It's important to make sure everyone has phones with decent cameras (a recent smartphone should suffice).
Photos below courtesy IWCS / John Disney.
5. Pre-write answers to common questions
For large conferences, you may get a high volume of inquiries from conference or event-goers. For our work at the Institute of Food Technologists, for example, we received hundreds of inquiries per hour through Twitter.
A best practice here is to have the answers to common questions pre-written ahead of time, so that you can promptly respond to people with common questions about parking, registration, tickets, schedules, etc.
6. Have a cell phone chain
Hey, stuff happens. It's not uncommon for unexpected issues to crop up at an event, such as sound bleed between two rooms or someone having a problem locating a parking lot.
For customer feedback that requires some follow up (such as a complaint), it's important to know what the chain of command is for a particular event, and to have contact information (cell phone numbers are best) so that you can reach the person who can address or respond to a problem as quickly as possible.
For some events we've worked at, the phone numbers of key staff were written on the back of our staff badges so we always had cell phone numbers handy.
7. Take external battery packs
If you're producing social media for an event, having your phone, laptop, or other device run out of juice can mean the difference between capturing an important moment and just being out of luck. We often travel with three external battery packs and a fresh set of USB cords so we can stay charged up at all times.
Other people we know travel with portable wifi hotspots, in case the conference internet is bad (which is often the case). Have a gameplan for what to do if your connection is unsteady.
8. If you're waiting to figure out a hashtag the day of the event it's too late.
So for people who are not familiar with how hashtags work, it's common for conferences and events to use a branded hashtag (like #IWCS2017) to denote any content related to the event. This also gives attendees the opportunity to share their thoughts and photos too.
Because hashtags are searchable on Twitter and Instagram, this is a great way to find content that you can repost or retweet.
But if you've waited to set a conference or event hashtag until the day of, it's too late. Like any sort of branding, hashtags work when they are clear, easy to type, are used consistently (ideally on ALL content, pre-conference and day-of) and repeatedly.
The events that I work at print the hashtag on collateral materials, programs, signs, so that people know to use them. We work hard to raise awareness of the hashtag year-round if not in the months leading up to the event itself.
9. Most importantly, have fun!
Doing live social media can be really exciting—there's no better feeling than capturing a critical takeaway, photographing a moment that really tells a brand's story, or amplifying what's happening at a live event out to much broader audiences. If you're energized by a dynamic live event, chances are your content will communicate a certain energy, too.
By having a solid plan in place ahead of time, you'll be well-poised to go with the flow, tell rich stories, and provide immediate feedback to attendees who need help or want to share your feedback.
Learn more about our live social media services.
In our free Social Media and Google Analytics guide, we share our four favorite Google Analytics reports related to social media. These reports help us understand:
Fill out the form below to get a free copy of our guide. Once you confirm your email, you will receive a download link via email.
You used to have to know a guy who knew a guy in order to get your Facebook page verified. Now the process is automated and can be completed in a few minutes.
Find out how to verify your Facebook page, and improve the credibility and findability of your Facebook page, in a few easy steps.
** DISCLAIMER ** Facebook rolls features out to different people at different times, so if you don't see the option to edit your verification right away, try again in a month or two. Some of our clients have been able to verify; some haven't so far.
What the Heck is Verification?
When Facebook pages are verified a checkmark in a circle appears next to the business page name, both on the page and in search results.
Why Does Verification Matter?
According to Facebook, if you verify your page it may appear higher in Facebook search results.
There are two other reasons why verification is a good idea:
This can be particularly helpful when there are pages / companies with similar names, or when an unofficial fan page has sprung up.
How Do I Verify My Facebook Page?
1. Page Admin: First, make sure that you have a page admin role on your Facebook page.
2. Settings: Go to the Settings of your Facebook page.
3. Edit Verification Settings: Under General Settings, select the the edit link or pencil icon next to "Verification".
4. Verify Your Page: From there, you have two options to verify your Facebook page. You can either receive a call at a phone number that is publicly listed for your business...
...or you can upload a document, such as a utility bill, business license or tax file, certificate of business formation, or articles of incorporation.
5. Confirmation: You'll then get a confirmation that your page is verified and the symbol will show up right away next to your listing.
The whole process takes about five minutes. For more tips on building findability and credibility, talk to us about an independent audit of your social media program.
This guest post from Nate Holmes at Widen has practical tips for keeping your images and videos organized when you are managing a social media program. We love to share advice that helps teams work better together.
Do you ever find yourself rummaging through folders on your desktop to find the perfect image to share on social media? Or maybe you’ve given up on finding the perfect image and any remotely relevant image will do. Clicking in and out of folders and emailing your co-workers for that one image isn’t the best use of your time. So get ahead of the clutter and save yourself some time but getting your visuals organized.
Here’s how to keep your visuals organized so your posts are on-brand, on-message, and on time.
Put Your Images in a Centralized Place
Centralize Your Images: When you need an image or video for social media where do you go? If you’re listing off a half-dozen places or you don’t know, it’s time to centralize your visuals. It’s the first step in getting organized. You might have multiple sources for images, but they should all end up organized in the same place.
Things to consider:
Use Descriptive Filenames
Use Descriptive Filenames: When you’re looking for an image, staring at a list of IMG_3091, IMG_3092, IMG_3093, etc. is not helpful. Take advantage of filenames by including descriptive information about the file’s content. A good filename helps distinguish itself from other files. Consider including the event, project, theme, or creator in the filename.
Things to consider:
Categorize Your Images and Videos
Categorize Your Images and Videos: Filenames can help you search for a specific file, but categories are especially helpful when you have an idea of what you want but not a specific file in mind. The goal of organizing your files into categories is to make it easy to drill down to what you want in an organic, logical, and easy-to-understand manner.
Things to consider:
Remove Off-Brand Visuals
Remove off-brand visuals: One of the key benefits of social media is its ability to connect your brand to customers. Any post may be your opportunity to attract a potential customer to your brand. So your visuals better be on-brand.
When organizing your visuals, remove any off-brand visuals, including those that are off-brand due to poor quality. Your visuals should reinforce your brand, not distract from it.
Things to consider:
Keywords and Descriptions Metadata
Keyword and description metadata: Metadata is data about data. It’s descriptive information that defines and describes your visual. If you apply this information to your files, you can use it to organize and find files faster. A digital asset management (DAM) system gives you more robust search and filtering capabilities than a basic folder structure.
Things to consider:
It’s tempting to put off organizing any newly created or purchased images and videos. Don’t wait! There’s never a great time for more mundane tasks like organizing your visuals, but a little time invested now will save you more time later. Like when you need that visual again.
This Facebook page like hack is free, quick and easy to try, and greatly increases the likelihood that a person who has engaged with your content will become a fan of your page, giving you the ability to reach that engaged person over time.
Take a Closer Look at Boosted Posts
We’re going to start by talking about boosted posts. Boosting posts on Facebook is a great way to get your content in front of targeted audiences and to build engagement for your business’s Facebook page. Sometimes we use boosts to reach current fans of the page, but sometimes we use them to grow new audiences.
But getting a post in front of the right person, doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to become of a fan of your page. That’s also true when your current fans share a post that’s relevant to them with their friends.
Here’s a quick and easy action that we can take to solve that problem.
Step One: Make Sure You’re an Admin of Your Facebook Business Page
This hack won’t work for people who have other permissions on the page, including Editors. If you manage your Facebook page through Facebook Business Manager, make sure that you’re in Business Manager before you try this.
Step Two: Offer a Friendly "Hello!"
When you see that someone has liked one of your Facebook posts, click on the area highlighted below, where you see Facebook reactions (likes, hearts, etc.)
This is what you see when you click on that area: a window that lists all of the people who reacted to your post. You’ll also see whether or not those people are currently fans of your page.
Simply click the “Invite” button to ask them if they’d like to become a fan of your page.
Not everyone that you invite to like your page will become a fan, and that’s okay. The role of a good social media manager is to keep the conversation going, to stretch out a friendly hand when someone needs assistance, and to offer a friendly "hello".
Since these readers have already expressed an interest in what you’re sharing online, there’s nothing to lose in inviting them to join your community.
This action only takes a few minutes and is pretty easy to do, so why not give it a try and see if it increases the number of page likes you get this week?
Websites are living breathing things. They should evolve and change over time. Sometimes that means that you have to go through your content and tighten it up, check for freshness, or fix mistakes.
There’s something that you can take in the next five minutes to make sure that your blog is the best that it can be.
Review your Blog Categories
This post is inspired by a mistake that I noticed the other day on my own website. When I was publishing a new blog post, I noticed that I had two nearly identical categories.
This is a problem that happens all of the time on blogs, particularly if your blog has a number of contributors, and if you lack a plan for how you will use categories.
Why Do We Need Categories Anyway?
Here are a few reasons that blog categories are helpful: firstly, it makes it easy for a reader to find more information on the same topic.
Secondly, when you add a category you are creating a landing page for content related to that category. That can be helpful when you want to send someone to a series of blog posts, like we do on our homepage.
This could potentially also be a tactic used to create keyword-optimized landing pages for search engine optimization.
What to Look For When Reviewing Blog Categories
There are a few things that you should look for when reviewing blog categories:
How Do I Remove Duplicate Categories?
This varies based on your content management system, but it’s typically doesn’t take much effort to fix. Here are Wordpress instructions on managing categories.
In my case, I simply went into the erroneously labeled blog post and removed the incorrect category from that post. Categories that aren’t being used won’t be displayed on your website.
It’s easier to manage categories if you are checking them on a semi-regular basis, such as quarterly.
Larger organizations with many contributors may wish to document categories that should be used in their editorial guidelines, as part of their content governance practice.
What questions do you have about categories, or blogging? Let us know by leaving a comment below.
Have you taken a look at all of the pages on your website recently? How about the depths of your Twitter account? Chances are there’s a page lingering somewhere in the dark corners of a drop down menu that hasn’t been updated in a while. In this post, we’ll take a look at four different ways to assess the freshness of your content.
“Freshness” can refer to content on your website, blog, or in your email and social media channels. Why does freshness matter? It sends a signal both to your audiences and to search engines that you’re still there and that you care enough about them and your business to keep your content up to date.
There’s nothing worse than showing up at a restaurant only to realize that the hours on their website aren’t accurate, and that they’ve changed for the summer. Or to be working on a policy issue…that’s already passed through Congress.
Here are four ways that you can ensure that your content is fresh:
Look for Ghost Towns
Checking for Ghosts: When’s the last time you updated your Facebook page? How about your blog? The first step in the process is to see if you’ve posted anything in a while. Are you active, or is it a ghost town?
If you’re not sure what to talk about, think about the top pages on your website, and pull a fact, quote, or statistic from that page to share on your social media channels. Your blog is a great place to answer all of the questions that your clients are asking. Your email inbox might be a great source of blog post ideas.
Look in the Back of the Content Fridge
There's Something Scary in the Back of Your Content Fridge: Okay, so let’s say you are pretty on top of updating your website and social channels on a regular basis. What you might want to do is to go page-by-page through your top-level navigation, and check to make sure that the most visible pages on your site are accurate and up to date.
Pay particular attention to facts, such as dates, hours, addresses, and staff names and emails.
Google looks for a consistent name, address, phone number, and URL for physical locations featured in local search. So if your business or organization has a brick-and-mortar location, you might want to check those facts a second time to make sure that they are formatted identically.
Look in Google Analytics
Google Analytics has a wealth of information on your content. One report that we like to look at regularly is Behavior > Site Content > All Pages. This report will give you a nice look at the most popular pages on your website.
But if you click on the column labeled “Pageviews” it will also let you look at the least visited pages on your website. If one of your least visited page is pretty important, you may need to think about ways to make it easier to find on your site. (User experience designers call this “surfacing” content).
If it’s a blog post that hasn’t been viewed in a while…it might be time to share it again through your social networks. Looking at blog post metrics over a longer period of time, might yield some insights on topics that are more popular, or less popular.
You can also rewrite a post, taking a slightly different angle or approach, such as turning a fact-heavy article into an infographic. Repurposing content leftovers are a-ok in our book.
Speaking of which, if you want to look at content metrics in a single area (also called a directory or folder) of your website, here’s a handy trick: go to Behavior > Site Content > Content Drilldown and then click on the directory that you want to look at.
This makes it easy to look at the content metrics only for your “blog” or “about” section. In the below example, I see the directories for my homepage, and my blog.
Look in your Social Media Management Tool
Get Social with Your Metrics: It’s a good idea to look at your top posts. We recommend doing this on a monthly basis. We like to look at our top 5 posts sorted by reach, and then by engagement.
When looking at engagement (which is a catch-all term that describes likes, comments, shares, retweets, etc.) it's important to keep in mind that if a post reached few people and the engagement rate is very high, that bit of might not be as helpful to you as seeing the stats on a post that reached more people but had slightly less engagement.
Our top five social media posts often give us ideas for future social media posts or even blog posts topics.
Below, is an example from a report we pulled in Sprout Social for our client Clergy for a New Drug Policy.
Why aren't we talking about the bottom five? We often look at those posts too, but if there's a clear reason that a post may have gotten less reach (such as a Facebook boost not being approved, or spending less on a boost), that’s less interesting to us than seeing the posts that really resonated with our audience.
Keep it Fresh!
We hope this gives you some great ideas to keep things fresh! Let us know if you have questions about content freshness in a comment below.
For more tips on making your social media content work harder, check out some of the other posts in our social media audit series.
We talked to entrepreneur (and client) Derek Notman of Intrepid Wealth Partners about why it's so important to have talking points for your business.
Similar to an elevator pitch, talking points are a set of 3-5 bulletpoint statements that explain what you do, who you do it for, and what the main benefits of what you do are for your customers.
Tell us about what you do.
As a certified financial planner I specialize in working with entrepreneurs, from startup through exit, on their financial planning to help them realize their hopes, dreams & goals.
What did it used to feel like, when you had to introduce yourself and your company, before you had talking points?
I have struggled with this over 11 years. I used to try and avoid talking about what I did for a living. Not having organized talking points resulted in me telling each person I met [what I do in] a slightly different explanation and it always felt like they didn’t quite understand what I was talking about!
How has having talking points changed your experience of introducing yourself and your company?
It has boosted my confidence. I am much more comfortable explaining what I do and who I do it for. It comes across as clear and concise, people understand what I do and who I do it for and will even ask additional questions to learn more.
How do you use your talking points? How have you been using them on your team?
I use them in person and in my digital communications. Regardless of how they are being told, they are telling the same message across all channels. My team is also using them and we have modified them depending on whether we are talking about ourselves or the overall firm.
Do you think that other business owners should have talking points for their business too?
It is a must! If you have a business, then you are selling something, whether it is a service, product, widget, whatever, you much be able to tell your story quickly and concisely to get people’s attention and keep them interested.
If you don’t have talking points then do you really know your own business and what you do? If you can’t clearly explain it, then how could you ever expect your potential customers to ever know what you do or what you sell, and how it may benefit them?
Is there anything else that you took away from our work together to develop talking points?
It was simple and a quick exercise, but absolutely necessary! It has helped me better pitch my business via a multitude of mediums, all while telling a consistent message.