3 Questions To Complete a 5-Minute Social Media Audit

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You post to it every week. You spend money promoting your content. You create and develop and monitor and optimize.

But have you ever really looked at your business' social media accounts?

If it's been too long since you scrolled down your page and looked at all your social media accounts and their content comprehensively, it's time to conduct a Social Media Audit. But before you pay a consultant to complete a massive deep dive, ask these three questions to complete a 5-Minute Social Media Audit.

1. Would you follow your own account?

Many of the followers you've acquired have stumbled upon your account some time or another and followed, liked or subscribed to your content. But would you? Take a serious look at your content and see if it provides immediate value to you as a potential customer. Do you post exclusive discounts? Do you provide value to your service clients for engaging with them on social media? Do you educate or entertain your followers? 

Solution: If you wouldn't follow your account, you need to create content that provides value.

2. Is your account visually appealing?

Gone are the days of selfies and low-quality video. Increasingly brands, even small businesses, are spending big money to make their accounts shiny, slick and superficially beautiful. Accounts now have curb appeal, and your account should, too. If you're a realtor, are the photos you're sharing of your homes for sale well lit, striking and eye catching? If you're a boutique, are you sharing clothes on a mannequin, or are you using models (your employees) to wear the outfits you create? Are you sharing videos that are well lit and horizontal? If your content doesn't look good, then people won't follow.

Solution: If your content isn't pretty, you need to invest in a better camera or a better content creator to ensure that accounts have great curb appeal.

3. Is your account consistently being updated?

The number of posts a day, a week you post on social media accounts varies, but in our experience, every social media account to be effective should be updated at least once a week. If you scroll through and see that your Facebook page has only two posts for the month of July, that's not enough. You need to create a plan or, even easier, a content to-do list weekly. The average Facebook post has a lifespan of less than two hours. Your social media accounts only work when you're posting regularly, consistently.

Solution: Create a plan to regularly post content on your business' social media account or hire someone who can do it for you.

You've just completed a 5-Minute Social Media Audit on your accounts yourself. But if you want a deeper dive and look into your business' social media accounts, contact Checkmate Consulting for a free consultation.


3 Better Ways To Respond to Negative Comments

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It comes out of nowhere, seemingly random. You don't see it coming, and it derails your every thought. It's an attack on not just you, but your reputation.

It sounds like a horror story, but it's every small business owner's nightmare: The dreaded negative comment.

If you're on social media long enough, this nightmare will become a reality for your business. A disgruntled customer, a former employee, a concerned patron or just an Internet troll will come onto your platform and spew negativity on a post or a page. You don't get a choice as to if it's going to happen to you, but as always, you get to choose how to respond.

Below are three better ways to respond to negative comments.

1. Do Not Delete The Comment

As tempting as it is to delete the comment and ban the user (so tempting), do not delete the comment. Do not ban the user from your platform. Why? Because negative people are surrounded with negative people, both online and offline. If you delete their comment or ban them from your Facebook page, more often than not, they will find out and then recruit others to go to your page and spew negativity. You've just gone from one bad review to 10, 20, 10,000 bad reviews in a few days. You've seen the stories before, how one small business makes a misstep on social media and then a frenzy of outrage in the national news. Avoid it all by addressing the comment in one of two ways.

2. Respond, Apologize And Offer A Solution

If a negative comment appears on a post about an issue with your business, follow these three steps: respond, apologize and offer a solution. 

Respond within 24 hours of receiving the negative comment or complaint, just like you would respond within 24 hours to any comment on your page. The longer the comment goes dormant, the more potential backlash from the individual or others they recruit to ask the same questions on your page.

Apologize for any specific missteps or mistakes that you or an employee made. Taking ownership of the issue and make the individual feel heard. Even if you didn't do anything wrong, an apology can provide some closure and neutralize the concern. "Hi Karen, Thanks for reaching out, and we understand your concern. We know how upsetting it must be that you didn't receive your package when promised, and we apologize for the inconvenience."  There's an apology in this example, but you're not taking responsibility for the failure. You're apologizing for how the situation made the customer feel, and oftentimes, that's more than enough.

Offer a solution to the customer if you did do something wrong. Offering a coupon for $5 off their next purchase to be sent via email or expediting the shipping of a product wasn't shipped on time are minimal monetary expenses in potentially salvaging a relationship with a customer. And even if that begrudged customer doesn't buy again? Everyone on your page can see how your business responded to their negative review. That builds trust and affinity for your brand with potential new customers.

3. Message Privately

On Facebook, you have the ability to message a user who has commented or reviewed your page. Respond publicly with one comment using apology language above. If the user still isn't satisfied, take the conversation off your page and into your Inbox. Send a private message and address the details with the user there. Once personally contacted and given the ability to chat in real time, upset customers are often satisfied that their concerns are being heard and that a real person, not a faceless brand, is helping to resolve their issue. That level of personal care can end the airing of your dirty laundry on your brand's social media platform.

Answering negative feedback is critical. With almost 70% of customers researching businesses on social media before making a purchase, it's more critical than ever to know how and when to respond to negative comments. If you need help responding to negative feedback or managing your social media accounts, contact Checkmate Consulting for a free consultation.


5 Ways To Stay Social On Your Business' Social Media (With Examples)

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Social media should be social.

It seems obvious, doesn't it? When it's up there, big and bold, it seems like the clearest, simplest thing in the world. But as content creators, so much of our work is focused on the 'media' of social media. We obsess about the right angles for our Instagram shots. We worry about the sound levels of our videos. We write, and rewrite, and rewrite the headlines of our blog posts. 

And all those things are important. Your photos should be high quality; your Facebook Live videos should be HD and horizontal. But there is a reason why social is the first word in social media, because fundamentally, social media platforms are for us to connect with others.

So that's nice and all, what does that mean for your business? When brands share content that's emphasized on building relationships with customers, not just promotional content, they get higher rates of engagement. The more your fans engage with your content, the more likely they are to engage with your content -- and eventually buy your product. Or better yet? They'll share your business' posts on Facebook, serving as ambassadors for your brand.

So now that we know the why for your brand to be more social, friendly, relational, how do you stay social on your business' Facebook, Instagram or Twitter? Here are five easy ways to stay social.

1. Ask Questions To Drive A Conversation

What's your favorite color? I'm sure you immediately thought of a favorite color before moving on in this little paragraph, because even though this content is important to you, mentally, we're all programmed to answer questions when asked. Use this little psychological tick to drive engagement by asking questions that are related to your business. For a thought leader or service industry, it could be a motivational question. For a bakery, it could be asking what is a customer's favorite flavor. For a tire shop or travel agency, it could be asking what is your next destination. Asking questions is a great way to start a conversation.

2. Engage Your Fans In Comments

Once you've got a conversation going, then it's your turn to dive in. Join the conversation by responding to questions in the comments as your business page, making your brand look friendly, approachable, kind. Engage users by responding with their first names and a quick sentence as a response. "Hi Emily! Chocolate chip is our favorite cookie flavor, too." Use emojis or gifs if you're feeling fun, and use some word play. Keep the conversation going by responding to all comments if you don't have much conversation, or build on momentum by responding strategically to just positive or well liked comments. 


3. Host a Giveaway On Your Account

Your fans have liked your business on Facebook, but we want them to love your business. Spread the love to your hard-earned social media fans by hosting giveaways or contests on your social media accounts. Encourage users to enter by commenting on a post. Then, follow up with publicly announcing a winner in a separate post, while tagging the user in the initial post. All of these little extra steps give your account a personal touch, where fans aren't just talked to, they're spoiled with love, attention and free items of things they want. Read 3 more rules for hosting better Facebook Giveaways here.


4. Showcase The Faces Behind Your Business

Make your business feel more personal by showcasing the people who make it all happen. Host a Facebook Live event at your business showing all the beautiful holiday decor in your store. Record and post a simple weekly video that provides one tip to make your fans' lives easier. Have your servers share their favorite items on your menu at your restaurant. Don't force any team member to participate, but showing the real people behind your business can be a powerful empathy building tool. People aren't supporting your auto shop, they're getting an oil change from Tom and Steve. People aren't choosing your chiropractic center, they're going to visit Dr. Bryan. We trust people more than brands, so put your best foot and face forward.


5. Know and Follow the 4-1-1 Rule

So those other four tips? They're nice and all, but how does me recording a video with my face or a doing a giveaway drive sales for my business? I hear you, and I hope you'll hear just one thing from me today: follow the 4-1-1 Rule. Considered the golden rule of social media lead generation, the 4-1-1 rule is:

For every one self-serving post, you should share one entertaining piece of content and most importantly, share four pieces of relevant content written by others. 

Math is hard, but if you follow the 4-1-1 rule, that means 84% of your content should provide value to your fans and only 16% of your content should be promotional. That means only 16% of your content talks about sales in your store. That means only 16% of your content is about tonight's specials in your restaurant. That means only 16% of your content should include the phrase 'BUY NOW!'

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Scroll through your business' Facebook page. If it's 80% promotional and 20% social (or worse), this is why you're not generating sales from social media. Your customers have tuned out your business, just like they ignore the ads they see on TV and the billboards they drive by. People don't buy from brands, they buy from people who build relationships with them. Start building a relationship with your audience.

If you're looking for a transparent digital marketing agency that will build relationships to turn your fans into buying, happy brand ambassadors, we're here to help transform your business or partner with your current agencies as a consultant. Contact us to schedule a free consultation. 


5 Questions to Ask a Digital Ad Agency (Free Printable Checklist)

"Ren, I don't know what any of it means."

One of my clients called me last December, utterly confused. She was excited about the potential of a Very Fancy New SEO Lead Generating Campaign, but didn't know where or how the campaign would be conducted. A big-city digital ad agency representative pitched the Campaign over lunch, and my client was presented a package and contract to double her business in 90 days. In a 45 minute lunch, she had heard terms she didn't know, coupled with promises and guarantees. The rep seemed nice, so she had said yes and signed a contract.

It wasn't a catastrophe, but it was a decision made without all the facts. She was a business owner, not a marketing expert, and she didn't understand what questions to ask before saying yes. And worse, she was locked into a 6 month, nearly $1,000 per month contract.

The Fancy New SEO Lead Generating Campaign didn’t lead to any increase in revenue, and after her six month contract, my client was eager to discontinue the campaign.

Sound familiar? I've encountered dozens of small business owners who were wooed and burned by digital agencies, making flashy presentations and big promises. But before you're seduced and sign a contract, here are Five Questions To Ask a Digital Ad Agency.

1. How does this campaign support my business' goals?

Advertising agencies are marketers, so it's no surprise that often their pitches include headlines and blanket promises: "We'll increase your website traffic by 10 percent!" "We'll get you more likes on Facebook in 30 days for just $250!" "We'll serve your advertisement to 10,000 people on Google!" "We'll get you 500 leads a month!"

Look past the headline and get to the heart of the objective of the campaign. How does increasing my website traffic increase sales for my HVAC business? How does managing my Facebook page sell more products? If the ad rep in front of you can't connect the dots, specifically, on how a proposed digital marketing campaign impacts business' bottom line, then they don't care about you or your business, they're interested in a check. And if they don't care about you, in person, trying to close a sale? They won't care about you or your business six months into a contract.

2. Are the proposed marketing campaign's goals SMART?

Wait, what is SEO again? Digital marketing campaigns can be incredibly complicated, with a lot of moving parts that you might not understand. And you know what? That's OK! But the goals of any marketing effort created by a third party should be easy for you to understand and SMART. SMART Goals are Strategic, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-based. A campaign should:

Strategically align with your business' mission
Measured easily for success with pre-determined key performance indicators
Attainable in scope and scale based on resources invested
Realistic in expectations for outcomes from a campaign
Time-based and evaluated at the conclusion of a pre-determined period

Go through each element of a SMART goal with a sales rep. How does this campaign align with a particular sales goal with my business? How will results of the campaign be measured? Have results been attained in similar campaigns conducted by your agency? Per industry standards, are our goals for this campaign realistic? When will we regroup to discuss the effectiveness of this campaign and its return on investment?

3. How will we track leads or product sales from your agency's efforts?

Once you start working with an ad agency, there can be a bit of a phantom success effect. Every new client, every extra phone call, every new sale can feel like it's from The Fancy New Campaign by Fancy Agency. But research shows us that customers have to hear a message eight times before they'll make a purchase. So adding a spoke to the wheel with a new digital marketing can make an impact and generate new sales, absolutely, but you may have been seeding the ground. Don't attribute the harvest to a fancy new campaign.

Instead, ask specifically what steps will be taken to track all sales connected to an agency's campaign. You should be able to view landing page traffic information from a trackable URL or have a tracking phone number set up for specific calls. You should be able to see a tally of results from a specific effort. Combined with your own sales numbers, this creates the formula that you'll use to determine your return on investment. But without tracking those leads, you're lost, and the agency just keeps showing you how pretty the ads are. Pretty ads don't keep the lights on, sales do.

4. How will campaign data be made available to me?

Let's be frank: there are smoke and mirror businesses in every industry, but the illusion is thick with digital advertising companies. Agencies and sales rep depend on your ignorance and disinterest in examining the results of a digital ad campaign, so they can continue billing for campaigns that aren't working. Make it known before you sign a contract that you have a set and clear expectation that results be shared with you at least once every 30 days. Lead names and email addresses should be made available within an Excel spreadsheet; Facebook Ads Manager dashboard screenshots should be made available to you. If they're not willing to be transparent with how they're spending your money with ads, they are not a good ad agency. Get up and leave, or they will take your money.

Let’s be frank: there are smoke and mirror businesses in every industry, but the illusion is thick with digital advertising companies.


5. How will we refresh the campaign after 90 days?

This is the biggest question. For most ad agencies, they'll set a campaign and let it run for six months, maybe a year, billing you monthly, without doing any additional work. But the power of the Internet allows agencies to easily monitor the effectiveness of a campaign in real time. Ask -- no, demand that there be a formal review of the campaign's results after 90 days. At that time, you as a business owner should be able to see all of the campaign's impact to determine your return on investment, as well as discussing ways to refresh the creative to better impact next quarter's sales goals. Don't allow your agency to be lazy -- put a bit of pressure on them to be constantly lowering the cost per click or increasing the reach of a particular campaign. That's what they're paid to do.

Bottom line: I don't hate Big City Fancy Advertising Agencies. I think some of them are leading the industry in best practices, and their work can be transformative for a struggling business. Checkmate Consulting is working in partnership with two agencies for two Checkmate clients today to better serve their customers. But be an advocate for your business' marketing budget, ensuring that any campaign is making a difference to your bottom line. Don't be taken out to lunch and then taken for a ride for six months because you didn't ask some basic questions before saying yes.

If you're looking for a transparent digital marketing agency that will fight for your business' goals, we're here to help transform your business or partner with your current agencies as a consultant. Contact us to schedule a free consultation. 

3 Rules For Hosting Better Facebook Giveaways

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Everybody knows how to host a giveaway on their Facebook page. Right?

Well, of course, you post some kind of a visual. But is it a photo of a product? Or do you share a graphic that has instructions on how to enter the contest? Shouldn't your business' logo be obvious in the post?

And what should they do to enter? To win, they should like your Facebook page, right? But how do you check that? How do you verify that someone has liked your Facebook page? And how long should you give your followers to respond to a giveaway? A giveaway should be urgent, like they get the prize soon, but how soon? Is two days enough, or should you do maybe, like, two weeks? 

But how do you get the prize to the winner?

What if you want to do a video contest? I saw that one Facebook page had a really cool video contest.

Wait -- how do you select a winner?! How do you let them know they won? Does the winner have to sign anything to accept the prize? Do they have to post that they won to receive their prize? Do you create a graphic announcing the winner? How do you announce a winner?!?!

Everyone knows how to host a giveaway on their Facebook page, until a business owner decides they actually want to host a giveaway on their Facebook page. 

In July, Checkmate Consulting created and began building a community of engaged followers for an ongoing client, Ozarks Technical Community College Technical Education Division. One of our first tasks after launching was to build a fan base on engaged users on Facebook. An easy way to do that is to host a giveaway. Our first giveaway went so well, we hosted two. But what defined the success of these giveaways is that we held fast to these 3 Rules for Better Facebook Giveaways.

1. Pick the Right Prize

For OTC Technical Education, we wanted to attract followers to the Facebook page that already like OTC, Missouri's largest community college, and would engage with content. So we chose a that reflected the values of the followers we wanted to attract. With the help of the college's corporate communications office, we were able to get a swag bag full of branded goodies. It was no cost, but it was something tangible that users would want. These weren't just pens and posts, it was a draw string bag, water bottle and more. We arranged it in a flat lay to clearly showcase the content of the swag bag.


2. Ask the Right Ask

One of the primary goals of the OTC Technical Education Facebook page is to attract current and prospective students to engage with its content. Traditional college students, those 18-22 year olds, they communicate differently on the Internets. So we asked that users to comment with an emoji how they felt about back to school season. To enter was simply a tap and a second tap to enter, and we made it clear how to enter in both the post caption and on the giveaway graphic itself. No share, no like, but that engagement would drive it to be in the News Feeds of followers you already have -- and their friends. That drives more and more eyes and easy entries to your contest. Bonus: Comment contests are the easiest to determine the winner. 


3. Activate Your Base

You've launched your contest. Now what? Bang the drum and get the word out there! Giveaways are a great, appropriate ask of your employees to share a contest. A quick email out to the team with a link to the post you'd like them to share instantly gets your contest in front of more eyeballs, and your employees won't mind because one of their friends could win the contest. Plus, contests are great content to reach out to a corporate or business ally to share your content. More than 25 OTC Tech Ed staff members shared the contest on their personal accounts. And a quick note to a communications team at brand's social media manager that is in your page's family can amplify your contest instantly. With Tech Ed's back to school giveaway, we dropped a quick note to the social media manager for the entire college's Facebook page (and its 15,000 likes). The OTC main page shared our contest, and we doubled our page's likes in less than an hour. 


Follow these Three Rules for Better Giveaways, and see the results. And don't forget to comment on the post who won the contest and to have that person private message your Facebook page to determine how to best get the item they won to the winner.

Because without a winner, a giveaway is just a scam. Right?

Case Study: Why You Should Be Making Silent Video Ads

Do you remember when Facebook didn't have ads?

I do. When status updates were just text and the only thing you could share was one photo on your Timeline at a time. I remember when Facebook rolled out cover photos; what a day that was! 

It seems like a lifetime ago. But in reality, Facebook rolled out ads just seven years ago

But now, ads make up a large chunk of your News Feed. Nearly 1 in 10 items in your News Feeds are ads, and most ads? They only get an engagement from a Facebook user 1 percent of the time they're viewed. They're mostly photo links, or they're videos with no text overlay (99 percent of video views on Facebook are silent -- users don't unmute videos).

So what's a brand to do?

Animate a silent video ad.

Simply Health Wellness and Weight Loss in Chesterfield, Missouri became a Checkmate client on July 1. Prior to managing its Facebook page, Simply Health had an active but ineffective Facebook presence. The content it was sharing had an emphasis on quantity, not quality, with low impact and even lower conversions to clicks or appointments booked.

So Simply Health needed something simple: a bold, splashy ad to light up the News Feeds of its fans, since engagement on the page was almost nonexistant.

Checkmate created a targeted, highly visual, animated video ad, featuring flat emoticon-style illustrations and highly readable text. The video was short but clear: click here, get this. Plus, with a thumbnail of FREE, users clicked to watch the video at a much higher than industry rate.

The results of this ad are promising, with high rates of engagement and click throughs nearly triple initial expectations. Website traffic is up, and six weeks in, Checkmate and Simply Health together are building momentum to a high return on investment for Simply Health on Facebook.




Facebook Best Practices for Business Owners (Free E-Book)


Every day, there is a new gimmick for business owners to make money on Facebook. Add an emoji to your caption. Do a Facebook live video on a Thursday afternoon. Share a cat picture to increase your engagement. Dance in a giveaway video to increase your video views.

From our four years of experience, there are 9 Biggest Social Media Mistakes Business Owners Make. But what are the absolute, must-do action steps business owners should take to make their Facebook page profitable? 

We answer that question in our 12-page Facebook Best Practices Guide.

With this 15-minute read, you'll learn:

  • How to write Facebook posts that shareworthy for your customers
  • How to set a tone on Facebook that matches your business and your target customer
  • How to determine the right number of posts for your Facebook page every week
  • How to craft social media campaigns that make your customers ambassadors for your business



Simplify to maximize with Diet Center - Cincinnati

With Diet Center - Cincinnati, it's all in the family.

In November 2015, a college friend reached out to us to help her mother and aunt's new weight loss business thrive with social media management. The twin sisters Carol and Claudia were business saavy but struggling to maintain an active presence on their Center's Twitter and Facebook pages. Together, we developed a comprehensive social media strategy for the brand, helping the Facebook page to go from 44 likes to nearly 1,000 in less than 18 months. Read Diet Center's testimonial.

Along the way, Checkmate helped build a reputation for the brand online, while the owners were building a foundation of success. The twins grew their business from a handful of clients in the fall of 2015 to exploring expansion later this year. But like the daughter helped launch Diet Center - Cincinnati's social media presence, her brother helped launch the business with a website designed as a project for a college class.

The Center's website was fine. It served its purpose; it had information about the business' mission, programs and services. It was visually interesting, and structurally, it was sound. But like his sister, Checkmate Consulting picked up where the son had left off to help the twin sisters develop and design a simplified user experience on their website.


As opposed to its original look and feel, Carol and Claudia wanted a simple, mobile-friendly, no-fuss website with multiple conversion opportunities. View the finished website.

We added a coupon in the sidebar of every page with $50 off graphic if users scrolling through converted to booked appointments. We removed a lot of clutter with program pages and instead focused on how every program at Diet Center - Cincinnati is personal with a one-stop "Win at Losing" program page. And we added a powerful page for the weight loss brand: Our Results. The page features simple snapshots of before and afters of real Diet Center - Cincinnati clients. These aren't professional, well-lit before and after shots with hair and make up. This page features real people getting real results in the clothes they're wearing after work.

The level of authenticity in both the copy and the images, including multiple nods to Carol and Claudia throughout the site, makes the Center website feel deeply personal. Visitors get to know the Center by reading recent health tips in blog posts and Claudia and Carol's personal mission statements, entering into a valuable, personal relationship before customers place a first call. That personal connection is a core value to Diet Center - Cincinnati's brand, and it subtly is on display throughout.

And like Diet Center - Cincinnati, this website is focused on results. Less than three days after its May 1 launch, Claudia reached out to let us know that a new customer had called to book an appointment after browsing the Center's website at her daughter's track meet. Six months ago, a call like that would've been a rarity. But by now providing website management services, we hope together, it'll soon become an expectation.

The 9 Biggest Social Media Mistakes Business Owners Make

Everyone can be on Facebook. Very few can be on Facebook and make it profitable for their business.

It's one of the first things I tell prospective clients, friends, family and curious strangers about my business. It's a big, bold splashy statement -- it almost sounds a little cocky, doesn't it? But it's fundamentally the truth. I recently dropped this line to a friendly stranger who was also an attendee at an art gallery, owned by a Checkmate Consulting client, and the co-founder standing next to me nodded in agreement firmly. "It's so hard," she said. "I had no idea until I started actually doing it."

There are a thousand tips and tricks you can Google about "how to social" for your business or brand. Dozens of books have been written; hundreds of podcast episodes recorded. But in my experience, there are 9 mistakes that novice business owners make over and over again on social media. Nine mistakes that are easy to fix, and easy for the untrained eye to ignore. Nine mistakes that can hinder businesses from experiencing a good return on the investment of their time.


1. "I know how to do social media for my business because I already use it personally."

Like the grant majority of Americans, most small business owners use some sort of social media platform on a daily basis. But the amount of time you spend on a platform does not automatically make you well versed in the platform. Often, small business owners wrongly identify their true level of competency based on the amount of time they've personally spent on their devices. But being an expert user does not make you an expert publisher. The hard skills you've acquired, like posting a photo or responding to a tweet, does not automatically translate to the hard skills you'll need to manage a Facebook page.  

Solution: See yourself as less of an expert and more as a learner of social media. Read and follow social media blogs. Pay attention to how national brands in your industry use Facebook. Be humble and ask questions.

2. "I know we should be on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest."

One of my favorite small business thought leaders Christy Wright always says that marketing is the fun part of starting a business. And it is! It's creative; you get to create a logo, a page, a description and then create fun content that you get to share on your personal social media accounts as a way to announce your business. You get the high of that initial affirmation that your business is real. Look how many likes your Facebook page has! And then you make an Instagram, a Twitter and a Pinterest, because that's fun, too, and other businesses have those, I guess.

But the amount of time required for each of those platforms to thrive is daunting for any small business owner. The average Facebook post for a seasoned social media manager takes 15-20 minutes to craft. Pinterest requires a lot of pins (or photos) on a website to be worth the investment of your time. Crafting a great, aesthetically pleasing image takes thought and planning for Instagram -- and it should be done almost daily. Twitter is barely worth your efforts if you're tweeting less than five times a day. And Youtube? Forget it. That's a lot of time each day spent on social media and not working.

Solution: Pick the social media platform your target customer spends the most time on and focus on just that platform. For a boutique targeting college students, Instagram is the way to go. For a pet sitting business, Facebook can be a great option, housing reviews and service prices right on the page. Master one social media platform at a time, and then diversify once you're profitable enough to not be wearing all the hats.

3. "I know my friends love seeing stuff about my business on Facebook."

It's a fact, and it's a reality: No one cares as much about your business as you do.

Don't use your personal social media accounts as tools to amplify your business' news, sales or promotions. Users requested to be your friend, not your business. Do not post organically on your personal social media accounts about your business. Don't share a graphic of an upcoming sale; don't post pictures from the closing office after you sell your first house. Don't direct private message old friends to generate leads. Don't retweet a special discount. Don't regram an upcoming event. Don't do it.

Not only will lose followers or be unfollowed on Facebook if you do this behavior, you're also alienating potential customers -- and being unfriended along the way.

Solution: Once you've made a social media account for your business, share it on your personal page and encourage others to opt into that content. When your friends are given the choice, most will be generous and respond with a follow. But don't force your content on anyone.

4. "I don't really want to spend any money on social media, but I want to make money from it."

This is a hard one for most novice social media for business users to understand, but they learn it eventually. It's very difficult to generate leads or sales on social media without spending money on advertising. Facebook in particular is very difficult to make generate sales if you're not spending money on advertising. Organic posts, or posts that aren't promoted using advertising dollars, usually reach between 6-12% of your total Facebook page's fans. So if you have 100 Facebook likes, each time you post a piece of content, between 6-12 people will see the post in their News Feed. Of those 6-12, how many will actually convert and book that hair appointment?

Solution: Commit to a social media advertising budget, even if your business is just starting out. For ecommerce retailers, spending as little as $10 on boosting a post on Facebook can amplify its reach to fans, increasing potential clicks to sale pages by more than 100%. 

5. "My camera on my iPhone is good enough."

Your iPhone does take really good pictures, yes. But that doesn't mean that taking and posting photos from your iPhone is all the content you need for your business' social media platforms.

Make a creating good quality content a commitment, and get the tools required along the way as your business grows. If you're selling cameras, make sure the images you're posting of the cameras you're selling are clear, sharp and well lit. If you've got a dance studio, it's OK to start with videos of performances shot on a shaky iPhone, but get a $20 tripod eventually. For Etsy shop owners, getting a semiprofessional camera to take high-resolution photos and a portable light studio for great product shots can change how often their products are clicked on in search listings. 

Solution: See what national brands in your industry are doing on social media, and emulate their content. There are professional, successful social media managers who spend all day with teams creating compelling content that competes with your homemade fare. Make a commitment to improve and innovate your content with Facebook live events, GIFS, videos and more. 

6. "I don't have time to monitor it all the time."

The plight of the social media manager: the 24/7 dilemma. Social media never sleeps, and neither do some of your customers. It's not an option to ignore a new Instagram comment on a post for a day. It's not OK to turn off your Twitter notifications and leave a tweet unanswered for the weekend. It's not fine to leave a new review unthanked on your Facebook page.

In our instantaneous world, users expect quick responses from the brands they engage with on social media. Earn their follow and loyalty by promptly responding to questions in a professional manner. Most users, if not responded to quickly, will have already abandoned their shopping cart or skipped the email sign-up if you don't respond within an hour. 

Solution: Make a commitment to responding to users in a timely manner. For most major brands, the targeted response time is an hour during business hours and three hours during off hours. For Checkmate clients with daily monitoring packages, the target response time is two hours. Whatever your window is, make a plan as to how your accounts will be monitored. Stick to it, and make a plan to check all your accounts every day -- no matter what. 

7. "I only post a couple of times a week."

It's a wise old saying, but it's a good one: you reap what you sew. Very few places is this more apparent than on social media. If you casually do social media for your business, then you will get casual results. You might get a like here, a share there, a new follower a week -- you're just puttering along. Your lack of success on social media is a reflection of your lack strategy and intention with your business' social media platforms. If you post a quick photo without a call to action in the caption or share a viral video that has nothing to do with your business, your sales will not increase. You have not prepared or planted anything to harvest.

But if you have real strategy in place and make a commitment to posting a certain number of posts a week, the return on the investment of your time will dramatically increase. The level of engagement received on any particular platform is directly related to the amount of intention and thought behind the content it features.

Solution: Skip the formal, multi-page social media strategy and instead focus on a content to-do list. Make a commitment to posting a certain number of posts per platform every week -- no excuses. No exceptions.

8."No, we don't have any goals for our social media. More customers, I guess."

Everything you do for your business should connect back to your business' goals. You know that. Why would social media be any different?

It's a requirement for you to have goals for whatever social media platforms your businesses are on. These goals can be simple, like having a Facebook page to feature a phone number and help take up some more real estate on the results page when your customers Google you. Or they can be complex, like driving sales directly to your website's ecommerce engine to generate digital sales and engage and build brand loyalty in your customers. But whatever your goals are, have them line up with your business' goals. If you're a retailer, one main goal for your business is sales. Your Facebook page, then, should feature sales and specials in your store, not pictures of your dog outside by the sign. If your content is random, then you'll get random, unfocused results from your Facebook page, if any at all.

Solution: Develop and write down three goals for each social media platform your business is on [FREE PRINTABLE]. These goals should directly correlate with your business' overall goals. Display these three goals for your social media in an obvious place, and only share content that connects with a social media goal. 

9. "We have all these likes, and we have nothing to show for it. It's a waste of time."

Everyone can be on Facebook. Very few can be on Facebook and make it profitable for their business.

If you've been making one of the above mistakes over and over again or are frustrated with the amount of time it takes to manage your business' social media effectively, I hear you. It's hard, and it's OK to be frustrated. But social media is not a waste of time for your business. It's a tool to help make your business grow. And I know you can do it!

But if you're looking for an expert to ease this burden, Checkmate Consulting can help. From social media strategy development to hourly social media management, we won't let you tweet the wrong thing or post that video on Facebook at the wrong time. We can do it all for you.

Solution: Just don't give up.


Download your free Facebook Best Practices Guide.

Case Study: 30 Days And 1000%+ In Higher Engagement

Since October 2014, Schweitzer United Methodist Church has been a social media management client of Checkmate Consulting. We've had a fun but strategic growth mindset with the church's digital communications, working with church staff to efficiently amplify messages churchwide with a mix of church and Checkmate created content.

Working together, Schweitzer has experienced significant gains to its audience and engagement on all of its social media platforms in the past two years, including quadrupling its engagement rates every year.

In addition to successful social media management every day, Checkmate Consulting has also served as a true marketing consultant to the church. Checkmate has partnered with the church's talented media department to develop a variety of marketing materials for the church, including a promo video for a Christmas Eve service campaign designed with social media in mind that received nearly 100,000 organic views on Facebook.

That's why we were no strangers to Schweitzer's efforts to engage with Millennials within and outside the church's walls. In January, the director of young adults Jake Hotchkiss approached Checkmate to begin managing social media accounts for the Schweitzer Young Adults ministry. We were excited to take over totally dormant accounts and bring to life the digital communications of a ministry that needed a way to directly reach Millennials. 

Over a couple of lunches, together we developed a strategy to reach out to Millennials in and outside the organization. Video announcements, GIF event reminders, a more conversational tone and consistent updates on strategic days were put into play. It was as if we turned the lights on for the ministry, and people who originally engaged on our platforms woke up with shining, bright new content. And wake up they did.

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The numbers were staggering. In the first 30 days, reach for Schweitzer Young Adult's Facebook page increased by 1,420%. Post engagements went up by 439%. And my favorite number of all -- from zero video views to 1,477, an increase of 147,600% for the page. You can't make it up.

This was the difference in just 30 days with Checkmate Consulting's intentional and strategic social media management. But while our content shined and a lot of our targeted campaigns worked numbers wise for Schweitzer Young Adults, our first 30 day's success shows why it's so important to wake up your fans on social media. If you're not posting, start. Be intentional. Organizations have to develop a content strategy, even a simple one, and execute it consistently on social media. 

You'd be surprised what happens if you turned on the lights.

Making Mary with Top Tomato

John and Marina Backes at Circle B Ranch have been Checkmate clients for nearly two years. Here at Checkmate, we're obsessed with their Berkshire pork products, including pork chops, bacon, hickory smoked hams and small batch sauces that go with everything. So it's easy for us to help meet their marketing needs.

For nearly two years, we've helped develop Circle B Ranch's social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Sales from their website, circlebranchpork.com, have gone up every year since we've joined their team. But John and Marina were looking for a standout product. Then, Marina came up with something special: Top Tomato Cocktail Mix.

We were hooked on the first sip.

So when Marina asked us to develop a product launch website just for Top Tomato Cocktail Mix, we jumped at the chance to help promote this incredible cocktail mix.

Marina wanted her website to be easy to navigate, mobile-friendly and feature copy that was sassy to match her brand.  We had a lot of fun developing out this scroll through design, featuring bold call to action buttons, high-quality product shots provided by Checkmate Consulting and conversion opportunities back to the Circle B Ranch main page.

And instead of reinventing the wheel, we used the currently in place ecommerce engine through Circle B Ranch's main site to drive online sales. This made online executing and tracking online purchases easy for Marina on the back end and familiar to Circle B Ranch customers on the front end.

We're proud of not only our finished project, but also the speed in which it was executed. This web development project, from initial conversation to launch date, took less than 45 days. 

Here's to another successful Checkmate Consulting website.

3 Reasons to Say "Thank You" to Your Clients

This month at Checkmate Consulting, we're celebrating three years of serving clients.

Every year that passes, I realize I stand a little straighter when talking about this business. It started from such humble beginnings; I used to be almost apologetic when calling myself a business owner. But with each new client added to our family and each new project completed, I speak a little more confidently about all we're able to accomplish.

With that sense of pride that comes from success, oftentimes business owners forget to be gracious and thankful when interacting with customers. I recently had a very unfortunate run-in with a local business owner of a very successful pastry shop. I got in line past a couple of visitors who were still browsing the shop, and when it was my turn at the counter, the business owner told me I needed to go to the back of the line -- when I was already a paid customer, hadn't cut in line and was simply there to pick up an order.

When the two customers behind me agreed that I hadn't gotten in front of them in line, the business owner still did not acknowledge or apologize her scolding of me. In that moment, her success of her thriving business empowered her not to treat her customers well. And I left the store knowing that it would be my last time purchasing treats from her shop.

You may not be telling your customers to go to the back of the line, but showing gratitude for your customers or clients is a requirement for good business, no matter how profitable or large your business is. Here are three reasons why.

1. Saying Thank You Keeps Your Customers Happy

Your customers or clients are constantly shopping around for the best deal. It may be subconsciously or actively, but they're thinking about their own budgets all the time. That means they're thinking about your competition, and almost always, as a freelancer or contractor, there's someone out there who can do basically what you do for less.

That's when good customer service comes in handy. Saying "thank you for your time" at the end of every conversation, business lunch or email reinforces that you value your clients' time, energy and effort in that interaction. That constant reinforcement of the value you place on not only their dollars but the relationship you have with them keeps you top of mind and viewed as a friend, not a vendor. Friends are harder to replace than vendors. 

2. Saying Thank You Is (Nearly) Free

The gift of your time is so precious, but the actual monetary amount required to say "thank you" is so little. Being gracious when answering an email on a Saturday or being grateful for one last glance at a project before it goes to the printer can be so helpful, and in the end, a better end experience for the customer. Good customer service isn't just being a good operator, it's treating the customer well

Having a positive attitude, especially around the holidays, can be tiring. But your customers feel the impact of that small token of gratitude when every other business, brand or organization they are dealing with is busy trying to expedite the sale. That bit of civility in a sea of chaos with other vendors helps you stand out and stand in a positive light.

3. Saying Thank You Makes You Money

It's a bold claim, but I swear by it: saying thank you means more dollars in your pocket.

One practice I've employed during the last three years is sending thank you cards in the mail to prospective clients. If someone calls me to request a rate sheet or drops an email requesting information about a particular service, I'll follow up with the same form of communication and then write a short, handwritten thank you. I'll pop it (along with my business card) in the mail in the next 48 hours after the contact with the prospective client and be on my way.

And over the years, I've had four prospective clients become paying clients because of that one small gesture. They've moved on to the next thing, and poof, a handwritten note arrives on the desk of the decision maker. It's so old fashioned, my notes get noticed almost immediately. It helps me stand out and above the competition, right around the time a decision maker is choosing a vendor.

For ongoing clients, saying thank you around the holidays is a crucial step to securing future business. I know it's a crazy time, but it's worth the extra effort. When you're filling orders and tracking down that last request, your client is looking at end-of-year projects and beginning to plan for the next calendar year. By reinforcing your commitment to your customer and giving them a small gift with a handwritten Christmas card with your logo, you're treating them well all the way to the end of the year -- and making a fresh, positive impression of yourself for your client.

Each year, my local clients get a large tin of cookies from my favorite bakery, and out-of-town clients get an oversized poinsettia delivered to their location from a local florist. It's about $25 a client, but I know when I reach out in January to discuss 2017 goals, I'll be greeted with a smile. 

And that's priceless.

4. BONUS: Saying Thank You Is The Right Thing To Do

Treat others how you want to be treated -- and it's amazing how much goodness will come back your way. 

A (nearly) finished project

It's been a busy summer.

After returning from Italy, Greece and Turkey in May, I dove right into the biggest web development project Checkmate has conquered to date. In June, I shared with you the three big goals for this project: websites would feature a conversational tone, skimmable, engaging content and multiple conversion opportunities, including big, splashy contact us forms, automatically generated email responses and bios for staff members. 

On June 17, I presented a mock-up to the dean of technical education. With his enthusiastic approval, I embarked on a 200-hour project to execute his vision to better market these incredible programs and support the school's mission of providing quality technical education for local students.

And on Aug. 23, the last of these 21 department websites went live.

In the three weeks since its sitewide launch on OTC's first day of the fall semester, Checkmate has received numerous pieces of positive feedback on the functionality of the new department landing pages. Plus, in the first week alone, the technical education division received numerous emails from the contact forms on department pages from stakeholders and students seeking information during off-hours and online. 

But with any project that large, there are a last few tweaks and edits to make. Small line edits that were missed during proofing, reviewing the institution's style guide to ensure that web copy is consistent with brand standards and two minor, simple appearance changes to two department landing pages -- all work yet to be done. But it's work that we're excited to continue until this project will be exactly where and how the client wants it to look.

From pitch to implementation, we're more than six months into this major project at Checkmate Consulting. But we are so excited to be able to continue on this journey to excellence for OTC, a commitment we make for every brand to take them further.

OTC + Checkmate develop plan for engaging web content

Ozarks Technical Community College and I are just about the same age. When I was six months old in the spring of 1990, a group of Springfield, Missouri citizens and representatives from 13 area school districts met to discuss the need for a community college with a technical education focus in the queen city of the Ozarks.

In the fall of 1991, a little more than 1,300 students began their post-secondary work at OTC. Now, the community college serves more than 15,000 students across five regional campuses. More than 1,000 of those students are completing a technical education program with the community college. And this summer, while most of those students are on break, Checkmate Consulting will be working to refresh the content of 21 technical education department websites.

On June 17, I presented the content plan and mock-up for new department landing pages to the dean of technical education. It's phase 1 of 3 in this summer-long process, but I'm excited to move forward in executing the web content plan we've determined based on three goals for the website.

  1. The website features a compelling, conversational tone.
  2. The website features content that is engaging, skimmable and chunked up to encourage lingering and scrolling on the page.
  3. The website features specific conversion opportunities, with big, bold contact us forms, automatically generated email responses and a prominent button on each page to contact a department team member.

OTC Technical Education division knows the value of having compelling website content that is also optimized for a mobile experience. Here at Checkmate, we're not just providing words on a screen for the 20-something community college; we're providing targeted language for the 20-something potential student, wrapped in highly engaging visuals, videos and more. 

A website cannot just be a landing page. It has to be more, and with Checkmate Consulting, we're doing more to take brands further.

The Tale of the Snail

For brands on social media, there’s always a balance between sales and social.

You want to make personal connections with your followers, but you want to have them connect with products. You want to build communities, but you want your communities to be mobilized. You want a return on investment, but you don’t want to alienate your followers by pushing your products over and over again.

That’s why it’s so important to have a social media strategy that has a good mix of content featuring hard, soft and no-sales language at all. Consider it fluff, but it should never be considered filler. Content that engages with your followers authentically with no salesmanship, while speaking to the mission of your brand, can be a fun way to engage with your followers and build brand awareness. They’ll like and share your content without even realizing it’s a billboard for your brand’s logo and mission.

This concept, though, is so hard for some digital marketers to understand. If there aren’t clicks, if there aren’t sales, if there’s not a point of conversion, they feel the content is a missed opportunity at best and a waste of time at worst. But the next time I get into this ongoing debate with a digital marketing friend, I’ll have a secret weapon: a snail.

At Checkmate Consulting, I began managing Diet Center Cincinnati‘s Facebook page less than two months ago. The page’s presence was small: it only had 110 likes at the time of posting this graphic on Jan. 6. But although its presence was tiny, my goals for the brand on social were big. My No. 1 goal in my first 90 days was to help legitimize this brand in its local community, where weight loss center claims and services are automatically met with skepticism, and to increase brand awareness dramatically.

So, the first week of 2016, I made the above graphic in Canva (a handy tool) based on a suggestion by my client. She had seen a version of this graphic above online somewhere and thought it would be cute to post on Diet Center’s Facebook page. I created the above graphic and posted it on Facebook with this caption:

“We believe in you. Do you? #winatlosing”

The caption was short, the message was simple, and it got a response from Diet Center’s small but engaged community on Facebook. So, a couple of days later, I boosted the post for $25 and 14 days.

And the engagement started pouring in.

Hundreds of likes were made to the post, and people started commenting on the post as well bits of encouragement about their own slow but steady journeys to success. But most valuable, the post in 14 days received 73 shares and counting — with 52 shares originating from unpaid views of the post. Individuals who had never heard of Diet Center were sharing our content that shared Diet Center’s mission: that wellness in achievable, if you just keep trying.

By spending 10 minutes creating a clever graphic and $25 to promote this post to Diet Center’s target audience, more than 18,000 people in the Cincinnati, Ohio community ended up seeing this graphic that featured Diet Center’s logo and hashtag.

There wasn’t a conversion page, there wasn’t a sign up form, but we had more than 100 profile views while this post was being boosted. We received more than 20 page likes from this post (a 22 percent increase) and every person who shared this post was in Diet Center’s target demographic: Cincinnati area women, ages 25-60.

But most importantly, Diet Center in all of those eyes was seen as a brand that cares about people and their progress. Telling the story of a brand and making real, authentic connections with people makes turns them from followers to fans. And bottom line, for my sales-minded friends? Fans buy products, and if they receive a positive experience from a product, they become ambassadors for a brand.

Oh, and one last thing: One person who saw this snail messaged the Facebook page to get in touch with a representative — and ended up registering for a diet plan at the Center.

There’s a time and place for a snail for every brand on social media. What’s your snail content?


2015: A Year of Change

diet center website screenshot.jpg


In October 2013, I sat down on the floor of my apartment next to my best friend, Anh, and decided I would start a business while watching "Grey's Anatomy."

I had no idea what I was doing; I had no clue the scope or span of what a LLC or a W-9 or an invoice really meant for my new venture. All I knew was that Meredith and McDreamy were on the outs again, and I was formalizing a working business relationship with my uncle, William Bishop, who owned Bishop Enterprises to do his social media for his company.

At the time, I did social media for a city lifestyle publication, and I was pretty good at my job. So I knew I definitely could do social media for my uncle, but I had no idea what was in store for me as a business owner.

Fast forward two years and a few more episodes later, I'm sitting at the desk of my home office in my new home, listening to my favorite Christmas piano album as I type on a laptop purchased for this thriving little business. This year alone, I met the needs of eight (8!) businesses, consulting on event planning, designing websites, writing brand standards and developing social media strategies for clients in the Ozarks, central Missouri, Ohio and beyond. 

In February, I developed and designed a website for Mike Luebbering Construction, adding website development to my stable of services available to current and prospective clients. In July and August, I worked alongside my first retailer, Etsy shop Linda Kay's Creations, to develop a fully functional digital portfolio of her handmade creations.

In September, I met and fell in love with the hogs of Circle B Ranch, a Berkshire humane hog farm an hour from my door. John and Marina joined two other clients to become the third Checkmate ongoing social management client. The ranch also served as my first food-based brand, letting me explore my passion for food writing outside of the publications I write reviews for and into the world of food marketing.

And in October, an old friend from college reached out to connect me with Claudia and Carol Ball, owners of Diet Center of Cincinnati. I was given the task to build their social marketing strategy from the ground up, developing brand standards, writing a formal website review and an all-encompassing social media strategy on both a monthly and yearly basis for the brand. The weight loss center became the fourth Checkmate ongoing social management client to close out the year.

It's been a busy year, full of punny tweets, engaging Facebook posts, click-worthy social advertisements and increasingly well done graphic design images, all created for Checkmate Consulting clients in mind. I'm developing my skills at a rapid pace, and I'm calling my dad, another small business owner, every time I don't know what to do. I'm getting better as we go along.

And in 2016, "Grey's Anatomy" will still be on ABC, Bishop Enterprises will still be a client and Anh will still be my best friend, serving as a trusted adviser when I ask how much is too much. We'll see what the year and Shonda Rhimes brings. 

Know your client, know your farmer

At Checkmate Consulting, we're proud to represent businesses that are the best at what they do. From logistics management to custom embroidery, our clients believe in quality over quantity. They believe in building relationships, not profit margins. They believe in their services, not their market share.

But most of all, they believe in their product.

We're proud to announce that another brand that embodies the values we hold dear is joining our family. Join us as we welcome Circle B Ranch, a pasture-raised pork farm based in Seymour, Missouri. Marina and John Backes are passionate about their pork, and we're excited to share that passion with current and prospective customers.

Circle B Ranch is your Source for 100% pasture and humanely raised Berkshire Pork from the Ozarks.

Join us as we welcome Circle B Ranch to our growing list of clients.