2015: A Year of Change

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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. 

3 Great Ways To Use An Event Hashtag

We live in a social world … a social media world, at least. When you’re out and about at events even in my small(ish) Midwestern city, you’ll see hashtags everywhere. They’ll prompt you on signs; they’ll be on the wall as Twitter feeds. They’ll be ever present on promotional materials and fliers; they’ll dominate the digital conversation. But how do you use them appropriately? Here’s a short guide to using hashtags while you out at events, just in time for all those corporate holiday parties.

1. Use The Hashtag!

It may seem obvious, but in order to increase your reach and be heard during an event’s digital conversation and life, you’ve got to use the hashtag. It’s always best to end a tweet or Facebook post with a hashtag so it doesn’t distract from your content, but always include them. By using an event’s hashtag, you’ll gain more followers and be able to engage with other attendees during and after the event. From your personal accounts, it’s a great way to network at conferences. You’ll never know who will start following you as a result of a simple 140-character observation. Note: Event hashtags can be used across all platforms, but attendees can best utilize them to encourage engagement on Twitter and Instagram.

2. Share Photos With The Hashtag

Tweets with images result in a 36 percent increase in clicks, a 31 percent increase in visits to your profile, a 41 increase in retweets and a 48 increase in favorites, according to a recent social media article by Fast Company. If there’s a keynote speaker presenting or you’re taking a selfie at a vendor booth, take a photo and write a short caption. Pictures really are worth a thousand words, and it’s important to take interesting, engaging photographs that are relevant to an event. Just post it to Instagram, and share it across your other linked platforms. A great one to do? Photos of the event’s opening or closing. Social media managers will be looking for content during those quiet times and are more likely to engage with you from the event’s brand.

3. Engage With The Hashtag

Once you’ve tweeted that quote from a presenter or shared a photo, click on the hashtag and start scrolling. Begin retweeting and/or favoriting interesting or noteworthy tweets or posts from other attendees using the hashtag. It doesn’t have to be a science – just something that catches your attention is all that’s necessary to engage in a digital conversation. Plus, your followers will know that you’re out and about learning things about an industry or organization with your sudden influx of content about a particular subject, which makes you a more relevant content creator and curator. 

3 Reasons To Have A Social Media Icon

For businesses that are consistently feeding information to their customers via social media, it's important that their brand identity doesn't get lost in the fray. Having a social media icon that has a simple, concise brand identity can help you break through the Twitter clutter. Here are three reasons why having a simple social media icon is important to your social media strategy.

1. Icons Are Recognizable

The resizing mechanisms on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms make your 6-inch wide logo a blip in your clients' news feeds. Having a single design element that can be noticed even when it's only 73x73 pixels (or smaller on a mobile device) is social media gold, leading to more clicks and higher responses.

Here are a few examples of effective social media icons. 

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You instantly recognize their brands, but no one of these graphics include an obvious or full company name. Your brand's social media icon should have the same qualities.

2. Icons Are Modern

Logos, although a necessary part of your business, appear outdated on social media. They should a lack of attention to detail and are the first indication that a brand that isn't interested in having a current or contemporary social media presence. If a business is targeted to reach social-media savvy customers, it's particularly important to have a bold, vibrant social media icon. Good colors to use are light and medium blue, warm, soft yellows and cool greens. Ask a graphic designer to create five options, and pick the best one for your brand.

3. Icons Are Urgent

Your logo for your letterhead can be relatable, powerful and friendly (or at least a branding specialist told you that in 2003), but your logo and slogan won't be read on a mobile device. Modern, simple social media icons make a user pause and possibly read to the message. Your eye goes left to right, and an image that is easy to consume on your left can lead your eye to the right to read your content more consistently. 

You can have the best social media icon that works with your brand standards, but if you don't have a compelling message alongside your icon, your gorgeous icon won't generate leads, an increase in web traffic or brand loyalty. Find out about Checkmate Consulting's social media management services here