August 24, 2018

I didn’t check email on vacation—and you shouldn’t either

Filed under: Small Business — Tags: , , , , , , , , — lidia @ 10:48 am

I recently went on vacation with my family and decided to do something I haven’t done in several years: completely unplug.

Cutting the (digital) cord isn’t easy

During the 17 years I’ve been in business, I’ve developed a habit of bringing my laptop on vacation—either to finish up a late or last-minute project or “just in case.” Even if I don’t have projects going on, I inevitably end up checking my work email—“just in case.”

As a small business owner, I know my clients are counting on me so it’s a little scary to completely step away from my work life: “What if something comes up? What if someone needs me to solve a problem? What if the most amazing opportunity of my business life comes up and I miss it?”

However, once we got to our tropical destination, I had a realization: I didn’t have any outstanding projects, my clients knew I was out for a week (and I assume didn’t expect me to stay in touch)—why did I even need to check my email?

The benefits of a digital detox

As a heavy email and social media user—and honestly, feeling a little burned out on it lately—the thought of taking a “digital detox” appealed to me. As this New York Times post about how not to let your phone ruin your vacation points out, “What is the best thing that could be waiting for you? At the very least, checking your phone will distract you. And if you find bad news waiting for you, it can ruin your day.”

The post goes on to say, “Mentally and physically, we can’t be two places at once. So every time you turn your attention to your phone, you are turning your attention away from everything else.” Which in my case were my family, palm trees and a beach across the street. So the laptop stayed off and phone was relegated to photos, daily journaling, and the occasional Instagram post (old habits die hard!)

Also, checking your work email can affect your partner’s mood. According to this study on email inclivity, people transmit their inbox-related stress onto their partner. Kind of a vacation buzzkill, right?

And lucky for parents, kids are a natural deterrent to our digital devices. Our son has a habit of saying, “Put your phone down and play with me!” And I totally agree with Arianna Huffington’s thoughts on the subject: “Having children was the best possible antidote to my workaholic ‘always on’ tendencies. It gave me perspective and the ability to be more detached from the inevitable ups and downs of work life.”

Vacations can keep you healthy—and wealthy

According to Project Time Off’s State of American Vacation 2018, more than half of Americans are still not using all the vacation time they earn. Many people admit skipping vacation days due to workload or fears of appearing less productive than coworkers.

However, not using those vacation days can actually hold you back: According to Project Time Off’s study, more than 50% of people who use their vacation days to travel reported receiving a promotion in the last two years compared to those who use some or none of their time to travel.

We need a new way of defining work success

In Arianna Huffington’s book Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, she makes a case for redefining success in our society. She emphasizes that success shouldn’t be defined by working long hours or not taking any vacation time (hear, hear from working moms everywhere!)

Huffington says, “For far too many of us, vacations often serve only to amplify our stress and busyness and desire to do and accomplish—with our smartphones keeping us fully connected to the world we’ve ostensibly left behind. We all know the feeling of coming back from a vacation more drained than when we set off.”

According to a study by Fierce Inc, half of all employees check in with the office while on vacation, with 13 percent checking in daily. How’s that for a nice, relaxing vacation?

As psychologist Karen Horneffer-Ginter says in Thrive, “Stress is bad for us, yet we wear it as a badge of honor. It is seen as a socially desirable thing to be overworking. We don’t seem to have the same respect for people who work a 40-hour week.” Huffington adds: “This kind of thinking feeds on itself, creating a downward bad habit spiral.”

So, what happened when I didn’t check email for a week

Well, here’s what didn’t happen: Nothing alarming came up. There weren’t any problems that needed to be solved. I didn’t miss out on any amazing opportunities. Basically, the world carried on without me. (What? How dare it?)

Here’s what did happen: I was especially relaxed. I slept well. I was not distracted. I was focused on my family. I stopped and really noticed the beautiful environment around me. I was not pulled into other people’s problems. I didn’t feel like I had to find solutions. I spent time sketching, playing kids’ games, reading magazines, and journaling.

Cindi Leive, former Editor-in-chief of Glamour and Self, also did a one-week “digital detox” and she describes exactly how I felt upon returning home: “We returned from vacation slightly less informed but slightly more blissed out, and more likely to stay Zen in annoying situations because of the little digital detox.”

And Lori Leibovich’s post about her vacation “digital diet” also echoes how I felt on vacation once I set aside the digital distractions: “It felt exhilarating to use my hands for digging tunnels in the sand and turning the pages of a novel instead of just for tapping away on a screen. For the first time in I don’t know how long, I was really seeing my kids. And they were relishing being seen.” Even if you don’t have kids, don’t you owe this to your vacation companions?

Zen and again?

So, will I do a vacation digital detox again? Yes! Do I think everyone should ditch email on vacation? Most definitely.

However, I will say there was one negative in the experience: 1,239 emails to go through upon my return to the office. (Which put a bit of a damper on the post-vacation relaxation feeling!)

November 27, 2017

Recap: Digital Summit Chicago 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — lidia @ 10:00 am

The Digital Summit series made its inaugural stop in Chicago this year. The 2-day digital marketing conference was filled with insights on digital, email and content marketing. Here are a few of my top takeaways.

Deep thoughts by Ann Handley…

The conference kicked off with an inspiring and entertaining keynote by content queen, Ann Handley of MarketingProfs, who encouraged us to be bigger, braver and bolder with our digital content. Ann talked about the importance of data, used in conjunction with listening and instinct. Your brand should be in a place where your customers or clients will say “They get us!”

She also emphasized that your story is the start of what sets you apart. She challenged us: what is the story everyone tells in your industry and how can you tell it differently?

Lastly, she suggested that we be braver in our perspective and tone of voice. Think about how you sound vs. how you look. How can you make the ordinary (about pages, landing pages, email confirmation pages) extraordinary?

Email is still king—but keep it simple

Nora Snoddy of Emma told us that ROI of email is double of all other channels, (so yes, you should be sending out those regular email campaigns). She said that including video and GIFs can lead to higher CTRs. And she also advised not to give people too many options, stick to a single call to action (using first-person, action verbs) and tell people exactly what you want them to do.

She encouraged us to use automated email campaigns, as well as using reminder emails as a way to increase sales.

A few of her recommendations were to monitor CTR increases between campaigns, as well as subscriber growth over a year. And, split test those subject lines!

Don’t create new content—reuse what’cha got!

One of my favorite sessions was from Ginger Shimp of SAP. The visual learner in me loved the content map she presented, as well as her easy system of creating and repurposing content.

Ginger recommended starting your content creation with the end product, say a whitepaper, and then versioning it into various other content pieces: blog, cast study, podcast, video, eBook, microsite, presentation, infographic, web documentary, just to name a few.

She also brought up the idea of creating a video whitepaper (Is anyone doing this already? Please share, I would love to see!) One of her recomendatons is

Make search work for you

Shana Sullivan of Vertical Measures spoke about how to make search work in this ever-changing time. A few things to avoid are:

  • Duplicate content
  • Slow page load times
  • HTML problems such as missing metadata or title tags
  • Bad (or not enough) backlinks
  • Poorly optimized images and videos
  • Thin content (too short blog posts)
  • Not being mobile-friendly

She also told us what people are actually searching for:

  • Cost/price comparisons
  • Problems/issues
  • Comparisons
  • Reviews
  • Best of/Top posts
  • Resources

And she recommended using Google Suggests and Keyword Tool to get keyword ideas before you start writing your content.

Prepare for the skim

Lorraine Goldberg of Allrecipes.com spoke about being data-informed, not data-driven when doing email marketing. Look at and analyze trends, web analytics, news, social intelligence, SEO as well as top subject line performers.

She emphasized preparing for “the skim” and creating content that stands out. She also encouraged thinking at the little things in people’s lives—what are their day-to-day challenges and how can you help. And most of all, stand for something!

Take it from The Onion…

One of the most entertaining sessions was from Joe Fullman of The Onion. In addition to sharing classic Onion moments, he spoke about the 3 Ds of content: design, distribute, develop.

He suggested to continually measure reach of each content type by network, make sure content is format-driven, and develop content to be derivative and modular, easily targeted to each audience.

Now, time to put it all to work!

Overall, my takeaways at Digital Summit were to make a plan with concrete goals, be bold and tell a unique story, create content that can easily be repurposed—and most importantly, stand for something.

February 17, 2017

10-Minute Marketing: Update your LinkedIn profile

Filed under: 10-Minute Marketing — Tags: , , — lidia @ 10:00 am

10 Minute Marketing_update your linkedin profile

Many of us probably haven’t looked at our LinkedIn profile since we created it. However since its gain in popularity, it’s a good idea to get reacquainted with LinkedIn and spruce up your profile.

A few things to keep an eye out for:

  • Headline: Does it accurately state what you do? (keep relevant keywords in mind)
  • Skills: Can you add or delete any? (again, keeping keywords in mind)
  • Headshot: Do you have one? Should it be updated?
  • Posts: Have you written a recent blog post that your network would be interested in? Here’s how to publish it on your LinkedIn profile.
  • Summary: Does it speak to your target audience and how you can help them? Should you update your work samples?
  • Recommendations: Are they recent? If not, reach out to recent clients for recommendations. Here’s a how-to.
  • Organizations: Update to include new memberships or delete old ones.
  • Groups: Delete those that are no longer of interest or relevant.

This week’s 10-Minute Marketing task:

Tidy up your LinkedIn profile.

10-Minute Marketing is a weekly series featuring short, easy-to-accomplish marketing tasks. Follow along with past posts here.

November 18, 2016

10-Minute Marketing: Respond to your LinkedIn notifications

Filed under: 10-Minute Marketing — Tags: , , , — lidia @ 10:25 am

10-Minute Marketing: Respond to your LinkedIn notifications

How often do you check in with LinkedIn? If you’re like me, perhaps not as often as you should. However, LinkedIn notifications can offer great insight into who is looking at your profile as well as an easy reminder to engage with your network.

TIP: The easiest way to do this is on a mobile device, see the “Notifications” tab in the LinkedIn app. On desktop, check the “Who’s Viewed Your Profile” and “Your Updates” pages (under the “Profile” tab).

6 ways to make your LinkedIn notifications work for you:

  1. Congratulate a connection on an anniversary or new job
  2. Reach out to prospects or past clients who have viewed your profile or liked your article
  3. Assess if your profile is attracting your ideal prospect
  4. Engage with people who are reading your articles
  5. Comment or like a connection’s article
  6. Respond to comments on your updates

This week’s 10-Minute Marketing task:

Check your LinkedIn notifications and take one action (send a note, follow-up, ask a question, etc.)

LInkedIn_50x50 Connect with me on LinkedIn

10-Minute Marketing is a weekly series featuring short, easy-to-accomplish marketing tasks. Follow along with past posts here.

 

August 11, 2016

5 resources that make managing social media easier

Filed under: Social Media — Tags: , , — lidia @ 10:00 am

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I manage my business’ social media marketing myself so I know it’s no easy task for a smaller organization or nonprofit who doesn’t have a dedicated social media manager. These 5 resources can make the process much easier for you (#1 is my fave).

This post originally appeared on the Imagine PR ImagineBlog

As a PR and marketing company, and a small business owner, staying up-to-date with the most recent social media news is a necessity. It can be difficult identifying market trends, and knowing how to capitalize on them, but having great news resources really makes the process so much easier.  Unfortunately there is no one-stop-shop site. However,  we’ve put together a list of our top 5 favorite websites for finding social media news. Whether you want to hear about emerging start-up companies, or if you need to collect content to share on social media, we have you covered.

Check out our list below and if you use a site that you don’t see on this list, share it with us in the comment section below. We are always looking for great news resources!

sme_logo_whiteSocial Media Examiner

Social Media Examiner is great for small business who really want to learn the ins and outs of all the social media platforms. With tons of “How to” articles and lists of tips and best practices, you will find all you need to know about starting a social media campaign, and plenty of content to share with your network.

 

smw2015-featSocial Media Week

Social Media Week is a great source for everything social media. They mostly cover social media breaking news and insightful articles and lists, focusing on trends in the market and what they mean for small businesses. Additionally, Social Media Week hosts unique conferences “that explores the intersection of social technology and creativity with a week of panels, presentations, demos, workshops, talks, conversations, and interactive events.” Social Media Week will be hosting their CHICAGO conference November 14 – 18, providing attendees with great educational experiences, and networking opportunities with some of the biggest influencers, from almost every industry. Secure your tickets now.

forbesForbes

Forbes social media section is more business and investor oriented than sites like Social Media week. While Forbes will rarely have lists like “5 ways social media is changing this year”, Forbes highlights top performers, and emerging companies. If monitored properly, Forbes has the potential to help you stay one step ahead of your competitors when it comes to adopting, and utilizing the latest technologies to make your business more efficient.

 

SocialTimes_640x480Social Times

Social Times is like a hybrid of Forbes and Social Media Week. They have a good stream of industry news and highlights of how innovative companies are using social media platforms to grow their businesses. Another awesome feature of Social Times is that they place the topic of the article above the title. For example, if an article is about which casinos are most popular on Instagram, Instagram will appear above the title. This saves you the time of scanning articles to see if they’re what you need.

squarelogo_9Social Media Today

Social Media Today is catered for the more serious and experienced marketers. That’s not to say “newbies” shouldn’t read it, because they should, the content is simply more useful if you already have a very good understanding of what works for you and what doesn’t. They have some great “How to” articles, but half of the content is mostly useful for key decision makers – those who are no longer executing day-to-day marketing campaigns, but are now in charge of finding the best systems for analytics and trends.

September 16, 2013