Giving Social Media “A Voice”

Giving social media a voice, Box 117 Creative, Billings, MT

The Most Common Social Media Challenge for Small Businesses

More business than ever are tossing their hats into the social media ring–and admittedly for good reason. Facebook, Instagram, Linked In and Twitter have been repeatedly proven as viable resources for generating new and repeat business.

When small businesses approach me about their social media marketing efforts, I have noticed that many have challenges in common.  Consistency–or frequency–is commonly a concern, as is the struggle that comes with trying to balance what they post. Are they selling too much? Socializing too much? Posting the right kinds of images?  And there is most certainly a common frustration in terms of when and how to boost posts or otherwise deal with advertising.

But in all honestly, the one thing that businesses of all sizes struggle with the most when it comes to social media isn’t any of those listed above.  It is this: having a consistent and authentic “voice” throughout their videos, images, posts and ads.

Social media management for small businesses - Billings, MTThe Power of a Voice in Social Media

I first started working as a social media manager in about 2010, a time when a lot of businesses were just starting to really understand the power of what social media could potentially do. It was new for them and for their customers alike, and it definitely looked a lot different than it does now.  Fortunately, the client with whom I worked was in the first stages of social media adoption. They decided to use Facebook as a “test” to see what would happen.  Fortunately, they had an established brand, one that was known well throughout the U.S. That gave me and the team with whom I worked certain advantages, specifically, we already knew how they “sounded” in other marketing pieces. Thus, in a fairly short time we were able to develop a social media voice that was consistent with the brand.

It was fun watching consumers respond to those early posts. Many of them were also new to Facebook, not having been one of the lucky college kids with an account thanks to their .edu standing. They actually seemed to truly enjoy having the chance to chat with a corporation they’d engaged with for years in other ways. If the company asked a question, they were happy to answer it.  And it was pretty astounding to them when they’d mention something and the company would comment on it.

Today that page has hundreds of thousands of followers, but one thing has not changed. They still look, feel and sound the same.  Their voice is consistent to who they’ve always been–and it’s become a powerful marketing tool for a still-thriving business.

Finding Your Own Voice in Social MediaBusinesses using social media should have an authentic voice.

But what if you’re a new company, or a business that hasn’t used social media and maybe had never even thought about it until now?  The answer is to start small, and work your way towards where you want to be. I have my own methods, but ultimately it all comes down to being true to yourself and your target audience.  Think about who you want to talk to, where they’re likely to be in the social media realm and what they’d like to learn about you. Social media is a great place to start conversations, to ask questions and to share “behind the scenes” types of things that your ideal customers have always been curious about.

Here are a few more suggestions to consider as you develop your brand voice on social media:

  • Mix it up.  Remember–social media provides opportunities for a two-way conversation. Find ways to engage with, not just talk “at” your audience.  If appropriate, use Facebook Live for example, or at least post edited videos. Ask questions, look for opportunities for some light-hearted humor, and enjoy the chances you have to get to know your customers.
  • Get your team on board.  Your staff needs to know what you want to accomplish with social media and any expectations you might have about their participation. Some may be eager to be in images or videos while others are less so, and that’s okay–just talk with them about it. Also, make sure they’re aware of what’s okay and not okay in terms with how they promote or otherwise engage with your brand on social media. Hopefully, you’ll have a team that wants to share the great things happening in your company in a professional and positive way.
  • Be an original.  Don’t just share things from other sources–demonstrate who YOU are. It’s totally okay to share an industry article now and then, but let most of the content be about your company. Another tip–don’t go out and grab Google images for your business page. Take your own photos, or opt to use royalty-free images. There are many free resources available online.

If you have any questions about social media and developing the right voice for it, I hope you’ll get in touch. In the meantime, I’ll look for you on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Signature Julie

 Content Development & Management •  Social Media Management • Brand Message Development  •  Email Content •  Copywriting • Sales Materials • Consulting & More

Getting Social (Media) With the Weather

Social Media, Billings, Montana, social media

I’m the first to admit that I don’t often call out a government agency for doing something right, but I doubt I’m not alone. So color me happy that I have the privilege of doing just that–especially when it’s because of their presence on social media. 

Forecasting–and Broadcasting–the Weather on Social Media

The U.S. National Weather Service has an office here in Billings, US Weather Service Coverage in Billings, MT - social media useMontana staffed with meteorologists and other professionals whose job it is to study, forecast and inform about the weather.  It is how they use social media–Facebook in particular–to inform those living in or traveling to our area for which I applaud them most.

First, I want to share their area of responsibility which, according to their website, takes in 15 counties in south central Montana as well as Sheridan County, Wyoming.   For those living in smaller U.S. states, this may not seem that impressive, until you realize that those counties take in more than 40,000 square miles.

That’s about the size of the entire state of Tennessee.

Or the states of Rhode Island, Delaware, Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont combined.

US Weather Service in Billings Montana service area compared to eastern states

Their service area also takes in about 250,000 people–about a quarter of the population of Montana–including many in the small rural communities our part of the country is known for. So how do they keep us all informed of upcoming weather concerns?  Facebook and Twitter.

In December 2016, this region was hit by waves of snowstorms–some of which are still happening as I write this post.  The most significant began in the middle of the month, with not only significant snowfall, but also hazardous winds and sub-zero temperatures. As the peak of the storm grew nearer, the US National Weather Service’s posts grew more frequent, and they used a variety of techniques to share information in a variety of ways:

Radar images

On their Facebook page, the Weather Service provided radar images and updates along with explanations about what the images indicated. Not only do these types of images grab attention and lend a “scientific” emphasis to their reporting, but also provide insight into how they work and what they look for in forecasting events.

Radar Images shared by US Weather Service on Facebook
Images from US Weather Service Billings Facebook Page

Facebook Video

The use of video on the US Weather Service’s Facebook page is a useful technique for a whole host of reasons.  First, the use of Facebook video continues to grow as a tool used to reach and engage users.  The videos used on this page do both–and do a great job of educating those users as well. Another benefit: we all know that Facebook loves native video and often places it above other types of posts as part of their algorithm.  This draws more attention to the page itself (good for the page) and increases the likelihood that the target audience is going to see often critical messages.


Charts, Infographics and Images

Some of the other types of posts the Weather Service includes on their Facebook page are charts (yes, it really was that cold), infographics, photos and other images.  Each shares a different type of information, whether what’s to come, what to look for or how to take precautions in extreme weather.




Images from the US Weather Service - Billings Facebook page
Images from the US Weather Service – Billings Facebook page

Calls for Participation

One thing that the Billings office of the U.S. National Weather Service does incredibly well is encourage its audience to participate on the page. People can post weather events from their location any time, serving as their own “weather reporters.”  Sometimes, the page requests posts, such as during the local snow event.  In addition to the call for images shown below, which garnered more than 130 responses, the Weather Service has also asked for images of blowing and drifting snow in certain areas, noting that doing so can help to save lives of those living in the area or traveling along the I-90 corridor which spans much of our state.

Audience engagement on the weather service facebook page
Images from the US Weather Service – Billings Facebook page

High Levels of Engagement

us-weather-service-fb-snippetsAsking for participation is only the beginning.  The forecasting team also maintains an incredible amount of engagement with the audience. During this and other weather events, team members answer visitor questions as quickly as possible, sharing key information about road conditions, school closures, travel advisories and additional safety-related items. While not answering every query, they take the steps most important when it comes to social media management:

  • Responding on a timely basis
  • Addressing their audience well
  • Providing useful information clearly and effectively

As you can see, the U.S. National Weather Service in Billings is doing so much right when it comes to using social media to share much-needed information to their service area. As a social media professional myself, I find it impressive to see how well they’re using these tools to facilitate their work and their role in our communities. I’m not alone in thinking so.  It’s not unusual to have people from other locations throughout the United States who are either from Big Sky Country (or who will be visiting it) express their appreciation on the service’s Facebook page. They’re also quick to indicate how much they wished their local weather office provided the kinds of information we have readily available.

The only flaw I can find? They can’t seem to find a way to turn off all of this snow.  I guess we’re just going to be stuck with it a few days (or weeks or months) longer.

Signature Julie

 Content Development & Management •  Social Media Management • Brand Message Development  •  Email Content •  Copywriting • Sales Materials • Consulting & More

Why I Love Writing for Websites

Box 117 Web Copy Typing

I {Heart} Writing Website Copy

I have an admission to make: One of my favorite things on this earth (professionally, at least) is writing for websites. Many writers may not understand why; they may love technical writing or legal writing or creative writing (yeah–I like that one too) or writing hard-hitting journalistic pieces that topple governments and the like. But for me, website content creation is both fun and challenging.

Now when I first started creating web content, that’s not something I would have said. I’ve been doing this sort of thing for nearly a decade, and it’s fairly safe to say that content creation has changed over that time. When I entered the realm, the idea of “keyword stuffing” was still fairly popular. That meant you’d land on a webpage that started off something like this:

“Box 117 is a content creation company focused on creating content when web content is needed by companies needing website content.”

It would then proceed for another dozen sentences in pretty much the same way. Add half of the words bolded or underscored and it was…well…a complete mess. It also flew in the face of everything I’d ever known about writing. To me, regardless of what kind of writing I was doing it was about sharing information in such a way that the reader would easily understand and engage with it.

Google recognizes the benefit of quality web writingFortunately, the great Google gods recognized that this highly bloated and manipulated approach really didn’t benefit the users of their search engine. Certainly, those users could be led to a stuffed site, but they were unlikely to remain there if they didn’t receive the information they needed most. User experience and quality content were looked at in a new way, leading to changes in algorithmic updates. Ultimately, those changes led to my falling head-over-heels in love with web writing.

Here are some reasons why:

I get to tell stories.

When I write web content, I have the opportunity to get to know a business or organization inside and out. Through interviews and research, the personality of my clients comes to light…and ultimately to life. You’d be surprised at how often that leads to uncovering something truly unique to an organization that their customers (or potential customers) love–but that those on the inside see only as “just the way we do business.” Helping a business discover or capture that essence is very exciting.

I get to learn new things all the time.

Now if you’re a business owner and reading this, you are likely to know your business inside and out. You understand how to make a widget or deliver your services and may get the impression everyone else does too. Well I’m here to tell you that they (we) don’t. It’s amazing how frequently I get to write about things in web copy that I’ve never heard of before, or never understood before. As I work with my clients to break down processes or identify products, it gives us both the chance to view them in a different way. Then I get to come up with a way to share that information through copy designed to educate and inform. (And yes, that’s exciting!)

Words are powerful.

You may have heard statements like that in relation to how we interact with people one-on-one or in groups. But the words on a page–including those online–can do some pretty amazing things. They can educate, encourage, inspire, or lead the reader to take action. Words can build a reputation, generate sales and establish authority. So as Iwrite the copy for a website, I get the chance to use words in ways to benefit my clients as I help them meet their goals.

There is a both an art and a science to writing web copy.

One of the things that I’ve been able to bring to the table throughout my career is a balance of left brain/right brain thinking. I love the joy of creativity and big-picture thinking, but am also captivated by logic-driven detail. When I create copy for a website, whether primary page copy or blog posts, I have the chance to explore some level of creativity as I also evaluate how the copy can lend to an enhanced SEO (search engine optimization) presence. I also work with the meta titles and descriptions as well, which likewise can impact the ability of a search engine user to find my client’s site and discover their products or services.

As you can see, there really is a lot to love (at least in my mind) about writing for websites. But if you’re not as inclined as I am to greet the day with a smile when it’s time to sit down and type away, give me a call or drop me a line.   I’d love to help.Signature Julie

4 Reasons Writing Content for Your Own Business is Hard

small business owner write content

Having trouble writing content for your own business?  You’re not alone.

One of the questions small business owners often ask is why they struggle with writing content for their websites. After all, they reason, shouldn’t they of all people be able to tell the world (and their potential customers) about who they are and what they do?

The answer is…usually not.

Here’s why:

writing your own business content1.You’re too close to your own business.

Sounds weird, right?  Is being too close and knowing something too well a detriment?  Well, when it comes to writing content, it can be.  Because a business owner knows every teeny-tiny detail of what they do and how they do it, finding the right balance between sharing all that they know versus what’s important (and interesting) to the audience they’re trying to reach can be difficult.

2.You think in industry-speak.

Imagine sitting around a table with a doctor, a corporate attorney, a civil engineer, a landscape architect, a former paralegal and two nurses—all of them talking about what they do and getting into the nitty-gritty details of the last few projects they’ve been working on.  While the paralegal and lawyer may have common ground, the civil engineer may have no earthly idea what they’re bantering on about.  He and the landscape architect chat about a large water project, which in turn is of no interest to the medical people.  It’s a veritable Tower of Babel—with the exception of the fact that It’s actually what happens around the dining room table when my family gets together. Everyone has something interesting to share, but until they stop using the industry speak they’re used to, few will understand what they’re actually saying.

So it is with almost any business.  You may how to share information using industry speak, but need help remembering that a potential target customer might not understand what you’re talking about. That’s where working with a third party who can “translate” your knowledge into content that will appeal to the people you want to reach most.

3.You don’t like how you write.

Although I believe everyone on earth has a great story to tell, I recognize that not everyone is comfortable writing their or sharing their own message.  You may not feel that you’re a great writer or are uncomfortable with coming up with ideas.  That’s okay—and there are options out there (pick me! pick me!) who can help you create content you’re comfortable with.

4.Be honest: you just don’t have time to spend writing time for writing content

By the end of the day, most business owners look at the clock and realize that they’ve barely had time to check their email, much less create content for their website, work on marketing campaigns or deal with social media. Sound familiar?  You’re not alone.  Content development takes time, which comes at a premium for most business owners.  Invest in good content and it more than pays for itself—while saving you time.

For those business owners out there who are creating their own great website and marketing content—I salute you.  And for those who may be too busy, too close, too industry-focused (and those who just hate writing), feel free to get in touch.Signature Julie