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Technology

Why Technology is Killing These 11 Essential Skills

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


Why Technology is Killing These 11 Essential Skills

Technology is a help as much as it is a hindrance. While we have used countless forms of technology to fuel our efficiency, organization, communication with one another and the way we impact the world,  we have also lost some essential and valuable skills along the way.

What skills have suffered? Mostly our people skills and soft skills, but also a few others you might not expect! Let’s take at a look at the 11 skills that technology is killing and see if they apply to you as well.

Handwriting

I certainly hope I’m not the only one who doesn’t recognize my own handwriting on the rare occasion I need to send a written letter or jot down some notes. There are really limited instances that don’t allow for a keyboard to make our thoughts legible. While technology certainly provides ease and efficiency of writing, quality penmanship has become a lost art.

Why does this matter? There will always be instances when a pen and pencil yield a more “personal” product, like a thank you note. There will also be times when we simply will run out of battery or WiFi and need to ask for some paper to capture important thoughts.

Eye contact

We have the ability to communicate with more people than ever on a daily basis. Yet, this has made these countless interactions feel less personal. Contributing your opinion to an online thread of thousands of comments is nowhere near as direct and meaningful as a face-to-face conversation with someone over a cup of coffee. I’ve found that people are so engrossed in their technology, catching up on email or social networks as they walk to and from their next destination, that they forget to look up and see the “real life” people standing around them.

The result? We forgot to look into someone’s eyes when we are talking to them. Do you greet your cashier by looking him in the eye and asking “How are you?” Do you keep eye contact with someone as they answer your question? If not, these are all areas we should strive to improve by unplugging from technology and plugging into one another.

The art of small talk

For most career-minded individuals, networking and meeting new people is essential for growing your business. This often means making a lot of small talk. But quality small talk requires more than just asking someone the obligatory “How are you today?” or commenting on the weather. It requires attention to the situation and nonverbal cues that tell us what will engage that person.

Technology has distracted and disconnected us from the living, breathing world around us so much that we have lost the valuable skill of being able to have an off-the-cuff conversation with a complete stranger.

Basic math

I am not too proud (though embarrassed) to admit that my basic math skills are severely lacking. Funny enough, I do still know my times tables and have not forgotten how to add or subtract. What I’ve lost is my confidence and patience to do the work mentally. Why? Because of technology. Why spend twice the time coming up with an answer I am only 50% sure is correct when I can just whip out my phone, punch in some numbers and have full confidence in the right answer?

This, of course, is a dangerous mindset and one that will continue to spread from generation to generation as technology only becomes increasingly convenient and ever-present. The solution is not easy, but it can start with each of us personally. We should take pride in keeping our basic math skills sharp and utilize them even if it means taking a few extra minutes and double-checking our answers.

Social awareness

Social awareness is the modern day way to say common courtesy. As the result of our obsession with and reliance upon technology, we forget there are other humans around us. The most common examples I’ve come across are people forgetting to hold the door, stepping in front of a line of waiting customers and cutting people off with a grocery cart.

While these are simple scenarios, they do indicate a larger social problem. We are so consumed in our own (online) lives that we ignore the need to courtesy coexist with one another.

Committing things to memory

If you were without your cell phone and needed to call your closest friends and family, would you know their phone numbers by memory? Probably not! I know I have exactly two phone numbers memorized aside from my own, my childhood home phone and my husband’s cell. This means I couldn’t even call my own parents’ cell phones without referencing my contact list.

Technology is a great tool for storing important information and phone numbers are just one of countless examples. But think about how we also Google everything imaginable – even common things like the meaning of an acronym or the year WWII began. If we lost access to all technology, would we, as adults, be “smarter than a 5th grader?” I’m not so sure.

Appreciating silence

This skill is one I really see the importance of as an introvert, yet I don’t always practice it. Think of your work environment. Do you always need some sort of background noise like a radio or TV? When walking from one place to another, do you feel the desire to talk to someone on the phone or pop in your headphones? When is the last time you did anything (aside from sleeping) in complete silence for more than an hour?

Appreciating silence is an important skill because it forces us to clear out the mental clutter, listen to our thoughts and address issues that might be bugging us. All of these things are easily masked by technology and noise – but will cause stress and distraction if not given proper attention.

Feeling comfortable without “props”

Similarly to feeling uncomfortable in complete silence, how do you react to waiting for someone or something without any technology to distract you? I know if I am waiting for a client, a food order or to be called back for an appointment, I feel the need to read emails, check in on social media or catch up on texts.

There’s a level of efficiency with this, but that is soon fulfilled within a few minutes. The issue is when we aimlessly browse our phones or tablets as a distraction from the world around us. The next time you’re waiting for someone to meet you in a coffee shop, enjoy sipping your coffee and watching the real world unfold. It’s amazing what you’ll see that you would have missed otherwise!

Making plans and sticking to them

When making social plans on the weekend, I’ve often wondered what people did before cell phones when it came to changing plans or running late. From asking enough of my “older peers,” I’ve come to the conclusion that people simply did a better job of sticking to their original plans!

Thanks to technology we have the ability to endlessly change where we’re going, at what time and with whom. If you’re on the receiving end of all of these changes it’s frustrating to say the least. Back before cell phones and social media, once people left the house, they were expected to be where they said they were going – and they really made a better effort of honoring that.

Fully focusing on one thing

Using multitasking to be more efficient with your time is a huge myth. Why? We’re not machines. We cannot quickly or easily switch from one task to another without losing momentum in the process. When we multitask and try to do too many things at once, we don’t fully accomplish anything.

Technology has created an environment where it’s easy to multitask and pile on distraction upon distraction. One time I caught myself watching TV while surfing my iPad. I couldn’t remember what show I was watching and I had minimal recollection of what I was looking at on social media. Trying to multitask my leisure time was a moment of reckoning for me. We need to get back to applying our sole focus to one thing at a time, doing it well and moving on to the next task with a clear mind.

Feeling content

Finally and most importantly, our reliance upon technology has messed with our ability to feel content. This is a bold claim, but one I strongly believe is true. How do you feel when you surf social media? In seeing other people’s lives (which are inevitably a carefully framed highlight reel of the truth), how do you feel about your own? Recently there have been more and more times that I have felt worse after browsing social media – not relaxed or entertained, like I had hoped.

Technology provides us a big, open window into each other’s’ lives. As we peer through, we can’t help but compare what we see to our own reality. Using technology for this purpose fuels jealously, discontent and stress. The skill we really need to strengthen is our ability to be happy for one another while being equally happy for ourselves. We are all blessed in different ways!

Has the overuse of technology hindered some of these valuable skills for you personally? Or does this apply to someone you know? Share your experiences by commenting below!

A Guide to the Modern Press Release

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


A Guide to the Modern Press Release

With so many newspapers scaling back or going digital, the value and effectiveness of the traditional press release has become a bit of a mystery to us all.  This has left many businesses even more confused as to how they should communicate with the media when they feel they have something important to say. Is the press release still relevant? From my conversations with print and online reporters and other PR professionals, the answer is absolutely yes! But we have to stay in tune to the changes and advancements to news sources that may alter the definition of “a great press release.” Overall, the core essentials have remained the same, yet are so often ignored – even by professionals in the field. In an effort to shed some light on the lost art of press release writing (and to adapt it to the modern art it has become) here is my general guide to writing a solid press release right now.

Modes of communication

Whether you own a fax machine or even know what one looks like, this is still one of the most common and important ways to disseminate your press release. When researching a reporter’s contact information, don’t assume the fax is an outdated system. Some reporters truly prefer receiving news this way, especially if their email inbox functions more like a black hole. The second big mode of communication is indeed email.  I’d suggest using both email and fax whenever possible, and re-sending the email after a day or two with a new subject line for a second (or third) shot at getting noticed.  Make the news relevant to each reporter (do they cover a specific interest?), their target readership and personalize the message whenever possible. Aim to build an ongoing relationship with reporters; don’t just spam them with press releases whenever you want their attention. One great way to do this is to provide them with consistently useful information in a neatly packaged press release. More on that now…

The title

Now that we covered how to get your message out there, we can dig deeper into strategically packaging your news, and of course the title will be the first thing reporters see – and judge. The title should be the most newsworthy element of your press release. While it may be tempting to stick your business’s name or your own name up there right away, this is not likely the information that will catch a reporter’s eye and make him think “my readers need to know this.” For example, Jack Smith’s Auto Shop Merges With Tasty Treats Ice Cream has no immediate relevance to a reporter. A better title might be Two Locally-Owned Businesses Combine Auto Parts, Ice Cream In Unusual Merger. Really? Yes, because the second title spells out why a reporter should care to cover this news– it’s local and it’s unusual. These are two newsworthy elements that always attract readers’ attention. The reporter will likely change the title any way for their story, so don’t worry about writing for the masses. You just need to get the attention of one person – the reporter. This is your three-second “elevator pitch” and it has to cut to the chase. You are trying to sell to the reporter; the reporter is trying to sell to the reader. Remember that.

The critical first paragraph

Once you make it past the title, there is still another part of the press release that is of paramount importance for determining whether it lands on a reporter’s desk or in a trash can. It’s the first paragraph. I was taught that the first paragraph of a press release should never exceed two sentences. These can be long sentences, but two sentences is the rule of thumb. I doubt any reporter would see three periods in a first paragraph and toss a press release out solely based on this, but sticking to this rule does get you to get to the point – fast. The first of these two sentences should be the quick attention-getter and the second should be the single sentence that summarizes the key points of the entire press release. Sound like that’s asking a lot? The first paragraph is never easy. It may be the most time you spend on putting together two sentences and it should be. This is a critical component that far too many people gloss over. You may have heard that a press release (and any news story) should be written like an upside down pyramid, with the most newsworthy information on top, working down to the least newsworthy. With this analogy, you want to be sure the biggest part of your pyramid, the first paragraph, is built rock solid.

What’s in it for…everyone else?

Once you’ve made it past the title and the first paragraph, you’re ready to dive into all the other details of your press release. But this doesn’t give you a free pass to ramble on about unrelated, non-newsworthy tidbits. Throughout all of your writing, you need to keep a single question in mind. “What’s in it for everyone else?” Write this on a sticky note, the top of your word document or your cat if you need to, but don’t lose sight of this direction! Every paragraph in your press release should have an easily identifiable WIFM (what’s in it for me?) element – with “me” being the reporter/reader. It’s easy to see what you’d be getting out of a press release that’s picked up for a news story…free press! Don’t spend too much time tooting your own horn in the content. Instead focus on why anyone else should care about what you have to say. How will they be personally affected by this news? How will they benefit having read this?

Formatting a reporter will appreciate

Reporters and journalists adhere to Associated Press (AP) Style when formatting their news stories. For Public Relations professionals, it’s an industry-best practice to write press releases in this same style to keep all formatting the same. It also adds to your credibility. Everything from when to abbreviate a city, how to format dates and time, when to capitalize professional titles and more and more and more can be found in the AP Style Book! It was a handbook I bought early on in college and still have to this day (dog-eared pages and all). Resources to help you with AP Style questions can be found all across the web. Here’s the main web page. If you think you’ll be referring to this often, I’d suggest buying a copy. It’s far too much information to ever fully commit to memory, so having a copy on hand makes life, and press release writing, a lot easier.

Common mistakes and missed opportunities

Keep it to one page – It would take a compelling news story or announcement to convince me that more than one page was absolutely needed to cover all the truly newsworthy elements. Reporters can contact you if they’re intrigued enough and want more information. That’s why you provide that information in the header. Two-page press releases seem just as obnoxious as two-page resumes. Save something for the interview!

Quotes – Quotes are a key way to say something you would otherwise just write into the press release, while calling out a specific person of importance and breaking up the content. Quotes coming from you or your client can be easily molded to say exactly what you want them to say. Just make sure you format them correctly according to AP Style!

Make use of the subtitle – This is the sentence that appears directly below the title (and before the first paragraph). It is a great opportunity to explain the title a bit further as well as include a link to your web site, if relevant. By utilizing this part of the press release, you’re less tempted to weigh your title down with too many words.

Include a boiler plate – The boiler plate is that final paragraph that appears right before the “###” which signals the end of the press release. It’s a paragraph which can stand all on its own and usually summarizes the business or organization. Instead of trying to shove this same information into the body of the press release where it may not belong, the boiler plate provides a separate and organized space to highlight the core facts about your business at the very end.

One final thought on adapting to technology…

Video news releases (VNRs) are changing the way many reporters view traditional words-only press releases. I’m not entirely convinced that VNRs will take over the market anytime soon and so I suggest sticking with the written press release, but adding in b-roll footage, video clips and photos whenever available. Especially for online news sources, the more photos and videos that accompany a story, the more enticing it is to feature it. As readers, when we surf the web we’re drawn to images. Stories that include images are that much more attractive to news sites. It’s all about the web hits and readership!

What I thought would be a quick glimpse into writing a great press release has become a lengthier guide than I anticipated. I still have so much more information I could include here, but will save that for another time. Until then, please share your own experiences and expertise on writing press releases. Is there something I missed? Something you disagree with? Or something you’ve found to be particularly effective? Please share by commenting below!

How to Use Natural Lighting When Taking Photographs

How to Use Natural Lighting When Taking Photographs

Last week on the Bennis Inc blog, we wrote about why the best photographers use the manual settings on their camera. Among the benefits, was that you gain a lot more control over lighting and are better able to harness the power of natural lighting. To keep our “photography theme” going, we’re now focusing this week’s specifically on how to (and why you should) use natural lighting!

When taking a photograph, one of the most important things to consider is the quality of your lighting. For example, balanced soft light helps set the scene for a beautiful portrait. Simply put, the right lighting can turn an ordinary image into an eye-catching work of art. But you have to first have (even just a basic) understanding of how to make the most of your natural light, as this will be the most common lighting you’ll have at your disposal. Take a look at these helpful tips!

Manual Settings

Knowing how to change your settings on your camera to adapt to your surroundings can play a big part in achieving a well-exposed photograph, especially when using natural outdoor lighting. Aperture and shutter speed are the most important settings to consider when working with natural lighting. Using these manual settings is imperative so that you can chose how little or how much light to allow into your lens. When it comes to exposure, F numbers are what control your aperture. It may seem lightly counterintuitive, but the lower the number, the more light you let. For shutter speed, the faster the setting, the less light that will enter in your lens.

Direction of your subject

The next step toward using natural lighting to your advantage is to know where to place your subject in regards to the sun. When photographing a person, it’s important to not have them facing the sun for several reasons. Doing so will impact your exposure and it will also cause your subject to squint, which doesn’t help produce a great photo either! Instead of facing into the sun, use your natural outdoor lighting as your back light by placing your subject with their back against the sun. Another way to creatively use natural lighting to your advantage is to play up the sun by creating shadows. You can create flattering shadows by using shade and/or shooting a “peak-a-boo” effect by photographing behind another object such as a flower or plant.

Using Natural Lighting Indoors

Some beginner photographers might think the only way to use natural lighting is during an outdoor shoot. This is simply not true, as there are ways to take advantage of natural lighting when shooting certain subjects indoors as well. The best locations for using natural lighting indoors is in a room where you have large, open windows to work with. Once you have found your ideal spot, place your subject a few feet away from the window to take full advantage of this type of natural lighting. Another expert tip is to have your subject face directly into the window or at least turn a 45-degree angle so that the shadowing appears softer and more gradual.

Editing Process

Once you devote a lot of time and energy into capturing hundreds (if not thousands) of shots, the idea of post editing all of these images can be a daunting task. This is all the more reason to pay special attention to your lighting and to use natural lighting to your full advantage. It will save you a lot of post editing work!

You photos will still need some editing to achieve their full potential, and that’s to be expected. When shooting a photograph on an overcast day, it is almost always necessary to touch up your lighting with editing software post-shoot. Don’t be afraid of the editing process! Tweaking your lighting ever so slightly can really make a difference in the quality of your final product, making the time you put into capturing and perfecting it all worth it.

Are you a photographer who likes to use natural lighting when shooting? If so, please share your best practices by commenting below.

Why the Best Photographers Use Manual Settings

Why the Best Photographers Use Manual SettingsAnyone can purchase a DSLR camera and photograph a basic picture using the auto button (or “the little green box” as some photographers call it). This doesn’t, however, ensure you’ll capture the best possible picture. Experienced photographers most always agree that you need to think outside that little green box and venture into manual settings to capture high quality images.

But what if you’re just beginning to dabble in photography? Learning about the different settings on your camera can be quite intimidating. This is all the more reason to push yourself outside the (green) box! With some time and patience, even the most amateur photographer can pick up on essential techniques for using manual settings to enhance the quality of their photographs. If you can relate to wanting to improve your photography skills, here are three reasons why you shouldn’t wait to learn how to use your manual settings!

Taking Control

Manual settings give you ultimate control. Even the top-of-the-line cameras on the market today can still produce images that are off focus or have dark shadows if left in auto mode. In fact, technology can work against you, especially if you’re trying to capture an artistic shot. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the various manual settings. After you have a basic understanding of what each setting does, this is the best way to practice. Even if you take thousands of terrible photographs to get to a half decent one, there’s no cost to learning through trial and error.

Lighting

When shooting a photograph under different lighting situations, understanding manual settings can be key to capturing a great image…or none at all. Lighting has a huge impact on your images. Too much is just as harmful as too little. If you don’t know where to begin, start with lighting. Knowing how to adapt your settings at least based on lighting can be one of the best tools you possess. As a photographer, you will not always have the benefit of choosing your setting, especially when photographing an event. Being able to manipulate the manual settings of your camera can really help save the day!

Allows you to be creative

Shooting with manual settings really allows you to be the most creative when capturing an image. Don’t be afraid of manual mode, embrace it and push yourself to create something outside of the green box. You can manipulate lighting to cast a cool shadow or focus on distant object, rather than one that is in the forefront. Sure, this may result in some awful images at first, but once you learn the ropes, it’s also likely to result in far more inspired images in the future!

What’s your opinion about using the manual settings on a camera? Do you agree or disagree with our viewpoint? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

How to Use Pinterest to Grow Your Brand

How to Use Pinterest to Grow Your Brand

Pinterest is a stand-alone Visual Social Network centered on sharing images that link to content. Depending upon your business and industry, Pinterest can be a powerful tool for marketing your products or services and growing your brand. Even individual people can grow their personal brand through the type of content they share or “pin” to their boards.

Whether you have a well-established and popular Pinterest profile, or whether you’re just getting started (like we are at Bennis Inc), there are many tips and best practices for growing your influence. Here are just a few of pieces of wisdom we have gained from our personal experience with establishing a business presence on Pinterest. Take a look!

Plan Your Pins to Win

Start by creating just a few board topics that are directly related to your business and brand. Focus on getting 3-5 boards filled with interesting and quality content before spreading out to create new boards. As potential followers explore your profile, they will be more impressed to see several quality boards than a ton of boards that are hardly utilized.

As you explore Pinterest for content to share (in addition to sharing your own content), you may come across other users that really sync with your brand. Follow them! Not only will this provide a stream of quality content for the future, you just might earn their following in return.

Establish Yourself as an Expert in Your Field

Remember, Pinterest is all about visual content! In order to get noticed, you need your pins to visually stand out. This may mean creating some custom graphics that include the title of your article within the photo. You’ll see this is a very popular way people share content on Pinterest and that’s because it’s effective! People easily grasp what your content is about, which increases the chance they will click and share.

While it’s okay to re-pin other users’ content, you want to also share your original content (i.e. blog, articles, images) to establish yourself as an expert in your field. For example, a photographer won’t get too much respect if he is only sharing other people’s photos that are not his own. Be genuine, just like you would on any other social media platform!

Share Your Content Across Other Social Media Platforms

Speaking of other social media platforms, you can really leverage the full power of your content by taking what you share on Pinterest and also sharing this on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin.

Additionally, you want to be sure people who are reading your original content, such as on your website or blog, have an easy way to find you on Pinterest as well as pin your content to their own boards. This is as simple as adding some social media buttons to the top and/or bottom of every post. Though it may seem obvious, it is often overlooked!

How have you navigated your business strategy on Pinterest? Share your thoughts and ideas by commenting below!

And don’t forget to follow Bennis Inc on Pinterest! We’re just getting started and have a lot of great things coming soon.

5 Mistakes New Businesses Make on Instagram

This week we continue our 4-week series in which we cover the top 5 mistakes business make on the most popular social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Instagram. We invite you to subscribe and follow along each Monday for quick and valuable tips on how you can avoid making these mistakes and immediately improve your business’s social media presence. Enjoy!


5 Mistakes New Businesses Make on Instagram

Instagram is an important social media platform that some businesses mistakenly overlook. But the visual storytelling power of Instagram in today’s marketing world is undeniable! Once you create an Instagram account for your business, it is critical that you understand the platform’s basic etiquette to get the most out of the time you devote to building your brand through its use. Let’s take a look at five mistakes to avoid as a new business on Instagram.

Not establishing a unique hashtag and not using it consistently on all posts

First things first, when creating an Instagram account think about your brand and create a unique hashtag to represent you and your business.  After you have your business hashtag it is important to consistently use that tag when posting.  Don’t let one post go live without using your brands hashtag, as doing so is a missed opportunity to market your business.

Posting photos that lack quality or creativity
The last thing you want to do when posting to any social media site is to look unprofessional, so make sure the photos you choose to represent your brand are high quality and high resolution.  Equally as important as a photo’s quality is its creativity. Look for unique angels and interesting visuals that tell a story. This is your best bet that your followers, and potential customers, will stop scrolling long enough to learn more about your business. A good gallery of photos will also help to set you apart from your competitors and further enhance your brand value.

Not following other accounts related to your industry, product or service

Only posting to your account, aka the “hit and run” strategy, would be a vital mistake when using Instagram to grow your business. You need to also interact with other users and reciprocate some of the love! Search and follow other accounts that are related to your industry (it never hurts to keep your eyes on what competitors are doing) and accounts you simply find interesting. Surf relevant hashtags as a way to find people who are talking about topics related to your business. These other accounts will begin to build a network of followers in return and help you keep a pulse on emerging trends.

Ignoring comments and interactions you receive

As with any social media platform, it is important to stay up to date with your interactions on Instagram. Ignoring comments or not responding in timely manner will do nothing to help you build a following of happy customers. And for people just stumbling upon your account, a lack of feedback to your comments will make you appear inactive or disinterested. Commit to being just as present on Instagram as you are on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Check in at least daily, not only to post content but to respond to interactions as well.

Missing a call to action – how can people learn more or buy your product or service?

If you use Instagram merely to post pretty pictures, you’re missing the real value it can add to your business. Every marketing tactic needs to have a purpose and a call to action; Instagram is no exception. Utilize your profile to include a link to your website or blog. Better yet, make it a link to a specific landing page that will take a customer directly to your most popular products or services. Because links are not “live” in the comments section on Instagram, it’s a real missed opportunity to not include a link in your profile. Also, be consistent with the call to action in your posts. Tell people to click on the link in your profile to learn more or to buy. Every post should relate back to your business or brand in some way. This doesn’t mean every post needs to focus on a hard sell, but your followers should be able to get a sense of what you represent by looking at just a few of your most recent photos!

How have you broken into social media marketing on Instagram for your business or brand? Have you made any of these mistakes? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

5 Mistakes New Businesses Make on Linkedin

This week we continue our 4-week series in which we cover the top 5 mistakes business make on the most popular social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Instagram. We invite you to subscribe and follow along each Monday for quick and valuable tips on how you can avoid making these mistakes and immediately improve your business’s social media presence. Enjoy!


5 Mistakes New Businesses Make on Linkedin

Linkedin is a valuable, professional networking tool for building your personal brand, which is ultimately a reflection on your business. Because your profile represents you as a person, it’s all the more important to know what mistakes to avoid so that you don’t risk putting anything but your best face forward. Take a look at these five mistakes and learn how to avoid making them with your own profile on Linkedin!

Not reaching out and actively building your network

With any social networking site, actively reaching out to build connections with other people is an important part of successfully growing the value of your network. Don’t make the mistake of creating an account only to forget to reach out to contacts you know or have an interest in getting to know. Growing your network is as simple as this: send an invitation to connect with at least one new contact a day. Another great way to engage contacts and build your personal brand is to commit to participating in group discussions a couple times a week. Simply comment or ask a question, anything to start a conversation!

Reaching out TOO far and building your network with anyone and everyone
Now that we’ve talked about the value of building your network, it’s important to keep in mind that you can take this piece of advice too far. Trying to connect with everyone and anyone that Linkedin suggests will result in a ton of “false” connections that carry no value and merely clutter your contact list. Think about your goals and purpose for your personal brand. Aim to connect with contacts that you genuinely know or that align with the vision or your brand. When you go to search your contacts, you’ll have a meaningful list of professionals that can truly be of help to you.

Leaving outdated or incomplete content on your profile

In a world where change is constant, you want to remember to also regularly update your profile information to keep it accurate and relevant.  Whether your business moves to a new location or broadens its scope of service, it’s important to reflect these changes in your personal profile and on your business page on Linkedin.

Sharing your tweets or Facebook posts on Linkedin without formatting them specifically for this audience

Sharing the same content across all your social media accounts is problematic because each platform has its own features and limitations that call for a unique message. For example, Linkedin doesn’t limit you to 140 characters like Twitter, but it’s also not the best social media site for using hashtags. If you push your Twitter posts to Linkedin, it will be obvious you didn’t take the time to customize the content. Not only will this lose impact with your audience, it will also reflect that you’re not willing to put in the minimal extra time to customize your content in an effort to engage your contacts.

Not fully utilizing the power of long-form posts

The final, and possibly the biggest mistake people continue to make on Linkedin is not fully utilizing the power of long-form posts. You don’t have to have your own blog or be a skilled writer to publish meaningful content on Linkedin. In fact, this is a great way to get started! Rather than just sharing a link to your article or blog hosted on another website, you have the opportunity to increase the visibility of your content by publishing it directly to Linkedin. Your contacts can subscribe to your posts, comment on them and share with their network– all of which are powerful ways to increase your brand value, expertise and SEO.

What strategy have you used to build your Linkedin network and profile? Have you made any of these mistakes? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

5 Mistakes New Businesses Make on Twitter

This week we continue our 4-week series in which we cover the top 5 mistakes business make on the most popular social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Instagram. We invite you to subscribe and follow along each Monday for quick and valuable tips on how you can avoid making these mistakes and immediately improve your business’s social media presence. Enjoy!


5 Mistakes New Businesses Make on Twitter

5 Mistakes New Businesses Make on Twitter

No matter your business’s industry or specialty, a solid social media marketing strategy involving Twitter can produce positive and powerful outcomes. But in order to get the most out of using Twitter to build your brand, you need to know not only what to do, but also what not to do. Take a look at these 5 mistakes new businesses often make when using Twitter as part of their marketing strategy. 

Not sticking with one hashtag

Hashtags are one of the most powerful and efficient ways to share your information on Twitter; however, many businesses make the mistake of using multiple hashtags interchangeably instead of focusing their efforts on branding one.  Do your research! Choose a hashtag that isn’t already being used by another business and then use it consistently in your posts on social media and your marketing materials everywhere else. (Learn more about hashtag faux pas that should be avoided!)

Talking at their audience instead of listening and talking with them
When connecting with your audience through Twitter, you want to be sure your content comes across relatable and genuine. Don’t expect people to favorite, retweet or reply to a post if you don’t engage them. Remember the “What’s in it for me?” that people inherently want to find when reading content.  Post content that will spark a conversation rather than talking at them.  And when you do get a comment or share, be responsive! Aim to reply within the hour so that the conversation doesn’t go stale.

Letting their account sit stagnant

One of the biggest mistakes you can make on social media, especially with Twitter, is allowing your account to sit stagnant (i.e. going days or longer without posting fresh content). If you’re not interacting on a regular basis on Twitter, it sends the message that you’re not open for business or on top of your game. You wouldn’t open a new storefront and leave it sit vacant, right?  So when using your business Twitter account remember it’s a commitment to be present, reply, show interest, and interact!

Not formatting posts specifically for Twitter

What makes Twitter unique (and at times frustrating) is its limit of 140 characters per post. The intent is to encourage quick and concise sharing of information. For businesses using multiple social media platforms, this means you need to stop, think and format your posts specifically for Twitter as opposed to posting the same content you would on Facebook across every other social media site you use. Furthermore, you should be using hashtags and tagging fellow Twitter accounts, as appropriate, which is all the more reason to make your Twitter posts unique to this platform.

Being too “salesy” with Tweets

So often businesses think effective marketing is bombarding their audience with a hard sales pitch. While having a clear call to action is certainly a good thing, being too “salesy” will only turn off your customer base and cause your network to eventually tune you out completely. Instead, keep your brand top of mind and establish value by sharing helpful hints or information within your area of expertise. This will help you build both trust and a bigger following. The direct sales will result after you first put in the time to connect with your audience!

How have you navigated your small business strategy on Twitter? Have you made any of these mistakes? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

The Struggle is Real: How to Overcome a Slow Wi-Fi Connection

The following post comes to us from returning guest blogger, Sarah Pike. Sarah is a freelancer and teacher with a passion for sharing innovative ideas about entrepreneurship, productivity and company culture. Be sure to visit her author’s bio below to learn more and connect or read more of her guest blog posts!

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The Struggle is Real: How to Overcome a Slow Wi-Fi Connection

How to Overcome a Slow Wi-Fi Connection

When you’re participating in a professional development webinar, Skyping with a client, or simply emailing journalists—a strong Internet connection is essential. Without it, you’re not getting the most from your Wi-Fi the way you should. Don’t let the slow Wi-Fi struggle get you down. Below are some tips to help you overcome slow Wi-Fi and get back to being on top of your work game.

Cut back on the number of devices using your network.
If you’re running nine devices on bandwidth designed for five, your Wi-Fi will be sluggish. Fortunately, you don’t have to guess at how many connected devices are too many. This tool tells you how much Internet speed you actually need, whether you’re video conferencing, streaming music, or just emailing clients.

There are too many networks in your area. 
There are a limited amount of radio waves that transmit wireless signals in any given area. If you live in a busy city or an apartment building, with hundreds of networks competing for space, your Wi-Fi will be slow. You may be able to reduce interference by changing your wireless channel.

Your router is in a bad place.
The further your connected device is from your router, the slower your connection. Move the router to a central location in your home or the spot where you most frequently need fast Wi-Fi, like a home office, to help improve your signal.

You’re running apps or programs that are bandwidth-hogs.
Some apps, like BitTorrent and Steam, use a lot of bandwidth, but you may forget they’re running. This will slow your connection. On the other hand, if you’re trying to simultaneously download massive amounts of information, upload photos, and watch a video, you’re overloading your bandwidth (and possibly your device’s memory). Stick to one bandwidth-heavy process at a time.

You expect too much from Wi-Fi.
Your Wi-Fi can only do so much, and that certainly isn’t as much as a hard-wired Ethernet connection. If you’re stuck with slow Wi-Fi and need to use the Internet, optimize your browser for a slower connection by viewing mobile or HTML versions of Web sites and disabling images. Take care of tasks that aren’t as bandwidth-intensive and save the massive downloads for a time when you have access to an Ethernet connection or faster Wi-Fi.

Maybe It’s Not Your Fault After All.
Slow Internet may have nothing to do with your routers position, the apps you’re running, or your high expectations for today’s technology. Sometimes your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is having trouble. These may stem from the central office, the connection going into your home, or the cables at the street. If that’s the case, give your ISP a call.

Once you establish what the problem is, whether on your own or by talking with your ISP, take action. The sooner you do, the sooner you’ll be back to work without fear of lagging Wi-Fi interrupting your progress.

Have you ever had the frustrating experience of working through a slow Wi-Fi connection? Share your tips for overcoming this challenge by commenting below!

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About the Author: Sarah Pike is a freelancer and teacher, with a slight productivity app obsession. When she’s not writing or teaching, she’s probably reading about career-pathing and wellness. She also enjoys following far too many celebrities than she should on Instagram. You can find Sarah on Twitter at @sarahzpike.