So your business website has a clear, intuitive layout, professional-looking pictures, an interface that works with all major browsers (yes, including mobile) and all the relevant information that your customers need. Great! So you’re all set, right?

Well, not quite.

Don’t worry; having a user-friendly, informative website is always a high priority. But to take your web presence over the top — to go from welcoming new customers to creating long-term customer loyalty — the missing ingredient is personality. Sharing a little bit of what makes you unique is how you’ll create a deeper relationship with customers and make them want to keep coming back, and tell all their friends and family about you, too.

The tricky part is knowing just how much personality to show. You are running a business, after all, not a personal blog. Adding a picture or two of you and your colleagues having fun while making your product or setting up shop is a great touch. If family members are involved, show them off! Pets? Sure, why not? Make your pet a charming mascot by showing how they “help” with the business — as long as everything’s sanitary, of course.

If you feel like getting a little fancy with things, let’s talk theme. Something you’re passionate about, like your hometown, sense of humor, or personal style can become an integral part of your brand, from names to packaging to, or course, the context and feel of your website. For instance, one small business I worked with had a theme of Southern nostalgia. I helped the business owner to create product names and descriptions that evoked that theme. Another client suggested a penguin for a logo because he happened to like penguins. The team I was working with created a penguin mascot to help explain the client’s high-tech products throughout the website and social media, even naming products after penguin species like “Emperor “and “Rockhopper” to really keep it integrated.

Often the need to be professional makes us afraid to show off our individuality. But in the world of small business, your uniqueness can be a major selling point! So go ahead and let your personality shine through. Customers will appreciate the chance to get to know you as a real person, not just a brand.


Can you believe 2016 is almost over? I barely can. This has been such a big year for my career, but there’s still so much that I want to do! And most of my friends in the small-business community are in the same boat — just starting to branch out and wondering how to reach the next level.

Time's Square ball

So why not get a jump start on 2012 with a great deal on a basic content package to make your web presence stand out from the crowd? You’ve spent long enough thinking “I really should get a better website,” or “one of these days I’ll start using social media for marketing.” In 2012, you can have it all — great branded multimedia content, social engagement, even improved search engine results! All that without having to make a major commitment or time or money. The introductory package comes with no strings attached; if you love what I do for your business, I’d love to work with you again, but if all you need is the basics, that’s great, too.

For $150 you get:

  • A one- to two-hour consultation held at your choice of meeting place, during which I will advise you on the best content strategy for your business and ask questions to make sure I’m representing the true spirit of your brand.
  • A simple WordPress website if you don’t already have a site, *OR* a  basic copy/content update for your existing site
  • Setup of social networking profiles

If you haven’t tried online marketing at all yet and aren’t sure if it’s for you — or if you’ve wanted to and just haven’t had the cash — this is the perfect time to give it a try. But I can’t offer this ridiculously low price forever, so act fast!

You’ve spent enough New Years resolving to stop biting your fingernails or get six-pack abs. This year, resolve to adapt to the 21st century and take the future of your business into your own hands. Don’t wait! Email to sign up right away.

My client sighed into the phone as he described a fellow author who had developed serious public interest in his new project seemingly overnight. “It seems like just yesterday he was just posting random brainstorming questions on Google+ and his blog, without even mentioning that he was going to turn it into a book… and as soon as he decided that he wanted to write a book, he had people pledging hundreds of dollars on Kickstarter to help him write it. How does that work?”

I mentioned that the author in question had been following documented social media best practices since long before this project got started, actively engaging with readers and fellow writers, spotlighting other peoples’ content as well as his own, acting as a facilitator for interesting conversations, and above all, constantly asking readers to share their own thoughts and experiences. His posts always come off as starting a discussion, not delivering a lecture. And as I explained this to my rather exasperated client, it occurred to me that my own advice might have been part of the problem.

You have to be an expert… just not THAT kind of expert.

See, when I’m talking about the importance of blogging for business, expertise is a concept that comes up a lot. People want to hire you, or buy your product, if they see you as an expert on what you do, and writing a successful, sophisticated blog on the subject (or getting someone like me to write one for you) is a great way to establish that sense of expertise. You know, “look at this guy, he looks like he knows what he’s talking about.”

The thing is, our culture has a lot of associations tied up with the word expert. An expert isn’t just someone who happens to know a lot about her favorite subject; she’s a kind of authority figure, with all that that entails. Being an expert means that you get to boss other people around, and, on the flipside, that you don’t let anybody boss you around. Maintaining authority means not showing weakness, right? And asking for help is showing weakness… and asking for input is basically asking for help… so if the whole point of having a blog is to prove that you’re a Big Damn Expert, the whole thing is totally ruined if you ever admit that you don’t know anything. Game over.

Except that in the warm, fuzzy world of social media (and for that matter, in the rest of the world outside of TV infotainment shows and certain highly contentious university departments), expertise doesn’t exactly work that way. You can be an expert and still be curious about what other people think, or even admit that there are whole sub-fields that you don’t really get. One of my favorite social media bloggers, Mitch Joel, did a great post about how he isn’t very good at Twitter. Think about the best teachers you had in school — were they the ones who thought they knew everything, or the ones who were obviously willing to learn new things from their students? You could spot the difference when you were in high school, right? Your customers are at least as sophisticated now as you were then.

(further reading: Another favorite of mine, Havi Brooks, has a great post about reconciling the desire to be an expert with the fact that you are, probably, also a human.)

Learning to let go.

Engaging on social media requires you to give up just a little bit of control. That can mean giving up the floor and inviting people to tell you things you’ve never thought about before, including things that might contradict your basic business model. And that’s okay. No, really, it is. Showing that you’re okay with that is vital to showing that you’re comfortable with the medium you’re using — it’s the equivalent of standing up at a podium and looking like you belong there, instead of awkwardly rifling through your notes and speaking too close to the microphone.

It might help to look at social media as a language — and blogging, forums, facebook, twitter, etc as dialects of that language — and to acknowledge that the question form is the key to that language. Look how many social media posts are framed as questions; it’s like Jeopardy out here. Why? Because interaction is what you’re looking for, and questions invite interaction. They signal to people that you want them to talk to you. In social media land, asking a question doesn’t mean “I don’t know this,” it means “I want to talk with you about this.” Which you totally do, right?

What if I ask and nobody answers?

That’s a scary one. If nobody’s commenting on your blog, you might not want to risk posting an open-ended brainstorming session, asking people for input, and receiving… you know, that annoying little chirping cricket sound. There’s having faith that the audience will find you, and then there’s just asking for embarrassment. So don’t do that.

Instead, start where your audience already is. Chances are, there’s somewhere online — whether it’s a Facebook group, a Twitter chat, or a forum — where people who are interested in your subject matter are already talking. Get to know the people there, and start asking questions and looking for input. Once you’ve gotten to know a few people, you can shift the discussion over to your own space, like a blog post.

For this to work, it’s important to know your audience, and how they relate to online spaces. For instance, I know that my fellow social media and blogging people like to hang out on Twitter. On the other hand, when I used to be a semi-professional Middle Eastern dancer, I always looked for other dancers on the more obscure, bohemian-targeted social network Once you’ve found a community, it’s just a small step towards starting a discussion.

What are you waiting for?

Have fun with it. Ask questions — even controversial ones. Request that your readers tell you their stories. Learn things. Share what you know.

Yes, it’s business — and yes, it’s definitely work. But if you relax a little and get past the initial fear, it can also be a lot of fun.



Hey, this is neat. Somebody — “somebody” in this case meaning an executive at a very shiny-looking social media firm — made a video just so I could have a handy link to share with all the various people in my life who are a little fuzzy on exactly what it is that I do for a living.

Mom, Dad, here it is:


Now, aside from making my next family reunion less awkward, this video is really good because it answers a lot of questions that first-time clients tend to have about how social media will benefit their business, in a way that works for both hardnosed number-cruncher types (I love you guys, really) and those of us who have a more abstract or visual way of looking at things. I can imagine a pitch meeting where I come in with my tablet (in my imagination I have a tablet) and show the prospective client a video like this… and then we work together to script a video that would do the same thing for her business, whether it’s custom software or silk hair accessories.

Craig in the video says that his firm, Maximize Social Media, works with medium-sized companies, so it’s not surprising that one thing he doesn’t talk about is the particular array of benefits that social media marketing has for small businesses — both those who are intentionally small and those who want to grow bigger. The fact is, most of the clients I’ve worked with, and those I really want to work with, aren’t going to ask themselves “should I pursue a TV ad campaign, or try this new social media marketing instead?” They’re often too small, too specialized, or too just-getting-started to participate in traditional advertising. For these businesses, social media marketing doesn’t represent an alternative to an old way of doing things — it’s an opportunity arising where none has existed before.


This blog isn’t dead, it just hasn’t woken up yet. If you’re here, it means you stumbled upon it by accident, and should be very, very quiet. Please forgive the total lack of design or content or organization or absolutely anything else. More is coming soon, I promise!

What will my blog do when it wakes up?

Well, first, it will have to have a nice cup of tea. And then it will talk a lot about social content, which is basically the art of saying things to people, only in smart and interesting ways that bring in more people to come listen to you and share your things with everybody else. And also about small businesses (my favorite things in the world), and about creating a unique voice for your brand, and sometimes probably about food, because I really can’t resist one more place to talk about what I made for dinner.

I hope that you’ll come back and visit my blog after it’s had time to get itself presentable.

In the meantime, if you want to stay in touch, please do follow me on Twitter and check out my work with the multimedia firm The Creative Media People.