5 Year-End Practices Every Business Should Implement

5 Year-End Practices Every Business Should Implement

At the close of another year there are a few housekeeping tasks to take of care before the holiday season hits. Prepare your business for success in the New Year by tying up loose ends and planning for the challenges ahead. Make sure you have these top five year-end practices on your checklist!

Thank You Announcements

In the season of giving, it’s only natural to give thanks! Whether it’s in the form of a newsletter, a social media post or a personalized email, don’t forget to thank the people who are vital to the success of your business. On your thank you list should be customers, employees, business partners, referrals and advertising partners. Additionally, incorporating giveaways, gifts or coupon codes into your thank you notes can be an excellent way to ensure your business remains top of mind throughout the hectic holiday season.

Review the Successes and Failures of the Past Year

During your year-end review dedicate some time to exploring the big hits and misses your business experienced over the year. Touch base will all of your vendors, employees and partners to gain important insight that might have escaped you earlier in the year. By reviewing your track record and assessing the “whys” and “hows” of each important milestone you will enter the coming year armed with the knowledge to ensure growth. Learn from your failures and your successes. 

Set Goals for Next Year

What are you working towards in 2019? Setting goals gives your business direction, which can be beneficial not only for the business as a whole, but also for your team’s morale. Set clearly defined goals for growth and new pursuits, and communicate these ideals with your whole team to ensure everyone knows their role and can contribute ideas for crafting a winning strategy. Any growth you achieve in the future is more likely to be a permanent development if you have a clear idea of what the future of your business will be. 

Review Your Finances

The successes of your business can be measured in a few different ways, but the shape of your finances is a good place to start. Review your cash flow, track down all of the necessary paperwork you need from partnerships, and verify that all of the appropriate documentation has been filed for taxation. Depending on the size of your business, it may be time to create a full-time payroll department or outsource those responsibilities to an accounting firm. 

Update Your Social Media Policy

To keep up with the rapid changes throughout the social media world, it’s imperative that you update your social media policy (or establish such a policy if you haven’t already). An expansive social media policy should cover rules for employee use of social media, marketing guidelines and even recruiting practices for hiring departments. Avoid the pitfalls and mistakes made by other businesses who have fallen victim to social media scandals by creating clear, actionable guidelines on what is and isn’t acceptable.  

When you’ve covered all of your bases in your year-end review, you can dive into the New Year with the knowledge that you are as prepared as you will ever be. If you need help shoring up your social media strategy for 2019, contact us today!

Our Review of Sprout Social (A Social Media Management System)

Our Review of Sprout Social (A Social Media Management System)

Sprout Social is a social media management software that helps businesses of all sizes manage their social media presence. Tools like Sprout Social are essential for anyone looking to get organized and make the most of social media. Here’s a quick look at its top features: 

Scheduling and Publishing

By connecting your social media accounts to Sprout Social, you can create and post content from one place. Plan and make your content ahead of time and schedule it to publish across all of your social media platforms exactly when you want. Not only will this feature save you time, it can also give you the breathing room you need to perfect your content before it goes live.  

Stay Organized and Collaborate

There are a lot of balls to juggle when managing your brand’s social media accounts. To help you stay organized, Sprout Social has features like a media library where you can upload and tag media in preparation for publishing, image editing, workflow management tools to streamline collaboration between your employees, and bulk scheduling of up to 350 messages at a time. 

Managing in Engagement

There are built-in tools available to help users communicate with customers and followers. Create customer surveys, manage help requests, integrate with helpdesk tools, moderate comments, save premade replies, and collaborate and delegate with team members all from one dashboard. 

Analyze and Track Your Progress

How will you know if all that hard work you’re putting to your social media content is paying off, if you aren’t tracking its performance? 

With Sprout Social you get in-depth reports that cover valuable information like how many people are engaging with your posts and at what time of day your post perform the best. Gleam important information about your key demographics and optimal posting times for your content. With the Keyword and Competitor reports you can gauge how the market in general is performing in your niche and uncover new avenues to pursue in your social media strategy. 

To manage and enhance your brand’s social media presence, software like Sprout Social is essential. Social media is vital to surviving as a business. To learn more about managing your social media presence, check out the other posts on our blog, or contact us for an expert opinion!

Instagram Stories: Apps and Templates

Instagram Stories: Apps and Templates

Instagram Stories are yet another tool available for brands and social media stars to utilize in their marketing endeavours. Each Story is just 15 seconds long, but that’s plenty of time to pack in high quality content that your audience can enjoy. Instagram Stories are a great way to market products or services or simply boost engagement and drive traffic to your profile. 

To keep audiences engaged and to ensure your Stories are visual masterpieces there are a few tools and apps you can use. 

Unfold – You don’t have to be a graphic designer to make beautiful branded Stories. Unfold gives users access to a huge library of premade template designs. Simply shoot your video clip or pictures, select the template of your choice, and you’re good to go. Achieve brand consistency by using the same template or similar templates for all of your Stories. 

Ripl – Simple animations and slideshows are made easy with Ripl. This app is a favourite among small businesses marketing products and services. Create collages, slideshows and GIF-like animations with your own text, images and icons. Ripl has built-in editing tools, music tracks and more than 250 design templates to choose from. Input your text and you’re ready to post. 

Canva Mobile – If you already have colours, fonts and graphics you use for your brand, Canva’s mobile app will allow you to import these design elements to use for your Stories. You can create your own custom templates using on-brand colours and fonts, and apply them to your Stories right from your phone.

Adobe Spark Post – Get access to a full library of professionally shot stock photos, texts, graphics and more with Adobe Spark Post. Use this app to create highly unique and original text-based Stories. You’ll also get access to a wide array of fonts, graphics, and filters so your Stories all remain on-brand. 

CutStory – Need more than 15 seconds to tell your Story? CutStory is an app that allows users to break up longer video clips that can be uploaded into consecutive Stories. This way, you still get the benefit of posting Stories and your audience will be able to watch each part in order without getting lost. 

Incorporate Instagram Stories into your brand’s marketing strategy and watch business soar. Drive traffic where you need it and convert those leads into customers. Stories are one more new tool at your disposal to engage with your audience. 

Work-Life Balance – What Does that Really Mean?

Work-Life Balance – What Does that Really Mean?

Work-Life Balance: lately an over-used phrase that is used to explain that human beings require a stability or an equilibrium between work and their personal life. In the media, work-life balance has been portrayed as an impossible notion – workers need to be forever accessible, connected to their work for fear of losing their jobs or their clients.  

In a Harvard Business School survey, it has been noted that 94% of workers reported that they worked more than 50 hours per week and nearly half said that they worked closer to 65 hours per week. The media goes on to talk about how stress and mental health issues are also arising out of the lack of work-life balance which consequently affects happiness, relationships and health.

When we turn our heads to the balancing factor in work-life balance, we are encouraged to spend time with our children, husbands, friends and of course, to practice “me” time; go to the gym, go for a walk, get a manicure, practice yoga, treat yourself to a day at the spa…and this is done with the intention that we don’t burn out.

As a wife, mother and business-owner, I often revisit this notion of work-life balance – what does it mean to me specifically and my thoughts on this overused, and in my opinion misunderstood phrase. 

“Work” Has an Inherent Negative Connotation

For whatever reason, whenever used, “work” comes with a negative implication suggesting that individuals require the “life” aspect as a means to balance their “work” life. Yes, I agree it is important to spend time with your loved ones, to break away from your computer or your phone and to enjoy your surroundings. That is a practice that needs to be embedded in our everyday life…and not just as a means to balance work and life; but as a means to practice healthy habits. We are all connected to our screens, to emails and iMessages and as a result, we miss out. 

When talking specifically about taking time for yourself as a way to achieve a healthy work-life balance, I have to ask: could it be possible that “work life” provides a healthy balance to one’s personal life?

As a mom of two young children, here is what evenings and weekends look like: cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, changing diapers, bottle feeding my youngest, meal preparation for my eldest, baths, approximately 2-3 outfit changes daily, nap times, activities and then about a 1-2 hour bed time fiasco involving “no”, “more water”, “another story”, “cuddle more”… and the list goes on. 

When Sunday night rolls around, Monday morning isn’t looking so bad. I love my children with all of my heart, but let’s be honest – being a parent is a job in itself…sometimes two!

…this leads me to my next point. 

It Takes a Village

For women who have children and also work and contribute to a two-income household (even moreso for single mothers – all the power to you!), there is an inherent desire to provide for the family, not to miss out on important events, but also to practice that “me” time – fitness, quiet time, whatever it may be. Rarely do articles mention what exactly needs to be in place in order to accomplish this.

In our home, my husband is beyond helpful, our nanny is god-sent, our parents play a vital role, half-day nursery is essential and time management is a MUST. Needless to say, there must be a method to the madness… we work hard to play an integral part of our family and we both value our work life, as well as our personal life.

Healthy Habits

More so than a push to practice a healthy work-life balance, I would stress that it is important to set healthy boundaries and implement healthy habits in your life – in whatever way works best for you. 

Here are some of my top tips:

  • Set boundaries between work time and personal time – it is OK to disconnect
  • You are allowed to put family first 
  • You are ALSO allowed to prioritize your work as well
  • Time block 
  • Take time for your relationships – friendships, marriages, etc.
  • Consider what success looks like in your work life, personal life as well as your relationships?
  • Identify what specifically is important to you and take the time to practice that – whether it be a work objective or personal objective 

…last but not least… try to find a job that doesn’t feel like WORK! When you truly love what you do, it doesn’t!

Photo Editing Tools for Instagram

Photo Editing Tools for Instagram

I know what you’re thinking. Doesn’t Instagram already have built-in photo editing tools? Yes. Absolutely. But if you want take your Instagram game to the next level and do like the pros do, consider expanding your photo editing ambitions just a little bit. 

The following list includes the top editing apps used by social media managers and Instagram stars alike to craft eye-catching, flawless images for their feeds.

  1. Darkroom – This app is as close as you can get to having a Photoshop-level editing program on your smartphone. Darkroom gives users complete control over every aspect of the photo editing process. With this app you have best the chance of creating images that are totally unique to your vision and style. In terms of ease of use, Darkroom is a middle of the pack kind of app. There are plenty of features to keep more savvy users happy, while still offering enough preset filters to help less tech-savvy users produce equally stunning images. Photographers will love this app. 
  1. PicTapGo – As the name implies, PicTapGo is ideal for users on the go. This app is a great fit for people who are pressed for time but still want the option of cropping, filters, lens effects like soft focus, and so on. There 70 filters that come built-in, but if that’s not enough to satisfy, you can opt to purchase an expansion pack. Stand-out features include the ability to control the strength of applied filters and stack filters on top of each other. 
  1. Snapseed – New to photo editing but willing to learn? Snapseed is the app for you. The pop-up tips and guides included in the app give users just the right amount of hand-holding to achieve photo editing mastery. There is a little bit of a learning curve with this tool, but once you get the hang of it, there is plenty of fun to be had with features like filters, perspective, glamour glow, tuning, brushing and more (29 in total). It even allows RAW file editing and exporting to JPEG when you’re ready to post. 
  1. VSCO – If you want poppin’ pics without having to buckle down with learning the specifics of photo editing, VSCO is the tool for you. It is well-regarded among many social media gurus as user-friendly but high-quality. VSCO gives users a massive range of preset filters that do all of the work for you. This app is a great choice if you want your images to have a film-like quality. VSCO also has mobile video editing capabilities. Editing newbies are encouraged to give this tool a go.

Photo editing does not have to be scary or intimidating when you have apps like these at your disposal. Use these tools to your tailor your Instagram feed to reflect your personality and stand out from the crowd. Let your creativity run wild. 

For even more insider tips on how to upgrade your Instagram presence and other social media bites of wisdom, check out the other posts on our blog! 

The Secret to Smarter Hashtags

The Secret to Smarter Hashtags

When used with a little extra thought put into them, hashtags can greatly improve your visibility. Smarten up your hashtag strategy with these top tips. 

Go Public, or Go Home

This is a bit of common sense advice that can slip your mind if you’re not too familiar with the privacy settings on your account. For marketing purposes and growing a following you will need to make sure your social media accounts are set to public, not private so that new followers can find you!

Hiding Hashtags on Instagram

Instagram is a visual platform. The focus needs to remain on the image content of your posts. Your caption should be directly connected to the image. Instead of crowding the caption space with hashtags, make a separate comment on your post containing the hashtags. This allows you to gain the benefit of your posts appearing in those tags without cluttering your caption space. 

Change It Up

Copying and pasting the same batch of hashtags for all of your posts is easy, sure, but it is also limiting. Using the same hashtags repeatedly limits your exposure to those hashtags alone. It also gives viewers the impression of complacency. If you want to show your audience that you are engaged and “listening” so to speak, cycle through a variety of hashtags on your posts. Not only will you expose your content to a larger group of people, you will also create a feed that lets followers know you’re there and ready to engage with them. 

Quality Over Quantity

Could you litter your posts with every hashtag under the sun? Yes. Will that tactic get you a lot of likes? Probably. BUT, it can also reek of greediness. When you’re doing it right, social media isn’t about collecting likes. It’s about creating engagement. Followers who eventually become customers are genuinely interested in your content. These are the people who you should be trying to engage. So, focus your net.

Choose your hashtags carefully. Make them specific and relevant to your posts. Using hashtags that are smaller in scope, but more closely connected to your content will increase the likelihood it will be seen by real people who also have a personal connection to that topic. 

Emotive Hashtags

Humans are emotional creatures. As consumers we find it easy to connect with content that has an emotional element. Incorporate an emotional element into your hashtags. Think about the moods and feelings evoked by the topics you’re posting about, and create hashtags with this in mind. 

Become an Early Adopter

Every second a new hashtag is born. Sometimes those hashtags become viral sensations. Keep an eye on the trending lists of hashtags so you can hop on the bandwagon when it’s still fresh and new. Viral hashtags can be great for exposure if you use them early enough in their rise to the top. Use them too late and you’ll look like you’re just following the crowd. 

A Hashtag Just for You

Ultimately hashtags are a filtering tool. They make it easier for users to find content they are interested in. Make it easy for your followers to find your content by creating hashtags that fit your niche. You can also use unique hashtags to organize your content. Remember to include any hashtags that are unique to your content and brand in your bio. 

Want to learn more about how social media can help your business grow? Contact us! We have a roster of social media and marketing experts ready to help your businesses thrive online.