Social Media Marketing World Recap

Old Town San Diego (One of our fave spots from the trip).

Old Town San Diego (One of our fave spots from the trip).


So, I did a thing. I treated myself to a conference just because. I've definitely put in my share of time at conferences. I’ve been to conferences for rural municipality co-op utilities, I’ve been to the biggest conference for consumer electronics, I’ve been to conferences for telecommunications and conferences for flooring. I’ve planned events and session content for conferences I’ve been a part of over the years. And, for the record, I do love a conference. But until last week, I had never been to a conference that I picked and attended solely for the purpose of learning something for myself. And I did the thing. And it was incredible.

Since I’ve somewhat accidentally entered this social media arena, I’ve watched and learned and attended online events to soak up everything I can. Because, you see, I’ve never taken an actual class at a school about anything related to social media. And that’s because Facebook started my senior year of college. But I’ve watched and followed Social Media Examiner and have seen how they have beautifully navigated this social media thing and have positioned themselves as the resource for social media marketers. And, when I found out they put on a conference, I put it on my bucket list to go.

Our Air BnB Rocked!

Our Air BnB Rocked!


Last week, I spent seven whole days in San Diego with my husband and son. We did the zoo, we did the safari park, we did Sea World, and when all that fun was over, I attended Social Media Marketing World 2019. (In retrospect, I probably would have reversed the week to have done the conference first…brain exhaustion x’s 10). The only thing I didn't love about the conference was that there was SO much to learn that I literally had anxiety choosing which sessions to go to because, at any given time, there were at least four I wanted to attend. Thankfully, Social Media Marketing World has their attendees covered, and every few days, I’m getting emails saying a few more sessions are uploaded and ready to view. So, I get to rewatch the ones I attended and watch the ones I missed.

Even though I didn’t get to catch them all, I learned a lot about local business, more than I expected to learn about Facebook, and I feel like I can now rock content creation like no one’s business. I’ve narrowed down my top five learnings here. Feel free to message me, or DM me on Instagram (@thesmalltowncreative) if you want to chat more about it. I HIGHLY encourage anyone who is a social media marketer for their business to attend next year.

  1. When you start to write content, give yourself focus and format. How often do we feel stuck trying to create content for our business? ALL. THE. TIME. Well, Melanie Deziel is basically a genius who helps equip content creators create confines and a framework to develop content. She owns Storyfuel and gave an awesome presentation about how to quickly come up with 100 content ideas using her Focus X Format method. This method basically involves everything you can FOCUS on (ie. products, testimonials, historical information, features, overviews, deep dives and DIYs) and multiplies them by all the ways you can FORMAT them (written, audio, info graphics, roundup, e-book, etc.). And she basically debunked the myth that anyone at any business could have about “not having anything to write.” I’ll never say that again after I realized that there’s ALWAYS something to say using her methodology.

  2. If you’re overseeing marketing for a consumer brand and influencers aren’t a part of your marketing strategy, they need to be. Social media should be about collaboration and authenticity. And social influencers are the new “word of mouth,” which has historically carried brands WAY farther than paid advertising. So, get you a budget for influencers if you haven’t already. Obviously, there’s a lot that goes into influencer strategy, but statistically, they’re getting about 6x’s return on spend because authenticity sells, so it’s definitely something you want to start thinking about and working on in your business. Also, when it comes to influencers, KNOW YOUR OBJECTIVES and focus on verifiable activities so you’re sure you know the success of their work. This is super important in influencer work. This presentation was by Neal Shaffer, and this dude really knows his stuff.

  3. If you want your Facebook post to go a little further, put $5 behind it. I mean, this isn’t exactly what she said, but Mari Smith , a Facebook genius, gave a keynote one morning about where Facebook is going. And it’s true, only 1-6% of what brands post on social is getting seen. So, one way to combat that is to put a little money behind it. Even just a little boost or small investment in a campaign, even after turned off, will catch the Facebook algorithm’s attention enough to keep your post getting seen by more folks. Who knew!?!?


  5. Okay just kidding, this is really number four. Amy Porterfield was as relatable, smart and fun as I anticipated. She rocked a session about using live video and how to get comfortable as an entrepreneur or as the face of a business using live video. My biggest takeaway here was that showing up consistently is more important than doing it perfectly. And that showing up just to doodle around isn’t good. When you show up on live video, show up and have something valuable to offer your audience. And show up the same time next week. Let them know you’ll be showing up. And eventually, you’ll have yourself a following that is LISTENING to what you have to say. This session may have seemed to apply more to entrepreneurs than big businesses or corporations, but if you can get any brand to have personal interaction with their followers, it definitely still applies. FIGHT FOR LIVE VIDEO for your brands because it’s one of the few things that’s really making a difference out there.

  6. This is really five, obvs. Instagram stories. Ohhhh Instagram stories…… Well, Tyler McCall showed up and showed out talking about Instagram stories. He shared the simple but oh so important reminder that, as a business, we need our IG stories to have intention and action. We need to do what the traditional stories do with our IG stores and…guess what??? TELL A STORY!! This means beginning, middle and end. Using Instagram stories to tell stories is powerful, engages your audience and carries your followers with you in a personal and real way.

In addition to all of this, my general takeaways were that Facebook is changing, IG stories are the bomb, video is 100% a necessary part of your marketing strategy and chat bots and DM’s are the next wave of communication for brands, so get on the personal bandwagon because that’s where you’re going to see better results with your marketing budget.

With that said, I’m taking off to let my brain rest from this recap because I’m still kind of halfway in brain explosion mode. Please feel free to find me on Instagram at @thesmalltowncreative to chat about these in more detail!

Social Media Game Changers


Five things that will change the way your business uses social media. 

A few years ago, the percentage of businesses using social media was less than 30%. Today, it’s over 70%. So, what’s the deal? What exactly is it that’s allowed so many business owners to understand the value of social media for their business? If you poll 100 entrepreneurs, my guess is they would tell you they felt as though not having a social media presence wasn’t an option. And quite frankly, they would be right.  

The proof is in the pudding. One of my favorite social media planning tools, Sprout Social, reports that 75% of adults who make over $75,000/USD per year use Facebook. And with 2 billion active monthly users on that particular medium, businesses can’t afford to be silent on social.  

One of the things I hear most often from business owners is that they don’t know what to say or how to say it. And, depending on the size of the business, there seems to be a fine line between keeping social media management internal vs. outsourcing it. Either way can be beneficial to the company depending on the business. My advice is, whether internal or external, make sure you are putting social media in the hands of someone who truly understands your purpose, your voice and your narrative.  

Let me be so bold as to make this one defining statement about social media for your business. If you see it as another avenue to sell your products or services, you’re doing it all wrong. What happens when someone walks into your storefront and is bombarded with a salesperson? Well, if it’s me, I leave the store as quickly as possible. In fact, I’ve made it a habit to pretend I’m on the phone when I walk onto a car lot or inside a furniture store that trains sales representatives to be aggressive. While social media can be a place for you to promote your products, it should most definitely not be all you do on social media. Social media should be a conversation, not a means to an end. 

I’ve captured my top five tips for business owners to help you keep the main thing the main thing when it comes to social media (and help you avoid overwhelm).


1.      Know your narrative.

This is the number one most important thing of all things. What do you want the customer to understand about most about your business? Is it that candles are 20% off? Most likely not. It’s whatever it is that led you to start this business in the first place. It’s the thing that keeps you up at night. It’s the thing that, after a really slow month, kept you going.  

Your product or service can make people’s lives better, and they need to know that. But they also need your help. They need you to guide them. On social media, you should be talking about things that affect this person each day outside of just promoting your business.

What keeps them up at night? What things to they care about? What does their family look like? What does their daily life look like, and how can you help guide them in their daily life outside of telling them candles are 20% off? That’s your narrative.  

2.      Let them experience YOU.

Anybody can sell a shirt. But it’s the WAY you sell a shirt and the meaning behind the shirt that makes it unique. But it’s hard to show people that using words and pictures on social media, right? So, rather than focus solely on selling your product, them the experience. If you’re a storefront, what does it feel like to walk in your store – do you use a certain color palette, have flowers outside your door, have a signature style, or serve free coffee when your patrons walk in the door? Your social media should be an extension of you – with colors, photos and an aesthetic that literally mimics what it feels to walk down the street and walk in the door to you.  

3.      Pick your platform.

This doesn’t necessarily mean I’m suggest only using one social media platform. But I do suggest a business do their research and find which platform is the most likely to have their target customer on it. Above all else, do that platform WELL. Keep content current and find out how to engage with people on that platform above all else.   

4.      Understand quality > quantity.

Everybody’s stressing about followers, but the reality is, more followers can also mean more clutter to sift through to get the deal done. Consider this scenario – a business can have 100 people walk in the store and not buy a thing. But, the one ideal customer walks in and buys the whole store. It only takes one, so know your narrative, lead them to your experience, pick your platform and find the one that’s coming to BUY things. 

5.      Use the 4/5 Rule.

Of every five social media posts, four of them should be educational and driven from reputable internal or external sources (because nobody likes someone who only talks about themselves, right?). This might include non-salesly blog content, good articles or information that relates to your industry. And the other one should be content that promotes your business, products or services.

 It’s easy to forget what the purpose of social media is – being social and building relationships. When it starts to get stressful, the best thing to do is remember that social media is that it’s just another avenue to get to know people. Don’t stress. Just be authentic. Don’t oversell yourself. And have fun. Let’s make difference in the world by sharing an authentic voice on social media. 

My Instagram Dreams Are Coming True


My Instagram dreams are coming true, and yours are too, you just don't know it yet. But I'm about to tell you why. PLANN, my favorite visual Instagram planning app, just announced that they will soon be releasing a desktop platform. This may seem like they are going backwards (as people may think things are moving away from computers and to mobile devices). However, for me, planning social media content from a computer is so.much.easier. than using a phone. And with PLANN, they make it so intuitive, so I know it will only be that much better. 

What I already love about PLANN.
For Instagram, PLANN does it all.  Here are a few key things I love about the app. And you can do most of this for FREE.


1. View your feed before you post.
With PLANN, you can arrange photos in the order you'd like them. I like to simply dump all my good photos as I have them into the app, and go ahead and move them around (knowing that it will be within the next 10-20 days or so). If something better comes up, so be it, but at least I am able to maintain a cohesive look for the most part. SPOILER ALERT! Here's a sneak peek of my feed for the next few weeks. 

2. Save hashtags.
Hashtags really can be such a pain, but they really so important for finding your tribe on Instagram. I've said it before, and I'll say it again...just like with everything, the more advanced planning you do, the easier it will be. Hashtags can be stored by topic easily right here in the app. That way, every time you get ready to post, you can grab the most appropriate hashtags for that post. If you spend 30 minutes right now, you can save 10-15 segments of hashtags. I promise it makes it a zillion times less complicated when you get ready to post. Just grab and go. Here are a few hashtags I've saved.

3. Know when to post.
You can set a reminder or manually determine the time you'd like to post from PLANN. And, if you don't know when to post, the app will suggest the most optimal time for you. Beautiful, huh?

4. Determine a strategy.
Do you hear people talk about Instagram strategy, and all you know is you don't have one? The beautiful thing about PLANN is they make it simple for you. It gives you the ability to create themes for your feed to help make it easy. Decide what your key themes are (5 or so), and post consistently with those themes each week. This not only helps you stay organized, but it helps build your tribe on Instagram, allowing you to hone in on the people you really want to connect with on the app. 

PLANN also gives great analytics, too, but I actually use a different application (S/O Sprout Social) for all of my analytics, so I can't speak to it as thoroughly as the other items on my list.

Honestly, the only negative I have to say about PLANN is that it be a little challenging to navigate for multiple platforms. But they've made it as easy as possible considering you're flipping from one to another. No platform is truly "simple" when it comes to that. 

Why PLANN for Desktop Will Rock
Call me old fashioned, but I love knocking out social media scheduling and planning at a computer, so I can use my mouse and drag things rather than my finger. Plus, sometimes I just get tired of my dang phone. But that aside, to be able to visually see photos, type content and plan it out.

So, if you want to see the Desktop app, too, use this link to let PLANN know! They'll put you in line to receive this awesome application on your computer, and we will all be rejoicing on that day.

In the spirit of stepping up your Instagram game, I have created a downloadable 31-day content plan for FREE. So, check it out by clicking here.


New Instagram Updates Your Small Biz Needs To Know


June has been a big month for Instagram! Coming off a recent local training for business owners, I feel like there's always more Insta knowledge and learning that can be shared week up on week. There have been several clarifications, new announcements and upcoming ideas announced by Instagram that are really important and small business owners need to know. 


The Algorithm
Instagram knows they threw a wholllllleeee lotta people off with the algorithm change. No longer do we see posts in the order in which they were posted, but now the way we see these posts is determined by many different factors. 

1. Relevancy Sorting
Basically, Instagram is giving people what they want to see by showing posts in feeds based on how relevant it is to the person viewing. Here's how it works. Instagram relies on your past behavior to create a customized feed JUST FOR THE VIEWER. This means the feed is literally customized based on how the user interacts with different accounts. Crazy, right?.

2. Interest
Instagram will rank posts higher by the user's past behavior. This means, their little machines will actually analyze the content of the post. Here is an example: If Joe and Tom both follow ABC Shoe Store, and Joe shops and searches for shoes all the time on Instagram, Joe will see content more often from ABC Shoe Store than Tom does. Tom may never see some of the posts by ABC Shoe Store.

3. Recency
How recent the post was shared is definitely a factor when it comes to what people see. More timely posts generally come first, BUT Instagram does push out older posts if the user interacts with that account a lot (see point #1 above). The more a user comments, tags and engages with other accounts will determine how much they see the content from those accounts. 

3. Frequency
How often you are in Instagram and how many people follow can impact what you're seeing. For example, if you follow thousands of accounts, you may see fewer posts from any one account.

4. Usage
How long people are spending on Instagram is also factored into the equation. Not only things like total time browsing but also the length of time a user spends on the app determines how what content they see. Instagram will prioritize the most popular content if they know a user is only going to be on the app for a few seconds each day. Whereas, they may show more/different content if you're on the app all day long. 

Why This Matters for Your Business
Here is the kicker. With all of these changes, the most important thing for your business to do is focus on quality content and engagement. Don't worry bout posting every day if your content isn't good quality. Posting things that will get people talking means more people will see it, which is what we want. 

Also, if you post a sale, event or special every day, it may never make it in front of your customer.  Or, they may see it two days after the sale ends. So, think before you post, "Could I use my story for this?" Stories are a great way to post content relevant to that day, since they are seen by anyone (not just your followers).

What's Coming - Long-Form Video
Instagram is introducing long-form video to the app (woo hoo!!!). This means, party people, that basically Instagram is becoming You Tube. I personally have a love/hate with YouTube (ever used it to save your toddler from a meltdown and a commercial come on????) So, I'm going to put in my request to Instagram to do without the five second commercials. Please and thank you.

With long-form video, you can post videos for up to an hour. Further proof that Instagram is taking over the world. So, get your cameras ready and prepare to use this tool for your business to show off anything you want without getting cut off after 15 seconds. Read about it here

That's a wrap on the Instagram updates. Keep up that good content, and I'll do my best to keep you posted as more new updates arise.


Keeping up with the #Hashtags


"I'm not good at hashtags."

"Do I need to have my own hashtag?"

"Why so many hashtags?"

Just a few of the questions I hear on the regular regarding Instagram. The truth is, sometimes hashtag research can be as time consuming as content development, but research shows that Instagram posts with at least one hastag typically perform 12.6% better than a post without hashtags. And posts with 11+ hashtags get the highest engagement (you can do up to 30 so max those bad boys out!). 

Ok, so I need to use them. But why?
Wondering why hashtags amp up your Insta? Because people have Google search so deeply embedded in their blood, that they are using social media platforms like Instagram as a search engine. I don't know about you, but I sometimes take my shopping inspiration straight from the little square app. In fact, you can actually follow hashtags you like or that might connect with your customers just to see what other people using that hashtag are saying.

Example, if you sell shoes, determine what hashtags your buyers would be searching for when they go to look for inspiration (black suede pump, classy shoes, dressy shoes), and there are some hashtag ideas. I even recommend splitting the hashtags into general to specific. For example, shoot for ten generic (#shoe, #shoes, #black shoe), ten mid-specific (#blackleathershoe) and ten specific (#blackpeeptoepump). This gives you variety and, in the event you get overlooked in the #shoe category, surely someone will notice that #blackpeeptoepump!

But hashtag research is exhausting.
Excuses, excuses! Well, yes, sometimes it is. But so is running a business. So, rather than you throwing a perfectly curated post out into la la land, remember with hashtags, you're actually HELPING the post get in front of more eyes that actually care about your products or service. This means you'll generally have more people engaging in your post. You have helped someone find something they need or like, so props to you!

Where do I find hashtags?
You can do your own research, of course. But sites like All Hashtag and Display Purposes  help you generate hashtags specific to words that make sense for your brand or product. Also, be sure to add your location in your post (posts tagged with a location receive 79% higher engagement).

I'll spend an hour posting all these things.
No you won't because you're going to be smart and download the PLANN app right this minute and spend 30 mins saving your most popular hashtags. Then, they are all stored and when you post, you can mozy on over to PLANN and grab your hashtags you worked so hard to save.

So, don't stress about hashtags. Here's a shortlist of what to do to amp up your hashtag game today.

  • Research your hashtags

  • Pick 30 for your top 10 categories (it's okay if some overlap)

  • Download PLANN and save the hashtags to categories

  • Voila! You're a hashtagging pro!


Get Organized With Your Social Media: Tips To Make Your Life Easier


It's time to talk a little social media. If you're an entrepreneur, small business or solo marketer, this may be the thing you dread the most about the day-to-day of your business. Scheduling posts, generating original content, staying a head of the game rather than posting things last minute - do these things sound familiar? The problem is that that generally if you're not planning posts with an underlying content strategy, your social media feeds will end up looking like an afterthought with no direction, no consistency and no theme. And will leave your followers confused about who you are and what you offer.

What to Post
I recommend mapping out your key "buckets" for your brand each quarter by answering these questions:

  • What products/services do I want people to buy most of this quarter?

  • What is my key differentiator?

  • What do I sell the most of right now?

Using these questions, map out your three "buckets" that are most important to your business for the quarter. Let's say, for a coffee shop the answers are:

  • Flavored bags of coffee

  • The fact that we purchase our beans locally

  • Caramel lattes

Now, put these buckets down on paper and plan to feature these things once each week in a unique way (warning: don't post the same thing every week). That right there gives you three things you already know you want to post about. 

Also, people love to see themselves on social media. Sprinkle in some customers using your products, some thought-leadership articles (thank you, Google Alerts) and you've got yourself a page worth following!

When to Schedule Posts
With a little effort, advanced planning can be so much better for your business. For example, you can spend 20-30 minutes each day scrambling to take photos, thinking of something insightful to say and end up coming up with something off the cuff an uninspiring. OR, spend 1.5 hours at the beginning of each week (I prefer Sunday nights, but whatever floats your boat). Take photos for 30 mins of photos, one hour of scheduling on the same day every week vs. 20-30 minutes daily scrambling to take photos and think of something insightful to say. Plus, you can generate more revenue if you plan posts in advance!

Social media platforms are the way your business is represented to your shoppers. Would you throw just anybody at the front desk of your business to greet customers as they walk in the door? Of course not! Similarly, social media is the only "face" many will see from your business, so you should treat your content with the utmost importance.

As far as time of day, there are awesome apps like When to Post that give you insights into when to post (and actually shoot you a reminder when you need to post). How much easier can it get?

Shameless Hootsuite Plug
The best way I've found to set it and forget it is Hootsuite. This is a social media planning tool that allows you to get ahead of your social media by planning everything, scheduling, even responding to your DM's and such. Also, they have switched their plans to allow accounts with three social media accounts to use it for FREE. Y'all, this will change your life. I'm telling you. DO IT.


Why Google Matters For Small Business: Interview With Todd Stauffer


Last week, I had the pleasure of sitting down to lunch at Steve's Deli, one of my favorite spots in Downtown Jackson with one of my favorite Jacksonians, Todd Stauffer. If you don't know Todd personally, you may recognize the name. He's kind of a big deal. Todd currently serves as the publisher and co-founder of the Jackson Free Pressand BOOM Magazine. He also wrote one of the earliest books on blogging, so I am hoping he will consider this as my official plea to serve as my full-time, blog consultant pro bono. He's been a media personality and marketer for a long time, helping small and large businesses grow. And I had the honor o f serving on the TeamJXN Board of Directors with Todd before I moved to Laurel, and while he's one I wish I was able to see more often, when we do get together, we pick right back up where we left off, then exchange witty (and sometimes snarky) emails until we meet again.

Todd being awesome and supportive at my company's rebrand launch in April 2016. Photo credit,  Jared Thomas .

Todd being awesome and supportive at my company's rebrand launch in April 2016. Photo credit, Jared Thomas.

I’ve seen local businesses immediately impacted by claiming and then filling out their Google My Business page.

Of the many areas Todd is an expert, Google is one of them. He's done talks specifically about Google and why businesses need to prioritize it. So, as one of my first few blog posts, I felt it was important to interview Todd specifically on why Google is so important for small business. 

Google ranks far higher than any social media platform as far as important first steps. Everything else supports what you do on Google. And if you set things up correctly in the beginning, you can take months or years off the guess work for Google to figure your business out by just giving them the information and photos. Most small businesses either don't even consider investing time into Google, or they dismiss it as a complicated and unnecessary step, when it's actually one of the most critical steps to make. So, I asked Todd to tell me what the first thing an entrepreneur or small business should do to get in the Google game. So, if you have a new business or haven't explored Google whatsoever, this one is for YOU.  

Claim your Google My Business (GMB) listing and then, once you've got control of it (which may take a week or two unless you work with some Google-authorized consultants) customize it. Make sure all of the settings and details are accurate. Add high-quality photos. Post offers, products, and promotions in Google Posts. Fill out the Q&A section about your store or service. Link to your well-designed website—not your Facebook page.

I've seen local businesses immediately impacted by claiming and then filling out their Google My Business page. It's the quickest way I've seen to get on the Google Map, for instance, when people search for your type of business or service in their area. It can give almost instant credibility to your business on the "Google Home Page"—meaning, the page that people see when they type your business name into Google and search. GMB offers tons of benefits—and it's Google's own "thing" so it's smart to do because Google is clearly going to prioritize their own tools over third-party tools.

If you haven’t already, you need to start working on your website. Facebook and other social media are important, but you should think of them primarily as tools for driving traffic to your website; driving traffic to your Facebook page is only so useful—it benefits Facebook more than you. (I like to point out that you own any audience you have on your website and in an e-mail database; you rent your own followers from Facebook.)

Late at night on Day One (it's been a busy day!) get that e-mail newsletter sign-up form on your professional-looking website and start thinking about how to sign people up in-store and online.

The ultimately goal of your website is going to be a conversion—traffic starts in social, search or earned media, and then comes to your website. That traffic ideally rsesults in either a sale if you’re in e-commerce, or an e-mail address so you can follow up with interested customers via e-mail newsletter or personal e-mail.

My next question for Todd was what I get from a lot of my peers in small business when we start the Google conversation - is all this work worth it? Google is an ongoing investment of time, but the bulk of the work is in the beginning. Granted, keeping your information current everywhere is important in general (to Google and beyond). So, my question to Todd:

Google matters for two reasons.

First, and most obvious, is that people use Google to find things. As far as local businesses and service providers are concerned, it's what the yellow pages used to be. Need a plumber in Laurel? You're likely to go to Google and type in "plumber Laurel" or "best plumber Laurel" or "plumber Laurel reviews." This is not only why SEO is important (so that you show up in those results), but it's one reason that Google My Business is so important to local businesses—it's almost literally like a free yellow pages listing with a ton of cool options for making your business stand out.

**Laura here with a side note: I, in fact, did this very thing a few weeks ago. Googled "plumber Laurel open Saturdays." No lie. Ok...back to Todd.

Second—and this one some local businesses don't think as much about— these days almost everyone will go to the Web in order to research a purchase before making it—even if they plan to go to a local store.