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This Article May Save Your Life

1024 576 Zack Jackson

What if I told you that by the end of this article, I would give you the single most important piece of information for your small business?  If nothing else, I’d say between the overly dramatic title of this article and that opening sentence, I at least have your attention, don’t I?  And that, my friends, is what we’re talking about today … the branding of your business and how to convey it to your audience with a sense of URGENCY.

I hosted a morning radio show for 20 years, and it was widely understood that you had approximately seven seconds to capture the audience’s attention before they changed the channel.  Seven seconds!  So if you thought it was a good idea to start your segment with, “Hi .. good morning … my name is Zack … this is my co-host … how are you today?” BUZZER!  Wrong answer! They’re gone.  They’re bored and moved on.

But if I started out by saying, “I’m going to tell you about a slice of pizza I ate last night that was so delicious it changed my life,” well now you wanna hear about this magical triangle of destiny and you’re going to hang with me until the end of the story. (Unless you’re some kind of monster that doesn’t want to hear about a life-changing pizza, in which case I don’t want you as my audience anyway.)

I help out once a month at a get-together for small business owners in Roanoke (it’s free and fun, email me if interested), and recently we were talking about the “elevator pitches” of our company.  After hearing “Hi my name is blah blah and I own a company called blah blah,” a few times I knew it was time to talk about how we promote our brand and the sense of urgency necessary to capture our audience.

When we try to reach our audience, we are in a constant battle for their attention between competitors in our field and pretty much any other distraction … Netflix, Candy Crush, annoying TikTok videos, or whatever else.  So it is absolutely VITAL to get our message across as quickly and efficiently as possible.

The good news is, once you have their attention, then you can take the time to explain your brand or your services and show them why you’re so dang awesome.  But if you waste that first seven seconds?  BUZZER! Wrong answer! They’re gone.

OK … now that we’re at the end, this article may not ACTUALLY have saved your life, but I do think this piece of advice is crucial for the success of your business, so it’s definitely saving SOMETHING!

Don’t Go to Jail!

1024 576 Zack Jackson

Ahhh jail.  I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid I was always afraid I’d end up “in jail.”  I didn’t have any plans to commit big heists or anything, but I think TV had it ingrained in my head that you could simply end up “in jail” for a crime you didn’t even commit.  I mean, have you SEEN “Shawshank Redemption?”  That’s some pretty bad jail right there!

And guess what everybody?  Jail is back and better than ever!

OK … you’re not going to be shivved in the yard by a rival gang, but “digital jail” is something you could easily end up in (or already have).  “Digital jail” is when our social media robot overlords decide your content has somehow violated one of their 6,523,222 unspoken regulations and you are summarily sentenced with little to no chance to argue your case.  Huzzah!

If I tried to list ALL the ways to avoid digital jail, the finished product would be the size of one of those giant old books on “Game of Thrones,” but here’s some of the most popular ones …

  • DON’T: Run contests asking for likes, shares, and tags

We’ve all done this one (and probably gotten away with it), but Meta is very clear that this one is against the rules.  Additionally it just kinda looks sleazy and desperate.  What you CAN do instead is run a giveaway and ask people to contribute with relevant comments.  Example:  An outdoor store could offer a $25 gift card and ask, “What’s your favorite winter outdoor activity?”  That’s totally fine, and in many cases will actually help boost page engagement as more people comment on the post.

  • DON’T: Use banned hashtags

Explicit and defamatory hashtags are obvious, but what you may not know is Instagram has an unpublished list of “shadowbanned” hashtags.  These are seemingly normal tags that have been hijacked by spam accounts, so IG starts hiding posts that use it.  Example: #adulting is currently shadowbanned (who knew?) and will get your post crushed by the algorithm. Use Google to find more.

  • DON’T: Share other people’s stuff without permission

In some ways this is silly where a person enters YOUR business, takes a picture of YOUR stuff, and tags you in the post and yet it’s still totally against the rules to repost without permission. Even though 99% of people don’t care, take the extra minute to shoot them a DM and ask if it’s OK to repost.  All it takes is that 1% to decide to complain and you’re in trouble. 

OK friends … that’s all we have time for today.  Good luck staying out of jail!