The problem with Fakebook and filters

Many of you who know me personally know that once a month I mentor a 13 year old girl called El.  It’s part of the Girls Out Loud Big Sister Programme which targets the girls who sit in the middle of the cohort who simply cruise along. These girls are in danger of becoming invisible purely because they are neither seriously disruptive, nor super academically gifted. They struggle to find their place and often get lost in the noise, either hiding in the corner or looking for validation in all the wrong places.

In the short time I’ve being involved in this wonderful cause I’ve been struck by the impact social media has on these young girls. The insane amounts of pressure they face day in, day out via their online interactions has blown my mind (and I consider myself not to be terribly naïve in this particular area).

Young people (let’s not pretend it’s all about the girls) are exposed to so many things which increase their anxiety around appearance and cause them to focus on their body image.  Society’s obsession with celebrity culture creates an unhealthy image of what we should all aspire to, with many of us forgetting just how much airbrushing goes in to the perfect image.

However, that is nothing new and sadly, isn’t going away any time soon.  What does seem to be on the increase though is the proliferation of social media channels focussing on nothing but image.  The likes of Snapchat and Instagram promote unrealistic messages of how people, especially young girls, “should” look.  If you don’t conform to the “correct” standards you can easily become ostracised.

It’s easy to sit here in the cold light of day and query why anyone would care how many “likes” their latest photo has received, but when social interactions are based on negative or positive comments and ratings, friendships become nothing more than competitions. It is an unhealthy way to live – but to remove yourself from the situation ensures you become an outsider and are excluded in the real world as well.

The problem is in a world where social media dominates, we have fallen in to the trap of sharing almost everything.  Let’s face it, a night out didn’t happen unless there are countless photos all over your chosen platform.  There’s little point in arguing such a good night would captivate your attention so much you’d be able to avoid the lure of the selfie in the first place.

The problem is filters existed long before Instagram came along. When you are in control of what you share it makes sense that you only share the best. It’s human nature and there’s nothing wrong with that. Or is there?

When you post photos of you working in your perfectly manicured garden along with a status describing your perfect life and how you have it all #LuckyGirl #LivingTheDream #Freedom – doesn’t it make it a little harder to yell for help when it goes a little wrong?

Does the inherent undertone of “I have it all, come be like me” not set you apart and put you on a precarious pedestal?  I worry so much that as a society we are all playing the Fakebook game a little too well, and I fear what impact this is having on our mental health.

If, we the sage adults are able to fall in to this trap of pretend perfection, what hope is there for our young teens?

 

 

 

Guess what’s back …

In 2014 we started offering call handling to some of our existing clients.  It proved to be such a popular service that we rolled it out to everyone and anyone, and it definitely became one of our more valuable offerings as far as business owners were concerned.

However, as is often the case with business, the sailing didn’t stay smooth for ever.

Following some staff changes Lu was predominantly answering calls on her own, and with the onset of morning sickness, she became concerned the quality of the service offered would be compromised.  It was a difficult decision, especially as it meant losing some clients altogether, but the call handling was stopped in early 2016.

I treat my clients like good friends, and I want to do the absolute best for them. Dropping the ball when it came to their businesses just wasn’t something I was prepared to do.

Nearly 18 months later and things have changed.  The morning sickness has been replaced by a 10 month old boy called Eric, and now we have a team in place dedicated to handling all the calls you can throw at them.

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If you want to find out more about the various packages we offer (including a holiday cover package) please get in touch. You can call 0161 883 2024 or email hello@timesavingheroes.co.uk

 

We look forward to taking your calls.

 

 

Tragedy is not a marketing opportunity

This is a blog post I never thought I’d write, but unfortunately tragic events are becoming an increasing part of our everyday lives.  In the last few weeks we have had the MEN bombing, London Bridge attacks and just yesterday the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

I know there are far more incidents worthy of comment occurring throughout the world, so please forgive me for focussing solely on those closer to home.

When breaking news occurs, and starts to dominate social media what should you, as a business and brand do?  How do you react to it, and indeed should you make a comment at all?  The reality is no social media platform comes with an etiquette guide to troubling events, and whilst we may all suggest relying on common sense, in the heat of the moment such an apparently common attribute is often lacking.

Here’s the first things you should consider to avoid getting it wrong.

Ask yourself why

In the wake of a tragedy, celebrity death, terrorist attack or natural disaster you may feel compelled to say something.  That’s undoubtedly human nature in this constantly signed-in culture we live in, but stop for a second and ask yourself why you want to comment.

Just because everyone else is saying something doesn’t mean you have to. Sometimes it’s perfectly acceptable to say nothing – you certainly shouldn’t say something just because you want to jump on the band wagon.

Equally, if you do want to say something consider whether it has to be via your company.  Is the current event or situation linked in any way to your industry?  If not there is every chance any comment you make or any links to the trending hashtag will be seen as a cheap marketing ploy. If that is the case then trust me, any clicks and interactions you get off the back of it will not be worth the negative responses you will foster in the vast majority of people.

If your industry or business is connected in some way to what’s happened then people will undoubtedly expect you to comment.  Failing to do so can be seen as being as unnatural as those who try to force the issue.  Don’t feel you can’t say anything, just make sure you put some thought in to it before you press send.

Get the message right

I confess I was appalled this morning by a post I saw on a local businesses Facebook page.  Late last night (less than 24 hours after the Grenfell Tower fire started) a letting agent posted a photo of himself when he had a brief stint as a fireman over four years ago.

Knowing the gentleman concerned I have little doubt the tone was meant to be one of solidarity and genuine compassion for those involved. However, the use of two photographs featuring himself ensured the post was solely about him. The associated content was just as equally focussed on him, with a statement that he had previously lobbied the local fire service and council for the installation of fire alarms to be made a legal requirement in private rentals (before this became ratified by government).

I was left feeling he was looking for external validation and applause – all on the back of a tragedy in which countless people have lost their homes, possessions and in all too many cases, their lives. This is no doubt not the case, but the shoddy way the posting was handled meant I know I am not the only one who was left querying the motivations.

This business had genuine reasons to be commenting on this tragedy – I do not dispute that for one second. It is simply the way it’s been done that was entirely wrong. No real message was passed on, there was no benefit to the wider public, it was instead “look at me, I’m wonderful”.

A far better response would have been to remind people (a few days later) that if you live in a rental property it might be your landlords responsibility to ensure there are suitable alarms and detectors in the property, but that it remains your duty to check they are working at regular intervals.

The above message could actually save lives.

The original one cannot.

Err on the side of caution

If you are not sure if what you are posting is relevant to your business, audience or industry, but you still want to say something, it is often wise to err on the side of caution and simply post on your personal accounts instead.

Let the message come from you, not your brand; at least then either way you cannot be accused of seeking validation or promotion.  Get it wrong and people are unlikely to forget quickly.

 

 

 

 

 

Look for the helpers

Everything’s a little bit quiet today.  The sun, which started brightly, has even muted itself behind the gathering clouds and the usually cheerful birds are tweeting in whispers.  Driving home from this morning’s subdued networking meeting I was struck by the regular silences on the radio.  Presenters, infamous for their humour and constant banter, today stuck for words. Listeners, phoning in to say their piece, struggled to speak round the pain in their hearts.

Today is a sad day for Manchester.

For us all.

Manchester is my adopted city, and I love it.  More importantly, I love its people, for they are the most amazing I have ever had the pleasure to meet.  So many of those I have come to know and love since moving here were caught up in the events of last night.

Scrolling through my news feed this morning there are numerous posts of people announcing they are safe – not from an attention seeking “it could have been me” perspective (as many are suggesting) but from a genuine it could have been them, because they were there. It could actually have been them, or their children, or their loved ones.

This shit is real.  It always has been, but right now it’s on our doorstep.

While my heart goes out to everyone today, my mind turns to my babies, especially my little girls.  They sit and watch the news with us.  They invariably hover around my shoulder as I scroll through Facebook.  They see things, they sense things; they cannot be protected from this.

And nor should they.  They need to know that the world is not always a beautiful and safe place, but equally, they need to know that there are beautiful people in it.

How then do you balance all that?  How do you inform any child of the realities of terrorism, without inadvertently letting the terrorists “win”?

I am proud of the fact that in the 8 years I’ve been doing this parenting gig, I’ve never told another parent how to do their job.  I’m not about to start now; I merely express the opinion that trying to hide this from your child, especially if you are raising a proud Mancunian, is not a good idea.

You cannot hide this, it’s everywhere.  If you don’t explain this to them, if you don’t tackle it head on, they will fill in the blanks, and God only knows what they will come up with.  The reality is terrifying, it’s heart breaking, it’s shocking but their imaginations are vivid and for them, the blanks may be so much more frightening.

For us, we have sat and talked. We have reminded our girls that they can ask questions, at any time, about anything.  If they tell us they’re scared, we won’t tell them not to be. Hell, I’m scared, I refuse to lie to them and make them think it’s all OK.  It isn’t.  Not whilst maniacs are running around in the world willing to kill themselves, and innocents, for the sole purpose of creating fear.

I cannot dismiss their fear, because they need to know it’s OK, that it’s a valid response.  They need to know when they’re scared, they can talk to us and not feel that they are being dismissed. Equally, they need to know that the world does not fall neatly in to goodies and baddies.  That baddies aren’t lurking on every corner, so that everything becomes a potentially terrible ordeal.

Yes, like Mrs Rogers, I am going to look for the helpers.  I shall point them out and I shall sing their praises.  I will tell my children about the people who drove others home, who opened their doors to strangers, who donated blood.  But I shall not pretend that evil doesn’t exist or it can’t touch our perfect little lives.

Because last night evil arrived on our doorstep, in our community. It struck in the heart of the venue I was at only the other week, where I have laughed with my precious babies. It is here, in the middle of everything we hold dear, there are armed police in our shopping centre this morning, there is fear everywhere; but no, it won’t win.

We will not stop. We will keep moving forward and we will continue to support those who need our love and compassion. And our children need to see that pain so they can really understand the goodness that comes out of it, from the people who really deserve our attention.

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Are you surviving or thriving?

As you may be aware this week is Mental Health Awareness Week (8th-14th May 2017).  Like many I have had my own problems with mental health; however, I count myself as one of the lucky ones.  I suffered from the “baby blues” after the birth of our first child.  It was *only* for 8 weeks (though it felt significantly longer, I can assure you), so as such was not classed as being Post Natal Depression.

Regardless of what “it” was, it was Hell. I class myself as lucky because one morning I woke up and for whatever reason, felt better.  “It” stopped.  I was back, and ready to begin this amazing journey as a mother.  Thankfully it’s something I have never experienced again.

But it terrified me.  At the time, it was just scary – I wasn’t in control, I felt like a stranger in my own life.  However, that was the least of the problems. The biggest issue was I felt I had no one to talk to. My Midwife was great, but she was busy.  I was a new Mum and anyone I hinted to that I felt a bit wobbly, put everything down to my inexperience and lack of confidence.

I say all this, but the reality is this post isn’t about me.  It’s about you.  I only tell you my own experience in Cliffs Notes form to remind you that the vast majority of us have something lurking in the background, and if we don’t, we sure as heck have the potential to.

You see, we all have mental health.  Many might say they have “good” mental health, but let’s get one thing straight here, good mental health does not simply meant the absence of a mental health problem.

Good mental health is really all about having the ability to think, feel and act in ways that allow us to live a full and enjoyable life.  It’s the ability to cope when challenges are thrown our way, to pick up the pieces when it all goes wrong, and keep on moving on with a genuine smile on our face (even if occasionally it is replaced with tears and screams of rage).

Here are some interesting statistics for you taken from the Mental Health Foundation:

  • Mixed anxiety & depression is the most common mental disorder in Britain, with 7.8% of people meeting criteria for diagnosis.
  • 4-10% of people in England will experience depression in their lifetime.
  • Common mental health problems such as depression and anxiety are distributed according to a gradient of economic disadvantage across society. The poorer and more disadvantaged are disproportionately affected by common mental health problems and their adverse consequences.
  • Mixed anxiety and depression has been estimated to cause one fifth of days lost from work in Britain.
  • One adult in six had a common mental disorder.

I know we’re all busy, and could argue we have “better things to do”, but why not take a moment to find out a bit more about your own mental health?  There’s a short survey available here that will help you understand where you’re at.  There’s also signposting if you need any support with anything.

Trust me, you don’t have anything better to do right now.  Go on, look after yourself.

Every small business should do this to gain new customers

Last week we wrote a blog about how being a small business can actually be an advantage when it comes to social media marketing, specifically when it comes to building relationships.  It seems to have resonated with a few people, so we thought we would follow up this week looking at another advantage – collaboration.

As a small business you are well placed to make strong connections with your local community.  This can include your consumers and potential clients, but also other businesses based within the area.  When that happens you open up the possibility of combining efforts and therefore potentially reducing your spend, whilst increasing your reach.

For example, I have a client who sells travel insurance.  Following a few meetings with a local spray tan company they struck up a fantastic deal whereby if you purchased a course of spray tans, you could obtain a discount on your travel insurance for your next holiday.

My client saw an increase in enquiries (which he was able to convert) without having to do any additional advertising himself. Equally, the offer went the other way so as one partner isn’t putting in all the effort.

It’s a very simple and effective way of getting more bang for your back – and it helps remind you, as a solopreneur that you’re not actually alone in this big bad world of business.

Larger businesses and corporations are unlikely to strike up such relationships, if for no other reason than there’s a lot more to consider and the legal department is likely to scrutinise any suggestions put forward.

Think about what you have to offer, and if anyone in the local area sells something that could enhance or compliment your product and service, and reach out to them.

The worst they can say is no.

Small businesses have the advantage when it comes to social media

Whenever I start talking about social media marketing at networking events there’s always a couple of people that roll their eyes. There’s lots of different reasons for their knee-jerk reaction, and I certainly don’t judge any of them for it.  For many, unfortunately, they’ve had bad experiences of people who have tried to sell them the idea of marketing to the masses – and they’ve been burnt by costly, yet fruitless forays in to digital advertising.

Of course, it’s not that sort of thing I’m talking about. But that’s the point with knee-jerk reactions; they’re not always on target.

However, I digress.

One of the biggest barriers I come against when it comes to talking about SMM with potential clients is their own perceptions.  Many argue that they’re too small to really make any impact with Facebook or Twitter, and therefore don’t see the value of “throwing money” at it.

I agree, simply throwing money at anything and hoping for the best seems like a bit too much of a gamble – and that’s coming from a girl with a thing for the horses.

No matter how big, or small your business, you have to have a plan. That means you need to know what it is you’re trying to achieve, how much money you have to achieve it, and over what time period you’re going to work on it. It’s more complicated than that of course, but that’s the nuts and bolts.

Most of that will be determined by you and any consultant you decide to get in to help; however, there is one thing that applies to every small business.  You can make a huge impact regardless of your size. In fact, I’d go so far as to argue that small businesses might have the advantage when it comes to social marketing.

Think about your small business and any larger scale competitors you may have.  Don’t focus on the things you don’t have such as numerous staff, a large IT department or a huge media budget. Instead, think about what you can do that they can’t.

You can reach out to your local community and be more focussed on the individuals within that community.  You can build genuine relationships.  As a small business you’re more likely to remember Jean from the last time she commented, and you’re definitely in a better position to reply to her when she does reach out to you.  Faceless large corporation couldn’t give a monkey’s about Jean, she’s just order #45789.

Equally, just because you don’t have loads to throw at social media doesn’t mean you can’t get a reaction out of your audience. People love to talk and share, so why not ask them to post pictures of them using your product. Get them to add reviews, or ask questions that they need your answers to. Ask them for their feedback and suggestions, and then act upon them so they know they’ve been listened to.

Being small is a huge advantage when it comes to being genuine.