Another Google Tour in the works!

While we were at Beyond Vape this morning, setting up to shoot a virtual tour, a woman stopped by to see what we were doing. We didn’t have to go into a whole lot of detail, because she immediately got it.

“Oh, I know about that. You doing one of those online things for the agoraphobics and hermits of the world.”

Precisely! Make sure you know exactly where you’re going before you leave home!

Here’s the Beyond Vape virtual tour.

View Cheri O'Neil's profile on LinkedIn

5 Content Development Tips for Small Businesses

Content trimmedOwners of small businesses often ask: How can I create and share content to build my brand? Here’s five tips to get you started:

  1. If you are giving a talk to your networking or leads group, share it with a wider audience. You know, reuse it. Don’t let it go to waste. I took a talk I did and uploaded it to LinkedIn and to my blog and Facebook page. Another idea is to record your talk on your phone and upload the audio as a podcast on your website. Or do the same thing with video. Even a photo of you during your talk is content-worthy.
  2. Discover where your best customers hang out. I don’t mean, what is their favorite wine bar or coffee shop, although that’s useful, too. Where do they get their information about services they need — like how they found their most recent veterinarian, or how they found you? Maybe a friend gave them your name, and they went right to Google, which took them to your website. Or maybe they’re millennials on Pinterest or Instagram. Gather enough of that data, and you’ll know where YOU need to be to attract customers like them.
  3. Give LinkedIn a try. If I had to pick just one of all the social platforms out there, it would be LinkedIn. I’m part of a test group for a yet-to-be-launched feature that has great potential to attract new leads and clients for small businesses, with a new tab to search for service providers by location. Customers who do this will see which of their “connections” are connected with you, and then they’ll be able to click on a new “Conversation” button to ask for word-of-mouth recommendations. Your “Summary” will be displayed prominently, so that’s a large window of content you’ll want to get in shape.
  4. Pick content that helps you engage with your prospects. What is it that grabs their attention and ultimately connects you? Here’s some ideas:
    • Useful tips: Are you a mortgage adviser, like Tony Crane? Share the mortgage rate trends. A property manager like Nancy Ross? Give a rental market update. A techie like Ben Post? How about the latest advice for keeping your computer data secure. It’s all good content that you can take out into the world.
    • New products and services: My friend, Rachel, owns a restaurant that’s started offering picnic baskets, and Good Times did a story. Rachel didn’t have to write it herself, but she could leverage the story by linking to it on social media.
    • Sales, deals, promotions, contests and giveaways, reviews, awards and recognition
    • Change in hours of operation, company news, upcoming events, community involvement
  5. Target your messages. Develop a strategy for sharing those topics about your business that will bring you more business and address your customer needs. What are your marketing goals? How can you engage your audience? One idea for planning is to keep an editorial calendar to help you spread out your content and not forget any upcoming events.

So there you have it: Five content development tips for small businesses. Just remember: Create content, make it available to your people, wherever they are, and keep it relevant, social, engaging, newsworthy, targeted, and organized!

8 Ways to Establish Your Brand

Brand wordsSmall business owners often ask me, what is branding, anyway?

Branding is the art of differentiating you and your business from your competition: who you are, what you do, what sets you apart. It’s a rallying cry for your company, your essence, your perceived value, your promise to your customers. Every business has a brand uniquely its own.

Once you’ve defined your brand, how do you get the word out to build your business? Here are 8 awesome ways to establish your brand – using content.

  1. With your logo. If you’re in business, you probably have an image, fonts, or color, that let people know what you and your company stand for — in an instant. Think: functional, aesthetic, appropriate, timeless, simple. For a company like Harmonic Landscapes, it’s a tuft of grass; for Lanai Financial Solutions, it’s two fonts — one elegant, the other classic; for Scotts Valley tax man Michael Christensen, it’s no-nonsense green; for Santa Cruz attorney Kathleen Bodmer, it’s a very lawyerly set of initials, on top of what could be a judge’s bench in a courtroom; for Edna Vilozny’s insurance company in Aptos, it’s a tree, filled with icons that represent all the essential services she provides.
  2. With a slogan. Something short and sweet is good. Brian Childers’ Foxxr has a memorable one: “How the Web is Won.” Housekeeper Ana Garcia’s is no-nonsense: “General Cleaning at Your Convenience.” Ben Post’s “Using Technology to Reduce Costs and Increase Productivity” for his company, Post-Tech, has a few more words, but it makes its point.
  3. With your elevator pitch. That’s what we practice in LeTip and other business networking groups. “Hi I’m Tom, with On The Spot Carpet and Upholstery … We bring our own softened water. We take the soiled water away.”
  4. With your website. I’d venture to say that in 2015, every business should have a website. It doesn’t need to be complex, but it does need content. I tell people to update their websites to be informational-based so search engines can find them and clients can see material that demonstrates expertise.
  5. With your bio. Once you have a good bio — and I don’t mean you have to write a book-length autobiography — you can use it in many ways, not the least of which is as the About Me page of your website. I recently helped a business owner with his bio, and the first thing I did was to get to know him a bit more: What’s his story? What makes him different from others in the same industry? Why would I call him? That’s what should show up in a well-written bio.
  6. With a blog. This is where you can expand on your story and what you do. I manage the Robert Half Finance & Accounting blog, which has a goal of attracting, educating, and retaining clients. The blog offers a way to establish the division’s authority in the recruiting industry, and in May, we had 22,414 total visits to the blog, which is a pretty healthy piece of analytics!
  7. With social media. The major platforms are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google Plus, and they all require content to build your brand. Your posts should have a call to action, which can be anything from asking people to click on the link to your blog, to fill out a form, or to give you a phone call. Just as an example, your LinkedIn “Summary” (***see mine below) is an example of free content space that everyone has on their LI profile — but hardly anyone makes good use of it.
  8. With email newsletters, press releases, flyers, brochures. I was in charge of marketing for this year’s TEDx: SantaCruz event in May, and one of our most successful ways of engaging with the 1,500 people who either attended or expressed an interest in our event continues to be sending out email newsletters using a free program, MailChimp. It’s a way to reach out to potential and current customers in engaging and creative ways, to communicate what’s new, and to enhance your brand recognition.

There are other ways, of course, to display your brand: With a promotional video or testimonials, with a booth at a trade show or festival, or a sponsorship of a cause or event.

So the questions to ask now are: Are you the innovative maverick in your industry? Or the experienced, reliable one? Is your product the high-cost, high-quality option, or the low-cost, high-value option?

As a content provider, my answer to the question, HOW DO YOU DEMONSTRATE YOUR BRAND? — is with content, the cornerstone of online “search,” marketing, communications, and public relations — the best strategy for telling your story and building your bottom line.

Give me a call if you need help with your branding content! And yes, I need to create new content, as I rebrand my own business!

***My LinkedIn Summary:

I didn’t start out calling myself a content developer. I was a journalist for newspapers, large and small, working as a reporter, features writer, editor, and publisher. In 2009, I retired my reporter’s notebook and went to graduate school. I studied business, marketing, and finance, and got my masters in entrepreneurship at a tiny school down the road from Google in Silicon Valley.

Education is an eye-opening experience, and I highly recommend it. In the last six years, I discovered a passion for QuickBooks and also for videography. I trained and got certified as a Google Trusted Photographer. I started a business, Chronicles In Motion.

Chronicles are the stories we tell, which describes the content I create for individuals and businesses. It’s everything you put on your website and social media platforms, in your emails, newsletters, blog posts, press releases, and printed material. It’s optimized for search engines and rich with brand messaging. It’s also engaging and strategic.

So as a content developer, I do it all — write and edit copy, manage blogs, tackle technology, conduct interviews, gather research, shoot and edit video, create Google virtual tours.

Creating and fostering relationships is a cornerstone of doing business these days, and so is collaboration.

Send me an email at, and let’s talk.

AKA/Common Misspellings: Cheri Matthews, Cheri O’Neil Matthews, Cheri O’Neill

Google Trusted Photographer | Content Marketing | Writing and Editing | Project Management | Branding | Video Marketing | Storytelling

Hot Off the Press — and a New Tour

Aptos Times, June 15th

True Olive