Blogger-Outreach-All-About-The-Followthrough

Influence Marketing: The Good & Bad of Following Up

Blogger-Outreach-All-About-The-Followthrough

“You gotta follow through all the way.” That’s what my dad, and later numerous softball captains, said over and over again every time I stepped up to the plate. (Mind you, I was no star softball player – just a casual work-league player who mostly warmed the bench.) I’ve taken that notion to heart in business, particularly, and try to be really diligent with followthrough on projects.

Apparently, many people who do blogger outreach and influence marketing do not adhere to the same concept.

follow through

I’m shocked, absolutely shocked, at how few PR people (or social agency people doing blogger outreach, but mostly PR people) pitch bloggers, meet them at events, bring them to events, or otherwise engage with bloggers and then drop them. Cold. Like a stone. No followup, no data gathering, often not even a thank-you note. Or worse, don’t even engage well to begin with.

Here’s my own experience with blogger outreach/PR followthrough. I attended the BlogHer conference one year, and met some nice brand folks at a bunch of parties and expo booths. I estimate that I gave out approximately 50 business cards to brand reps. I did not expect to get anything from any of them because if you go to the website listed on my card, it’s clear I’m not the kind of blogger brands want – I’m a social media pundit, not a parenting blogger or a lifestyle blogger or a food blogger. So I was surprised to have the following happen:

  • Two brands sent me an email thanking me for my visit with them and asking if I wanted to learn more about their products. Good work. I didn’t respond, so they didn’t either – perfectly fine.
  • One brand sent me an invite to a special “influencer-only” event that I was very interested in, so I RSVPd and they were lovely and encouraging so my family and I went. My husband, who is one of those influencers, is now in touch with that brand.

Those were examples of good follow-through. Really good, since I didn’t expect either to happen, given who I am. Here’s the bad:

  • Two brands put me on their email list. Yucch. Didn’t ask, didn’t opt me in, just added me. I unsubscribed from both immediately and now have a bad taste in my mouth about those brands.
  • Nearly six months after BlogHer, a mysterious package arrived for me via FedEx. It was from one of the big PR agencies. Beyond curious, I opened it to find a bunch of product from one of the brands who had had a presence at BlogHer. The only note: “It was a pleasure meeting you at….Please enjoy these [brand] samples enclosed.”

Tell me, what good is this kind of outreach follow-up, six months later, to someone who is not even in their target market, going to do for the brand? Does the brand even know that there is a (likely) coordinator-level person in the big PR firm’s office, sending out product (and a fair amount of it, too) willy-nilly to anyone and everyone?

There are lots of hilarious (and sad) examples of bad PR pitches out there; my recent favorite baddie was one for Kellogg’s Special K that a friend of mine received and then was blogged about by Jessica Gottlieb. Clearly PR people need to figure out how to pitch in a more personal way that doesn’t demean bloggers nor assume that they will work for peanuts (or nothing).

However, little has been written about the follow up, that all important next step once you’ve reached out to, met or worked with a blogger. Good followthrough is really no different than what your mom taught you about thank you notes: short, timely, relevant. Ask questions: How did the campaign perform for your site and audience? Are there any site stats or metrics you can share with me? Was this a good brand experience for you and your readers? Is there anything I can do differently when I’m working with influencers in the future?

If the influencer created content for you, hosted a contest, or did something else that you can point to, thank them with a note – but also by sharing their content on your brand channels and, perhaps, in your customer email marketing efforts. And begin the dialogue about the next campaign as soon as you can, to keep the momentum going.

Build in the time and process to follow through on your next blogger pitch and you’ll see how your data and metrics are more robust, your relationships blossom, and word-of-mouth on how you’re one of the “good PR people” spreads. It will make your job easier, and more rewarding, in the long run. And please share your ideas for good follow up with us in the comments below.

 

Why The Best Agency For You Might Not Be A Social Media Agency

Why The Best Agency For You Might Not Be A Social Media Agency

Why The Best Agency For You Might Not Be A Social Media Agency

Do you know who Danny Kaye is?Danny Kaye - Jack of All Trades

I think I can be appropriately curmudgeonly in saying that most kids today don’t know who Danny Kaye, the great 20th Century entertainer, is (was).

For those of you who are unaware, he was a huge star of his time, incredibly well-rounded, with a career that worked through stage, screen, television, records, and food. He died in 1987, after giving us the classic films such as “The Court Jester,” The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” and “White Christmas,” as well as a variety show and a handful of special TV shows. Kaye was a classic comic, too, always pushing the envelope even in serious situations.

A huge part of Kaye’s appeal was his incredible well-roundedness. No matter the situation, he was able to bring something to it: a little soft-shoe, his lovely singing voice, his wide variety of foreign accents, or his in-depth knowledge of food (especially Asian cuisine).

Kaye was a real, old-fashioned entertainment jack of all trades.

A Dying Breed

Today, being a jack of all trades isn’t necessarily something people aspire to, in entertainment or otherwise. Everyone seems to want to be a specialist in something: Hydraulics engineering. Periodontistry. A mass tort litigator.

And yes, a social media marketer.

Being someone who knows a lot about many things doesn’t seem as valuable today as it might have been in the past. With education costs rising sky-high, you want to come out of school knowing that you have a very specific (and ideally marketable) skill set. Once in the workforce, you want to move up, so you want to gain as much in-depth knowledge in your field as you can, to put you in line for a promotion. And later, when you become a senior manager, or even as a mentor, you’re often valued for your specific skill set and knowledge.

What happened to being a jack of all trades?

The Niche Marketer

Over the last ten or fifteen years, marketing has gotten more and more specialized as well. I got my MBA in Marketing at a time when there was mainly one graduate marketing concentration: the one with the 4Ps and 4Cs of the marketing mix, and taught using endless marketing case studies. Now you can get a Master of International Marketing, a Master of Health Care Marketing, or an MS in Integrated Marketing Communications. You can get an MBA, an MA, or an MS (not to mention undergrad degrees in various marketing disciplines). You can find a program that focuses more on digital or add a digital marketing strategy certificate onto your existing degree.

More and more often, we find our digital marketing agency being compared by potential clients to highly specialized social media marketing agencies. Many of these agencies do only social media: Facebook and Twitter posts, Instagram and Pinterest graphics. Many of them do not also do influence marketing and manage SEO and build websites. Or if they do, they sometimes learn it on their clients’ time (and dime).

A common origin story for some of these specialized agencies (which are often only one or two people) is that they are influential bloggers. Or they are Instagram influencers. Or YouTubers. And they believe that their experience managing their social media presences gives them the knowledge (and license) to manage corporate social media as well.

Jacks of All Trades Are Better

I contend that highly specialized social media agency (or a single individual providing social media services) is bad for corporations and small businesses. It’s one thing to train and manage someone internally to be your brands’ community manager – the person with their finger on the day-to-day content and engagement for your company social media channels. You need that person on your team, or else your agency should have that person on their team, and make sure they’re specialized in your subject matter.

It’s another thing to hire an agency that only knows social media marketing. Think of the old adage: if you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. I’d say, if you only have social media marketing, everything looks like Facebook.

So how do you know that an agency that only does social media marketing will make the right suggestions for your company’s marketing efforts?

Do they know the 4 Cs (context, customer, competition, company), and the 4Ps (product, price, place, promotion), of marketing? Can they understand where your product(s) fit into the market segment, and how to position them appropriately? Can they look beyond the digital realm to develop the correct promotional mix?

The best agency will have a good understanding of fundamental marketing principles, going well beyond social media. Your agency contacts may not be marketing majors or marketing MBAs, but they should have had enough marketing and business experience outside of social media so that they can understand how your social media fits into your overall marketing strategy.

marketing universe for best agency

Hire the Best Agency For Your Company

To ensure that your company is getting the best advice from your social media agency, inquire about their broader experience outside of social media marketing. You can ask some or all of the following questions of potential new agencies (or even of the agencies you’re currently working with):

  • Who in their organization has formal marketing education?
  • At what level of education, and when did they complete their degree(s)?
  • Have they had experience working in agencies outside of the one they’re currently running or working for? (This helps you understand if they have seen appropriate, professional marketing agency processes and solutions….very important to know that their delivery to you will be buttoned up.)
  • Have they worked in other aspects of marketing, outside of social: brand management, marketing strategy consulting (ideally with a larger, well-disciplined consultancy such as Bain, PwC or Accenture), web design and development, partner channel management, etc.

Of course, these questions are on top of the standard questions you should ask before hiring any agency, including their work processes, who will be doing the work, and how do they bill their clients.

If your current or potential future agency seems like they aren’t very well-rounded, they probably aren’t. And then you should wonder if they’re going to pick up a hammer and give you Facebook.

They just might. And that would be very bad for your business.

Role of Images in Content Marketing

What Makes Visuals So Crucial to Content Marketing Success?

Role of Images in Content Marketing

There’s no denying that visual content has taken over our generation. With more than 3.7 billion internet users in the world and smartphone users expected to reach 2.32 billion by the end of 2017, from Snapchat to Facebook to Instagram, there is practically no end to our appetite for visual content.

For your business, that means mastering the art and science of images is necessary to remain relevant in today’s digital era.

Is your content marketing campaign falling flat and short on performance? You may need to double down on your visuals right now.

Below is a breakdown of key roles visuals play in different areas of content marketing along with some practical tips on how to make them work for you, and where you can find and create amazing images.

Search Engine Optimization

Yes, images can improve your organic traffic and help you rank better in Google. It’s a lesser-known fact that images generate massive traffic next to text-based search engine results. Benjamin Ling, Product Manager for Google, discloses that Google Images page views add up to more than 1 billion hits daily. So in addition to making your content more engaging, images can give your search rankings and traffic a giant boost. To get a slice of that huge traffic pie, make sure you optimize your images for search engines. Start with the file name and alt text.

Blogging

Images in your blog can set your content apart from others, or at least make people read it from start to finish. A study from Microsoft claims the abundance of digital content these days combined with easy mobile access make people’s attention span shorter than ever.  If such is the case, big chunks of text would be most likely be unappealing to a modern-day reader.

Kissmetrics advises that splitting your body of text with relevant images will encourage people to finish reading. Buzzsumo studied over one million articles and found out that posts which featured an image every 75-100 words had twice the amount of shares compared to articles with fewer images. And while this formula might not always hold true in certain cases, incorporating several images in your post will more likely improve its engagement rate overall, especially if your blog is not performing as well as it should.

Email Marketing and Newsletters

Similar to blogging, images are indispensable in email campaigns. Images can be used to strengthen branding and therefore, increase conversion.  Perhaps your readers may not click that “link” right away or even remember what was written, but a vivid image will stick around in their minds much longer. However, be warned that overloading emails with images is not the right approach. Regarding layouts, email is a very limited publishing platform compared to a website page. Keeping this in mind, images embedded in emails must not be all over the place. They should be there to boost your email’s performance, to bring the message across and not be a distraction.

The Marketing Bit mentioned some of the ‘don’ts’ of using images in emails and newsletters:

  • Don’t embed important links in image files
  • Don’t include too large image sizes
  • Don’t send an email as one large image

Social Media

The role of images in social media marketing in much more diverse than blogging and email campaigns.  It can also be argued that on social media, the role of images is the strongest. This can be attributed to the fact that social media platforms are designed to showcase a tremendous amount of information with a more intricate layout and design. So for average users with short attention span, it would be harder to sustain their attention using plain text.

Images are the very foundation in which some of the most widely popular social media sites are built on.  On sites like Pinterest, Snapchat, and Instagram, images don’t support a message; they are the message. If you choose these platforms to market, careful attention to curating images is a must.

Other social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have joined the bandwagon. Although text-based posts and tweets are still accepted, statistics reveal that posts and tweets with images get more engagement. In some cases, images carry the same weight of importance with the written words on social media.   As a marketer, you can’t give more attention to one over the other. On social media, you can run an entire marketing campaign anchored mainly on images as they are capable of telling a story or invoke powerful emotions at a glance.

Now that I have discussed the roles of images in content marketing let me also share some of the best practices of creating images for more engagement.

Infographics, GIFs, Memes & Emojis – Visual Marketing’s Rising Stars

emoji marketing crackerjack

It’s 2017, and these four visual elements are your game changers.

We see memes and gifs everywhere on our social feeds, and they have evolved into a culture of their own. This immense popularity gave way to a unique opportunity for marketers to connect with their audience. Netflix’s outdoor advertising campaign and Adidas’ “Thug Life” are perfect examples of outstanding marketing built on gifs and memes.

Love them or hate them, emojis have dominated our digital conversations, and here’s data to prove it: Emojis account for a 25.4% increase in engagement on Twitter, and 17% higher interaction rates on Instagram.

Whether you need a content upgrade or looking to repurpose your content, an infographic’s visual appeal is undeniable. MassPlanner says infographics are shared and liked 3x more than any other visual materials available.

If you’re looking to elevate your marketing to a whole different level, be sure to leverage any of these visual materials into your content marketing playbook.

5 Best Practices to Boost Engagement with Images

Tip 1: Image to word ratio

Is your blog suffering from lackluster traffic? Not getting enough clicks and shares? One reason might be you’re not using enough images on your posts. Buzzsumo studied over one million articles and found out that posts which featured an image every 75-100 words had twice the amount of shares compared to articles with fewer images. And while this formula might not always hold true in certain cases, incorporating several images in your post will more likely improve its engagement rate overall, especially if your blog is not performing as well as it should.

Tip 2: Color Psychology

Color psychology is the science of how color influences human behavior. In marketing, it plays a vital role in helping you deliver your message by invoking the right emotions. Colors tell a story. By using the right color scheme in your images, one that runs in parallel with your content, you amplify your message and help ensure a positive response from your audience. This color psychology chart from Inturact illustrates how each color corresponds with different emotions.

colorpsychologywheel

Click to enlarge

Tip 3: Ditch the generic stock image

It’s tacky, it’s boring, and it simply doesn’t work. Your images should convey emotions, or at the very least keep in line with your topic. Try to be more creative and less obvious with your graphics. Visuals add credibility and authority and helps keep your audience glued to your blog post. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words, don’t ruin good content by using bad photos.

Tip 4: Optimize for speed and SEO

A well-optimized image should have its file sized compressed and reduced without compromising a lot on image quality. To achieve this, you can use Photoshop or free tools such as Pixlr or GIMP. Make sure it is also search engine friendly by choosing the right file name, ideally a shortened, keyword-focused version of your blog post title. Equally important is the alt text attribute, which again should be in keyword form related to your blog post headline or topic. Try to keep it under five words. This article from Yoast goes into further detail about optimizing your images for SEO.

Tip 5: Image dimensions

When sharing your blog post across multiple social media platforms, it’s very important to have each image in the correct dimension to maintain proportion and clarity. Use this 2017 social media image sizes cheat sheet from a MakeAWebsiteHub to find out the best image sizes for all major social networks along with the best image types to use for each platform.

Where to Find Your Images

Free

Below are some of my preferred go-to sources for free, quality stock images. All the websites listed here use Creative Commons to license their photos. Although photo attribution is not required, feel free to show your support by thanking them on Twitter or Facebook.

You can also check out this comprehensive list of the best for free stock images from Stephen Jeske of Can I Rank and Crazy Leaf Design’s Harris Roberts

Paid

If you’re looking to ramp up your visual game and take it to the next level, you might want to consider getting a subscription from these top stock photo websites. Each of these platforms carries a massive library of royalty-free content. Browse through millions of images, vectors, and illustrations – you’re sure to find what you need.

6 Tools to Help you Create Stunning Visuals

Final Thought

Content marketing trends are forever evolving, but the compelling nature of images and what it can do to the human brain makes it a powerful marketing asset that will remain a fundamental piece of each and every marketing strategy.

Social Media Tools for Collaboration, Organization and Creation We Love (and Use!)

This post was co-authored by Christina StricklandCori Jacobs, and Lesley Lloyd.

 

If you’ve attended any of our social media training sessions, you’ve heard us compare growing social media presences to building a house before. We’ve talked about how you need to build a solid foundation and then the right layers on top of that.

Because construction analogies come easily to me, let’s just roll with, shall we?

If you’re going to build a house, you’re going to need a hammer, right? And, not just a hammer but a screwdriver, a wrench, and some excellent power tools. The same goes for social media.

Sure, we make social media management and content creation look easy, just like those guys doing home remodels on HGTV. But, like those home flippers, we have a great team of talented, dedicated people and an arsenal of tools we use every day.

There are so many social media tools available now that it can be hard to filter through them all to find just what you are looking for. It was equally difficult to determine which tools we should include on our list. To narrow it down, each of these had to meet certain key criteria:

  • The tools must be used by at least two-thirds of the team here at Crackerjack Marketing. In most cases, the tools listed below are used by every team member.
  • The tool must be used every day by said two-thirds of the team members.
  • The tool must have a free version, even if limited, for you to “try before you buy.” For most of these, we have the paid version because we felt the cost (usually minimal) is well justified.

7 Social Media Tools for Collaboration, Creation and Organization We Love

We didn’t want just to give you a boring list of the tools. We also want to share the reasons why these tools are so valuable to our organization by giving you the perspective of several team members, with varying degrees of responsibilities.

Contributing team members include Christina Strickland (that’s me!), Vice President; Cori Jacobs, Client Services Specialist and Lesley Lloyd, Community Manager.

Ready? Let’s dig in!

Favorite Social Media Tool #1: Slack

Collaboration

At first glance, Slack appears to be a simple messaging platform. While it is simple to use, it’s more than just a means of communication. Slack has a broad range of tools and integrations. Everything from uploading documents to sharing funny gifs. Best of all, it has the desktop and mobile apps, so you’re never far from your team.

What we love about Slack:

Cori: I’m showing my age here, but as someone from the internet ‘old school’ I like the familiar feel of Slack — it reminds me a lot of chatting over IRC (Internet Relay Chat). If you never used IRC, think of it as the predecessor to AOL chatrooms or instant desktop chat clients such as MSN Messenger or ICQ. The ‘channel’ model worked then, and it’s a great tool now for keeping multiple topic threads separated so not every single discussion is in one massive, impossible-to-track conversation. I also like the ability to turn notifications off and on per-channel so that I can keep on top of the main topics.

Lesley: I like using the channels. They’re helpful in keeping track of updates going on in social media. We use a Snapchat channel where we add articles on tips, tricks, news, etc. about the network. It’s a great reference tool for writing a blog post on Snapchat, or if we wanted to implement some of the things we learned into our Snapchat profiles. Slack also offers a reminder option for when you can’t look at an article the moment a colleague shares it. You can also pin an item in a channel, so it shows up at the top. Additionally, if you think it would apply to another channel, you can copy it to multiple places. Slack has many shareable and versatile options within the channels. You can designate them to social networks or clients or tools that you’re using. It’s the communication tool to rule all!

Christina: While there is just so much to love about Slack, one of my favorite features is also one of the most basic ones … the search function! If your organization is anything like ours, communication is happening at the speed of light! We love bouncing ideas around and getting inspired. Sometimes, though, we forget what we finally decided on or vaguely remember that someone had a good idea at some point. With the search function, you can enter a word and search your conversation archives. You can narrow it down to a particular channel or conversation or search all of your Slack history. This feature has significantly reduced the number of redundant conversations (“Hey, what did you say about that Instagram campaign, again? I don’t remember.”)

Favorite Social Media Tool #2: Our Editorial Calendar

Organization

We searched the Internet for a long, long time, looking for the right editorial calendar to use for our clients. After an extensive review and so many different tools and templates, we created our own, designed to help keep all of our clients’ content organized and on track.

What we love about the Editorial Calendar:

Cori: The key benefit of our Editorial Calendar for me is its ability to cover each social platform separately in as much detail as is useful a day-to-day community manager, as well as allowing them to maintain a higher-level overview which isn’t bogged down with details. The Overview vs. Detail layout is very useful for situations when sharing a calendar with clients. Most of the teams who we coordinate with aren’t likely to want to dig into a calendar filled with reams of individual tweets, but the high-level view allows them to keep on top of what’s happening across all their social platforms.

Lesley: If you like to plan, the editorial calendar is the place to be. It’s easy to navigate and easy to read when it gets full of all of your ideas and posts. Who’s going to remember what you posted in August of 2014? The editorial calendar will! When working with multiple clients and multiple promotions and channels, creating a calendar for each helps to keep you from getting your paths crossed.

Christina: Aside from being easy to use and understand, I love having an archive, or record, of all the work we have planned and have completed in one place. Don’t forget that you don’t “own” your social channels, so it’s always a good idea to have a backup somewhere.

Favorite Social Media Tool #3: Canva

Creation


If you haven’t heard about Canva yet, stop what you are doing, right now, and go check it out. Canva is a graphic design tool for non-graphic designers. You can start with a template or make your own.

What we love about Canva:

Cori: OK – I’m going to sound like an ad right now, but Canva is genuinely a lifesaver, and has upped my game, graphics-wise. I’m no designer and can barely crop an image in Photoshop, but when a client sends a blog post at 6 pm to be posted the next day, Canva lets me create a compelling feature image in just a few minutes. If I need size variations optimized for multiple social channels, I can also do that with just a couple of clicks with Canva’s “pro” version.

Lesley: The sharing capabilities, especially. The folders and streams make it easy to organize different images for various social channels as well as categories (holidays, contests, promotions, products, etc.). The images don’t have to be emailed or uploaded to your team; they’re saved right in Canva so access and edits can be made by any team member or client if you so choose. Canva also has a variety of designs with sizing and fonts, so it fits everything you’re looking for in an easy-to-use design tool. It makes graphic-creation quick, easy, and professional.

Christina: There is so much to love about Canva. One of my favorite features comes with the Canva for Work subscription (paid). With the paid version, you can create a stored “Brand Kit,” which includes your company colors, logo, fonts and templates as default. No more looking up color codes or using an online color picker!

Favorite Social Media Tool #4: DropBox:

Organization

DropBox is a hugely popular cloud storage option, and for good reason. It’s easy to use and makes your documents accessible from anywhere.

What we love about DropBox

Cori: Like many other cloud tools, Dropbox is invaluable as a shared repository. It’s perfect for storing and sharing all types of files, large or small — anything from spreadsheets to photos to huge video files (though you need a Pro account if your stored/shared files go past the 2GB limit). If you don’t need to collaborate on a file and simply need a place to store and control access to them, Dropbox is perfect. Also, the search function works great, which is good news for someone with thousands of files stored who often needs to be able to put their hands on them quickly.

Lesley: Dropbox is more than a storage tool for documents. Your photos, links, and events fit there, too! When you’re working with multiple clients, you’re going to need space, and you might want to share what you’re working on with them. Dropbox has both! It also has a Paper option like a virtual workspace that you can share with the team with tasks and assignments.

Christina: Selective sync is such a big plus for me! As Cori mentioned, our clients often have enormous video files. The Selective Sync option allows you to control which files sync with your desktop or laptop. Since I work on a MacBook Pro, I prefer not to have my precious hard drive space consumed by video files, and I’ll rarely access. Another on of their great features are file and folder sharing options. You can invite people to view all of the files in a particular folder or create a link to a single file. Even better, you can set an expiration date on that link for sensitive information.

Favorite Social Media Tool #5: Social Report

Organization

Social Report claims that it is “an all-in-one social media management platform with all the features you need in one concise package.” While none of us would agree that it’s the “all-in-one management platform” we do love the reporting capabilities.

What we love about Social Report

Cori: Social Report is a one-stop shop for most of the stats I need day-to-day — super convenient! It tracks an impressive range of platforms and offers breakdowns which aren’t always available through a platform’s ‘native’ analytics. Having a single site for so many platforms means I can save a lot of time when putting together client reports. The Social Report team is constantly looking to improve and add new features, too — for example; they recently added the ability to automatically schedule ‘evergreen’ posts on a rotating basis.

Lesley: I use Social Report every day. Whether for scheduling posts or reporting weekly or monthly, Social Report does it all. Although no reporting website is perfect, and Social Report is constantly updating, it’s my trusty side-kick. I save so much time using it for scheduling 3rd party and evergreen posts (which is a new feature!). Social Report is relatively reliable as well! Minus the occasional error, it’s given me accurate information time and time again.

Christina: Like Cori, I love that I only need to go to one place to find the data we need on a day-to-day basis and for most of our monthly reporting needs. From a team management perspective, I like that we can control who has access to which accounts. I can give access to multiple accounts to our community managers or limit access to a single account for our clients. While “great customer service” isn’t a feature of the tool, I have to say that the support team at Social Report is amazing!

Favorite Social Media Tool #6: Grum.co

Organization

Grum.co is the unicorn of social media scheduling tools, allowing you to schedule Instagram posts in advance, from your computer! While it’s not packed with a ton of features, what is has it worth its weight in gold!

What we love about Grum.co

Cori: The simple interface and the convenience of posting to Instagram from my desktop make Grum a winner. Other Instagram solutions we’ve tried only remind you to post from mobile, but Grum allows you to ‘set it and forget it,’ which is perfect for any busy social manager

Lesley: You can’t beat the simplicity of Grum. Every feature is easy to use and understand. It also offers an archive of past posts for users and clients to reference (but don’t depend on that instead of an editorial calendar!). Instagram hasn’t paved the way for a convenient scheduling tool yet, until now!

Christina: It’s great to be able to log in and make sure that our community managers have the right content lined up. I also love that I can switch between clients without having to log in and out again. Sure, it’s a “little luxury” but one that I can’t live without, now that I have it!

Favorite Social Media Tool #7: Grammarly

Creation

While we use professional copywriters and editors as much as we can, because social media is about responding and reacting in real time there are occasions when using a professional editor isn’t practical due to time constraints. In these situations, we always, always, always, have more than one team member review what has been written but then we also always, always, always, run it through Grammarly, to make sure we don’t have any participles dangling or commas misplaced.

What we love about Grammarly

Cori: Should it be “that” or “which”? Is it “who” or “whom”? Grammarly is a great tool for those times when I’m struggling to deliver my message in the clearest possible way. I never want to embarrass myself (or worse, a client!) with awkward wording or grammar, so Grammarly can really be that ‘second pair of eyes’ I need on a document before pushing it live for the world to see!

Lesley: I never gave grammar in social media a second-look before Grammarly. Correct punctuation, verbs, and tense are often overlooked on social channels because of character amount, laziness, you name it! However, there’s nothing more important to you or your client than appropriate grammar and Grammarly is the perfect tool to ensure your posts are correct. Grammarly catches and fixes many mistakes, but use your discretion!

Christina: The critical and advanced (premium version) grammar checker are excellent features, I’m a huge fan of the vocabulary enhancement suggestions and the style features. I never knew I wrote in such a passive style before!

While we think these tools are just the bee’s knees, remember that there isn’t a single tool that’s going to replace an effective strategy, great content and a great team.

How to Use YouTube for Content Marketing

How to Use YouTube for Content Marketing

How to Use YouTube for Content Marketing

When you hear the phrase “content marketing,” chances are written text comes immediately to mind. However, blog posts and articles aren’t the only types of content you can use for content marketing. You can also create, publish and share your content in video format. YouTube provides a fairly easy-to-negotiate and definitely well-known platform for doing just that.

Why should you consider video content? The answer is simple. Many people find watching a creative video much more interesting than reading simple text on a page. And if you can be creative and attentive to your audience’s interest, YouTube can become a vital tool for fulfilling your content marketing plans.

Before you begin, here are three critical questions to ask yourself.

1. Is your business right for content marketing on YouTube?

You can do well with YouTube content marketing if you have a product or service you can video-tape and show off visually. For example, if you’ve created a product that solves a problem, you can show it at work. Likewise, if you provide a helpful service, you can show yourself in the act of providing the service. If you clean carpets, you can create a video of you or your employees taking a section of carpet from filthy to pristine. Some services, such as consulting, can be difficult to show off this way. This doesn’t, however, mean you can’t do it. You’ll just need to be very creative to pull it off.

2. Do you want to educate, inform, or entertain?

YouTube is a good choice for each of these purposes, but it’s important to consider which one you can accomplish. Informational and educational videos can be the easiest to make. An informative video just provides details about your products, company, or related topics. Educational videos, on the other hand, typically provide insight into how something works or how to accomplish a task. Both educational and informative videos provide value for your audience, but they can seem dull and boring if not carefully planned and well-executed. You’ll need to put a lot of thought into their creation to keep your audience’s interest.

People tend to flock to entertaining videos, and if done well, they often go viral. Unfortunately, these videos can be hard to make. You need a great idea and equally spot-on execution. If you can make them work, however, they can do a lot for your business. Just make sure that the video you create shows off your business’ personal style and doesn’t detract from its image.

3. What is your goal?

Do you want to use YouTube to get new customers? Are you planning to use YouTube to provide support for the people who currently buy from you? You can use YouTube for both purposes. To attract new customers, you’ll need to create videos that make your prospects want to learn more about you and what you offer. Then, you can provide the link to your site in your video as well as in your video description. If you want to provide support to your current customers, you can create how-to videos and question-and-answer content that help your customers get more out of your offerings.

Now that you’ve decided you do want to publish content via YouTube, it’s time to consider how you will make your content appealing to your audience. Creating video for video’s sake simply won’t help you meet your goals. Instead, it’s critical to develop a plan for your video content that not only speaks to your audience’s interests and needs but also effectively tells your story, and when desired, compels your audience into action. Here are 6 tips for creating video content that sings.

1. Be Interesting: The mere fact that you’ve created video content won’t capture your audience’s attention. There are many other video marketers out there trying to accomplish the same thing. To stand out among them, use different perspectives, include movement, incorporate color, and add music where appropriate. Focus on creativity and personality.

2. Try It: Often, people hold off on creating video content, spending too much time thinking about it and not enough time acting on it. Go ahead and plunge in with creative content, and try not to worry about perfection. Use your first few efforts to gauge effectiveness and reaction. Then, use what you learn from your initial efforts to tweak your approach and create even better video content.

3. Publish Regularly: When someone sees your video content and likes what he sees, chances are he will check to see if you have any related content. Don’t be a one-hit wonder. Publish regular content so that your audience knows what to expect from you and looks forward to viewing and sharing your videos.

4. Create Video Tutorials: People are always looking for how-to information, and many prefer video how-tos. Fulfill this need by making your own video tutorials. You can use questions your customers asks as topics or search the Internet to see what burning questions your target market has.

5. Tell Your Story: You’ve probably heard this suggestion when it comes to written content, but it’s important for video content too. Some people just prefer digesting video content instead of the written word, so don’t limit yourself. Go ahead and tell your story in a video, or a series of video content as well.

6. Create Video Contests: You can use video contests to engage your audience and obtain more video content. Run contests that ask consumers to submit videos or video clips. Set guidelines for submissions, and offer attractive prizes. Use the best video on your site or make a new video that compiles the best of the video clips you receive.

So you’ve begun creating high-quality, informative, entertaining videos? That’s a great start, but unfortunately, it isn’t enough. You’ll also need reliable ways of getting the word out and securing the right kind of attention for your videos. Here are 5 free ways and 1 paid way to promote your YouTube content:

1. Use Your Blog: Your blog gets a study flow of customers, prospects, and curious visitors. Make it your first stop for promoting your YouTube content. When you create a new video, be sure to promote the video on your blog by describing it, detailing the whats, whos, whens, and whys, and telling your audience members why they’ll definitely want to check it out. Then, make it easy for them to view your content masterpiece. Embed it in its own post.

2. Share With Your List: Don’t expect the people on your email list to come to you for interesting, valuable content. Go ahead and take the content to them. Craft a relevant, helpful message and email it to your list along with a link to your video. If you have an email newsletter, be sure to include it there as well.

3. Create a Custom Channel: This can be the difference between having what looks like just a bunch of video content and having a series of credible, interesting, valuable videos people want to see and share. A custom channel lends your video collection credibility, makes it look more professional, and helps you to create a more cohesive message.

4. Apply Your Social Media Know-How: Share your videos via your social media accounts. For example, tweet about your video and include links, create a status update with a message about your latest YouTube video and embed the video, and pin your video to your pinboards. Take a look at each social media account and figure out where and how to share your video content. Don’t forget to share your link on social bookmarking sites as well, adhering to the posting rules of those sites, of course.

5. Spread the News: When you create newsworthy, or particularly helpful new video content, look to news outlets that can help you spread the word about them. Write a press release and include the link to your video. Also, contact relevant news outlets about your video by phone or via email.

6. Pay to Promo: You can also pay to advertise your videos. If you have the budget to do so, consider the Google Adwords for Video opportunity. It’s a pay-per-click program for promoting videos on YouTube. With this program, you pay when someone views your ad rather than when you place it.

With time and effort, you can make video marketing a successful part of your content marketing campaigns. Use the above tips to get started. Then, be sure to come back and let us know how using YouTube for content marketing works for you.

Do You Really Need a Business Blog

Do You Really Need a Business Blog?

Do You Really Need a Business Blog

Any business can create a blog, and as you know, many, many of them do. But when the time comes to plan your own, you may be wondering whether you really need one at all. After all, you probably have a website, and you should be making your mark in social media. So how do you decide if you say “Hello World!” with a blog or just stick to your already traveled Internet terrain? Here are some questions to ask yourself when making this important decision.

Do you need more traffic?

If you already have all the traffic you need and you really don’t want any more, you don’t need to create a blog. After all, what’s the point of launching something that is likely to help you increase traffic and make more sales if you’re fully content in those arenas? A blog makes it easy to put out fresh, frequent content that makes the search engines happy and brings new prospects your way. Google and other search engines give higher rankings to fresh, relevant content. If you’re keeping your content fresh by providing helpful information and updating your blog regularly, search engines will make it easier for people to discover your blog. Maintaining a quality blog even encourages your current customers to check in regularly to see what you’ve published, possibly even sharing your content with others.

Do you want to build your brand?

If the world (and by the world, we mean your entire audience) already knows everything there is to know about your business, you might not need a blog. But if you’re like the rest of us mere mortal business owners, a blog can really help you build brand awareness. Just be sure to publish compelling, relevant content and mix things up with plenty of videos and images to keep things interesting and exciting. Show your audience who you are, show them why they should care about your business, and keep the self-promotion to a minimum.

Do you want to position yourself as an expert?

If you don’t want people looking to you as a source of information or relying on your expertise, you probably should not create a blog. Blogs are an excellent place to educate your audience, informing them and entertaining them at the same time. And a funny thing happens when you consistently produce quality content that fits this bill. Your audience begins to view you as an expert and looks your way when they need not only information but also products and services.

Do you want to engage your audience?

If you don’t want your audience to feel engaged with your brand—if you’d really rather just keep prospects at arm’s length, don’t start a blog. A blog can help with increasing engagement, which involves getting your audience to communicate with you via the comment section of your posts and (gasp!) responding to them. This helps your audience feel connected with your business. It also allows you to learn what your audience thinks and feels, which can only help you better serve them.

Do you want to demonstrate authenticity?

If you don’t want to convey a sense of openness to your audience, you probably don’t need a blog. Likewise, if you don’t want your audience to develop a feel for your brand’s personality, steer clear. With blogging, your audience gains insight into who you are and what your brand is all about with each post. You can’t help injecting personality into your posts, and as your audience witnesses your openness, they’ll also learn to trust you. That’s a win-win because trust builds brand loyalty.

The time and effort it takes to maintain a blog may be significant, but the benefits can be tremendous. Consumers have come to expect more than just promotion from the companies with which they connect. And if you want to encourage visitors to return to your site, give them a reason to do so. Provide the kind of regularly updated and useful content they expect from a blog.

21 Secrets to Getting More Blog Comments

21 Secrets to Getting More Blog Comments

21 Secrets to Getting More Blog CommentsAre your brand’s blog posts getting enough (or any) comments?  Do you wonder if anyone is actually reading your posts? More than likely, your posts are getting read, but you might not be getting the amount of interaction you’d like. While Facebook likes and shares are great, blog comments are the highest expression of social media love. Of course, we’re not talking about the weird “Buy these awesome name-brand shoes!” comments, but even comments that may disagree with your point of view tell you that people are paying attention to your brand.

Blog comments also have a bit of a snowball effect. Once one or two people respond to your post, other people start to jump into the conversation too.

How to Get More Blog Comments

Before asking your mom to leave a comment on your blog, there are a few things you can do to inspire your readers to interact a little more.

Create Compelling Content

No matter the subject, your blog is dead in the water without high-quality, compelling content. Focus on that first to ensure that someone, other than you, wants to read it.

#1. Write valuable content. Your blog won’t get many comments–beyond spam–if the content you provide isn’t valuable and relevant. You don’t need perfect writing skills or a flawless command of grammar to get comments on your site, but you do need to provide content readers can sink their teeth into and walk away with knowledge that helped, encouraged or interested them. If your brand provides valuable content on a regular basis, readers will eventually start visiting your blog more frequently and leave comments to let you know they were there and found your content helpful.

#2. Ask questions. If you’re already providing valuable content and giving your blog time to grow and attract an audience, the next step is asking questions. End each post with a question that is relevant to your brand’s content and intended to stimulate conversation. In general, your questions should be easy to answer but interesting enough that people want to respond and return to your blog to see what others have to say.

#3. Write content that stimulates feeling. Often, people feel most compelled to comment on posts that make them feel something. For example, posts about inspirational topics may be more likely to get comments. Likewise, posts that make readers feel a sense of kinship with your brand can have the same effect. People like hearing that others have thoughts and experiences similar to their own.

#4. Keep it short. If you’re getting enough visitors to your posts, but still not getting the traction you want, make sure your posts are optimized for keeping your readers’ attention. They don’t need to be haiku but shouldn’t be too long, either. Between 400 – 600 words is ideal.  We have a saying in our house, “The mind can absorb as much as the butt can endure.” If your posts are too lengthy, you might be losing your reader’s interest before he or she even gets to the point of leaving a comment or sharing with others.

#5. Ask for it! Are your posts just one long monologue, or do they inspire conversation?  The simplest thing you can do is to ask readers for their opinions.  It’s not complicated and doesn’t require any special or technical wizardry skills. By asking, not only are you likely to get more blog comments and interaction, but you’re showing your community that you care too.

Be Accessible, Prepared and Realistic

It would be wonderful if your goals for your brand were easy to fulfill. The reality is that almost everything that indicates success takes time, preparation and patience to achieve. Increasing blog comments is no exception.

#6. Make interaction easy. There are many ways a reader can interact with your post; leaving a comment is only one of them. Other ways visitors can show their appreciation for a well-written or meaningful article is to share it with their own communities. But, let’s face it, Internet users like things to be e-a-s-y, right?  We like to have the world at our fingertips. Readers will be more likely to share and like your brand’s post if they don’t have to go too far out of their way to do it.  Keep it simple by installing Facebook Like & Share Buttons, a Tweet Button or Social Bookmarking Buttons in each of your posts.

#7. Understand the 65-15-20 rule (formerly the 90-9-1 rule). This rule states that 65% of your community will consume (i.e., read) content, 15% will interact (comment, share, “like” a post) in some way and 20% will create content.  If we work on this assumption, then we know that only 15 out of every 100 people, on average, will interact with your content.

#8. Prepare for a numbers game. We all know that content is king, but if nobody’s aware of it, how can they read it?  Make sure you’re promoting your own content effectively by tweeting out your link, sharing it on Facebook and incorporating other strategies, such as commenting on other blogs. You can also include a link to your company blog in your email signature and let people know in your newsletters.

#9. Consider your own habits. Use yourself as a case study, and consider not only why you interact but also how you interact. Chances are the same thing that triggers you into action will trigger others too.  Take that experience and apply it to your brand’s blog.

#10. Be patient. Sometimes it just takes time to build up enough of a following to get regular comments. If your blog is fairly new and you don’t have a lot of well-targeted traffic yet, don’t panic. With time, you will likely develop a large readership and attract many more comments.

Encourage Readers to Comment

When someone reads your blog and comments, it’s victory for your brand. Commenting is the highest level of commitment someone can make on your blog because it takes the most effort. They can hit the like button or the tweet button if you have one, and both are great votes of confidence in your content, but commenting goes a step further. In general, it is best to respond to comments. However, some situations warrant a bit of caution.

#11. Respond to the “I agree with you” comment. It’s always great to hear when someone takes the time to let you know they like what you’ve said. In this case, it’s nice to comment and show your readers that you recognize and appreciate their feedback. Some people say if your comment won’t add anything to the conversation, you don’t have to respond. We only recommend not responding if you truly do not have the time to respond and regularly get many of these on a post.

#12. Tactfully dig into the “other point of view” comment or a respectful disagreement with your post. This is a comment that is asking for conversation. Absolutely respond to this type of comment by elaborating on your point or recognizing a valid exception. Never get into an argument. You may go back and forth with the commenter more than once, but at some point, you should agree to disagree.

#13. Delete the inappropriate and hostile comment or personal attack. This should be covered in a policy that can simply say “treat everyone with respect on this blog” or “play nicely.” You can post that policy somewhere prominently on your blog. Not only should you not respond to attacks, but these (almost always) anonymous attacks can and should be deleted, as long as you make it clear in your policy that that is how your brand will respond.

#14. Trash or ignore a comment that is meant only for the sake of getting a link back to the commenter’s blog. If you allow links in your comments or if the name of the writer can be linked to his or her blog, you may get a comment that doesn’t seem to add much to the conversation and it is only deposited on your blog for the sake of the link. It may be hard to tell this type of comment from the “I agree with you” comment. If you decide to thank the person, keep an eye out to see if this person makes it a policy to use this device regularly. In the future, you can either delete the comment (use the “mark as spam” function in your commenting software). Otherwise, do not respond.

Comment on Other Blogs

Online engagement is a two-way street. If you want people to take notice of you and spend time connecting with your brand, you need to make an effort to connect yourself. This means taking the time to comment and interact on other brands’ blogs (just not the competition’s).

#15. Get out and connect. Sometimes outgoing behavior is key to getting more attention to your blog and more comments for your posts. Visit other blogs that cover topics of interest to your target audience, and contribute to discussions in a meaningful way. Include your blog URL with your comments so that people know how to find your brand’s blog without any obvious promotion on your part. Readers who find your comments interesting and valuable will follow you to your blog and join the conversation there.

#16. Make sure you’re logged in to your own company’s account. Most blogs use a specific system for comments, such as Gravatar, Open ID and Disqus. If your own blog is using one of these systems, make sure you’re already logged in with your company’s profile first. If your brand doesn’t have one on that system, create one separate from your personal profile. ‘FoxyFlyDJLady’might get attention, but not the kind you want.

#17. Add value to the conversation. If you have something helpful to say, by all means, say it. Steer away from leaving ‘yeah, me too’ type of comments. Even if you do agree and are only trying to show your support for the author, these type of comments are a common tactic for link-droppers (people only commenting for the purposes of getting a link back to their own site). You don’t want to be confused for one of them.

#18. Monitor for mentions of your brand and respond appropriately. Use a simple tool such as Social Mention to look for relevant mentions of your brand. After all, not many bloggers are going to email you to say they’re talking about you. If you find a positive mention, or if the blogger is just trying your product for the first time, tell them thank you, invite them to your community and offer help if they need it.

DON’T Exhibit These Behaviors on Other Blogs

#19. Don’t argue with a negative review. Your brand is not going to please everyone, all of the time. Even if the blogger is completely wrong, using your product incorrectly or simply unfair, arguing will not make the situation any better. Instead, show professionalism and courtesy. Leave a simple comment thanking the blogger for taking the time to review your product, offer your apologies that it didn’t work out for her and offer to help answer any questions she or her readers might have.

#20. Avoid being overly self-promoting. Who enjoys a conversation with someone constantly trying to sell you something? Maybe a shopoholic, but most of the blogosphere does not. If a blogger mentions they are looking for a product or service similar to yours, it’s perfectly acceptable to suggest your brand. Most other situations, it would not be appropriate. In fact, it would be considered spam.

#21. Never use abbreviated text. Keep in mind who you are representing. ‘Gr8 post, UR the best’ isn’t the least bit professional. Unless you want to be perceived as a texting teenager, stick to spelling out the full word. On that note, be sure to have your spell check on too!

Now that you know the secret to getting more blog comments, go ahead out and apply them to your blog. With time and effort, you’ll have readers not only reading your brand’s blog but also taking the time to offer feedback and engage in conversations.

3 Ways to Deliver Successful Content

3 Ways to Deliver Successful Content

3 Ways to Deliver Successful Content
Content marketing is the bridge between you and your target audience – it connects you to people you otherwise might never reach. The goal of your content is to get the audience so interested in your content that they can’t help but cross the bridge to your side. However, we all know that sometimes our content misses the mark and our audience isn’t interested for very long, or even at all! What’s keeping readers engaged? Your story is! What makes up your story? Your content!

3 Ways to Deliver Successful Content

Content marketing is often misunderstood and overlooked. For those of us in content marketing, we might be thinking, “Yes it is, and I don’t understand why!” When you’re a marketer you not only have to think like a marketer, you have to think like a reader. When marketers only think in terms of campaigns and channels, the content only lasts for a short time. If it’s not something you’d like to read, do you think your readers will want to spend time on it? If you find your content struggling to make an impact on your consumers (and maybe your boss, too), we’ve got three (yes, only three, it’s that easy) ways to help you start delivering successful content.

1. If It Doesn’t Make an Impact, Don’t Do It 

How often do you check the efforts of your content marketing? The “post and forget” mentality almost guarantees that your content marketing strategy will never grow because, “if you don’t know, you don’t grow.” Make it a continuous practice to see how well your efforts did after every campaign. Test your campaigns against each other to see which one worked and which one didn’t. Asking these three questions can make the difference between content marketing that delivers results and content marketing that fails:

  1. Why does this matter?
  2. What’s the impact this will have?
  3. How will we measure this?

Can you answer those questions about your content marketing? It’s important to know what isn’t getting used in your strategy. What is your audience overlooking? What isn’t being used? Once you know what is and isn’t working, you can focus your efforts (and precious budget) on delivering strong content.

2. If It Does Make an Impact, Don’t Be Annoying

The internet can be an overwhelming place. There are millions upon millions of conversations happening every day, and you have to make sure that your content becomes a part of at least one of those conversations. However, if you’re content isn’t relevant, exciting, or if it’s constantly seeking attention, your conversation is going to be short and probably won’t happen again. Ask yourself these three questions to make sure your content isn’t bugging your readers:

  1. Am I talking about myself (my brand, my product, etc.) too much?
  2. Am I answering my reader’s questions?
  3. Is my content the overlap between what people are looking for and what I’m posting?

The goal is to show up first in a Google search, right? You want to be the one-stop shop for your consumers. To fulfill that dream, you have to know what they’re searching for, and what they’re searching for is general information. Although it’s instinct to talk about you, don’t do it! Talk about the bigger picture and not about product-specific topics.

3. If It’s Not Annoying, Share It

By now you know what content is working for you, and you know how not to annoy your audience. Now you have to figure out where to put it to receive optimal results. If you’re wondering why your content doesn’t have eyes on it, it might be because it’s in the wrong place. Where you share your content depends on your brand and your niche. If you’re in fashion, consider focusing on Instagram and Snapchat. If you’re in a business-to-business community, utilize Twitter and Facebook. You’re not limited to one or two, but it’s important to know what channel works best with and for you. To find your network, and yourself these three questions:

  1. Where are my customers spending their time?
  2. What social media channel fits my brand?
  3. How can I branch out from the main ones?

Social media is how you distribute your content. If you have a great blog or newsletter you want more subscribers and readers on, share it! Making content worth the time of your readers is half the battle. Sharing the content in the appropriate channel is the other half of the battle. Successful and deliverable content partly relies on where it’s shared. Do your research and your homework and apply what you know.

Add It All Up

Content marketers have to prove that their content is making an impact. You get out of content what you put into it – it’s a continual investment that will provide incredible results as long as you’re attentive to it. You truly can do more with less if you’re cleaning up what doesn’t fit, you’re a part of the conversation, and you’re sharing what you have to say. Remember to follow your content from beginning to end and ask yourself clarifying questions along the way.

How do you tell a story with your content? What are some of the ways you make sure you deliver successful content? Share your strategy!

8 Simple Ways to Breathe New Life Into Your Content Marketing

8 Simple Ways to Breathe New Life Into Your Content Marketing

8 Simple Ways to Breathe New Life Into Your Content Marketing

8 Simple Ways to Breathe New Life Into Your Content Marketing was authored by Sharon Hurley Hall and Christina Strickland.

If you’ve been at content marketing for any length of time, you’ve discovered that it’s all too easy to become comfortable or even complacent. You know what you’re doing, you’re no longer a newbie, and things are running like clockwork, but are you doing all you can do? Could doing a bit more improve your results?

Yes, you are putting effort into producing compelling content, but there is always room for improvement. Why should you bother? Well, the bottom line is that even small improvements can prevent your audience from growing bored and losing interest while also providing your current followers with a reason to keep coming back for more. And you want new visitors, right? Taking the time to refresh and reinvigorate your content also encourages sharing and helps to draw new visitors in your direction.

8 Content Marketing Ideas for Brands

Take the smart approach to your content marketing efforts. Here are 8 tips to help inspire you:

  1. Manage Your Content

People have to see your content several times before you become top-of-mind, so be sure to fine-tune the actual pieces of content you will produce and work out when they should appear. To do that, you’ll need an editorial calendar and a content management system. The editorial calendar tells you what’s happening when on which platform and who is responsible for producing it. The content management system gets everything scheduled and ensures you have SEO information and images to go along with the content. Sometimes, both work together.

Two options you can use are Crackerjack Marketing’s free editorial calendar template or CoSchedule, an affordable paid option that integrates with WordPress.

  1. Vary Your Content

Often, people become really good at creating text content. The problem is, however, that such content may provide information an audience can use but become a bit dry after a while. Readers may become bored with the same old content style, and mixing things up a bit can refresh their interest. How can you mix things up? Here are some suggestions for varying your content:

  • Add photos–This can help boost readership, sharing and engagement.
  • Create and post slideshows.
  • Create and post video content.
  • Include infographics.
  • Add relevant memes to lighten the mood and capture interest.

Most businesses include blog posts (a proven lead magnet) and social media posts, at minimum. They may also include eBooks, webinars, slideshows and infographics. Learn more about the benefits of these content types in our two-part series on 7 Types of Content to Include in Your Strategy and Why.

  1. Get Inside Your Audience’s Head

It is all too easy to forget whom you are trying to reach with your content. Too frequently, business people/content producers get caught up in what interests them and focus too much of their content on that. When you’re trying to connect with customers, however, it is critical to make your content relevant and interesting for them. This means identifying your target audience, learning how you can reach its members, and then providing content that speaks to its needs. Incorporate how-to and question-and-answer content whenever possible. This type of content is not only helpful for your audience but also highly shareable.

  1. Work With Guest Bloggers

Your audience gets used to your voice and trusts in your expertise and unique perspective. While that is a good thing, you can shake things up a little by inviting thought leaders to guest post on your blog. This provides your audience with a fresh perspective and can translate into more sharing and exposure for both your blog and your guest blogger.

  1. Focus on Your Formatting

Sometimes it’s the little things that make all the difference. While what you have to say is the meat and potatoes of your content, your formatting is the presentation. And many people will pass up even the most hearty content if the presentation is just sloppy. Make your content clear, easy to read and attractive by using the following formatting elements:

  • Subheadings
  • Bulleted lists
  • Relatively short blocks of text
  • Fonts that do not detract from your text but do highlight concepts
  1. Listen to Your Audience

Use analytics tools to figure out who’s already visiting your site and blog and what content they find most interesting. That will help you craft new content to keep them coming back, and hopefully, sharing with others. Many analytics tools also include demographic reports, so you can get fine detail on your target audience. Add social analytics tools and social listening tools to this, and you will get a well-rounded picture of your customers and their interests.

7.    Make Sharing Easy

According to Pew Internet, over 76% of online adults use social networking sites, 64% of American adults have a smartphone and more than 45% own tablets. Your strategy must include content optimized for social sharing from mobile devices. Consider:

  • creating a mobile first website and blog design to make sure all visitors can navigate content easily
  • switching your email newsletter to a mobile first design
  • increasing your activity on the key social sites where your potential customers hang out (this could be LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest or somewhere else depending on your industry)

8. Revisit Your Strategy

Revisit and refine your strategy periodically. This means doing three things:

  • setting realistic goals
  • planning how to execute them
  • deciding how to measure them

Note that your goals have to be realistic. If your business plan has flaws, content marketing isn’t the bandage, and there’s no absolute guarantee of direct sales. What it can do is get more attention for your business and increase conversions, so that you can turn leads into sales.

Isn’t it great when you don’t have to guess at what to do next? Use these 8 smart tips to give your content marketing a boost. Then be sure to come back and share your results with us.

Building and Protecting Your Brand Voice on Social Media

Creating Brand Voice on Social Media

Building and Protecting Your Brand Voice on Social Media

“Building and Protecting Your Brand Voice on Social Media” was co-authored by Stephanie Schwab and Christina Strickland

Every brand needs a strong brand voice. What is brand voice, you ask? Essentially, it’s the tone and style you use when communicating with your audience. Your brand voice not only tells your audience who you are and what you have to offer, but also proves critical in engaging your audience members and motivating them. Your brand voice gives your audience a feel for your brand’s personality, and since the explosion and rapid growth of social media marketing, it’s become more important than ever before.

That Was Then

Years ago, before social media marketing gave us another highly effective way of reaching audiences, businesses broadcast mass marketing messages to consumers through radio, television and magazine ads. Consumers far and wide received the same generic message. That brief message was delivered in a 30 second spot or a half-page ad. Essentially, marketers used a handful of words to reach everyone.

It’s understandable that with those constraints, it was incredibly hard to show personality. Of course, there were ways to make it happen. If you had a large marketing budget to fund a high-end ad agency and lots of media spend, you could make an attempt at telling a story with consistent characters, celebrities, or rarely, a real person from the company (like Dave Thomas from Wendy’s).

The fact of the matter is that many brands simply didn’t have the budget to show personality, but showing personality is critical. Why? Well, think about it. Great brands stand for something, don’t they? You know what to expect when you walk into a McDonald’s, when you buy a Harley Davidson motorcycle, or when you call a customer service representative at Zappos. And when you’re talking to a representative of a brand on Facebook, via Twitter, or watching them in a video, you expect that person to speak with the brand’s voice.

Do you expect the NPR Twitter feed to sound snarky? Of course not! And as for the Gap Facebook page? If their posts came off sounding snooty and intellectual, you’d wonder if you’d somehow clicked into The Twilight Zone.

This Is Now

Today, businesses put lots of different people to work engaging on behalf of their brands on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms, and more often than not, via a blog too. These people are checking in regularly, answering questions, sharing inside stories, personally recognizing individual customers, inspiring their audiences and becoming an integral part of the community they serve. This differs greatly from the radio spots and display ads of yesterday. Each one of these representatives must use their specific brand’s voice every single day.

As an entrepreneur who started a business based on your own passion and interest in your product, service or company, your brand voice is probably part of the natural way you talk to your consumers. It’s easy for you to talk and write in your brand voice. With social media as such an important part of your marketing strategy, however, you need others in your organization to engage with your audience using that same brand voice and do so not only convincingly but also consistently.

Build Your Brand Voice

Every tweet, every Facebook status and every blog post says something about your brand. Everything you post sends a message about who you are, what you care about and how much you care about your fans or followers.

  • Define your brand voice. Your team can’t use it if they don’t know what it is. Is your brand voice bold, inspiring, humble snarky, playful, sassy, loud, or honest? Clearly define your unique brand voice so that your team can speak and write with it.
  • Take a look at the competition and their brand voices. Differentiate your brand voice enough that you stand out from the competition.
  • Listen to your audience members. How do they speak and write? Make sure your brand voice is a good match for them. You don’t want to speak in a highly formal voice if your audience is very casual or playful.
  • Document the words, phrases and tone that you expect your brand voice to sound like. Your team will be much more effective if you provide them with guidelines and examples to follow.
  • Guide your team in writing tweets, social media posts, and blog posts in your unique voice. This will take some work on your part at first, but eventually, your team will begin to think in your brand voice, and writing in it will become second nature. Keep a close eye on their work until you’re fully comfortable that they’re speaking and writing in the right voice for your brand.

Protect Your Brand Voice

It’s critical to both recognize that your brand voice isn’t static and protect your brand voice at the same time. Your brand voice isn’t meant to be perfect and stay exactly the same over the years. It will, and should, evolve with your audience and changes in your goals and strategies. That’s okay and to be expected. What’s not okay is a team that goes off the rails and fails to communicate using your brand voice.

Address and correct mistakes consistently. It’s never a good idea to leave your brand voice in the hands of others without close oversight. People make mistakes, and if you don’t offer constructive feedback, they will continue to make them. Remember, your reputation, and ultimately, your success is at stake, so it’s up to you to keep your team on track.

Establish a Brand Character

For as much as you’re paying attention to brand voice, you’ll also want to project the right brand character, which is an image your audience will have of you based on your brand voice and the way you use social media.

So what’s your brand character and are you moving in the right direction? You can learn a lot from looking through your past updates in each of your social media channels. It doesn’t take long to notice that a pattern begins to develop based on your timing, tone of voice and types of content. Each of these combined together becomes your brand’s character.

Unfortunately, some characters are bound to miss the mark in social media. For example:

The Magician

This character has an amazing disappearing act! He’ll post, maybe even a few days or months in a row, and then ‘poof! He’s gone! You never know when he’ll reappear, but he does at some point.

The Infomercial Guy

You’ve got to buy my stuff! Seriously, have you seen all the great things my stuff can do? You can’t live without my stuff! While those may not be his exact words, that’s the message. His updates are constantly self-promotional and non-stop!

The Motor Mouth

She’s constantly talking and most of the time it’s far off-topic. She’ll tell you what she had for lunch, what the weather is like outside and what her plans are for each moment of the day. Her updates are not well balanced with her brand’s identity.

The Radio Announcer

It’s a one-way conversation with this character. She loves to send out tweets, Facebook updates and blog posts, but don’t expect her to respond. She’s not out for conversation; she only wants to make sure you get his message!

The Right Brand Character

We’ve given you brand characters to avoid, and now, we’ll share the right brand character. This character almost always hits the target, delivering the right message, at the right time. We call her The Mindful Maven.

The Mindful Maven

Her messages are consistent, clear and well-balanced. You’ll find her sending updates about her brand, yes, but not nearly as often as sharing other content she thinks will be interesting and relevant to the fans that follow her brand. And while she’s not detailing out every moment of her day, she wants to chat with you too. You’ll find her responding to comments, answering questions and joining in the conversation.

As you start to create your brand’s identity in the social media space, be sure that your character most closely matches that of Mindful Maven. You should have your own unique personality, but you want to make sure you’re hitting that sweet spot every time!

Building and protecting your brand voice is a critical but ongoing process. Use the advice above to create the right voice for your brand and engage, motivate, and inspire your audience.