content marketing investment

Why It’s Worth Investing in Content Marketing

 

content marketing investment

Many people don’t trust advertising any more, especially millennials. That’s why you need content marketing. If you create content that speaks directly and personally to your target customers, they are more likely to trust you. And if their friends also recommend your content, you will win their trust and loyalty and they are more likely to buy into your offer.

Content marketing lets you reach your audience in lots of different ways and helps your search rankings and online authority. But to get the benefits, you have to see content marketing as an investment. Not everyone does, even if they should.

As a writer, blogger and professional content creator, I’ve noticed that the people who approach me about writing often fall into two camps: those who want to invest in content and those who want content without the investment. Some freelance marketplaces give the impression that good content is cheap, and if you have a limited budget, that can seem appealing. Don’t fall for that. Failure to invest adequately in content marketing hurts your business. Here’s how.

How Failure to Invest in Content Hurts You

First, you won’t get the right writers to work with you. If you pay peanuts you won’t attract the kind of writers who will enhance your brand. If you want a professional writer, it will cost you. Good content is simply not available at $10 for 600 words; great content has an even higher price tag. Some of the blogs with the best content pay hundreds of dollars per post.

Second, your writer may not stick around. Consistency and reliability help you connect with customers but underpaid content creators soon move on because they need to earn more and there’s no incentive for them to stay. That’s bad for your content marketing strategy because you constantly have to onboard new content creators and you will find it difficult to get a consistent voice for your content and a reliable content flow.

So what do you get if you allocate a decent budget for content creation?

The Benefits of Content Marketing Investment

You get content creators who function as partners, actively working to make sure that content meets your needs. And you get experienced professionals who know when to stick to your style guide or when to inject a little personal flair. You get writers with experience of writing, some industry knowledge and the ability to add value to your content (for example, by creating tweets to accompany a piece of content). You get a level of excellence that makes your brand stand out for your target customers. And you get content that it’s easy to market.

The other reason it pays to invest in content marketing is because of the results you get. Dig deeper into reads, shares, links and referrals in your analytics and social analytics software and you will see the difference that good content makes.

That’s the content part of content marketing, but the marketing element is also important. Once you have nailed content creation, there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes activity to ensure that content works for you. For example, the Crackerjack Marketing team ensures that every piece of blog content gets shared multiple times on multiple platforms on a rotating schedule to give as many people as possible the chance to see it.

A marketing firm will help you create shareable graphics to accompany a blog post, craft social media updates and schedule those regularly after working out the best possible timing so people can see and share your content. And the firm can also help you respond quickly when your social connections share and comment on your content.

The bottom line: investing in content marketing is one of the best ways you can promote your business. Ask how the Crackerjack Marketing team can help you.

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brand voice

Finding Your Brand Voice

brand voice
This is an oldie but goodie and it’s still as useful today as it was when I wrote it for Social Media Explorer. This construct is being referenced by social media smarties everywhere, including Buffer and Kevan Lee writing for Fast Company.

Are you using this in your company? Please tweet me @stephanies if you are!

Oscar winner Colin Firth could be the perfect person to ask about finding his voice – his virtuoso portrayal of a stuttering King George in The King’s Speech so cogently highlighted the frustrations of not having a clear way to communicate with a community. Some brands are equally tongue-tied, unclear about what the brand should sound like, leaving them either silent in social media or sounding haphazard and unrehearsed.

Get over your brand speech impediments by considering the following concepts, all of which play an important role in a well-rounded social media brand voice.

Character/Persona

This is the starting point for the development or furthering of your brand voice: Who does your brand sound like? In order to determine this, you may need to first determine who your customers are, so you can assume a persona for the brand that will resonate with your primary target audience. If you have multiple audiences you may need to have a more flexible brand voice, or you may determine that you need multiple social media channels to reach different audiences. Ideally you will be able to determine character attributes (see diagram) which meet the needs of the majority of your customers or users. If you’re a non-profit which raises awareness of childhood diseases, your character might be a gentle parental type. If you’re a software tools company, you might want to be a bit geeky, just right for the Star Trek crowd.

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Tone

Tone is the underlying vibe that emanates from your brand’s communications. This is where you establish your credibility; place your brand in the past, present or future; and subtly alert fans and followers whether your brand is going to be wide-open or a bit more buttoned up. Be a showoff if your character is something like a street-savvy hip hop artist, but know that humble usually goes farther in generating customer loyalty. Clinical or scientific could be good for a very specific B2B entity or professional services organization.

Language

Although your brand may be the expert in its field, coming off sounding like you’re smarter than your customers could turn people off pretty quickly. Establishing appropriate brand language will give you a foundation for the types of words, phrases and jargon to be used in social media communications. Want to sound very exclusive? Use insider language and acronyms. Want to sound hip? Stay up-to-date on the latest slang. But be careful – if you make a misstep in slang it’ll look like you’re trying too hard.

Purpose

In the end, why are you here? Your brand voice in social media can help customers understand what you want to do with and for them. Are you working to educate your user base? Do you want to delight them, and get them to visit your store or website just because they’re amused by what you’re writing? And even if you do want to sell stuff, what can you give people to help them become engaged by your brand?

Once you’ve brainstormed around these four brand voice attributes, develop a roadmap for your brand’s voice which you can share with everyone who is involved in writing for, or speaking on behalf of, your brand in social media. This roadmap can be a simple as a one-sheeter with your brand voice attributes in writing, or you can craft some examples which front-line engagers can emulate. Add buzzwords – the words which describe your brand and which you want to have used when appropriate; for example, if you’re Disney, your buzzwords are something like: kingdom, magic, magical, family, experience, fun. Then add some “dos and don’ts” guidelines for your engagers so they can get a feel for the types of language and content you expect them to create.

social-media_brand_voice_example

Your brand voice in social media will evolve over time. It would be great to think about undertaking a brand voice development exercise before you open a new Twitter account – but if you’ve already been engaging in social media and feel like your voice needs refinement, take the time to work on it now. Make subtle changes and your fans and followers probably won’t even notice that there was a change – but if you can more closely match your voice to their needs, you may attract even more customers and develop greater engagement and loyalty than you ever have before.

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How User-Generated Content Can Tell Your Brand Story

How User-Generated Content Can Tell Your Brand Story

How User-Generated Content Can Tell Your Brand Story

Your brand story is so much more than a collection of facts about your business. It’s even much more than how you feel about your company and what makes it tick. It’s a unique, complex combination of the facts about your brand blended with the emotions your brand stimulates in its customers. Essentially, it’s a human-to-human representation of your business.

As a business owner, you work to create a compelling brand story that speaks to the heart and soul of your business—your customers. And what better way to create a compelling story than by having your customers tell it for you? Think about it. Brand evangelists can be a marketer’s best friend. You spend time liking their photos and positive comments about your brand or product, but you could use their content for so much more.

Share UGR Content

When your customers post photos or videos of themselves using your products or services, don’t just like their content. Share it far and wide. These are the people that are living the lifestyle your brand represents, and they are the perfect people to tell your brand story visually.

People love the opportunity to genuinely engage with a brand. What’s more flattering than having your favorite brand re-share your photo or comment to its community? This can often lead to inspiring more people to post their own pictures, and you might be surprised at how good they are.

Burberry did this well with its Art of Trench website, but you can do this with just about any business. It can be as simple as sharing user-generated content across your social media sites or as focused as building a website designed just for this type of sharing.

Don’t forget to share positive comments, too. If your customers are tweeting praises about your brand, a thank you and a re-tweet can go a long way.

Create UGR Contests

When done well, contests are a great way to get customers and prospects engaged and keep your brand on their minds. Create a contest with an amazing prize and make the entry user-generated content. For example, you might have them submit videos or photo collages that demonstrate how they use your products and what your products mean to them. You can share the submissions via social media and even incorporate them into your marketing campaigns.

Chobani, the Greek yogurt brand, managed to increase its revenues by more than 200 percent by running a contest that asked customers to tell their personal stories about eating the brand’s yogurt.

Build Emotional Connections With Personal Stories

Remember, it’s not only about videos and photos (though visuals are always helpful online). Your target audience can be won over by your customer’s personal stories. Personal stories help create a shared experience, stimulate customers to get involved and interact, and help create an emotional connection to your brand.

Don’t Forget the Reviews

Good feedback naturally helps sell your product. Many people who shop online read reviews before they click to buy. However, that’s not the only way reviews can help you. Take the time to read them and use them as constructive feedback. Take what you identify as most important to your customers (from their reviews) and use it in your next marketing campaign.

How important are reviews? Consider this: In a survey by Dimensional Research, almost 90 percent of those polled said online reviews influenced their purchasing choices.

Let Your Customers Do the Selling

How better to sell your product than with words, photos, or other creatives directly from your customers? Adding user-generated content to your product pages is an excellent way to give your customers and prospects a break from the norm and showcase what people who are actually buying from you think of what you have to offer.

It makes sense to let your customers tell your brand story. It’s the most genuine and authentic story that could be told. Put user-generated content to work for you.

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guest blogging

The Essential Guide to Guest Blogging

guest blogging

Co-Authored by Sharon Hurley Hall and Christina Strickland

So you thought guest blogging was dead? While Matt Cutts initially suggested that, he later clarified that he was talking about guest blogging for SEO link building. Guest blogging for reach and authority is alive and well, but you have to do it right. That means getting a professional to handle your guest blogging campaign. 

The Benefits of Guest Blogging

If you’ve ever been asked to write a guest post or been offered a guest post for your own blog, you might wonder what all the fuss is about. Rest assured, there is more to guest blogging than just the exchange of free content. Guest blogging can help you establish yourself as an authority in your industry and get more targeted visitors to your blog or website. This, of course, carries the potential for increased sales. Besides that, however, guest blogging can help you develop relationships that will further your business.

Expand Your Reach

When you write a post on your blog, you reach your audience–your current readers and any new readers who happen to find your latest post, such as through the search engines or sharing. When you guest post on another party’s blog, you reach that blog’s audience. You can write about what you know and tweak it to cater to the blog’s audience, expanding your reach and attracting a whole new set of readers to your own blog. Some of these readers might not have found you on their own.

Boost Traffic

Each guest post you write should translate into increased traffic for your blog. Typically, you’ll have the opportunity to include a link or two back to your own blog, and if the blog has decent traffic and a solid readership, this can mean an upswing in visitors to your website or blog. If you also accept guest posts, you’ll have even more potential for increased traffic. Your guest bloggers will share the links to the content they provide for your blog, and the people who come to read it may stay a while to check out your other content.

Develop Relationships

If you write as a guest blogger, you have the chance to get to know other bloggers and share ideas. The same goes for accepting guest posts on your site. These bloggers may prove willing to spread the word about your business and send referrals your way. They may also share business opportunities and suggest ways to improve your strategies. Some might even become customers or develop an interest in a partnership with you.

Build Your Reputation

Write guest posts that inform or solve problems for the intended audience, and something wonderful will happen. In time, you will develop a reputation as an expert in your industry–a go-to person. This is especially true if you guest post on well-respected, well-written blogs. A better reputation means more business!

Tips for Guest Blogging Success

Take a look at the profiles on your social media accounts.

Make sure they are complete, accurate, and compelling. Editors and website owners will want to check you out online, so you want your profiles to put your best foot forward. Generally, it makes sense to have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. Include a link to your website/and or blog in each of your social media profiles.

Write several articles related to your industry and post them to your website or blog.

These articles will help show off your writing skills and provide a peek at your writing style. Make sure they are your very best work. If an editor or site owner goes to your website to learn what to expect from you and sees a bunch of spelling mistakes and grammar errors, he is unlikely to want you writing for his blog. Format each article to ensure that it is easy to read, and focus on interesting, helpful topics.

Reach out to the editor or owner of the site for which you want to guest blog.

The blog will usually list the owner or editor’s email address. Some will make it even easier by providing a contact form for you to fill out and submit. Alternatively, you can contact the owner/editor through his or her social media accounts, but try emailing first.

Introduce yourself to the editor/blog owner in a professional and friendly manner.

Explain what type of business you own and share your passion for the industry. Inform the editor/blog owner that you would like to contribute as a guest blogger. Share your goals as well. For example, you might want to guest blog for the purpose of building a reputation as an industry expert. Provide links to your website and your best articles as well as contact information.

Pitch topics about which you are passionate, making sure they are a good fit for the blog on which you will guest post.

Send well-written posts to the editors/blog owners who have accepted you as a blog owner. Include a link back to your site in each post. Also, if possible, link from each post to one of your previously published articles/posts, choosing one that is relevant and provides valuable new information (rather than the same information you included in the current post).

5 Mistakes to Avoid with Your Guest Blogging Campaign

Whether you choose a seasoned individual blogger or a marketing agency, you need someone who will avoid tarnishing your company’s reputation with spammy pitches. Believe it or not, people are still sending those out, often on behalf of people and companies who probably know better. Here are some examples of what to avoid so you can vet the people who will be pitching on your behalf.

Poor Greeting and Tone

Sometimes the initial approach is wrong. If you’re going to pitch a guest article, then it’s worth finding out whether the site owner is male or female (not hard to do with Google and social media at your fingertips). I can tell you that I’m not thrilled about being called Mr.

Added to that, if your pitch letter suggests you are doing the site owner a big favor, then unless you’re really an expert in your field, the tone is wrong. An approach that recognizes that both parties get something from guest articles is more likely to get a favorable response.

Poor Spelling, Grammar and Writing

I’ve lost track of the number of guest post pitches I’ve received that read like an SMS message. Heads-up: if the blog owner has to decipher your pitch, it will end up in the trash.

Spelling and grammar errors are another no-no. From the blog owner’s viewpoint, if your pitch is full of mistakes, your article is likely to be just as bad.

If you want to give your guest article the best chance of publication, proofread, proofread and proofread again. Your job is to deliver a post that’s as close to publication-ready as possible. It’s the best way to impress the person who might publish it.

No Thought for the First Reader

Here’s something that I learned from journalism: when you’re pitching an article the person who is reading the pitch is your first reader. You have to make sure that person finds it interesting or your article won’t see the light of day.

People are busy, so you only have a couple of sentences to show that you:

  • can craft a great headline and introductory paragraph
  • know where you’re going with the article
  • can show how it is suitable for the blog’s readers
  • have the writing chops to deliver it

A no-fluff approach is the best way to get your pitch past the first hurdle.

Keyword Stuffing

Yes, people are still keyword stuffing, and still submitting short, badly written, virtually unreadable content.

My message to them: just stop!

It’s more important than ever for guest articles to be in-depth, relevant and useful. Format your post so it reads well on everything from smartphone to desktop screens and is web readable. That means plenty of subheadings, short paragraphs and an easy way to identify key points.

Same Old, Same Old

I get it; sometimes the best way to figure out a winning pitch is to base it on something you already know was successful. But some non-professionals do more than use a proven success as a starting point; they virtually replicate it. That’s just wrong and no-one wants to read me-too content. It’s getting harder to do something different but you can do it by:

  • expanding on a single point in an article
  • responding to an issue raised by someone else (perhaps in a comment or tweet)
  • posting a controlled rant (they always do well) about something important in your niche.

If you want to improve your chances of acceptance, offer something different, like an infographic or Slideshare presentation. It will take longer to produce, but that kind of visual content is widely shared and will do wonders for your online authority.

Whether you’re using guest blogging to build authority or simply for outreach, avoiding the mistakes listed here will make your campaign more successful. If you need some help with strategy or writing, contact the Crackerjack Marketing team.

How to Improve the Success of Your Marketing Campaigns with Analytics

How to Improve the Success of Your Marketing Campaigns with Analytics

How to Improve the Success of Your Marketing Campaigns with Analytics

It’s only a small snippet of code, but it’s the difference between knowing whether your marketing is working or failing miserably. I’m talking about analytics software, which packs a powerful punch in terms of helping you to understand your website, social media profiles and customers and letting you know whether you’re succeeding in getting attention for your brand and making your business better known.

There are dozens of analytics tools around, but one of the best known is Google Analytics. So what can you learn with Google Analytics, and how will this affect your marketing?

1. Use Analytics for Audience Targeting

You get more from your marketing when you understand who your audience is. Analytics can help with that. Google Analytics can tell you:

  • who’s visiting your site and what country, state (and sometimes city) they come from.
  • what languages people speak.
  • key demographics such as gender and age (you will have to enable this).

This information will help you see whether you are attracting the right audience.

2. Analyze Traffic and SEO

Google Analytics has a “traffic sources” report which is another good way to track marketing effectiveness. For best results, take a snapshot of the key metrics for your site at the start of a marketing campaign, so you can see how different initiatives affect visitor numbers.

The traffic sources report lets you see:

  • how many people are coming directly to your site as their initial destination
  • whether people are sending traffic your way (which probably indicates that they see you as an authority)
  • whether SEO efforts are paying off in terms of search engine positioning
  • how any paid marketing campaigns are doing

You can even figure out what people are looking for on your site so that if you’re not providing it you can improve your content.

3. Track Social Media Effectiveness

Google Analytics now tracks more social media data than ever before. That makes it a great tool for helping to check the effectiveness of social marketing campaigns. You can find out:

  • which pages are most popular on social media
  • which sites are linking to you most
  • which sites are sharing your content.

It’s a good way to find out whether your customers are using social sites where you don’t have a presence. And when you use other tools to dig deeper you may find new advocates for your business that you can work with in different ways.

4. Tweak Content

Google Analytics lets you see which content titles and URLs attract the most visitors, as well as popular entrance and exit pages. That lets you know whether you need to amp up your headlines. Visitor flow shows you where you are losing people after they get to your site and that may suggest new content areas. You can also check for other issues that affect the effectiveness of your site, such as slow page load times which can drive visitors away.

5. Set Up Goals and Campaigns

If you’re marketing your business, you probably have a few goals in mind. You can set up goals and campaigns in Google Analytics, so you can see how many people are visiting your store and making a purchase, downloading a free resource or signing up for your email list. This will give you a handle on marketing conversions and see how marketing is helping your bottom line.

These are just a few of the ways in which you can use Google Analytics to improve your marketing. Look out for more tips in a future post.

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How to Hire the Right Writer for Your Content

How to Hire the Right Writer for Your Content

How to Hire the Right Writer for Your Content

Never underestimate the value of great content to your business. Companies that get content right get more attention and more leads, and if their marketing funnel works right, that usually translates into more sales. But in order to get those benefits, you need to have the right writer for your content. Since the writer is creating content to represent your business, you can’t afford to leave it to chance. Here are some tips on finding the right writer to deliver on your content strategy.

1. Assess Writing Experience

The first thing to know is that writing experience counts, but it doesn’t have to be in your niche. Sad to say, some industry experts can’t write, so hiring someone who lives and breathes your sector may turn out to be a poor decision. The good news is that all writers worth their salt can research. An experienced writer with great research skills will be able to produce a wide range of excellent content for your company – and that’s what you need in this content-hungry world.

2. Investigate Research Skills

Speaking of research, ensure that your writer’s research skills extend beyond Wikipedia. It’s best to find a writer who knows where to find expert sources and who is comfortable interviewing your employees and customers. If your writer has a background in journalism or writing for magazines, it’s a huge plus point. Writers from those background are used to getting to grips with topics quickly and distilling the essentials for readers. That works well for online writing, which is mostly what you’ll need your writer to do.

3. Can the Writer Write?

Next, it’s on to writing skill, because even if a writer is experienced with great research skills, that writer still has to produce content you want to read. This is where you check out your writer’s online portfolio and LinkedIn profile and run a quick Google search to see what you find. You’re looking for content examples that show breadth, readability and knowledge of how to optimize content the right way so you don’t incur Google penalties. And if you’re planning to commission bylined writing, then a writer who’s active on social media will be an asset.

Drill down into the writing samples and look to make sure that your writer has a good grasp of tenses, homophones, spelling, grammar and knows how to avoid redundancy. Better yet, your writer should understand when to avoid jargon (which is most of the time) and when to use it.)

4. Get Some Extras

Beyond the actual writing skills, there are a few other qualities you should look for. The best writer will partner with you in content creation, so he or she should understand your business well enough to be able to generate content ideas and write approved content in an appropriate voice for your business. Social media skills, the ability to work with your content management system (like WordPress) and knowledge of search engine optimization (SEO) are also useful.

Find a writer with all these qualities and your content strategy will take off. Better yet, hire a marketing firm to gain access to a pool of experienced writers so you always have the quality content to improve your business.

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5 Ways to Use Google Analytics

5 Ways to Use Google Analytics

5 Ways to Use Google Analytics

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’ve probably heard plenty about the importance of tracking and monitoring in your online business. And while there are many tools designed to help you collect and analyze data about your online audience, Google Analytics is one of the most well-known.

Here are 5 ways you can use it in your business:

1. Get Juicy Browser Details:

So you know (okay, hope) that people are checking out your content. But just how are they checking it out? You can use Google Analytics to discover which browsers they’re using as well as which operating systems and devices they use to check out all your cool stuff. For example, you can figure out the percentage of visitors who use Firefox versus Internet Explorer and how much of your audience is viewing your content on a mobile device.

Why on earth does this matter? Sometimes the best content will look 50 shades of crappy in a certain browser or on a mobile device. With this information to hand, you can ensure that your content is optimized for however the bulk of your audience views it, providing the best possible experience.

2. Get a Search Engine Marketing Report Card (sorta):

If you’ve listened at all to what we have to say, you have put time and effort into choosing well-targeted keywords. But what good is that if you have no idea whether your efforts are paying off. With Google Analytics, you can easily discover which keywords are sending traffic your way. Did you hit the motherload of keywords or did your choices go splat, much like a sucky movie review on Rotten Tomatoes?

Why should you care? Content gets old, loses its luster, and eventually gets forgotten and ignored. Besides, you have other things to share, right? Knowing which keywords get you the customers means you can create the right new content to keep them coming. Totally bombed in the keyword department? It’s okay. It happens. Use these reports to switch gears.

3. Find out Who Is Helping You:

Thought it was only Google sending you traffic. Think again. If you have significant traffic, some of it likely comes from sites that link to yours. Google Analytics lets you know which sites are helping you get more visitors and how much referral traffic these sites are sending your way.

Does this really matter? Really? Of course it does. Let’s say you contribute to the big, beautiful Blog A as well as the smaller, less flashy Blog B. You probably thing Blog A is sending you tons of traffic. After all, bigger is always better, right? Silly you. You know better than that. Google Analytics may just reveal that Blog B is referring more traffic or that they’re both duds. You want to be where your audience is, and this information will help you decide where to go.

4. Discover Your Big Earners:

If you use Google Adsense to earn money, Google Analytics can help. You can use the report data to evaluate which pages of your site earn the most.

Why pay attention? If you’re all about the money, you’re going to want to watch which of your pages brings it in. Why spend all your time mashing up potatoes when it’s the salty deliciousness called French Fries that all the kids want? Use this feature to decide where to invest your time and effort, so when you say, “Show Me the Money!” it’s more likely Google will.

5. Track Online Sales:

The Goal Funnel feature helps you analyze e-commerce transactions and evaluate the level of success you’re experiencing. It may prove particularly helpful for figuring out why some people load up their shopping carts with your products and then bail out without buying anything.

Why does it matter? Duh! You want to stop your customers from window shopping on your site. Use this data to figure out how to turn more looks into buys.

Tips You Can Use:

  • Take a look at your bounce rate. This indicates the number of people who stop by and visit without bothering to look at your other pages. This information might spur you to develop content that grabs their attention and makes them stick around.
  • Filter out your own IP. Your numbers will go up if you visit your site multiple times per day and hit that handy dandy refresh button, but having your own visits included in your data won’t help you very much. Sorry.

Do you use Google Analytics for your business? What feature do you consider the most helpful? Share with us!

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blog editorial calendar

May the Force Be With You: Your Blog Editorial Calendar

blog editorial calendar

You are the social media Jedi, and your editorial calendar is The Force. Use The Force, my young Padawan. Use it well.

Making your blog or social media into an effective marketing tool is a challenge, and so many people get lost along the way. It’s harder than it sounds to not only post regularly but also post content that attracts the right type of traffic and keeps it coming back for more. Even harder is getting your audience to engage by commenting on your content and sharing it. When the going gets rough, though, you’re not at the mercy of fate. Here are three ways your blog or social media editorial calendar can make your job easier.

Mission #1

Post regular content. Regular content helps draw in traffic from the search engines and also gives your audience a reason to come back to your blog. They get used to reading your scintillating content on certain days and come back expecting more of the same. If your posting isn’t consistent, you will have a much harder time building a loyal audience.

The Force

Your blog editorial calendar will help you stay the course. You’ll have it right there in black and white—what you are supposed to post next and when. This makes it much harder to procrastinate and fall into the posting every now and then category.

Top Tip

When you create your blog editorial calendar, make columns to help you stay organized, including those for the month and the day you will publish; the topics, categories, and keywords you will cover; the images you will add; and any notes that may help you with your post.

Mission #2

Create content of value for your audience. You could blab all day about the way your sofa swallows your remote control and the deals you got at the grocery store, but that’s only going to interest some audiences. You need to plan the right content for your unique audience.

The Force

Create a blog editorial calendar with various topic categories of interest to your audience (after you’ve done your research, of course). Then fill in post topics for each category. Use the calendar to ensure that you don’t focus too much on one topic or category and ignore the world of others you could cover.

Top Tip

So you get stuck for topic ideas? No worries. The rest of us are rowing along in the same boat with you. It’s always a good idea to spend time where your audience does and create content based on what they are discussing or asking. Don’t forget that you can, and probably should, turn those great questions and comments you receive via social media into blog posts as well.

Mission #3

Create content that marches in step with your other marketing efforts. Maybe you have a big promo coming up, an event, or a new product line coming out. Maybe you’re opening a new location or bringing some new, exciting talent on board. Shouldn’t your blog content reflect what you have going on in the present or coming up in the future? If it doesn’t, you’re missing out on an important chance to spread the word.

The Force

Use your editorial calendar to strategize around the release of blog content that works hand-in-hand with your other marketing efforts. Of course, many of your posts will be unrelated to your specific business activities, but when you have news, you want to share it. And when you aren’t posting specifically about your company’s going-ons, you may do well to share content that is somehow related. For example, if you are selling computers, posts about malware and anti-virus protection might fit the bill.

Top Tip

Guess what? If you’re cultivating an audience on social media, you need an editorial calendar for that as well. It’s a separate entity from your blog, and you’ll have different goals and rules of engagement. Here’s what you need to know about creating an editorial calendar for Facebook.

Become a social media Jedi, and tell us about how you’re using an editorial calendar to wrangle your content. We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

content marketing worth it

How to Convince Your Boss Content Marketing is Worth It

content marketing worth it

“What’s the point of content marketing, anyway?” It’s a question many in-house marketers hear from those higher up the chain. It doesn’t matter that YOU know it’s worth it; the question is how to convince your C-level colleagues that this kind of marketing is worth their investment. My experience of doing this shows that there are four areas you need to cover to show what content marketing can achieve.

1. Paint a Picture

First of all, it’s important to show the evidence that content marketing works from sources the executives will trust. That means bringing out the heavy hitters like Gartner, Forrester and Pew Internet to present statistics like:

  • In 2015, 12% of marketing budgets will be spent on content marketing (Gartner)
  • Businesses need to allocate dedicated resources to content marketing to achieve its potential (Forrester)

You can also show the benefits many businesses get such as traffic, engagement, leads, sales and more.

2. Create a Baseline

At the same time, create a baseline for where the company is now. Look at:

  • your social media profiles, paying attention to branding, activity and engagement
  • your web and social traffic
  • blog content publishing and related social sharing activity
  • other content publishing initiatives

Then see how all of these translate into leads and or sales. This tells you where you’re starting from. Put these in a spreadsheet before you move on to the next step.

3. Set Realistic Expectations and Goals

This is where you create your plan, moving from what’s achievable from your current position. In other words, if your Twitter account is dormant, it’s not realistic to expect it to bring hundreds of people to your website. But you can set some goals for:

  • getting more of your customers to sign up for your email newsletter
  • increasing your social media mentions and conversations (the numbers will follow)
  • boosting the numbers of people who decide to download your free report
  • connecting with customers
  • expanding your digital footprint

All of this helps you to build trust with your customers, which takes time. It’s like the difference between a first date and a one year anniversary date. Content marketing helps you bridge that gap.

4. Measure and Report

Once you know what your goals are, it’s all about robust reporting. Luckily, there are plenty of tools to help with that.

  • Almost all social media sites have some form of analytics so you can track the raw numbers, and there are plenty of other social analytics tools that show how your content is doing across the spectrum.
  • Web analytics helps you figure out which content is doing best, and how your content affects search engine positioning, web traffic and social sharing.
  • Email marketing providers also have analytics on opens and clicks.

You could also track everything at once with an all in one dashboard like Cyfe or Hubspot, or simply enter updated figures in the spreadsheet you created in step 2.

Whichever method you choose, you will soon be able to see the impact of your content marketing efforts, so you can report on it to the people who are paying your salary.

And if you still need more, check out these compelling arguments for the ROI of content marketing from the Content Marketing Institute.

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7 types of content

7 Types of Content to Include in Your Strategy and Why {Part 2}

7 types of content

In my last post, I looked at the importance of including long form articles, data rich infographics and online video in your content strategy. Now here are four more content types to round your strategy out.

4. Social Media Posts

The mobile shift provides another reason to do social media well. Statistics from ShareThis show that people are twice as likely to share content from mobile devices as from the desktop. So creating shareable social media content is a must.

For this, it’s essential to think beyond the tweet. Short social media updates have their place, but it’s also important to include:

  • images, which can be easily shared on all networks
  • media, which many social sites embed
  • longer social posts, for Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+

In many cases, you can share the content you already have, but make sure to share content from others too – self-promotion must take a back seat to the goal of engaging your audience by the breadth and quality of what you share. It’s the best way to get attention for your brand.

For networks that allow longer posts, take some time to craft summaries of the key points and add a question for discussion to increase your options for engagement.

5. Educational Ebooks

With digital publishing on the rise, ebooks have become an important promotional tool for business. As Hubspot says, ebooks are a great way to educate your prospects while starting a relationship with them. Ebooks also show your knowledge and can be the first step in getting those leads into the sales funnel.

You have two options for creating your ebook: using content you already have or authoring an ebook from scratch. If you do a lot of presentations and have an active blog, it’s easy to choose the most popular topics as the seed for an ebook. Alternatively, you may prefer to use an ebook to answer the questions that most customers have about your products or services.

With the help of a professional writer (and maybe a little bit of design assistance, too), you can create an ebook that is valuable and easy to read, which makes it more likely that readers will be interested in your next offer. This is something Hubspot does extremely well.

6. White Papers

From the outside, white papers may seem identical to ebooks, but they are not (though I believe the gap between them is shrinking and some people use the terms interchangeably). White papers typically focus on a customer problem, examine some of the failed or flawed approaches to that problem and show how your product or service can solve it. They tend to be more formal than ebooks and can be a good way of showing topic expertise. Many white papers are data-driven, sharing business and industry statistics to make the case.

If you are in the B2B market, then you can’t afford to ignore white papers. As white paper expert Mike Stelzner points out, they are an excellent lead generation tool, are widely shared and are used to help businesses evaluate solutions to their most pressing issues.

7. Lead Converting Webinars

Lewis Howes believes that webinars are one of the most effective ways of converting leads to customers. Since most webinars are free, there’s no barrier to entry, but only people who are already interested in the topic sign up, effectively pre-qualifying themselves. A webinar gives you the chance to talk to people for around 45-60 minutes in a focused way that’s almost impossible on social media.

Webinars also allow you to offer more value to customers and prospects by partnering with experts and by taking the chance to explain complex concepts. The more people understand, the more the realize why your product or service could be a good fit for them.

Don’t be fooled: webinars are hard work, so it’s worth getting help to brainstorm topics and potential partners, work out the structure and create the slides. Then you can focus on what you do best by delivering the presentation and talking to attendees.

Add these seven types of content to blog posts for a well rounded content strategy that allows you to attract and retain customers no matter where they are in the sales funnel.

Learn how Crackerjack Marketing can help you get leads and sales with ebooks, white papers and webinars.

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