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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.

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.

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.

Ways to Generate Blog Post Ideas

Surefire Ways to Generate Blog Post Ideas

“Surefire Ways to Generate Blog Post Ideas” was co-authored by Stephanie Schwab and Christina Strickland.

Ways to Generate Blog Post Ideas

Sometimes the hardest thing about having a blog is figuring out what to post on it each week. Maybe you started with a bank of grand ideas, but as you used them up, your blog started to feel, well, a lot less fresh. Perhaps you’ve struggled for ideas since the very beginning. The good news is you can stop liberally applying your forehead to your desk.

Here are some of the best ways to generate blog post ideas:

Answer Questions

No matter what your business, it’s likely that you get a ton of questions each week. And the questions you get represent more than the inquiries of a mere few. They are questions hundreds or thousands of other people have about your products and services. These questions provide an easy way to learn what your customers want to know, so you can provide them with information they need. And since you get all of these questions anyway, why not translate them into blog posts?

Tips:

  1. Answer each question with a brief (or longer) post. You can even put the posts into a Q&A format (put the question at the top, then answer it below).
  2. Get your whole organization involved. Ask everyone in your organization to keep a record of the questions they get.
  3. Pay attention to the questions that come up repeatedly, but don’t ignore those that come up only once. If many people are asking the same question, you can be certain there’s an audience for the answer. So, then, why not just scrap those rare questions? Well, for every person who asks a question, there are many more out there who wonder the same thing.

 

Ask Your Own Questions

When it comes to creating good blog content, you really don’t have to reinvent the wheel, and neither do you need ESP. Stop guessing about what your readers want to read, and just ask them. This is another reason social media is so great. You can use that social contact to ask your followers what they are interested in reading.

What should you ask? Start with the following:

  • What they want to read about next
  • What their burning questions are
  • What they want to read more or less of
  • What they think of your recent content

Tips:

  1. Ask your readers what they’re interested in via the comments. This is the easiest way to get answers.
  2. Create polls. Many people enjoy participating in them, and they are a good way to gauge interest.
  3. Learn from the answers you receive. You will absolutely get blog ideas from asking these sorts of questions, but you may also get something else priceless–feedback! The answers you receive provide insight into what you’ve been doing right and where you’ve been falling short.

Read Your Existing Comments

Haven’t asked for feedback yet? You may already have a source of ideas at your fingertips. Your readers’ comments can give you great insight into what interests them and what they want to read. Notice which blogs and posts generate the most comments, and then read each comment. Often, readers will present a point of view that leads you to your next post.

Tips:

  1. Don’t rely on your readers to know you want comments. Encourage comments and sharing on every post.
  2. If you have some posts that do not get any comments, this doesn’t necessarily mean the topic was way off base. Still, it is revealing if most of your posts do get comments and you have a few with absolutely nothing.

Look for Industry News

Where do your readers go for relevant news about your industry? Why not become a reliable source of the news they seek? By updating your readers on your industry and the products and services you sell, you ensure that you have a ready source of blog topics and give your readers yet another reason to read your content.

Tips:

  1. Keep your readers interested by writing blog posts about changes and improvements not only in your industry but also within your company.
  2. Create behind-the-scenes posts as well. Most people love to read about the goings on at the companies they patronize, and many like to read about the people making it all happen.

Teach Them Something

Some of the best blog posts are those that teach the reader how to do something. These are really useful posts that people tend to save and refer to again and again, sharing them with others as well. Write how-to posts, or create photo and video tutorials, that teach your audience how to use your products or services.

Tips:

  1. Produce life hack posts that demonstrate how your products or services can make your readers’ lives easier, better, and/or more fun.
  2. Produce posts that share how real customers have used/benefited from your products and services (skip the blatant promotion, however). Think more human interest story than an advertisement.

Leverage Expertise

Chances are you have employees that are pretty much experts on some topics. Are those topics relevant to your audience? If yes, get them to writing. Having your employees (or you) cover these topics demonstrates that you are a leader in your industry.

Tips:

  1. Ensure that these posts tackle specific issues and are truly useful. This is not a big chance for the expert to blab about how much he or she knows.
  2. Avoid talking down to your audience or bad mouthing others in the industry. This will only turn your readers off.

Use Tools

You have a bunch of engagement-monitoring tools at your disposal, right?  Well, they’re not just there to look pretty. Use them to drum up blog ideas! All of those shares, likes, retweets, and favorites do more than just say you did a good job. They give you important insight into the type of content that really excites your audience. Use all of this engagement information to figure out which types of content to produce more of and which types you might want to pass up next time.

Which types of tools should you use? Go ahead and try these on for size:

  • Monitoring tools provided by social media sites
  • Site analytic tools
  • URL-shortening services

Tips:

  1. Be sure to analyze your click-throughs as well.
  2. Evaluate click-throughs that lead not only to your site but also to content on third-party sites.

 

With the above advice to hand, coming up with good ideas for your blog needn’t be an exercise in frustration. Just remember to mix up the types of blog posts you publish as too much of even a good thing can get, well, boring. How do you get new post ideas? Share your tips and tricks!

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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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What Brands Can Learn About Social Media From Game of Thrones

What Brands Can Learn About Social Media From Game of Thrones

What Brands Can Learn About Social Media From Game of Thrones

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Social media doesn’t just emulate life. In some ways, it emulates television too, especially good television like Game of Thrones. If you’re a fan, read on to learn what Game of Thrones has to teach those of us who work with brands who strive for social media success. Not a fan yet? There’s still plenty to learn here. Read up, avoid the spoiler (towards the end), and then start watching.

A Little Social Listening Goes a Long Way

Varys, aka The Spider, has little birds that bring him news. He can’t be everywhere at the same time, but his little birdies keep him on top of things. The same concept applies to social listening tools. You can’t be everywhere or listen to everyone on the Internet at all times. Skip the little birds, though, and use a social media monitoring tool, such as Radian6 or CustomScoop, to find out what people are saying about your brand and its products and services.

Step out of the Box and Try New Things

Life is pretty dull if you do the same things day in and day out. Jon Snow is a natural risk taker. First, he took up a post on The Wall, and in Season 3, he got frisky with Ygritte, a Wildling. He must later account for his actions (Season 4), but even then, he’s not content to settle for what’s always been done. Knowing that the Wildlings plan to strike Castle Black, with the White Walkers to up their odds, he argues for going on the offense rather than staying put to defend the castle. He also wants to seal the tunnel under Castle Black to keep enemies out.

Ser Alliser Thorne is adamant about staying put. His argument? They’ve never done it before, and they won’t do it now. Jon, on the other hand, is all about trying something new to get better results. Fortunately, for social media users, trying new things isn’t as risky as joining The Night’s Watch or fighting White Walkers. Be proactive about trying new initiatives in addition to continuing the tried and true. This is critical for reaching more of your target audience and keeping its members interested. As in the Game of Thrones, complacency has no place in social media.

Get a Great Team 

Daenerys Targaryen, or Khaleesi (whatever you choose to call her), has something going for her that every business social media user should have. No, it’s not the ability to walk through fire, though that could come in handy. Instead, it’s an awesome team. The Dragon Queen Ladyhas a translator, advisors, a community manager, and an entire army of advocates. That army? She’s not dragging it along for the ride or threatening it into submission. Her soldiers are with her voluntarily because she won them over. You can do the same with members of your own audience, and they will become advocates of your brand.

Be a Giver

Back in Season 2 of Game of Thrones, brave little Arya Stark made friends with Jaqen H’ghar and then managed to save his life. How did he return the favor (three times over)? Well, he offered to kill three people for her (because “only death can repay life”). While we certainly don’t advocate killing anyone, there is an important social media lesson to be learned from Jaqen H’ghar: Always give more than you get. Be generous with your retweets, shares, and promotion of your community’s content. Jaqen H’ghar received something valuable from Arya before he became a giver, but social media users should deviate a bit from his example. With social media, it’s important to start giving before you get anything in return. Still, the main principle is the same.

Show Them the Money 

There’s so much we could learn from Tyrion Lannister in terms of using wit. But since we are still awaiting his fate in the season finale (or perhaps the next season premiere), it’s too soon to draw any parallels here. One thing we can learn for sure, though, is that money talks and, well, you know the rest. This is especially true when it comes to advocates. Tyrion has paid Bronn handsomely for his services. In exchange, Bronn has been a loyal and dedicated protector. I know you’re probably thinking of how {Warning! Warning! Spoiler alert! Skip to the end if you haven’t made your way through this season yet!} Bronn has decided not to testify for Tyrion at his trial. The same lesson applies here, though. Bronn received a better offer, and again we see what happens when you show them the money. Keep in mind, too, that even though Bronn is no longer Tyrion’s paid advocate, he isn’t testifying against him either. The takeaway? Yes, it’s nice when we get something for free, but value your advocates and compensate them well.

There’s one more thing you can learn from the characters of Game of Thrones: Always seize the day. Apply these tips today to make sure you won’t miss a single opportunity to grow your social media network and meet your business goals.

 

Content Marketing: 5 Goals for Your Business

Content Marketing: 5 Goals for Your Business

Content Marketing: 5 Goals for Your Business

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When using content marketing for your business, you probably have one, very clear main goal in mind: making more sales. However, there are a bunch of other goals that help you achieve this one. Having a firm idea of what they are will help you gain perspective and make sure your content marketing efforts are moving in the right direction.

  1. Traffic: One of your main goals with content marketing should be an increase in traffic. You’ll need to get more people interested in your products or services if you want to sell more of them. Create content that helps you get as much traffic as possible.
  2. Engagement: Tons of traffic means little if the people who visit your page aren’t really interested in what you have to say. You want to create content that stimulates long, quality interaction. To do this, you’ll need to create content that is not only relevant to the audience you want to engage but also likely to capture and hold its attention. Keep in mind that a good design and layout can help you increase engagement as well. If your layout is crappy, many visitors won’ stick around long enough to read your content.
  3. Social Media Success:  Social media can help you get the word about your business out there, helping not only to improve visibility and increase traffic but also to boost your reputation. You want to create content that gets more followers, shares, comments, retweets, and likes.
  4. Backlinks: Many people, especially those just getting a feel for content marketing, underestimate the importance of backlinks. Others may simply theorize that they aren’t as important as they were in the past. Both of these positions are mistakes. Backlinks are important for two major reasons. First, they help you increase traffic. Second, they help boost your search engine authority, which ensures that more people see your pages in their search results. Of course, backlinks from just any site won’t do. You only want links from reputable sites.
  5. Conversions: Ultimately, you want content that helps you convert your traffic. Keep in mind, however, that this doesn’t always mean sales conversions. Often, you are directing your visitors towards another action instead. For example, you may want visitors to sign up for your newsletter or online course. Well-crafted calls to action help.

Keep these goals in mind as you create content for your business. And be sure to track your results. Monitoring what works and what doesn’t can help you decide how to proceed going forward.

 

4-Steps-to-Creating-a-Content-Marketing-Engine

4 Steps to Creating a Content Marketing Engine

4-Steps-to-Creating-a-Content-Marketing-Engine

Once you’ve decided that inbound marketing is right for you, what’s next? As enthusiastic as you may feel, it’s only natural to puzzle over how you’re supposed to go from being an traditional, advertising-heavy company to a creator and distributor of content that attracts, engages, and moves your audience through the marketing funnel. The answer? You need to create a content marketing engine so that content creation becomes easy and seamless. Here’s how.

1. Decide whether to insource or outsource your content. You can absolutely create your own content, and many companies do, but this is where some companies often run into problems. Either they cannot create the type of content they need to produce real results, or they simply aren’t good at producing it. There is no shame in that, and outsourcing is a ready solution. Here’s when you may need to outsource:

  • Creating enough quality, engaging content is a challenge
  • The people on your team are just not natural content creators
  • With all that you have to do in the course of your busy week, content creation may migrate to the bottom of your to-do list

Of course, if you have great writers in house, you may not need to outsource your content creation. But they may also have “day jobs” which makes it difficult to meet the demands of a hungry inbound marketing engine, so having an outside person help them manage deadlines and editorial calendars might help them focus on the writing itself, not the management of it.

2. Decide how to outsource. So outsourcing sounds like it’s for you? Now you have to decide how to do it. Here are some excellent choices:

  • Hire (and manage) a dedicated writer to craft content tailored for your ideal customers.
  • Crowdsource content from your community. You can opt for paid or unpaid content or a combination of both. If you choose unpaid, use non-monetary types of recognition/rewards for the content producer.
  • Hire influencers/bloggers. As a bonus, you get to leverage their reach and engage their often considerable followers.
  • Hire an agency to manage some or all of the above types of outsourcing. This is the least time-consuming, most stress-free option.

3. Create an editorial calendar. Organization is key to getting anything done, and the same goes for content creation. An editorial calendar not only helps you stay on task and remember when to write and publish, but also helps you focus on the right themes for reaching and converting your prospects.

In your calendar, include not only planned blog posts, but also all of your other inbound marketing content, including whitepapers, newsletters, emails, eBooks, events, and social media. For some insight into just how important an editorial calendar is, consider this: My blog editorial calendar template is the top requested download on my site.
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4. Develop content topics: This is a team effort. Gather every content marketing idea you and/or your team can brainstorm. Be broad and think outside the box! Here’s how to get the best topic ideas:

  • Listen to your customers: You’re trying to engage, convert and delight them, so give them what they want. They’ll tell you what they want via social media, through emails, and by asking questions and sharing concerns with your customer service team.
  • Make a list: Don’t you hate forgetting great ideas? This is how you avoid that.
  • Answer all of your audience’s questions: You don’t want them looking elsewhere for answers.
  • Research keywords: Targeting keywords in your content will help you bring in search traffic.
  • Be honest: Being open and genuine will help you win not only friends but also customers.
  • Brainstorm regularly: Don’t expect your original content topics to serve you indefinitely. Always work towards finding new and better ideas for reaching your audience.
  • Talk about it: Don’t be afraid to talk about the competition or even write about controversial subjects. Controversy boosts traffic. Just makes sure you don’t stray from your company’s general norms and policies.
  • Try writing articles in the “versus” and “bests” formats (You vs. a competitor, best things about….). They generate a lot of interest and get shares.

No more excuses! These four steps are all you need to create a content marketing engine. Please let us know how it’s going for you in the comments.

This post is fourth in a series on how to use inbound marketing in your company marketing efforts. You may also be interested in the first post, What Is Inbound Marketing, and the second post, Creating Customer Personas for Inbound Marketing, and the third post, 7 Key Assets for Inbound Marketing