Content Marketing

Content Marketing Blog Archives | Crackerjack Marketing Blog

Since we specialize in Content Marketing here at Crackerjack Marketing, it should be no surprise to see that many of our blog posts focus on this topic. It was once said that it doesn’t matter what industry you are in, we are all publishers now. This couldn’t be more true than it is today.

There’s a lot of noise on the internet and if you want to be heard and seen by your target audience, you need to be delivering relevant and engaging content. This means blog posts, white papers, eBooks, infographics and so much more.

Why and how does this work? This works for a few reasons. First, it helps with your search engine rankings. Secondly, it gives your audience a reason to come to your website, other than your product or service (after all, if they don’t know about you, how will they know to look for you)? This also gives previous customers or clients a reason to continue to visit your website, keeping your brand top of mind.

If you’d like to find out more about how working with a social media agency can help your brand, please feel free to contact us through the chat window (down there, in the lower-right corner of your browser) or contact us by filling out this form.

best tools for small business growth featured

The Best Daily Activity Tools for Small Business Growth

best tools for small business growth featured

In every niche market, the desire for growth among small businesses is ever present. Most people prefer to experience measurable growth as constantly as possible. However, if your daily activities are misaligned with the long-term goal of growing your business, that growth will continue to elude you for a long time to come.

Depending on the size of your business, you are probably wearing too many hats already. This means that with each passing day, you could have multiple responsibilities in management, leadership, marketing, accounting, customer support and many others. Consequently, you feel helplessly trapped in busyness.

There is a limit to how many hours you can work each day. Add to this the reality other limited resources, especially money, and then your small business growth potential will remain untapped. This is where these tools for small business growth come into play. Beyond what is possible with your working hours, these tools help business owners like you to grow brand awareness, generate more leads, and increase sales volume and ROI.

Read more

how-to-humanize-your-brand

How to Humanize Your Brand and Why You Need To Do It

how-to-humanize-your-brand

Whether your objective is to grow an audience for your blog, sell a product, or provide a service, you first need to build trust. If you want people to come to you for your travel tips or sign up for your online course, you need to give them a reason to choose you over the sea of other options out there. It sounds like this could be quite the difficult task, huh? Well, that’s not necessarily the case as long as you’re willing to put in the effort.

If you’re ready to open up and be transparent, not only about your brand but also the person or people behind the brand, you’re going to have a lot more success.

Read more

How To Structure A Great Blog Post

How To Structure A Blog Post to Get More Readers and Maximize SEO

How To Structure A Blog Post

 

Even if you’re a great writer, you may struggle now and then with how to structure a blog post that’s certain to get your key points across.  In the nearly ten years blogging and helping clients with blogs, I’ve learned a few tricks on how to structure a blog post along the way which may help you.

Read more

Creating a Blog Content Engine

Recently, I had the honor of giving a presentation to some of the smartest people in social media. Hosted by the Social Media Association of Michigan, sponsored by Tech Town Detroit, I was asked to “cram everything I know about blogging into a one-hour presentation.”

Well, it’s pretty difficult to condense 12 years of experience into one hour. Knowing that these are savvy marketers, I thought presenting the tools and systems for keeping the content engine turning would be the most helpful since this can be a daunting task for even the most well-seasoned content marketers.

Read more

Top Reasons Why You Should Be Using Video Captions

Video Captions: Not Just for Watching CNN at the Gym

Top Reasons Why You Should Be Using Video Captions

Top Reasons Why You Should Be Using Video Captions

These days the idea of making your content “mobile friendly” is top-of-mind for many of us in the content-generation business, but are you also thinking about making it as “people-friendly” as you can? You probably already know that as a best practice you should strive to make sure that your content is accessible to as many people as possible, but you may not be considering captions as part of that accessibility strategy. Here’s why you should.

Who Will Benefit From My Video Captions?

The Hearing Impaired

According to the National Association for the Deaf, there are somewhere around 36 million Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing — that’s a lot of people who you may not be reaching with your multimedia content if you miss out on captioning. I’ve heard first-hand the frustration from hard-of-hearing friends when they encounter a popular video post which they’re not able to get the most out of because the captions are nonexistent. By removing this barrier for people with hearing impairments, you expand your audience and make them more likely to engage with your content.

Non-Native Speakers

Also, consider those who may not speak English as a first language. If you’re anything like me, even if you speak a second language moderately well, native speakers can still sound incomprehensible when talking quickly, using slang, or even when they have a slight regional accent. Captions can help those in your audience who might not otherwise catch 100% of what you’re trying to convey.

 

 

The Public At-Large

Finally, you’ll reach those of us who just can’t be bothered to turn up the volume. I’m one of those curmudgeons (you may be, too) who nearly always has the volume turned down on their phone or laptop. The huge number of websites with autoplay videos has turned me into someone who will only un-mute if the content is *extraordinary* (or if it promises an adorable laughing baby). Plenty of people consume content everywhere they go, but not every place is conducive to playing audio — nobody wants to be that person on the bus, the one who you know for a fact is watching a movie trailer because. you. can. hear. it. from 30 feet away. Making sure users can read your content as well see it is much more practical in today’s mobile world.

OK – you’ve convinced me. I should be using video captions.

But Cori, you ask, what about automated captions? We’re living in the future, a magical time when I can ask the invisible lady inside my phone questions – do I need to manually sit there and type out every single video?

ABC – Always Be Captioning

I won’t pretend to understand the bond you have with Siri, but I will tell you that YES you should be manually creating your captions rather than relying on auto-transcription capabilities, and I’m going to tell you why. Anyone who has ever tried decipher a Google Voice auto-transcription or struggled to get their phone’s voice-to-text function to accurately record their thoughts will know that, while word-recognition and transcription technology can be impressive in some cases, it’s got a long way to go.
If your video has any sort of music, background noise, or features colloquial language, multiple speakers, or even a speaker who has a mild accent, relying on auto-captions can lead to confusion. You might not think it’s a big deal… until you discover the auto-captions have transformed your video touting “the cutest dress” into an ad for “acute distress” — not exactly the image you want to be conveying.

Video Captioning and SEO

Of course, if my arguments for creating accessible content haven’t swayed you, there’s one more great reason to caption your web videos: SEO. And you’ll be glad to know that user-created captions — on YouTube in particular — are indexed by search engines as they crawl for content. And, you should know that, if you’ve ignored my advice and are relying on auto-generated captions, you’re missing out on another source of traffic, since those automatically generated subtitles are not currently indexed by Google.

Do you have any captioning software recommendations? Any success stories? Horror stories? Let us know!

Blogger-Outreach-All-About-The-Followthrough

Influence Marketing: The Good & Bad of Following Up

Blogger-Outreach-All-About-The-Followthrough

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

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

follow through

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Dying Breed

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

And yes, a social media marketer.

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

What happened to being a jack of all trades?

The Niche Marketer

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

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

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

Jacks of All Trades Are Better

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

marketing universe for best agency

Hire the Best Agency For Your Company

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

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

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

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

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

Role of Images in Content Marketing

What Makes Visuals So Crucial to Content Marketing Success?

Role of Images in Content Marketing

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

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

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

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

Search Engine Optimization

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

 

 

Blogging

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

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

Email Marketing and Newsletters

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

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

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

Social Media

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

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

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

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

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

emoji marketing crackerjack

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

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

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

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

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

5 Best Practices to Boost Engagement with Images

Tip 1: Image to word ratio

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

Tip 2: Color Psychology

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

colorpsychologywheel

Click to enlarge

Tip 3: Ditch the generic stock image

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

Tip 4: Optimize for speed and SEO

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

Tip 5: Image dimensions

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

Where to Find Your Images

Free

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

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

Paid

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

6 Tools to Help you Create Stunning Visuals

Final Thought

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Ready? Let’s dig in!

Favorite Social Media Tool #1: Slack

Collaboration

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

What we love about Slack:

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

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

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

Favorite Social Media Tool #2: Our Editorial Calendar

Organization

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

What we love about the Editorial Calendar:

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

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

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

Favorite Social Media Tool #3: Canva

Creation


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

What we love about Canva:

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

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

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

Favorite Social Media Tool #4: DropBox:

Organization

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

What we love about DropBox

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

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

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

Favorite Social Media Tool #5: Social Report

Organization

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

What we love about Social Report

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

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

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

Favorite Social Media Tool #6: Grum.co

Organization

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

What we love about Grum.co

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

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

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

Favorite Social Media Tool #7: Grammarly

Creation

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

What we love about Grammarly

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

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

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

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

How to Use YouTube for Content Marketing

How to Use YouTube for Content Marketing

How to Use YouTube for Content Marketing

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. What is your goal?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do You Really Need a Business Blog

Do You Really Need a Business Blog?

Do You Really Need a Business Blog

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

Do you need more traffic?

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

Do you want to build your brand?

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

Do you want to position yourself as an expert?

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

Do you want to engage your audience?

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

 

 

Do you want to demonstrate authenticity?

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

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

21 Secrets to Getting More Blog Comments

21 Secrets to Getting More Blog Comments

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

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

How to Get More Blog Comments

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

Create Compelling Content

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

Be Accessible, Prepared and Realistic

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

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

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

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

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

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

Encourage Readers to Comment

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

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

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

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

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

Comment on Other Blogs

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

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

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

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

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

DON’T Exhibit These Behaviors on Other Blogs

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

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

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

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

3 Ways to Deliver Successful Content

3 Ways to Deliver Successful Content

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

 

 

3 Ways to Deliver Successful Content

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. If It’s Not Annoying, Share It

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

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

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

Add It All Up

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

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

8 Simple Ways to Breathe New Life Into Your Content Marketing

8 Simple Ways to Breathe New Life Into Your Content Marketing

8 Simple Ways to Breathe New Life Into Your Content Marketing

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

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

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

8 Content Marketing Ideas for Brands

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

  1. Manage Your Content

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

 

 

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

  1. Vary Your Content

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

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

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

  1. Get Inside Your Audience’s Head

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

  1. Work With Guest Bloggers

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

  1. Focus on Your Formatting

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

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

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

7.    Make Sharing Easy

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

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

8. Revisit Your Strategy

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

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

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

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

Building and Protecting Your Brand Voice on Social Media

Creating Brand Voice on Social Media

Building and Protecting Your Brand Voice on Social Media

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

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

 

 

That Was Then

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

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

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

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

This Is Now

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

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

Build Your Brand Voice

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

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

Protect Your Brand Voice

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

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

Establish a Brand Character

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

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

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

The Magician

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

The Infomercial Guy

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

The Motor Mouth

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

The Radio Announcer

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

The Right Brand Character

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

The Mindful Maven

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

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

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

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!

marketing-assessment-footer-bar

How to Market Your Brand Using Live Video

how-to-use-live-video-to-marketing-your-brand

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so what does that mean for live video broadcasting via tools like Periscope, Meerkat, Snapchat, Facebook Live, and Blab? I’m going to say live video is worth a million words. Why? Well, as far as content marketing is concerned, we all know how important it is to educate and inform your audience in a way that is also entertaining. We also know how important it is to reach your customers where they spend time and encourage them to connect with your brand. Live video makes this easy.

How to Use Live Video for Marketing

Whether you use Periscope, Facebook Live, or Meerkat, live video allows you to share your brand in real-time. It makes it easier than ever before to provide your audience with a face-to-face experience, even if you’re halfway around the world. It allows you to tell stories, share, support, and teach where and when your audience needs it, offering an undeniably personal appeal and boosting engagement in a way static content never could.

Without question, live video is a big thing in content marketing, and it’s becoming ever more present with each passing month. Audiences are seeing more and more live content from brands, and they will expect you to offer it too. The last thing you’d ever want is to be left behind when your competition is offering loads of great live content, and you’re stuck in the social media dark ages.

 

 

Here are some solid ways to use live video as part of your content marketing strategy.

Provide Question and Answer Sessions

Some of the most useful written content answers an audience’s frequently asked questions. And though these written FAQs do come in handy, they can sometimes feel rather dry. Or even worse, it can be hard to make them stand out in the sea of written content out there. Enter the live video, and you have a way to grab your audience’s attention and keep it by providing those all-important answers in real-time. Better yet, live video allows you the opportunity to learn your audience members’ concerns and find out what interests them.

Tips: Do respond to viewers by name. Do answer questions that provide value for your audience. Don’t waste your time with trolls. Ignore and move on.

Let Your Audience Tune-in to Live Events

Is there an upcoming event of interest to your audience? Are you planning to soak it all in and then blog about it for your audience members who couldn’t be there? Why not just take them with you? When you share live events, your audience feels more connected to you and your brand. But that’s not the only benefit. You can also become their go-to person for announcements and news. They don’t have to be there because they know you’ll provide the scoop—live!

Tip: Move about and be sure to capture the most exciting moments and happenings. Your audience will be excited to tune in next time if they know your live video will tell a story and provide something unique and fresh.

Take Them Behind the Scenes

Who doesn’t love a look behind the scene? Use live video to enhance your brand’s story, showing your audience the unique way you do things, what your employees are up to, and even how you manufacture your product or provide your key services. Out in the community making a difference? Show and tell through live video!

Tips: Give your audience insight into things they wouldn’t normally see, and be responsive while doing it. Take the time to read and respond to comments while you’re live. Doing so makes for a much more personal experience.

How-Tos and Training

Is there something your audience needs to learn how to do? Can you teach them how to use your product or even show them other ways to make their lives easier, better, and more productive? Get busy showing them how to do it—live!

Tips: Inject a little personality. Seeing is believing, but there’s little worse than dry, boring accounts of how to get a job done. Keep it peppy and fun; crack jokes. Your audience will thank you for making learning fun.

Interviews

We talk a lot about providing that personal touch, and that’s because it truly is critical. Go ahead and interview key employees and let your audience see the faces and personalities behind the names. But don’t stop there. Interview your customers as well. Think of it as live testimonials for your brand. And don’t be afraid to branch out to interviewing industry experts as well.

Tips: Avoid asking the same tired questions your audience sees in every interview. Work on a unique angle, and research to find out just what your audience really wants to know.

Customer Support

So you already offer customer support by email and by phone? Maybe you even allow customers to reach out via chat as well. Give them that super-personal touch by allowing them to see you while you offer that top-notch support.

Tips: Set specific office hours for providing live customer support each week. Record sessions (respecting privacy, of course) to help other customers with the same issues.

How Are Brands Broadcasting Live Video?

In the past, Periscope was the way to go with live video for brands, but now you have a wealth of options to choose from, including the following:

Periscope: If you want a mobile app that allows you to stream around the world at any time, take a look at this one. Periscope has handy tools for sharing and engaging with your audience.

Meerkat: This app allows you to stream live from your mobile device. Head to Google Play or iTunes to grab it.

Snapchat: This app can be a good choice for quick, live video messages. It’s especially popular with Millennials and marketers marketing to other marketers.

Blab: Think of this one like Periscope—only for groups. Four people can go live at once with this one.

Facebook Live: For most brands, Facebook is an important social media tool. Now you can engage your audience anywhere in the world—live! Your videos are posted to your page for followers who couldn’t catch you live to catch you later.

Give live video a spin, incorporating it into your content marketing mix to grab attention and boost engagement. And be sure to announce when you plan to broadcast. While you can broadcast spontaneously, and there may be situations in which you want to, you’ll have more viewers if you generate some buzz first. Additionally, it can really help to save your broadcasts, when possible, and embed them into blog posts later!

The Art of Content Curation and Making it Work for Your Brand

What Is Content Curation

Content is king, right? But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to write every word of it. After writing blog post after blog post and article after article, with an eBook or white paper thrown in, you may feel as if you’re penning the Great American novel rather than marketing your business. The good news is you don’t have to type until your fingers fall off. Original content is certainly good, but content curation helps get the job done too.

What Is Content Curation?

In its simplest terms, content curation is the art and science of finding and sharing quality content on a particular topic. It means sorting through topical content on the web and then presenting the highest-quality posts in an organized and meaningful way. You save your audience from having to wade through the tons of available content themselves, and you’re rewarded in terms of engaged audience members who pay attention to what you post and share.

Think about an art gallery and the collections of art on display – those collections are carefully manicured and presented in the best possible light. The concept of content curation is similar in that you pick a common thread (a theme or topic) and collect, or curate, the items you want to showcase. In this case, we’re showcasing articles, blog posts, video, photos, podcasts, and infographics, instead of painting and sculptures.

Is Content Curation the Same as Content Aggregation?

It’s easy to think that content curation and aggregation are the same things but for your reader, it’s the difference between being presented with only the most useful, relevant content versus the 12,343,244 results returned on a Google search. Using our art gallery example, if you were walking into an exhibit on contemporary surrealism, you’d expect to see only the best pieces from the best artists, not every scratch and doodle ever posted on the web. That’s what you are doing for your readers: presenting them with the best of the best.

Does Content Curation Mean Creating Content?

While, technically, content curation doesn’t mean content creation, it doesn’t mean that the opportunity to create content doesn’t exist. And, in fact, if you’re not creating some content around the items you curate, you are missing the all of the best benefits, and so are your readers.

Remember, you are gathering content from a variety of sources and then presenting it in a thoughtful and organized way. “Presenting” is the key word, here. This is your opportunity to create content.

Again, thinking of a collection of art: walking through a museum, you are presented with more than a piece of art to study. You are given information about the artist, the inspiration for the piece, the medium used and sometimes even more. Use this same approach when presenting the content you’ve curated. Let your readers know what the article is about, who wrote it and why it’s important or relevant.

How Do You Use Content Curation?

This is the fun part! Once you’ve collected the “best of the best,” how will you present these articles for your readers, fans and followers? Three options include:

1. Weekly Blog Posts

You can keep your blog both relevant and helpful with weekly posts that curate other people and companies’ content from around the Web. Each post could be on a theme: For a food blog, one week could be all about asparagus recipes, another week about peach recipes. Alternately, you could round up what you consider to be the best or most important news of the week within your topic area into a blog post with links to those news items.

2. Email Newsletters

Like your weekly blog posts, this type of curated content helps your readers save the time they would have to spend finding great Web content. Want to see an example of this in action? We curate content for our weekly newsletter on social media and content marketing topics.

3. Social Media

Include curated content directly into your social streams alongside a mix of personal updates, brand mentions, and other content you already share.

Whatever format you choose to deliver your curated articles to your readers, keep in mind that it’s important to not only write your take on the piece, but also credit the original author. Not doing so could potentially violate the author’s copyright on the article.

How Brands Can Benefit From Content Curation

When done the right way, content curation can fit into your marketing efforts in a variety of ways. Many brands use curation as part of their content strategy with positive results.

How exactly can your brand benefit from content curation? Here are five important ways:

1. Establishing Credibility and Trust

We all love recommendations from people we trust, such as friends and peers. But we also desire information from reliable sources that take the time to explain how these recommendations will help us achieve our goals as well as make our lives easier. Curators carefully select content based on their understanding of the audience, even making the pieces easier to relate to if needed. You do this for your audience, giving it to them short and sweet, so they don’t have to struggle to tame the mountain of information out there.

2. Telling Your Brand’s Story

Every article, picture, message and video you curate provides a window for your customers to look in and learn about your ideas, interests and work ethic. This can enhance the public perception of your brand. People buy products from brands they think have personality. Dull Davids don’t win here.

3. Keeping Customers Engaged

Content curation is a great way to remain engaged with your customers after the sale. Sending news clips or other relevant information to your audience not only keeps them informed but also builds goodwill. And let’s face it: customers can be forgetful. If you’re not right out there talking to them and giving them a reason to think of you, they just may forget to buy from you the next time they need something. With a steady supply of quality content to provide, you can keep yourself fresh on their minds.

4. Keeping Your Blog Fresh and Relevant

A key to maintaining a successful blog is to publish posts on a regular basis. While creating great, original content on a daily basis can be a challenge; you can complement your own original work with the curated copy. No blogging blues or splitting headaches because you have to write yet another post! A good mix original and curated content will help you maintain your audience’s interest and your sanity.

 

 

5. Avoiding Self-Promotion Pitfalls

Too much self-promotion will just turn your audience off, and it doesn’t drive conversions anyway. According to a study by Argyle Social, content curation beats self-promotion five days a week and twice on Sunday.

So, let’s address the big question on everyone’s minds right now: Does content curation mean you don’t need to create original content? Sorry, but no. There’s always a need for high-quality, original content. Instead of viewing content curation as a replacement for what you’ve been doing, look at it as a valuable addition to bolstering your current marketing mix.

You can never have too many tools in your content marketing arsenal, and content curation is one you definitely don’t want to overlook. Use it to provide more quality content, increase exposure, and help drive engagement.

10 Common Content Marketing Mistakes

10 Common Content Marketing Mistakes was co-authored by Sharon Hurley Hall and Christina Strickland.

10 common content marketing mistakes

Promoting your business with content is an excellent strategy for raising awareness of your brand and getting your customers’ attention. But some businesses don’t get the benefits they should, because of easily avoidable errors. Here are some common content marketing mistakes you should avoid.

10 Common Content Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

 

Common Content Marketing Mistake #1: No Strategy

Believe it or not, some companies approach content marketing piecemeal and don’t have a strategic game plan. Newsflash! No matter how much content marketing you are doing and how many pieces of the puzzle you have in place, you won’t get the benefit unless you know:

  • What you want to achieve with content marketing
  • How content marketing fits into your overall business strategy

That’s why the starting point for content marketing is working out how content can serve your key business goals. Only then can you start to work out who your audience is and what types of content will suit them best.

Common Content Marketing Mistake #2: No USP

As part of your strategy, think about what you bring to the table that’s completely new – your unique selling point or sales proposition (USP). Identify yours and you have a focus for your content marketing strategy. Think about the problem you set up your business to solve and how your approach is different from that of your competitors.

 

 

Common Content Marketing Mistake #3: Thinking a Blog is Enough

Similarly, some businesses buy into the “blog it and they will come” myth. In other words, if you have a company blog, that means you have a complete content marketing strategy. It’s true that companies that blog get better web traffic, leads and ROI, but they still need to be strategic to be successful.

How can you use your blog strategically? Here are a few ideas:

  • Think of the questions your customers usually ask and answer them on the blog.
  • Repurpose your blog content for different media, creating everything from podcasts to presentations.
  • Share and discuss your blog content anywhere your customers are likely to hang out (forums, social media sites and more).

Do this, and your blog will fulfill its potential and start to work to market your business.

Common Content Marketing Mistake #4: You’re Only Broadcasting

We get it – it can be hard to move out of the old marketing mindset, where you created information and sent it out, without getting much back. But those days are gone and your audience expects to interact with you. Broadcasting is out; communication is in.

Instead of making it all about you, include discussion starters for social media sites in your content marketing plan. Take part in Twitter chats. Create some images for Pinterest and Instagram and get to know the value of hashtags. Do some social listening to figure out what your customers really want instead of what you think they want. Put it all together by being responsive – it will transform your business (in a good way!)

Common Content Marketing Mistake #5: No Personality

You business may not interest everyone, but that doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Stuffy corporate voices are offputting and unrelatable, but find the spark you can focus on and you can make your content marketing truly special. Don’t believe me? General Electric has got creative in showcasing its business, and shipping company Maersk has made a big splash (not literally) on social media. Somehow, those companies have found the fun which helps them connect with customers. You can too.

Common Content Marketing Mistake #6: You’re Not Mobile

When was the last time you checked your content to see how it looked on mobile devices? There are more people using mobile devices than desktop computers, so you can’t ignore this sector. And with Google’s April 2015 mobile algorithm update, mobile friendliness has become an SEO ranking signal for mobile devices users. In other words, if your content isn’t mobile-friendly, people may not even be able to find it. Find out how to integrate mobile into your marketing mix here.

Common Content Marketing Mistake #7: Not Enough Content

You may hear a good deal of debate about just how often you should post content for your business, especially blog posts. Some people are of the mind that it really doesn’t matter how often you post as long as you do so regularly. For example, these people believe your readers need to know when to expect new material from you, such as every Wednesday or every other Wednesday. Others assert that you’ll get the best results by posting several times each week. For example, some research shows that posting 20 times a month to your blog will get you significantly more traffic and leads. However, for Facebook, posting more than once per day seems to put a bit of a damper on engagement, according to Track Social.

Common Content Marketing Mistake #8: No Variety

Since your readers are only human, they can get bored. And though you work to provide meaty, interesting content, seeing the same types of posts all the time can get to be monotonous for your audience. You can liven things up by adding other types of posts to the mix, such as videos, webinars, and infographics. Slideshows and tutorial posts can add variety and make your content much more interesting as well. Of course, you’ll still want to create traditional posts. Just mix things up a little.

Common Content Marketing Mistake #9: Omitting the Call to Action

Content marketing may fall a bit flat if you don’t remember to include calls to action. While you don’t want to make your content too salesy, you do want to nudge your readers in a particular direction. As such, it’s important to include a call to action. This could be a call to action for requesting your informational content, as your readers are interested in what you have to say already. This means they’re apt to take an interest in your free eBook, webinar, or newsletter. It can also mean including premium offers that help move your readers along towards making a decision and taking advantage of the solutions or products you provide.

Common Content Marketing Mistake #10: It’s an Afterthought

Finally, one of the biggest content marketing mistakes there is, is to make it an afterthought. You’d be surprised how many people create a strategy but don’t take the time or allocate the resources to execute it so they get real ROI. The right content allows your customers to see you as an expert with a human personality rather than a faceless company. That’s even more important as millennials become a more influential consumer segment.

Don’t make these mistakes. If you need help with your creating and delivering a content marketing strategy, get in touch with the Crackerjack Marketing team.

10 Ways to Increase Blog Traffic

Co-Authored by Sharon Hurley Hall and Christina Strickland

10 ways to increase blog traffic

Creating blog content is one of the best investments you can make in promoting your business. The stats are clear:

  • Brands that create 15 new posts monthly average 1200 new leads each month.
  • Blogs increase the number of pages in the search engine index by 437%.
  • You’ll get 55% more visitors by having a company blog.
  • Whichever way you look at it, blogging for business is a good thing.

Many brands build a blog and expect the traffic to roll in simply because it’s a super awesome piece of web real estate. They’re in for a rude awakening when their launch day comes and goes with hardly a couple of stragglers stopping by to read what you’ve written.

 

 

Then comes the million-dollar question: How can I increase blog traffic?

If you’ve got your system down and producing a steady stream of content, take note of these ten things you can do to increase blog traffic, up your game and get more from your content marketing efforts.

10 Ways to Increase Blog Traffic

1. Go for Visual Appeal

An interesting graphic or video encourages blog readers to share. And this, of course, is what you want. The more your readers share, the more traffic you can expect. Some good ideas include infographics that provide valuable information and appeal to the eye. A well-crafted, visually appealing video may stimulate your readers to share as well. Creating those how-to posts? Mark each step with clear, helpful photos. Without question, visual content is king online. Still not convinced? Here are 37 reasons why you should be incorporating visual content where you can (including your blog!).

2. Go to Your Audience

Instead of waiting for your audience to come looking for you, go ahead and go to it. Seek out online communities in which your audience gathers. Once you find a few that are very active, don’t commit the sin of drive-by posting or link dropping. Instead, become an active participant. Start and join real conversations. Show interest and provide valuable information. Leave your links as allowed by the online community. Include links to relevant information (available on your blog) when it pertains to the discussion at hand and will provide real value to the community. Many communities also allow a signature link, and you can usually provide information about your blog in your profile. Simply put, you have to be social, so kick your inner introvert to the curb for a bit.

3. Incorporate Social Bookmarking

Social bookmarking is more than just a good excuse to indulge your OCD tendencies. It’s also an avenue to engaging your audience, building your network and sharing your content. How does it work? Essentially, you use social bookmarking sites to organize and share links you consider valuable. Here are some suggestions, just to get you started: Digg, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, and Reddit.

The major benefits of using social bookmarking for your business include the following:

  • You benefit from the social bookmarking website’s credibility. A link from a social website can significantly help your search engine ranking.
  • When your content is bookmarked and shared, you get a boost in credibility, which can draw more customers to your business. Building an image as an industry leader is a good thing.
  • Put all your good stuff in one place. All those awesome reviews and testimonials you get? Make sure interested parties can find them via your social bookmarking site profile. This way, anyone looking can easily find all the reasons you’re so great.

One more thing, and this is important: Always read the rules of the site before you post, and avoid behavior that marks you a spammer. Share other people’s stuff, not just your own, and be social! Finally, keep in mind that it’s even better when others bookmark your content; add social sharing buttons to your blog to make it easy for readers to do so.

4. Try Question-and-Answer Sites

Who cares what you have to say? The people asking questions, that’s who. A high-quality question-and-answer site may have a large audience interested in the types of answers you can provide. Answering their questions in an engaging and interesting manner can help you establish yourself as an expert in your field. You’ll also get to insert links that draw traffic to your blog.
Here’s a handy dandy shortlist of question and answer sites to try:

5. Write Guest Posts

Creating content for a website that is not your own may seem like a counter-intuitive method to increase blog traffic, but it really can work! How? You write an interesting, compelling post relevant to your business and the particular blog. The blog owner posts it and you get to include your bio and a link back to your site, maybe even a line or two about your business.

Tip: Make your links count. Link back to a page (yes, one on your blog) that provides more information about the topic you covered, answers burning questions your reader is sure to have or gives something away for free. Read this post to get all the details on how to get the most out of guest blogging.

6. Present It on Slideshare

One easy tactic to increase blog traffic is to use your content to create presentations on LinkedIn Slideshare. The site has more than 60 million users and is widely used within the business community. To use it effectively, you need to marry the best points from your content, with stunning design and the right tags. If you get it right, your presentation could be featured by Slideshare, which will bring a lot of people back to your blog. Learn more about using the site effectively from this Kissmetrics guide to Slideshare.

7. Publish a Book

It’s also simple to use your blog to create a book or eBook. Spend some time up front thinking about a topic you want to cover in depth, then make each sub-topic an individual post. Not only will you get feedback as a you go (blog comments and social shares can tell you a lot about how people will respond to the content) but you’ll only need to add an introduction and conclusion to finalize your book. Invest in professional editing so that the book of your blog reads like a book instead of a loose collection of posts. Then publish it everywhere, including Amazon, iBooks, and Smashwords. Get it right and you could reach an audience who might never have seen your blog.

8. Syndicate Your Blog

Did you know that Amazon has a tool called Kindle Publishing for Blogs? It’s been around for a while, though it’s still in beta. Add your blog’s RSS feed and a title image and then Kindle users can subscribe to it via Amazon. In our experiences, this won’t net you a huge audience, but it will reach the people who do all their reading on Kindle.

9. Reuse the Stats

If your blog content includes stats, then you have the basis for a compelling infographic. This strategy will work best if you do a lot of research. Well researched and attractive infographics are immensely popular. It’s another way to repurpose blog content and reach a wider audience.

10. Put it on Audio and Video

While you’re pulling data from your blog post, consider two more options for reusing the content. Many people love to consume content on the go and would rather listen than read. For those people, a podcast version of your blog content is ideal. And then there are the people who love watching videos (such as mobile device users). Convert your post to a short video and you’ll get more attention.

These tips will help increase blog traffic and get more eyes on the content you originally created for your blog. As a result, your company can reap the benefits of more attention, more leads and more sales.

memes-for-marketing

Memes for Marketing: Should You Use Them?

memes-for-marketing
 
Is it possible to go a whole day online without seeing a meme? Wherever you look on social media, you find those amusing combinations of images and text sending a short, sharp message.

Originally a meme was simply “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture” (Merriam-Webster) but now it can be a piece of content – usually visual – that spreads quickly and may even go viral. A case in point: all the memes around Donald Trump, many of which focus on his hair.

Read more

Get-More-Eyes-on-Your-Blog-Content

5 Ways to Get More Eyes on Your Blog Content


 
Creating blog content is one of the best investments you can make in promoting your business. The stats are clear:

  • Brands that create 15 new posts monthly average 1200 new leads each month.
  • Blogs increase the number of pages in the search engine index by 437%.
  • You’ll get 55% more visitors with a company blog.

Whichever way you look at it, blogging for business is a good thing. But not everyone will read your blog, so to get more from content marketing, use your blog content in other ways so that more people will see it and interact with your company.

Read more

content marketing value

How to Get the Most Bang for Your Buck with Content Marketing

content marketing value
 
Everybody wants a magic bullet. And if you’re using content marketing to promote your business you may want it more than most. There are so many sites and types of content out there, so how do you find out what really works to you get great performance and return on investment, and content marketing value for your efforts?

The good news is, you don’t have to look far to find the answer, because Buzzsumo and Fractl have done it for you, analyzing 220,000 articles over a 6 month period from June to November 2014. The infographic is published on Hubspot. Here are some of the key findings, along with the lessons to learn about your content strategy.

Read more

resurrect a blog

Tales From the Crypt: Bringing Your Company Blog Back to Life

resurrect a blog

No matter how motivated you were about starting your blog way back when, it’s all too easy to let it slide. It starts with a day of posting missed here or there. Then you start missing weeks, telling yourself it’s no big deal and you’ll get back on track…er…soon. Before you know it, your blog has gasped its laugh breath and you’re faced with deciding whether to bury it or try to perform a modern miracle of resurrection.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

user-generated-content-brand-marketing

How User-Generated Content Can Tell Your Brand Story

User Generated Content for Brand Marketing

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. Fans are already posting to Instagram and Facebook, why not empower them and harness their user-generated content for brand marketing?

Read more

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. 

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

 

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!

 

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.

d467ce9b-de90-4a5f-a575-846789f89cb0

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.

d467ce9b-de90-4a5f-a575-846789f89cb0

types of content marketing

7 Types of Content to Include in Your Strategy and Why {Part 1}

types of content marketing

When creating content, a good rule is to make it deep and wide. That’s why you have to think beyond the blog when developing your content strategy. Don’t get me wrong; blogging remains one of the most important ways to increase your influence and authority and to grow both trust and traffic, but why stop there? To get the full benefits of inbound marketing, you need to create shareable content.

 

 

So how do you determine what’s sharable? BuzzSumo is a tool that tracks what content performs best on your site or your competitor’s site. (It’s a powerful tool!) When I performed a recent search there, I found that the most shareworthy content included articles, infographics and video.

Read more

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.
editorial calendar gfx

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

 

Creating Content for Inbound Marketing

Creating Content for Inbound Marketing

Creating Content for Inbound Marketing

Content is at the core of what inbound marketing is – it’s what attracts people to your brand, product or service, versus you needing to go out and find them. Think of content as the honey which attracts the flies!

 

 

Because it’s easier to start something new when you have a process, I offer you this method of creating content.

Step 1: Brainstorm themes for your content

You don’t want to write only about your product or service – would you want to read three blog posts a week about your product? So your content will cover both your product/service and adjacent or related themes – in some distance outside of your core. How far out you go depends on your product and industry; in a highly specialized area you may want to keep things fairly tight, but in a broader marketplace you can go pretty wide and still maintain relevancy to your company.

Themes are not titles or specific posts, they’re the overarching ideas that all of your content will address.

For example – some themes for my business, a digital marketing agency, are:

  • Marketing to teens, tweens & parents
  • How to create content/inbound marketing & social media strategy
  • How to use specific social media platforms
  • How inbound and digital marketing intersect with other marketing
  • Examples of companies doing content & social media well

Step 2: Brainstorm topics for your themes

Now you’re going to drill down – you’re going to develop some draft titles and specific ideas for your content. Choose one of your themes and come up with as many different topics as you can for that theme.

Some of the types of content you might create include:

  • Make a list
  • Answer a question
  • Talk about the competition
  • Use the “vs.” format
  • Write about “the best”
  • Outline a process
  • Provide examples
  • Curate other people’s examples or content
For my theme of “How to create content/inbound marketing & social media strategy,” topics could include:
  • 4 ways to use inbound marketing to solve customer problems
  • How to involve your whole team in your content creation
  • Why content creation saves time & money vs. traditional advertising
  • How to use influencers in your content creation strategy
  • Why you shouldn’t use bloggers as your social media agency

Step 3: Determine content types

This part will probably be pretty easy – make a list of all of the content types you currently create/offer and those you know you want to create. Content types could include:
  • Blog post
  • Video (short-form, like Instagram and Vine, and long-form, like YouTube videos)
  • Images
  • Podcast topic
  • Email
  • eBook
  • Whitepaper
  • Facebook update
  • Tweet
  • Slideshare
  • Webinar

Step 4: Align topics to content types

For each topic that you create, assign it to a specific content type.

Now comes the really hard part: you have to create the content! Once you have a list of topics you like, and know what kind of content you want to create for that topic, add that topic + content type to your editorial calendar.

Get the Content Creation Worksheet

I’ve created a brand-new worksheet which can help you with the brainstorming and content alignment process. Download it here, and please let me know how it works for you!

 

Critical Twitter Lessons to Aid Your Marketing

Critical Twitter Lessons to Aid Your Marketing

Critical Twitter Lessons to Aid Your Marketing

 
Twitter is one of the big boys when it comes to social media marketing. If you’ve yet to begin using it for your business or don’t know how to use it well, this post is for you! The following articles will get you up to speed and help you use your Twitter account as an effective marketing tool.

The 2013 Twitter Marketing Guide

Maybe you’re new to Twitter. Maybe you’ve been using the social media site for years but only for personal connections. If you’re just now considering the social media platform for marketing purposes, this article can help. It provides everything from basic instructions for creating a Twitter profile and understanding Twitter lingo to tips for planning your strategy and building a following. Click here to learn the basics of using Twitter for marketing.

Five Ways to Use Twitter for Marketing That You Might Not Know About

Once you have the basics of Twitter marketing down, you may benefit from some additional ideas for using it for your business. This article provides information about ways to do the following:

  • Connect with mobile users via Twitter
  • Use search options to find relevant opportunities
  • Connect with journalists
  • Improve your search engine rankings

What else will you learn? You’ll also discover how to use your tweets in conjunction with Google Alerts to get search engine traffic and monitor what others are saying about your company. Read more about lesser-known ways to use Twitter.

Avoid These 9 Common Twitter Mistakes

The fact is that everyone makes mistakes. It’s all too easy to make a misstep here and a glaring error there. Fortunately, others have tripped and fallen before you, and you can learn from them. The author of this article, Timothy Carter, provides the details you need to avoid common problems, ranging from posting at the wrong times and sending vague tweets to being boring and messing up your privacy settings. For instance, something as simple as failing to follow other Twitter users is a mistake that may hold you back. Read more about common Twitter mistakes.

10 Lessons from the Top 25 Most Engaged Brands on Twitter

You can learn a lot from the successes of others. According to Mark Fidelman (writing for Forbes), engaging via Twitter requires companies to develop an emotional connection with their followers and effectively spread not their own message but an industry-specific one. Fidelman provides a list of 10 things companies of all sizes can learn from 25 of the most engaged brands on this social media platform. For example, telling stories, working with influencers, and driving emotion are among the top things you can do to better engage your audience. Read the reasons these top 25 brands do engagement so well.

 

 

How to Use Content Marketing for B2B Lead Generation

How to Use Content Marketing for B2B Lead Generation

How to Use Content Marketing for B2B Lead Generation

Content marketing is a primary lead generation tool. In fact, close to 70 percent of marketers use content marketing for lead generation. Why? It’s been proven over the years that it’s effective and beats out many other efforts at attracting leads. For example, studies demonstrate that many consumers are unimpressed with the plethora of ads they see each day, say “no” to telemarketing calls, and trash carefully crafted marketing messages sent through the postal mail. If 86 percent of potential customers skip ads, you need another way to reach them, and compelling content consistently performs in this area.

Your content, such as a blog, video, or eBooks and whitepapers, can also offer more than just lead generation. Take advantage of great content to help you throughout your lead cycle, to nurture and convert leads. Good content can help many aspects of your B2B business by:

●    Showing your prospects that you understand their needs

●    Helping your prospects get to know and evaluate your company and its products/services

●    Helping your prospects through the decision-making process

●    Providing support after a purchase and during implementation and use

●    Building customer loyalty

●    Encouraging repeat purchases

Sometimes content success can be difficult to come by. It’s not a magic bullet and not everyone does it well. Use these guidelines to help plan your B2B content marketing strategy and you’ll have leads flowing in no time.

Plan Well for Content

In order to enjoy success, you have to know who, why, and how. Consider the following questions as you plan for content marketing:

●    What are your specific goals and objectives?

●    Who is your audience?

●    What does your audience know? What does it need to know? What are its goals?

●    What do you want your audience to do? How can you encourage the actions you want?

●    How do you differ from your competition? How can you use your content to demonstrate the differences?

Create Content That Meets Your Audience’s Needs

You have compelling information to share, but just waiting until you’re asked for it isn’t a very effective strategy. Instead, you need to learn what your market needs and wants, what it finds interesting, what it finds boring, and what its burning questions are. Once you have answers to these questions, write compelling content that speaks to your audience’s needs and wants, stimulates its interest, and answers its most burning questions.

While you’re at it, be careful with what you share. Avoid content that is overly promotional or focuses on too much on your business. Instead, focus on providing information about the industry and talking about your audience.

Now, this doesn’t mean you can never include promotional content. There is a time and a place for promotional writing. The important thing is to stroke your audience first, make sure you have its attention, and develop a strong rapport. Then, you can insert more promotional content. But keep it to a minimum, so you don’t lose the audience you’ve worked so hard to develop.

Customize Content By Lead Stage

Think about the content that will best serve your audience at each stage of the lead cycle. At the very beginning, informational blogs, e-Books, white papers, websites, etc. make a good fit. Your content should, of course, inform, instruct, interest, and problem-solve. Later, however, after you’ve gotten your prospects interested in engaging with you, you can present your products and services in a more direct way, focusing on providing the solutions they need and adding demos and trials into the mix.

Don’t forget that you can deliver content throughout your lead cycle via email, newsletters, videos, and microsites as well.

Be Consistent

Once you’ve created compelling content for your audience, don’t stop there. To be successful at generating leads with content marketing, and to nurture your leads and get conversions, you have to provide compelling content on a consistent basis. Let your prospects know when they can expect to hear from you next and make them comfortable by delivering quality content on a regular basis.

 

 

Share It

Building it and expecting them to come won’t produce the results you expect. Instead, you’ll need to apply a carefully planned strategy to sharing your content and making it easy to find. Include:

●    Social media, including social networking, bookmarking, video, and image-posting sites

●    Search engine marketing (use Google AdWords to drive traffic directly to your content)

●    Other online advertising

●    Email

●    Online news releases

Collect Lead Data

It’s not enough just to put great content on your website.  Create a form which is ready to collect data from the leads you generate via content marketing.

Make your lead generation form easy to find, complete, and submit. Request just enough information to get started with the lead, as many prospects will feel put off or offended if you ask too much right off the bat. You can always collect more information later. Often, a name and email address is enough to collect at first, and you can easily obtain that by offering a free downloadable report and requesting an email address to which to send the link.

 

Now go forth and create, and capture those leads! And please check back with us and leave a comment to let us know how you’re doing.

Photo: Flickr (Lisa_Yarost)

 

blogging for brands

Common Questions about Blogging for Brands

blogging for brands

Co-authored by Stephanie Schwab and Christina Strickland

Your brand blog should be the cornerstone of your content marketing efforts. Yes, Facebook, Twitter and the rest are essential too but they shouldn’t be your only home on the web. It’s what both practice and teach here at Crackerjack Marketing. (You can read more about why here.)

If you’ve been reading our blog for a while, hopefully you understand the benefits of blogging for your brand. Whether you are new to blogging or a long-time content creator, you may have some questions.

How Often Should I Blog?

If you ask most people who have been blogging for a while, they’ll tell you, “The more, the better.” That’s because every post gives you exposure on the internet. It gives more people a chance to discover you because good content, updated frequently is one of the main reasons Google (or any search engine) uses to decide your fate in getting listed in search results.

The reality is that blogging is writing and if you are a beginner, you may find writing challenging. Writing a blog also takes time. But you’ll discover that the more you write, the better you get at writing and the easier it is to do. So let’s assume that you’re not going to be writing a blog post every day of the week to start. What schedule can you keep up with that is reliable? The most important advice we can offer is to get started and keep at it. Don’t let a week go by without at least one blog post. Once you get more comfortable with blogging, you should increase the frequency of your posts.

You’ll learn to write down ideas as they come to you, sketch out your posts and hit the keyboard. Blogging is a practice that requires discipline. Build from one post a week to two or three. That’s a frequency that will help you build your online presence quickly and start getting traffic, comments, and learn what’s of interest to your readers.

Blogging three times a week is an excellent rate. If you can continue at that pace, and assuming your content is relevant and helpful, you’ll see results much faster than starting slowly.

But for many, dipping your toe in the water is more realistic. With the idea that the goal is to get fully wet and start swimming, it’s fine to start off slowly. No matter what, though, no matter how little traffic you see in the beginning, do not quit. It takes time to see results. Slowly but surely, you’ll be discovered and read. You’ll meet people. The benefits of blogging will become apparent to you, and they are many.

Once you’ve committed to blogging, don’t think of it as an optional activity. Consider it as important to your business as paying the bills or opening your door in the morning.

How Long Should a Blog Post Be?

While you understand how important relevant, valuable content is to the success of your blog, you may have questions about length. If you visit a handful of blogs, you’re likely to see blog posts that vary considerably in terms of length. So how do you decide how long to make your posts? Which length will your readers prefer?

Many bloggers keep their posts to 250 to 500 words while others write closer to 2000 words each time. While longer posts can provide a good deal of detailed information and may help stimulate conversation, there are benefits to writing shorter posts. Among them are the following:

  • Tight focus: With a long blog post, you may feel tempted to wander a bit with your point, and in doing so, you may inadvertently lose your reader’s attention. When you write shorter posts, you have less room for wandering, and you’re more likely to stay tightly focused on your topic. Your readers will appreciate you for that.
  • Scanability: Most Internet users don’t read online content the way they read offline. Instead, they scan, looking for the highlights in posts and specific points of value. Short posts are easier to scan than long versions, but you can increase the scanability of any post by including bulleted or numbered lists, headings and subheadings, and short, easy-to-digest paragraphs.
  • Time: The longer your posts, the more time you will have to put into writing them. In fact, you may even put off writing longer posts because they do take up so much of your time. Since shorter posts require less time to create, you can post more often and have a better chance of keeping your readers’ attention and interest. Just think, if you only write once or twice a month because your long posts take so long to create, your readers may get tired of waiting and go elsewhere in search of the content they seek. If, on the other hand, you focus on shorter posts, you can write more often (perhaps once or twice a week) and provide regular content for your readers to digest.

Though there are benefits to writing short blog posts, this doesn’t mean you should NEVER write longer posts. If you have something of value to share, and you need 1000 or more words to share it well, then by all means, write a longer post. Your goal is to deliver well-written content that your audience will value, share, comment on, and come back to see more of. In the end, the length doesn’t matter as long as you meet this goal.

 

 

What Are Some Common Blogging Mistakes to Avoid?

Everyone makes mistakes. They are a natural part of life and running a business. But if you can learn from the mistakes others have made, you might make fewer of your own and enjoy a faster, smoother road to meeting your goals. Blogging for your business might seem simple and easy, but there are plenty of pitfalls that can get in your way. Here are four of the most common blogging mistakes business owners make and tips for avoiding them.

Sporadic Posts

Failing to blog regularly is one of the most common mistakes business bloggers make. Think about it: if you found a magazine you liked, but the publisher only sent it sporadically, how long would it be before you lost interest and moved on to different magazine? The same sort of scenario works with blogs. Sporadic content, no matter how good, sends readers looking for another blog that regularly posts content of value to them.

Keep your readership happy and interested by posting regularly. There are no hard-and-fast rules about the number of times you should post, but many bloggers find their readership satisfied with a couple of posts per week. Even if you decide to post just once a week, make sure you keep up with it to avoid losing the interest of your readers.

Unrealistic Expectations

It’s normal to have the highest hopes for your blog. Who doesn’t want to experience success? But expecting overnight blogging success is an all-too-common mistake. As with building a business, developing a successful blog takes time and hard work. Commit to devoting 12 months to developing your blog and cultivating your readership. Your job won’t end once you complete the first year, but it’s reasonable to see some encouraging results by then.

Focusing on Promotion

Many new business bloggers feel confused about the type of content they should post on their blogs. They often make the mistake of including too much promotional content. This can be a major mistake, as a business blog isn’t meant to serve as an advertisement. Instead, your blog should provide conversational content that is relevant and interesting to your readers. While it is okay to use your blog to make business announcements and share news of new products and services, much of your content should focus on industry news, hints, tricks, advice, how-to’s and insights into your industry and company. Keeping sales to a minimum will help you attract loyal readers.

Discouraging Conversation

Your business blog is an important tool for conversation and interaction, but many bloggers disable commenting. While their reasons for doing so, such as avoiding spam and negative comments, are often understandable, disabling the comment feature can impair your ability to connect and engage with your readers. Instead, you might find it easier to meet your blogging goals if you not only enable commenting but also encourage your readers to share their comments, questions, concerns and stories on your blog. Then, be sure to respond and keep the conversation going.

Even if you still have questions, we hope that you get started and keep going. The more you publish blog posts, the faster you’ll establish a drum beat. It’s okay if you need to change things up a little later. The important thing is to take action!

Media Kits for Bloggers

Media Kits for Bloggers
Last night I was a guest of the Philly Social Media Moms, presenting to a great group of bloggers on how to create media kits. Jo-Lynne Shane hosted and my friend Cecily Kellogg helped answer questions and get everyone get into the trenches creating their own media kits right there at the workshop.


Here’s the presentation – I hope that bloggers who complete their media kits will send them to me so I can include them in my database for future blogger outreach. (My contact info on the last page of the presentation.)

View more PowerPoint from Stephanie Schwab.


I was also able to do a bit of promotion at the workshop for the Digital Family Summit, enlisting the fabulous Philly Moms in helping to promote our conference. The Philly-area parenting blogger community is really strong, and they’re a big part of the reason we decided to do the Summit in Philly in its inaugural year. I know they’re going to be our best supporters (and attendees!) and I can’t wait to meet more of them at the Summit.

 

 

UPDATE: My friend Cassie Boorn has a very cool course online that teaches bloggers how to create media kits and work with brands. If you need some help and motivation, this could be a great way to get started! The class runs for the first time on April 28 from 2:00-4:00pm PST but you can sign up anytime and get all the materials afterwards. Cassie has given me a discount code to share with my readers, just click through here or use code “crackerjack” (no quotes) for a 20% discount.

how to hire a ghost writer

How to Hire and Work With a Ghost Writer

ghostwriter

A ghostwriter provides written content without requiring a byline or taking credit for the work. When you need written content, a ghostwriter can help you with everything from tweets and blog posts to articles and full-length books. But how do you know if you should hire a ghostwriter? Here are some hints to help you decide.

Read more

blog commenting

The Lost Art of Blog Commenting

blog commenting

It’s likely you’ve read a lot of passionate blog posts about the importance of an effective Facebook page, active Twitter account, and optimized profile on LinkedIn as well as why it’s essential to have a corporate blog. I don’t disagree at all. Each of these is a critical component to your social media strategy, but one piece that’s often overlooked is commenting on other blogs.

Leaving comments on blogs is like the piece that belongs right in the middle of your puzzle; without it, you’ll have a hole in the middle of the bigger picture. If you’re wondering why your social efforts aren’t gaining enough momentum, consider some of the following reasons for incorporating commenting into your strategy.

 

 

Why You Should Comment on Blogs

Search Engine Optimization

Popular search engines factor in the number of inbound links to your site. Most blog comment forms include a ‘website’ or ‘blog’ field. Each time you leave a comment, you’re creating an additional inbound link. If you leave only three comments each day (weekdays only), that’s an additional 60 inbound links to your site each month. While the exact algorithm search engines use to determine the top spot in search results remains a closely guarded secret, it’s fair enough to say, ‘the more inbound links the better.’

Reaching New Communities

Imagine you’re at a cocktail party and your friend is talking to a group of really sharp people. You walk over, join in the conversation and start meeting new people. By the end of the party, you’ve exchanged business cards with several other members of the group. In a similar way, blog commenting gives you exposure to new people and communities. In addition to helping your SEO, each website link gives readers a way to get in touch with and find out more about your brand.

Reputation Management

Businesses and brands can also use blog commenting as a customer service tool to help manage their reputation or simply thank loyal customers. If you received a complaint or a compliment via email, wouldn’t you respond in some way? Being mentioned on another blog, in a positive or negative manner, should be addressed too.

Part Of the Community

The three previous points listed here are solid reasons to incorporate blog commenting into your social media strategy. But the most important, and most overlooked, reason is to become part of a larger community. Whether it’s mom bloggers, tech-savvy blogs, or other topics of interest to you and your business, commenting helps establish your brand as part of that community. It shows you’re listening to what the community has to say, and that you really do care.

More inbound links, better customer service, more exposure and becoming part of a community bring together all of the pieces of your social media puzzle. Of all of your social efforts, it takes the least amount of time, and it can actually be fun and interesting.

Blog Commenting Etiquette

To help ensure your comments will have the most impact, follow these simple guidelines:

DO

Make sure you’re logged in to your own company’s account.

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

Add value to the conversation.

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

Monitor for mentions of your brand and respond appropriately.

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

DON’T

Argue with a negative review.

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

Be overly self-promoting.

Who enjoys a conversation with someone constantly trying to sell you something? Maybe a shopoholic, but most of the blogosphere does not. If a blogger mentions they are looking for a product or service similar to yours, it’s perfectly acceptable to make a suggestion. Most other situations, it would not be appropriate. In fact, it would be considered spam.

Use abbreviated text.

Keep in mind who you are representing. ‘Gr8 post, UR the best’ isn’t the least bit professional. Unless you want to be perceived as a texting teenager, stick to spelling out the full word. On that note, be sure to have your spell check on too!

Why not start right now by leaving us a comment in response to this question: Are you leaving comments on behalf of your business or brand? What other benefits do you think commenting brings to you or your brand?

Editorial Calendar Continued: Creating a Facebook Calendar

As a further extension to my series on editorial calendars, let’s talk about Facebook.  If you’re running a Facebook brand/fan page, you’ll want to create an editorial calendar for that, too.

Facebook needs an editorial calendar too
Given how many friends people have, and how quickly status updates get pushed down on people’s home pages, Facebook recommends that brands post status updates at least twice per day in order to capture the greatest audience for your brand content.  That means creating (and posting) 10 to 14 updates per week (depending on if you include weekends – which Facebook recommends but most brands don’t do).  That’s a lot of content!

 

 

Read more

blog calendar template

Editorial Calendar Continued: Blog Calendar Template

blog calendar template

I’ve had a couple of requests for a copy of the spreadsheet I’m using to track my blog editorial calendar, so I’ve created a Google Docs version that anyone can view and download.

In the spreadsheet I’ve included what I consider to be the most important fields that you should fill out while creating your calendar, as well as some columns for tracking your results afterward.

I’ve used similar structures in various ways with different clients, depending on their style and needs. Here are some of the things I think about when I’m crafting and updating my blog calendar:

  • You can either program far in advance with “evergreen” topics that you know will be relevant a month or two from now, or you can program out a week or two and move posts around as new topics and ideas come up.  I mostly do the latter, though I do have a couple of posts queued up that could get slotted in anywhere.
  • I use the Topic Notes column like a scratch pad, and initially include everything I think could be relevant to a topic or post.  I then continue to add to that topic over time until I’m close to that  date and actually sit down to write the post.  It’s then that I often realize that the topic might be too broad, in which case I split out some of the notes onto a new day in the future.  That is sometimes how a topic series develops – I determine that I have more to say on a particular topic than one post will contain, so I then program out one or more future posts as part of a series.
  • When I sit down to update the editorial calendar I give myself an hour or 90  minutes so that I can be as comprehensive as possible.  I do this once every week or two, plus quick updates most days to reflect actual posted information.
  • I also program out time to write the actual posts, striving to have the posts completed at least a day or two before they’re scheduled to be posted so that I can sit with them a while and copyedit without time pressure.  Of course, this doesn’t always happen (I do write plenty of same-day posts), but it’s nice to do when I can.
  • Of course, part of the raison d’etre for most blogs is to be able to authentically participate in an conversation, so keeping your calendar loose enough to accommodate spur-of-the-minute posts on hot topics or in response to someone else’s blog, Tweet or article is key.  I never hesitate to push a scheduled post to a future date if I’ve got something I just have to blog about immediately.

 

 

This calendar template is for my personal blogs and may be too casual for some brands.  For agency clients I formalize the process a great deal more, scheduling weekly editorial calendar meetings with the blog team (which also go into the calendar), programming out dates that blog drafts are due to a central editor or blog wrangler, and even building in senior management approval time if necessary – just add in columns for those dates.

You may have other ideas and needs for your editorial calendar; I’d love for you to tell us how you’re modifying this in the comments below.

 

program blog content

Editorial Calendar Continued: 9 Ways to Program Out Blog Content

program blog content

Hopefully now you’ve got a structure for your editorial calendar.  But it’s empty.  How do you determine what content to include in your blog?

The first place to start is to listen.  I’ve said before that I’m a huge proponent of social media listening, as that’s where you’re going to find the topics that are of interest to your audience.  You’ll want to also understand how you’re telling your brand story – what’s your voice, who’s speaking on your behalf.

So assuming that you know who your audience is, you know what you want your voice to be, and you know who’s writing (if it’s a multi-author blog), let’s look at some of the various ways to flesh out your editorial calendar for your blog.  These may not all be appropriate for you, just pick and choose to get the right balance of content for your brand.

Read more

brands working with bloggers

Brands Working With Bloggers – It’s Confusing

brands working with bloggers

While I was busy last week getting my new site up and running, a major conversation was happening in the blogosphere about compensation for mommybloggers. This is a topic that I’m pretty passionate about, having recently moderated a panel about how PR and bloggers can work together, and as a long-time liaison between brands and bloggers.

From the brand side, there is certainly a great deal of confusion (and, dare I say, ignorance) about how to work with bloggers (of any type, not just moms). Here are the issues from my perspective.

Public Relations and Bloggers

If you’re coming from the PR side, you’re used to working with editorial content, and calling up or emailing journalists to place stories about products and services you represent. You would never think to compensate those journalists, and even if you did send product samples you often get them back. And your budget does not extend into payments for anything editorially related; you may have budget for events or stunts, but not for paying people to evangelize your brand.

Why this works in “old media”: Journalists are paid by their publications (whether they’re paper or online), and the publications monetize based on subscriptions and ad revenue. The two are, in theory, held (more or less) strictly separate (more on that below).

Why this doesn’t work for bloggers: Bloggers don’t have “publications” paying them, they are the publications. Some are monetizing their site via advertising, others are not. Those that have worked hard to build up their readerships to a level where they’re valuable to a brand have probably done most of it uncompensated. They therefore often (but not always) want to find ways to generate revenue from their blogs/sites.

Advertising/Media and Bloggers

If you’re an advertising or media buying person, you’ve got a budget. You’re used to finding places to put your ads and paying those places to take them. So now you want to attract niche demographics, like moms, to your brand, and so you assume you can just pay bloggers with those readerships to get the exposure you’re looking for. While you don’t necessarily expect editorial coverage to accompany your ads, in practice there is absolutely an unwritten code that makes it more likely that a publication (particularly magazines) will cover your product if you’re advertising frequently.

Why this works in “old media”: It’s a pretty simple equation. Advertisers want to put their product in front of people who will care about it, and publishers have space to sell, online or off. And hey, if it does encourage editorial coverage here and there, all the better.

Why this doesn’t work for bloggers: Marketers and advertisers are now more than willing to compensate bloggers for product reviews, as if they were just another ad buy – whether that compensation is in cash or product. This is complex territory all around, clouding the notion of what a product review is (or at least should be). Bloggers who remain editorially neutral and/or provide full disclosures may not be as attractive to advertisers who want their reviews to look as organic as possible.

Additionally, although many bloggers do take paid advertising, as a persistent online publication it’s more difficult to straddle the line between advertising and editorial. What if you really love a product and write about it one week, then the brand offers you advertising dollars the next? That post lives forever and may be featured alongside that advertising, murking up the waters of integrity.

So What’s a Brand To Do?

No doubt this debate will continue, as marketers need to break out of their “old media’ models and bloggers further assert themselves as hardworking assets to brands. Others have written eloquently about great ways to compensate bloggers without paying for posts and how agencies should evolve.

Here’s my advice: Start with the assumption that you’re going to need to compensate bloggers in some way. If you’re PR, make sure your bosses or clients are aware that there will be costs involved in blogger outreach – to compensate bloggers as paid brand ambassadors, to create customized content for your site, or to test your product or service and write a properly disclosed review. Then be pleasantly surprised if your product or service is cool enough that your pitch gets met with a warm editorial reception, without compensation.

If you’re advertising/media, don’t expect more than what you pay for. If you’re buying advertising, that’s what you’ll get. If you want bloggers to do other things for you, plan to compensate them accordingly.

And, brand marketers, put yourself in the bloggers’ shoes. Take the time to communicate with the blogger and understand their motivations. Are they blogging for their community, and just trying to pay the hosting bills? Are they building readership to attract more (and more valuable) paid advertising? Do they have other skills they can bring to the table for you – are they trained marketers themselves who can add a new perspective to your marketing team? Once bloggers become your true marketing partners, everyone will win.