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!

How to Better Understand and Connect with Customers in a Digital World

How to Better Understand and Connect with Customers in a Digital World

How to Better Understand and Connect with Customers in a Digital World

“How to Better Understand and Connect with Customers in a Digital World” is co-authored by Sharon Hurley Hall and Christina Strickland”

With the majority of adult Internet users spending time on social media sites, it’s no surprise that social media is such an important way to get your audience’s attention and connect with those in need of your products and services. But if there is one thing many businesses have learned the hard way, it’s that talking at your audience simply doesn’t work. That sort of strategy (or lack thereof) results in your message becoming a part of the online background noise.

How to Understand Customers in a Digital World

To make the most of social media and really reach your audience, you need to do three things: understand who your audience is, understand what your audience wants, and develop ways to connect with your audience. Sound like a tough job? No worries! Here are some tips to help you get the job done.

1. Use Google Analytics

Install analytics software. Most people use Google Analytics, but there are other options too. Using Google Analytics, check out your social media statistics. Go to Acquisition – Social to find out which social networks are bringing traffic to your site, how users finding you via social media navigate through your site and much more. This information alone will help you focus your social media strategy.

2. Check Social Analytics

Next, look at the analytics provided by all the social media sites where you are active. Twitter Analytics, Facebook Insights, and Pinterest Analytics all provide information on your social audience. The depth of this information depends on the site, but you can usually see where your audience members are located, what their backgrounds and interests are, and which social media updates made them respond and share. Once you know that, it’s easy to use this information to decide on engaging social media content.

3. Identify Your Followers

If you want a holistic picture of your social media audience, then you’ll need an external dashboard tool. There are dozens to choose from at various price points. See if the data you collect matches your existing customer personas. If there’s a mismatch, then it’s time to revisit your marketing strategy. If there isn’t, then congratulations! That means you’re probably getting it right.

4. Find Their Influencers

One important thing to understand is who influences your social audience because you can also target those influencers for greater reach when you want to share your content and message. A good tool for finding influencers is Klear (formerly Twtrland) which allows you to see who your followers listen to. You can also find social media influencers with a Buzzsumo Pro account.

5. Listen to Your Fans

Use social listening software to find out when your fans and followers mention your brand and what they say about you. You can also discover what their hot button topics are and weave those into your social media strategy. Use tools like Buzzsumo to find hot content and Klout to find shareable content on the topics that interest them.

6. Pay Attention to Mobile Stats Too

Did you know that more than half of all Facebook users only access the site from mobile devices? Keep an eye on mobile analytics on all sites, so you don’t miss the moment when most of your customers go mobile too. That’s bound to happen at some point, which means that your social strategy will have to include mobile-friendly content.

7. CRM Your Inbox

Rapportive, which puts a mini-CRM tool right in your inbox, is a very helpful tool that is owned by LinkedIn. When you install the browser extension, you can immediately see whether the person who has emailed you is connected to you on LinkedIn, a snapshot of recent roles and – if they also use Rapportive – any social media accounts they have connected to their profile.

Once you have that information, it’s easy to visit those other sites and find out more about your prospect’s online activity. That means you can follow them on social media and have conversations on the topics that interest them.

8. Create Lists Wisely

If you want to go direct to the source, then use the features built into Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to connect with customers and prospects in a useful way.

If you want to keep your home stream uncluttered on Facebook, interest lists let you keep tabs on people and pages you like, without having to like them. Full instructions are on the “interest lists” page.

You can do something similar on Twitter by setting up themed lists. In addition to setting up lists of customers and prospects, I suggest you set up lists of people tweeting about the topics that interest your customers and prospects. That gives you content to share with them and deepens the connection. For best results, keep your lists short. That also goes for Google+, where you can set up circles in the same way.

When you’ve set up your lists or circles, check in a couple of times a week to join the conversation and find items to share.

9. Use LinkedIn

Whatever business you are in, there’s a fair chance that your customers, prospects and potential partners will be on LinkedIn. You should be too, because that’s where they’ll look for you. Take the time to fill out your profile properly. That means including a profile photo, a cover photo, your most recent jobs and some portfolio items. Then scope out relevant groups, but not too many, because you need time to participate in them. This really works for getting the attention of prospective customers and bringing business your way. It is surprisingly easy it is to build relationships through group discussions.

Use the data you gather and the tools at your disposal to understand what your audience members are saying, what they need, and what really drives them. Then, use this information to develop strategies and content that speak to their interests, make a connection, and encourage engagement.

6 Crucial Tactics to Improve Your Facebook Advertising Efforts

6 Crucial Tactics to Improve Your Facebook Advertising Efforts

6 Crucial Tactics to Improve Your Facebook Advertising EffortsFacebook is an excellent place to post ads for your brand. Why, you ask? Though most advertising questions don’t have a simple answer, this one definitely does. Essentially, just about everyone is on Facebook in some capacity or another, so advertising there means more and better chances to reach your audience. Just what do we mean by everyone? Well, upwards of 70 percent of adults spend time on this platform. With well-targeted ads and a good strategy, you can reach a significant portion of your audience, whether you’re targeting a B2C or B2B audience.

Of course, the fact that everyone is on Facebook is really just the tip of the iceberg. There’s also the fact that Facebook really makes it easy to hone in on a particular audience based on locations, demographics, interests, behaviors, and connections. And once you target a particular audience, there is so much you can use Facebook ads for, including boosting likes and engagement and increasing website clicks and conversions. You can do all of this on the budget you set AND use Facebook’s tools to track your progress, so you can easily optimize your ad campaigns.

6 Tips to Improve Facebook Advertising Results

But how do you create an ad that does more than simply look pretty? Here are 6 crucial tactics for successful Facebook advertising:

  1. Keep it short and sweet. Too much text just doesn’t fly in Facebook ads. And besides that, short and sweet wins the race when it comes to promo. No one wants to read a whole book about what you’re offering. Get to the point, and make sure you have a hook to draw them in. Facebook truncates overly long ad text, but even if that wasn’t the case, keeping it short is still a good idea. According to a recent study, ads with 40 characters or less of text get over 80 percent more engagement than longer ads.

Takeaway tip: Make a few catchy ads and try them all out. Figure out which ad texts perform the best and use the same approach with future ads. Be sure to consider different audience groups when you test your ad. One ad may underperform with one age or buying group but soar with another.

  1. Don’t overpower your image with too much on-image text. First of all, Facebook frowns on using more than 20 percent of your ad space on text. Besides that, you might think that adding the maximum allowed text to your image is an easy way to get around tactic number 1, which is all about keeping it short and sweet. Trust us, more text here won’t help you. If your ad includes too much text, it’s likely to have a much lower reach. Or worse, it might not run at all.

           Use the following dimensions for creating your ads:  

           Recommended News Feed image size:  1,200 x 900 pixels

           News Feed image ratio:  4:3

           Right column image size:  254 x 133 pixels

           Right column image ratio:  1.9:

Takeaway tip: Facebook has a handy tool that makes it easy to check if you’ve overdone it on text. Check it out here.

  1. Make it eye-catching. You’ve heard it a million times. A picture is worth a thousand words, and that still rings true on Facebook. For starters, posting an ad that is just all text simply won’t work on Facebook anyway, but even if you could go text crazy on this social media site, you wouldn’t want to. An image catches the eye and makes your viewer want to read your offer and learn more. Make it a good, high-resolution image every time.

Takeaway tip: Make sure your image is easy to understand at a glance, and hone in on the important stuff by taking the time to crop your image.

  1. Create a custom call to action (CTA) button through the ads manager. If you’ve created an effective Facebook ad, your viewers should get the gist of what you want to do, but that doesn’t mean they’ll just automatically do it. Having a call to action button encourages them to take that next step by clicking to perform the action you want. Often, in advertising, you need to tell your audience, and then tell them again (and again) before they actually take action. Custom CTAs can significantly increase your click-through rate. Keep in mind that you won’t have the option of creating a custom call to action button for a boosted or promoted post, but this is an option for website click, website conversion and offer claim ads.

Takeaway tip: When Facebook says it will allow you to customize your CTA button, this really means choosing from a selection of buttons the social media platform has on offer. Select the button that best matches your ad. Choices range from Shop Now, Book Now and Learn More to Watch Now, Donate Now, and Contact Us.

  1. Show more than one image. If a photo is worth a thousand words, how much more, then, are multiple images worth? Using the Facebook carousel format for your ad, you can show not only multiple images but also multiple headlines and calls to action. It works like this: Your audience member sees your awesome ad but doesn’t have to stop there. With just a swipe of his finger or a click of arrows, he can scroll through up to 10 images with accompanying links, headlines, and calls to action. How is that for bang for your bucks?

Takeaway tip: Use the carousel format for your Facebook ad when you want to showcase several offerings, share details that would be otherwise difficult to share with a single image, or use your images to do what you should always try to do—tell a story.

  1. Put Facebook to work for you. Sooner or later, you may run out of ideas for whom to target next. In that case, try this handy trick. Acting as yourself, go ahead and like one of your page’s updates in your home stream. The result? Facebook will recommend pages for you based on the content you’ve liked. Look at the pages it suggests. Since it believes you will be interested in those suggested pages based on liking your own content, it makes sense that fans of those suggested pages will also like your content. Go ahead and target those fans.

Takeaway tip: Make sure you like your page update on your home stream and NOT on your brand’s page.

With Facebook, you can really focus on your unique audience, reaching the demographics most likely to be interested in your products and services. Use the above tips to create the best possible ad, and put this social media giant to work for you.

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.

The Essential Guide for Startups Using Social media

The Essential Guide for Startups Using Social Media

The Essential Guide for Startups Using Social media

In years gone by, it was enough to create some business cards and set up a website, but today you need so much more. Today, your prospects are ever more social online, and your audience will expect to not only see you but also interact with you via social media. Too many startups view social media as an afterthought rather than an essential part of succeeding in business. They soon discover just how critical it is for encouraging interest, building a reputation and developing lasting relationships with potential customers Fortunately, you have this essential guide to help you start off on the right foot.

Choose the Right Startup Name

Choosing a name is one of the hardest tasks a new business will ever undertake. It’s easy to come up with names when you’re just dreaming of starting a business, but when it’s time to get started, nothing seems to feel quite right anymore. Why? Well, because there’s so much riding on this name. It has to be just right for your endeavor, and it has to be both catchy and memorable. It has to make an impression, reveal something about your company and inspire people to remember you. And as if that’s not enough, the name has to be available for use. Naming your business exactly the same name as another business can be a recipe for disaster.

Okay, breathe. Yes, it can be difficult, but you can do this. Go ahead and start with these great tips for naming your startup:

Get to brainstorming

Brainstorming is the first step in choosing the right startup name. This part is easy. Jot down a list of words that describe your startup. Don’t think too hard about this or even take it too seriously. The time for that will come later. For now, you just want a basic list with which to work. If you run out of words that fit, head on over to Thesaurus.com, and type in the words you’ve already jotted down. Add some synonyms for the words you brainstormed to generate an even longer list.

Review what you brainstormed

Start crossing the words you absolutely hate off your list. Next, review the list again and get rid of the ones you only like just a little. You should be left with the words that best describe your company. Play around with these words to see if you can use them to come up with a catchy startup name. For example, you might end up with the right name by combining two or three words on your list, or you might build your company name by making one word out of two, such as in Facebook and Firefox.

Consider how the name you’ve dreamed up sounds

Does the name you’re considering easily roll off the tongue? Does it include words that rhyme, such as in HotSpot? Is it fun to say? Does it evoke the types of feelings you want it to? Your name doesn’t have to rhyme or strike a fantastically melodious chord, but it should be easy to say. If it’s fun to say, that’s a definite bonus. Try different word combinations by saying them aloud several times before you choose, and have some friends try them out too.

***Hint: You will also need to choose a domain name, and it can really help to work on figuring out a business name and a domain name at the same time. Be sure to scroll down to the Choose the Right Domain Name section (next!) for tips.

Check on availability

There’s nothing worse than getting your heart set on the perfect startup name and then discovering that it’s already taken. Before you get too attached to that magnificent moniker, do an online search and make sure it’s not already taken. NameChk can help you with your search. Look for your desired name in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office database as well.

Opt for creative and different

Some companies choose names that don’t mean anything or at least aren’t commonly used (Think Kodak and Google!). Others choose a word from a foreign language or select words for impact rather than meaning. This type of approach can really work for you as long as the name you choose will fit your brand image. In fact, a creative made-up or out-of-the-ordinary name can help you stand out in a sea of competition.

Choose the Right Domain Name Too

You probably thought you were finished after you chose a brilliant business name. Sorry! There’s still work to do. The right domain name is just as important as the perfect business name. Today, your prospects expect you to not only show up online but also prove easy to find. If your business name sets off fireworks, but your domain name is too obscure, difficult to spell, or impossible to remember, it could hurt you on the Internet.

Here are some tips for choosing the best domain name for your business:

Choose a domain name that is as close to your new business name as you can get
You may not be able to get AcmeWidgets.com, but maybe you can get AcmeWidgetsSeattle.com. Try different permutations of your business name, or add your location or another descriptor.

If at all possible, go for a .com domain

.com domains are still the most common and most used for business, at least here in the U.S. If you’re trying to match your existing business name, you can consider a .net, .co, .info or .us domain, but be aware that most people will still type in your domain name with a .com on it. Take some time to check and see who will be the beneficiary of all the traffic meant for you that ends up going elsewhere. If it’s your #1 competitor – don’t do it. Find something else with a .com domain.

Make it memorable, but not too long

One and two word domains are nearly impossible to get these days, unless you buy them from someone else (often through a broker like Sedo.com). So you may need to go to three words or more, but try to keep it as short as possible while being descriptive and memorable.

Spell it out

When you’re considering a new domain name, say it out loud a few times and try it out on other people. You’ll often tell people your domain in person or over the phone. If it’s a true pain to spell or explain, you’ll get really frustrated when people don’t get it. So instead of Widgets4U.com or Widgets-4-You.com, try to get WidgetsForYou.com. Or even better, WidgetsInWyoming.com. That’s far more descriptive and easier to convey all around.

Don’t rush it

This is an incredibly important decision. Don’t rush it, and don’t just grab the first domain that’s available. Check out tools like DomainNameSoup.com to play around with and try a bunch of different options. Try the multiple choices or word combinations functions.

Go with a reputable registrar

When you’re ready to buy your domain, use a reputable domain registrar, such as enom or Namecheap.

Make Social Media a Priority

Recognize that social media isn’t a mere add-on. It can be a critical component of getting noticed, meeting goals, and enjoying continuing success. Make it a part of your plans from the very beginning.

Develop a social media strategy

It’s perfectly fine to post willy nilly on your personal social media account. When it comes to your startup, however, it’s critical to start with a strategy that will help you meet your goals. Every post, share, and comment should fit that strategy and the image you want to project.

Set up social media accounts

Where do your prospects spend time? Find out and make sure you’re there too. Many startups begin with at least Facebook (over 1 billion users around the world) and Twitter (over 300 million monthly users around the world), but if a large segment of your audience is on Instagram, you want to make sure they can find you there. If your start up is B2B, you’ll definitely want to have a presence on LinkedIn while Facebook and Twitter are top choices for marketing to consumers.

Do create a company blog too, as this can prove your most engaging platform of all. With your blog, you have the opportunity to develop a strong brand personality via blog posts and videos.

Of course, this is a lot to accomplish all at once. Consider starting with one platform and developing that until you feel confident that you can manage and continue to grow that presence even after adding another platform into the mix.

Craft an amazing profile

Many startups set up social media accounts in haste, creating barebones profiles and generic avatars, thinking they’ll set up better profiles later. Don’t do this. You only get one time to make a great first impression. Your audience has other options, and when they find you online, you want them to feel sure that connecting with you is a good one. Start out with an attractive, eye-catching avatar that perfectly represents your startup, and create a profile that entices your audience to check you out.

Create an editorial calendar

Create an editorial calendar before you begin posting to your social media accounts, and update it regularly – either weekly, monthly or quarterly. Planning out your editorial content in advance takes away the “I don’t have time to write today” problem that most people have and makes publishing content as easy as queuing it up and clicking a button.

Develop social media that informs, explains, and answers questions before they’re asked

At first, you may not receive a lot of questions and comments. That’s okay! You’re brand new! However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t answer those unasked questions. Put yourself in the shoes of your average prospect and customer, determine what you would want to know in their place, and then create content that provides that information.

Avoid posting dry, dull content or being overly promotional

It doesn’t work to sell, sell, sell to your audience via social media. Instead, work on providing content that tells your story and helps make your audience members’ lives easier and more interesting. Be sure to make it engaging enough that people will want to consume it and pass it along.

Provide customer service via social media

Take advantage of social media to provide great customer service to your customers. Respond to their questions and concerns, offer real help when needed, and use your customers’ suggestions and comments to make your products and services better. Being responsive in this way can really give your startup a boost, encourage loyalty from your new customers, and show prospects that you’re a business they can trust.

Listen, interact and react

Devote time each day to monitoring your social media accounts, checking in at least a couple of times per day on each of your social media platforms. Tools like Hootsuite, Social Mention, and Talkwalker can help you monitor what others are saying about your brand.

Respond to comments, answer questions, share posts, and follow others. Being social helps you gain more exposure and encourages your audience to engage with you.

Use this guide to make real headway with social media for your startup. We’ve provided the basics you need to achieve success. Don’t be afraid to experiment as well, however. Creativity (within the bounds of a solid strategy) can win points on social media.

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Ways to Generate Blog Post Ideas

Surefire Ways to Generate Blog Post Ideas

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

Ways to Generate Blog Post Ideas

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

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

Answer Questions

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

Tips:

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

 

Ask Your Own Questions

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

What should you ask? Start with the following:

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

Tips:

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

Read Your Existing Comments

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

Tips:

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

Look for Industry News

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

Tips:

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

Teach Them Something

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

Tips:

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

Leverage Expertise

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

Tips:

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

Use Tools

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

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

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

Tips:

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

 

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

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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!